‘Ello ‘ello

I’m getting awfully confused about my identity for a proud Scottish Nationalist. I was just getting used to being a Nazi, courtesy of the Scotsman, a newspaper on which I began my career 45 years ago, and was busy pressing my uniform when I found that actually our nationalist leader is really a Putin puppet and now I’m to be regarded as a Russian anti-democracy thug. And there was me applying for my Euro election postal vote with a feeling of anticipation at the democratic process ahead.


Now, I thought Nazis and Russians were on opposite sides during the war, but maybe that part doesn’t matter so long as some of the dirt sticks by association. But wait! I was no sooner practising my accent – tovarish…toVArich – when I discover, again via the Scotsman that, in the eyes of the composer James Macmillan, I am probably a fascist. I’m beginning to spin now.

What does a fascist do? I know, I’ll do my Italian accent and my Il Duce turned-down mouth with chin up and appear on the balcony. (I can’t do Italian. It just comes out like ‘Ello, ‘Ello.)


All of this, mind you, via the mainstream media, not the uncontrolled blogosphere. But it is perhaps time I owned up. I do have a direct link to fascist Germany and the Nazis – my dad fought them in the war. Yes, it’s true. He even escorted one in handcuffs to Edinburgh Castle. And here’s the clincher for all you Scotsman columnists with a Nazi fixation. Sergeant Major Graham Bateman of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, Commando and Paratrooper, came home with a genuine pair of German jackboots. Jackboots! They sat in our garden shed for 50 years so I literally grew up in the shadow of the Nazis which must have had a deep and lasting impression on my political outlook.

Such is the fantasia of smear in our daily Press. Weird? Silly? Undergraduate? Imbecilic? Or deliberately vicious in order to generate hate?

Personally, I try not to regard myself as a victim of this, although, it has to be said at one level, I literally am.

(When I wrote a torrid satire in reply and in keeping with the tone of a piece in the Guardian* lampooning Scots’ imagined shortcomings in the eyes of the English – and I advertised it as such at the begining – one or two quotes were taken out by the Express and reprinted in an attempt to justify calling me an anti-English Salmond acolyte. Thanks to Kerry Gill – once, like the Express itself, engaged in proper journalism, now reduced to toilet-wall daubings to justify the cheque. If you’re a student of hate journalism, try this http://www.express.co.uk/scotland/462123/COMMENT-Sneering-Alex-Salmond-s-shock-troops-resort-to-class-warfare He didn’t even have the courage, or is the word courtesy, to make contact to check with me. Nor, you’ll notice, did he repeat the anti-Scottish jibes from the Guardian. My quotes were repeated, again without any check, in the Telegraph – thanks to Tom Gallagher – where they were read by friends in England. Is the answer a) let the detractors get away with it b) only write if you keep it anodyne c) give as good as you get?)


But rather than feeling victimised which is pathetic, I regard myself as a player. (Which is why they attack). I have a voice and use it. I am, in a blogging sense, able to look after myself and don’t shirk from being direct and tough when appropriate. I never want it said that I missed and hit the wall. But I do try to argue the case when I attack. For example, I don’t say a Scottish Unionist isn’t Scottish or is somehow less Scottish. I regard that as ridiculous. But I do struggle to understand how they can claim to be proud, unswerving Scots who would nevertheless deny Scotland its nationhood. I have yet to hear anyone justify that in terms other than they regard Britain as their mother state, not Scotland and to me that is contradictory. Does it mean you’re proud, just not proud enough? Or can you be a committed Scot who doesn’t think nationhood is important?

I also get driven near insane by what has been nothing more than a campaign of contempt telling us we can’t live without English subsidy, our shipyards will close, we will be foreign, nobody will sign up to defend our country, we’ll be barred from Europe, kept out of NATO, we’ll not contribute to the third World, will encourage the Forces of Darkness, can’t manage our own oil and our country was absorbed into greater England. All this backed by ‘proud Scots’. Doesn’t that justify some withering contempt? Or is there another country on earth you can name where people would smile benignly as the insults fly in?


There is a pantomime of the grotesque parading across our conventional media on a daily basis, in there among the fair and the enlightening and the inspiring. I don’t subscribe to the idea that all the media is irredeemably biased. It isn’t. If you want pro-independence sentiment, if not outright support, read Macwhirter, Bell and Hugh Reilly in the Herald, Kerevan and Joyce Macmillan are in the Scotsman, Kevin McKenna in the Observer, Andrew Wilson in the SoS. Those voices are there but given the entire weight of publications and words produced daily in Scotland, they are islands of dissent. The problem doesn’t just lie in commentators, but in selection and placement of stories and, of course, their treatment. A lot of our broadcast output doesn’t help to provide perspective, I’m afraid.


I hate to sound like an apologist for Salmond because I recognise his shortcomings, hear unattractive stories about his behaviour and disagree with him on policy areas and campaign approach, but, just as I did with Jack McConnell, I accord him the respect that his office demands. McConnell never impressed me – or many in Labour – as FM material but one thing a grounding in politics and life in the BBC teaches you is that each politician represents a section of the Scottish people. Every MSP comes into a studio with the backing of the majority of voters and it is to those Scots that you owe respect when you interview their chosen representative. The First Minister is the political embodiment of the Scottish people, if you vote for him or not. His office, his job and title, carry the full majesty of the people. It doesn’t mean you genuflect, on the contrary, as a journalist you question and challenge but you never forget that at his back stand the entire Scottish nation whether he’s SNP, Labour, a bumbling idiot or, (for the Scotsman,) a fascist.

So when he goes to Bruges to make a speech about our future in Europe, given our current constitutional position just weeks away from the referendum vote, it is, of itself a news event. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion from most of our media that it’s just another version FMQs, in which they look for the Holyrood tripwires of controversy. That is part of the job, of course it is. But, unless he says he’s going to war with Brussels, the event and his message about our planned role in Europe IS the overriding news story, as it would be if Cameron went to Bruges. The questions over content and meaning follow on from the main event and form part of the analysis. Other countries recognise the difference when their leader is representing them abroad and don’t just take a parochial news line that omits the main point. The Scottish media seems never to have grasped the meaning of a national government in their own country and sometimes treat it like Strathclyde Region Mark Two.

I think the references to fishing are a real story but they are only part of the Bruges event. When Scotland is trying to gain entry to the EU in controversial circumstances and is creating a Europe-wide interest, it looks small-minded not to recognise the overall implications of his intervention. The conventional media treatment of discounting the main point of his speech fits with the long-time strategy of Unionist parties to pretend it is not really a national government in Edinburgh, just a sub division of the really important one elsewhere – hence the initial resistance to calling it a government not an ‘executive’.

(I thought the point of the fishing remarks was, if not actually a threat, a long-awaited reminder that Scotland has a hand to play. If you follow the normal commentary, you’d think Scotland went into EU talks naked, utterly dependent on the whim of others. This was a small and pointed reminder that is not so. We have a full deck of cards of our own.)

The fascist references above, by the way, derive from James MacMillan being given space in the Scotsman to give us his views on the referendum. Puzzlingly, he is coy and says he doesn’t want to (that’s when the Scotsman should have said OK, No Thanks) but goes on at length to try to link the Yes movement to fascism by the tired story of the brief dalliance of Hugh MacDiarmid to the creed when he regarded it as a movement of the Left. You might as well link a British Communist like John Reid to Stalinism. Then, through a serpentine maze, Macmillan ropes in Alan Bissett and to me implies he may be afflicted by the forces of evil (fascism) along with other Yes-minded artists (?) Convoluted and bizarre and distinctly nasty in implication.

It demonstrates that some with a popular badge – artist, musician, professor – have absolutely no idea who the people of their country really are and what they believe. This is more of the forced fantasy that can only comprehend independence through a twilight filter of hate while the massive body of the grassroots Yes movement is composed of civilised, polite, humane (and often Christian) Scots committed to democracy and fairness. MacMillan displays no understanding of his own country or what is happening in it and reveals his own dystopian obsessions…as he has done previously on sectarianism. Have a read  http://www.scotsman.com/what-s-on/theatre-comedy-dance/scottish-independence-essay-arts-and-the-referendum-1-3393306 and ponder what he is bringing to the debate because I see contrived division, outdated metaphor and another misuse of the mainstream media to express imagined grievance. (Macmillan this week accused me of stirring up ill-feeling! I’d be famous if I had his gift for dividing people first on sectarian grounds, now suggesting democrats are fascist.) He writes a good tune, though.

*Try some of the jokes in the Guardian piece especially towards the end and ask yourself if they stop being funny/satirical and edge into insult. In other words, do they deserve an equally biting response which is what I gave them, merrily ignored by the Express propagandists.


I suppose the point is to be constant, refuse to be moved, remember what you believe, who you are and what you stand for – a democratic, egalitarian, multi-racial, tolerant, open nation, independent within the European family and looking out confidently to the world.

Just don’t expect our own media to tell you that.


For the record I am disgusted by the actions of Vladimir Putin. He manipulated the constitution to keep himself in power, he implicitly endorses the killing of journalists, he supresses gays and is both flouting international law and threatening a European war over Ukraine. If I were asked today for my view, that is what I would say with the caveat that his style of leadership plays to an instinct in the Russian psyche that warms to ‘strong’ leadership and feels more confident with him in the Kremlin.

Salmond may have slipped when he tried for balance in his reported remarks to GQ but does anyone think Salmond is anti-gay – having just brought in gay marriage – that he supresses opposition, silences journalists or threatens war? This retrospective tirade sounds like the last one…what was it?…his hotel expenses. I suspect that people who haven’t even read what he said are baying for blood because ‘he’s siding with Putin’.

I am I suppose being an apologist for him since, on reading his remarks, it is clear to me what he was trying to impart but you have to try to find the real meaning first. And the truth as we know is that across our media there is virtually no one prepared to do that. However, when that bias extends to ignoring George Roberton’s call for Putin and Russia to be included in NATO in order to treat them as a friendly nation in a formal defence alliance, you have wonder why not. Robertson is going much further than Salmond’s off-the-cuff remarks and proposing sharing our national defence so much do we trust Putin.

Why is there no mention of the British approach to Putin to back their fight against Scottish independence? That too goes much further than Salmond by proposing a political alliance with Putin. Are neither of these points relevant?

And in case you’ve forgotten, other leaders have been happy to endorse Vladimir more heartily than Salmond.

Tony Blair said he was ‘open and forward looking and a moderniser’. Obama says he did ‘extraordinary work’ for the Russian people. Sarkozy said he was a ‘courageous, determined man capable of accepting and understanding.’

And, sorry Vladimir, but here’s George Bush: ‘I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country…I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.’

What the current torrent of criticism reveals is a lack of even an attempt to understand what he was trying to say and in so doing further reveals the implied suggestion that Salmond agrees with Putin. Did anyone suggest that was the case with any of the above incidences of praise or requests for help from other people? Of course, not. They were just doing what statesmen do. But Salmond doesn’t qualify for membership of that club. In fact that’s exactly what Magnus Linklater wrote…not the words of a statesman. So, Magnus, George Robertson IS a statesman?

I think Salmond is the victim of his own success. If he wasn’t so good, they wouldn’t try so hard to bring him down. Nobody really bothers attacking Johann, do they? They just let her do it all by herself. The underlying message to Salmond is Do Nothing. Don’t Speak. Ignore the Media. Turn down Interviews. In other words, take the Russian option and suppress all opinions. Whatever you say becomes ammunition even as it leaves your mouth. Pitiful, really.




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Britain’s Pravda

I thought I’d better post again immediately before the men in balaclavas come round and disappear me. It seems Alex Salmond has joined in unholy alliance with Vladimir Putin and instead of joining NATO, Scotland will do a bilateral Warsaw Pact with Moscow. But the good news is, we get to keep the gas and Rangers and Celtic will join the Russian League and I’ll get cheap holidays in a dacha at the Black Sea.


The media and some people who should know better like David Aaronovitch who may developing a progressively anti-Scottish personal agenda, are trying to liken the two leaders because Salmond, silly man, suggested that not all of Putin’s record was execrable.

He said: “Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.

“He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing. There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the intermesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally; they are lovely people.”

Wow! Read it again and quiver. Is the man mad? He dares to give an even-handed judgement on Putin and suggests he may have restored some national pride…

Could it be true. Well, yes. It’s exactly what Putin has done in his own country. I have had Britain’s foremost Russian expert in the studio saying exactly that. Professor Stephen Whyte of Glasgow University travels extensively in Russia and has deep; insight into the country’s workings. He is no apologist for Putin. He states exactly what Putin has done and how he manipulates the constitution. But he has on several occasions confirmed that Putin is popular precisely because he has “restored national pride”. I do not believe I misquote him.

Salmond is stating what a BBC Moscow corr would tell you and yet in the hands of the Salmond-baiters he becomes “like Putin”, as to Paxman, he was “like Mugabe”. When it is the Yes side that is accused of smearing and intimidating you would have to scoff at the bitter hypocrisy of those peddling this stuff.

Imagine if Salmond had said he had no respect for Putin, or for Farage, do you think the press would have applauded, or would they have damned him as a narrow-minded nationalist who couldn’t do diplomacy?

Remember, this was said in March before the Russian annexation of Crimea and before the ugly goings-on in East Ukraine which may well have tempered any comments he made had he had advance notice. But, notice too how this interview is with Alistair Campbell, hardly someone Salmond could be expected to trust. Yet he is confident enough to be interviewed at length by an arch opponent.

And who is it who has been asking Putin to back his campaign against Scotland’s independence, despite promising it was an internal affair? David Cameron. Yes, the Prime Minister can make secret overtures to Putin against Scotland because they’re best buddies but if Salmond just gives a wee nod in Putin’s direction for achieving something that is manifestly true, he is denigrated as some kind of supporter of what?…illegal occupations…surely that’s Britain’s  forte.

There are many things to criticise Salmond for but abuse of human rights, manipulating the constitution, invading other countries and gay suppression are not among them. If Britain was standing up to Putin with more than limp words and limited sanctions, it might provide a counterpoint but the truth is that Britain is in no position to do so. The London property market would collapse overnight if Cameron took strong action, some private schools would be in financial trouble and think of all those oligarchs’ pounds in the banking system. And who does business with rich Russians?   http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=hp_sauce&issue=1363 …

One day the clowns in the media will have to learn to treat a Scottish leader with the respect they do one from Ireland, Iceland or Denmark. It’s because we remain a region that the metropolitan elite treat us and our First Minister as upstart regional types who should know their place. Well I think we are learning, just not he lesson they think…

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Be Frank, Roy

I can’t help thinking Frank Roy will provide some light relief for the Yes campaign. The Motherwell MP is yer actual unreconstructed Scottish Labour windbag, like John Robertson (if there is an independent Scotland: no yard, no ships. Not a threat, it is law of the land ) or Jimmy Hood (If the Scottish people are going to be better off economically and so on, I would still be against breaking away from the Union.)


There is nothing of the gentrified New Labour schmoozer about these guys who all sound as if they still go to work with a tool bag, a piece and a flask. Sadly some of their political ideas are just as dated, be it gay marriage, nuclear power or fealty to the Establishment.

You’ll remember Frank showed all the likely lad tendencies of the Lanarkshire steel worker out for a laugh when in he was censured for placing a bet on the outcome of the election for House of Commons speaker. When Betty Boothroyd retired Frankie Boy spotted his chance. Armed with the inside info of an MP he “asked a friend” to pop out to Ladbrokes with £200 and got 20 to one on Michael Martin MP, another of Scottish Mafia. To compound the naughtiness, he also got a pal to put on another bet on behalf of – and this is where Frank’s well-known altruism comes in – a group of his constituents. Then, and we really are heading into Mother Theresa territory here, when Frank realized the odds for his constituents’ bets were only 14 to one, he split the difference with them from his £4000 winnings. Truly, a Man of the Peeepill…

Inexplicably, the Commons authorities took a dim view of MPs behaving like loadsamoney punters on the elevation of the Speaker. His apology was gracious.

And only in the West of Scotland could you fashion a story in which an MP resigns over security at a Catholic grotto. Yes, Frank told the Irish Government it would be unwise for security reasons for the Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn to unveil a memorial in memory of potato famine victims at Carfin Grotto and the visit was cancelled, playing into the hands of the sectarian bigots and the fury of the Labour-run Executive.

It was revealed he had been an official of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a kind of Catholic Orange Order and stories from the time suggest his Lanarkshire mate, Dr John Reid may also have been involved in the warning to Dublin. Frank gave up his very important role as assistant to Helen Liddell. Interesting that both Frank of Dr John (or Lord Reid of Celticpark) are now to be prominent emissaries of the British Union. (Could Celtic Park with its Irish flag be the cover for a secret HQ of pro-Union campaigners? I shall write to Michael Kelly and find out).

Frank will provide plenty of spark between the patrician Darling and the real Scottish Labour party and don’t forget how hated John Reid is by the Brownites who in turn can’t stand Darling. (This is Labour, remember). I see even the mainstream have stopped pretending that Darling and Brown have buried the hatchet. They haven’t and won’t. What we are now seeing is jostling egos as the campaign enters the panic zone.

Frank may be an ace card in one way. He at least knows the core vote and relates to them in a way far beyond Darling’s capability. It is shoring up those waverers in the West that holds the key to success. Clearly they have deduced that Johann can’t do it – and her figures are truly mind-boggling – so it’s Frank’s turn. It may work, if he can stay out of trouble but it’s hard to think something wont turn up to add to the disastrous decision-making by Darling and McDougall and the misfiring Jim Gallagher whose sensible statements as an academic on independence now haunt the campaign as he tries life as a politician.

I see there is yet another go today at the idea that there is no distinction between attitudes and culture in Scotland and England. This time David Torrance has journeyed south in a voyage of discovery, like Livingstone presumably, only to find that there is nothing to divide us from our English cousins. Well there’s a lot of truth there. Personally I find there’s not a lot to divide me from the French or the Germans or the Spanish either. It’s just that I’m not French, German, Spanish or English. Nor do they pretend to be Scottish. They are what they are without dancing on the head of a pin about what that means. You never hear an Englishman says how much like a Scotsman he is, do you? Yet we have Scots every week in the media desperately seeking ways to align us with English folk.

Of course we share a lot and I agree that many people have similar ambitions but here’s the thing. What David doesn’t tell us is how our policies differ. It’s one thing to say political rhetoric is similar but – LOOK AT THE POLICIES. Sorry, it just strikes me as blindingly obvious that we are not the same. Forget speeches, check out what people vote for and what their government delivers – those are the hard facts. Thus we have no prescription charges, free personal care, free travel, free tuition, no council tax increase, NHS pay rises, living wage, extra police, lower crime, no redundancies and we want rid of nuclear weapons. The list of policies both delivered and promised is totally different from the race-based, spending-cut austerity followed by the parties in England, even Labour which is caught in its own trap by appealing to the South east on one agenda but to Scotland on another.

I am tired of the idea that if only we stick together it will be alright on the night. The English electorate is not going to deliver the policies we want, first because UKIP is leading the polls and secondly, Labour is committed to Tory spending plans and is openly saying it will clamp down as hard as the Tories AND they voted for the benefits cap.

Why are some people so afraid of just being Scots and voting for a government that reflects that? Are they afraid of annoying neighbours in England, are we to sacrifice our own democracy in the vain hope that somehow things will suddenly change in the south? I’m fed up waiting. This is our chance and it will be dereliction of duty for the coming generations if we don’t take it.

Unless Frank can convince me otherwise….

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It Must Just Be Me

I have come to the conclusion that I live in an alternative universe or I that have gone mad. Am I really to take seriously the claims of the modern Labour Party?

Starting with the Herald, I read this morning that Ed Miliband said an independent Scotland ‘would be at the mercy of the corporations’. Is he hallucinating or is it me?


Did he miss the financial meltdown when he was one of Gordon Brown’s treacherous clique working to unseat Blair? Who does he think displayed overwhelming power by trashing the British economy? Who does he think allowed the corporations and banks to get away with it through light-touch regulation? Whose bonuses does he think the government is running to Brussels to protect? Who are the members of the CBI threatening economic ruin for Scotland? Who doesn’t pay tax despite billions in profit? Who does he think he had drinks with at Rupert Murdoch’s parties? Who does he think Vitol is that is funding the Unionist campaign? Has he heard of the Co-op?

I can’t believe this tripe, so utterly and easily dismissed after a moment’s thought, is reported with a straight face.

Further in I come across the paper’s political editor telling me how Miliband has set a dilemma for the SNP. That may or may not be true and I don’t question Magnus Gardham’s integrity in choosing his subject. But how can the political editor of a national newspaper fail to mention – to mention – the single most significant event in the country which was Margo McDonald’s ability to reach into the hearts of all Scots and even in death to remind us of our responsibilities as Scots, not just political tribes? This was a unifying national event which will of course fire more minds towards a Yes vote.


But in controversy terms the real story surely, was the Whitehall Farce of the CBI which has left a huge red face all over Better Together and overtaken the dire warnings from big business – a key moment in the debate.

To ignore both events in favour of a diary event so clearly designed as token PR AND to take the Labour Party spin without question, takes some doing. Is it just me?

Later I find in the same Herald our old friend, the doctrinaire opponent of self determination and knee-bending liege of the British state, Brian Wilson, rehashing his ancient (from the seventies!) mantra that we shouldn’t ‘walk away’ from the people of England and leave them to the tender mercies of their own democratic system. No, we should surrender our own ambitions and prosperity in Scotland in the somewhat vain hope that a Labour government, with no worked out plans for further powers, will win an election in London and actually deliver more than token changes to our rotten society. Let’s all stay poor together in a spirit of solidarity to please the Labour Party and its wealthy business manipulators like Wilson.

Brian, as ever, fails to point out that he was a minister who could have solved the poverty issue in English cities if the Labour government had found the will and the money – from Brown’s boom – to do so. They had massive majorities then and the funds, they just didn’t have the bottle or the desire to share Britain’s wealth with the people at the bottom, so now it’s our job. Is this logic, or is it me again?

Wilson found time to give his now considerable capitalist backing to the CBI in a piece in the Scotsman. Normally, from what I see, he avoids the real story when it hurts Better Together – better to deflect attention. However, this time he twists and turns to avoid actually blaming the CBI itself. It seems the real culprits are the membership. What were they all doing in the CBI anyway and why didn’t they speak up about its position? Nothing wrong with that, of course, except it is designed to clear the name of the CBI because it’s important, he says, that we still listen to them, carefully avoiding the fact they are officially partisan. Their dire warnings are real, he tell us and you suddenly see the game – to divert attention away from the lobby group and its failings so their message of doom and gloom can still resonate. As part of this propaganda play we are told that renewable companies don’t matter as they only exist on government grants and aren’t real companies making stuff (presumably like the nuclear ones that pay him) and proper, right-enough firms are still inside so listen to them, for God’s sake. (We can safely dismiss the Balhousie company as their boss is a Nat, according to the World of Brian). Is it just me, or does this stink of re-arranging the facts so the feckless will follow the correct line laid out for them by the Sultan of Spin?

Funnily enough I tweeted this today and had Baron Foulkes of Bankbalance replying and wondering how I could possibly have gained the impression Brian was backing the CBI. By reading the piece, is the answer. Interestingly, Angus Brendan McNeill MP asked Baron Foulkes what he thought about the CBI only to get a cryptic ‘Probably the same as you’. In other words, a non-answer. And isn’t that typical? Even in the face of breathtaking incompetence and official chicanery, Labour people can’t bring themselves to criticise the employers organisation. What’s it like being a former socialist, I wonder? Maybe it’s just me.


And then I came across some other material…   http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/12/labour-benefits-tories-labour-rachel-reeves-welfare   Want to know what Labour is really about while Red Ed is ‘outflanking’ the SNP on the left? Have a read at Rachel Reeves ideas on how to deal with those scroungers. She thinks the Tories haven’t done enough to control benefits and backs the benefits cap and if you can spot a difference between her austerity zeal and IDS, good luck to you.

And, for sheer, gut-wrenching hypocrisy I suggest you peer into this blog by a disabled woman, one of a constituency especially hard hit both by the serendipity of life AND by the Coalition’s hurtful policies. See how Labour, Red Ed’s ‘outflanking the SNP on the left’ Labour, treats the disabled. Talk about patronising and dumping people who least need it…when this review was launched one of Scottish Labour’s finest Ann McGuire MP, a spokesman on disability said: ‘I am sure they will throw down some interesting challenges to us as we seek to improve the lives of disabled people.’ And so they did, only it involved spending money on welfare – Oops!


Read and weep and think of the once-proud People’s Party.

And, just for a laugh, look at what Labour’s friends in Better Together are doing to those people Brian Wilson says he wants to stand by in Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester. This is a report showing how the Council of Europe says Britain’s welfare, that’s our pensions, jobseekers and incapacity benefits, are below the legal standard to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. That’s right, Britain has cut its benefits so hard, they are now illegal.


I think Labour is a despicable, hypocritical mess and its members who believe in what it once was, should rise up and take it back, via Scottish independence if necessary. But then, that’s just me…

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Keep Your Clothes On!

Are we now seeing through the veil of superiority the British state wraps around itself for protection? With every mistake, miscalculation and miscall the wrinkly old Union is like a stripper desperately covering up the naughty bits with only a scrap of chiffon left.


What once came over as all-powerful and all-knowing has broken down under a long campaign into a shambolic embarrassing mess. There are signs every day now of the failure of the establishment to remain calm and to reassure. As each corner falls off, the credibility of the institutions and people in whom we invested faith, willingly or otherwise, evaporates and with it, electoral support.

In 24 hours we’ve had the once-mighty and sure-footed BBC stumble and crash into the undergrowth over CBI membership, the barefaced opportunism of the Labour shadow cabinet day-tripping to Scotland and one of its London stars, Yvette Cooper (born in Inverness, you see) clearly lost in a strange land on STV.

It’s as if the pressure is beginning to tell and one after another, the old certainties disappear below the water line. Trust the BBC? Well, would you? Labour is full of Scottish talent? Is it? Westminster politicians are better than ours? Really?


The slow death of the CBI is another case-in-point. It was once an unassailable voice of business but also of something more, a kind of boardroom freemasonry where smooth-talking gents met with ministers behind closed doors, like in the gentlemen’s club. I remember spending time with Lord King, the boss of British airways on a visit to Glasgow and noticing the detail of his rich suit, his manicured hair, the expensive perfume and the plummy voice. He was other-wordly compared to the workers, the journalists and even his other staff…he was a cut above and carried an air of casual sang-froid. I was impressed. He was ‘Mrs Thatcher’s favourite businessman’, a privatiser, who stooped to dirty tricks against Virgin in the classic mould of the cut-throat capitalist unable to deal with the very competition he preached. Naturally he rode to hounds and I love the bit in Wikipedia where it says: King kept a flat in London for many years, in Eaton Square, and during his time running British Airways he lived there during the week full-time. At weekends, he travelled north to his country estate, Friars Well Estate, near Melton Mowbray in the county of Leicestershire. He also had a house in Scotland, close to the River Naver, where he pursued his love of fly fishing.

You can see why the public service broadcaster would want to be part of that, can’t you? Makes perfect sense to me.

These are glimpses into another Britain, the same one that pays Alistair Darling £10,000 to make a speech – Jim Naughtie too, by the way – and brings together Brian Wilson with Ian Taylor of Vitol. It is an exalted, secretive community far removed from the lives of ordinary Scots in which quiet words are exchange, understandings reached and pockets lined.

The CBI used to coordinate some of its public utterances with the Conservatives and when reporters like me pointed it out, they’d huff and insist they were strictly independent. Well, they can never say that again in Scotland. That lie is finally nailed and nailed for good. The CBI represents Britain’s business interests in Scotland and that’s why if Ian Macmillan survives this fiasco with his job – and I wish him no ill-will personally, he’s a good bloke – he can never again be seconded on to public bodies and quangos without a public declaration that he will be neutral – which no one will believe.

The BBC’s relentless and hapless decline into national ridicule continues. Just ask yourself what you would have done. In the current situation in Scotland it was untenable for a national broadcaster to be in membership any way. When it became controversial, the need for an immediate and decisive resignation was paramount. Then you’re off and free. Yet at every turn the bungled the simplest of jobs.

Resign – do not ‘suspend membership in agreement with the CBI’. Get out.

Do it immediately otherwise your programmes are going out while you remain in an organisation affiliated to a campaign, defeating the BBC’s own editorial guidelines.

It also implies you are funding a campaign group (with licence payers money).

Nobody believes it if you only come out for the strict duration of the pre-vote period of editorial balance. It looks like you’re only doing it because technically you have to, but you’d rather not and you’re going straight back in any way.

Surely the European elections are coming up next month and despite the need for strict neutrality, you will still be in a politically-committed campaign group throughout that period.

This is terrible, BBC. On top of the damage already done to the reputation of the organisation, this is the latest hopeless mess hot on the back of the John Robertson cock-up.

So obsessed is the BBC with perception of its neutrality that when I was contacted by a journalist about assisted suicide following the death of my wife and I sought management permission to be interviewed, it was declined. I was told I couldn’t express any views on such a matter as it would lead to a perception of personal bias and despite my passion for the issue, the BBC’s reputation was more important. Where is that desire for public perception today? There is only one perception – of an out-of-touch, partial, pro-British institution keen to play footsie with big business rather than do its duty by the Scots.

The perception of the British state as clever, powerful and beneficial is crumbling before our eyes, just in time for Scots to realise the truth in September.




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