Stand Up! Speak Up!

Yet another community gathering to debate the referendum and no one from the No campaign present. It really is well named No Thanks. Four times the people in the Borders made polite requests for a Better Together guest to represent the Unionist case in West Linton, four times they were ignored and eventually turned down. The explanation, after the rudeness, was that they only send speakers to events they themselves organise.

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And there in a sentence is the ethos of the top-down, controlled, PR-managed project that is afraid of the people and the heat of debate. Project fear indeed – fear of democracy. I suppose as long as the landowners and corporate moguls bung in their cash and the conventional media spreads the word, there is no need of positive engagement. Just what real Labour people make of this estrangement from the people is anyone’s guess – they’re remaining quiet, or is it comatose.

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I’ve said before, Labour’s involvement in this tawdry and insulting affair will be long remembered after any No vote and if, as now looks likely, they fail to win the UK election next year and can’t deliver anything for Scotland, derision will be poured over them up to and beyond the Holyrood vote in 2016. Labour could ‘win’ the referendum and lose their soul.

It’s a pity too because in a well-off, picture postcard village in the Borders there were No voters, some English-reared, who have happily settled in Scotland and are at ease with extra powers but who can’t quite grasp the concept of losing Britain which, as one man said, is his real identity, not England. They would have benefited from hearing a rational case against national self-determination from a committed No spokesman. It doesn’t do the Union cause any good that their own natural supporters who are sufficiently engaged to turn up in the village hall on a sunny evening, have only Yes voices to answer their worries.

But then it isn’t comfortably-off English folk making a contented life in Scotland that bother the No side. (I now call them Better Together? No Thanks). Their job is to terrify Labour voters into line. They have the numbers to swing this vote, they are vulnerable to appeals that a better life must be possible and they have no respect for their party leadership north or south. They do have concerns about making it work but they’ll take that risk because, frankly, the UK fails them. They look around at their surroundings, their lifestyle, falling income, long hours, friends and family reliant on benefits – now being cut – and a Britain run by Tories every 10 years, and have nothing to stop them voting Yes.

The only hurdle is that to them this is the SNP’s project and they’re not SNP, not nationalists, not natural bedfellows. Which is why No constantly refers to independence as Salmond’s project – aided by lazy BBC journalism, I notice. They must brand it as a dangerous nationalist dream otherwise Labour voters might wake up to the truth – that Yes is an all-encompassing, left-of-centre grassroots movement that wants to spread our national wealth across all communities, changing lives and caring for all. Last night’s meeting was addressed by Carol Fox, three times a Labour Party candidate, with social work experience and now an employment lawyer, committed to women’s rights and equality in the workplace. ‘I am not a nationalist’, she says. Here is a Labour woman who sees the current party and the current UK system have been proved to be ineffective in lifting people up. She sees how Scotland making its own decisions can mould policies to meet our needs. Not cutting ourselves off, but simply by taking the power that allows us to run our affairs and co-operate where that is mutually beneficial.

Labour voters ask if that can’t done within the Union. The answer is Yes. If there was a will to make that happen, the skeleton of Union could be retained and virtually all decision-making devolved. But no Westminster politician will surrender those powers, that’s not why they’re in politics – to give it away. Their offer is scant, stripped down it means raising more tax in Scotland with a cut in London support funding. That cannot transform Scotland and cannot overcome poverty or dismal lives. It doesn’t deliver more funding, as Johann Lamont admits.

And if that was their plan, they could have put it in the referendum to get it endorsed and to make sure it would happen.

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So Labour is reduced to what every thinking voter knows is a scandalous and mendacious campaign of threating people’s incomes and jobs – Johann and Margaret Curran are in the papers today proudly announcing that their mighty Union will declare Clyde shipbuilders foreigners, throw them out of work and close the yards. And they’re smiling…Johann wears the same smile she had when opening the food bank. What pride.

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Any socialist, no matter how disillusioned with the party, must realise this is the end game…that even in victory, if it happens, this can’t go on. These are not the politics of inclusion and progress, this is managing decline. With Balls, Rachel Reeves and Chris Leslie all spelling out the grim truth – that Labour will not reverse a single Tory cut and Reeves boasting they will be tougher than the Tories – Labour is shackled like Houdini, writhing for escape before the air runs out. No one I know in Labour thinks Lamont is a leader or that she will carry on. No one believes Miliband will be Prime Minister. We now know that if, by accident, he was, his spending policies are those of Tory austerity.

When you consider what Labour could have been offering with their own Devo Max, the dreams they could have ignited, the triumphant campaign meetings across Scotland – even in West Linton – this is a puzzling and depressing episode for historians to pick over.

We can’t wait for history. It’s time to make some of our own and people who can’t even stand up and defend their view don’t deserve our respect. That includes you, Prime Minister.

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30 thoughts on “Stand Up! Speak Up!

  1. Niall Maclennan

    And that’s why Derek, coming from a family of five ‘natural’ Labour voters, with a father who was a Labour councillor, and a trade unionist all his life, we will all be voting YES!

  2. Steve Asaneilean

    The television series The Wire had many iconic scenes. But for me the most iconic was the meeting between Bunk and Omar in a ruined public park when Bunk turns to Omar and says “Makes me sick…how far we done fell”. Everytime I hear of New (i.e. Not) Labour and what they have become and how they have abandoned those that need them most in their grubby grasp for power and influence all I can think about is “how far they done fell”. I am not an SNP member and I should be a natural Labour voter but, as things stand, I have no Labour party left to vote for.

    • Hopefully Steve, there are a lot more like you out there! People need to realise that this is a REAL OPPORTUNITY to change Scotland for the better. Leave all the old party line politics for a future GE. Now is the time to make a difference.

  3. Derek, we had the same treatment from the Labour Party here in Troon when we were organising the Troon Referendum Debate. We were, however, fortunate enough to have a consituency MSP, John Scott, who agreed to speak for NO as well as businessman Professor Dan Wright, also for NO. They are to be congratulated for allowing the people of Troon and the surrounding districts to hear arguments for and against independence.

    If anyone is interested in hearing Robin McAlpine and Ivan McKee debate with John and Dan, then the venue is Troon Concert Hall. Doors open 7.00 pm tomorrow (Wednesday 25th June) and the debate is scheduled to start at 7.30 pm. The concert hall is a large venue and many people have expressed an interest in coming to hear a balanced, moderated debate with ample opportunity for questions from the floor.

  4. You are becoming overly gloomy about the Referendum again. Do not be afraid we WILL win that YES vote.

  5. Brilliant piece Derek. What gets me is how so many labour people are still buying this tripe. Loyalty is one thing but this appears to be a mix of dumb stubbornness and lack of belief that things can be a whole lot better. More power to all the YES campaign and special mention for Labour for Indy!

  6. I don’t know if we will win, this time. I an certain now that if No scrapes it by dint of propaganda, dirty tricks and lies – they will have fatally damaged the ‘Union’ they claim to support

  7. Very well put Derek.

    The short-term, say anything and win at all costs mentality of UK political parties is part of the general decline in the Union. They all seem incapable of promoting any investment to ensure social cohesion – they see costs where I see rights, care and long term social investment.

    If only voters were given basic consumer rights and could opt to cancel their order and seek a satisfactory replacement more in line with what was described on the label.

    • “If only voters were given basic consumer rights and could opt to cancel their order and seek a satisfactory replacement more in line with what was described on the label.”

      Is this not the right of “recall” which we all should have?

  8. The number of Labour voters who realise that Yes is the only way to reclaim the party is growing by the day. I don’t recognise anything in the Labour leadership that reflects me or my concerns for the people of this country. The Scottish Labour leadership have betrayed their own voters and cannot be allowed to represent anyone in the post-Yes negotiations. I’ve said it elsewhere but I wouldn’t let Johann Lamont lead a conga and I don’t want her and her minions ruining our chances of a decent political structure after independence.

  9. I don’t know if anyone is interested in hearing an “American living in Scotland” viewpoint, but here goes. I am absolutely gobsmacked that not ONE UK news organisation (except perhaps the Guardian) mentioned anything about 50,000 people marching on Parliament on Saturday. If it weren’t for RT and the online network, NO ONE would know it had even happened.
    Why bring this up here? Because this is indicative of the illness that has pervaded the entire UK, government and media, and is a harbinger of worse to come for Scotland, should the vote be No. I would suggest that everyone do two things: Check with your electoral commission to see if you and your family are registered to vote and get out there and do leg work – chap doors, talk in the pub, invite an undecided to a meeting with the promise of a free pint or two (or coffee) afterwards, hand out leaflets, and all the while, be calm and go forward armed with facts. Truth beats lies hands down, and if you talk to people, face to face, they will see how earnestly you believe what you’re saying – and you’ll change a few minds. If everybody changes a few minds, then the Yes vote will be assured.

    • Working on it. 🙂

      Points of origin don’t matter Robyn, we’re all Scottish citizens with a stake in the game. Inclusion is the heart of the YES campaign and something worth working for. Unlike BTs definition, foreign is neither a scary or a dirty word to me. If people live here, they have the right to speak up with respect for their fellows POV.

      Oh, and well said by the by. 🙂

    • I’m enchanted by the fact that an American knows about chapping on doors! How’s that for integration! Seriously though – I too was gobsmacked about the lack of coverage for the austerity march. In fact I think the media blackout is one of the single most worrying and sinister things I have heard for a long while.As a Scot living in England (for the moment) I am massively disappointed that I can’t vote in the referendum – but I’m cheering on the Yes camp from the sidelines and will carry on doing so.

  10. Thanks Ian – but don’t worry – s far as September 18th is concerned I knew which way I was going to vote when I joined the Campaign for a Scottish assembly as a student in 1986!

  11. Labour lose whatever the outcome of this referendum. Their behaviour and campaign tactics have seen to that. Completely self inflicted and completely unnecessary. No one who deliberately sets out to instil fear, uncertainty and doubt within their own electorate is fit for office at any level. The parliamentary leadership of Labour never mind the BT campaign have acted appallingly throughout. The demonisation of the YES voting electorate is perhaps the worst sin committed. The constant attempts to conflate civic nationalism with ethnic nationalism was a coldly premeditated act and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

    But here’s the thing. Scotland needs a functioning Labour party, one committed to serving the electorate and committed to progressive socialist policies. I know there are Labour people out there with these ideals very much in mind, that believe in consensus politics, but the house has to be put in order. The careerists need to be shown the door and reminded that party comes after people. That inciting fear and social division in your own electorate for political gain is not an acceptable political tactic. The job is about serving and caring for the people.

    • Agreed Macart. The start is with those who have broken with Scottish Labour and formed Labour for Independence. I admire that they’ve come to the realisation that their party is rotten and stinking at it’s core now, and a new party needs to be formed. Not saying that I would, in the event, vote Labour (more likely would vote Green) but those courageous souls that have broken with the party have put it all on the line for Scotland. I like that.

      • Very much so Robyn. It must have taken a lot for them to make the decision and can only be applauded for their action. There is the core there of a Scottish Labour party and they’re going to be needed.

        A couple of years back after Mr Cameron’s first visit to Scotland I became an SNP member to show support for what the Scottish Government were attempting to do. I’m no natural political animal and prior to this referendum voted for who I felt was the best person for the job in a given area at a given time. I’ve cast a vote for Labour, Liberal and Green in times past. After this referendum I’ll be hanging up any political allegiances too for the most part and returning to old habits. Until then though, my support will be behind those who have given the populace a chance to hold this conversation.

        Though Greens would probably see my approval more often than not. 🙂

  12. You touched briefly above on the “better together no thanks” crew’s “devo-nothing-much” proposals. Though I follow most of the pro indy blogs I am a bit surprised that I don’t see too many people picking up on the real sinister side of what this crew are up to. Sure plenty of folk are saying they will hammer us into the ground after a NO vote, but I haven’t seen anybody pick them up on the use of the phrases “making Scotland more accountable” and “making Scotland more responsible” whenever they talk about their meagre tax proposals that they will (perhaps) condescend to let us have.

    Accountable or responsible to whom would be the question that is asked of them by a diligent media – hmm fat chance there eh!. This crew certainly don’t care much about accountability to the Scottish people now do they. They don’t give a shit for us except in so far as we are rocking their very precious (to them) boat. Hammering us into the ground will come precisely through the accountability/responsibility routine they have planned for us. These words for me have a very sinister ring for our future here in Scotland should we fail to vote YES. Plenty of others have forecast the mechanics of the hammering of the Scots following a NO but it seems to me nobody has picked up on the use of these dead-give-away words “responsible” and “accountable”. Clearly we will (literally) have a high price to pay for nothing much, but of course that’s how it’s aye been anywey – plus ca change…

    Why can’t some people in Scotland see the nightmare staring them in the face if they don’t vote YES. If you follow the recent history of the relationship between Westminster and Scotland you can see how we have been lied to consistently and had information hidden from us at the highest level for decades. There can be no argument about that. This modus operandi has accelerated in the present campaign to astronomic proportions – after all what else could they do, it’s how they operate.

    • “Accountable or responsible to whom would be the question”

      Well spotted Dunkie, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Is it part of the cringe to just kinda automatically assume that we must be “accountable or responsible” to SOMEONE?

      I shall be asking that question from now on.

  13. Excellent piece once again Derek.

  14. I understand that some are nostalgic for what the Labour Party stood for at some points in its history, but I would rather there were a clean break. It is my hope that Common Weal emerges as a party after the YES vote, and I’d be pretty happy with any coalition which didn’t contain the unionist parties, the behaviour of whose representatives has been increasingly toxic during the campaign.

  15. The political brand name Labour is now too tainted to inspire anyone to anything other than personal advancement.
    Scottish socialists are going to have to come up with another name for a political party who truly represents the interests of working people.
    Thanks Derek

  16. It’s wrong to characterise Yes as left-of centre. This is cross party. For example, Business for Scotland is heading for 2,000 members – and you would have assumed business people to be natural Tory voters. But you might be surprised. You are making a mistake, Derek in assuming that the Yes consensus is to be thought of along traditional lines. What unites us? A desire for better democratic accountability – Yes. A desire for social justice – Yes A desire for a prosperous and successful Scotland – Yes. Forget traditional political alignments. This is something different. Please adjust your perspective.

  17. “… the No side. (I now call them Better Together? No Thanks).” I think you will find that they have always been called the “No Scotland” campaign, at least by me anyway.

  18. To be completely accurate, the four refusals related to earlier events, not to the one in West Linton on Monday. By the time we came to organise that one, we’d given up. We just went ahead without them.

    Better that than have them agree, then back out at the last minute, which is what they’ve done to other groups.

    I suppose we’ll now have the No campaign accusing us of lying, just because Derek slightly misunderstood what Calum said.

    It was a great meeting, only slightly spoiled by a few people who took offence because there was nobody from the No campaign present and made a bit of a fuss on Facebook about it not being”fair”.

  19. We encounter the same experience here in Argyll where the local YES group have arranged meetings throughout te area. After initially trying to involve the BT people and getting no response we now arrange for speakers, book, and pay for village hall meetings on a regular basis and we find that these are well attended, attract supporters, occasional visitors and a few NO adherents, who usually complain that NO is unrepresented, wholly unaware of the lack of interest displayed by the NO organisation if such exists locally.

    The only indication of life in the NO campaign is a meeting to take place in Oban with Brian Wilson is to share a platform with George Galloway. Presumably the socialist stalwarts can compare notes on who has benefitted most from their years of struggle againstthe forces of capitalism from within the Labour Party

  20. Och really, Labour lost its soul YEARS ago.

    The despicable antics of this campaign is only enlightening some people too myopic to have seen it before. That there are still people who see Labour as protectors of the working class and the poor is testamount to the powers of a compliant media and the fact that politicians are not held to account when lying in their literature.

    I too, believe that the name of the Labour Party is tainted beyond repair; it certainly is for me. I would rather spoil my ballot paper in an election than vote for them. Tories in Red.

  21. Its reported on the BBC website that Murdo Fraser the Tory MSP is having a fantasy moment today as he gives a speech at Glagow University calling for a Federal UK!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-28025736

  22. Private Fraser – “We’re doomed, I tell you! DOOMED”

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