BBC Come A’ Ye

I’ve been learning the words and chords to Freedom Come a’ Ye on the basis that it is now a truly national song encapsulating the spirit and outlook of the Yes movement…that and the fact I’m embarrassed to be seen humming along. It’s funny how using the Scots words connects you with the world they come from…Nae mair will the bonnie callants mairch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw (a timely anti-war reminder there) or Black and white, ane til the ither mairriet, mak the vile barracks o their maisters bare…

Interpreted into English they make a Dylan-esque peace anthem that can be sung with an American twang. But ripped from the page and driven by suppressed rage in uncompromising Scots they seem to echo down the ages like the dreams of our forefathers expressed in their native tongue. These are the words spoken by the Scottish kings for a thousand years, by King Robert and by Barbour in The Brus, by the Covenanters in secret conventicle on the hillsides and even by Hume who tried to rid himself of them in deference to Enlightenment assimilation into North Britain. Our language. (Unless you’re a Gael). Our history. Our culture.

Hamish Henderson, whom I interviewed about his work and afterwards drove to Sandy Bell’s in Forrest Road, captured the humanitarianism that fights a constant duel with pragmatic self-interest in the national psyche. The Unionist critics like to deride this open-minded righteousness and contrast it with what is often a stultifying reality in modern Scotland, missing the essential truth – that we know what the right course is and we aspire to take it. Nor are we afraid to admit to it. And a black boy frae yon Nyanga dings the fell gallows o the burghers doon. To listen to this anthem sung in haunting solo by Karine Polwart or Lorraine McIntosh is to hear our long-gone Scots ancestors live on in the ancient words. To sing it in company is to join those long-gone Scots and share with them our birthright.

These thoughts coincided with the funeral of radio producer Stewart Cruickshank, someone few will have heard of but whose influence they will have felt. He was one of a legion of creatives working out of Radio Scotland, people who had titles like producer, editor, presenter or engineer but whose talent and passion reached way beyond the confines of departmental bureaucracy. They generated an unstoppable momentum behind programming that was intellectually and emotionally rooted in Scotland and its culture and which showcased the best of new indigenous talent and still embraced the wider world of arts and music.

It isn’t that the BBC was any less hapless and cack-handed than it is today – I’m not looking through rosy specs – but rather that the cumulative ability and drive of the staff overcame the shortcomings. There was a sense of mission in delivering what they believed the audience wanted and needed to hear and a fierce confidence that they knew how to provide it. There was none of the tentative audience-led insecurity you get today in programming based on Tell Us What You Want And We’ll Do It. The Cruickshank generation were experts in their field and had the heady sense of freedom to decide content rather than the prescriptive radio-by-numbers we’re subjected to now by managers obsessed with accounting, RAJARS and corporate process.

Radio Scotland was the cultural hub of the country so that when city theatre managers in Glasgow wondered how to fill the halls with something other than pantomime in the winter weeks, they asked the BBC. Donald MacInnes and Iain Anderson, I believe, and others suggested their mix of traditional music might bring in an audience and Celtic Connections was born. It is now a world event with the best of Scottish music combined with world music. Now over 20 years old, it has shown Scotland to the world and provided content for Radio Scotland. I heard rumours BBC Scotland wouldn’t provide full festival coverage on television in January but that can’t be true.

I have a film documentary on Radio France, their RS equivalent, which shows how the station is widely regarded as ‘a cultural gem at the beating heart of the nation.’ It demonstrates how it reaches all corners, reflecting the interests of the people to become a cherished part of national life. Does that sound like the Radio Scotland you know? Are the presenters national celebrities? Would there be widespread mourning and outrage if it disappeared tomorrow?

There is some good output on Radio Scotland but I know of no one who prizes it as a national jewel with must-listen programming. It has been yanked around so much in the last 10 years during which it became fearful of intellect, mistaking it for snobbery, prostrating itself before the lowest common denominator with audience-generated content like phone-ins. It has programmes named after presenters as if that meant anything, just like local radio. It sacked the newsreaders who gave it the BBC tone and gravitas and binned the continuity voices that eased you from one show to another. Now programmes crash into each other without coherence never mind elegance. It has 1980’s style musical stings with heavily-accented voices growling that this is Rrrradio Sco’laand. There is sometimes a querulous element to issues in the news as if they don’t want us to know how dirty and dangerous the world is…it seems to say: Don’t worry, it’ll be alright. Now here’s Robbie Shepherd

The music that used to define it and give it a unique pitch seems to be confined to the late evening when audience numbers dwindle into the single figure thousands.

It’s also almost impossible to tune into as you travel north of the Great Glen – you’ve more chance of getting Radio Four from London or Radio Two. Radio was once the Senior Service, now it is the poor relation.

Radio Scotland needs more than a scheduling shake-up every five years. It needs leadership. It needs profile. (Does anybody know the Head of Radio Scotland?) It needs a sense of national mission. And it needs confidence. If the winds of change have blown through Scotland, how difficult would it be for the national radio station to feel the draught too?

Roch the wind in the clear day’s dawin

Blaws the cloods heelster-gowdie ow’r the bay

But there’s mair nor a roch wind blawin

Through the great glen o the warld the day.

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Rattles out of the Pram…

There’s always a dilemma in being an editor – even at the lowly level of this blog. Do you give oxygen to articles you regard as unhelpful out of a sense of balance or, if they’re irredeemably hopeless, out of respect for the status of the writer?

My initial reaction to an item this week was to recoil in horror and silence in case the author had flipped. You know, lost his marbles. But after contemplation, and a carrion feast in the Unionist press, I’ve changed my mind.

In October my friend Alex Bell sent an email about his new project, a magazine – ‘confident and intelligent without being tribal’ – pitched at the level of the Spectator and New Statesman. There would be comment ‘across the spectrum, a celebration of our cultural achievements and coverage of global events’. Sounds good, although of course, there are reasons why Scotland doesn’t already have such a product and that made me doubtful. (The market is small. Potential readers already get the New Statesman or Spectator which has Scottish content. We have Bella and Left Review in this territory. The stable of writers is small and already has other outlets. Magazine culture has never gripped Scotland has it did Ireland and even Wales).

But hey…this is the age of new media. So when I saw on Twitter Alex’s article for Rattle magazine denouncing the SNP as flawed and even immoral, I assumed it was a publicity ruse to drum up investors. Its tone was so hyperbolic and its conclusions so hare-brained that it reminded me of this year’s classic zoomer hit, Adam Tomkins’ children’s fantasy, in the same Spectator, of life under the cruel and sinister SNP. And indeed, within minutes it was being quoted extensively by the mad professor as proof positive that the SNP were liars and charlatans. That was after another impartial judge of Scottish affairs, Labour lackey David Clegg at the Record started the feeding frenzy in earnest. So this was already more than stirring up controversy, it was arming the opposition. There is a point at which unflinching criticism turns into self-flagellation. Until now Alex has made a cogent case, regularly, for the SNP being instinctively too conservative and, as head of policy, he suffered the frustrations of this more than most. His leftish impulses were repulsed by a party that has built success on never getting too far ahead of the conservative Scots. I tend to agree with him but satisfy myself that the politicians who have actually dedicated their adult lives to the Cause and taken the trouble to get elected, know a deal more than I do about what people will support. So far it seems to be working, no? I’m always amazed at the rocketing ambition of people inside the political bubble who want to set the national Sat Nav to Destiny. They expect the People to rise up and demand a New Order when most voters want the bus to come on time. The SNP is already asking the Scots to throw out the constitutional settlement of three centuries and create a build-your-own sovereign nation. It’s a tall order without demanding they also turn upside down the social model they are used to. How radical do you want ordinary people to be?

So the Nats could be more ambitious and polish their radical intentions but then no party fulfils everyone’s hopes. They only have to encapsulate the ideas that come closest. Maybe RISE comes closer to Alex’s ambitions, or maybe he just gets bored easily and needs to move on intellectually. He has a fierce intelligence, a long commitment to the Cause and I’d never doubt the integrity he applies to his words. Indeed I think since leaving the government he’s written another book.

Sadly this Rattle article reads like the outburst of a defector rather than the rant of a critical friend. It feels as if it should bookended with the words: ‘…and therefore it is with regret that I remove myself from the campaign for independence and commit myself to working within the Union.’

You can’t really accuse your own side of deliberately misleading the voters and of acting immorally and still claim to be a friend, can you? This sounds like the apotheosis of an acrimonious departure ending in schism. I assume it’s well intended and designed to trigger internal soul-searching but I’m afraid the Tomkins-esque terminology will do little to endear any Nationalist engagement with his criticisms, rather leading instead to ostracism. If the magazine is to avoid tribalism, the editor may want to revisit the definition of the word.

Although the media coverage I’ve seen takes at face value the factual content, I’m afraid that, journalistically, it is a failure as there is virtually nothing but polemics here. Like a blog, it’s a fiery blast and any factoids that might have supported his assertions were shrivelled to a crisp in the heat of rhetoric. Worse, as a Nationalist, I see him repeat exactly the same flaw as the Express, Mail and Telegraph in his analysis of the economic case. I read in vain for any concept of what an independent economy might look like. He relies for his damning verdict on the official numbers provided by Treasury sources, totally missing the point of independence – making choices that suit Scotland. That means finally seeing the actual accounts, not the ones that ascribe spending to Scotland that never comes here and loading Treasury assessments of our debits rather than actual figures. He allows for no movement on debt for example during years of negotiations, but simply assumes our economy will carry on with the same spending commitments we have now. What would be the point of independence if that were true? These are the words of a man who has no faith in the very idea he has been promoting for three decades.

Let me address a wider point. He writes: ‘Independence needs facts and planning. The leadership fear those facts will rip the party apart. The SNP is growing comfortable in its role as the Scotland party within a lop-sided UK, while pretending it is still fighting for independence to keep the party together.’

The weekend the SNP won the Scottish election 2011, I called Kevin Pringle in Salmond’s office from my car in Moidart. I told him that, with a referendum inescapable, there was an urgent need for an independent organization systematically disseminating information on Scotland, the EU, NATO and the UN. A think tank was required, separate from the party, whose research would inform the debate and become a trusted source. If nothing was done, anti-Scottish interests and those with an anglo-centric outlook would do the work instead and create a one-sided view. If the SNP leadership used their contacts, they could find backers for the project although it would remain independent. As Alex himself told me later, he, as key adviser, turned the idea down. Yet it would have established the ground for research and media-informing intelligence on all matters relating to independence – ahead of the Unionist mob and the IFS. Who was afraid of facts ‘ripping the party apart’ then?

And that phrase ‘pretending it is still fighting for independence’. That’s nice, isn’t it? All those folk I see on Maryhill Road on a wet November night knowing that every vote counts no matter how well you’re doing, giving their time and investing their hopes in the Cause…just pretending, are they? Or are they – and am I – just willing dupes manipulated by the cynical leadership?

There is a disdainful tone running through this piece which will delight Jackie Baillie but it is one that does no favours to Alex Bell and Rattle. It has the feel of Johan Lamont’s farewell – hard words, some necessary, but falling into recrimination that hints at deep resentment. Just as ‘Branch Office’ was the gift that goes in giving for the Nats, so ‘Independence is Dead’ from Salmond’s adviser may be the undying motto of Rattle magazine.

Still, Alex wanted publicity. And, you have to agree, he got it!

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Vive La France

Some people have a commendably abrupt reaction to a terror attack. It can be summed up succinctly: Bomb the bastards. Me, I react like a victim just outside the danger zone. I’m disorientated, uncertain and dismayed.

I have to agree though that revenge is a powerful lure that draws on the ancient impulse to retaliate. We can strike harder than you can…until the next time.

That’s what France has done – sent in the bombers. A squadron of jets fired 20 bombs into targets at Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria to, we are informed, devastating effect. I don’t doubt it.

So devastating, that it seems unlikely no citizen of Raqqa would have been the innocent victim of the attack. However many signed-up jihadists were killed, there must have been a number of locals blown up too…the same innocents on café terraces and in a concert hall whose bodies lay ripped by Kalashnikov cartridges in Paris.

Across the Middle East there is a growing trail of dead innocents. We count the victims of the Sharm el Sheikh air crash and the Paris slaughter, in the Gulf and to the North, they count non-fighters blasted by drone strikes. Like the al-Taysi family on their way to a wedding in al-Baydah province in Yemen at the end of 2013. They were blown to pieces. A State Department spokesman said: Obviously, broadly speaking, we take every effort to minimise civilian casualties in counterterrorism operations – broadly speaking, without speaking to this one specifically…

In Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen alone, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that up to 5500 people may have been killed by US drone strikes. Of the total as many as 1100 have been civilians, including children. That’s as far as anyone can tell. It’s also just from drones, not cruise missiles or bombing.

I did a search for Raqqa and there are images of beheadings, heads on spikes in the public square, smiling men holding up severed heads, a throat being slashed with a blade, crowds watching gays being thrown from towers, black-shirted militias and jeeps of full exultant, cheering men. Smoking is sinful, women can only go out accompanied. Bodies are left on crosses in full view of all including the children.

Maybe it’s just me but I think the population of Raqqa has suffered enough.

Can we complain about the massacre of our innocents when we (and Britain is part of this) knowingly massacre theirs – however inadvertently? Or is the answer that they started this and we’re only retaliating – we wouldn’t be doing this if they hadn’t launched their jihad on us?

Well, reluctant as I am to let anyone avoid their responsibilities, we do have to face up to a few uncomfortable truths. They don’t justify the medieval horrors of ISIS in any way but if the terrorists are to be confronted with their sins, we can take time to hold up the mirror to ourselves.

You’d need an expert in Middle Eastern tribal loyalties and comparative religion to explain the detail but none of us should dodge a bit of basic homework by passing all the blame on to one side. If you like your Lawrence of Arabia, and I do, you’ll recognize how Britain and France, as leading powers in 1916, believed they knew best when it came to the Middle East. As good Christian supremacists, they assumed the roles of civilizing influence on warring tribes and, while urging them to beat the Turks to destroy the Ottoman influence in the region with a promise of subsequent independence, Paris and London were lying to them. The leading diplomats involved were Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot. They secretly did a deal to carve the area up between themselves, assuming sovereign powers for Britain in what are now Jordan, Iraq and Palestine with France controlling Syria and Lebanon. (Lawrence’s dilemma was that he got to know of this and found his loyalties conflicted between the UK and the Arab tribes he led).

The result was that Arab countries never did get the independence they fought for and ended up as pawns of the great powers. Any hope of liberal, modern democracy was destroyed as their grievance turned to military nationalism as the best means of ousting the Europeans. Another legacy was the straight lines so casually drawn by the European country-builders and turned into real borders – they ignored tribal and sectarian divisions on the ground, festering relations.

Our history in this is far from inspiring and, as the Arab nations see it, it was compromised further by the arrangement to create a Jewish state out of Palestine that we allow to behave ruthlessly and illegally, according to UN resolutions.

An ISIS defector has now told how the real power behind the group is held by former Iraqi soldiers, men who lost everything after the American-led invasion in 2003. One of the catastrophic errors in post-war Iraq was the de-baathification of the civil service and the military – the people who run the country and the people who defend it. They were thrown out of work, in many cases denied income or pension, humiliated and left destitute yet, in the case of the Army, still with access to weapons. Nearly 300,000 armed, angry and vengeful males were loose in a country without effective government. That was the base for the insurgency that followed and morphed into al Qaeda before splitting into ISIS. The men who became leaders of ISIS met for the first time in an American prison in Iraq.

We, the Western nations, have played a role over the years in creating conditions in which the malign, dogmatic and murderous obsessions of zealots and thugs can flourish. And we continue to do so today.

It doesn’t excuse their nihilistic fetish for barbarity but it has provided them with a motivation and a target. It’s not to say that they wouldn’t have devised another purpose for a violence campaign – the age-old schism between Shia and Sunni does not need outside ignition to start a war in the Middle East. But the West’s incurable theology of intervention – for peace, diplomacy, oil and commerce – is provocation to the aggrieved. We delude ourselves that our governments are benign agents of altruistic intent and our allies are good guys. The standing insult to civilisation that is Saudi Arabia is a reminder that even those whose standard operating procedure appals every ‘British value’ can parade through the halls of our democracy and our royal palaces.

We are on the road to Hell (as the jihadists might say). Because, however you look at it, this isn’t a war in the normal sense against a country and it’s not clear what victory would be. If we bomb this lot into oblivion, is that it? To date, the insurgents have become each more violent and psychotic than the last. Who takes over in swathes of Syria and Iraq and what rights to Sunnis and Shia have? Does Assad survive when the Sunnis want rid of him? When will the Arab Gulf states with their oil wealth, invest in democracies in Iraq and Syria? Hang on, they aren’t even democracies themselves…

There is nothing that can be surrendered or conceded to ISIS that would form the basis of a settlement, nothing that can be a compromise. It is not religious – it is a devilish stain on humanity that is the very contradiction of religious belief.

I daresay a massive Russian invasion – and Putin will definitely retaliate – perhaps in a newly-forged all-country alliance will eventually destroy these lost souls and their structures. But some new variety of malevolence will spring up and other metropolitan Friday nights will end with gunfire and sirens. Like climate change, we are incapable of coming to terms with the changes it requires and so are destined to carry on as before. I wish I had the bullish certainty of the commentators that another air war will end it but I fear the desperation to do something is another version of Sykes-Picot – a lie that will unravel.

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The End is Nigh

If, like me, you spent the last week confused about why the SNP was giving credence to Labour’s latest ploy, then lighten up this morning with this gem in the Herald from David Torrance. It will make your day.

Here in one handy article is everything that is wrong with our wee country – among aspiring Scots, in the media and throughout Unionism. This belongs in that corner of each newspaper that should be entitled Today’s Unionist Wishful Thinking.

David has been consulting with his contacts which usually means his former employer, David Mundell, who has for years been a one-man briefing source keeping the Unionist media on message.

We are duly advised that the imperious might of the Scotland Act is about to burst like fireworks over Holyrood and leave the overwhelmed Nationalists gasping in shock and awe. By its very ingenuity and all-encompassing breadth it will crush the Nats’ ambitions and wake up the gullible populace to their shallow chicanery. Their reign is about to end as they are exposed by Tory genius as charlatans. Redemption is on its way, brothers and sisters. The man in the High Street with the sandwich boards was right all along. For the Nats, the End is Nigh.

All great empires must eventually fall, says the headline…indeed they do and that applies equally to the Union which is now on its knees. But with finely-honed perspicacity (or, as Mundell told him) the ground shifted last week and the SNP has finally been rumbled. Because it must be clear to you all by now that they are not really a political party that cleverly got in tune with public opinion, grew a generation of talented politicians and has successfully ran the government for the best part of a decade, hardly putting a foot wrong and hovering up Tory votes along the way. No, they are clever tricksters who have fooled half the entire population into backing them by pretending to be genuine, or left-wing, or something and getting away with it. But Mundell has them in his sights, he’s got Labour to load the ammo and any minute now there’ll be a BLAM! and it will all be over. Ironically though, if David’s beloved Tory Party hadn’t thrown every last penny at Mundell’s seat, he wouldn’t even be here today – except via the Lords, obviously, from where he would still have been Secretary of State, such is the democratic tradition of British Unionism.

Those democratic traditions gave us the Vow which Torrance now declares delivered, although he’s been saying that almost from its inception such is the desperation to draw a line under the devolution of powers or, as he puts, to end ‘grievance’. Nationalists must know that belief in your country and campaigning for national dignity by running your own affairs can never be described as a noble cause. It is merely the expression of a grudge against people you instinctively dislike because of course you’re too primitive to know better. Unionists are more open-minded, non-judgmental and welcoming. Such is the British way. The smugness oozes through the paragraphs.

Another example is the clichéd ‘An election fought on the basis of parties and personalities suits the Nationalists; a campaign based on “record” and policies does not.’ Really? First of all I hardly think the Nats will have to bother with the personality side of things. Name me a single Labour personality. One? OK then, I grant you James Kelly.

Secondly, let’s look at the record since David doesn’t think you’re interested.

Crime is at a 40 year low, with violence down 10 per cent and a clear-up rate the best since records began in 1976. (Crime has even fallen under the media-ridiculed single force).

NHS budgets are up £3b since the SNP came in. Numbers of staff including nurses and doctors are at an all-time high. Prescriptions are free.

Education policy has brought a 50 per cent rise in university applicants from the most deprived areas. Scotland is the best-educated country in Europe, says the UK Office for National Statistics.

The economy is thriving despite global unrest, say accountants BDO and Bank of Scotland.

Standing above all else is the publicly accepted and endorsed policy of always putting Scotland first. Unionists can always point to failures but based on the above, you can see why no SNP canvasser is afraid to go on a doorstep and argue on the record. Just compare it to Labour’s!

Unaddressed here is the elephant in the room – the Scots don’t believe the Vow. Just over a month ago, Yougov found 9 per cent – that’s NINE per cent – believed the Vow had been kept. It looks like wishful thinking that some amendments, changes in grammar and the addition of abortion is going to ramp that up much, no matter how hard the Herald and the Record trumpet it. The whole point of the Vow, as created by the real editor of the Record, Gordon Brown, was that it said nothing that could be confirmed or rejected. It was a scratched together publicity stunt from terrified Unionists who saw the polls turning against them. Smith was a race against time to pretend something was being done and an abrogation of responsibility since profound constitutional change cannot be done in half a dozen meetings with self-interested horse-trading.

Also overlooked here is the message from the General Election – an unprecedented sweep of Scotland in favour of a party of constitutional change – sorry, grievance. You simply can’t casually cast aside, as Torrance does, the effect of the mandate delivered by the voters in what he regards as the Holy of Holies, a British General Election. Taken together with the threateningly high Yes vote, the clear implication is Scots were prepared to stay in Union but, by God, they wanted the Home Rule promised, not a face-saving stitch-up. That’s what the SNP surge was about. The effortless arrogance of those who dismiss the verdict of the voters is the hallmark of the failed state they support…the Unionists assume their own brilliance when they are actually ignoring the obvious. This imperial myopia allied to the affront of EVEL, is feeding the Nationalist beast.

But, when hands get clammy with excitement on the keyboard at the prospect of an SNP defeat, democratic mandates and voter messages can go hang.

What there is here is confirmation from a connected Tory commentator of the Unionist plan built around Smith and the concession of partial tax and welfare powers. Here it is. ‘…with more and more of its budget taken up mitigating Westminster cuts, obviously that becomes much harder to maintain, especially when coupled with a deep reluctance to increase income tax. Not only will scrutiny be greater than ever before but the Scottish Government’s room for manoeuvre much narrower.’ Boom, boom! The Smith process, and Labour’s tax credit scam are nothing to do with the governance of Scotland or what benefits the people might derive. It is all to do with squeezing the Scottish budget and laying rat runs of escape which all lead to unpopularity via service loss or tax rises. There, in a paragraph, is British Unionism’s plan for devolution to Scotland. It is a Fuck-You policy.

As you read down you will see that just before the end Mr Torrance rescues himself from his galloping daydream and sanity intervenes. The shambolic failure of Labour across the UK is pointing, as I said yesterday along with the rest of the known world, towards another Tory government in a few years’ time and along with a possible  oil price rise, could smooth the way for a revived SNP move on a referendum. But still, it seems, for Unionists, fed on thin gruel for so many years, the ground has shifted. So much so, that there is even space to hint at a possible Tory revival – you just can’t escape that constant theme cropping up. I thoroughly enjoyed this column and have resolved to read the Herald again next Monday. They’ve hit on a winning formula here –Inside the Scottish Tory Mind…hours of pleasure.



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Get Real

Looks to me as if the SNP is making a profound mistake in chasing after a Labour policy as flimsy as it is opportunistic. Labour will never have to enact the restoration of tax credit cuts and have devised it purely as a political gambit. It is uncosted and unprincipled and unaffordable without changing priorities on which the government was elected.

The idea that this Labour Party is dedicated to helping the poor is disproved by their MPs abstaining on cuts at Westminster, even under their apparently left-wing new leadership. One of the champions of the ploy shoved to the front by Labour is Jackie Baillie who still puts the enormous cost of nuclear weapons ahead of paying for poverty. And, as every Yes voter knows, if you campaigned with the Tories it was to ensure the British system carried on allowing right-wing un-Scottish governments to damage the vulnerable. Whatever difficulties a Scottish budget would have faced after a Yes vote, we know for damned sure our own government would never deliberately set out to impoverish the people as the Conservative zealots are doing in London.

To argue that there is no option but to commit to restore all losses is as ludicrous as it is dishonest. There is no way Scotland can continue to do little more than ameliorate Westminster cuts as they are lined up to hit in wave after wave. The government’s job is to run the country for all and in the interests of the majority. As soon as it champions one sector over another that principle is compromised and whose services have to be reduced to play the new Unionist game? Our health service, the one the same Unionists contrive to criticise? The schools they say underperform? Kezia has already spent the Air Passenger Duty money once already. (That’s the money that doesn’t actually exist). The success of the SNP is in offering enough to everyone while pointing out our unfulfilled potential closed off by Union. Do the majority of Scots now accept instead that all along Holyrood’s job was to be the agent of Westminster and to dutifully clear up the mess they deliberately make? Is devolved democracy really reduced to being the binmen of Britain, clearing up the Unionists’ shit?

I have no doubt that on a human level Labour politicians care as much about the have-nots as anybody else but does anybody suggest seriously that this policy is anything to do with solving the problem of poverty rather than a desperate last throw of the dice to make impact before next May? Could it be more transparent? Are we really expected to believe that the same people who cheered supermarkets warning of higher prices on the shelf or applauded banks threatening to leave or stomped in delight when a Tory Chancellor said it was his currency not Scotland’s…are we really expected to believe they now put poverty at the forefront of all policy options? Is that what they were doing in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Dunbartonshire all those decades of total Labour rule – transforming them into upmarket, thrusting model communities via comprehensive anti poverty programmes? Is that why Unionists still delight in reminding us of the oil price when thousands have lost their income?

We need to remind them that we are in this mess because they worked their scrawny behinds off to save a Britain in which the Tories can operate like rapacious robber barons. This is what Labour wanted. Sure, they prefer their own people in power but they also knew the inevitable truth, that Tories hold sway more often than they do and that Cameron was leading a more neo-con outfit than even Thatcher. By incompetence and corruption Labour are now in the kind of shambles that might mean a Tory government for 20 years. At what point do we stand up to being bullied by them and stop paying them off?

Is there no price we won’t pay? If Labour believed in social justice why did they – and why do they – still put Union before all else?

We are told now by the experts that we will simply have to put up taxes. The Tories have laid the plot, Labour have bitten and, to avoid the wrath of the voters, the SNP must follow. Our entire agenda is manipulated by London Tories who whip Labour into line. Put up taxes, let the Scottish Tories (who will never have to enact anything) to pose as tax cutters and pick up some votes. As the new darling of the Scottish Right, Adam Tomkins, said: put your money where your mouth is. The Tories will brutalise the low paid and you socialists in Scotland can cough up to pay the bill, losing the SNP votes. That is the way our country is governed and now Labour are yet again aiding and abetting their political soul mates…because their real enemy is the SNP, not the Tories, and they will use the poor of Scotland as a weapon against them.

I hear the commentariat on their overblown incomes bragging that they would pay a little more. How charitable. For many more in Scotland that is not a option on limited salaries which haven’t risen above inflation since 2008.

We are already reduced to a society where people need help from foodbanks to eat. How low can we get before there really is a fightback? The first challenge is to stop these cuts going ahead, not opening up divisions in Scotland. Making it known you plan to cover the losses in advance makes it easier for Osborne. The Tories are already under severe pressure which can be maintained through unity at Westminster and support for government rebels. Presenting a united front would drive home the message to the Lords and to the government. If Labour’s plan is serious then let’s see the detail and soon. Then the SNP and Labour can jointly look at a campaign against the cuts and on ameliorating their impact if they can’t be stopped. Maybe they can agree on the areas where the cuts will be made or even a tax rise. Then they can confront the Tories together. But do you think that’s likely? I don’t, because I don’t think Labour are serious and I don’t think their costings, if there ever are any, will stand up to scrutiny. As I say, this isn’t an anti-poverty social justice issue, it is a rescue-Labour-from-electoral-disaster issue.

I say let them have the ground. Who believes they are serious about helping the poor? Who cares if a few extra votes are swung their way? The cautious good intentions of John Swinney make more sense to me and, I suspect, to most voters who can see through yet another Labour illusion. The SNP’s strong lure lies in the voters’ belief that they will do the best they can for all. They don’t make never-never promises the public can see through. They shouldn’t start now.

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