Lost Histories

I sometimes fear that
people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
worn by grotesques and monsters
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you…

It doesn’t walk in saying,
“Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”
– Michael Rosen, “I Sometimes Fear…

I volunteer with a local heritage & arts group in Gourock: a wee forum where people who are interested in our Burgh of Barony’s past can discuss our history, culture, and future. This can range from the not-too-distant past of the 20th Century, all the way back to prehistoric times, and even the geological composition of the very rocks. Little stories abound, from the innovation of the original Red Herring, to the diabolical warlock Auld Dunrod, and the thing buried under St. Ninian’s football pitch featured on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

There are stories that aren’t quite so delightful: the death of Mary Lamont and others in the “witch-mania of Scotland”; the sectarian violence which cropped up again and again; the expulsion of Rev. Macrae by the Synod. One of the many hazards historians must navigate in the sea of history is that dark side of humanity: no town is without its sorrows, its hatreds, its evils. It can be very easy to repurpose shame or horror from your past into denial and outrage towards others.

I was struck by this facet of the events in Charlottesville: it’s illustrative in showing how easy it is for things to go wrong.

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I Wish I Could Understand It

I wish I could understand pro-independence folk voting for Jeremy Corbyn’s party. Really, I do. I know more than a few people personally who staunchly support independence, but who wanted to support the last great hope of the British Left – and so, voted for his candidate. I even remember this back in the 2015 General Election campaign, where folk I know who were deeply involved in RIC, the SSP, and non-party initiatives told me they would’ve voted for a socialist candidate with a red rosette.

I’ve thought about it for months, now. I still don’t get it. Put aside the fundamental issue of independence (or even respecting the mandate of the Scottish Parliament to even hold a referendum, let alone the notion of independence itself) for me, and there are still so many dealbreakers. The party is committed to renewal of nuclear weapons – dealbreaker. The party is committed to a complete UK-wide withdrawal from the European Union despite Scotland, Northern Ireland, & Gibraltar voting to stay – dealbreaker. The party refuses to adopt even the extreme compromise of Single Market Membership & retention of Free Movement – dealbreaker. And that’s not even considering the fact Corbyn’s party will stop at nothing to destroy the SNP, even if it costs them a shot at government.

I mean, look at this. For God’s sake.

Wings provided a very short and concise piece of advice for Mr Corbyn, but there’s one problem: Mr Corbyn’s party are 3rd in all 13 Scottish seats currently under occupation by Theresa May’s party. Of those 13 seats, a paltry 3 of them appear in the 150 best shots for a Corbyn gain:

Renfrewshire East, Scotland: 7,150 majority, 6.65% swing to win

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, Scotland: 7,526 majority, 10.28% swing to win

Aberdeen South, Scotland: 9,603 majority, 10.91% swing to win

All but two of the UK Government Party-held seats in Scotland require a greater than 10% swing to win. Mr Corbyn’s party needs 325 MPs to vote for him to become Prime Minister. As Wings says, even if you replace every single SNP MP with one from Mr Corbyn’s party, his net gain is 0. Unlike David Cameron’s party devouring their erstwhile coalition partners, Corbyn taking SNP seats cannot provide him with a majority, be it the 18 marginals, or even all 35. Even taking every single seat in Scotland would not be enough for an overall majority, and would rely upon a pact with the decidedly unreliable Coalition Party – which neither side is remotely interested in.

Is there anywhere – anywhere at all – that Mr Corbyn could find more seats?

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Absent Without Leaving

I took a complete break from social media over the past two weeks. Part of this is because of my personal response to the 2017 Local Elections – in particular the Inverclyde result, which I still take very personally – and the aftermath. As of this post, there is still no new administration, and all we have to go on is hearsay. So, until the new administration is in place, I won’t comment on the election, the upcoming General Election, or anything overtly constitutional or political.

However, there was another, much more serious reason. It was a problem which was developing for months before the election, and came to a head in the last few weeks. As a resident of the area this problem affects, as well as a Community Councillor, I did a lot of work behind the scenes with others to find a peaceful resolution to a very tense and volatile situation. Several agencies, including Inverclyde Council, River Clyde Homes, and Police Scotland, were involved: I cannot thank them enough for their hard work and diligence in this very difficult situation. I am beyond relieved that this crisis looks to be over, and hope that all concerned can learn from this experience.

I hope I’ll be able to explain more fully in the future, though that may not be possible. Suffice to say, life was extremely interesting.

The Monstrous Regiments

Something that’s been bothering me lately is the despondence regarding the proportions of women in Scottish politics, specifically the news that only 30% of local election candidates are women. As someone who supports the 50/50 initiative and is perfectly happy to see gender parity in Scottish Government, I do think it’s regrettable that we clearly haven’t reached that stage. 30% female candidates compared to 51% of the female population of a country is a significant deficit of representation compared to, say, NHS workers (77.1% women), third sector workers (67%), public sector workers (64%), secondary school teachers (63%), high achieving school leavers (65.9%), and higher education students (54%), among other walks of life.

However, I’ve found that there’s little acknowledgement of the long strides we have made towards that goal.

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I Don’t Want Another Independence Referendum

There are wants and there are needs. This is a basic element of health, economics, and social structure. First there are wants: things which you might desire, but which are not essential to your life & livelihood – luxuries, frivolities, hobbies. Then there are needs: things which you might not desire, but which are essential to your life & livelihood – sustenance, shelter, warmth. There are wants which can provide some needs, and some needs which you might want. But at the end of the day, needs are essential: wants are not.

It is important to distinguish between the two.

Basis for Comparison Needs Wants
Meaning Needs refers to an individual’s basic requirement that must be fulfilled, in order to survive. Wants are described as the goods and services, which an individual like to have, as a part of his caprices.
Nature Limited Unlimited
What is it? Something you must have. Something you wish to have.
Represents Necessity Desire
Survival Essential Inessential
Change May remain constant over time. May change over time.
Non-fulfillment May result in onset of disease or even death. May result in disappointment.
I don’t want another Independence Referendum. The Scottish Government don’t want another Independence Referendum. And I don’t think the people of Scotland want another Independence Referendum.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

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Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Alex Salmond has been accused of attempting to rewrite history after he dismissed as a “collective myth” his promise before the 2014 independence referendum that there would not be a rerun for a generation or even a lifetime.
The former First Minister claimed he had not used the phrase “once in a lifetime” in a 2014 television interview to describe the vote and insisted he had instead said it was the “opportunity of a lifetime.”
However, footage and an official transcript of the interview showed he did use the “once in a lifetime” phrase when asked whether he would pledge not to “bring back another referendum” if the nationalists lost.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr on the Sunday before the September 2014 vote, Mr Salmond said: “In my view this is a once in a generation – perhaps even a once in a lifetime – opportunity.”
– The Telegraph, 19th March 2017

Alex Salmond said “In my view this is a once in a generation – perhaps even a once in a lifetime – opportunity.” Therefore, there should not be another Independence Referendum for a generation, “perhaps” even a lifetime. After all, Alex Salmond said it, therefore it was a “cast-iron promise” which must be upheld:

We already know the SNP is perfectly happy to break the vow to the people of Scotland that the 2014 result would stand for a generation.
But it’s another thing entirely for Mr Salmond to claim he did not actually make this cast-iron promise to voters. The people of Scotland will see through this latest bluster from a man who walked into the poorest communities in Scotland and sold them a lie about the economic case for independence.
Ian Murray, who has a cheek talking about another party breaking a “vow” to the people of Scotland

Why do people think this is an argument? It’s stupid. It’s utterly, utterly stupid.

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Watch Your Step, Cassandra: Hawthorne Is Watching

cassandra_the-stratford-gallery_henrietta-lee-palmer

An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop.

The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you’d tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass… when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you’ve just been discovered, you’re all subjects of the Emperor now, he’s keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.

— Iain M. Banks, Excession

It is now 78 days until the Scottish Local Authority Election. Historically speaking, these are frequently the second-lowest attended elections in Scotland, which is understandable, given the prominence and perceived hierarchy of the UK Government: according to the Westminster hierarchy, the UK Parliament is at the top tier of government, with the Scottish Parliament next, and local authorities third. Here in Scotland, things are a bit different: in Scotland, the people are sovereign. As local authorities are the closest to the sovereign people, they are crucial to the political conversation. Is it any wonder, then, that the elite insist on putting Westminster first, Holyrood second, and local authorities last, when an argument could easily be made for the very reverse?

But that’s all by the by. I will once again be campaigning for my local SNP candidates in this election. Yesterday, several of them were approved by the Greenock & Inverclyde Branch & Constituency to go forward. There is still time for anyone else to throw their hat in the ring, but we don’t exactly have a surplus of that particular resource.

(Time, that is: we have plenty of hats)

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