Alba Because

“Welcome to Scotland” sign showing saltire flag emblem at roadside on Scotland/England border. Gaelic translation “Failte gu Abla” shown underneath in yellow text.

Ever since switching to Alba, I’ve made a sincere effort to be fair and even-handed to the SNP: it is obvious that the SNP are vital to the cause of independence, and I know my friends are no less dedicated to the cause than I or anyone else. But the question as to why I left does warrant more explanation, and I’m afraid it cannot be bereft of some criticism.

Many of my friends will be voting SNP/SNP (as I did in 2016) or SNP/Green (as many of my friends did in 2016) tomorrow. I voted that way because I thought they would deliver on the single, most important part of their manifesto:

We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

Some would say the Pandemic is sufficient mitigating circumstances, to which I cannot agree, for what illustrates the pressing need for independence more than being trapped in an insane United Kingdom with a robber baron perfectly happy to “let the bodies pile high” so long as his precious finances are unharmed?

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Scots Asians for Alba

One of the many friends I made when I officially joined the SNP back in 2014 was Abdul Majid – or, more properly, my Mammy’s friend, because she’s the people person. While the Abdul I know is not one for self-promotion, I believe it’s important for the Scottish Independence Movement to know who he is, and why his support for the Alba Party is so important.

Abdul is one of the key figures behind Scots Asians for Independence, one of the earliest campaigning groups to be established for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum: he served as its convenor. His activism advocating for peace in Kashmir led to a mention in the UK Parliament chambers courtesy of Glasgow MP, Alison Thewliss. His standing in both the Asian Scots and SNP community meant he was regularly consulted and invited to Bute House with the First Minister of Scotland, and was until recently a member of the SNP NEC.

I first met Abdul after being introduced to him by Mammy back at my first SNP conference as a delegate: we regularly met at fundraisers, adoption nights, and the St. Andrews’ Night Dinner (where we happily always seemed to end up seated at the same table). We found out quickly that Abdul was absolutely in love with Scotland: even with strong roots half a world away, he was belting out “Caledonia” with the rest of us, waving his flag as proudly as anyone else. Someone once told me that multiple nationalities is not like division, but addition: like multiple layers to a person’s being, not half-this or quarter-that. Abdul is a fine example of a many layered nationalist – one whose nationalism sweeps to all the nations of the earth, like another famous independence icon from the Indian subcontinent.

Now, Abdul and many of his friends & colleagues have signed up for Alba. He’s heading up a new organisation, Scots Asians for Alba, and seeks to continue his work to bring independence to Scotland. Just like the SNP, Alba is a party that advocates a Scottish Independence that includes all on our journey, be they born in Lesmagahow or Lahore, Milngavie or Mumbai, Kirkcudbright or Krakow. As a great man said, it’s not where we came from that’s important, it’s where we’re going together.

West Scotland Alba Launch

I remember attending my first “Yes” event, all those years ago. I was pleasantly surprised at how many folk were there, all sharing a desire for an independent Scotland – but nonetheless, acknowledged the trials which lay ahead. It’s almost a decade since I started the modern, “real” leg of my personal journey. Back then, Inverclyde was predicted to be one of the lowest Yes-voting constituencies in all of Scotland, and everyone seemed to know it: the best we could hope for was that our complement would be enough to contribute to the national vote. As it ended up, of course, Inverclyde was the 5th highest Yes result in all of Scotland. Then we went from an Opposition Party stronghold to one of the top ten SNP gains in both UK & Scottish Parliament elections. Then we were the 30th-highest Remain vote in the entire UK.

Inverclyde seems to have a habit of confounding expectations.

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10 Days to Save Scotland

I’ll tell you a memory I have of the Scottish Independence Referendum campaign, some seven years ago. A group of young men came in. They seemed animated, enthusiastic, but with an air of frustration about them. They had questions – the usual sorts they’d heard from the papers & telly – which we listened to carefully and answered as best we could. One was quieter than the others, his face serious and thrawn. After about five minutes of talking, he said something to me: “but will they really do it?”

He went on to talk about 1979: how the Opposition Party made such fine promises about a Scottish Assembly, only for one of their very own to betray them – to betray all Scots – with the affront that was the 40% rule, never applied to any referendum before or since. He was not asking if the UK would respect a Yes vote – he was asking if the Scottish Government would live up to their promises once independence was assured. I said that they had to: they had no choice in the matter, or they would answer to the people of Scotland. Then he said “how can you give any assurances that they would?” The atmosphere in Yes Inverclyde started to feel tense, electric. The two of us were a foot apart. And I said to him this, eyes dead set on his, unwavering: “if the Scottish Government betray us, then I will be marching right at the front to demand they answer for it.”

He was one of unnumbered people I encountered at the old Yes Inverclyde, each with their own story to tell, each with their own hopes and fears and wants and concerns. I remembered him as I contemplated my malaise of the past year – and when Alba was publically announced, I finally felt some light piercing the clouds.

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A Rat Called Mouse

In a time long ago, I was once privy to secret knowledge. Back in my film criticism/journalism days, I talked with directors, screenwriters, producers, all sorts of individuals: I knew a lot of folk who worked at various levels in the industry. I’m lucky enough to call some of them my friends – damned if I know how or why I found myself in their circles, yet there I was, an errant mote in the whirlpool of Important People. One of my favourite secret memories is when I received some… information. To protect my sources, I won’t say anything beyond that it was related to a significant milestone in popular culture – the sort of thing that only happens once.

I knew that, while some elements would surely be divisive, others would be received warmly, & some would have longtime aficionados leaping to their feet in delight. Oh boy, folk are going to love this, I thought. But I daren’t tell a soul what I knew – quite apart from betraying my sources’ confidence, how could I ruin something that means so much to so many? So, I went on forums, news site comment sections, Facebook groups, Twitter lists, and looked at what everyone was thinking about this pop cultural milestone… while I, privy to secret knowledge, cackled in glee like the proverbial Imp of the Perverse. Reading their theories, their hopes, their fears, all while I knew exactly what was going to happen. Then, the pop cultural milestone happened. Sure enough, some criticized a few parts – but the vast majority seemed to adore it. And I felt that kind of contentment, knowing that I never betrayed my source’s confidence for well over a year, waiting for this great event to unfold. Something of the glamour of prophesy, but for fun.

I wish I had happy secret knowledge like that again.

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Escaping the Event Horizon

It’s all so surreal. Unbelievable. Nightmarish.

I mean, I’d talked before about intrusive thoughts. And they’ve been largely the sort that you find in a later Alistair MacLean spy thriller – heck, some of them have been pushing into Clive Cussler territory.

I’ve gone on record saying that I don’t want anyone to die for Scottish Independence. Yet at the same time I can say, in all honesty, that if the extremely unlikely were to happen and the only thing standing between a bullet and either Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon was me, I absolutely would’ve taken the hit for either one. I know that about myself. I had those intrusive thoughts every time I was in either First Minister’s presence. How could I not? Indeed, when I was part of the crew seeing the First Minister’s helicopter land at Battery Park, we were told in no uncertain terms that there is a slim chance of death in any helicopter landing. Slim though that chance was, it was a sobering thought: dark thoughts ran through my mind. Yet I, and all the others there, stood there, waiting for the bird carrying the First Minister to alight on the green grass of Greenock.

Thankfully, the dark thoughts did not materialise, and I’ll never forget that day. What follows is a collection of some of my darkest, most intrusive thoughts over the past few years, as an illustration to show that even if things look hopeless, there’s always a way out.

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In The Year 2055

In the year 2055
If Holyrood’s still alive
If Scotland can survive
We may find…

In the year 3055
Westminster ain’t gonna stop tellin’ you lies
Everything you think, do, and say
Is only “Once In A Generation” hey

In the year 4055
The Scottish Parliament will metastatise
All the time looking to do
Something about the West Lothian Q

In the year 5055
The Central Belt has been reclaimed by the tides
Still the red rosettes gather in mobs
As they chant “But what about the jobs?”

In the year 6055
Earthquakes rend apart the Kingdom of Fife
You were warmed about what fracking would do
But the economy’s more important to you

Whoooa-oh

In the year 7510
We’ll surely have Federalism by then
The few survivors cry out and say
“But without Barnett we’ll rue the day!”

In the year 8510
They’ll have finally fixed Big Ben
Our Alien Lords project the big screen
As we build their interstellar death machine

Whoooa-oh

In the year 9055
All that’s left of Earth is an archive
A grave surrounded by gifts and flowers
And a newspaper promising more powers

Now it’s been 10,000 years
Scotland’s listened to a million Project Fears
And still they plead, they swear that it’s true
Devomax will deliver Home Rule

But through eternal night
The twinkling of starlight
So very far away
Maybe it’s only yesterday

In the year 2055
If Holyrood is still alive
If Scotland can survive
We may thrive…
In the year 3055
Westminster ain’t gonna stop tellin’ you lies…

A Federation of Dunces

Oh Lord, it’s that time again.

THE current devolved settlement is becoming out of date and the UK should begin a serious debate about creating a “sensible alternative: a federal United Kingdom”, says Sir Malcolm Rifkind.

We’ve heard this so many times it’s getting beyond a joke. How many times? How many decades? How many people have tried this with us?

It’s easy to dismiss the words of a Johnson or Gove because what they say is so blindingly, obviously false, it’s almost like they’re daring you to challenge them on their outrageous lies. Mr. Rifkind is a different animal, because he sounds like he’s being serious. He talks the talk of being a person with actual ideas, with genuine concerns, and reasonable thoughts. But everything he says is just like anything his party’s boss in Number 10 says – noise. Meaningless, fruitless, pointless, useless, worthless noise.

I mean, we know that. Look who’s talking. Just five years ago he was telling us a Federal UK was unworkable “because England was too big.” And then he said the UK was already quasi-federal“! For a such an eloquent man, he seems to be all over the place.

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