Debate or bust 2

Thanks, Gisela Stuart. Yes, it is hard to plan your resources for necessary services like the NHS when you don’t have full control of your budget. That was our argument for Scottish independence and against the Barnett formula.
And to reiterate and nobbishly quote myself:

Everyone knows how much money we chuck across the water to Brussels and quite frankly, for what we get, it’s hideous.
Actually, I didn’t know so I googled. Apparently, the UK public expenditure is more than five times bigger than the EU budget. So the budget can’t be that ridiculous. Only 6% of the EU budget is spent on admin, 94% (yes I did that sum by myself) goes back to the member states. (Same source) The graphic on the BBC shows that the UK contributes between 0.6-0.7% of our GNI to the EU budget.
En plus, ‘the UK government estimates that the single market brings in between GBP 31 billion and GBP 92 billion a year into the UK economy – or between 5 and 15 times the UK net contribution to the EU budget.’ Now, I’m not only struck by how similar the abbreviation GNI is to ginbut also how not like a waste this seems.

According to the European Commission website, ‘In practice, 80 % of the EU budget is managed by national or regional governments.’ So if the national governments mismanage that…then they’re just shite. The bulk funding for the EU budget comes from  a standard percentage of each member state’s GNI which is transferred to the EU. This presumably means if you have a lean year and your  juniper crop fails Gross National Income is lower, you pay less. That’s how percentages work, right?
The European Commission website also states, ‘There is no direct EU tax. EU countries remain in control of their taxes.’ Good-oh. Glad we cleared that up.

Workers’ Rights

What has the EU ever done for us?

Remain: The EU guarantees equal pay for men and women, paid maternity leave, paid holidays…
Leave: Andrea Leadsom lists all the rights we’ve achieved within the UK, like the UK sex discrimination act, legislature against FGM, etc.
So…we do have control. No need to take it back, then. Jolly good.

Boris’ Hair: It’s because of the EU that literally zillions of murderers and terrorists are on London’s streets, just ambling around Camden and buying falafel, and we can’t deport them back to where they came from.
Unfortunately, arrests connected to terrorism are up, but ‘the proportion of terror suspects who are British has risen sharply to 79% of those arrested this year [2015], compared with 56% in 2001 when the statistics were first collected.’ Shit, where are we going to send them back to? You mean we can’t blame this one on foreigners? #catastrophe
We can either try to make our borders totally impassable (then we’ll be stuck on an island with Tories AND terrorists, fuck), or we could look at social inequality, education and alienation and maybe try to solve some of the issues we have in society. Because we’re obviously going wrong somewhere if more British people than before want us all to die.

It’s cringeworthy to hear Andrea Leadsom say ‘this great United Kingdom of ours’, as if almost 50% of Scottish residents don’t want to leave it, and then claim that it’s the definition of democracy that the people have the power to sack a government they don’t like. Sorry, which is exactly what can’t happen in Scotland, which, despite being ruled by a centre-left party in Holyrood, is still stuck with the Tories overall. Also, ‘democratically elected’, she should come with subtitles to remind everyone that for the Tories, a majority is 36%. Yeah, well done them.

Sovereignty 

Right, Leadsom again. ‘60% of our rules and regulations are made by people who we don’t even know their names.’
I have two suggestions here: one being don’t be so shit at your job as an MP campaigning against overreaching EU influence that you have no idea who is supposed to be wielding all this influence. And two, google. Like I just did.

Turns out there’s a lot of red tape in the EU. Their wikipedia page is huge. But there’s this super useful bit that explains which parts of the admittedly huge EU straggly wool ball of chaos actually make laws: the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. The European Parliament is directly elected (democratic, tick) and the council of Europe is made up of 28 national ministers, one per state and the Presidency ROTATES. I’d still call that pretty democratic, and yeah, maybe we get outvoted sometimes? When everyone else doesn’t agree with you, that’s how it goes. Perhaps they think we are so United Kingdom Fantastic that we should have more than one vote?

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I don’t know what to do. The UK, the EU, my skin, all these things are not perfect and probably never will be. I don’t hold out any hope of the UK outside of the EU reforming, not with our outdated and unrepresentative voting system and a government that thought it unnecessary to adhere to the Human Rights Act.
George Monbiot points out that we should be more worried about the clash between corporate power and the government:

“If you are concerned about arbitrary power, and the ability of special interests to capture and co-opt the apparatus of the state, the UK is in an even worse position outside the EU than it is within. Though the EU’s directives are compromised and under threat, they are a lot better than nothing. Without them we can kiss goodbye to the protection of our wildlife, our health, our conditions of employment and, one day perhaps, our fundamental rights. Without a formal constitution, with our antiquated voting arrangements and a corrupt and corrupting party funding system, nothing here is safe.”

I’m not happy, but I’m in. And with Orlando and the brutal murder of Labour MP Jo Cox and senseless acts happening all over the world all the more frequently, I want a community to help each other analyse, sort out and prevent such things ever happening again. I don’t think we can do that alone.

 

 

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Debate or bust

According to everyone ever everywhere, it’s going to be a HUGE CATASTROPHE if we [insert voting habits here]. I actually quite agree, but only because I think everything is already a HUGE CATASTROPHE and am worried that no one has noticed. When you think about it, it almost doesn’t matter because the fossil fuels are running out and in 50 years, we’ll be burning underfunded care homes to keep warm anyway, and living in disused hospitals decimated by the conservatives because of the housing shortage the immigrants we didn’t let in definitely caused.

Debacle Debate 1.

I don’t want to talk about the first debate because Farage was in it and the oily nationalism of someone who thinks we can close our borders and everything will be better makes me feel the same desolate certainty that the gods hate you as when your biscuit falls into your tea mid-dunk. It was an hour of Farage talking over Julie Etchingham and her apologising and British people wanting something they may or may not be able to spell. “Yeah but if we stay, is we still sovereign though?”
No, astonishingly we can’t override all those other nations we agreed to work in a team with because there’s no ‘massive wanker’ in t-e-a-m.

Debate 2

Participants for Remain: Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Eagle and Amber Rudd
Leave: Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom and Gisela Stuart

I think my favourite element of this debate was the frequent use of the word ‘whopper’ and the bit about leprechauns, which certainly livened everything up. My problem with the 350 million per week scandal is not that a politician put a mega lie on his bus (did anyone seriously think any figures mentioned were not going to be displayed to advantage with rebates/other statistics left out?), because that’s frankly not a surprise, I’m more surprised BJ has a bus actually, but rather the fact that people seem to believe the Tories intend to invest that money into the NHS. I teach English and I know when Boris uses a conditional like ‘we could use some of that money for the NHS’, he’s expressing a hypothetical ability, not something he’s actually intending on doing. Clever. Perhaps inside his head he’s holding hands with that leprechaun, dancing a jig on his whopper bus in the nude, singing, ‘but I won’t but I won’t but I won’tywon’tywon’t’, who can tell?
I mean, they can tell us that’s what they’re going to do…but if they don’t, what can we do about it? Vote them out? Unlikely, with first past the post, where stuff like this happened in 2015:

‘Labour saw their vote share increase while their number of seats collapsed. The Conservatives won an overall majority on a minority of the vote, and the Liberal Democrats lost nearly all their seats – despite winning 8% of the vote.’

The attitudes of both sides became a little clearer for me. Nicola Sturgeon expressed my understanding of the EU – a group of independent countries agreeing to work together to guarantee freedom of movement, so people have the choice to work where their skills are needed. Or like me, if you fancy working somewhere German speaking because that’s what you’re good at. This freedom of movement is the only good thing in a world (still) controlled by capitalism, where money is the only thing not ruled by borders.

Yeah it’s not perfect, but the UK isn’t perfect either. And I don’t know if anyone’s noticed but the Empire is over. We’re not a massive world power people should be bowing and scraping to. We’re a wee country with a shaky economy and I’m for working together to work it out. If you pull out of the EU and destabilise the market and it collapses, what chance do we have of improved trading then?

I also really don’t like the Brexit attitude at all. It’s an attitude that would fly absolutely nowhere else. Something in your life is shit? Abandon it. Don’t even try to improve it, just drop it straight away. I mean, that’s definitely what I’ll be telling my children. As much as I’m loath to agree with Cameron on anything (remain, not anything else), his entire perspective towards the EU is currently, ‘let’s have less risk, put less in and get more out.’ Another excellent life lesson I’ll be sure to pass on to the dear children, who are suddenly so important.

Immigreation*

Leave: Immigrants are bad and wreck everything the Tories have so carefully funded and built up. They also irreversibly push down wages because employers in the UK are genetically unable to pay the minimum wage if they can see a way to scam more money somehow. That says far more about our attitude to work, dignity and worth than it does about immigrants.

BJ then purports to be outraged at the democratic deficit in the EU, which we certainly don’t have in a country with an unelected House of Lords (other bicameral gems include Belize, Lesotho, Madagascar, Oman, Russia and Saudi Arabia) and he’s blatantly ignoring the fact that if every single person in Scotland voted to stay and 51% in Wales, England and Northern Ireland voted to leave, Scotland would have to leave as well. Or the other way around, if everyone in Wales voted remain and 51% of the other UK countries voted leave, Wales would have to leave. Is that democratic? I guess it’s a grey area and depends on how much you think the smaller UK countries should have sovereignty over their own affairs. I’m easy, I think if you’ve got a National Assembly/Parliament and your own language, then you should be listened to when your citizens make a decision in a referendum. If the smaller countries can be dragged out by the weight of England, what’s the point in them even voting?

 

E-definitely not a con-omy

Nope, no cons here, not in any’o our figures. This bit got a bit off topic and BJ was desperate to get in his Project Fear jibe, which I found quite disgusting. For the majority of the indyref campaign in Scotland, the YES side had to contend with a huge media bias and still managed almost half the vote. Not a single newspaper was in favour of independence for most of the campaign. The bias was even the topic of university research that the BBC responded to by sending an insulting email to the author’s boss before they tried, and failed, to take the research apart. For BJ to quote that back and claim the remain side are scaremongering on a similar level is out of context, childish and misplaced in the current debate.

The most telling comment from Gisela Stuart about the EU was when she said, ‘They need to sort out their problems.’ And that’s my issue with that statement. I am European, these are my problems, too.

Up next…
I’ll tell you what it won’t be, me making snide comments about Boris’ scarecrow hair or overprivileged upbringing, where he was able to buy a better education than everyone else, because I am a grownup and therefore above all that.
NHS, workers’ rights and sovereignty coming next…

 

 

*This blog post may contain subliminal messaging

**and some sarcasm

 

 

 

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Post-election gin mourning time is over

Says the Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2015/may/13/post-election-downer-time-to-organise-owen-jones-video

Fine. But I’ve got a cold so I don’t have to get up and organise anything quite yet. So, indulge me in one more gin soaked, written on the train ramble and keep your thoughts about my word order to yourself.

What a great show of democracy that was. 36% voted for the Tories, hurrah majority!* Form a government! Form a government with as many paradoxes as possible, including an Equalities minister who voted against same sex marriage and a Disabilities minister who voted against protecting disabled children’s benefits!
And what about that entirely yellow country somewhere up north? Scotland, is it?
A landslide victory for a centre left party who will remain in Holyrood but…a conservative government to rule them still and one ring to bind them. **

WHY?

I don’t resent people for falling into the trap of believing spin doctored rhetoric from politicians. (I do.) I’m sure some people who voted conservative think they’re doing the right thing for the United Kingdom. Those people might like to read this enlightening blog. which says in brief –
1. here are some figures to show economic stagnation under Tory austerity.
2. Here are figures to show marginal recovery when they slow down their punishing austerity schemes.
3. And here are the Tories claiming to have improved the economy.
If you’ve stuck with me, you might see the flaw in this but I won’t patronise you by explaining it. Idiots. (Ed. Don’t say that, it’s cocking offensive.)

HOW?

How did the scare schemes work?? I thought we were on track -the media bias against Scotland disintegrated when they could no longer control what people heard about the SNP. Using words like ‘Nats’ to make people think the SNP were right wing (you’d be surprised how many people don’t know Scotland has a centre-left governing party), saying ‘separatists’ want to ‘break up’ the UK – this was no longer enough once you had Sturgeon on TV in England proclaiming nasty, separatist support for the NHS and campaigning against damaging austerity politics that erode the infrastructure and quality of life for the majority. After that debate, the sixth most googled thing was ‘Can I vote for the SNP?’
People liked this. Sturgeon was winning over even England. But it didn’t work out in the end. Were people really afraid that the SNP would have too much sway over Labour if it came to a coalition? This seems to be the only plausible answer even though anyone with half a brain should be able to see that a party with 200-odd seats could hardly be held to ransom by the SNP with their 56 seats.
At least in Scotland, the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats- what an amazing result for that nasty separatist party against poverty-generating austerity. In Scotland at least, the message has got through.
There is an alternative (a functioning alternative! -even though rUK might not know it, the SNP have been in government and haven’t made half as much of a dog’s dinner of it as the Tories) to the Tories’ economically flawed austerity plans and it’s up to the SNP to make sure they follow through with it.
Show rUK it’s possible to have no tuition fees and free prescriptions (even if the funding for Scotland is currently still tied to whatever England decides to spend that year via the Barnett Formula) and campaign against wasting obscene amounts of money on nuclear weapons as a general insurance policy against an unnamed threat while working families rely on food banks.

I don’t know what to say. Perhaps we’ll see a turnaround like after the Scottish referendum, where although 55% voted against independence, basically the entire country voted for the party that wanted independence in the last election and kept them in government. Perhaps those who voted the conservatives (narrowly) into power will realise as we crowd around food banks in 2 years’ time that maybe letting a party that 64% didn’t want back into government was a mistake.

Oh well. There’s always the delicious irony of the conservatives cutting access to benefits for migrants if they haven’t worked in the UK for 4 years (it’s two in Switzerland) to keep me warm at night.

If anyone wants to get active, get going:

We could save our humans rights

We could ditch the government we didn’t vote for

We could lobby the government to save people who literally drown in the desperate search for a better life.

We could fight against TTIP.

Owen’s right. One more cup of tea and I’ll get up.

* 36% is not a sodding majority.

**This may be from something else

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Debate Games: Health tourism- I once had a giant scab ripped off by a doctor in Greece, does that count?

Debate continued…

One last word on the deficit…as important as it is to get the deficit down (and people are always saying it’s important nowadays and since when has anyone in the public eye ever lied to us? Why on earth would they?), as Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Bennett point out, it’s not worth the drastic austerity measures if in doing so, you cripple the infrastructure and drive a section of society into poverty. And it certainly won’t be the section who told you how important it was to cut the deficit. Talking about the debt legacy left to our children is all very well, but I’d rather children with debt than a decimated public service and a worse quality of life. Sturgeon is proposing to cut the deficit too, just not at any cost.
(In all seriousness though..was that last bit a pun?)

Health Tourism

So glad Farage brought that up. It certainly didn’t feel like tourism when that Greek doctor looked at my leg and announced he wanted to ‘take it off.’ Was pretty sure my insurance wouldn’t cover that. I was actually relieved when he just used pincers to rip the scab off and doused me in iodine.
Firstly, that Hunt was talking nonsense and ‘the UK is actually a net exporter of patients, with more now leaving the country for treatment than arriving here.’ Brits are going abroad for things like cosmetic treatments and weight loss surgery, according to the article. It does seem a bit rich to then complain of people coming here, getting an address and then demanding to see a doctor for their flu or to have their ingrown toenails operated on.
Pure hedonism, I call that.
In fact, the Guardian points out that those coming here are from rich countries and bring an economic benefit of £219m with them. So we should actually be bloody grateful, it looks suspiciously like they’re propping up our NHS at the moment.

Zoe Williams wrote a great article underlining the fact than EU and non-EU migrants who come here to work are young and less likely to be ill and a drain on our health service. So in actual fact, Migrants are better for our NHS than you are.
I love her exposé on Polish medical centre alternatives to the NHS, where people are willing to pay for what they see as a more thorough service. One of her interviewees mentioned they thought GPs rarely refer people to specialists and another joked GPs prescribe paracetamol for everything.
In my own experience recently in Germany, at the gynaecologist’s, (now there’s a module we should have studied at university. There was an awful amount of describing round certain terminology going on) I was given an ultrasound on the spot, something which I don’t think would happen in the UK. That being said, I haven’t had the bill yet.
And he said I had a small womb. RUDE.
*Edit: Got the bill. It was a Sonographie, not an ultrasound. Easy mistake, it was cold, wet and weird.

You can’t round off the health round without a despicable comment from Farage and he duly obliged by informing us that 60% of HIV patients being treated aren’t British nationals. If that wasn’t enough to make me choke on my emergency chocolate (it was), his smirk when Sturgeon said she tends to think of people recently diagnosed with a horrible virus as human beings and not of their nationality would have. If you can smirk at that, you shouldn’t be in charge of a tissue, let alone a country.

Immigration Infatuation

“Immigrants drive the wages for everyone down, therefore they are bad.”
Ugh, typical example of politics focussing on symptoms as oppose to addressing the problem. Everyone’s wages are low, you say? RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE AND FUCKING STICK TO IT. How is no one outraged at the employers who are paying non-British workers less to save themselves money? The real issue is that there isn’t enough work for everyone and that is an economic problem. The only way that can be solved is to get the economy growing again and that’s not done by austerity and restricting the spending power of the majority of the population.

Also, the way we look at the issue of immigration and work is insane. If you were to imagine the situation in another way and took nationality out of the question and accepted that there’s not enough work for the population, you wouldn’t come to the logical conclusion that the answer is to reduce the population. Yet that’s exactly how the immigration/work debate goes. What would we do?
“I’m terribly sorry everyone, there’s not enough work for the current population. Unfortunately, everyone with an IQ under 65 has to be exterminated. But don’t worry, it’s only until the economy picks up again.”
Focus your efforts on fixing the economy, for goodness’ sake. Anything else is distraction politics to draw attention away from the fact that it doesn’t matter too much to the ruling elite if they improve the economy or not; they won’t struggle like most of us will in a bad economic climate. And the ultimate cheek of it all – their solution, austerity policies, hurts the average-earning majority and doesn’t touch the rich minority.

Welcome to politics in a chronically unfair society.

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Debate Games from a safe distance. Or, I might have to come out to my parents as an immigrant.

Oh it’s debate time again. I’m watching from the 651st money swallowing constituency of the UK- Europe.
This free movement of people lark is fabulous. I come over here, get a job, buy toilet paper and pay into their economy and sod off before I get old and ill and drain their health services to the bone. Oh my God that’s barely English, I should probably just sod off now.
And my parents are so proud. I’m not sure why it’s different if EU citizens come to the UK and do the same, but Farage assures us that it is, and my parents, made ever insular by life on two islands (UK and the Village), buy into his rhetoric of blame. They don’t stop to think that I’m doing exactly the same, and that they are proud of me. I try to alert them them to this fact by nice, simple, short emails with detailed footnotes but I don’t think it’s getting through and they’ve stopped answering my calls in the run up to the election.

In order to stop me sinking back into my orphan pit of despair, I’ll take a look at the first debate with all 7 leaders and hopefully uncover more material to email my parents, in the vain hope that they’ll see the light and start answering my calls. Because 1. I really need some summer clothes from home and 2. if they vote UKIP again, I’ll have failed as a human being because it is really not that difficult to point out how dangerous UKIP are.
Anyone who wants to see the loving emails I send my parents, please click here. Yes you may forward it to your hideously right-wing parents too.

First Impressions

Doesn’t David Cameron look a bit like he’s going to cry? I sip my tea wine (we’re an hour ahead, I don’t have to lie to you) and contemplate the rest of the bunch. Natalie Bennett seems very nervous, but you know what, I actually like that. It reminds me that she’s a real person who’s worrying about doing her best and that she hasn’t been so artificially spin doctored and stuffed with rhetoric that she can’t think for herself anymore. Unlike overconfident Farage, who was described fabulously by one Twitter user as looking like a stoned amphibian, at which I nearly had a wine #maccident. I would never stoop to comments about appearance in a serious matter like politics so all I could do was retweet.
Whilst I’m not commenting on appearance, THIS.

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Took me right back to these heady days, which is all I could think of during Clegg’s opening remarks.
Leanne Wood’s Welsh voice made me homesick, but if you listen carefully you can hear Farage choking in the background at the sound of a foreign accent. Awkward, you can just imagine him readying himself to throw her out before remembering the establishment has decreed we’re loving England’s half retarded offshoots beloved equal partners right now.

Yes but deficit?

Farage reminds us that national debt has now officially reached 120 trillion billion zillion according to an independent UKIP think tank and we should stop wasting 0.7% of our gross national income on stopping civilians dying in war zones.
Another huge waste of course is Europe. Everyone knows how much money we chuck across the water to Brussels and quite frankly, for what we get, it’s hideous.
Actually, I didn’t know so I googled. Apparently, the UK public expenditure is more than five times bigger than the EU budget. So the budget can’t be that ridiculous. Only 6% of the EU budget is spent on admin, 94% (yes I did that sum by myself) goes back to the member states. (Same source) The graphic on the BBC shows that the UK contributes between 0.6-0.7% of our GNI to the EU budget. En plus, ‘the UK government estimates that the single market brings in between GBP 31 billion and GBP 92 billion a year into the UK economy – or between 5 and 15 times the UK net contribution to the EU budget.’ Now, I’m not only struck by how similar the abbreviation GNI is to ginbut also how not like a waste this seems. S’ok, I’m tweeting the amphibian about it now.

Next time…

Farage couldn’t move on to his favourite topic of invented health tourism and explosive immigration without a dig at the canny Scots, who dared to prioritise having no tuition fees through their devolved power over education. RUDE.
But of course, they only managed that because England subsidises the crap out of them. In fact, Scotland contributes 9.9% of UK revenues but receives only 9.3% of UK spending, according to the 2011/12 GERS report. Sturgeon pointed out that Scotland has paid more tax per head for the last 34 years than anyone else, so it’s not Scotland who is the subsidy case.
Stay tuned for immigration soon, the more riveting half of the debate where we see Farage wet himself visibly giggling at the thought of the Greens raising foreign aid to 1% of GDP and attempting to help people. HILARITY.

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Debate notes from an incurable optimist

I’ve got my blog uniform on ready for tonight’s debate. And by uniform I mean pajamas and Yes badge. Lord knows when I’ll actually get to see the debate, sitting in my wee flat in France; I’m so close to Switzerland that if the wind blows, my IP address might change. For success to be had, I’ll need more than luck and a fair wind, considering that I was in England for the last debate and still couldn’t watch it, but while I’m impatiently waiting, I thought I’d refresh my memory of the last debate via YouTube.

It’s still cringeworthy. That’s a shame, I thought it might have improved with age, like cheese or my teenage skin.
Sadly, Darling is still slimily answering questions he has asked himself in his head, as oppose to anything he’s actually been asked, and Salmond is still (pointlessly) refusing to name the other currency options he’s already written down in the white paper. (Plans A, B, C and D are: “the continued use of Sterling (pegged and flexible), the creation of a Scottish currency and membership of the Euro.” They’re RIGHT THERE Salmond, all you have to do is list them, this ‘You Know Whose’ currency strategy has gone all Voldemort and it’s weirding people out. Just say them live on TV and be done with it.
While we’re still on currency, found this little gem on the internet by economist Dr Gerard Lyons: “…monetary unions of small countries can survive without political union, provided there has been economic convergence.  Two examples are the 1923 Union between Belgium and Luxembourg and the CFA Franc zone in west Africa…” There goes Darling’s other leg…

The aftermath of the debate clearly shows the media can write literally whatever they want; so many articles on the internet and in print media screamed opposites and claimed ultimate veracity- that Salmond prevailed over Darling, that Darling thrashed Salmond…However, the majority of media (from what I saw) claims that Darling came off better. The more you tell people ‘so and so won’ in the press, the more likely it is they’ll believe that train of thought, so reporting about the debate afterwards saying Darling thrashed Salmond in mainstream media closely associated with London is actually another tool to manipulate public opinion. Both sides scored big laughs and judging from audience reaction (that I could hear), I thought Salmond came off as a winner, even though I agree he wasn’t on his usual, excellent form.

But then again, I’m already Yes. If I were No, I probably wouldn’t have been entirely convinced by that debate, although Salmond starts his opening statement with a concrete reason why Scotland should be independent -for over half his life, Scotland has not got a government it has voted for. Nice, solid, (shocking) fact. He follows up by suggesting we’re being promised more placatory powers from a government we didn’t vote for or…we could have a government we actually vote for in an independent Scotland.

Darling, however, dribbles something about thinking about the children and threatens reminds us that if we vote no, there’s no going back. Someone should have asked him to provide 2 concrete examples of countries that have gained independence and then asked to go back.

Bernard Ponsonby was very fair, I found, and equally insistent that both parties answer the questions posed. It was Bernard who helped show Darling up, who could barely name two powers Scotland would obtain. In fact, by mentioning ‘powers already coming’, Darling betrayed the fact that these powers are conciliatory and designed to quiet Scotland. After all, if Westminster was serious about improving society and being ‘better together’, why are they only starting to address the issue of more devolved power for Scotland now? Why not before, if it will be so helpful? And if this devolved tax power over 40% of the Scottish government’s spending is so great, exactly how great would 100% be, Darling?

The currency union farce and EU discussion bordered on the pantomimic, but I did enjoy seeing Darling confronted with his own quote on a currency union being ‘logical and desirable’, and then narrowly avoid choking over the words, ‘Scotland could be a successful, independent country’. Small pleasures.
I don’t know why Darling is so hung up on Scotland and EU membership anyway; if we stay together, England will drag us out in an in-out referendum and everything the No campaign has said about Europe has been proved wilfully misleading -see Juncker’s words being manipulated by No, for example, claiming Scotland would not be allowed to rejoin Europe. The story spread so quickly (unsurprising, from the mainstream anti-indy media) that Juncker’s office had to issue a statement clarifying that he wasn’t talking about Scotland at all. Awkward.

The No campaign have also yet to come up with any concrete grounds on which Scotland will be expelled from Europe, and are currently playing their only card left- Barroso threatened to veto. So the biggest threat to Scotland’s European membership is not that it is fundamentally lacking in some vital European trait (green energy perhaps? No? A healthy economy? Natural resources? Tourism? Nature reserves full of unicorns? Ok we don’t have that last one), but rather that other countries are threatening to veto to further their own political agenda. I think more people should be aware of that, actually, and realise that you shouldn’t vote no because you’re worried about not being part of Europe, you should vote yes because your future rests not on a democratic decision or how Scotland can contribute economically and culturally to Europe, but on who’s friends with who and which side of the bed Barroso gets out of that morning. That’s what’s undemocratic. Scotland deserves to be a part of Europe and continue along its positive, left-moving political path and it would be wrong to block membership with no good reason.

Between 1970 and 2014, Scotland had Tory-led governments they didn’t vote for in 26 out of 44 years. 

In the 2010 elections, Scotland returned 1 Tory MP but have a Tory led government because of the 305 Tory MPs elected in other countries. 

Since World War 2 in 14 elections out of 18, Scotland’s vote had no effect on the outcome. 

Vote Yes because it’s right; make a decision based on Scotland’s worth. Vote Yes and we’ll be one step further away from being manipulated by scaremongering and threats coming from a country that stands to lose out economically if Scotland tries to serve her citizens democratically.

Hope the debate was good. I’ll be watching with breakfast.

 

 

 

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Notes from a Small Village: A Message of Support from Hereford…and Morocco!

During final exams at university, or during that blissful post-exam period when you move home and are in limbo before the next adventure begins, I found it easy to become distracted and feel distant from the Independence movement – especially when your home is a wee English village on the Welsh border. A quick update of Newsnetscotland, Bella Caledonia, National Collective and a perusal of Twitter soon put that to rights, and actually, I find I’ve come back to the debate with a clearer mind. 

I saw a tweet today that read: “Is Scotland a real place? Is democracy the best form of government? Answer “Yes” to both of these questions? Then you have to vote Yes.” I like this way of thinking about the question of independence, so far removed from the cinema adverts tugging at people’s heartstrings, begging for Scotland to stay with the vague promise that we are ‘better together’, and just as far removed from the once dominant but no longer proffered economic arguments, with even David Cameron and Alistair Darling saying respectively, ”It would be wrong to suggest that Scotland could not be another such successful, independent country” and “The question is not whether Scotland can survive as a separate state. Of course it could.”  

The tweet says simply, if Scotland is real, and we think democracy is best, isn’t it obvious that Scotland should have the democratic right to govern itself that other countries have? Even other small countries like Luxembourg, (Scotland is about 30 times bigger than Luxembourg) haven’t vanished in an eggy-smelling puff of self-governing existential smoke. And it begs the question, if illegal wars are the means that justify the ends of exporting our version of democracy to nations who haven’t asked for it, why the huge backlash against a country on its own democratic quest for democracy? Are we real? Do we want to govern ourselves the way the people who live here want?

Because the people are asking for something different. Wikipedia’s handy diagram shows how in Westminster, the number of Conservative seats representing Scotland has decreased since 1951 from 35 seats to 0 in 1997 and has stayed at one ever since, a clear sign of Scotland’s differing politics to the rest of the UK. Scotland appears to be trying to move politically to the left, and still stands firmly behind the principles of a welfare state that takes care of its citizens, abolishing prescription fees in 2011. England is currently the only country in the UK to charge for prescriptions, although they were free when the NHS was founded in 1948. 

With hindsight, it is possible to see how the arguments against Scottish independence have been recycled, first heard opposing the creation of a Scottish Parliament; Scotland certainly can’t afford it, for example, and yet the Scottish Parliament, (re)convened in 1998 after the referendum the year before, remains happily in existence. Closer to our referendum date in 2014, the argument that Scotland cannot afford independence appears to be running out of steam and has been neglected recently by the media. I had trouble with this point, not being an economist, or in any way aware of how much money is required to run a country, and understand the confusion when faced with two opposing panels of economists who each claim to be right (although the Yes side has Nobel prize winning economists!), one side saying Scotland can’t afford independence, and the other saying they can. Making the assumption that one side must be mistaken (or deliberately misleading), I tried to simplify matters. Would the SNP deliberately launch a campaign for independence and try to remain in power to govern Scotland, if there was no money? What on earth would they do if the country voted a resounding Yes and then the country had to be run – is Alex Salmond or another politician going to run Scotland out of their own pocket? Why on earth would they do that?

On the other hand, would the rest of the UK attempt to convince everyone there wasn’t enough money for Scotland to be independent, in order to ‘keep’ Scotland, so rUK can continue to profit from Scotland’s GDP contribution per person, which is larger than that of England, when oil and gas revenues are included? There is only motivation for one side to lie to the public, and that’s the No side.     

And talking about oil and exploitation, there is certainly motivation enough to try to ‘keep’ Scotland in the United Kingdom for financial gain that has already been exposed in the McCrone report, in which economist Gavin McCrone showed in 1975 that Scotland’s North Sea oil could have made an independent Scotland “as prosperous as Switzerland.” To avoid fuelling Scottish independence in the seventies, the report was hidden for thirty years. A tactical suppression of an economic report in order to manipulate the outcome of a democratic referendum is not acceptable, in my opinion. It shows we are governed by people willing to resort to dystopian manipulation in order to benefit fiscally and to act despite a detriment to democracy. 

I almost don’t want to go into any more arguments because I think acting with such woeful disregard for democracy whilst proclaiming to be a democratic nation undermines anything the No campaign could put forward. I don’t think these are the people to be delivering a fair society in the future, or even any society I would like to live in. I think there is a lot of straw-grabbing going on, with arguments against independence becoming even more ridiculous, like ‘in an independent Scotland, you wouldn’t be able to watch Dr Who, all of which serve only to distract from the real questions: who has Scotland’s best interests at heart and is best placed to govern it? Should the Scottish government have limited or full powers over Scottish matters in order to deliver the society that those resident in Scotland are voting for? I really think the answer is obvious. And this desire for self-governance has nothing to do with hating the English or throwing off an oppressive English yoke. The intelligent people I have spoken to about Scottish independence rarely mention ‘the English’, and some clearly state that the Union of 1707 was beneficial to both nations. The developments over the last 100 years have come about because economically and politically the two nations no longer mesh as well as they used to. In fact, in the few lively debates I’ve attended in my university town, the only speaker to bring up ‘the English’ and nationalism was a harried, flapping speaker for the No campaign in response to a question from a pro-independence visitor, who hadn’t even mentioned the English at all. 

And that sums up the No campaign for me: Johann Lamont losing her cool during debates, people talking about uncertainty and wanting predictions from clairvoyants about what will be available on Channel 2 in an independent Scotland in December 2015, people afraid of the future, of change, of making things worse. I understand fear of the future, but that’s not what you tell your children, is it? Don’t aspire for a better life, this one will do, won’t it? No, you can’t do that, you’re just not capable. You’re just not genetically programmed for that. Don’t try. There is another reason why we are being told we are ‘better together’, and I don’t believe our societies will be. If the better alternative to independence set out sketchily (and with no direct promises) by everyone other than the SNP is more devolution…surely by extension going all the way to full independence would be more…better. 

I believe we are being bullied towards the decision to ‘stay together’, and I believe the people who ought to have full powers over every aspect of life for residents in Scotland should be in Holyrood, not Westminster. As a friend once pointed out, transpose the situation: in a big university with a big Maths department and a small Languages department…would you get the Maths department to order your language textbooks, or let them do it themselves? 

Like I said, I understand fear of the future and I know how resistant people are to any change. Most people’s default setting is to reject change because it means effort and relearning a new process or adapting to a new situation. Quite frankly, with regards to most change, it’s easier not to. But the Scottish people must stop viewing the referendum as a change to be afraid of and see it for what it is; a gift, a chance, an opportunity that in other circumstances, people would leap at. In a job situation- more responsibility and more power to make a difference? Yes please, that’s called a promotion. This isn’t a political kerfuffle, this is a gift into the hands of the Scottish people; their chance to pick a government after the referendum that will actually be able to improve futures, keep promises and create a political society that correctly reflects the voting tendencies of those who live and vote in Scotland. And if the elected government doesn’t deliver, vote them out. Hold them accountable, in a way that is not possible at the moment. You could say it’s too easy for a Scottish government to blame lack of progress on their lack of power- “In this matter, our hands are tied!” They could say. Give the Scottish government all the power, and if they can’t deliver, vote them out and vote again. That’s democracy- it’s not perfect, it will always be a work in progress. But at least Scotland’s people will get the government they vote for after the referendum. 

At the risk of sounding naive and blasé, people living, working and voting in Scotland shouldn’t worry about the nit-picky bits. Those will sort themselves out. East and West Germany, anyone? The reunification of Germany, European membership? Also without precedent and Germany didn’t implode or choke to death on its own borders. These are the issues Westminster will try to distract you with (the Pound? It’s ours!), so you don’t realise your country can look after itself. So you feel like you can’t change anything and don’t vote Yes. Bring it back to democracy. Can Westminster make policies that benefit equally the 83% of the population resident in England and the 8% that live in Scotland, or is one of them likely to get disregarded? I think England is best placed to know what its 83% of the population want, and Scotland is best placed to serve its 8%. 

It’s time for Scotland to become 100%. And I’m almost 100% sure we’ll both be ok. 

#YES to Indyref. 

PS Scotland, you’re closer than you think. I was recently on holiday in Marrakech and climbing in the Ourika mountains with a girlfriend and a Moroccan friend, loitering on the path while my friend made the agonising choice between two key rings, and two girls passed us on the path down the mountain. A snatch of song (was it Flower of Scotland?) settled in my consciousness and I turned to them, already receding in the distance, the words swelling with happiness and hope fluttering around my ears. 

“Whooo, was that for Scottish independence?!” I called out, waving.

“Yeah!! Oh my God, yeah! You voting?!” She danced back.

“Oh my GOD yes, hell yes, I’m voting YES!” I called back, barely comprehensible, also jumping madly with joy to be on another continent, miles away from home and yet face to face with someone filled with the same beautiful hope and confidence in Scotland and its inhabitants.

The mad jumping said it all for me; exuberance, hope, determination, community. 

Together with all her resources and full powers, like any other country, Scotland can make the future beautiful. 

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