The Certification Officer – an unelected official created by the Thatcher government for the purpose of undermining trade union democratic procedures – has ordered a by-election for one of the Scottish territorial seats on the Unite Executive Council (EC).
The seat had been held by Davy Brockett, elected to the Executive Council in April of 2014 for a three-year period. Five months after his election fellow-EC-member Agnes Tolmie formally questioned Davy’s eligibility to hold the seat.
(In the 2010 Unite General Secretary election Tolmie had backed right-wing candidate Les Bayliss, standing on a platform of class collaboration, craft chauvinism, union centralisation, and public denunciations of striking workers.
After Bayliss lost, Tolmie joined the United Left grouping in Unite. She was elected to the union’s EC in 2014 on the United Left slate. Earlier this year she again parted company with the United Left.)
In response to Tolmie’s challenge to Davy’s eligibility, the different factions represented on the Unite EC, along with members of no factions, joined together to support Davy. In December of 2014 the EC unanimously backed Davy’s right to sit on the EC.
To hold a seat on the Unite EC a member must be what is called “Rule 6 compliant”. But, under the Unite Rulebook, the EC is empowered to waive the normal criteria of “Rule 6 compliance” where a member, like Davy, has been victimised and blacklisted.
The EC is empowered to do so because employers – by sacking and blacklisting union activists – would otherwise be able to exercise control over the composition of the union’s EC.
One out of Unite’s 1.4 million members was not prepared to accept the unanimous decision of the highest decision-making lay body of the union and lodged a complaint with the Certification Officer in April of 2015.
The complainant was Ian Murray, Agnes Tolmie’s husband. (Normally one would not define a union activist – or anti-union activist – in terms of their marital relationship. Not to do so in this case would be crass negligence.)
Astonishingly, despite the unanimous support for Davy by the EC, Unite officials chose not to defend that decision and not to contest Ian Murray’s complaint.
In June, Unite – probably in the form of Len McCluskey’s Chief of Staff Andrew (not to be confused with Tolmie’s husband Ian) Murray – wrote twice to the Certification Officer “acknowledging” (sic) and “conceding” (sic) that Davy was not eligible to sit on the EC.
This left the Certification Officer with no option but to uphold the complaint by one lone member against a unanimous decision of the union’s EC. As the Certification Officer wrote in his decision:
“The Union having conceded [Davy’s ineligibility], I so declare. This decision is reached on the basis of the Union’s concession without having heard detailed argument on the correct interpretation of the relevant rules.”
In fact, the Certification Officer went out of his way to stress that his decision, based on the absence of any arguments from Unite, was not to be taken as setting a precedent:
“Should the meaning of those rules be a matter of dispute in any future case, the present decision should not be regarded as providing any authoritative guidance on their interpretation or application.”
By way of remedy, Ian (not Andrew) Murray proposed that the unsuccessful candidate in the 2014 elections should simply take over Davy’s seat. According to Murray, this would “save the division and rancour that there would be should Mr. Brockett wish to stand again.”
In the event, the Certification Officer rejected Murray’s proposal and ordered a by-election be held, with the result announced no later than late January 2016.
Davy is rightly contesting that by-election. And he is doing so not just on the basis of his past record of standing up for members’ concerns but also in order to defend lay-membership democracy.
As Davy’s appeal for nominations puts it:
“At its December 2014 meeting our Executive Council unanimously expressed its support and confidence in me. But this decision was overturned by the Certification Officer.
I am therefore standing in this by-election to uphold the principles of lay democracy, and to send out a strong message that our union should be run by the membership, not unelected officials.”
Questions certainly need to be asked about the failure of Unite officials to defend the unanimous EC decision to back Davy – and their failure to inform the EC about this.
EC members learnt that Unite officials had not defended the EC decision only when the Certification Officer’s decision was published in October. They had not been informed of this at any of the EC meetings held after the complaint had been lodged.
But right now the priority for Unite branches in Scotland is to nominate Davy for the vacant seat on the EC, and to encourage their members to vote for him when the ballot papers go out.
With the election taking place over the Christmas/New Year break, every nomination and every vote could be vital.
The SNP’s model of independence is broken beyond repair. The party should either build a new one or stop offering it as an alternative to Tory cuts …
There is a strange moment in the TV coverage of the 2015 UK general election. Nicola Sturgeon is in a debate and a member of the audience admits to liking the new SNP leader but not supporting independence. She asks if she should join the party. Sturgeon listens and answers in what seems like perfect modern politicalese – you are welcome, she says. The audience in the studio and at home are comforted by the generosity, the non-tribalism of Nicola. It seems like a perfect example of our political leaders mending fences after a divisive campaign.
Consider what actually happened in that exchange. The leader of a party whose first tenet is independence is asking a person who openly admits she doesn’t want independence not just to vote for her, but to join the party. She is saying, implying at least, that the SNP is for people who are for Scotland – and that alone. There is no prescription to sign up for independence – just sign up for the SNP and its success. (Watch from 0930 onwards)
This shift in the party’s purpose from independence to being ‘Scotland’s party’ is often read as a simple tactic. The leadership are disguising their main aim, sovereignty, until a referendum victory looks likely. In fact something else is at work. The SNP is shifting its emphasis because the leadership can find no way of achieving the core aim safely.
Cut Nicola and no doubt she still bleeds independence, but what she means by that is far less clear than before the referendum. The doubt arises because the campaign towards the 2014 vote, and the economic information since, has kicked the old model to death. The idea that you could have a Scotland with high public spending, low taxes, a stable economy and reasonable government debt was wishful a year ago – now it is deluded.
A lesson of the referendum is that many arguments around independence are simply redundant. We can all agree you can have a nation of any size, governed in any way, seeking to do whatever it wants within the tolerance of the international community. Tranches of what occupied both sides up to September 2014 are simply distractions.
The only thing that matters in Scotland’s argument is this – what will be the likely economic health in the short to medium term, and what will that mean for government spending and borrowing? Dull, but it determines everything else.
2014 was an economic sweetspot for two reasons. It was a good year for oil, and it came after thirty good years. Thus the Scottish economy looked healthy and was able to boast that it had chipped in more to the UK treasury than it had got back over recent times.
That is not the same as being able to say the Scottish economy could afford British levels of spending, which was a significant plank of the Yes promise. That debatable point could be obscured by lots of noise, and the SNP is accomplished at shouting.
But Nicola Sturgeon knows the SNP is good at misdirection. The party’s success has been built on hard work and spin. Behind the scenes she isn’t gullible. It may work in public to rubbish claims by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that there is a gap between what Scots pay into government and what they get out in services, but only fools believe their own propaganda. The fact is a gap exists – Scotland does not earn enough to pay for its current level of spending.
Once you accept that, you acknowledge that the SNP’s model is broken. That model, as expressed in the White Paper and numerous speeches, is that it was possible to move from the UK to an independent Scotland and keep services at the same level, without either borrowing a lot more or raising taxes. It isn’t.
As sure as death and taxes, there will be an economic jolt in the road to independence. Scotland will have to pay to either increase borrowing, raise taxes or cut services to bridge the gap between revenue and spending. And that’s not the only bump.
The second shock to the system will be the cost of borrowing. A new state will inevitably attract higher borrowing costs. Thus the price of the debt we inherit from the UK will go up on independence day. There’s more.
The appeal of the SNP is that it resists austerity. It promised to reduce budgets by (fractionally) less during the 2015 election. In other words, it would borrow more. So on top of the higher cost of borrowing, you would have more borrowing to pay for. It doesn’t end there.
SNP fine print makes it crystal clear that it will not reverse the dastardly Tory cuts on independence. It will not reverse the privatisations or the anti-union legislation of Thatcher and nor will it repair the cuts of Cameron and Osborne. However, it does give the impression that, come sovereignty, it will restore things to what they were. Its central message in Westminster is that the state need not be dismantled. It is therefore reasonable to expect, voters certainly will, that spending goes up on independence. Which will add even further to borrowing.
However, Scotland may not be allowed to borrow that much. A currency Union, either Sterling or the Euro, would come with limits. A brand new currency may not be trusted by lenders. So taxes would have to go up to meet the spending gap and the extra money it takes to ‘repair’ the state.
But there is of course one more bump to overcome – the cost of transferring to an independent state in the first place. Recall all the problems associated with merging eight police forces into one and multiply this by a hundred. What price the transfer to sovereignty? £1 billion, maybe £2 billion.
Thus an economy which couldn’t afford existing spending will be hit by several significant new demands on the Treasury. Without a thorough, independent understanding of those additional charges, you can make no promises on what independence will be like. It is reasonable to assume that all these obstacles can be overcome, but it is stupid to deny they exist. Read the rest of this entry »
Sandra White’s tweet: the Murdoch image may be OK, but the Rothschild ‘war pig’ image is plainly antisemitic
By Mark Gardiner (Community Security Trust – CST)
Yesterday (11/11/15), CST Blog featured an article stating the need for politicians and their political parties to adequately apologise, in words and actions, for antisemitic behaviours on their watch.
The article was highly critical of Sir Gerald Kaufman MP and the Labour Party; and Sandra White MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) and the Scottish National Party. CST welcomes the fact that White and her party leader First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP have now moved swiftly, and directly, to try and allay Jewish communal concerns. Regrettably, the situation concerning Kaufman remains unchanged. Both White and Sturgeon’s behaviour and communications show how things could have been done better: not perfectly, but certainly better.
The publication of yesterday’s Blog came shortly before Sandra White MSP and First Minister Sturgeon MSP issued separate, further, lengthier apologies, for the grotesque antisemitic cartoon that White had retweeted. The new apologies were not related to CST’s posting and were sent in letters directly to SCoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, a group with which CST has long worked.
Above: the original version of the “Rothschild” half of White’s image
Sandra White’s letter describes the antisemitic cartoon as “repellent and offensive” and includes:
“…I had not intended to retweet this picture, and was horrified to learn that I had done so. As soon as this was brought to my attention, I deleted the tweet…There is nothing that happens in Israel or Palestine that can be justification for any racial or religious hatred. I truly believe that Scots of all backgrounds are welcoming and inclusive and this is something I have always been proud of…”.
Nicola Sturgeon’s letter explains that she has spoken directly to Sandra White and states:
“Regarding the original tweet itself, I find it and the image it contains abhorrent. As I stated at Giffnock [Synagogue], I will not tolerate anti-Semitism or religious or racial hatred of any kind at any level in our society.”
Both individuals have moved quickly to try and rectify the damage that has been done, writing in swift and direct response to SCoJeC as the representatives of Scottish Jewry. Ideally, both letters should have explicitly called the cartoon antisemitic, but they are not overly formulaic, and appear sincere and heartfelt, which is of paramount importance in such matters. Also of considerable importance is that SCoJeC (and CST) noted that White should have tweeted the apology, given that this was where the offence occurred. She has speedily done so.
This sorry episode may actually be of long term benefit to both Scottish Jews and the SNP. It has demonstrated antisemitism to a leading political party, that is clear in its opposition to antisemitism, but perhaps understandably does not grasp or recognise it as instinctively as Jews do. Furthermore, the First Minister, and one of the party’s most prominent pro-Palestinian voices, now know why Scottish Jews fear the potential for anti-Israel activism to lead to antisemitic ways of thinking.
Of course, the controversy will only benefit Scottish Jews and the SNP if both parties actually want a constructive and trusting relationship. The fact that both parties want (and largely have) this relationship is shown by the quick and effective communications between the SNP and SCoJeC.
This final lesson is reinforced by the conclusion of Nicola Sturgeon’s letter, from which others would do well to learn. This is it:
“I look forward to working further with you [SCoJeC] and further strengthening the links between the Scottish Government and the Jewish community in Scotland, which is and always will be an integral and highly valued part of Scottish society.”
This should be the response of all political parties, universities, trade unions, churches etc to Jewish concerns about antisemitism in pro-Palestinian spaces. It should be a willingness to learn from mistakes, a drawing closer to those who have been hurt and a recognition that British Jews fear antisemitism because they fear antisemitism: not because they are some kind of hostile political entity, seeking opportunistic points scoring on behalf of the Israeli government, or a mythical Global Zionism.
(For further views on this closing point, see David Hirsh at Fathom, here.)
Talking of heavy-handed anti-free speech moves by the authorities that bampot James Scott, leader of the Scottish Resistance, was lifted by the police under the handy “breach of the peace” charge.
The offence corncerned a video called “Glasgow Yes City You Nawbags”
Video ends BRIT SCUM OUT OF SCOTLAND and includes a slogan urging “Scottish People” to “remove the Brit Scum Thugs from this Land”.
Last night Mr Scott, 60, from Glasgow, said: “There is no freedom of speech in this country.
“I’ve never been in trouble in my life. We are a peaceful group.
“The video was in response to some nasty, vile unionists who had threatened my life so they were called Nawbags and Brit Scum and it was put online.”
It is thought a complaint was made after the clip was re-posted on Twitter in June. Cops lifted Mr Scott at 9am on Monday and held him at the city’s London Road nick until 3pm. He added: “They said there had been no complaints until relatively recently.”
Dunno how peaceful the Scottish Resistance are. Weren’t they among the gang egging Jim Murphy when he travelled about campaigning for No? Also, it’s a bit feeble calling yourself the Resistance and then being peaceful. What would we think of the French Resistance if they hadn’t gone about blowing things up? “Listen. I shall only say this once. Don’t do anything.”
Still, as a Brit (non scum – though the term is often extended from those who threaten violence to those who voted No) myself I can’t say I feel menaced by his barmy video and am more pissed off by the usual misuse of police powers than Yes ravings. And in the usual Streisand effect I’ve now watched the video. It only lasts a minute. Trigger warning for those with tender feelings towards union flags.
Glad (not really – he’s a balloon) to see that Scott is free to address the masses at Largs:-
By Ann Field (also published at the Workers Liberty website)
Unsurprisingly the recent Scottish Labour Party conference voted unanimously to oppose the Tories’ Trade Union Bill. But the motion, from Unison and three Glasgow Constituency Labour Parties, had its weaknesses, saying, for instance that trade unions are “good for business”. But if unions are good for business, why do so many employers derecognise them?
The motion called for ongoing campaigning against the Bill, including organising rallies and further weeks of action. Unfortunately more specific proposals for campaigning disappeared in the course of compositing. Even so, the motion provides a basis for trade union and Labour Party activists in Scotland to ramp up campaigning against the Tories’ plans to shackle the unions. We need to make sure that the campaigning actually take place and feeds into the national campaign against the Bill. One immediate focus is the lobby of the Scottish Parliament called by the Scottish TUC for 10 November, when Holyrood will be discussing the Bill. It is on a weekday at short notice. Rank-and-file activists can make a crucial contribution to the turnout on the day. They also need to make sure that the role of the lobby is not one of simply being “claqueurs” for the SNP’s anti-Tory verbiage. Campaigning against the Tories’ attacks on the unions’ right to engage in political campaigning needs to go hand-in-hand with campaigning against the SNP’s decision to attack the unions-Labour link.
According to reports in the Scottish Sunday press, the SNP will be asking Scottish union leaders to switch their unions’ funding from Scottish Labour to the SNP. This is based on the lawyer’s argument that because the Scottish Labour is now “autonomous”, those unions affiliated to the Labour Party are not thereby affiliated to Scottish Labour. Instead, with the SNP having won 56 of Scotland’s Westminster seats (goes the nationalists’ argument), unions should switch their political funding to the SNP. But this — deliberately — confuses how individual trade unionists vote in a particular election with how trade unions, as collective organisations, decide to pursue their political strategy. It also ignores the organisational ties between affiliated unions and the Labour Party. And with Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader, the answer to the question of whether trade unions should stick with — or re-affiliate to — the political party which they created, or whether they should switch to the SNP, is straightforward.
Labour Party shadow chancellor John McDonnell turns up on picket lines to support them. SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney crosses them. The SNP is not interested in a united trade union fightback against the Bill. Its parliamentary amendments to the Bill are that it should not apply to Scotland. English workers can look after themselves. And in Scotland itself it now targets the unions-Labour link. Nothing could better illustrate the poisonous divisiveness of the SNP. With the union-Labour link under full-scale assault from the Tories, the SNP is launching its own attack on the link!
By Ann Field (at Workers Liberty)
Two hundred and seventy jobs are directly at risk after Tata Steel announced plans to “mothball” its Dalzell and Clydebridge plants, the final remnants of the Scottish steel industry after the Tories’ de-industrialisation of the 1980s.
Hundreds more jobs in local communities which depend on the plants and their workforces are also at risk.
The Scottish Labour Party has responded with a range of slightly confusing demands on the SNP government in Holyrood:
– Use public procurement powers to ensure that Scottish infrastructure projects place orders with the two plants.
– Support short-time working (but Tata, not the Scottish government, is the employer).
– Temporarily bring the plants into public ownership (but why only “temporarily”?).
– Cut Tata’s energy costs by putting pressure on Scottish Power and SSE (but why can’t we all have cheaper electricity?);
– Consult with “workers and the industry” to develop a government-led steel strategy (but why allow Tata to be involved if the industry is to be taken into public ownership?);
– Provide support for those who will soon be out of a job (which suggests a certain lack of confidence in the other demands).
Scottish Labour also demands action because of the “iconic” status of the Scottish steel industry. This is not a persuasive argument. Razor-gangs in Glasgow on a Saturday night also once enjoyed an “iconic” status. But this hardly justified their preservation.
However confused and inconsistent such demands might be, they reflect a genuine commitment to try to protect jobs in the residual Scottish steel industry. Local CLPs have also been campaigning on the streets to save steelworkers’ jobs.
SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited the two plants last week. A government-led taskforce has been set up to try to find an alternative buyer for the plants. According to Sturgeon, “nothing is off the table”, including public ownership.
The SNP, Scotland’s patriotic party, can hardly point to its record of supporting Scottish steel jobs. In 2012 it awarded all steel contracts for the new Forth crossing to China, Poland and Spain. Not a single one went to Dalzell or Clydebridge.
While any steps to save jobs are to be welcomed, more is needed than either Scottish Labour or the SNP are currently proposing.
And far more is certainly needed than anything the notoriously right-wing leadership of the Community trade union – the biggest union in the steel industry – has to offer by way of a ‘campaign’.
The job losses in the west of Scotland are part of a bigger wave of job losses in the British steel industry, hitting Tata workers in Scunthorpe, SSI workers in Redcar, and workers employed by Caparo Industries.
Jobs have also been lost or are now at risk in the steel industry throughout Europe and elsewhere – including China. These losses are a product of the unregulated and globalised nature of steel production and supply.
China and other major steel-producing countries (such as South Korea, India and Russia) have massively increased steel output in recent years, while global demand has been stagnant or declining.
The result is a typical capitalist crisis of overproduction. But, in the context of a globalised economy, it is a crisis on an international scale: in line with the logic of capitalism, excess steel output is sold cut-price (‘dumped’) in the international marketplace.
One ‘answer’ to globalisation – whether it be in the steel industry or any other industry – is nationalism: Put the blame on a particular country (in this case: China), demand controls on imports from that country, and retreat behind tariff barriers, national borders and trade wars.
This is the often unspoken ‘logic’ at the heart of the SNP’s demand for independence.
But why, in an independent Scotland, would the steel industry, with a current workforce of less than 300, be better able to compete against the more than 800 million tons of steel produced each year by China, and the 100,000 workforce of the biggest Chinese steel company alone?
The socialist answer to the anarchy of capitalist production – which produces too little of what people need, and too much of what can find a buyer in the marketplace – is not economic autarky, when states and nations try to wall themselves off from the world market and strive for economic self-sufficiency.
Our answer is the socialisation of the means of production: democratic planning; production to meet need not profit; work-sharing with no loss of pay; and environment-friendly production processes.
This campaign to saves jobs in the steel industry throughout the UK should be a part of an international campaign which brings together steelworkers and their unions to fight for such demands, backed up by industrial action.
The labour movement unites workers across national borders. Nationalism divides workers according to their national identities. In the fight to save steelworkers’ jobs – whatever their country, and whatever their national identity – the labour movement internationally must take the lead.
Above: the liar, sexist and bully Sheridan
By Ann Field
“The left in Scotland can’t look to the Labour Party for a way forward,” proclaimed Socialist Worker, paper of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), in one of a flurry of articles about Scotland published immediately after last year’s referendum.
Instead, the focus had to be on maintaining the momentum of the “Yes” campaign. As the SWP modestly put it in another article:
“The SWP in Scotland has fought magnificently in the Yes campaign. It has been imaginative, involved, determined and hardworking. We have sold thousands of copies of Socialist Worker and recruited dozens of people.”
What the Scottish left needed after the referendum was “its own political party – and urgently. Days and hours matter at such a time.” Tommy Sheridan – perjurer, misogynist, demagogue, ultra-nationalist populist and all-round charlatan (but not in the eyes of the SWP) – had a central role to play in this:
“Tommy Sheridan played an astonishing role in the [Yes] campaign, speaking to over 25,000 people at meetings and inspiring many more. He ought to play a leading role in building the left.”
The delicate matter of the SWP’s role in splitting the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) – which the SWP helped destroy in 2006 by backing Sheridan’s demand that members of the SSP Executive Committee lie on behalf of his ego – was imperiously dismissed:
“This [new] party cannot be defined by the splits in the SSP a decade ago. Imagine you are talking to one of those thousands of 16 and 17 year-olds who voted yes. What would make sense to them now? Surely radicalism, activity, bold left politics – and unity.”
But a conference held in October by “Solidarity” – the Sheridan-cult set up by the SWP and the Socialist Party after their departure from the SSP – produced a split rather than unity. The SWP walked out after the conference backed a vote for the SNP in the 2015 General Election.
(Sheridan’s questioning of female witnesses about their sex lives in his very public perjury trial of 2006 had not been a reason for the SWP to break with him. But for Sheridan to advocate openly what the SWP would subsequently advocate implicitly was the SWP’s line in the sand.)
Unabashed by the debacle of the “Solidarity” conference, the SWP now declared: “Everyone should come to the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) conference on 22nd November. Let’s not see this opportunity wasted.”
RIC had been initiated by members of the International Socialist Group (ISG), a 39-strong Scottish breakaway from the SWP in 2011. Given its origins in a breakaway from the SWP, RIC was unlikely to extend the hand of “unity” to their former comrades.
And so it proved to be.
The SWP hyper-ventilated about the numbers at the RIC conference. Over 3,000 in attendance! People had travelled from all over Scotland to be there!! “A phenomenal turnout!!!”
But it was downbeat about the outcome: “For all the talk of alternatives, there was no official call for a new organisation coming from RIC as many [read: the SWP] had hoped. Sadly, the prospect of a unified left seems as distant as it was directly after the referendum.”
In early 2015 the SWP began to enter general election mode. It was at least capable of reading opinion polls:
“Old political certainties are crumbling across Britain. In Scotland they barely exist any more. Many believe they are witnessing the death of Labour in Scotland. The latest poll of polls this week puts the SNP on 50% of the vote – a landslide. But the left could do well too.”
Although Labour in Scotland was standing in the same election, on the basis of the same manifesto, and with the backing of the same unions, as the Labour Party south of the border, the SWP made a point of not calling for a vote for Labour in Scotland:
“Where there isn’t a left alternative candidate, Socialist Worker is calling for a vote for Labour in England and Wales. Many working-class people still see it as the party with trade union roots. …
In Scotland this picture no longer fits. Labour’s role in blocking with the Tories to defend the union with Britain in the independence referendum has lost it the mass support of millions of workers.”
In a leaflet distributed in Scotland in the run-up to election day, the SWP implicitly called for a vote for the SNP.
The leaflet was unqualified in its hostility to Labour. By contrast, it praised the “many positive policies in the SNP manifesto”. Given the “mood to punish Labour”, it was “understandable” that so many people would be voting SNP.
But, the leaflet explained, “the SWP is not calling for a blanket vote for the SNP on 7th May.” This was because the SWP was standing a handful of its own candidates as part of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
Not calling for “a blanket vote for the SNP” because you are standing some candidates of your own can only be read as: vote SNP where there is no TUSC candidate.
In its coverage of the election campaign in Scotland Socialist Worker was certainly enthusiastic about the SNP campaign, and Sheridan’s parallel campaign for a vote for the SNP:
“Hope filled the streets of Glasgow last Saturday. At two separate events a combined total of up to 10,000 people pursued a common purpose – building the SNP vote.” While SNP leader Sturgeon addressed 2,000 in Glasgow city centre, “socialist politician Tommy Sheridan was addressing a mass Hope Over Fear rally.” Read the rest of this entry »
Illustration: Steve Bell
Outstanding example of pompous philistinism and the self-awareness of a sea sponge from Alan Bissett:-
Some 55% of Scots voted no to independence on 18 September 2014. This result has been respected – it’s the reason Scotland is still in the UK –
Well, thank you thank you thank you for clearing that up. Was it NOT going to be respected?
Like most Scottish artists I called for a yes vote during last year’s referendum.
How does he know? Did anyone do a poll of artists? Certainly the yes artists were vocal and busy and forming collectives and included big names like Liz Lochead and Alasdair Gray – but there were those who just kept quiet.
The artists have now entered a period of introspection, replacing the creative campaign’s colour and noise with a new ambivalence about what the Scottish arts are for.
I take it he means the Yes artists not people like Don Paterson, say or Douglas Dunn or Janice Galloway or James McMillan or McCall Smith who presumably know what they are for – for creating art. What is this rubbish about art as a national project? As with so much of the Nat debate (first independence then utopia) it was reminiscent of old Communist ideas that art was for “the people” I.e keeping to the Party line, which in its extreme versions meant poets with anything like a spine being executed by Stalin.
This had been anticipated, pre-referendum, by the novelist Alan Warner, who wrote: “A no vote will create a profound and strange schism between the voters of Scotland and its literature; a new convulsion. It will be the death knell for the whole Scottish literature ‘project’ – a crushing denial of an identity that writers have been meticulously accumulating, trying to maintain and refine.”
As a No voter I’m certainly happy not to read Alan Warner if he thinks there is a “whole Scottish literature ‘project’” – I see he needs those quotation marks as there isn’t any ‘project’. There are books that get written, some good, some bad. (As a side note the great novelist on “Scottish identity” was Walter Scott – a devout Unionist and anti-Radical.)
There have been good books with an overt political message – Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Animal Farm – usually about screaming injustices, not about a referendum in a liberal democracy. And as usual when reading the Yessers I think, god, what grandiose airs those people give themselves, what heroic attitudes they strike.
I understood my own purpose. I’d presumed to give voice to a people, the majority of whom had turned out to be indifferent to the message.
Could be that you’re a shite writer. Also, some of us weren’t indifferent but totally hostile.
The poet Jenny Lindsay, a key organiser of the yes-backing artists’ group National Collective, recently staged a show called Ire and Salt (swap those words round and you get the drift). It examined the difference between a movement and a campaign, the clash between artistic autonomy and the feeling of being a cog in a machine built to persuade.
I’ve seen Jenny Lindsay perform and she’s a definite talent. It’s not surprising she’s sick of doing Yes, Yes, Yes and would like to move on.
there can be no definitive “schism” between Scotland and its artists. Scottish nationalism – as both a political concern and an ongoing cultural project – is enlarging, not shrinking.
Errgh. He doesn’t realise how creepy this sounds. In fact he’s right. The Scottish Government is trying to control the universities and things like the Scottish Language Centre have become undisguised propaganda for nationalism.
Bissett doesn’t want regard himself as a vulgar propagandist. But if course that is what he is. That’s what he thinks all artists born in Scotland should be. He is a propagandist on the side of the Scottish Government. He’s a Government apparatchik, an Establishment stooge. Under Stalin he would have been writing paeans to the glorious leader and lyrics about tractor production while sitting on committees frowning over the ideological soundness of other poets.
He has inspired one small gem. In the comments thread is:-
Scotland’s civic nationalists = Clan Nicola’s nativist Scots ID
After the indy referendum in September 2014 we No voters – who were startled to find we’d been given a new identity, Unionists or Nawbags – thought we could forget about that interruption and get back to normality. Wrong. The SNP rode high, grabbed 56/59 (95%) of the Westminster seats in the general election and are likely to take as many in next year’s Holyrood election. Their opposition is fragmented into the old parties of Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative, Labour has been broken and the only party that has gained are the Conservatives as the full-out Unionist party under the gutsy Ruth Davidson. So it’s been a gloomy time for us Negative lot, with constant threats of more referenda being waved at us in spite of the once in a generation, once in a life time, One Opportunity rhetoric during the indyref. One Snat tried to convince me that One Opportunity really meant An Opportunity. Meanwhile Sturgeon swans about doing photoshoots for Vogue – though credit where it’s due – she shows a good deal of bright style in her clothing in contrast to the grey frumpy Noes. “Bitter together” describes our mood.
But now something has happened to lift our spirits with schadenfreude. It concerns the MP for Edinburgh West, my MP, Michelle Thomson. As I said before Thomson headed up Business for Scotland, a group which encapsulates the sham of Scottish politics because it is (a) an SNP front – as demonstrated by Thomson being given the Edinburgh West seat; (b) it was called Business for Scotland – and of course other (subtext and overt ) anti-indy businesses must be against Scotland; (c) it was a load of mickey-mouse consultancies, who employed few people and did little in the way of cross border trade with England. But it was treated like the CBI by the BBC. Thomson was elected in the SNP landslide and made Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation & Skills.
Business eh? Not software design, nor extracting oil nor wind turbine manufacture nor pharmaceuticals nor widgets nor sausages. No, the business spokesperson that the SNP appointed was a woman of property with a portfolio. i.e. a wheeler dealer. Not even a builder of houses. And she had wheeled and dealed – eg (allegation at this point) that she would buy a property at X grand one day and then flog it off the same day at 2X grand to her husband. .
The Sunday Times ran an article [paywall] on 20th September about Michelle Thomson’s company buying properties from people like cancer sufferers cheap and then selling them on for a good profit. Nasty, but not illegal.
The story grew arms and legs. Here’s a piece by Ian Smart on the likely fraudulence of Thomson’s dealings:-
“there was something in that initial article that seemed to the informed eye a bit more sinister. That was the suggestion that, in some of the transactions involved, the price actually paid by Thomson was less than that declared to the Land Registry. “That looks very like mortgage fraud”.
Thomson had figured as a “Mrs A” in the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal which had struck off her solicitor Christopher Hales.
“Numerous examples of failing to inform lenders of undisclosed deposits, including examples of Mr Hales personally returning these to the purchasers, and several examples of back to backs, all equally undisclosed to the lenders.”
On behalf of Mrs A aka Michelle Thomson.
After a hearing in May 2014, the Scottish Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal said Mr Hales failed to provide mortgage companies with key information used to prevent fraud and must have been aware that there was a possibility he was facilitating mortgage fraud, whether or not it occurred.
In some cases, loans obtained for the properties were greater than the actual purchase price.
The Law Society, the regulating body of Scottish solicitors, did not send this information to the Crown Office until July 2015, after both the referendum and the general election. They claimed “pressure of work” (which Scottish lawyers observe they never accept as an excuse from solicitors who have not renewed their membership of the Law Society).
The Law Society’s chief executive, Lorna Jack, took the unusual step of arranging a hurried press conference to defend her organisation’s handling of the affair, and the conduct of Sheila Kirkwood, who is secretary to the society guarantee fund sub-committee which handled the Hales case but had delayed handing the papers over to the Crown Office.
It emerged that Kirkwood was, with her husband and fellow solicitor Paul Kirkwood, a founder of the pro-independence campaign Lawyers for Yes, and as an active nationalist had attended dinners for Thomson’s pro-independence campaign Business for Scotland. Kirkwood had also “liked” Thomson on her Facebook page.
So the non SNP MSPs had for once a good time at First Minister’s Questions:-
THERE was a rumbling, gutteral soundtrack to much of FMQs today, as Nat MSPs desperately tried to drown out a series of questions about Michelle Thomson.
“Uurgrhnomorenomore,” went appalled groans when the dreaded name was uttered.
“Nananeverheardofher,” went a lip-smacking simian chatter as fingers were plugged in ears.
But despite these best efforts, the property-whizz-turned-SNP-nightmare dominated proceedings, with Labour and the Tories revelling in all the sleazy details.
The SNP now deny knowing anything about Thomson’s business deals – though before they had been lauding her business expertise:-
SNP Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil, whose portfolio includes welfare, affordable housing and other issues crucial to the poorest in society, claimed she would be a champion for such causes.
He said: ‘She had an excellent grasp of the economic picture, but also demonstrated commitment to how business can be used to support social justice.’
Both SNP Education Secretary Angela Constance and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop stressed her business background would make her an ideal candidate.
Constance said: ‘Michelle has a proven track record. She would be an outstanding MP. Michelle is known for her grasp of finance, business and the economy.’
Hyslop said: ‘Her knowledge of business and her passion to make Scotland a better place make her an ideal candidate for Westminster in the forthcoming General Election.’
SNP MSP Colin Keir – who represents Edinburgh Western, the Holyrood equivalent of Thomson’s Westminster seat – said in the run-up to the General Election: ‘I worked with Michelle through the referendum campaign and have seen how talented she is. In her position as a director of Business for Scotland she was asked to take part in debates against Better Together. ’
Michelle Thomson has resigned the SNP whip and is now my independent MP. Her entry on the SNP site reads like this. The police are investigating her solicitor. It could be that she will be investigated herself and charged, which should lead to an interesting by-election.
Sturgeon has said she looks forward to reinstating her but now the Sunday Herald, which supports indy, is going to release emails which show that it was Thomson’s fault that Business for Scotland made such a bad economic case for independence (rather than that there wasn’t a good economic case, as we Nawbag quislings were abused for pointing out). Business for Scotland’s predictions of untold wealth for an indy Scotland are still quoted by disgruntled Yesses, so at least they may shut up on that score. And Thomson will be dumped altogether by the ever ruthless and opportunistic SNP.
Update:- the article in the Sunday Herald did not show that “the economic case for independence was undermined by scandal-hit MP” as the headline has it.” What it show was that there was in-fighting among the board members of Business for Scotland. The most salient points are:- Thomson, the Managing Director of Business for Scotland, had her consultancy payments stopped but was allowed to keep the title and still appear on the media – it would have looked bad to dump her before the referendum; and that the controlling hand behind Business for Scotland was Peter Murrell, the SNP chief executive, also Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, which should finally destroy BfS’s pretence of being a non-partisan think tank.
I can see that Thomson with her media presence might have been thought suitable as a candidate for Edinburgh West, which she won as part of the SNP landslide. But why appoint her as Shadow Minister for Business, Skills and Innovation and boost her business expertise? Are they short of business background among the 56 55 MPs?
So what were we fearty goats of Unionists getting in a stooshie about today?
This on the Scots Language Centre, a site where the bairns are directed to learn about the Scots tongue:-
Of course we muzerable Nawbags’ faces were trippin’ us. We did our own sums. 1.6 million of the population voted for independence while the remaining 3.9 million either voted against independence, didn’t vote, or never had a vote.
So mibbe the dominie that scribed that was showing the weans how you can mess with numbers to tell what story you wanntae – something that we grown ups learned in the referendum especially with economic predictions of an indy Scotland involving the price of oil.
I was just starting to get a blog post going on the following lines:-
1. A Scots Language Centre which gets the folk into border ballads and Burns and all the sangs out there and James Hogg is a very good thing but; (2) why does everything cultural have to be politicised towards the same result i.e. being Scottish=being Nationalist; (3) with a caveat that though the Centre may be funded by the Scottish government it doesn’t follow that some apparatchik at Holyrood writes every entry any more than they check out every script produced by Creative Scotland (though I bet pro-Unionist projects wouldn’t get much sympathy). And the Natz are control freaks keen to grasp their mitts round broadcasting and the universities.
There was the usual Twittering including one from Ruth Davidson:-
There were the usual apologies for “causing offence”.
To be fair it might have been one wee chappie/wifey at the Language Centre making a bit of mischief and now I even find it funny that s/he sneaked in a cheeky political point among the language studies.
But today I spittit with despyte (to quote the great Scots poet Gavin Douglas) and Lord, you have to keep yir e’en on those Gnats. They’re a flock of corbies with beaks of blood desperate to feed on our unionist corse.
Update:- the Scots Language Centre is a den of nationalists.