Steve Bell’s If ? 13.11.2014 Illustration: Copyright Steve Bell 2014
By Dale Street
1) When Michelle Thomson MP (SNP whip resigned) twice bought properties in 2010 and sold them to her husband later the same day, by how much did their price increase between purchase and re-sale?
2) When Michelle Thomson MP (SNP whip resigned) paid her business partner £95,000 for a property he had bought for £64,000 from a 77-year-old cancer-sufferer earlier the same day, how much did she receive as a “cashback” from her partner as part of the deal?
3) During the 2014 referendum campaign, who was the director of the pro-independence “Business for Scotland” organisation (“The business network with a conscience. We will promote the values that can build a more equal and fairer Scotland.”)?
a) John Paul Getty III
b) Nelson Rockefeller Jnr.
c) Michelle Thomson
4) What happened in 2014 to the solicitor who had represented MP Michelle Thomson (SNP whip resigned) and/or her husband and/or her business partner in 13 different property deals?
a) He was named Solicitor of the Year by the Law Society of Scotland.
b) He was appointed as a judge in the Inner House of the Court of Session.
c) He was struck off by a Law Society Discipline Tribunal for 13 counts of professional misconduct.
5) Who was SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon referring to in the 2015 general election campaign when she said “Michelle knows what’s she’s doing, knows her area and knows about fairness, equality and prosperity. I say: Bring it on, Michelle!”?
a) Michelle Pfeiffer
b) Michelle Obama
c) Michelle Thomson
6) What is the current value of the seven properties in SNP MP Lisa Cameron’s property portfolio?
7) What is the difference between the monthly rent charged for one of five former council flats owned by SNP MP Lisa Cameron and the monthly rent charged by the council for a council flat in the same area?
a) Higher by £140 a month.
b) Higher by £150 a month.
c) Higher by £160 a month.
8) Last September SNP MP Phil Boswell tabled a Parliamentary Question calling for a crackdown on tax avoidance. How much was the interest-free loan which Boswell himself received as part of a tax-avoidance scheme when working for a US energy company?
9) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has condemned tax avoidance as “obscene, immoral and despicable.” What did she say on learning of SNP MP Phil Boswell’s involvement in a tax-avoidance scheme?
a) This is obscene, immoral and despicable.
b) This is what happens when Scotland is governed by Westminster.
10) Including the discount secured for the venue (Stirling Castle’s Great Hall), how much did the SNP Holyrood government donate to the launch event of the Scottish Asian Women’s Association (founder: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, now an SNP MP) in 2012?
11) At its launch event, attended by 160 guests including Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s Scottish Asian Women’s Association spent £4,500 on canapes and £400 on flowers. Over the next three years how much did the charity donate to worthy causes?
12) In the run-up to the 2014 Euro-elections the Facebook page of which organisation appealed to its readers: “Remember to vote SNP on Thursday to get Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh elected and keep UKIP out of Scotland”?
a) A political party: the SNP.
b) An anti-racist campaign: Hope Not Hate.
c) A registered charity: the Scottish Asian Women’s Association.
13) Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) is currently under police investigation for the unaccounted disappearance of how much money from donations made to Women for Independence?
14) Who reported the disappearance of the £30,000 to the police, resulting in the investigation into Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned)?
a) Red Tories who always talk Scotland down.
b) Real Tories who always talk Scotland down.
c) 20 members of the Women for Independence National Committee, including seven SNP Holyrood candidates, one SNP branch convenor, the vice-chair of the British Association of Social Workers, and the Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid.
15) Who did Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) recently accuse of tweeting in support of “a misogynist and abusive Twitter troll”?
a) Tommy Sheridan
b) Comrade Delta
c) J.K. Rowling
16) Which song has Natalie McGarry MP (SNP whip resigned) described as “banter”?
a) Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
b) Bohemian Rhapsody.
c) The Famine Song.
17) In the 2015 general election campaign the SNP told voters: “The only way to lock the Tories out of 10 Downing Street is to vote SNP.” The SNP won 56 out of Scotland’s 59 seats. What was the result?
a) The Tories were locked out of 10 Downing Street.
b) The Tories returned to 10 Downing Street in a coalition with the Lib-Dems.
c) The Tories won an absolute majority of seats.
18) Which party did the SNP not call for a vote for anywhere in the UK in the 2015 general election campaign, while simultaneously listing what it would demand of it as the next Westminster government?
a) Green Party
b) Plaid Cymru
c) Labour Party
19) Which organisation adopted the following rule at its 2015 annual conference: “That no member shall within, or outwith, the Parliament publicly criticise a Group decision, policy, or another member of the Group”?
a) The Mafia (as an extension of the code of Omerta).
b) The Vatican (as an extension of the Bull of Papal Infallibility).
c) The SNP (because it’s the SNP).
20) 20 SNP branches have submitted motions to the party’s 2016 annual conference calling for a ban on fracking. What is likely to happen to the motions at the conference?
a) They will be passed.
b) They will not be passed.
c) Nothing – because they have all been ruled out of order and will not appear on the agenda.
21) What did the then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond prophesy in March of 2013?
a) The end of the world.
b) The second coming of Christ.
c) A second oil boom, beginning that year, which would generate tax revenues three times higher than official estimates.
22) What did the then SNP First Minister Alex Salmond, speaking in September of 2013, say was the value of North Sea oil and gas reserves?
a) Peanuts – it’s just something we dip into now and again when there’s a glut of shortbread on the world market.
b) Make up your own figure, provided that it has a lot of zeros at the end.
c) 1.5 trillions – twelve times higher than official estimates – “worth £300,000 for every man woman and child” in an independent Scotland.
23) What did SNP MP Alex Salmond have to say about the North Sea oil industry two years later?
a) The second oil boom is underway!
b) Hold out your hands for the first tranche of your £300,000!
c) The industry is suffering from tough low-oil-price conditions and needs every single market it can get.
24) Which piece of writing prophesised that the average price of a barrel of oil in the period 2014 to 2019 would be at least $113?
a) The Predictions of Nostradamus.
b) Mystic Meg’s horoscope for Leo in the “Sun” last week.
c) The SNP’s 2013 White Paper on Independence, “Scotland’s Future”.
25) What was the price of a barrel of oil in mid-January of 2016?
c) $27 (i.e. less than the cost of the barrel containing it).
26) According to “Scotland’s Future”, in the financial year 2015/16 North Sea oil revenues would amount to £8.3 billions. What is current estimate of North Sea oil revenues for 2015/16?
a) £8.3 billions
b) £16.6 billions
c) £130 millions
27) In January of this year SNP MP Dennis Robertson (Aberdeenshire West) said: “There is no crisis in the … … industry. We have just extracted more … than ever before. The industry is booming.” What industry was he talking about?
b) Brain tumour surgery.
c) The North Sea oil industry.
28) How many jobs dependent on the North Sea oil industry had been lost in the twelve months prior to SNP MP Dennis Robertson’s statement?
29) How did the daily rate of oil and gas extraction from the North Sea in the twelve months prior to SNP MP Dennis Robertson’s statement (“… just extracted more oil than ever before …”) compare with the daily rate of extraction in 1999?
a) Down by 2.5 million barrels a day.
b) Down by 3 million barrels a day.
c) Down by 3.5 million barrels a day.
30) In the 2014 referendum campaign which of the following did the SNP promise would always be lower in an independent Scotland than in England?
a) Levels of poverty.
b) Levels of social inequality.
c) Corporation tax.
31) What do the following have in common?
a) Air Passenger Duty.
b) Corporation Tax.
c) Taxation of the oil and gas industry.
32) Which of the following has SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised will never be cut?
a) Holyrood’s funding for Glasgow City Council.
b) Holyrood’s funding for maintenance of the Forth Road Bridge.
c) Holyrood’s annual contribution to the Sovereign Grant paid to the Queen.
33) When the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on its “non-profit distributing programme” from £353 millions to £20 millions in the financial year 2013/14, how did the then SNP Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
34) When the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on its green energy budget in the financial year 2014/15, how did the SNP Finance Secretary John Swinney describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
35) When the SNP Holyrood government announced a cut of over £350 millions in funding for local authorities for the financial year 2016/17, at a cost of 15,000 jobs, how did SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon describe the cut?
a) A savage cut.
b) An unacceptably savage cut.
36) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that it was “absolutely” not true that maintenance budget cuts led to the closure of the Forth Road Bridge last December. When the former Chief Engineer subsequently gave evidence to MSPs, what did he blame for the closure?
a) The San Andreas Fault.
b) Mars being in conjunction with Saturn.
c) A 58% cut in the bridge’s maintenance budget by the SNP government in 2011.
37) Between the financial years 2010/11 and 2014/15, by how much did the SNP Holyrood government cut spending on pre-school education places, primary school pupils, and secondary school pupils?
a) 7%, 10% and 3% respectively.
b) 8%, 11% and 4% respectively.
c) 9%, 12% and 5% respectively.
38) By how much did the SNP Holyrood government cut Further Education funding in real terms between 2010 and 2015?
39) What was the fall in the number of students at Further Education colleges in Scotland between 2010 and 2013?
40) What was the fall in the number of teaching staff in Further Education colleges in Scotland over the same period?
41) The poorest 20% of youth in England are 2.5 times less likely than the wealthiest 20% to go to university. What is the figure for the poorest 20% of youth in Scotland, compared to the wealthiest 20% of youth in Scotland?
a) 3 times less likely to go to university.
b) 3.5 times less likely to go to university.
c) 4 times less likely to go to university.
42) In England the proportion of university students from non-professional backgrounds is 33%. What is the equivalent figure for Scotland?
43) How much have owners of band ‘G’ and ‘H’ properties ‘saved’ in the period 2008-2016 as a result of the SNP’s council tax freeze?
a) £250 millions.
b) £300 millions.
c) £350 millions.
44) On average, a low-paid worker living in a Band ‘A’ property ‘saves’ £60 a year (0.3% of income) as a result of the SNP’s council tax freeze. On average, how much does someone living in a Band ‘H’ property ‘save’ each year as a result of the freeze?
a) £324 (0.7% of income).
b) £370 (0.8% of income).
c) £394 (0.9% of income).
45) What did SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh say on her return from a visit to Iran as part of an official SNP delegation last December?
a) A reactionary, homophobic, misogynist regime.
b) So that’s John Mason’s vision for Shettleston!
c) While Iran clearly has a distance to travel on gender equality, so too does Holyrood Westminster.
46) Which one of the following is not boycotted by all true Scots?
47) And which one of the following is not boycotted by all true Scots either?
a) Tunnock’s Teacakes
c) North Korea
48) With which of the following countries does SNP MP Alex Salmond look forward to Scotland developing a “productive and enduring relationship”?
49) After 30 years of opposition, what did the SNP annual conference in 2012 vote in favour of membership of?
a) The United Kingdom.
b) The Russian Federation.
50) The Facebook page of the Scottish Resistance carries a video clip of one of their members wielding a sledgehammer. What is he doing with the sledgehammer?
a) Repairing the Forth Road Bridge.
b) Laying the foundations of an independent Scotland.
c) Crushing a pack of Tunnock’s teacakes, with the words “This is a wee message to every c**t who is still a f***king secret teacake eater. F**k Tunnock’s.”
51) Which books did North Lanarkshire SNP councillor Rosa Zambonini tweet that she would ban her children from reading?
a) Books containing lots of violence.
b) Books containing lots of sex.
c) Books by J.K. Rowling.
52) Dundee SNP councillor Craig Melville was suspended from the SNP for having allegedly tweeted which of the following messages to a female Muslim SNP member?
a) Scottish nationalism is different from all other nationalisms – it’s a civic nationalism.
b) That Man to Man the warld o’er shall brithers be for a’ that.
c) It’s not personal, I just f****** hate your religion and I’ll do all in my life do defeat your filth. We live in an uneducated loopy left-wing society which is more interested in claiming benefits. … Horrible murdering Islamic c***s.
53) Which of the following has North Airdrie SNP councillor and Central Scotland SNP list candidate Sophia Coyle said should be banned from fostering and adopting children?
a) Members of ISIS.
b) Members of al Qaeda.
c) Gay couples.
54) According to cybernat Shelley Detlefsen, what was the cause of the cancer which killed David Bowie?
b) Poor diet.
c) Supporting a ‘No’ vote in the 2014 referendum.
55) The Tories have recently promised to “stand shoulder to shoulder” with the SNP. But “stand shoulder to shoulder” with them doing what?
a) Repairing the Forth Road Bridge.
c) Opposing Labour’s proposal for a 1% income tax rise.
56) On 28th January this year SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “I’m standing up for a fair deal for Scotland – Labour should try it some time, instead of always backing the Tories.” What happened six days later, when Labour proposed a 1p increase in income tax?
a) Labour voted with the Tories.
b) Labour voted with the SNP.
c) The SNP voted with the Tories.
57) What did the SNP support in 1999 but oppose in 2016?
a) Membership of NATO.
b) Membership of the European Union.
c) Increasing income tax in Scotland by 1p.
58) According to SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, nurses would be hit harder by Labour’s proposal for a 1% income tax increase than she herself would be. What is the explanation for this claim?
a) Nurses in Scotland are paid over £136,000 a year.
b) Nicola Sturgeon is paid her salary through a tax haven.
c) Nicola Sturgeon can’t count.
59) Which of the following politicians is the highest paid?
a) The President of France.
b) The Prime Minister of Spain.
c) SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
60) What did the by then former SNP First Minister Alex Salmond cancel after the referendum of September 2014?
a) His coronation as Supreme Leader and Great Helmsman.
b) Renaming the Royal Mile the Alex Salmond Mile.
c) His television licence.
d) All of the above.
Answers on a postcard to:
Nicola Sturgeon, Bute House (absent a commercial transaction with Michelle Thomson and her husband in the meantime), 6 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4DR.
How many questions do you think you answered correctly?
0-20: You should join the SNP. Because they all say “But we never knew about that!” as well.
21-40: You should join RISE. Because you have some (modest) criticisms of the SNP, but not so many that you can’t approach SNP supporters to beg for their list vote in May.
41-60: You are an anti-Scottish Red-Tory traitor who is always talking Scotland down.
By Dale Street
Tunnock’s teacakes are the latest victims of the super-patriotic wing of Scottish nationalism: Along with all other Tunnock’s products (caramel wafers, caramel logs and snowballs), they should now be boycotted by all true Scots.
The trigger for the call for a boycott is an advertising campaign on London Underground which Tunnock’s launched in the New Year. According to the Facebook page “Boycott the Companies That Scared Scotland” (21,360 likes):
“Tunnock’s are ditching the lion rampant from their branding, stating that they are not a Scottish biscuit, they are a Great British biscuit. This is the second time this company has pissed on Scotland, after funding a ‘No’ vote in 2014. What’s really petty is a millionaire interfering with a country’s democratic decision so he can sell more biscuits.”
The company was duly added to the list of companies to be boycotted for having “scared Scotland” in the 2014 referendum. The list already included the Daily Record, the BBC, BP, Marks and Spencer, B&Q, Sainsbury’s John Lewis and USDAW.
(Yes, USDAW is a trade union, not a company. But the difference between a trade union and an employer seems to be lost on many nationalists: If they’re British, everything else shades into insignificance.)
An SNP-cybernat definition of “Tunnock” quickly did the rounds on social media:
“Tunnock: A person who is embarrassed by their Scottish heritage; one who prefers their country to be ruled by another; an individual who betrays someone or something, such as a friend, cause or principle; a dick. See also Dobber and Bawbag.”
Nationalist enthusiasts took to social media to express their support for a boycott:
“Tunnocks can get to fuck. Turncoat traitor wanks.” “I hope not one person in Scotland buys your products after abandoning the lion to appeal to England.” “Will not be buying any more fk tunnock.” “Established 1890. Sold out 2016.” “Rebranding is one thing. What Tunnocks did was a brazen rejection of Scotland.” “Let’s hope it cost him millions. We can only hope it puts him out of business.”
In fact, it turned out that some “Yes” supporters had been boycotting Tunnock’s ever since the referendum, some fifteen months before the launch of its ‘unpatriotic’ advertising campaign:
“Why is people only just (now) doing this? I’ve not bought anything from them since they came out as ‘No’.” “Never bought another Tunnocks product since Indy and never will again.” “I’ve never eaten anything made by Tunnock’s since the referendum.” “They supported a #No vote. That’s all you need to know.”
But other Scottish nationalists felt that calling for a boycott of Tunnock’s products did not really make sense. According to an editorial in The National (which pretends to be a newspaper but is in fact something you wave while your Saltires are away at the dry cleaners):
“What the whole episode really shows is how pro-Unionist campaigners moved quickly to condemn those who called for a boycott and made it not about those fringes but the whole pro-independence movement.
The truth is you never hear Yes campaigners calling for a boycott. Not really. You hear the crazed loons on the fringes of social media.”
Unfortunately for The National, comments posted beneath the editorial revealed that a fair number of its own readers were Tunnock’s-boycotting “crazed loons on the fringes of social media”. And they did not like being called “crazed loons”:
“Those ‘crazy loons’ you are referring to will soon see that ‘The National’ is just another unionist newspaper dressed in a kilt. I have till now bought Tunnocks, I won’t from now on.” “How about that? I’m a ‘crazed loon’! And proud of it!”
“I have been told I was being extremist for boycotting all papers except ‘The National’. Now ‘The National’ is saying I am on the lunatic fringe for boycotting a confectionery product. Hmmm.”
“If ‘The National’ thinks I am a loon because I choose to no longer buy a product, their product is now also one I no longer wish to buy.” “Be very careful who you call ‘crazed loons’. We are AT THE MOMENT supporting this paper.”
“Wow. This is bizarre from ‘The National’. I will boycott Tunnocks as is my choice. I can justify this in a completely rational way(!!!) and I would encourage others to do likewise. I am not a crazed loon on the fringes of social media because of this. However your opinion piece is more deserving of such a description.”
It is doubtless true that only a minority of Scottish nationalists support an actual boycott of Tunnock’s. But the call for a boycott is certainly a microcosm of the overall nationalist mindset and method of political ‘argument’:
– Ignore basic facts: The lion rampant has not been “ditched” by Tunnock’s. It is very visible on the Tunnock’s packaging in the advert. And the expression “Great British teacake” is a humorous take on “Great British Bake Off”, not an assertion of national identity (insofar as teacakes have a national identity).
– Ignore inconsistencies: Such as denouncing millionaires who donated to the ‘No’ campaign for interfering with a country’s democratic decision, but not making the same denunciation of millionaires who donated to the ‘Yes’ campaign.
– Ignore reality: 55% of the electorate voted against independence in 2014. 45% voted in favour. “55” is a bigger number than “45”. (And the current price of a barrel of oil is $35. “35” is considerably less than the SNP-promised figure of “117”.)
– Invent an insult to the Scottish nation (in a particularly aggressive and self-righteous tone – because, although you lost in 2014, you are the ‘real’ spokesperson of the nation): A self-confessed Tory millionaire who voted ‘No’ has dared to remove the symbol of the medieval Scottish monarchy from his teacakes branding!
– Invent a conspiracy theory: Too tedious quote verbatim, but it runs as follows: Tunnock’s has not Britified its teacakes as an advertising gimmick but in order to make pro-Unionist propaganda. (“The reality is that Boyd Tunnock was quite explicit about the packaging changes being intended for the purpose of promoting a unionist message.”)
– Sacrifice workers’ interests on your nationalist altar: A boycott of Tunnock’s, if it ever took off, would cost workers’ jobs (“We can only hope it puts him out of business.”) And unlike many SNP employers, Tunnocks actually recognises a trade union (Unite).
Sure, only a minority of Scottish nationalists are the kind of “crazed loons” who back a boycott of Tunnock’s (although, as The National discovered to its cost, there are a quite a lot of them out there).
But the ‘logic’ of the argument for boycotting a teacake contains all the ingredients of mainstream Scottish nationalism.
Steve Bell’s If …
By Dale Street (also posted at the Workers Liberty website)
“SNP independence has become the cocaine of the politically active. Fun to join in, but dulling the senses, jabbering on at a hundred words per minute while disconnected from self-awareness.”
In a recent article admitting that the SNP’s economic arguments for independence never stacked up, this is how Alex Bell summed up the delirious nature of the pro-independence political mindset. (Bell was SNP Head of Policy under Salmond.)
But the response of the SNP to the launch of airstrikes against Daesh has exposed the inaccuracy of Bell’s statement: he was being too charitable by half.
Labour Party policy was to oppose the bombing. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs – and a majority of the Shadow Cabinet – voted against the bombing. Some 75% of Labour Party members were against the bombing. The lead speaker in Westminster against the bombing was the Labour Party leader.
But all these basic facts were blotted out of reality in the parallel political universe inhabited – and created – by Scottish nationalism.
SNP MP John Nicolson summed up the political essence of the SNP response to the launch of airstrikes when he created the hashtag: “Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems #BombingTogether.”
Challenged about the accuracy of this hashtag, Nicolson responded that bombing was backed by the vast majority of Tories (true), by all Lib Dems (wrong), and by most of the Shadow Cabinet (wrong).
And the 152 Labour MPs who voted against bombing? Or Labour Party policy against bombing? Nicolson simply ignored them.
SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson likewise ignored how most Labour MPs actually voted. Harking back to the SNP’s exploitation of the Labour-Tory “Better Together” referendum campaign, he tweeted:
“Syria vote: Want to join opposition to Labour/Tory ‘better together’ majority. Join the SNP.”
The Tories had a majority even without the votes of Labour MPs. And the majority of the Labour MPs voted against bombing. But this did not prevent Robertson from performing the political conjuring trick of pulling a “Labour/Tory ‘better together’ majority” out of his hat.
The SNP was equally silent about anti-war speeches by Labour MPs. Instead, on planet SNP, the intervention by Labour MPs was reduced to Hilary Benn’s closing pro-bombing speech. Read the rest of this entry »
William McIlvanney 25 Nov 1936 – 5 Dec 2015: writer, thinker, poet of ‘Tartan noir.’
Laidlaw sat at his desk, feeling a bleakness that wasn’t unfamiliar to him. Intermittently, he found himself doing penance for being him. When the mood seeped into him, nothing mattered. He could think of no imaginable success, no way of life, no dream of wishes fulfilled that would satisfy.
Last night and this morning hadn’t helped. He had finally left Bob Lilley and the rest still on the surveillance in Dumfries. On the strength of solid information, they had followed the car from Glasgow. By a very devious route it has taken them to Dumfries. AS far as he knew, that was where it was still parked — in the waste lot beside the pub. Nothing has happened. Instead of catching them in the act of breaking in, three hours of picking your nose. He has left them to it and come back to the office, gloom sweet gloom.
It was strange how this recurring feeling had always been a part of him. Even when he was a child, it had been present in its own childish form. He remembered nights when the terror of darkness had driven him through to his parents’ room. He must have run for miles on that bed. It wouldn’t have surprised him if his mother had had to get the sheets re-soled. Then it had been bats and bears, wolves running round the wallpaper. The spiders were the worst, big, hairy swines, with more legs than a chorus-line.
Now the monsters were simultaneously less exotic and less avoidable. He was drinking too much — not for pleasure, just sipping it systematically, like low proof hemlock. His marriage was a maze nobody had ever mapped, an infinity of habit and hurt and betrayal down which he and Edna had wanered separately, meeting occasionally in the children. He was a policeman, a Detective Inspector, and more and more he wondered how that had happened. And he was nearly forty.
* Guardian appreciation here
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.