So what am I likely to find here?

My blog, as with my Twitter account, is usually about music or politics, and even both on occasion. I may delve into other related subjects as politics is everywhere.

I support the concepts of a Basic Income and Co-operation. The time of the machine is almost upon us so we must act now to ensure that the new industrial age of few jobs and high unemployment does not mean mass poverty and starvation for those without paid work.

Oh What Timing: The Manchester Arena Bombing

Hunts Bank
Hunts Bank, Manchester (via Google Maps). To the right, Manchester Victoria train station, to the left, the steps up to Manchester Arena.

It was just before midnight that I started to notice on my Twitter feed some posts about an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert…and then that it was in Manchester. It’s pushing 3am now.

I am being uncharacteristically presumptuous with my title. As I write, no one has confirmed that it is a bombing, only that it is being treated as an act of terrorism.

Reports say 19 are dead and over 50 injured. Experience suggests both figures will rise.

Experience says this was a bombing.

I feel a number of emotions right now. Mostly, I am disgusted at this attack at what was essentially a kids’ concert and I would also expect that most of the attendees were female, which in my view also speaks to their level of innocence in any actual or perceived crimes committed by the state that this may be in retaliation against (presuming the reason – I know).

I’m also familiar with the venue. The Manchester Arena is in the Northern Quarter of Manchester city centre. It is a massive indoor arena with a foyer going around it, much like most modern large sports stadia.

It has two major exits on the north and south sides. You can get to Manchester Victoria train station from either side, and get right into the station for the train or tram.

The north side is where most of the nearby car parking is, the south side is nearest the train station main entrance, and a taxi rank, and for buses, as well as trains and trams, but it is also the city centre side, so I believe it is the busiest of all the exits from the venue.

This is where I believe this explosion occurred.

The clips online of a guy whose dashboard caught the light of the blast also indicates this.

This car park is to the east of Victoria train station.

The roof you see light up is the station itself. The partial transparency means that you are seeing the explosion occur on the other side of the building – which is right where that south exit to the arena is. If the explosion occurred elsewhere, the size of the arena and the multi-storey car parks would probably have blocked any such light.

Another thing about that venue is the steepness of the steps that some people have to go up to get out. With issues such as steep steps, the seer size of the venue, and with it likely to be either full or close to capacity, it takes time to empty.

I’m not going to post any video of the panic from inside, but it is not surprising. A venue full of youngsters, some of whom would have been unchaperoned, whilst inside, at least (whilst parents or guardians may have enjoyed the city night life nearby), who are suddenly presented with an existential threat, whilst lacking experience of any such situation, and perhaps also lacking any adult supervision, would have undoubtedly resulted in sheer panic from all too many.

I am not one to jump to rash conclusions, but I don’t see how this can be anything other than a sickening terrorist attack.

And I don’t want to hear anyone say this was indiscriminate. You don’t blow up a bomb outside an Ariana Grande concert, as people are leaving, and not expect to kill a lot of kids.

This is without doubt going to cause a massive backlash.

Now think of the political ramifications.

Indeed, as it happens, I kind of already was.

As well as checking online the many sources I have, to see what was happening, I couldn’t help but look at my own timeline, and my last three tweets to date, two of which were posted after the explosion, but what must have been minutes before I found out about it.

I was tweeting after I saw a tweet from parody account, @FrancisUrquhart, which is the character from the UK’s House of Cards, and the subsequent To Play The King and The Final Cut.

In The Final Cut, Urquhart’s past is coming back to bite him and he is looking at being dethroned as Prime Minister. He tries to stir-up a conflict in a foreign country in order to have an, “our Falklands” moment – a reference to Margaret Thatcher’s managing to win the 1983 General Election, having sent troops to The Falklands, following an Argentinian invasion. This at a time when things were not looking good for her Tory Government, in the polls beforehand.

These days, Tony Blair insists that ‘Those of us who lived through the turmoil of the ‘80s know every line of [Corbyn’s] script. These are policies from the past that were rejected not because they were too principled, but because a majority of the British people thought they didn’t work.’ But at the time, according to the journalist Michael Cockerell, Blair drew a different lesson, as he reportedly told Robin Cook: ‘The thing I learned… is that wars make prime ministers popular.’

From 1983: the biggest myth in Labour Party history

Given the state of the current Tory party, with the PM looking “Weak and wobbly” and having back-tracked on the “Manifesto of Chaos”, I posted the following, unaware of what had just happened in Manchester.

I’m pretty cynical of the UK Government and its willingness to exploit matters abroad for political ends; in order to appear on the right side of a military victory, or to profit from arm sales to those involved in conflict.

But I doubt even the Tories would stoop quite so low as to bomb civilians in the UK, let alone at a concert of an American pop star, in order to change the dynamic of the current General Election campaign.

I also don’t think they are competent enough to get away with any such atrocity for any length of time, let alone permanently, so no, I’m not espousing any conspiracy theory on this barbarity.

Now I wouldn’t expect anything short of a tough response from any UK government to this atrocity, whatever its political persuasion, but seriously what timing. Just over a fortnight to a UK General Election.

No doubt the terrorists want to affect the outcome of the General Election. No doubt this will result in the Tory Government being able to put on its “strong and stable leadership” face, in a way that opposition parties simply cannot do, because they do not form the government – and just when The Tories were looking anything but.

The terrorists have created mayhem and thrown May a bone at the same time.

To cap off this night of tragedy and coincidence, that third and final tweet which I mentioned was my regularly scheduled #MusicAtMidnight tweet, which posted automatically whilst I was finding out what was happening in Manchester.

My music choice happened to be a Warrington band, who are often referred to as a Manchester band – with some justification – but oh, when thinking where exactly this happened, the song as well…

Railway Road.

I’m fond of that song, so I hope the connection with last night fades.

As to the politics of the moment, we need to all do the right thing by the dead, the injured and their families and the otherwise affected or afflicted. Let’s give them the space they need and the time to grieve – but when that is done, let us not be swayed by the wants of people who would willfully target kids enjoying themselves, and not let this event in any way colour how the General Election of 2017 pans out.

Pride and Prejudice, Fear and Loathing: A ‘Why’ for the ‘Classics’ of Scottish Unionism

In a week that has seen powdered substances sent to SNP politicians, in order to spread fear and concern, in what you might describe as a low-level act of terrorism, there has also been vandalism of SNP paraphernalia by ever more desperate Unionists, who are finding Indy supporters much harder to bait than in 2014.

Indy supporters learned their lesson last time, on the whole (perhaps one daft tweet being the exception).

The mainstream media is not sympathetic to Scottish independence (hence the rise of alternative media outlets since indyref, as well as The National) and it will take any excuse to portray Indy supporters as “Cybernats” or vandals or reprobates, or any kind of miscreant.

Despite the 2014 result, support for Indy has remained steadily in the 40%+ range (despite what some say) and hasn’t declined (or moved) in any significant way since indyref, although polls have sporadically shown some peaks and troughs.

As we move inexorably towards a second Scottish independence referendum, and an independence campaign that could build on this support, as it did from the c30% it had in early 2013, Scottish Unionists (and a few from elsewhere) have become increasingly desperate to stop it.

From the most pathetic whining about the wording of manifestos (more on this below), to claiming there isn’t a ‘mandate’, when the matter has already been resolved by the democratic process that has been set-up for the Scottish Parliament (funny how it runs into disrepute for Unionists when they are on the wrong end of a vote), to trying to lie on social media, or even distort events as some sort of Indy conspiracy; Unionists are really starting to lose it.

Over to John Nicolson, MP, who had one of these suspect mail items sent to him.

No 2351 on the list needs to be moved to nearer the top. I’ve had a few run-ins with that one and their idiocy is astonishing. And it shows no sign of abating.

Historywoman03

Seriously? She is in total denial that these were Unionist supporting skin heads that caused trouble just after the Indyref vote, which was, by the way, the only real, genuine violence of that campaign.

As for No 2351, I found this on The Random Public Journal from a few months back.

Scroll down the list of accounts History Woman follows and you will come across quite an array of overt ultra-right wing, racist, and Islamophobic filth. It’s not even your average common or garden racist nobodies. She is a follower of none other than “James Bond” – @bluehand007 – the founder of Britain’s openly racist Blue Hand organisation, an account that has also attracted endorsements from Tommy Robinson, UKIP’s David Coburn, and UK Union Voice.

Enough said.

Next to Patrick Harvie, who has had to endure trolls who can’t or won’t read his party’s manifesto properly, especially on the subject of supporting Scottish Independence and the Greens’ preferred way for such to come about.

Liar01

Mr Steele refuses to accept the evidence provided that The Scottish Greens were in complete compliance with their own manifesto. He is instead misrepresenting what it said. It was unclear at that stage if he was doing this wilfully or not, but he tries it on again.

Liar02

Despite already being shown what was actually written in the Scottish Greens’ manifesto for 2016, he still tried to tell people that they had no right, reason, or mandate to join with the SNP in a vote on independence. He still keeps whining that this isn’t right, or fair or not what they said they would do, when it damn well is and they damn well did. He’s flying totally in the face of what was written, what was done and how it was done. His position is untenable. He has no grounds for complaint.

The simple fact of the matter is that The Scottish Parliament gets to decide this in a similar way to the UK Parliament – a parliament he is effectively defending and supporting in its rule over Scotland. He may as well rail against that if he doesn’t like how the Scottish Parliament works, because as a devolved parliament, it is part of the system.

This matter of calling for a second referendum in the Scottish Parliament, as with matters before the House of Commons, depends on how many representatives there are in favour or not, and in the case of both the aforementioned Scottish parties, they are honouring what each of their manifestos explicitly stated with regard to Scottish independence. Unionists just don’t like the outcome.

So why resort to this level of clearly desperate behaviour? This grasping at straws, complaining pointlessly and erroneously about events that have already occurred, and lying to people about what documents actually stated. And finally someone even resorting to intimidation and threats to life.

On an individual level, this behaviour could be regarded as symptoms of someone with borderline personality disorder (and if that’s you, then you should seek help from your GP).

But collectively? What does this say? What does it say about Unionists in general when they resort to this level of behaviour, when the worst we saw during Indyref was some petty vandalism of signs (similar to that above) and an egg thrown at Jim Murphy.

(Not including the post referendum, pro-union skinhead invasion of George Square, Glasgow).

Some Unionists are simply afraid of change (age is sadly a significant factor here). This is why some continue to cling to petty reasons to argue against Indy happening, or make unreasonable demands on the level of information that they need, before they say they will even consider changing their mind.

It is unlikely that they will. The only way to prove Indy works to some Unionists will be to do it. Other Unionists simply refuse to countenance independence.

Independence is evidently perceived by some as an existential threat. But why?

I believe the answer to that is fairly simple to express. It is because, in a sense, they are right. It is, for them, an existential threat. Or at least, it is for their psyche.

Many people have been brought up with a view of the UK as being this shining beacon of light across the world for hundreds of years. Therefore, what the UK does is all that is good and right. After all, we won the war (and yes, that’s usually WWII being referred to).

However, those of us that have studied history beyond the school curriculum at all, beyond the likes of ‘Kings and Queens of England and Britain since 1066’, will know that history wasn’t quite as we were taught it at school. What we were taught at school was very selective. It is only if you delve into the subject more and find different sources to read and from different points of view, do you realise just how much – and what tends to be left out – and why.

They don’t want the British State to appear to be the ‘bad guy’; at least not as much as it has been. Presumably they don’t think young minds at school can handle the truth and need to be a little older to learn it.

The trouble is, that is only taught – or rather you only have the freedom to realise it – if you choose to study the subject at all. Those who don’t care for history and drop it don’t get to learn this, unless they happen to have someone in their life that is inclined to point this out.

Those of us who did have this realisation tend to be more aware than others on the subject and can correct the likes of Liam Fox, MP, when he spouts out nonsense about British history.

Others, however, are like Liam Fox. They prefer the rosier version that schools and early life history books taught them. They don’t want to believe that the country they live in and were probably raised in, may be, in any way, responsible for some of the darkest chapters of history in the past few hundred years. And no one they know or trust tells them anything different. They only want to know about the glorious history they were taught about, that they have been brought up to be proud of and believe is right and true.

But wait a minute: How can it be, in this rosy world, that there are people who don’t want to be a part of this great union of countries? They don’t understand this. They cannot reconcile this concept with their ingrained world view. It doesn’t compute.

They may even try to listen to or read independence advocates, but no, that can’t be right, they say. Scotland can’t go it alone and why would it? We’re better together. Surely. Aren’t we?

And then the threatened psyche reasserts itself.  It refuses to accept this argument against what it has believed to be true for so long. It fights back. It takes umbrage at the very idea that some people don’t want this world as it is, and that it could be better; should be better. But I mean really, asks the psyche, how could it be better than this?

Oh, how I count the ways.

I really don’t think you can explain this behaviour as being collective. It is really a lot of individuals suffering from the same inner turmoil, where reality is crashing in on their view of the world, which is a view created by the same thing. Britain.

Naturally, however, as the psyche tries to maintain the world view it has developed, it will bond with other psyches that are doing the same thing, because of the reinforcement that comes from such. Hey, you think like me! I’m not alone with my world view.

Of course people bond with others for many reasons, such as supporting the same sports team; but most other reasons do not involve such a fundamental personal belief system. A belief system that is based upon a distorted history and is therefore vulnerable to things that you can list under one heading: The truth about Britain and British history.

That is why we are seeing what we are seeing from some Unionists. That is why their behaviour is so desperate and increasingly dangerous. It is because their whole world view is being attacked and chipped away. Their psyches are under attack, they feel threatened and are, as they see it, defending themselves against an existential threat.

So what do independence supporters do about this?

Frankly, I don’t have an answer to that question. All I can suggest is that we try and bear in mind that there are troubled minds in the Unionist camp, capable of vandalism, violence and potentially terrorism, as this week has demonstrated.

This is evidently happening because these people are having trouble coming to terms with the fact that there is a viable alternative to Scotland being a part of the UK and that Scotland could actually, genuinely be a better place than it is now, if it leaves the union.

They would not be having this difficulty, or be so desperate, if they didn’t really believe that Scottish independence could happen.

What’s More Likely to Affect Jobs in Scotland? Indy or Brexit?

The Scotland Office has been at pains to point out of late that, “c530,000 jobs in Scotland are supported by demand for Scottish goods and services from the rest of the UK.” What they fail to mention – leaving it to Scottish Government or SNP politicians to say – is that a similar number of UK jobs are similarly reliant on trade going the other way.

So why are Unionist politicians, David Mundell in particular, banging on about this figure, when it is a two-way street?

Well, aside from neglecting to mention half the relevant information, hoping that this will be the message digested, Mundell then goes on to add:

“As we leave the EU, it is vital we maintain the integrity of the UK market and prevent any new barriers to doing business across the UK.”

 http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/independence-reckless-amid-new-uk-dependent-jobs-figures-1-4424885

Later on in the same article, Tory MSP, Murdo Fraser, added:

“Hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on the fact there are no trade barriers between Scotland and the rest of Britain…Yet the SNP wants to destroy this arrangement with its reckless gamble, making life harder for businesses and workers.”

Typically, The Scotsman used the more inflammatory remarks from Fraser to make its headline. I’ll come back to these comments…

The Scotsman isn’t exactly known for having sympathy or giving equal consideration to Scottish Independence or its proponents. Its web site comments sections are riddled with raging Unionist bile and hate, so anything pro-independence appearing on there will soon be smothered in such, regardless of what it says or how it says it.

Even so, within the article is some semblance of the Indy case (which no doubt the publication would point to if accused of bias). It does give the response about the job and trade issues going both ways and it does also mention an earlier report by the Fraser of Allander Institute (whose report is where this article stems from), when it stated:

“Scotland could lose between 30,000 and 80,000 jobs as a result of Brexit”

What is rather heinous about the article, aside from quoting Fraser for its headline, is that whilst it places Fraser’s comments after David Mundell’s (not in itself a problem), it places the response from Scottish Government Economy Secretary, Keith Brown, in-between them.

If you are wondering what is wrong with this, it is that Brown’s response is also effectively to Fraser as well. Placing Fraser’s comments after Brown’s makes it appear that Fraser is making a fresh point, when really, he isn’t. Aside from being a second Tory unionist to be quoted in the article, Fraser’s point was already countered by Brown when he said:

“It is quite simply nonsense to suggest that the rest of the UK would cease trading with Scottish firms if we were inside the single market but outside the UK… As we have consistently made clear, Scotland does not face a choice between exporting to the EU or the UK – we can, and should, do both”

OK, so Brown is talking about losing trade and Fraser is talking about trade barriers, but these things are interlinked.

Brown responded to the implication that there will be a substantial loss of trade between rUK and Scotland as a consequence of independence. Fraser and Mundell were talking about trade barriers arising because of independence, which would then cause any such loss of trade.

So why would anyone want trade barriers? Why would they suddenly exist because of independence? Mundell and Fraser are phrasing their argument as if they are.

But think about it. The trade goes both ways. Jobs in Scotland and rUK are dependent on trade across the Scottish border.

So why would anyone want trade barriers?

Now think bigger picture. If trade barriers are the consequence of Scotland leaving the UK (still don’t know why, but let’s assume it’s so for now), surely the same must be true of Brexit?

Or is it? What is the Brexit deal? Oh wait, we don’t know yet. So how the hell do Mundell and Fraser?

The current situation is that there is a Common Travel Area (CTA) across the UK and Ireland. This has existed since the 1950s and there was a form of it in place following the birth of the Irish Free State, up until the second world war.

Despite the advent of the EU, this remains in place. It is in fact Brexit that is jeopardising it, starting in Ireland, as the UK leaves the EU and Northern Ireland finds itself on an EU border.

There is understandable reluctance to have a “hard border” between the two Irish countries, given the long-standing history and benefits of not having such.

There were Customs checks as well as army and police check points in the past, all of which gave way to either the Single European Market or The Good Friday Agreement. However, the Irish Ambassador to the UK commented in February upon the task of introducing a hard Irish border:

“… I don’t think it is even remotely possible to think in terms of having a border that would really control every movement of goods and people across that border. This is a border that is invisible. It is different from most other borders that our European partners might be familiar with.”

David Davis MP (the ‘Brexit Minister’) said in March:

“One of the plans being put together is how on earth we create an invisible, frictionless border between north and south, between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland”.

There is considerable concern over the impact of the EU border that will exist in Ireland, after Brexit in 2019, and its effect on trade.  It does however appear that the European Commission, The Irish and the British governments are seeking solutions that will satisfy all sides and cause the minimum of disruption.

So what of a potential rUK/Scottish hard border in the event of independence?

Perhaps more to the point, why wouldn’t there be a similar response to what is going on with the Irish border? Why wouldn’t all parties be looking to seek the best possible solution to any such issues, rather than there be the trade barriers that the Scottish Tories are talking about happening automatically?

Aren’t the Scottish Tories really just scaremongering on the issue by assuming that the worst possible case scenario will definitely occur?

Let’s not forget that Scotland is currently within the UK – and the UK is leaving the EU. In the event of independence, Scotland would, as Unionists are all too keen to point out, also be out of the EU.

However, having been taken out of the EU against its will, it is not a foregone conclusion that Scotland would reapply for EU membership, or obtain it. It may be SNP policy now, but policies and circumstances change.

If there was a referendum in late 2018/early 2019, and should there be a “Yes” vote, Scottish independence is not going to occur until at least 2020. Whilst the application process for returning to the EU is unlikely to be blocked, and Scotland, as a current EU member, via the UK, meets the requirements of being in the EU, meaning that an application to rejoin may be “relatively speedy“, it will still take years.

We could be talking about c2030 before Scotland rejoins the EU, although Scotland would be hoping for a timeframe shorter than that – say c2025. Put another way, Scotland is going to be out of the EU for at least several years.

Circumstances may have changed by then. Scotland may join the EFTA, perhaps as a stepping stone to the EU. It may do something else entirely, but the point of independence would be that it would be Scotland’s choice – and it hasn’t been made yet.

As of now, no one knows what is going to happen. It’s all a bunch of ‘whatifs‘ and theories.  This begs the question, how does either Mundell or Fraser know that there will be trade barriers in place?

The simple answer is; they don’t. If anything, the reverse is likely.

Until such time as an independent Scotland rejoins the EU, which is years away, Scotland would be negotiating with the rUK for itself over trade. It would make no sense whatsoever for there to be trade barriers between Scotland and rUK.

As was said, it is a nonsense to believe that trade between Scotland and rUK will disappear because of Scottish independence. And no one knows what agreements will come in the future should Scotland rejoin the EU, or how Brexit negotiations will impact on this.

It is far more of a concern that these jobs may have disappeared already because of Brexit.

Whilst the jobs identified in this report maybe reliant on services in rUK, did anyone count how many of these jobs are with companies operating in the UK because of it being in the EU?

How many companies trade between rUK/Scotland for the purpose of exporting a final product to/through the EU?

Trade barriers between rUK and Scotland are only likely to occur at all if/when Scotland rejoins the EU. Even then, for Scotland, would any loss of rUK trade that might occur, be greater than the gains of returning to the EU? Greater than the benefits to the Scottish economy of free movement? Better than potentially getting back some or all of the 30,000 – 80,000 jobs that are going to be lost through Brexit?

How about maybe getting some of those jobs the UK has lost/will lose because of regaining access to the EU?

How about improving the prospects for Scottish businesses and the Scottish economy by having access to the EU?

And how about retaining those Human Rights that the Tories want to replace with a bill of British Rights?

Oh yes, let’s not forget either, that the argument for Scottish independence and being a part of the EU isn’t purely financial, even if the unionist arguments against indy almost always are.

Brexit has barely kicked-in and the UK is losing EU related jobs, banks are relocating to EU countries and the prospects of a timely EU/UK trade deal is starting to resemble a ship disappearing over the horizon.

So forget unionist claims about the possible impact of independence on jobs in Scotland, as they’ll never represent anything other than doom and gloom. Worry more about the actual impact on jobs of Brexit.

EP Review: Slydigs – How Animal Are You?

HowAnimalAreYou01

I’ve reviewed music and gigs and, in the deep, dark past, TV shows and films, but this one is a first for me. I’ve been given the opportunity to review an EP with some new music before its release date. So here goes…

How Animal Are You? is a six-track EP from Warrington rock band Slydigs. It is due to be released on Friday 12 May 2017, although the title track was released as a single on 7 April.

Some background may be in order…

Slydigs are Dean Fairhurst (Vocals/Rhythm Guitar), Louis Menguy (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals), Peter Fleming (Percussion) and Ben Breslin (Bass/Backing Vocals).  They are friends that have known each other since school and as such they would often have a sly dig at each other. After one of their number (they didn’t say which) declared, quite seriously, “I’m sick of sly digs!”, they evidently decided that the most sly dig of all was to adopt that as the band name.

SlydigsPic01
Slydigs: Ben, Dean, Peter and Louis

Starting out they were bad. They were Bill and Ted Wyld Stallyns bad. Then after a while they got fed-up with messing around and started to take the band seriously, until, and just like the Wyld Stallyns in the end, they become “excellent”.

A couple of years and member changes later, the band’s ability and reputation was such that, in late 2014, they were chosen to support legendary rock band The Who, for three UK dates, in Manchester and London, during their 50th Anniversary tour.

Their 2015 song, Light The Fuse, was selected for use on the music video game, Rock Band 4.

Slydigs then toured twice supporting irrepressible soul, rhythm and blues band, Vintage Trouble (who have acquired quite the reputation for live music themselves), across the UK and Europe, before being invited to re-join The Who as support for the North American leg of their tour, in 2016. This was still part of the 50th Anniversary Tour that they had performed on in the UK, but had been delayed due to Roger Daltrey being ill.

This brings us to the here and now and The How Animal Are You? EP. Its release will coincide with a UK and European headline tour starting in Manchester, in May 2017.

The EP:

  1. How Animal Are You? (3.27)

  2. The Truth Will Be Found (2.57)

  3. Give It Up Brother (2.51)

  4. To Catch A Fading Light (2.56)*

  5. Suburban Confinement (3.47)

  6. The Kids Feel Underrated (4.16)*

 *Features Paul Glover on keyboards

 

1. How Animal Are You?

“I keep looking, I keep looking, looking for the soul behind those eyes…”

Solid, catchy, foot tapping, head banging, rocking song which will go down a storm live. I don’t need to add to that. In fact, you don’t have to take my word for it at all – because the song and video are already out.

Play on Spotify

The video is perfect for the song & the band. The screen cuts demonstrate what each member brings & when they bring it (such as Dean and his fangs – they’re not the only ones who like sly digs ;P ). Excellent work!

2. The Truth Will Be Found

“One of these days, it’s gonna come around”

This one is a tad slower than the title track and a little more thought-provoking. For me the music and lyric combination conjures up images of a guy in a stetson, carrying a double-barrelled shotgun, as he heads out onto a dusty American highway to take revenge on some low-down, dirty varmint.

It definitely has an American feel to it and I reckon that if you didn’t know where these guys were from, and you heard this first, you might think they were a US band.

It is performed with aplomb and is a solid track . It maybe more one for gently nodding along or foot-tapping to but it is a good one.

3. Give It Up Brother

“You know her hair late at night looks like a red sunrise…”

Another up-beat rock song that is a cautionary tale about a failed relationship with a red-headed woman. Now I’ve been there, done that, so I seriously empathised with this one. I hear you, brother!

It’s another short song but I can see the band possibly playing around with this one live (with some audience participation) and making it last longer.

4. To Catch A Fading Light

“Forever chasing who we used to be…”

This is a slow track that the band have been playing live for a while. They have also performed ‘unplugged’ acoustic versions of it during interviews. It’s a really nice, if slightly sad, song, so have your lighters or your device torches ready for when it comes on.

5. Suburban Confinement

“Ain’t it hard to be confined when you’re living in a one horse town…”

This one returns us to the American feel of The Truth Will Be Found. The “one horse town” lyric also helps to evoke that.

I can’t help but think of Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory, and (band) Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead or Alive – but this is a rockier track than both of those and the similarity is more in passing rather than clear or distinct.

The song lyric is probably more reflective of the band’s early days together and their documented desire to get out of doing the dead-end jobs that were all that were open to them. They are all from the Warrington area, “…the industrial wastelands that exist between the cities of Manchester & Liverpool. For them, forming a rock n roll band was the perfect way to express their shared obsession with music and escape their pre ordained futures in the factories and building sites of the Northwest suburbs.

As with, The Truth Will Be Found, this one is a solid track that adds to the band’s repertoire.

6. The Kids Feel Underrated

“I’ve been looking for redemption, the devil’s henchmen are at the door…”

Another slower song, and another with thought-provoking lyrics, that refers to people who, “work for a nation run by thieves and fools”.

It seems to be a song of youth, frustrated at their lot, being pigeon-holed, kept down and forced to do things that are, “not what I wanted” and being “underrated, aggravated by a life they lead”.

Musically, the song is on a par with the rest although it is probably the one that sounds the most like a song from the north west of England (little echoes of Oasis here and there).

Lyrically, whilst the meaning is there, the chorus is clunky, with rhyming words like solution and pollution, underrated and aggravated and rainbows with plain clothes. It’s not a catchy chorus that lends itself to being sung along to by an audience.

This song would appeal primarily to the frustrated youth that it refers to, whilst the rest of the audience would nod their heads to it, appreciative of the message being conveyed, but perhaps without being too drawn in by it, or to it.

So overall…

I like it. I think there are two really good songs, three that are pretty good and one that isn’t bad, but doesn’t quite match the standard of the rest.

I find the choice of having The Kids Feel Underrated on the EP a little strange, when there is another track that could have been chosen that I think is a better song – and would sit comfortably in that track six slot.

The song that didn’t make the cut for the EP is called Railway Road. You can obtain it for free, via a download, which you get the link for when you join the Slydigs mailing list.

I imagine there are reasons for the choice made, but it is my view that the EP would have been better swapping those two songs. That said, a second EP is expected to be released in the summer sometime, so perhaps Railway Road will be on there instead.

Rounding off…

“For anyone who’s seen our fantastic support band Slydigs, they’ll understand why they have their own headline shows coming up” – The Who

I’ve seen Slydigs live a few times now, including twice with Vintage Trouble and either side of that North American tour with The Who.

In that time I’ve seen them improve from being a strong support band, for bands with legendary live shows of their own, to a band that can headline.

After Manchester, they will be playing in York, Newcastle, Sheffield, Leeds, Warrington, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton, Camden, Guildford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge before heading across to continental Europe for gigs in The Netherlands, Belgium and France.

If you like rock music, or live music generally, I do recommend going to see them on tour. You will thank me for it.

Here’s a final taster of what you can expect: Slydigs – Light The Fuse.

http://www.slydigs.co.uk/ https://www.facebook.com/slydigs @slydisgband

 

 

Grievance Politics? How About Unionists Stop Whining About Manifestos They Haven’t (Properly) Read?

It is quite extraordinary the level of whining I see from Unionists about both the SNP and Scottish Greens 2016 manifestos with regard to a second independence referendum.

It seems that many are suffering from a collective (or more likely a selective) blindness.

I have seen Unionists swear blind (too late, methinks), that the SNP Manifesto stated that the SNP would only seek a second independence referendum if there was clear evidence that the majority of Scots wanted it.

The important word there is only. The manifesto did state the above about a majority of Scots, but there was no only. Quite the contrary to only, there was an or followed by a further provision that Unionists regularly seem to fail to spot or mention.

I have also seen Unionists describe the wording as “buried”, “smallprint” and “in the margin”.

Here are two screenshots of how this manifesto pledge appears in the main manifesto document. Both have the full wording, plus some additional highlighting that I have added for emphasis, to indicate that if you saw the first part of the text, then you have no reason to miss the rest of it.

C8lqHFlW0AUyAkd
Main manifesto document page 23, or page 25 of the PDF
SNPMan1602
The “Next Steps To A Better Scotland” section, page 24, or page 54 of the PDF

In case you are in any doubt about the above, I will make it absolutely clear: this text appears twice in the SNP’s 2016 downloadable manifesto.

It is abundantly clear that the “material change” has occurred. The specific circumstances, given above as an example, have occurred.

The Scottish Green Party has supported the SNP over a second referendum as it is also their policy to seek independence through such. The Greens however have also had to endure Unionist grievances along the same lines – that they have not acted in accordance with their own manifesto on independence.

Again, Unionists are guilty of collective or selective blindness. They quote a section of the Greens manifesto that states a (NB) preference for a second referendum to come about by way of a citizens petition.

Unionists ignore the Greens’ commitment to campaign for independence should a second referendum come about, but most of all they ignore the word preferred when talking about how it comes about.

Unionists often then go one stop further and replace or add only or must or shall, which changes the meaning of what was written significantly. Instead of this being a preferred way for a referendum to come about – thereby leaving the door open for a referendum to come about by other means – Unionists have re-written the manifesto in their heads so that it says The Greens were only supposed to support a call for a referendum if there was a petition.

The following are two screenshots with what it actually said in the Greens’ manifesto, with regard to an independence referendum. From page 36 (page 19 of the PDF).

SGPMan1601

SGPMan1602

It is quite clear that a) The Scottish Greens would support Scottish Independence and, b) they would prefer it to come about as described, which means that they are open to a referendum coming about by other means.

The SNP is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament. It has formed a minority Scottish Government. Their manifesto commitment describes conditions for calling a referendum, conditions they did not control but have still come about. The SNP is therefore following through on its manifesto commitment.

The Scottish Greens, whether you like it or not, are perfectly entitled to consider supporting this call. The fact that the SNP has 63 seats and the Greens 6 is also a factor in the decision to support the SNP, as the vote share indicates Scots prefer the SNP manifesto to the Scottish Greens’ manifesto, and parties have a duty to respect that, even if they rail against it. Despite what certain journalists have said (see below), the Greens’ manifesto does not in any way exclude them from supporting the SNP’s referendum call.

The Scottish Parliament has voted on the matter and called for a second referendum. That is the nature of democracy in the UK – and Scotland.

A lot of Unionists do have some excuse for their ignorance, but it is a poor one. They have not read (or checked) what it actually says in the manifestos (which to be fair, a lot of people don’t do, despite The Internet making these documents much more accessible than before) and are therefore relying on the likes of journalists to accurately report what manifestos say.

Have a look at the BBC’s reporting of the Scottish Greens’ manifesto back in 2016, as an example (there are links there for the BBC’s reports on other party manifestos).

The BBC reporting here is straight. They refer to the Greens campaigning for Independence but do not regard their preference for how it happens as important to their summary; hence no mention of it.

Step forward then Fraser Nelson, Conservative supporting journalist and editor of The Spectator magazine, who wrote, shortly prior to the Scottish Parliament’s vote on a second referendum, “How can the Scottish Greens reconcile their manifesto promises with backing Sturgeon?”

Despite quoting most of the text I have screen-shotted above, which includes that word preferred, Nelson wilfully ignores it and then inserts the word only into his text to describe what the manifesto means.

So here, in black and white, is the Green’s pledge to the voters who returned its MSPs to Holyrood: they would only approve a second referendum if it was manifestly the “will of the people” which (then) they rightly distinguish from “party political advantage” of the SNP.

The manifesto clearly does not say or mean that. This is clearly The Greens’ preferred option for how a referendum should come about.

What Nelson also does is take advantage of the woolly phrase, “party political advantage”. This phrase is not defined so Fraser refers to it, but also without defining it. He merely attributes it to the SNP and, through the tone and text of the article as a whole, leads the reader to make negative assumptions and that the phrase applies to the current circumstances.

So what does “party political advantage” mean?

In the context that it was written, I believe it is intended to mean that The Greens would not support e.g. The SNP calling for a referendum purely on the basis that they form the Scottish Government and without any other reason, or on a pretext.

Bear in mind that this manifesto was written for, and therefore before, the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary elections, at a time when the SNP formed a majority Government and could, in theory, have called for a vote on a referendum and won it with their majority.

The Scottish Greens were effectively telling the SNP, and everone else, that they would not support a referendum call without good reason. It is clear that they agree that, as the SNP manifesto conditions for calling one have been met, they consider that satisfactory.

Had the Scottish Greens been more specific, or had given an example, such as mine above, to define the phrase “party political advantage”, then this wording would not be so open to the misinterpretation that Fraser Nelson has manipulated others into performing.

But bear in mind also that this manipulation also involves Nelson’s wilful substitution of the word preferred with the word only, which is not a ploy that anyone is likely to have anticipated and therefore guarded against.

Perhaps upon reflection, Unionists should be inclined to be more careful about their sources of information, and make more of an effort to read the source material – which you can download from the SNP and Scottish Greens web sites.

Murphy v Hague: Making sense of the GERS argument #ScotRef

MurphyvHague

For those unaware of it, yesterday (Wednesday 12 April 2017), economist Richard Murphy and businessman Kevin Hague debated (argued) about GERS on the John Beattie BBC Radio Scotland show. I want to try and summarise their arguments, as they came at the matter diametrically opposed, although there was at least a point of agreement, that should be regarded as critical to the ongoing debate.

You can find a recording of the show on the BBC iPlayer.

Murphy’s view of GERS

Murphy argues that the GERS figures are not fit for purpose. He regards the level of estimation within them as unacceptable to him and his profession. He expressed the view that they may have been fine in the past but devolved government has changed this and GERS has not evolved sufficiently to enable Scottish politicians, especially Ministers, to make fully informed judgements or decisions.

Hague’s view of GERS

Hague argues that GERS is fit for purpose. He feels that Murphy does not appreciate that purpose – which is to reflect as accurately as possible the state of Scottish finances within the UK. Hague refers to the fact that GERS is widely accepted, including by the Scottish Government, quoted for the purposes of national statistics, as independently compiled.

 

Where they agree

The point of agreement is important to note. Both Murphy and Hague agree that GERS does not represent what the finances of an independent Scotland would look like. They are there to reflect the current state of affairs.

What this basically means is that you cannot simply quote GERS figures when opining a view on the finances of Scotland in the event of independence. To gauge this you must extrapolate the data from GERS into a theoretical scenario where that state exists.

This is no mean feat and the best that anyone has published to date is the Beyond Gers report from Common Weal.

To demonstrate the difference between GERS and Beyond GERS, you only need to look at the headline figures. GERS indicates that there is a £15bn deficit in Scotland’s finances, whereas Beyond GERS indicates that an independent Scotland would have a significantly smaller deficit of £5.6bn.

It is important to note that there is no alternative to GERS. It is not a case where the GERS figures can be rejected and you can go and ‘shop’ for better ones.

At this point I might throw in a little Twitter exchange that occurred shortly after the broadcast.

Kevverage

The real bone of contention

Where Murphy and Hague fundamentally disagreed with each other is whether GERS is fit for purpose.

Hague’s position is that GERS is widely accepted as being as accurate as possible and independently compiled.

Murphy’s view is that this may be so, but that the standard should be higher, now that there is devolved government. Scotland’s GERS figures should be quoting far more actual data than the estimates that it uses. Murphy referred to the difficulties HMRC has had in identifying Scottish taxpayers for administering the Scottish Rate of Income Tax (SRIT), which are ongoing.

HMRC: Finding Scottish taxpayers ‘more complex than predicted’ – February 2015

HMRC faces ‘challenges’ over Scottish income tax – December 2016.

Conclusions

In many ways, both are right about what they say and the disagreement between them boils down to whether or not you accept that GERS data should be better than it is. Here is where I feel the problem really lies – whether or not it currently could be.

I agree with Murphy that the data should be better than it is, but I don’t know if it could be.

Does Hague? Does the Scottish Government? Have they let this issue slide or are they accepting lesser standards than they should? As to the latter, clearly Murphy feels that they are.

I’m inclined to think that they may have given up trying to push for the level of improvements that Murphy says there should be, and have instead accepted small, gradual improvements.

There are historical reasons why the level of actual financial data is as it is. The issue with HMRC identifying Scottish taxpayers, when it needed to for SRIT, indicates what the issues are and why they exist.

UK government departments have historically been exactly that – UK departments. They have not been set-up to deal with devolved government or assemblies.

The civil service has been constantly diminished in size by successive governments for decades, so differentiating between data that is Welsh, Scottish, Irish or English has not been a priority, although technology has been improving that should enable this.

Pretty much everyone in government – and Hague – has pragmatically accepted that the data is as good as it is going to get in these circumstances.

The establishment of the Scottish Rate of Income Tax and the problems HMRC has had, and is having with it,  is a wake-up call to this issue.

Murphy is essentially arguing that all have let this issue slide for too long and that GERS is overdue a significant upgrade in the level of actual data used in their compilation. He is calling for improvements and a higher standard than is currently accepted.

Hague’s position in stating that GERS is fit for purpose infers that he disagrees that this is necessary. He was not explicitly asked, nor offered an opinion on, whether doing this would be either practical or beneficial.

It seems reasonable to assume that no one would have a good reason to object to better quality data if it is available or if it can be readily made available.

The barriers, as to whether or not it is currently possible to obtain this quality of data, are largely a matter of political will, as well as practicality. It seems to me that Murphy is attempting to kick people out of their (perceived) complacency about GERS and to bring that political will about.

The practicality argument can largely, but not perhaps entirely, be overcome by political will. Again, I refer to the introduction of SRIT and getting HMRC to identify Scottish taxpayers as an example of exactly that.

HMRC was forced to identify Scottish taxpayers due to political will, but there have been considerable issues to overcome in doing so. And that’s just with one department’s set of figures.

It’s ‘Should v Could’.

 

Scottish Independence: The Phoney War Period, Part 2 #ScotRef

So, with social media already stirred up with forthcoming Council elections, the possibility of another Scottish independence campaign had moved social media activists in Scotland into overdrive.

Scottish Indy supporters seem to be generally in good spirits, but in a determined way. Circumstances in the last three years had them feel distraught, angry, frustrated, conned and a few other feelings I could mention, but on the whole there seems to be a collective resolve to learn from all this and apply it again to another referendum, and win it.

GERS DENIER! GERS DENIER! GERS DENIER!

On the other side, Unionists seem to be angry at the prospect of going through another referendum but are also showing resolve. This anger is simmering underneath and is occasionally shrill and provocative. Some indy supporters are also simmering under the surface so some exchanges can be unpleasant, but on the whole, the virtual world remains bloodless.

Argument wise, unionists are concentrating on the validity of another referendum, on the notional Scottish deficit, as per GERS, and attacking Nicola Sturgeon in any way possible. It has been noticeable that there seems to be a co-ordinated effort to try and provoke Indy supporters with trolling, of twisting events and statements to mean something other than intended. I have no doubt that this is in order to drum up “Cybernat” claims again.

There were frankly pathetic and ongoing attempts to claim that Nicola Sturgeon had threatened the status of EU migrants (already dealt with in the past quite suitably here), which had arisen again because of Theresa May’s somewhat comparable situation with EU citizens and Brexit. One particular troll attempted on multiple occasions to rephrase what was actually said by Sturgeon, as well as change the context under which the comments were made, in order to try and convince someone (God knows who) that what Sturgeon said was a threat. I proceeded to happily waste a lot of their time, essentialy batting back their claims with a simple truth: It wasn’t a threat.

Update: The tweets below did show the tweets that they were in response to, which appear now to have been deleted by the person concerned, out of embarrassment.

And anyone fair minded would agree.

The fact that Unionists are stooping to this level demonstrates that they are actually quite desperate in terms of arguing coherently for staying in the UK. Their argument is essentially about process, about the vote three years ago, and what GERS says about Scottish finances, as well as occasionally trying to twist things to suit, like this guy above. Rather than promoting the Union in any meaningful way, they attack independence.

That GERS argument is, right now, their lynchpin, but it is weak and some Unionists don’t seem to realise this. Whilst Unionists are showing a more focused and perhaps more organised social media presence, Indy supporters are better informed and have a wider and better range of arguments for independence.

When it comes to GERS though, Indy supporters have to be careful. Unionists on this subject can be like a pack of wolves. Some may know what they are talking about, and some may not. What I have noticed however is that few, if any, seem to have explored the possibility of Indy giving rise to a significantly different budget for Scotland and how it could be made up.

Whilst Common Weal/ Common Space has provided excellent ammunition for tackling the financial argument of Indy with its Beyond Gers report, and it’s White Paper Project, any mis-step (and even then, the mere mention may do it – see below) with GERS may result in Unionists pouncing on you and labelling you a GERS denier.

I can handle trolls and keep my cool, so I’m happy to waste their time, but are you? Eventually, I will mute or block, and Unionists that realise I am wasting their time will eventually do the same to me, so unless you’re willing to spend time wasting their time, and are confident of your ability to do so, then mute and block are your friend and I recommend using them instead.

Now I mention that Indy supporters are less organised and focused on social media, and this is down to two things. One is that Indy supporters have a lot of different arguments for independence than unionists have for sticking, so lots of people are going on about lots of things.

The other reason is that there is no official campaign yet. Without this, some of the centre points of the argument are missing (and the more unreasonable Unionists keep demanding that you have a complete, ongoing case for indy, right down to how many paperclips Scotland will need). This also means that there is no leadership.

Perhaps some of the ‘big guns’ of Independence are keeping their powder dry and their strategy cards close to their chest for when The Phoney War starts getting real, but Indy supporters could do with some focus and leadership on these things now. Whether the political parties or the larger campaign groups like it or not, the grass root foot soldiers are already taking and returning fire.

One final thing to bear in mind, and may come as little surprise, but there are few if any apparently open or undecided voters posting or engaging, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t reading. You may have a great argument for indy but if your behaviour and tone is off, then people will not want to listen or pay attention to what you have to say.

Common Space and social media

I have mixed feelings about Common Space.  This Common Weal site does have a lot to admire about it and it has produced well-researched documents and information pertaining to Scotland, Scots and independence. It is an excellent resource.

That said, I am finding it to be a bit of a clique, perhaps also making it a bit of an ivory tower (that could be very harsh criticism, as I am aware that these folk are getting out and about – but I’m not convinced that they are talking to enough people). There seems to be an air of elitism (again, that could be harsh but it does reflect my impression), which in turn leads me to wonder if it is getting the message out to the ‘intelligentsia’ of the Indy movement, rather than the masses.

I am not seeing any social media strategy at all from any one on the Indy side. Indeed, from a few articles on Common Space, I sense a reluctance to engage via Social Media, possibly because of being afraid of the “Cybernat” label and Reporting Scotland headlines.

The following clip should demonstrate all on its own why a social media campaign is vital.

I could be reading this wrong and the absence of a visible social media campaign at this time may be down to people waiting for the right time to announce their campaigns and strategy. But as I say, the foot soldiers are already in the fight whilst the generals seem to be locked away in the war room, planning ahead at the expense of the here and now.

One thing I would like to see organised is some sort of online whiteboard/blackboard, like a dynamic kind of Reddit page (or pages), where the Indy arguments can be laid out for all to see, as a campaigning guide.  It will be somewhat interactive, so that campaigners (or moderators) can post Unionist counter-arguments so that people can be aware of them, and also then provide responses to those counters.

#BrexitShambles

This entire thing is a monumental cock-up of extraordinary proportions. It is utterly ridiculous that the UK Government split on this and allowed the “Leave” vote any air, especially after how it handled indyref.

Now the Government is going down a road that leaves the EU, where the UK has, in the past, badgered its way into having some unique conditions of membership so that it can be part of a monumental trade block and not have to negotiate trade deals on its own.

And it didn’t have to. It could have turned around and said, “Thanks for voting and letting us know your views, but the vote was quite close and two of the four countries voted to Remain. As there are clear financial implications from leaving the EU, and the countries within the UK are equally split on remaining or leaving, we have decided that in the absence of a clear mandate to leave, that the UK shall remain a member of the EU.”

Instead, Theresa May (who campaigned to Remain) and her Tory Government have ignored the voting results of Scotland and Northern Ireland and any lobbying from the devolved Governments over the matter. They have arrogantly and belligerently steered ahead, away from the EU and towards a lesser place, where trade will cost more. But already the EU is asserting its position and May et al are looking like idiots, as within days of triggering brexit, their claims and negotiating positions have been shown for what they are: hot air.

(I would love to see a cartoon of a Titanic size liner, with Theresa May’s face as its bow, sailing over a giant waterfall and heading down towards the bottom, whilst parachutes made of Scotland and Northern Ireland flags float safely away. Sorry Wales, you voted Leave…)

Let there be no doubt that the UK will be financially worse off because of Brexit. The notion that the UK could come away from the EU with a deal that would make it better off than staying in, is ludicrous. The point of the EU is for its members to negotiate international trade and benefit from partnership. If you are not a member, why on earth should you derive membership benefits?

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

So what will happen? Well, there will be some sort of a deal done by the Brexit deadline in just under two years, but it will be little more than a framework. The EU is painfully aware that it too will suffer because of brexit and will mitigate that with a reasonable deal in the end, that leaves the UK somewhat worse off, but not in a punitive way. As Donald Tusk said, Brexit will be punitive enough.

Whatever the deal is, and whenever it happens, the financial fallout from Brexit will still be enormous. Companies and banks are relocating away from the UK already in order to stay in the EU. Brexit means the UK is going to be on the decline for years and we must get out whilst we can. This argument for independence is enormous and we need to use it (especially seeing as per at least one report, the UK Government has been hiding reports on the impacts of Brexit – for the reverse of the reasons for burying the McCrone Report). The Unionists can argue that Scotland would trade a lot more with rUK, as things stand, but will that remain the case with Brexit? I think, worst case scenario, Brexit could destroy the UK.

The big questions are going to be how long will it take to achieve this less than punitive deal, how bad will it be and how bad will things get before the deal is made.

That brings us full circle to the request for a referendum and the “Now is not the time” response, because of Brexit.

May can’t procrastinate for ever. If she wants to delay it and hope that a strategy can be found to either win the referendum or prevent it from happening, then I think this is what she will go for – but she will have to set a date. She can’t blithely put the matter off indefinitely or have it based on an event that has no timetable, which, for example, Brexit may have, but an EU trade deal doesn’t.

She can’t really say no because then she’s going against the democratic political will of the Scottish Government. We could then be talking legal case and perhaps going to the UN.

Contrary to some reports (or the understanding of some reports), Sturgeon did not rule out legal action.

I don’t think there is any need, nor is there any intention, to see a matter that should be settled politically end up in the courts. – Nicola Sturgeon

That’s not ruling out anything. That’s saying that she wants and expects a political agreement – which may not occur. Then what?

The Scottish Government wants a “constitutional” agreement over an independence referendum in order to satisfy any concerns EU countries could potentially have about Scotland applying to join the EU. But the UK has no written constitution. It has laws and conventions.

Essentially, if Scotland can arrange an independence referendum through legal means, even if side-stepping Westminster in the process, then that should satisfy any ‘constitutional’ concerns.

BxmGiPhCMAAzuBs

Scottish Independence: The Phoney War Period, Part 1 #ScotRef

The Scottish independence rhetoric has substantially increased of late and I’ve decided to come early to this ‘party’ on social media and the like.

I have a lot to write on what is happening, as well as what has happened, and what may happen, so it seems prudent to break it up into two parts.

Frankly, I was little late properly engaging last time.  Now that thought reminds me of what we used to say about the “Yanks” turning up late for two world wars and then making up for it by being early ever since. This line of thought I realise came from a certain BritNat whose blogs are full of World War and British empire and British history references, for The Land of Hope and Glory brigade, that I had been checking out earlier. As I suspect this BritNat would observe, you should keep an eye on what the ‘enemy’ is up to. They certainly do.

Taking the war theme further, we seem to be in a Phoney War period. The Scottish Government has declared that it wants another independence referendum. The British Government has not formally replied as of yet, but has said, “Now is not the time”.

With Easter approaching, the politicians are taking a holiday from Parliamentary business, so we don’t know if there are going to be any more ‘shots fired’ (there probably will), so ‘skirmishes’ are taking place on social media – where some such were already taking place thanks to upcoming Council elections in May.

Some background to where we are

vow

Following the ‘No’ vote to Scottish Independence in September 2014, Cameron had taken immediate advantage of the situation to bring about English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). This whilst claiming that there would be a greater devolution settlement, which would come from The Smith Commission, as promised by “The Vow”.

Both turned out to be damp squibs. EVEL seems to have had little effect on the workings of Parliament due to being quite tame in nature (at least tame compared to expectations), although affected MPs made it clear that they were not amused at the principle of there being some MPs excluded from some Parliamentary business at a certain point.

The Smith Commission seems to have come up with the very least that they could agree upon devolving to the Scottish Parliament without anyone walking away from the table. Unionists point to “The Vow” and say it has been delivered. Technically, they are correct, but the rhetoric surrounding it has left a foul taste in the mouth, particularly with those who feel that they voted ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’ because of it. Expectations were much greater and some feel they have been short-changed, if not outright conned.  In a subsequent poll only 9% of Scots felt that “The Vow” had been kept.

Since then, campaign rhetoric from the “Better Together” campaign has gradually turned to dust.

There is a list of ‘broken promises’. On shipyards, Better Together claimed that a ‘No’ vote would ensure their future. Subsequently, funding was slashed, an order from The MOD was cut and the work was then delayed.

The UK Government and Scottish Labour made noises about how 3,200 UK civil service jobs in Scotland were a “dividend” of being in the UK. Now, 2000 of those jobs are under threat.

Claims were made about the potential affects of independence on social security. Again, these claims rang hollow as The Chancellor slashed and froze social security benefits.

You can add in claims about renewables and carbon capture, but you can also throw in concerns about how the UK was behaving over Human Rights, the treatment of immigrants and refugees, as well as electoral fraud by The Tories.

Not all of these matters were yet apparent when, in May 2015, The SNP took 56 of the 59 Westminster Parliamentary Seats at the General Election.

Many Labour voters were already sickened by their party sharing platforms with Tories during the Indyref campaign, as well as with some of their rhetoric. The national Labour campaign wasn’t exactly helpful to them either, with its ‘auserity-lite’ position and with their campaign effectively capitulating to Tory rhetoric about Labour being in the SNP’s pocket in the event of a hung Parliament, where the two parties might join forces in order to govern. The Labour party pandered to this line and ruled out a coalition with the SNP. In doing so, not only did it shoot itself in the head in terms of its chances of being a party that formed The Government, albeit in coalition, but it told Scots that The UK Labour Party didn’t want to be associated with who/what they were about to vote for and, effectively, would rather not be in Government at all. The country duly obliged The Labour Party its electoral suicidal at the ballot box.

The Liberal Democrats also hemorrhaged Scottish support, although that was probably down to their enabling role in the coalition UK Government up to then, and was reflected in England.  In Scotland, all three of the main UK parties were brought down to one MP each. Despite this, and despite most polling, The Tories won an overall UK majority.

Come 2016 and we had Scottish Parliament elections and a referendum on the EU. With ‘Brexit’ rhetoric hysterical and polls showing a close vote between ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’, concerns rose over Scotland being taken out of the EU – another campaign issue from Indyref.

Better Together had raised concerns over the EU status for Scotland with a ‘Yes’ vote and this clearly had an effect on the outcome. Once again, Better Together rhetoric was sounding hollow. Scots confirmed their feelings as being more or less the same as at the General Election as they voted primarily for the SNP at Holyrood, and also in sufficient numbers for the Scottish Greens, so that there was a majority of independence supporting MSPs.

At the EU referendum, Scots voted ‘Remain’ but as has happened on so many prior occasions in a UK vote, how Scots voted was over-ridden by how England voted – and England voted to ‘Leave’. David Cameron resigned as PM as a consequence of the result.

The SNP 2016 manifesto had stated that should a “material change” occur, outlining this exact scenario as an example of such, then the Scottish Government could seek another independence referendum.

After months of the Scottish Government attempting to obtain a Brexit deal for Scotland that might actually avoid another referendum, the process of the UK leaving the EU was started by Theresa May, now the UK PM. This led to the Scottish Government voting to have another Scottish independence referendum and seeking permission to do so from the UK Government.

In Part 2 of this blog, I will write about the Phoney War on social media, what the Unionist strategy seems to be so far, what I predict will happen with Brexit negotiations and what I would like to see occur in terms of what must surely be an inevitable Scottish independence referendum campaign.

Labour’s mixed messages over Scotland will not win them any new friends – was that the point?

 

Scottish Labour has developed a well-deserved reputation for shooting itself in the foot, occasionally missing and hitting something more vital, so its 2017 conference in Perth, prior to the 2017 Scottish Council elections, was another opportunity to peek over the parapet and see how the latest firearms drills were going.

It seems that this year, the drill instructors from UK Labour are showing them how to do it.

First of all, Mayor Khan managed to shoot himself in the head, removing part of his brain, but not enough of his mouth, when he stated;

There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the base of our background, race or religion.

That is clear. He is equating voting for Scottish independence with racism and bigotry.

Subsequent statements to the effect that he ‘didn’t mean’ that nationalists were racists are meaningless. He is trying to get away with inferring that voting for Scottish independence is an act of racism or bigotry. What then does that make the person who commits that act?

Some people, including some journalists, made it clear that they were not being fooled by Khan.

I would also like to highlight the point that Khan is not just talking about SNP voters, although I’m sure the London centric media will concentrate on that and make it look that way. The Scottish Greens also support Scottish independence (as do some smaller socialist parties). So Scottish Green voters are also bigots or racists – according to Khan.

The Scottish Greens have not said much about this, but that has a lot to do with their being busy. Some of their number, including Co-convenor and their most prominent politician in Scotland, Patrick Harvie MSP, happened to be in Belfast assisting The Greens in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the matter did not go entirely without comment from The Scottish Greens. As well as some of the Greens retweeting some of the aforementioned tweets, here’s a couple from Scottish Greens MSP, Ross Greer, to Scottish Labour politicians, supporting the Khan rhetoric.

All this has come in the wake of two by-elections where Labour were the incumbent party. They retained one seat but lost the other.

In commenting upon that during his visit to Scotland for the Scottish Labour conference, Deputy Labour Leader, Tom Watson, said the following:

“But we are seeking to govern the whole country, this still-United Kingdom, and the majority of voters in this country voted to leave,” he said.

“The EU result has catapulted us into a hugely complex situation in which we have to fight the least rational elements of the Tory right to make sure we protect British interests and British workers. Where we have to make sure we get the best deal for Scotland and the other devolved nations,” he added.

We must “make it clear to Theresa May that they are her equal partners in this, not her vassals”

(Excerpt from Labour List)

How does a “devolved nation” not being a “vassel” equate with a narrow majority across the UK voting ‘Leave’, when a large majority in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, voted ‘Remain’?

Where is the “Equal Partnership” that is supposed to exist?

Following on from this, and keeping on-message, (more-or-less, I’ll come back to that), Jeremy Corbyn takes his turn to address Scottish Labour.

As well as some SNP bashing, Corbyn made a number of assertions that were presented as facts, when either they are not, or at best, were arguable.

This is situation normal in the UK, but especially Scotland after being picked bare and after the UK took the North Sea oil and gas and doled out little portions. Remaining in the UK, with its massive debt and deficit is not an argument against independence, but an argument for it.

So leave it to the multi-nationals? The professionals? The not too poor or too wee?

And about those corporations…

Well, the trouble with that is that England voted in The Conservatives whilst Scotland voted in the SNP. The difference is that only the UK Government can really pass legislation that could do this. The Scottish Government, whatever its persuasion, is effectively stymied. This is a situation that, for Scotland, can only be affected by Independence, as England is showing no signs of changing its views on who should govern, and how.

 

As to the hard border, there is one word for that: Ireland.

Here’s another three: Common Travel Area.

This is a horrible, scaremongering claim, made as if it were fact, when it simply isn’t and, more to the point, no one knows yet, as it could be negotiated.

As for the Euro, this claim is wilfully false and he should know it.

First of all, any kind of cumpulsion could only come from the EU – which therefore concedes that Scotland could join the EU.

Secondly, Sweden is in the EU and joined it after the 1992 Maastrict Treaty which determined so much about the EU and the Euro. But Sweden does not use the Euro, but its own krona. Here’s why: Excerpt from Wikipedia.

According to the 1995 accession treaty, Sweden is required to join the eurozone and therefore must convert to the euro once the convergence criteria are met. Notwithstanding this, on 14 September 2003, a consultative Swedish referendum was held on the euro, in which 56% of voters were opposed to the adoption of the currency, out of an overall turnout of 82.6%.[31] The Swedish government has argued such a course of action is possible since one of the requirements for eurozone membership is a prior two-year membership of the ERM II. By simply not joining the exchange rate mechanism, the Swedish government is provided a formal loophole avoiding the theoretical requirement of adopting the euro.

This may not be common knowledge in the UK, but it is known, and should certainly be known by top level politicians and their advisors.

So, essentially, Labour are sticking to the same old tired arguments from 2014. And Corbyn is aligned with that.

Whilst I expected a partisan speech and attacks on the SNP, I really expected better from Corbyn in terms of fact and argument making.

Notice however that he did not follow the same lines of rhetoric that came from Sadiq Khan and other Scottish Labour politicians the day beforehand at the conference. There was no equatable mention of nationalism, even though he did attack the SNP.

Was this because he had the same thing lined-up, but thought better of it following the outcry of the day before? Or was something more subtle at play?

It is no secret that Sadiq Khan and Scottish Labour are not exactly eye-to-eye with Jeremy Corbyn and the policies he is trying to bring to the Labour party. The depths already plunged to try and get rid of the democratically elected Corbyn have been shocking to behold in a supposedly democratically run political party. Machiavelli would have looked on with approval.

So is it that much of a stretch to consider that this might not have been a cock-up by Khan?

The response to his inference that voting for Scottish independence was equatable to racism or bigotry was entirely predictable.

This of course would not be helpful to Scottish Labour councillors in the forthcoming 2017 Scottish Council elections, and possibly have knock-on effects across the UK as a whole.

Poor results in elections this year for Labour could help see off Corbyn as leader.

Khan, as London Mayor, essentially has a job – until 2020; 7 May 2020, to be exact. The same date as the next General Election.

…and thanks to @DaftLimmy for digging out this one:

So, Independence is OK for Pakistan and India but not Scotland. It wasn’t racist or bigoted in Pakistan or India, bit it is in Scotland.

Aye, right.

That tweet right there not only shows Khan’s hypocrasy, but also begs the question, what are his real views? Where does he really stand?

And, was he playing the race card, but playing it badly, and was it for his own political ends?

Universal Jobmatch now automatically records clicking an external link as a job application made

The UK Government’s Universal Jobmatch web site, that it forces the Unemployed to register on, is now automatically recording someone clicking on a link taking you to an external site as applying for the job.

This is a new feature that has not been publicly announced to its users and means that this not only generates a records on people’s job application histories automatically, without their knowledge/realisation, but more importantly, before the application is actually made, and quite possibly therefore before someone decides not to apply for the job, thereby making such an entry a complete falsehood.

The sneaked out change affects jobs entered onto the system that redirect people to an external web site. Importantly, the system used to merely redirect people to those web sites to apply, but now uses the fact that the button states “apply” as an excuse to record it as an application made, before someone actually does so.

People are therefore happily clicking these links to view jobs externally without realising that their application history now records this as an application made – when it did not before.

For people unfamiliar with Universal Jobmatch, there is a fully automated Application History, that records e.g. applications you make for jobs using the site, so you would be aware of having made such an application.

There is also an Activity History, where jobseekers manually record their job search, including jobs applied for on Universal Jobmatch.

These are separate facilities and it is the latter that jobseekers tend to use, so many will not be aware that the Application History is now recording these external link clicks as actual applications – because it has not been announced, and you will only realise it if you happen to check the Application History, which was only recording actual applications made on Universal Jobmatch.

People do not necessarily apply for these jobs when they click these link buttons to view the job elsewhere. A classic example is where a job description has been entered so badly into Universal Jobmatch (e.g. with no punctuation or paragraphs – this happens), that people merely click the apply button in order to read the job description from the web page it originally came from.

The DWP is evidently using the fact that the button actually says “apply” as an excuse to count this as an application made.

The system records this as an application made “offsite”.

Now move on some time and a jobseeker’s record is being reviewed by an advisor and they ask about such a job. The jobseeker is dumbfounded and doesn’t know what the advisor is talking about.

The system has recorded a job application that the jobseeker may not have made. In the current climate of benefit stoppages and sanctions, this is something that can clearly be used as an excuse to sanction a jobseeker.

The DWP – and The Government – are probably breaking the law, however. Data Protection states that, “Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date”. Clearly where a system is in place and recording a job application prior to any such being made, or even being decided upon to be made, is clearly going to make false entries onto jobseekers application histories, at least some of the time.

In any event, these entries appear before any application is actually made – so they are not correct when they are made.

To get around this, you should be able to right-click on the apply button and select the option to open the link in another browser page/tab.

However, many users will have already developed the habit of clicking the link to go to the external site to merely view the application, and other users are simply not very IT literate.