Tuesday, 28 July 2015

IndyRef 2

Stewart Bremner image from here

What do we want? Independence!
When do we want it? Not right now!

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!  Halt!  Tumbleweed............................................... Whiiiiit?????

Yip, the time is not right. As much as I want Scottish independence from the UK and want it like yesterday, (or rather wanted it from a YES vote back in September), I am terrified of having another indyref and failing again - because there is NO 3rd time lucky. We lose the next one, that it. Done. Settled. Blown. Stuck shackled to our master (by choice) certainly for the rest of my lifetime, and that is something I am not prepared to gamble.

This opinion is shared by a growing number of others too. In the past 48 hours I have read 3 or 4 blog and news articles suggesting the same. The Lallands Peat Worrier blog and The Common Space, are 2 of the best that I have read. We have to and MUST bide our time.

Yes, of course we foresaw the future of the UK and all that is unravelling before our very eyes, prompting memes such as
to go viral (I myself have re-posted it either on Facebook or Twitter).  But whilst we ranted and posted and told of what a united future would hold, it simply was not enough for enough people to either care about (because it didn't affect them directly) or they didn't believe us, or thought that indy would be worse.  We all had our crystal balls out foretelling the current state of the union, at the same time the naysayers and nawbags ridiculed us or demanded more answers, more clarity, more information. The future we saw in the event of indy was guess work - we had an idea of what it would look like, give or take, and we were prepared for some hardship and struggle for what would become a far better future, which was met with derision and scorn. We constantly defended our vision of both outcomes; we were under constant scrutiny, yet the same was not the case for the "other side". All that was at stake was the "status quo" which, lets be honest, went unchallenged in the mainstream media channels.  They were not scrutinised or demanded to give their vision of an independent Scotland other than to say how awful it would be, then move on to stating the case for remaining united. The Establishment never aired their "Plan B" had we indeed won. Voters who always, for instance, vote Labour without thinking about it, never knew what their party's vision of Labour in an Indy Scotland would look like. Going forward, that situation can't be allowed to happen again.

Alex Salmond, love him or loathe him, was quite correct when he stated on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday that a 2nd referendum was "inevitable".  Nicola Sturgeon has maintained her position that there will be another referendum called once the people of Scotland decide and that it would take a "material change" to the current situation for that to happen. Plus her party would need to be re-elected with a referendum in their manifesto - and therein lies the problem.

All over the internet I see calls for the SNP to have Indyref 2 in the 2016 Holyrood manifesto. The date of which 2018.  The army of SNP MPs sent to Westminster shows that we want it - except that it doesn't.  I know voters who voted SNP in the General Election who voted NO in September, and were there to be another referendum tomorrow, they would vote NO again. Why? They hate the Tories and didn't trust Labour, they wanted a voice for Scotland represented in Westminster and believed the SNP could delivered that en masse. But they remain unconvinced by the answers to the arguments given in the last indyref campaign.  The SNP MPs have to prove themselves in Westminster. And as much as it pains me to say this, the people who believed the tripe sold to them by The Vow, the media, the fear mongering bullshit that was Better Together/UKOK/NO Thanks need to actually live through the next 5 years and experience the consequences of exactly what that means.  They may not be affected by the budgets (personally, my household I will be £128 per year/£10.60 a month better off - woohoo, thanks to the increase in the National Minimum Wage *not living wage*) but I would guarantee that they will know someone who is.  The upcoming In/Out EU referendum is another biggie, along with the changes including the proposed abolition of Human Rights Act, fracking and TTIP, war in Syria (or anywhere else over the next 5 years that "poses a threat" to our shores, real or manipulated,) our internet freedoms, freedom of speech, the NHS, the bloody royal family, etc etc are all things we all have to live with for the next 5 years, like it or lump it.  I know, I know, NO voters didn't vote for a Tory Government (apart from in Dumfries), but lets face it - no matter who we voted for, Scotland's numbers do not elect or prevent election of any party in Westminster - even with all 59 MPs. So whether they wanted Tory or not, we were always going to get what was decided elsewhere on these islands, and we all have to live with that because we are still part of it.

Now, all the horrors coming from Westminster are indeed an affront to humanity - not just the austerity max measures, but also what the hell is happening with the Chilcot Report and the covered up peadophilia? Our MPs will oppose the government and Labour will abstain from having an opinion (unless they side with the Tory's again).  At the end of the day, it is what it is, and there is really not much we can do other than get angry and protest (for now, until that too becomes illegal).  The treatment of our MPs both by the Chamber and by their public mouthpieces (MSM) is a disgrace. I often wonder if it's done deliberately to provoke and to get a reaction either from the MPs or Scottish electorate?  Regardless, it's working. Hence the calls for the next referendum, which are coming in fast and furious every time the bold Dave or his lackeys (Osborne, IDS, Johnson, May) open their mouths.  And they know fine well that should the ref be back on the table, that NO would once again win. But of course, it doesn't do to practically criminalise the poor and  marginalise and infer that anyone not of white christian bloodline is a potential terrorist - where's the fun in that? Oh no, Dave lit the touch paper yesterday with this  (as reported in The Guardian : Dave Cameron rules out second referendum) :
 “I think it is important that a referendum is legal and properly constituted and that is what we had, and it was decisive, so I do not see the need for another one.”

*disclaimer - this is not wholly Scotland specific*

The calls for not only a new indyref on the SNP manifesto, but more urgently is that call for UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence).  I have never been comfortable with this suggestion.  I have joked that right, bugger this, it's time for UDI, when I'm angry with what's happening, but UDI as a solution? No no no!!! When the country is split (and not in our favour) we can't just declare UDI - that's not democratic in the least.  That IS a war in the making.  As a former boss of mine used to say regularly "two wrongs don't make a right", and I agree.

So what are we to do?  Getting the timing right is vital.  I don't want to be singing along with Janis Joplin's lyric "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose", because we've left it too late.  I truly believe that Westminster will happily 'let us go' once they have bled us dry of our natural resources and wealth; once we are no longer useful to them. Why else would they want to keep such a 'draining and self indulgent' country tagging on their shirt tails? Too soon is equally  disasterous.  In the days following the vote last year, when we were all regrouping, I watched a youtube vidoe of Robin Mcalpine of the Common Weal.  I liked his plan then, and still do now. His proposal was not to include a referendum in the 2016 manifesto, but keep it until General Election 2020, and be out of the UK by Christmas 2020.  Here is that video:

Key points to the plan were/are:
1. Clean out unionist parties from Scotland in GE 2015 - done!
2. Creating better services and foundations, ie every local authority in Scotland to set up a mutual bank, other projects with energy too
3. Split the vote in 2016 - use the list vote for pro indy parties to create strong pro indy Scottish Parliament
4. Create a solid case for indy - starting with proper case for Scottish currency -NOT include indyref in 2016 manifesto," but instead use the years between now and next GE to put out that plan of what indy could be and work a low level campaign, building on and up so that we have the majority  that by the next GE we stand on a full ticket for early referendum"
5. General Election May 2020, indyref Sept 2020 out by December 2020.

Point 4 above is so important - a solid case for indy. The White Paper left too many questions unanswered for too many people.  We need to reach those of whom aren't engaging online, but relying on MSM, predominantly the over 60s.  Harsh critique but one of the things that really pissed me off when talking to some older people about why they voted NO, or were planning on voting NO was because of history (I'm not pissed off with those that were scared, a great many people were scared, Better Together did a sterling job on that one! Blair Mcdougall even admitted following the vote that fear was the only tactic to use to win) - the history of the SNP, their personal history or blinkered/unwavering beliefs, when infact they were voting on a future that ultimately wasn't theirs. Now, not all older people voted NO (obviously) one of the most pro-indy supporters I know is about to celebrate his 70th birthday, while a number of my friends, old school peers and family members chose NO also.  We must find out why and what change do they want to see or what would make them change to YES? These people need answers, proper answers, not wishy washy gloss, not argy-bargy it'll right itself in the end. Where we were happy to figure the details out after, not everyone shared that same optimism and we have to respect that. We must learn from the mistakes of the previous campaign before embarking on the next, because the next time is our last time.


Friday, 24 July 2015

The Scottish Green Party


Thinking about joining a political party? As I mention in my bio, I am a member of the Scottish Green Party, having joined up immediately following the Scottish Independence Referendum. Recently I wrote for the Falkirk Greens website (my local branch), a blog piece about why I joined up in the first place called "I did. Why don't you?".
Two weeks  ago I was interviewed for the website as part of a series of member interviews, which can be found here.
I thought I would share in case anyone was interested in politics and how to get involved.


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Full Fiscal Autonomy

It's all I've heard about since reconnecting back online following a wee break. It's what I've heard Nicola Sturgeon mention on numerous occasions. It is one of the amendments to the Scottish Bill that is being thrashed out in Westminster (when I say thrashed out, I mean everything that has been proposed is being shot down and denied). It is something that I actually (up until this morning) had no real knowledge of, or to be honest, any interest in. It is one of those 'boring/over the head' areas of politics that passes me by. Finance, yaaaaawwwwwnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! However, it has now caused a rift in Scottish politics, the size of which, is yet to be seen.  The amendment has been voted on and vetoed in Westminster, and when Green MP Caroline Lucas revealed that she voted against full fiscal autonomy (FFA) and why she had, all hell broke loose north of the border! Online at least, anyway.

So what the hell is full fiscal autonomy and why the hell does it matter so much?
FFA is defined as: (from Wikipedia) :

Full fiscal autonomy (FFA) - also known as devolution max, devo-max, fiscal federalism, independence lite or independence minus - is a particular far-reaching devolution proposed for Scotland.  The term has come to describe a constitutional arrangement in which instead of receiving a block grant [Barnett Formula] from the UK Exchequer as at present, the Scottish Parliament would receive all taxation levied in Scotland; it would be responsible for most spending in Scotland but make payments to the UK Government to cover Scotland's share of the cost of providing certain  UK-wide services, including at least defence and the conduct of foreign relations.

Essentially, it is control over taxation and spending in Scotland devolved to Holyrood rather than Westminster.  As Stewart Hosie (SNP Deputy Leader) was reported in The Scotsman, 16th June 2015 saying:

Mr Hosie defined full fiscal autonomy as Scotland being able to collect all of its taxes and fund all of its spending.
He added: "It's not simply about responsibility for taxation, it's about responsibility for all spending outwith limited and agreed areas.
"We need and we deserve the bulk of decisions to be taken as close to the people as possible and more importantly we need these decisions to b taken in line with the aspirations and democratic choices of the Scottish people.
"We believe in the transfer of more power to Scotland not as an end in itself, but because the Scottish Government can exercise those powers to the benefit of Scotland's economy and society.
"It's not all about tax.  It's about other decision-making, for example, the minimum wage.  We support a rise in the minimum wage and we currently don't have the power in Scotland to do that."

Still with me, or bored yet and switched off?  Stay with me, this is important! Honest!

It's important because it is believed to be the last stop before full independence. It is important because not many people actually understand what FFA is.  In all honesty, do you know what it entails? It was certainly ootwi' ma ken.  Are the sound bites from the SNP enough to ensure you know and are happy with  the meaning of FFA and the effects of such in Scotland whilst we remain part of the United Kingdom? I ask this in genuine interest as the past 24 hours, it would seem that a differing opinion means you have turned your back on Scotland and other such bollocks.

So, Patrick Harvie, the Co-Convener of the Scottish Greens wrote this for The National on the 19th June 2015 and nowhere in that article does he mention that he opposes FFA, merely that the proposal in its current incarnation raises:
"serious concerns about the consequences if FFA or something like it was rushed through. If anyone who was on the Yes side of last year’s referendum sees fiscal autonomy as the “next best thing”, I’d have to say be careful what you wish for."

Fast forward to 1st July 2015 when Caroline Lucas voted against the FFA proposal in Westminster citing that she was acting on behalf of the interests of the Scottish Greens (it is worth noting here that The green Party and the Scottish Greens are 2 entirely separate parties) . Patrick qualifies her vote/comment with another article in The National saying:
...it made no sense for Scotland to have control of fiscal policy without control of monetary policy.
“The Scottish Greens backed independence to give Scotland a chance to change economic direction, a position respected and supported by colleagues such as Caroline Lucas,” he said. “We still support that. But neither a currency union, which we opposed during the referendum, nor a headlong rush toward a poorly designed scheme labelled full fiscal autonomy will achieve that."
Quite how Social Media has brought this to mean that the Greens have thrown Scotland under a bus and are about to lose their 1st choice position on the Holyrood Election 2nd vote, is quite beyond me, frankly.

Now, as I stated at the start of this rather lengthy post, political finances bore me and I am only just starting to wrap my head around FFA, although am now reading everything I can lay my eyes on regarding the matter.  Thankfully my friend and fellow Scottish Green is on hand to explain. Over to you,  Mari-Ellena Corvi :

Full fiscal autonomy for Scotland would be an alternative to the Barnett Formula, giving the Scottish Government control of how they raise funding (for gov spending) rather than having it all in a central pot and dividing it up via a formula. It makes no difference to how that money is spent, just how it is raised, so we're talking taxes, we could possibly be talking borrowing as well, but the SNP don't actually mention government borrowing when they talk FFA. The whole argument seems to be the SNP saying they can raise funds (taxes? borrowing?) and reduce austerity measures with that money. Now, unless they raise taxes (I don't think they'd do that, too unpopular) that means borrowing, governments borrow money by selling gilts, which are basically an IOU on the financial markets, they pay interest on these, and the IOUs can be sold from investor to investor as well (remember Enron? That was fun) The usual holders of these gilts are private banks (think high street banks, investment banks etc) and pension funds. There is no way of knowing what they will sell for (what the interest rate will be) before they are sold, it all depends on investor's confidence in the govts ability to pay, the higher uncertainty, the higher the rate, basically. The markets will judge Scotland's ability to pay on oil prices, guess what has plummeted? Oil prices...that's why people mention oil so much, it's not the cost and how much we earn from it, it's the spending and borrowing power it gives the government.
As for a central bank, that's the Bank of England, (set up by a Scotsman, but that's another story) When governments reeeeeally need money they can have their own bank buy it!  If Scotland had FFA, we still wouldn't have a central bank, monetary policy would still be set by the BofE (which sets monetary policy independently but is at the end of the day a nationalised UK institution). IMO this makes *full* fiscal autonomy impossible as part of the UK (and in fact if we were indy but using the UK pound)

Still following? Good, because we're not done yet!

If we didn't have oil (or at least left it in the ground) our ability to pay/repay loans would be judged on the economy in general.
FFA works with independence (with our own central bank and currency). 
While there are other countries in the world with FFA and a shared central bank ( for example Europe), they don't necessarily have Westminster unwilling to co-operate.

Thank you Mari-Ellena xx

So you see, the Scottish Greens have not abandoned Scotland - we just want MORE autonomy.  FULLY autonomous in terms of monetary and fiscal autonomy; not tied to Westminster or the Bank of England. Just as the Greens campaigned on during the indyref last year - this stance has not changed, nor has the want for independence.  I personally agree with the need to have our own currency and central bank, and wrote about it last year during the whole share the pound/plan b nonsense that blighted the indyref.  FFA without monetary policy is a poisoned chalice and thus set up to fail - Westminster and the SNP know this and are forcing the issue for their own ends. It was NEVER going to get through the Scotland Bill.

Plus, and this is a biggie - the Scottish Greens are a political party in their own right. Whilst they share a vision with the SNP for an independent country, they are not the SNP/SNP Lite or SNP B-team. Naturally there will be differences and disagreements between policies and strategies - this is politics. Nothing more. But remember - both Scottish Greens and SNP want independence - that has not changed!! 

The threat of withholding the 2nd vote - really? Do you feel me looking at you? 
Do you want a serious pro-indy party in opposition? Uh huh!

We all OK with FFA now?

Lets work together with whatever diluted bullshit Westminster vote on, under the Pish Commission and Cameron's pretence of possibilities of further devolution. The Establishment will be rubbing their hands in glee with the thought that Scotland is fracturing and dividing between which party has Scotland's best interests at heart on a single policy. This is not Mother says, we are allowed to disagree. Don't let them win. We will get indy, I just hope its before they bleed our resources dry first. But we need to stick together and unite under the joint vision, and work through the differences in Holyrood, where they belong.


Wednesday, 1 July 2015

All or Nothing!

Image from Savvypanda

I'm either in, or I'm out. No Hokey Cokey or half measures here.  I have what could be called an 'addictive personality', (a keek into my early-mid 20's would qualify that statement). Alternatively, I am just really lax in self control and discipline!

On Friday 26th June 2015, I had had enough. It was almost lunch time and I had achieved a grand total of zero for the morning's efforts. Why? Social Media! My time is regularly lost into a virtual vortex; sucking me in with Facebook updates, tweets, Instagram pictures and Pinterest. Two or three hours can easily pass, and I will have felt an array of emotions : happy for friends, rage and frustration with politics, excitement for events coming up; apathy for the filler crap that I scroll past, amongst bewilderment, confusion, joy, amusement, WTF?, inspiration and exhaustion. Not forgetting of course reading the BuzzFeed lists that are either hilarious, or their title suggests entertainment but reality proves rather different ; a waste of time!

My head was spinning. I felt a bit exhausted and disgusted (with the amount of time I lose to SM with nothing to show at the end of it) by it all, if truth be told. I needed a break. So, at 12.05pm on that Friday, (standing in the kitchen where I had been rooted to the spot reading 'stuff' for the past 27 minutes under the pretence of "making lunch") I messengered my nearest and dearest on Facebook advising of a self imposed 30 day hiatus. I no longer had social media fatigue, but was quickly falling into a social media coma! There. Done and dusted and free for the next month. I did actually feel good about this decision. I did still have to nip onto Facebook each evening as I admin on a page and wasn't going to let the other Admin person down because of my choice to take a break - I just went on, did the nightly post, and buggered off again. Of course, a couple of things caught my eye each night, but as far as possible, I didn't stray back into the fold, apart from to look at a couple of Falkirk Greens posts.

Naturally, I picked the wrong time for a social media holiday; Glastonbury weekend, the situation in Greece, the Scotland Bill, the atrocity in Tunisia, EVEL and Pride,  amongst a host of other things happening at home and around the world.  The majority of my info on such matters has been gleaned from MSM - and I have to say it is somewhat lacking. This is obviously no surprise. I am glad of my email updates from The Common Weal's Common Space online news.

So, 5 days in and I have come to realise that a 30 day break is just plain daft. Yes I have the cold turkey shakes, but I also have no idea what is actually going on, in real time. I am behind in politics, and that actually feels really unsettling. There is too much going on that I am interested in and passionate about, but without SM, am disconnected from.  The modern world is connected through social media, and as such, if it's not on Facebook, no-one knows about it (or remembers)!

When we were away on holiday in May, I thoroughly enjoyed the few days away from the virtual world, and similarly, I have enjoyed the break this time. Obviously not the part where I'm out of touch with the stuff I deem important, but the freedom of not constantly checking my phone with each beep it emits. The constant updates from the 4 sites I frequent the most (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) keep one's head firmly down, eyes focussed, thumbs scrolling.  I can hardly advise Kiddo about regulating "screen time" when my phone is never out my hand.  I have often said that I want to unplug and go back to a more simple time, but life is not like that anymore. In our instant world, almost everyone and everything is online.  However, there is a balance that has to be struck. Balance.  Not something this Gemini is very good at....

I will stick my neck out to say that most people are fairly balanced with their social media interactions, I know people who go for days without thinking about Facebook, or sitting infront of Pinterest for 4 hours planning their next project.  But I guess it depends on each individual's use of these sites : posting family pics and updates, or for info gathering, up to date news and connecting with like minded people, reconnecting with friends, organising events, groups and get-togethers, sharing info, promoting businesses or blogs, etc etc

My plan to get a handle on my SM use and achieve desired balance is to get shot of my smart phone, and just check up on my pages in the evening, as I used to do before getting hook on my smart phone 3.5years ago.  I have 7 months left on my contract and when the time comes for my upgrade I'm going for the basic calls and texts model (but want a flip/ clamshell model). If its not readily available on my ever present phone, I can't be distracted, and can then focus on actually living life rather than reading about other people's or live tweeting/instagraming every living second.

Since unplugging on Friday, I have been far more productive (surprise surprise).  The house is tidier, cleaner, I've read more of my books, made a filofax (I'm not paying £80 for an A5 sized one I wanted, so, yes, I made one!), found a new programme on Netflix (this might not seem like a big deal, but I don't watch much tv at all and wouldn't miss it if we removed it altogether. Anyways, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries is my new love - 1920's flapper/detective, set in Australia with THE most beautiful wardrobe and hair. She beats Poirot as my preferred 1920's detective), sorted out plans for the coming weeks/months (re registered our details, so all going well, and actually securing tickets,  we are off to Glastonbury next year!!!).  All the things I have been procrastinating on, are now inhand, due purely to having time to deal.  I am the biggest procrastinator, but without the SM time pit getting in the way, my days feel less wasted.

I am calling time on my 30 days offline, it is no longer serving its purpose. I need to get back intouch with my political world, with whats happening in the home ed world (for instance today Kiddo and I spent a great afternoon with worms and mud at Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre, which without a friend on Facebook telling of its summer programme, I would not have known about it happening, or the other activities we have planned for the coming weeks) and just the stuff that makes my virtual world turn - and cut out the guff.  It's been a useful exercise in finding out what I needed and not, and realising that actually, a wee SM holiday is not a bad thing every now and again.  A time out to disconnect, recharge and plug back in when I need to.  A virtual spring clean of sorts, to keep a handle on what is important and what is a black hole.

Here's to being back online, catching up on what I've missed and living rather than updating statuses.