A Celebratory Burns Night

rabbie burns

It’s Friday afternoon, the vegetarian Haggis is cooking in the oven, and I’m mildly tipsy from the spoonfuls of cream infused with whisky that I ate as I prepared the cranachan for tonight. It feels like the end of a crazy week, with many things happening in my life and all of them good. Rather than my usual political diatribes, this post is more of a reflection, so if you’re not into that, just scroll down to find my cranachan recipe with a Portuguese flair.

Having said that, it’s not been an easy few days for the pro-Indy movement. Stay strong. A man is a man is a man, but our cause stands above any one individual. Don’t squabble, don’t play into the hands of our political adversaries, and don’t undermine our judiciary. Uphold the presumed innocence of the accused, but respect the right of any accusers to come forward, no matter how interesting the timing appears. Our moral principles come first, and the truth will reveal itself – eventually.

Being published in The National

On Monday morning, I went through the masochistic process of applying for my pre-settled status as an EU citizen living in the UK. Having witnessed the shenanigans that the Home Office can get up to as part of its hostile environment policy, I did so with a lot of trepidation.

Somehow, though, thanks to the magic of social media, I was contacted by Callum Baird, editor of Scotland’s largest (and best) pro-Independence newspaper, The National. He asked me if I could write about my experience of going through the settled status application, which I did, and it was published in their website as well as in their physical newspaper on Tuesday. I was very proud when I saw it that morning, and so happy to receive so much lovely feedback from it.

Then, on Tuesday night, I happened to re-publish my love letter to Scotland on Twitter (the blog post I wrote back in December and that was the spark behind creating Brawblether.com). It had enjoyed some traction back in December, but because it was the holiday season many people weren’t as active on Twitter. This time around, however, it spread even wider, and on Wednesday morning I was approached by Wings Over Scotland, who wanted to have it published over on their website.

This put me in front of Wings’ very big audience and brought me hundreds (literally, hundreds) of messages, tweets, comments, emails, you name it – all filled with kind, supportive, welcoming words for me and my partner. I gained around 400 new followers just this week, and Brawblether also saw a spike in visits. On top of that, emails were exchanged, stories heard and told, and there was even an invitation to speak at a YES group in the future.

Overall, it felt like many pieces coming into place, and I’m very grateful for my luck and living among such fine folk. I am truly humbled.

Celebrating Scotland, the Scots, and Scots language with Burns Night

Tonight is meant to celebrate oor Rabbie and his poetry. Me and my partner have done it since our first 25th of January in Scotland, only two months after first moving here, back in November 2015. And although we also like to observe St. Andrews day, and celebrate Scotland then, I think tonight is the evening when I really feel like we celebrate some of the things I love the most about Scotland: its people, its food, and the poetry and music of its spirit.

As I said, the Haggis is cooking, the neeps n’ tatties are ready to be peeled and cooked too, and the cranachan is in the fridge, whipped up and ready to enjoy. As it will only be the two of us (and our two cats) at home, we don’t read poetry or anything during dinner, but we acknowledge Burns and do something related to him during the day, like reading in bed a biography or some of his work.

We would also love to be wearing kilts and all of that, but we just haven’t been able to afford them yet. We want to have some really good ones, that would last us a lifetime, and so we’re saving up for that (it’s also the only thing stopping us of getting married right now, as we want to do it in full Scottish clothing).

So, at the end of a week that felt really good and for which I am thankful of living in oor wee country, accompanied by such braw folk, and experiencing it all with the love of my life at my side, I shall be dining very happily tonight, and enjoying a wee dram in your honour. SlĂ inte mhath.

Thank you for all the love. Scots are the best cunts in the world, and I mean this as the highest compliment I can come up with!

‘Cranachan alla Saraband’ Recipe

Now, cranachan has to be one of the simplest and most delicious desserts in the world. My take on it is that I infuse the cream with the whisky, and the oats with just a hint of Port, letting the sweetness come through the honey. Also, I think I use a bit more raspberries than other recipes, but that’s because I love their flavour and colour.

As with any recipe, take it and make it your own!

Cranachan homemade

Ingredients:

  • 20g rolled oats
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 150g crowdie cheese (quark or cottage cheese will do too if needed)
  • 300g raspberries (250g to be mashed, 50g aside to decorate)
  • 4 tablespoons of honey (try to use some good heather honey, it’s worth it)
  • 2 tablespoons of red Port
  • 130ml of whisky (this will be strong – reduce if you like it less intense)

Preparation:

  • Toast the oats in a frying pan (no fat! just the oats!) over medium heat for 5 mins (7 mins if using electrical stove), shaking them regularly until they’re slightly brown and smelling nutty / popcornish. Set aside and leave them to cool down (I usually get this step done 1 hour before doing the cranachan);
  • Mash the 250g of raspberries with a fork, no need to be too fussy, until you get a puree-like substance. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and the 2 tablespoons of red Port, mix and set aside;
  • In a large bowl, add the double cream, the crowdie cheese, 3 tablespoons of honey (be more / less generous depending on how sweet you like your cranachan to be), and the whisky. Whip it until you get a soft peaks – no need to go for the very hard consistency, as the oats will suck some of the moisture and make your cranachan more solid when it is all assembled and refrigerated;
  • Now, simply assemble! I usually do a generous layer of cream, topped with the raspberry puree, followed by the oats. You can repeat until you fill up the glass (this recipe usually allows you to do two layers of each on 4 tumblers). Top the final layer with a couple of raspberries and a mint leaf, and just a thin drizzle of honey;
  • Enjoy!

Fiona Bruce on Question Time – a verdict

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Fiona Bruce, new host of BBC’s Question Time

When Fiona Bruce was first announced as the new host of the BBC’s Question Time programme, I was somewhat happy. I knew the corporation would never have gone with anyone too risky – this is a show tailored to draw and amplify the imaginary anxieties of Little Britain – and although I would have much preferred Victoria Derbyshire, as I have witnessed her properly questioning politicians in her morning programme, I was okay with Fiona Bruce.

Many a gammon immediately let out their oink oinks at the idea of a woman, and I have no patience for those insecure men who find a threat in a woman more intelligent than them – which is often the case for every women these men encounter. Some furore was also made of the fact that she was too posh, too Antiques Road Show – but for a show previously presented by David Dimbleby, one can only go down in the overall level of poshness. Unless they went with Jacob Rees-Mogg, which, in these mad time of Brexitlandia, I wouldn’t consider it an impossible consideration for the BBC’s execs.

As such, I tried to watch last night’s programme, especially because the panel counted with the rare participation of an SNP MP (the lovely Kirsty Blackman, in this case, one of the few voices of reason on that show). But I stopped after 29 minutes, because this was around the time that I lost the little bit of hope I had saved for Fiona Bruce as a professional journalist.

Around the 28 minute mark, Daily Mail’s sweet princess and Brexitannia rising star, Isabel Euphemia Oakeshott, came out with a lie that should have been immediately questioned by Fiona Bruce. This was the lie that freedom of movement had been a disaster for the UK. See the clip:

 

The implication of this assertion is that immigration has somehow ravaged the United Kingdom, brought on immense social and economic damage, and made the lives of everyone here worse – for what else could a disaster mean?

My hopes for a change in tone for #BBCQT have died

Such is the scale of the accusation, that any trainee journalist would immediately know that it was his or her duty to offer a contradictory, or to give the person making the ludicrous claim a chance for clarification. But Fiona Bruce, even though she is such an experienced professional, did none of this. Isabel Oakeshott spewed her bile on national television – to the roaring applause of her English audience – and by the hostess failing to do her journalistic duty, it gave the lie an illusion of substance.

Now, to be fair, would have David Dimbleby done any different? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. The problem may go deeper than the individuals here – there is much to be question about the BBC’s Question Time, from its production team’s possible associations with the Far Right, to the BBC’s own editorial guidelines which often make a mockery of reasonable discourse (like the idea that they have to have a climate change scientist debating a climate change denier almost all the time, creating a false perception of it being a 50/50 debate).

I wish Fiona Bruce all the best, and hope that this was only a journalistic faux pas. But, as an immigrant in the UK, I had long stopped watching BBC’s Question Time due to its constant dog-whistling of xenophobia towards migrants. I have no interest in intellectual sadism – I’d rather turn off the TV than go to bed irritated with the lies often spouted by the programme’s audience and panel members. I hoped that a change in host would change the tone of the show, but last night revealed to me that such hopes should be left for fools.

There is nothing much to be gained from Question Time, beyond disappointment and irritation, and the confirmation that Great Britain has now fully metamorphosed into the amalgamation of all the phobias and ignorance contained at the heart of Little England.

 

Nicola Sturgeon on immigration: defending the unpopular truth

Nicola Sturgeon drawing

On the morning of the Brexit referendum result, there were immediate political reactions. David Cameron resigned, even though he said he wouldn’t when asked what would happen if Brexit won, and Jeremy Corbyn called for Article 50 “to be invoked immediately”, because that’s how sensible a leader he is (read this bit sarcastically, please).

Unlike those two, Nicola Sturgeon had a different message on that morning. She made it her top priority to offer some solace to EU nationals living in the UK and Scotland in particular, to reassure us that we were still valued, and to repeat that Scotland had rejected the Brexit rhetoric and remained an open and welcoming nation for all who chose to call her home.

Of course, these were just words, but for any EU national waking up to the realisation that the UK had, somehow, rejected us as a valuable part of society, these words were more than welcoming. They gave us a pause to gather ourselves, and be firm in the conviction that not everyone was a xenophobe – there are people who see immigrants as the three-dimensional human beings that they are, and it’s very crucial that some of those people are our elected leaders themselves.

Labour and Conservatives play with immigrants’ lives

The only minority that the Conservative Party will ever truly care about are its millionaire donors and their big business friends. I have come to expect no sympathy or respect from them in this country, and I wouldn’t want it – the Tories have destroyed the lives of thousands of people with disabilities, forced people to become homeless, and implemented profoundly homophobic laws only a few decades ago.

But I always expected Labour to be better than this – to be fair, it isn’t a high bar to surpass, after all. Especially with someone like Corbyn, I expected their supposedly Socialist values to extend beyond the people native to these islands, for Socialist solidarity should know no bounds.

Alas, Labour too left me only disappointed, as they increasingly tried to appease the xenophobic sentiments present in some of their demographic by playing with their antagonism towards immigration – something perfectly encapsulated in their “Controls on immigration” mug. (You can read my thoughts on Corbyn’s betrayal of the Left in another recent post on this blog – click here)

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No, you’re not the only one cringing at this…

Scotland is not perfect, but she’s so much better than her neighbours

Scotland has a very particular relationship with bigotry, reflected in its problems with sectarianism, whose tendrils spread to things as supposedly benign as football. However, there have been significant improvements in the last two decades, not only regarding sectarian hatred, but also the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, racism, and the treatment of immigrants who have made Scotland their home.

I have only read and heard about the old Scotland – which I know still exists, if you know where to look. But I have lived in this open Scotland, where we have a Parliament in Holyrood with lots of women and openly LGBTQ+ politicians, some of them leading their respective parties.

I have also witnessed the Scottish Government’s repeated support of immigrants living in this country, claiming that immigration is positive for the country, and not the other way around. And that is not an easy message to put out there – you just have to see how the pro-immigration video below, put out by the Scottish Government in the summer, accrued more dislikes than likes on YouTube.

It takes a great amount of courage for a politician to say the uncomfortable truths, rather than the things voters want to hear. Labour, Tories and Lib Dems have shown themselves for what they are and done very little to make a positive case for immigrants, the majority of which contribute massively to the UK’s economy. Only parties like the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens have done something in that regard, and EU citizens in the UK should be well aware of that.

Time and time again, when I tweet about immigration, I receive much more support from fellow Indy supporters than the hatred spread by trolls. The events and marches I have attended have been filled with flags from all nationalities – no one needs to be born in Scotland to have the same love for it running in their veins. I know this all too well, how this wee country and its people resonate with my heart more than any other place on earth.

Fighting the bigoted media

Glorified toilet paper like the Daily Mail and other rags have poisoned this country’s discourse on immigration. They ensured that immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, benefit scroungers, homeless people, prostitutes and drug dealers all got blended into this immigration concoction, the source of all problems in the UK, rather than the actual truth: the inept management of this country by New Labour and Austerity-Max Tories.

However, times like these also allow for more assertive shows of courage in the face of adversity, and that was the case with The National newspaper last edition of 2018: a magnificent pro-immigration front page. Such shows of empathy for immigrants are so rare in our public discourse that this made me very emotional when I first saw it.

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31st of December 2018’s edition of The National – Scotland’s only daily pro-indy newspaper

It’s not just trash like the Daily Mail that is to blame for all the negative rhetoric surrounding immigration – look no further than the BBC to see how they have different words for the same things. A foreigner here is always and always an immigrant, whereas a Brit abroad is always an expat – a euphemism that somehow tries to expunge British citizens from the stereotypes manufactured for and applied to everyone else.

Immigrants are as good and bad as everyone else

If we are able to bring the immigration debate to basic facts, than there are only a couple of points to be made that bear any relevance. The first is that, as studies show, immigration is financially positive to the UK, contributing more than it costs. Secondly, immigrants are not more or less prone to criminality or any other vices – they are people, just like everyone else, who took the very big decision of moving to a different country for a myriad of reasons. Some of us may indeed be rotten, but don’t judge such a diverse group of people on a few bad a apples.

There’s so much to be gained from immigration, not only from EU, but from everywhere else. And in Scotland, skin colour, ethnicity, religion or nationality should have no bearing on one’s Scottishness. As I never tire of repeating, we’re all Jock Tamson’s Bairns. And if you treat immigrants with the dignity and respect we deserve, you will be pressed to find more loyal citizens and neighbours than us.

Some people are also seemingly unaware of the anxiety clouding the lives of all EU citizens living in the UK (as well as UK citizens abroad), as my recent phone in to BBC Radio Scotland made clear:

Thank you, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP, and the other few politicians and parties standing by what is right. I will gladly return your support when the time comes for #IndyRef 2.

2019 is the year of IndyRef 2

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2018 AUOB Independence March in Edinburgh

We’re only three days into 2019, and The Times has already graced us all with an opinion piece titled “Brexit has shown the pain of leaving a close union. It is written by Struan Stevenson, a former Conservative MEP for 15 years, and the whole thing is as morbidly distorting of reality as you’d expect from someone who is opposed to the renewable energy generated from off-shore wind turbines.

His perspective is premised on the idea that the shambles of the Brexit process made clear that breaking from any political union would be an almost Sisyphean affair, and so Scotland must forget all about her aspirations for independence.

However, I think that Brexit has outlined one thing only: that there’s never been a stronger case to hold a second Scottish independence referendum, and that it must be announced this year.

Westminster trampled over Devolution

I’m not a big fan of Devolution, in the sense that I find it wholly patronising, a commiserating prize. It’s like having a parent holding on to the car keys and bank accounts of their adult son/daughter, because they aren’t “responsible enough” to manage their own affairs, telling them that they can only use the plastic cutlery and look after the family pet. Of course, thank goodness we have Devolution at least, because the alternative would be much worse, and we wouldn’t have achieved many of the great accomplishments of this generation, like free tuition in Scotland, a moratorium on fracking, and many other things.

Nonetheless, Devolution was voted for, and it was supposed to be the law of the land. I say supposed because Devolution recognises a degree of sovereignty to the Scottish Parliament, something which has been wholly ignored in the power-grab pushed through under the guise of the Brexit negotiations.

Holyrood’s cross-party majority made it very clear: there was no Scottish consent for the Withdrawal Act of the European Union. The Scottish Government offered compromises (staying in Single Market) that reflected Scotland’s overwhelming vote to Remain, but the UK Government stuck its fingers into its years screaming BLAH BLAH BLAH as it pushed through with its shambolic Brexit.

So much for J. K. Rowling’s fantastic assertion that rejecting independence would put Scotland in a stronger position within the United Kingdom (just writing this down makes my blood boil). By rejecting independence in 2014, Scotland had a chance to take the key to its shackles and be set free, but 55% of us chose to hand that key back to our overlord, for fear that too much freedom would be the end of us.

Two different world visions

Some Brexiteers might go on and on about how cutting ourselves from the EU will make us more able to act internationally, but that is ridiculous. The UK has always been a key international player, not least because of its history, and the EU didn’t put a stop to that.

Leaving the EU while claiming to do it for the sake of internationalism is like choosing to amputate a leg because getting rid of the extra weight will make us a better sprinter. It’s such a stupid idea only a buffoon like Boris Johnson and his blind acolytes could swallow it.

Scotland has always been an outward looking nation. Perhaps not so much by choice, but because it was necessary for a small nation sharing an island with a much more powerful neighbour. Pulling up the bridge and closing the gates to our castle built out of straws doesn’t make any sense in 2019. It will only ensure that we starve ourselves to death – metaphorically speaking – as the world outside goes on like before, facepalming themselves as they wonder how a population could do this to itself (decades of Right-wing press brainwashing, in short).

Many of those who voted against independence did so because they were told by Labour, Tories and Lib Dems that independence risked pulling Scotland out of the EU. In their words, voting No was the only way of guaranteeing our continued EU citizenship (no, you’re not the only one feeling your stomach turning at the irony of this).

The Scotland I know isn’t reflected in this Brexit clusterbourach. And if we have a different vision for our future than England and Wales, then let each follow the path chosen by their people – without dragging Northern Ireland and Scotland along.

2019 must be the year IndyRef 2 is announced

As I’m writing this, Brexit is only 85 days away. There is no greater clarity today about what the future holds than on the morning of the EU Referendum, no reasonable path to follow, no cohesion across the UK. The only certainty is that both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are despised by the vast majority of the population, and that we’ll all be worse-off under any scenario that takes us out of our current arrangements with the EU.

At last year’s SNP Conference, Nicola Sturgeon said her party would make an announcement about a possible new IndyRef once the terms of the Brexit deal became clearer. That time has come, because I don’t think there won’t be much more clarity than what we have at the moment.

Brexit is a path towards a bigoted, nasty, inward-looking future. Scotland deserves much better. We voted Remain. Everyone I speak to within the independence movement is anxious to get started on a new campaign.

Unlike the Brexiteers, we have actual plans about the future for an Indy Scotland. This isn’t a spur of the moment vanity – our people have been waiting for independence since the corrupt aristocrats of this country sold themselves and their country to this Union little over three centuries ago. There isn’t a better time to make our hopeful, positive case for a future brighter than any shithole Corbyn and May try to lead us to.

Go on, First Minister. You’ve continuously stood by me as an EU migrant living in Scotland. Give me the opportunity to play my role in the fight for Scottish independence, so that me and thousands of other Scots may get on with striving for a better future than anything promised by the United Kingdom.

Saor Alba.