Chatting About The Politics of Scottish Indy

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It’s a great pleasure to share the hour-long chat I recorded with influential Scottish blogger Barrhead Boy, which is out today.

We’d planned on chatting about loads of things, but there’s only so much you can talk about in such a short amount of time. The hour went flying by due to Barrhead Boy’s excellent experience in guiding us through it all.

Hope you enjoy it, and share it with others too. Listen to it here: https://www.barrheadboy.com/barrheadboy-scottish-prism-saraband-14th-july-2019/.

Boris, or Brexit Anthropomorphised

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is the coward’s coward, a man currently leading the contest for leader of the Conservative Party – and, therefore, Prime Minister of the UK – but extracting himself from any media coverage, presumably under strict instructions from his handlers, who know full well that this contest is his to lose.

But despite BoJo’s notable absence from our newspapers and TV screens, the UK’s journalistic apparatus could still be running extensive pieces and reports on the many controversies, past and not so past, that have always tinged this clown’s career. And yet, as if struck by a collective bout of amnesia, British journalism seems to have set aside its duty to properly scrutinise potential Prime Ministers, barely delving into the fetid cesspool that is Bojo’s career.

Now, are we getting the media we deserve, or is this simply Britain on a its downward slide into a dystopian reality, and the media is just as much of a victim as we all are? My opinion is that media outlets like the BBC may not be the sperm donors behind our current predicaments, but they certainly are happy to serve as handmaids to the deliverance of newspeak and PR-managed fascists ramming their twisted world views down our throats.

I don’t think Boris is a fascist. That would demand that he at least had some principles, even if the entirely wrong ones, but no. Boris is a self-serving sponge of incompetence, scraping away at the edges of decency for the sake of his own ascension. He is the man that will sell fire to pyromaniacs and water to firefighters, all in the same day, while his wranglers extract from him what they require, like tax cuts for the better off in society.

Boris is Brexit anthropomorphised, an impossible and contradictory creature that wants to be all the things at the same time, but is constantly smashing its face against the brick wall of common decency. And now, a man who looks like he couldn’t prepare a microwaved mac n’ cheese, is about to crawl under the radar of democratic scrutiny and get seated at the top job of the UK, inflicting whatever cruelties are necessary for his own gain. And, worst of all, many people in England will be cheering through all of it.

I wouldn’t let Boris arrange the funeral of my worst enemy. Even though my heart craves for Scottish independence, and I hope that we will grasp it sooner rather than later, it pains me to think that our friends in England would be stuck with someone like BoJo, because he was never truly burnt by the fires he himself set. I hope my Sassenach friends down south come to their senses, and if the ultra-minority of the Tory membership chooses this man as their champion, I hope the reasonable people of England do whatever is needed to see him out of No 10 as soon as possible.

SNP Spring Conference 2019

 

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I first joined the Scottish National Party back in early 2016 (as the Brexit rhetoric was ramping up towards the referendum, and it became increasingly clear that the SNP was one of the few parties ready to reject the scapegoating of immigration for the damages of Tory austerity). However, I’ve never been a party-politically engaged member. No branch meetings or anything of that sort – I’ve always been a lone-wolf, sometimes to my detriment, often against my best instincts of wanting to do more. Unfortunately, it’s a case of allowing stupid social anxiety to get in the way of the stuff I want to do, although I’m working on that.

However, with this year’s Spring Conference taking place in my home turf of Edinburgh, and my political engagement at its most energetic, it proved itself to be a great opportunity to take a step outside my comfort zone and see for myself how these things work. And so I did.

The highlights

Now, I don’t want to bore with you all the details, so I’ll try to be succinct.

The greatest pleasure of it all was meeting so many familiar names that I only knew from social media. And boy, did I realise the power of this medium – I was so overwhelmed with people popping up wanting to say hi, full of complimentary words about my social media antics or my blog. Some people brought up my first ever article for this blog, my love letter to Scotland, or even some of my non-political ramblings that resonated with them. Seriously, it was just lovely to be stopped every once in a while by someone starting a phrase with “Mr. Saraband, I just want to say hi…” (still feeling very pretentious about being addressed by a pseudonym, but hey).

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Me (left), my fiancĂŠ Roger (centre), and Steven Campell (right) – also, that’s Ian Blackford behind us

A big shout out to the lovely Steven Campell, recently elected Vice-Convener of YSI Lothian, who was an absolute star during the karaoke party on Saturday night (excellently hosted by the MP Hannah Bardell) and made sure I met loads of the people involved. On top of it all, I had one of our front-bench MSPs actually tapping me on my shoulder because he wanted to say he loved my tweets (I screamed inside, whilst trying to remain very cool), and had the honour of witnessing a rendition of “Sunshine on Leith” by the one and only, Mr. Ian Blackford MP.

Witnessing the motions being put before Conference was also an obvious highlight, particularly the discussion around the Growth Commission. Even with fundamental disagreements between some of the participants, it was delightful to see debate conducted with mutual respect (notable exception for the guy who threw a tantrum on the second day, because he was the only person in the room against a Citizens’ Assembly, misreading the atmosphere to such a degree that he thought it wise to denigrate Joanna Cherry, who had minutes before rightfully received a standing ovation. It was a pleasure to boo him).

Needless to say, though, that Nicola Sturgeon’s speech was the perfect finale. Some stuff in there that I wasn’t expecting, like further help with a deposit for first-time buyers, which is much welcome. The reiteration that every Scot, new and old, should know that Scotland is our home and that we don’t need to leave, ever. The declaration of state of ecological emergency was interesting, but I’m curious to see how that’s followed up with some practical action before I say much more about it. And it was, of course, a joyful political punching session for both Tories and Labour, with Nicola delivering some much needed uppercuts to the empty rhetoric of the two biggest parties at Westminster.

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FM Nicola Sturgeon’s closing speech

On top of it all, I heard an overwhelming amount of inclusive speeches, the contribution to Scottish society by European citizens like myself was regularly celebrated, and almost everyone seemed to be absolutely buzzing at the prospect of our second, and finally successful, Indyref. The two fringe events I attended – one on EU Citizens’ rights, where I intervened at the Q&A, and another on Euthanasia – compounded the experience of a phenomenal event. There was also none of the gender debate hysteria that seems to engulf social media – everyone I spoke to about this, including women with perfectly valid questions, was perfectly reasonable and humane when talking about Trans issues. I’m so glad that extremism around this question is much less prevalent in real people, rather than the often two-dimensional characters of social media that peddle profoundly ignorant rhetoric against one group or another.

The lows – what lows?

The coffee was terrible. Seriously, that’s my biggest complaint about the whole event. I even mentioned it to one of the lovely venue workers’ on the second day, who nodded to me apologetically and simply whispered “We know.”

Of course, I was also really excited to put in a card on the motion for a Citizens’ Assembly, as I wanted to speak for it whilst making a passionate case that it should represent all sections of Scottish society, including immigrants. Alas, it’s always frustrating to not have a chance to say something you think it’s important, but others ended up conveying similar sentiments and I will look forward to other opportunities to make that case. Nonetheless, a big thank you goes out to the SNP European Parliamentary candidate, Christian Allard, who was the one who came up to me on the first day and convinced me that I should put in a speaking card, going through the trouble of explaining how it was done to a complete newbie like myself. A charming gentleman who will represent Scotland, and its values of openness and European solidarity, with utmost excellence, when he gets elected next month.

Finally, after getting a reply from Nicola Sturgeon on Friday, that resulted in my most popular tweet ever, I’m sad to say that I wasn’t able to get a picture with her. My mother would certainly have appreciated it – but we will have to wait for another opportunity.

I have a lot more I could say. For a political junkie like myself, a passionate believer in Scottish independence and in building a fairer society that is big enough for everyone, I was the happiest fish in the sea. I’m filled with hope and optimism, and, above all, a desperate desire to grab my coat and start doing the work on the ground needed to get a Yes result as big as we can. I will also be looking at participating in my local SNP & YES groups due to the encouragement of some of the folks at Conference.

And, Aberdeen, get ready – because I don’t think I can miss the October Conference now.

Brexit: a lobster allegory

theresa lobster

Picture the following: Theresa May, a chef with no previous cooking experience, has been tasked with humanely disposing of a lobster, before boiling it to perfection, in order to present her gourmand voters with the perfect Brexit feast.

Now, being humane doesn’t come naturally to Theresa, so she tries to kill the lobster with a wooden spoon, ignoring the perfectly sharpened set of knives that could have delivered a quick kill. Fuck that, murmurs Theresa, as she bashes the poor lobster repeatedly, whilst daydreaming about the days where running through fields of wheat was spine-tinglingly exciting. After a while, so convinced of her brilliance that she fails to notice the lobster is still alive, she just chucks the numbed creature into the cooking pot.

However, rather than having the water boiling and at the ready, Theresa May thinks she should, once again, ignore everyone else’s better judgement and go for a very, very slow cook, leaving the flame at minimum heat. The lobster, at this point, is just trying to perform harakiri – or seppuku for the pedants among you – with its own claws, rather than suffering through this existential purgatory at the hands of an incompetent fool, but its claws are tightly shut with an elastic band. The creature is stuck in a red, white and blue pot, not quite cooking because the water is not boiling, but certain that, with enough time, it will die of exhaustion.

As all of this goes on, and Theresa leaves the kitchen for a bit, a few parliamentarian chefs come in and start playing with the pot. Some turn up the flame to the max, while others rapidly pull the pot away. They all laugh and throw witty jibes at each other, before the chef speaker patronisingly asks them all to behave, before he too has a bit of fun with the pot and the poor lobster. The creature looks up in hope, but is met only with eyes exuding sadistic glee.

Theresa pops back into the kitchen and the other chefs clear their throats, complimenting her excellent skills before leaving – they take the sharpened knives with them and look knowingly at each other. Theresa looks into the pot, and is surprised that the lobster is still quite lively. So she leaves everything exactly as it is, because, why change something that isn’t working, right? Instead, she gazes at the wooden spoon in her hand, daydreaming once more. This time, she’s imagining a blue-clad fairy appearing and turning her into wood, just like the spoon, because she’s exhausted of unsuccessfully pretending to be human. A reverse Pinocchio, that’s Theresa May’s greatest wish.

Of course, if you think Theresa’s lobster is bad, imagine how would a lobster alla Gove taste. Or, heaven forbid, lobster with Boris on the side, served with a Rees-Mogg reduction. No, Theresa May, masterful cognoscente of all thinks democratic, and agent of the people’s supposed and outdated wishes, will make sure that we all eat her disgustingly cooked lobster. It’s her buffet or no one else’s – just the tyrannical seasoning that British democracy has been asking for.

Hours go by before sheer exhaustion finally claims the lobster’s life, but not without it having one last epiphany. I’m fucked, the lobster thinks. But not as fucked as those who are about to eat me. Theresa May rings a bell, tells that Brexit is ready to be served, and evaporates out of existence, her satanic purpose fulfilled: a country’s population sacrificed to keep the Conservative Party… conserved.

Theresa May is roadkill – someone drag her out of the road

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Today, on what has been dubbed Brexit Day (even though we’re already into our first short extension), Theresa May brought her deal to Parliament for a third time. Again, it was overwhelmingly rejected by the House of Commons, not in the least thanks to her own backbenchers, as 34 Tories voted against their leader.

Theresa May’s political capital is now so exhausted it has run into the negatives. She’s roadkill. She’s a carcass run over by a mix of her own lack of leadership, and of the cutthroat civil war raging within the Tory Party. Show no hint of pity for her – she has shown none for the innocent victims of her hostile environment. What’s left to us now, is for someone in Theresa May’s own party to step out of their car, and remove the carcass blocking the way, so that normal traffic may resume – we can’t continue this insane ping pong over a deal now thrice defeated.

Theresa May has failed as a party leader. She has failed as the leader of the United Kingdom. She has even failed in her bribe to the DUP, who couldn’t wait to stab a political knife on her back. She’s a failure, and that’s how she’ll be referred to in the brief footnotes of history.

What creature will the Tory party spawn next?

Getting rid of Theresa May will ameliorate none of our problems. For those of us who see the Tory party for the nasty, greedy, self-centred institution that it is, there’s no hope that they will ever produce a leader remotely agreeable to our palate. But there’s no way that we can move on with Brexit while Theresa May stays.

Gove? Rees-Mogg? Leadsom? Johnson? Cunt? Oh, Hunt, I mean. Sorry. They’re all different facets of the same nasty party, no doubts about it. Different flavours and shapes to the same vapid, poisonous stool water that comprises the political expedience of their illustrious politicians. But it will allow the UK government to move ahead with a different plan, and allows us all to organise the opposition to it in a different way. Theresa May’s deal is done and dusted – enough.

I still think these are all pointless delays to the inevitable People’s Vote. But one thing at a time. For now, there’s one thing we should all say to Theresa, at least those of us in Scotland absolutely scunnered with this whole process: away an’ shite, hun. Cheerio.

Brexit: The Last Chapter Of This Union

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“Life is a Theatre”, 42x30cm, acrylic on canvas, by Saraband

 

For two and a half years, what were supposed to be calm and constructive discussions on the nature of the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU, have instead been comprised of a Tory party slowly lining up a series of metaphorical barrels under these isles. Explosive barrels filled with lies and populism, mixed in with the uniquely flammable nature of English exceptionalism, ready to blow up once the Brexit No Deal match is struck.

This has been a national meltdown, due to the complete ineptitude of the Westminster’s system, and the tethering constraints of its archaic procedures. Everyone says that we must find a sensible approach, but everyone’s sensible approach looks like complete lunacy to the people sitting on either side of them. And if the smaller parties in the UK Parliament have managed to stay united, the shock-waves produced by the earthquakes of Tory and Labour division haven’t been without effect.

These are the worst of times, and these are the worst of times – Dickens was wrong

There’s a lot of irony, to Brexit. Not least the fact that it is a creature spawned from the arcane rituals of British Nationalism. What we are hearing is one last scream of a dying Empire, wanting to celebrate its supposed superiority with defying arrogance and lack of self-awareness. But that is the creature that exists in the dark, for when we look at it under the glaring light of rational thought, what we see is a pathetic little critter, crawling on its last days, gasping for attention. Brexit is a pitiful bogeyman at best, and now the world is pointing and laughing – when it’s not throwing its hands in the air, despairing at the stupidity of a neighbour tearing itself apart, risking the destruction of the entire suburb in the process.

In a way, Brexiteers wanted to make Britain Great Again, like the special edition of Irn Bru bottle that America elected for President. And they did. The United Kingdom has become the centre of the world once more – but now it is no longer the one poking fun at everyone else’s supposed inferiority. No, far from that. The world has become a reality show, and Brexit Britain fills the prime time spot. This is a show meant to be bad, filled with incredibly stupid people, so that everyone else watching can feel a bit better about themselves. Britain has become The Great Joke.

What does the future hold?

At this point, fortune-tellers would be better trusted at predicting the future than any British journalist. Some pretend like they know exactly what is happening, but the truth is that no one really does. The only thing clear, right now, is that there’s no clarity whatsoever.

By the time you end up reading this post, the first paragraph might have been made obsolete. You may go back to your Twitter feed to discover that Brexit has been cancelled, or open a trusted news website and find out that the EU has rolled out emergency plans and No Deal is imminent.

Whatever happens, Brexit has been like a fire, bringing with it panic, fear, and much sweating. But, after the smoke has cleared, and we see the wreck of what’s been left behind, we can rest assured that the putrid skeleton of the institutions in this country will be exposed for all to see. Westminster is not fit for England’s purpose, much less any of the other three nations. May Brexit euthanise it, and replace it with a democratic system fit for the twenty-first century.

So, let the fire of Brexit purge away the toxicity of this Union, and let England set out to fill whatever destiny its people democratically demand. Let Scotland retake its rightful place as a sovereign, outward-looking, European nation. Let Ireland heal the last of its open wounds and accept that, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Protestant, or a Catholic: you’re Irish. And may Wales realise that a country’s size should have no bearing on the boundless possibilities of a future where its people have the first and last say, not their next-door tenants.

Maybe we’ve been looking at Brexit all wrong. Maybe, this was just a ceremonial celebration of the 312 years of Union, and a way of putting it out of its misery with a last show of political fireworks. Boom. Flash. Rejoice!

Maybe. Maybe everything will turn out fine. Because, the alternative, in which we all sink together in a mutually destructive Union where every nation’s aspiration is smashed under the heel of Westminster’s inequality, is one which I can’t even dread to contemplate.

 

BBC and Xenophobia: Why I Cancelled My TV Licence

nae BBC

When there’s sufficient distance between historians and the events taking place today, regarding Brexit, it will be interesting to read the analysis of the role played by the BBC during this time. As an immigrant, a category often used to score cheap political points during the political debates or used in newspaper headlines to push divisive agendas, my gut feeling is that the corporation has been instrumental in both heightening the xenophobia prevalent in Brexiteers’ obsession with people like me, and it has failed in any substantive way to offer an accurate representation of the actual facts, because it’s obsessed with this damaging notion of balance – that both sides of an argument have equal validity, even when one of them knowingly fills the airwaves with porkies.

A month ago, I decided to give up on my TV Licence. Why? Not because I want to live in an echo chamber and only listen to the stuff I agree with – I’m perfectly comfortable with Conservative voices. But I can’t stand lies, blatant propaganda, and the manipulation of the truth to convey a specific agenda – that’s what prompted me to say cheerio to the BBC and move on to brighter, less xenophobic pastures than anything on live TV / iPlayer / BBC radio.

Enough of talking about British expats, and everyone else being an immigrant. Enough of talking of EU citizens as tools that are either needed to “pick our strawberries”, or disposed of whenever they become inconvenient. Enough of the BBC putting nasty idiots like Boris hosting political shows, or failing to proper scrutinise the rhetoric coming out of some politicians.

BBC has played a major role in the negative rhetoric about immigration

One of the greatest examples of the corporation’s role in projecting the voices of hatred and division is its flagship political show, Question Time. Be it the propensity of right-wing voices with unpalatable views (the toad from UKIP), the shady lobbyists from obscurely-funded “Think Tanks” (Taxpayers’ Alliance), or xenophobic journalists manipulating the anxieties of their viewers/readers (that idiotic lass from the Daily Mail who is a pal of Arron Banks), the fact is that the show constantly puts on the panel people who have little of worthwhile substance to contribute.

And then there’s the audiences. Don’t get me started on the audiences. From the frothing at the mouth gammons that go on 1-minute rants about immigrants and this country needing to take back control, to the questionable plants purposefully given a microphone to convey the producers’ narrative. At first, I was skeptical of people going on about the show’s producers having an agenda, but after the Billy Mitchell scandal in Scotland (a failed UKIP candidate invited to the show several times and who later admitted in a Times interview that the producers had called him because they wanted his views), it became obvious that there was no amount of “Oops, we didn’t mean it!” that could disguise the agenda being played.

But the BBC doesn’t care. They have been called out on this several times, and yet they keep doing it. I have cancelled my TV Licence more than a month ago, but I still get the wee clips from Question Time shared by people on my social media, and, quelle surprise, last night there was a guy going on about the stupidity of having democratic referendums (that guy’s mind will be blown with the concept of having regular elections, by the way, because that’s the essence of Democracy – letting people change their minds). People were quick to point out that it wasn’t just an uninterested audience member who had casually happened to have been given a microphone.

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Another “random” audience member. Yeah, right.

I watched the first episode with Fiona Bruce, back in January, with the hopes that she would bring with her much needed change to the tone of the show. Yeah, fuck that. If anything, Fiona has heightened the most pervasive aspects of the show. The Daily Mail “journalist” and Arron Banks’ pal I mentioned earlier, in one the January shows, went on a rant about freedom of movement based on a hateful lies, and Fiona didn’t do her journalistic duty and contradict what was being said. That’s a disgrace. It also doesn’t help my sense of self-worth, as an immigrant in Scotland, that part of the audience cheered her xenophobic twattery (video below).

The problem extends beyond Question Time

Question Time is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with political coverage on the BBC, but it certainly isn’t the only culprit. From Politics Live constantly doing right-wing talking points and inviting people from shady think tanks, to Andrew Neil attacking journalists like Carole Cadwalladr on his own Twitter and the BBC refusing to chastise him, to actual actors being asked to play the role of a vicar as part of an audience Q&A in Newsnight.

The BBC has not created the right-wing monster taking over the public debate in this country – but they have fed it, contributed to its growth, and done nothing credible to acknowledge their own failings. From the times they would put a climate denier against a scientist to debate climate change, creating a false sense of equivalence, to them purposefully lowering Diane Abbott’s microphone volume on Question Time to make her look weak. It’s incredible what’s being done in plain sight.

No matter its cultural output, which I’ll happily admit has quite a substantial amount of high-quality content, like Killing Eve, Fleabag and Bodyguard, the role the BBC has played as the voice of the UK establishment, a particularly Tory/UKIP tinged voice (have you counted how many times Toad Farage has been on shows like Question Time?), has been detrimental to this country.

I could also go on about how Scotland is parochially treated within the BBC, including its elected representatives from the SNP. I could tell you how, despite me not being a fan of Corbyn in any way, the BBC repeatedly uses fake Tory talking points and smears to attack Corbyn’s leadership. I could go on about some of the individual journalists, broadcasters and radio hosts who peddle demagogue lies to their audiences. The sad thing is, there’s no short amount of things on which to criticise the BBC.

Enough of paying to be diminished as an immigrant

Me and my partner don’t watch much TV – gaming and reading have always been our main sources of entertainment. But we did watch the news, both on the BBC and Channel 4, every night, one followed by the other. Yet we decided to give that up, because we cannot bring ourselves to give our hard-earned money to the BBC, to legitimise the xenophobia they’re feeding.

There were times, after watching Question Time, where I went to bed genuinely distraught and disturbed, made to feel like a burden on this country, even though I know full well the facts, and they are quite clear that immigration makes a massive financial contribution to the UK, on top of the cultural gains we get from diversity.

So we have plugged the antenna cable out of our TV, and have been experimenting with trials of Netflix and Amazon to see if we like them. YouTube has got me covered in terms of following live proceedings in the House of Commons, as well as Channel 4 news clips which they upload regularly, and I continue to read the same newspapers as before, so I keep up on the latest without going through the BBC filter.

I have no time for those who don’t pay the TV Licence but still watch it. Armchair rebels – yeah, we have enough of that. You’re not putting your fist up to the BBC, you’re only showing the middle finger to the people who lawfully pay their TV Licence. And you’re still contributing to the BBC ratings. If you want to send them a message loud and clear, stop watching any live TV or Iplayer, and cancel your TV Licence – and tell them exactly why when you fill out the form.

That’s what we did, and let me tell you, the past month has been like a detox for the brain.