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.

Corbyn’s Labour: a betrayal of ideals

Jeremy Corbyn Drawing Painting Sketch

As a non-British Leftist millennial, I was very happy with Corbyn’s election for Labour’s leadership. I was even more excited when he was reelected after the challenge from the majority of his own parliamentary party. Why? Well, for many non-British European Socialists like myself, Tony Blair had moved the party so far to the Right, emulating so many of the tropes brandished by the Conservatives, that it felt like the Left had been dealt a kiss of death in Britain. I mean, no Tory PM would have been more supportive of the American invasion of Iraq than Blair himself.

Corbyn appeared to be a welcome tonic – a sign that the base of the Labour Party wanted to go back to its Socialist core values. His promise to bring about a new kind of politics was also refreshing, in a British political reality so stale and far-removed it felt like an episode of Dad’s Army about a packet of crisps gone off. I was willing to give him time, as such radical change takes time, but how could he possibly fail?

Corbyn’s base seemed energised, the country had been ravaged by years of Tory austerity that had done nothing but widen the gap between the poorest and the richest in society, and with a political civil war splitting the Government and its backbenchers apart because they cannot agree on how damaging they want Brexit to be, Corbyn’s Labour had the road to power wide open.

And yet, despite all this, Corbyn has failed.

Labour is pulling rabbits out of a xenophobic UKIP hat

Anyone with a basic interest in UK politics knows full well what Labour’s position is regarding Brexit: to have no position. Like the multi-armed Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction, Labour has been dancing in a circle of chaos created by the calamitous Brexit referendum result, grasping at political straws as a ring of fire burns all around them. Rather than taking a clear, unapologetic stance, their hope seems to be that by standing for nothing, voters from both sides will flock to them instead of getting swallowed by the Tories greed-is-good typhoon.

In doing so, the Labour Party occasionally throws a biscuit to anyone watching, sometimes from the Left, sometimes from the Right. For example – their wish to put an end to hospital parking charges for NHS staff in England. That is something that most people on the Left will happily support. How unoriginal and sad, however, that such policy is taken directly from the Scottish National Party who have already enacted this in Scotland, except for those hospitals being operated under Labour-negotiated PFIs.

However, what worries me about Labour is not the policies it steals from the SNP or from the Greens, but rather when it starts using UKIP’s xenophobic rhetoric in order to appeal to the anti-immigration sentiment rife in the working-class communities of, particularly, Northern England, where for decades now they have been fed a slow, poisonous drip of lies and immigrant-blaming bile provided to them by the Tories and their friends in the press.

This is all too clear in Barry Gardiner’s (Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade) recent contribution to the BBC’s Politics Live, in which he spread the lie that immigrants have been responsible for undercutting UK wages. Yes, a Labour politician blaming workers for the exploitation they suffer – unfortunately, you can’t make this up because it’s reality. See the clip for yourself:

 

Recent, independent research has categorically stated that immigration has had a positive fiscal impact in the UK, not to speak to all the other social and cultural benefits that come from the interaction between different people. Barry Gardiner and, by extension, the Labour Party, should be attacking the UK laws that permit the exploitation of workers, rather than attacking those people being exploited. Their struggles should be every Socialist’s struggle – that is what solidarity means.

Corbyn’s Labour is damaging actual labourers

Not only is the Labour Party now using the same party tricks of the Far-Right, in a desperate attempt to gain some voters, but their non-stance on Brexit is allowing Theresa May to put an end to freedom of movement, hence curtailing the rights and freedoms of… workers. The same workers who, no matter where they were born, should be backed by Labour, not stabbed in the back.

By not opposing Brexit effectively, they’re also supporting the impoverishment of the United Kingdom under every predicted post-Brexit scenario, be it soft or hard. Who will suffer most from that stunted growth? Not the Tories and their friends, but the working class of this country, who will have to live with further cuts to vital public services, fewer benefits, and costlier bills at the end of each month.

Corbyn’s presence was as weak as it could be, for the leader of a largely pro-Remain party during the 2016 referendum, leading many to accuse him of being a Brexiteer at heart. I don’t know – I don’t believe in mind readers, so I can only judge Corbyn by what he says and does, and so far I remain unimpressed.

The current case for Lexit is irrelevant

Some ardent Corbynistas have tried to frame Brexit as something good for the Left – Lexit, or Leftist Brexit – a possibility to break with the chains of the EU’s Neo-Liberalism. They would have my sympathy in this, if that was what had been debated during the Brexit referendum, if the public had been shown what a Tory and a Labour Brexit look like and asked to decided on which one they preferred. But Labour and the Conservatives are both leading us down the same type of Brexit: one borne out of xenophobia and British nationalism. (No, not all Brexiteers are xenophobic – but the campaign and much of its rhetoric was.)

Lexit is meaningless when Far-Right authoritarianism is rampant across Europe. That ship has sailed – the arguments for it should’ve have been made on the ashes of the 2008 financial crisis before the Farages, Orbans and Le Penns swooped in to feast upon its rotten devastation. Brexit is only going to strengthen the rhetoric of these autocratic leaders, allowing them to point to the UK and say “Look, even the Brits have had enough of this!

The true case for Lexit is one that can only be made from within the EU. Rather than setting it on fire and burning to the ground an institution that, although flawed in many ways, brought an unparalleled period of peace in this continent’s bloody history, the aim is for Socialists across the board to come together and find a way to reform it from within. More democratic accountability, less power to the German and French banking magnates, more solidarity and proportionality in providing help for refugees, safer and better working conditions for workers from all nations. These are things that the UK can have a massive role in, if it stays seated at the table – not shouting from the outside.

Labour must sort itself out

Losing the support of the Scottish working classes so drastically should have been a much more serious wake up call for the Labour Party, but they seemed to have done nothing but stick the fingers in their ears and pretend like it never happened. It’s not good enough to childishly attack the SNP on policies that Labour has completely failed to enact in Wales, or when it is running some Scottish councils in coalition with the Tories.

Occupying this political limbo, where Labour is perched on a tree waiting for the Conservative Party to finish tearing itself apart, is doing more harm than good. The polls don’t move, and no one’s fooled by the false promise of kinder politics when Corbyn himself sits in front of the despatch box calling Theresa May a “stupid woman”, or going on TV morning programmes to pretend that he watches Celebrity Big Brother, pulling the exact same tricks that all career politicians do.

I don’t have an easy solution for Labour – nor should I. I’m not a member. I’m an outsider looking in, trying to make sense of a growing political black hole threatening to consume us all.

Despite my firm belief in Scottish Independence, I want an independent England to thrive just as equally, and that can only be done under a true Social Democratic government that stands not for what is easy, but for what is right. They should make the positive case for immigration, and shift the blame of our society’s ills to austerity and an insatiably greedy financial system, not the hard-working Polish hairdresser down the road, the Portuguese dentist, or the Czech accountant.

Labour should be opposing the Tory Brexit like any Opposition worthy of its name – before we’re all taken over a precipice from which it won’t be easy to return.