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 fiancé 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

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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.

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.