A watershed month

saf-40January 2015 has been a watershed month.

France and the world was shocked by a brutal and vicious massacre of journalists at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. This atrocity was perpetrated by Islamists with the specific aim of preventing criticism of their ideology. In the aftermath, unprecedented levels of public outrage and grief were displayed all over France.

Just this week, 44 men of the Philippines Special Action Force were murdered by Islamists in southern Mindanao. The officers had their throats cut. This atrocity was carried out by the Islamist group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has made a career out of the usual stock-in-trades of the Islamist – murder, kidnapping, torture and extortion. Here too, there has been a massive outpouring of public emotion. Continue reading “A watershed month”

Tell me again how the SNP ‘lost’…

It’s been two months since the Independence Referendum in Scotland, and the results are now becoming clear. The initial analysis, that the SNP ‘lost’, is no longer sustainable.

While the result was a majority in favour of staying within the disUnion, at least for the present, this has not constituted a defeat for the SNP. To understand this, we need to look at the campaign in a broader context.

In the first place, it was never, and will never be ‘one referendum will settle it for good’. The September referendum was one event in a long sequence, all of which, for over a hundred years, have loosened the ties of the disUnion over Scotland. The September vote should be seen in the context of this ongoing journey; it was just another stage in a process and one which shows support for independence to be far higher already than the Westminster political class were suggesting twelve months ago. Like the odious George Robertson’s claim that ‘a Scottish parliament would kill the SNP’, those statements, of how the referendum would put an end to Scotland’s journey to nationhood now look very hollow. Perhaps it is no surprise that the English media and their subsidiaries in Scotland are glossing over those words now, just as they gloss over Robertson’s

Devolution is a process, not an event, and the end-point of that process is independence. The real question the most recent referendum set was not ‘will Scotland be Independent’ but ‘will Scotland be Independent now’. Continue reading “Tell me again how the SNP ‘lost’…”

How Osborne’s Currency Roulette Backfired

roulette
Pic: Rod Fleming

Well, what a fascinating weekend we just had in the Scottish Independence campaign. After weeks slowly getting redder and uglier, the boil of the ‘No’ camp – often known as ‘Project Fear’ – burst and showered its surroundings in a thick layer of pus.

 What happened was that an allegedly senior but unnamed Tory Minister admitted the truth: George Osborne’s assertion that there would never be a Currency Union between England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) and an Independent Scotland, was a lie. It was just another filibustering bluff, the latest in a long series of such from the bottom-feeders who slither along the corridors of Whitehall.

 This admission, that the second most senior member of the ‘British’ Gummint, had been barefacedly telling porkies, was made to The Guardian newspaper, which ran big with it, and yesterday’s Sunday papers, well, the Scottish editions, followed suit. The Mondays are full of it.

 Project Fear had seen its Belgrano torpedoed. Even the doughty Scottish First Minister said Project Fear had been ‘holed beneath the waterline’ and sinking ships analogies are flying thicker than Exocets around the Falklands. Continue reading “How Osborne’s Currency Roulette Backfired”

Tryst on Februar Fowerteen – A Scots Allegory

a-tryst-tree
Pic: Rod Fleming

A fell cauld wind wis sauchin ower the muir as the bonny wumman gart her wey tae tryst her jo. For the necht wis Februar the fowerteen, an aabody kens at’s the necht for luve.

She wis winsome eneuch, tho the first blush o youth, it maun be said, was left ahent her a lang while syne. A body mecht hae speirit at himsel how comes a lass o sic natral attractions hidnae been wad this mony a lang year.

At last she reached the spot ablow an auld aik whaur she an her jo hiv met this necht mony mair years nor either of them wad care tae hink on. Her jo wis aaready there, a puckle fashit, ye mecht hink, wi the wye he wis stridin up an doon, his een flashin faniver he luikit up.

“Ah, here you are, at last,” he intoned, as the lass presented hersel. Continue reading “Tryst on Februar Fowerteen – A Scots Allegory”

The Vampire Rises : Roads to Referendum 3

thatcher-at-torness
Pic: Rod Fleming

Eight years after Scotland voted ‘Yes’ to Devolution, but had seen this victory snatched away by Westminster, things were very different.

The most hated Prime Minister in recent history – possibly all history as far as the Scots are concerned – Margaret Thatcher, had focussed minds on the fight against her all over the UK. Scottish Labour rode high on this wave of anti-Tory sentiment, and lost no time in asserting that it was the only way to be sure to get rid of the Tories. A vote, they claimed, for any other party, was a ‘vote for the Tories’.

But it was a gamble. Thatcher’s popularity in England had increased radically since she first had been elected. In England, though far less in Scotland, her resolve in fighting and defeating the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Isles, had played well for her. She called an election in 1983 and found her majority increased.

In 1987, Thatcher called another General Election. Continue reading “The Vampire Rises : Roads to Referendum 3”

The Empty Palace: Roads to Referendum 2

old-royal-high-schooloDuring the 1980s, Scotland’s political scene was polarised by a cathartic and visceral detestation of the UK Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This, for perhaps the last time, caused a genuinely British response, in that many Scottish opponents of Conservatism, badly discouraged by the calculating and dishonest way which the Home Rule that Scots had voted for had been snatched away by a self-interested Westminster, fell back to old loyalties, and threw their weight behind the familiar Labour Party, in an effort to rid themselves of the hated Tories. Continue reading “The Empty Palace: Roads to Referendum 2”

Muslims we Must Support: Maajid Nawaz

maajid-nawaz
Maajid Nawaz

Last week, Maajid Nawaz, a United Kingdom Liberal Democratic Party parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, became the centre of an attack from the Islamic fundamentalist right wing because he stood up for free speech. This is not, in itself, unusual; fundamentalists of any religious persuasion detest free speech. Nor is the chorus of death threats raised against Nawaz in any way uncommon from Islamic fanatics. However this case is important because it illustrates a divide which we must not only recognise but decide on which side we stand.

Nawaz’ crime? After taking part in a BBC debate in which two students were seen wearing ‘Jesus and Mo’ tee-shirts, Nawaz tweeted the image, saying, “As a Muslim, I did not feel threatened by it. My God is greater than that”.

For most people, that would not seem anything other than a reasonable point of view. Continue reading “Muslims we Must Support: Maajid Nawaz”

The Roads to Referendum: 1

scotland-referendum
A campaigner in the 1979 Scottish Devolution Referendum

This year’s Scottish Independence Referendum is  one of the most important political events in the lives of most living Scots. It outweighs in importance, for Scotland, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It outweighs the powerhouse rise to prominence of a rejuvenated China or an India that is on its way to being not just a regional, but a global, superpower. It is even more important, though perhaps less so, than the accession of the UK to what was then the EEC and is now the European Union. In this series of articles I am going to outline the history of the Referendum, as I saw it evolve.

The coming Referendum is the single most significant event to occur in Scotland since the end of World War Two. That event brought about the end of the Imperial era, in which European states used their military strength to dominate the planet. With Europe in ruins, and the United Kingdom pauperised, the control systems that had held empires in place collapsed. The British Empire, which Scotland had been a part of, was consigned to history. Continue reading “The Roads to Referendum: 1”

Whither Now Scotland

saltire
Pic: Rod Fleming

Whither Now Scotland:
Dateline: Friday 19 September 2014
By Rod Fleming, reporting from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland, for Rod Fleming’s World.

This morning, the whole of the United Kingdom woke up to the most important announcement in its history: the Scottish people have voted to bring it to an end.

After 307 years of often troubled partnership, in two years the partners in the unitary state will separate and become independent states, Scotland and what has been christened the ‘rUK’, the ‘rest of the United Kingdom’.

In a speech delivered, unusually, on the steps of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh after the poll result was announced, Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond, was statesmanlike but clearly delighted. Congratulating the Scots on their momentous decision, he called on ‘All the people of Scotland to put their differences behind them and work together for our country, our nation, and our future.’ Continue reading “Whither Now Scotland”