The No Slogan Slogan Paradox

westminsterrulenothanksBetter Together has unveiled its new campaigning slogan because “better together” just wasn’t working for them. It’s difficult to make the claim that you’re better together when your own campaign team refuses to appear in the same room, Labour and the Tories hate one another, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown hate one another, everyone hates Danny Alexander, and John Reid hates everyone. They want us to hold fast to the Union, but they themselves are only able to hold fast to their grudges.

Worried that Scottish voters have begun to ruminate on the philosophical contradictions of a better together campaign composed of separate pieces which are not only independent of one another but have declared open warfare, and which is nominally led by a man whose grasp of the campaign is as reality based as Colonel Walter E Kurtz, panicking party leaders have decided on a change in tactics.

Better Together vehemently deny that they’re in any difficulties, not at all, the No campaign has been going as swimmingly as a drowning man. They’ve changed their slogan because they’re doing so incredibly well that they only want to experience the minty freshness of a newly coined slogan all over again.

So now they’re saying No Thanks instead. Contrary to the rumour that the new slogan is based upon the answer received every time someone in Better Together suggests that Gordie and Alistair ought to kiss and make up, it was instead a product of the No campaign’s very own branding new grassroots movement, Saatchi and Saatchi – famous for advertising standards greats such as “Labour isn’t working” illustrated by a dole queue the length of the billboard. The slogan won Thatcher the 1979 General Election whereupon she proceeded to lengthen the dole queue off the billboard, down the street, and right up the M6 taking in a scenic tour of job centres in every industrial community all the way to Wick. Saatchi and Saatchi, no thanks.

In keeping with the 1980s post-industrial wasteland vibe, the new slogan looks like it was ripped it off from another famous campaigning slogan of the 80s, Nuclear Power No Thanks. Only that doesn’t really work for Westminster either does it. Trident missiles, no thanks. Tory governments, no thanks. ATOS disability interviews, no thanks. Patronising Guardian editorials, no thanks. Nicolas Witchell, no thanks. BBC weather map, no thanks. Or to give it its correct technical meteorological designation, fuckin BBC never heard of Equal Area Projection ya cartographically illiterate designwanks weather seen from London diarrhoea coloured map, no thanks. Although admittedly that last one is not such a snappy Yes slogan.

Other possible No slogans were ruled out by Saatchi and Saatchi as they didn’t play well in focus groups. Naw no noo nae need was briefly considered, but that sounded uncomfortably like an ambulance was arriving and was thought likely to cause needless upset amongst elderly Tories with angina. This threatened to obliterate half the No campaign’s grassroots membership, leaving them with only Labour cooncillors and people who want to be Labour cooncillors to rely on. However some of those were uncomfortable with the proposed new slogan too, as it brought on incidences of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after some mistook it for the sound of a polis car on its way to investigate some dodgy property deals. The only enthusiastic support it got was from George Foulkes, who said it reminded him of a dance invitation.

After ruling out the sound of an ambulance, the Saatchi team thought it might be just as well to go the whole hog and adopt the catch phrase from Mork and Mindy. Naw noo naw noo. Which might have worked, although it does bring up the uncomfortable reminder that the comedic pratfalls of naive spacecadets from another planet is quite a good description of the No campaign. But then other catchphrases from the programme were considered, and Naw noo naw noo Shazbut just didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of the Westminster Parliamentary system.

Better Together has a tin ear for language. The English language – that’s supposed to be a Union benefits lads and lassies, and they cannae even use that right. Irony is meant to be such a British value too. For shame. They’re making Michael Gove upset, and that’s supposed to be Al-Iqsammin’s job. But you require a tin ear for words when the words you utter are at such variance with truth that even the most shameless liar would cringe internally when they opened their gob, at least if they weren’t comedically clueless aliens from planet Nawnoo Nawnoo.

As a lover of words and snappy slogans, it’s immensely puzzling to me why the No campaign persist in choosing slogans that are so easy to subvert. This is all the more puzzling since these campaigning slogans are supposed to appeal to the inhabitants of a country which is famous for its verbal subversion. Scotland even invented an entire genre of poetry devoted to slag offs in verse, the fine art of flyting. And we also gifted the English language with the word fuck. It’s a Scottish word, first attested in the poetry of Dunbar – makar, versificator, flyter and piss taker for the Scottish crown – in 1503. So it’s not like we don’t have previous for taking the piss and swearing a lot.

But to be fair, it’s very difficult to come up with a decent no slogan. Just say no makes you sound like the kids from Grange Hill channelling Nancy Reagan. However the real reason for the difficulty may be explained by the very word slogan itself. It’s a loanword into English from Scottish Gaelic, a mangling of the phrase sluagh ghairm which means “shout of the host”. This is not how to say “last orders” in Gaelic, host in this instance is a more polite and twee Walter Scotty type word for “uncontrolled horde of very pissed off Scottish people”. In Gaelic the term referred to the battle cries of the clans.

Since a whole horde of shouty uncontrollable Scottish people is the philosophical opposite of all that Better Together stands for, you can appreciate their sluagh ghairm difficulty. Westminster prefers its Scottish people silenced and under control, and it’s difficult to come up with a good popular and catchy rallying call to action for a message whose essence is “Shut up and sit down”. It’s the No Slogan Slogan Paradox, coming soon to the collected works of a Scottish philosopher that Dougie Alexander can misunderstand.

Independence, yes please.


Update:  I did a wee graphic.  Click on the image for a large high resolution version you can download and print off.



The clunking fistula

The clunking fist has clunked again. Gordie’s gone and punched above his weight right through the middle of Alistair Darling’s carefully contrived strategy to frighten seven shades of shite out of Scotland. BBC Scotland’s Westminster correspondent has been speaking to Labour MPs, and they’re not best pleased. Not displeased about Ali trying to terrify their constituents, they’re fine with that. Scaring the ordinaries is part of the job when you’re an unaccountable Labour MP in a safe Scottish seat, the worst that will ever happen to your career is getting bumped up to the Lords. No, they’re displeased that Gordie’s stuffed himself like a buttplug in the diarrhoea production plan.

Some have tutted. A couple raised an eyebrow. But largely they screamed traditional Scottish miffednesses – most of which start with words beginning with f, and contain words starting with a c and ending with a t. Someone said Gordie was a bit silly. That was probably St Dougie the Diminutive, because it would spoil his Holy Wullie image to swear at a reporter. He is however looking up Bible verses containing references to arses.

The reason for the ire is that Project Fear ignored Alicsammin’s repeated demands that it was only reasonable that the First Minister of Scotland should debate with the Prime Minister of Scotland, and had ridden out the resultant fireworks. Gordie’s just relit the blue touch paper by doing the unthinkable – conceding that Alicsammin might actually have a valid point. This breaks the first rule in the Project Fear playbook, which was carefully written out by Alistair in green crayon large enough even for Gordie to read it. But Gordie was too busy hiding under his sulking rock and wouldn’t come out until he was offered a speaking engagement where he got star billing.

The calls for Davie Cameron to get kicked from one end of a debating chamber to another by Alicsammin now have Gordie’s voice in support. The guy who was in Davie Cameron’s job before him thinks that Davie ought to man up and sacrifice his dignity for Britain. Lots of people in Scotland think that too, but mainly because we relish the prospect of witnessing Davie the PR man having the pee ripped out him and rammed up his Rs.

The Labour party is now frantically seeking a stool softener for Gordon. Anything, in fact, that will help to flush him away, even a loo brush would do but Alistair has refused to supply the badger hair even though diving into toilets in search of putrid rot is his sole area of expertise outside expenses maximisation. Gordie has taken it upon himself to be the Saviour of the Union and to point out all Alistair’s errors in the process, and everyone else’s. But mainly pointing out Alistair’s, because getting one up on an entry on his ever lengthening list of Them What Done Him Wrong is how Gordie understands politics.

It is conceivably possible that Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling are the same person. They never appear in the same room together, and rumours persist that Gordon is what Alistair turns into after he’s been hit on the heid by a flying Nokia. What’s harder to conceptualise however, is how Gordon thinks he can be the reasonable Dr Jekyll to Alistair’s nasty Mr Hyde when both of them are equally monstrous.

Gordie’s been making some very unhelpful statements. In his interview with whoever believes he still possesses a nanogramme of credibility – essentially Gordie, his wife, and the UK media – he demonstrated his usual out-of-touch sensitivity to anything that he can’t take credit for himself, saying:

“I think the nationalists want people to think it’s Scotland versus Britain or Scotland versus England. And I think sometimes the government itself has fallen into this trap.”

Which isn’t actually true. It’s the No campaign that wants independence supporters to make out it’s about Scotland versus Britain or Scotland versus England, and Labour is caught up to its scrawny neck in the maws of that trap just as much as the Tories. They’re really quite upset that the Yes campaign hasn’t obliged, so they’ve decided to act as though it was true anyway, in the hope that it will become true if they repeat it often enough.

This is a tactic which is doomed to failure, as anyone who has stood in a newsagents shop clutching a worthless scratchcard will realise. It doesn’t matter how may times you assure the shopkeeper you have won the jackpot, it doesn’t alter the fact that your card shows only a lemon and an unlucky number. The only payout you’re going to get is a Labour MP worded expression of miffedness and an instruction to leave the premises and go and commit an auto-erotic sexual act, which is pretty much the payout Scotland’s voters have been delivering to the No campaign.

But the big problem faced by Project Fear is that Gordie, one of the starring ogres in the Unionist Horror Show, has decided that he’d prefer to be played by Shrek in the slasher movie version – Mike Myers being possibly the only Holywood actor whose Scottish accent is less contrived than Gordon’s. Gordie believes that Project Fear needs to be less ogresome, and should try to persuade Scots of the benefits of a diet of mouldy slugs instead of scaring us with claims that there would be no slugs at all after independence.

So as a result, and as if No Future wasn’t unconvincing enough, Scottish voters are faced with four competing versions of nawness. There’s the devonotatall of official Labour, the devohaha-we-out-devoed-Labour-and-it-wisnae-hard of the Tories, the federal fairyland of the Last of the Lib Dems, and now Gordie’s endogenous devo growth theory – which grows like a bleeding polyp up Alistair’s bum. There is theoretically a fifth version, but Nigel Farage hasn’t told Jibberjabber the Hutt what it is yet – although it promises to be a version of the Lib Dems’ federal fairyland but set in a Narnia that Romanians need an entry visa for.

The only commonality all four possess is that they have an equal chance of successfully negotiating the Commons and the Lords and passing into law, as much chance as the four flavours of ogre icecream, Gordie’s mouldy slug, Alistair’s sour grapes, Tory spoiler and the Lib Dem’s no-we-are-still-here-actually, have of surviving the mince-frying glares of an increasingly impatient Scottish public.

The No campaign was already hopelessly divided and at odds with itself. Gordie’s just opened up a new crack in the not-so-united front. Poor Gordie, he used to have a reputation as a clunking fist, now he’s a clunking fistula.



Gordon Brown – the Strangled Version

Gordon Brown, vain and pompous
Spinning round like his moral compass
Had no vision
Lost the election
What a let down is Gordon Brown

When PM, Scotland got no look
But he’s got vision now he’s touting a book
Yesterday’s man
With a fantasy plan
What a let down is Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown, his boom was a bust
He lied and smeared and shattered all trust
His dirty dossier
Won’t save the UK
What a let down is Gordon Brown

Aye aye aye aye we’re voting aye

What a let down
is Gordon Brown
What a let down
is Gordon Brown


You can listen to the original version on You Tube

100 days until the door opens

There was a nice wee story from the Basque Country that got lost amidst the Obamahoo and the AndyMurrayha that’s dominated the press over the past few days. Last week final year students in Basque high schools sat their university entrance exams. In the maths paper there was a question related to Scotland.

The students were asked to calculate the confidence levels in an opinion poll about the Scottish independence debate. According to the poll cited in the exam question, 600 people had been questioned of whom 450 were going to vote yes. Pity it wasn’t a real poll, but it was still nice to be noticed in a Basque exam paper.

The independence debate is often framed in terms of uncertainties, but it must be certain that Scotland has never enjoyed such a high profile in the world as it has right now – and that is entirely due to the fact that we have embarked upon a peaceful and legal campaign to recover Scottish independence. Across the world, people are paying Scotland an attention that they never paid this small, damp northern European country before. We’re in Basque exam questions, in headlines in Bolivian newspapers, and in current affairs in Canada. Basques, Bolivians and Canadians are talking about us, but you won’t find the BBC saying so. They only report the men from DelMonte and the manufactured astroturfing of the No campaign.

And it’s not kilts, whisky and the Loch Ness monster that they’re talking about in far flung places. They’re talking about 5 million people who may just possibly challenge the right to rule of the traditional political elites, and who will do so entirely peacefully – without a shot being fired, without riots, without civil unrest. We need to thank ourselves, we need to pat ourselves on the back. We need to tell ourselves just what we’ve achieved here. This is truly a precious and beautiful thing. The most contentious political debate imaginable, an independence campaign – a debate which usually starts in violence and ends in war, and Scotland is doing it her own way, a peaceful way, a democratic way, a way filled with laughter and smiles. We are ordinary people, we do extraordinary things. And we do them far far better than our closed minded and narrow visioned political class could ever do. We’re showing them how politics should be done.

All over the world people are paying close attention to this debate, yet here in Scotland most people have little idea just how remarkable the events of the Scottish Summer really are – because our media is full of the complaints of politicians, bewailing rude names on Twitter as harbingers of the end of civilisation, likening growls from wee mongrel dugs to the devastation of Hiroshima. The litany of negativity never ceases, the pre-arranged scares and concerted fears ramp up ever higher into the stratosphere of surrealism.

There’s 100 days to go before 18 September. An independent Scotland will not be a paradise, we will have challenges, we will have set backs, but Scotland will decide her own destiny. The fate of this country will lie in the hands of its own people. The Yes campaign is creating a picture of the Scotland that is being born – a colourful collage of Celtic knotworks, Asian floral patterns, Italian masterpieces, English miniatures, African prints and Polish design. A people in movement, moving towards the world and open to it. We’re looking to the future, we’re making it up as we go along, and we’re making something beautiful. This is what we can do when we put our minds to it when we step outside the pencil box that Westminster has put us in, a box where the only pictures are grey still-lifes, frozen and fearful.

100 more days of the No campaign, po-faced and pettit lipped, lost in past glories, tellers of scare stories, the warmongers, back hander bungers, benefits cutters, ifs and butters, Iraq-invaders, Trident cravers, casino bankers, Thatcher thankers, clueless dopes, killers of hope, asset strippers, swivel eyed Kippers, nay-sayers, truth slayers, BBC junkies, peerage monkeys, dependency touters, ProudScot doubters, expenses blaggers and privatisers, poison daggers and boardroom misers – lecturing Scotland on our antisocial behaviour while they tell us to vote for No future, a future that goes from crap to crappier. The best they can offer is that things might just get back to being crap again.

Compare and contrast. What sort of country do you want to live in. You can live in a land of hope, or you can live in the land of the po-faced and the pettit lip. A country where you’re told what’s good for you while the rich get ever richer and inequalities widen, where emigration in search of work is described as a Union benefit. Or an independent country governed by people who live here, people we can vote out of office if they do not live up to our expectations.

A Slovene friend once told me why he supported independence for his small country. He said: I love my country because it is small and harmless, and it needs people to look after it.

This small and harmless country is ours, and we will look after it because it is our home. Westminster politicians said that they wanted to turn the country into a land of owner occupiers when they sold off the family silver, we will answer them by telling them we’ll be the owner occupiers of our own land. All that interests them is how they can use our resources and our talents to further their own careers. Let’s make the future of Scotland our priority, the future of our children, our grandchildren, and generations yet to come. Let’s show the world what a small and harmless country can do, and be a voice for peace and justice in this world.

The key is in our hands. 100 days to go until we open the door and step out into the fresh clean air.


Scotland’s Big Yes/No Debate

A guest video post by David Milligan

This is the first in a planned series of videos from the Facebook group Scotland’s Big Yes/No Debate.  With over 10,000 members, the group offers a sane and respectful space for people who are yes voters, no voters, and undecided to talk about the issues around Scottish independence.

If you know people who are undecided and are seeking more information and discussion where no one is going to scream abuse at anyone else, this is the Facebook group for them.  Click on the following link for more information.

Vote ZA! Another Slovenian perspective

A guest post by Donald Urquhart


In May 1991 I was painting in my studio in Glasgow when there was a knock at the door. It was Andrew Nairn of the Third Eye Centre (later the CCA) with an invitation to an opportunity he was the UK selector for. Would I go to Yugoslavia in October for four weeks to join a colony of international artists making art on the Adriatic, all expenses paid?

Not the toughest decision to make, so before long I was put in contact with the organiser, Matjaz Gruden. I found out the area I was going to was the northwest bit of Yugoslavia called Slovenia. I fully admit to having had only a basic knowledge of Yugoslavia at the time; Tito, Dynamo Zagreb, and that was about it.

In a bit of basic research I found out a wee bit more about Slovenia, through which I saw some parallels to Scotland emerge …

They were 2 million of 22 million.

Whilst historically a nation, Slovenia was considered a region of Yugoslavia

The distance from them to the capital of Yugolslavia, Belgrade, was about 500 miles.

They contributed more to the overall economy than they got back.

They had preserved their own language and had a very strong sense of self, expressed through a dynamic cultural scene.

They wanted their independence.

They were not very good at football.

I began to look forward to my forthcoming visit in the knowledge that it seemed the sort of place I could fit in. In fact it seemed to have something of the familiar to it.

Now, for reasons known to herself and not directly pertinent to this narrative, a friend’s girlfriend broke up with him. This sad event happened on the 25th June 1991. My friend called me the next morning wondering if he could call round, as I’d not left for my studio … Well what are friends for?

And so it came to pass that I spent the 26th of June in my flat with my morose friend. I despatched whisky and sage advice (.. there’s plenty more wrinkles on the prune etc. etc. ) in repeat doses. Five hours of counselling later I was running out of both cliches and whisky. “To the bar,” I announced, “… problems are smaller in bars.”

It was late when I got home, I vaguely remember bouncing off the wall on my way home, as I congratulated myself on sending my friend home, marginally less suicidal than he had been earlier in the day.

It was then I got the fax from Matjaz in Slovenia…

“Friends, this is the darkest day in the history of Slovenia” it read, “We are a peace loving country and are under attack from the Yugoslav army. Support us in your hearts and minds. We are at war.”

The next morning, I woke up extremely hungover and with a vague recollection that I’d done something stupid the night before. The something stupid turned out to be a seventeen page reply faxed to Matjaz.

I will spare you the details, but my reply was not short of emotion, being as it was like a cross between the Gettysburg address and Braveheart, the movie. Burns was in there, as was the Declaration of Arbroath, even a reference to St Johnstone.

More troubling were the lines, “I will come to Slovenia, no matter the situation. Even if I have to, I’ll make art under fire. The invitation to a Scot by a Slovene has nothing to do with Belgrade. I will join you in your struggle.”

At once I understood the role of strong drink in engendering a false sense of bravery. As my ‘whisky fuelled’ fax was arriving with Matjaz, the other artists were contacting him to decline their acceptance to visit Slovenia, but I was not to know that until later.

The war in Slovenia was short, and mercifully not too horrendous, lasting only twelve days. Since then Slovenia has been an independent state within the European Union.

It was, therefore, almost three months after the war that I arrived at Brnick Airport in Ljubljana. I noticed the small reception committee as I exited customs and assumed a minor Slovene celebrity had been on the flight. It turned out to be for me. A band struck up, handshakes and a guy in a suit pinned a medal on my lapel. Drink was offered by a lady in national costume. I’d been awarded the Badge of Honour for Services to Slovenian Independence. It sits, to this day, on my mantelpiece.

You see, my fax had struck a chord. When most Slovenes had thought nobody in Europe had heard of them or cared for their struggle, my fax was read on the radio. I was told, “You seemed to understand our need for freedom.” I decided at this point not to confess to the utter lack of sobriety at the time of writing.

I stayed in Slovenia for six weeks in the beautiful coastal town of Piran. It was a fascinating time, the post independence euphoria co-existing with despair at the ongoing situation and war in neighbouring Croatia.

At the end of my stay my work was exhibited in Gallerija Ars in Ljubljana. As we walked towards the gallery for the opening I thought I heard bagpipes away in the distance. The closer we got to the gallery the clearer and louder the pipes appeared. Matjaz had organized a piper, David Grant. I never found out if David got a Badge of Honour for Services to Slovenian Independence but he certainly deserved one.

In early 1991 David set off with his family from Orkney to be the first to circumnavigate the globe by horse drawn caravan.

They got to the north of Slovenia where their horse contracted Hepatitis C, and had to recuperate for a few months in a horse clinic near Maribor. On the outbreak of war on the 26th June David took his family over the border into Austria, but returned to Maribor with his pipes. During some of the clashes with military planes overhead, David played his pipes to keep morale up. He was interviewed on Slovene TV, making similar points to my fax, only more succinctly and soberly.

After the war David and his family were given teaching work and housing by the Council in Maribor until their horse recovered. It was through the police that he was contacted and asked to pipe at my opening.

Through this initial contact with Slovenia I met many friends who, today, are like a second family to me. I return regularly and have lost count of the number of times I’ve been there. I can assure you that the views purporting to come from Slovenia that reach you via the comments in certain newspapers are in no way typical. I have had many wishes of support for Scottish independence from Slovenia. The only question I get is why it’s taking us so long.

Whilst it has had its problems, most notably since the economic crisis, Slovenia is a model for a successful small country. It has flourished in the twenty three years since gaining its independence , with a high standard of living and an excellent and improving infrastructure. Life expectancy and literacy are higher there than in Scotland.

With a population and area about 40% of Scotland’s it seems to be doing just fine. Economically, in 2013, Die Welt ranked Slovenia among the three least vulnerable European countries topped only by Germany and Estonia.

I was last there at New Year. A plane, with propellers, flew overhead and my friend Gorazd asked rhetorically if I knew what it was. “That,” he said, “is one third of the Slovenian Air Force.”

Despite its history in 1991, contemporary Slovenia sees no need to spend vast amounts of its GDP on weaponry. It holds no capability to invade anywhere.

It is a shame that Slovenia cannot be held up to Scotland as a shining example. It was of course on the 26th of June 1991 that, simultaneously, Slovenia and Croatia began a process that became the Balkan Conflict. That horror over shadows everything that Slovenia has achieved and makes it a difficult exemplar.

I have never heard a single voice in Slovenia against democratic nation states determining their own destiny.


Donald Urquhart


The shamelessness of John Reid

John Reid, before he got a peerage for services to Tony Blair, insisted on being called Dr Reid. Now he’s Dr Frankenstein Lord John Reid Baron of Warmongering UKOK – and he’s very upset that nasty independence supporters are abusing poor defenceless politicians. The abuse here is not a reference to John being felt up in a dark alley by a strange man who’s offered him a bagful of security consultancy sweeties, he’s complaining that people are saying rude things about him. Like calling him Dr Frankenstein Baron of Warmongering, or wondering aloud if you can barge your way through to the front of a crowd at the scene of an accident shouting ‘let me through I once wrote a thesis on the slave trade in 18th century Nigeria’.

John wrote a thesis on the evils of the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century, which saw millions of people kidnapped, transported across the Atlantic in chains, and held in brutal captivity on Caribbean islands, making a small number of rich and privileged American and European plantation owners even richer and more privileged. Nowadays John does work for the Chertoff Group, a company founded by Michael Chertoff the former US Secretary for Homeland Security. John Reid’s boss had a key role in running the US detention centre at Guantánamo – kidnapping people, transporting them across the Atlantic in chains, holding them in brutal captivity on a Caribbean island, and making a small number of rich and privileged American and European security company directors and consultants even richer and more privileged. But it’s probably abusive to point that out, unless you adopt managementwankspeak in which case it’s synergy.

John’s made a career out of abusing voters’ trust. He doesn’t think that we should be allowed to complain about it, he doesn’t think that now he’s no longer in elected office he should cease influencing our laws, and he’s upset that he’s not being accorded the respect given to Dr Frankenstein – although if a horde of Transylvanian peasants bearing torches and pitchforks were to turn up at his front door John would be the first to complain that they’d been sent by Alicsammin.

It’s a funny thing respect. When you demand it, it’s a guarantee that you’re not going to get any. Especially in Scotland where the answer to the question “Do you know who I am?” is “I know whit ye are.” Respect cuts two ways, you only get respect when you show respect. John’s career has demonstrated that the only respect he has is the respect he demands from others in order to compensate for his lack of self-respect, or indeed his missing sense of shame.

Now John is attempting to link his own demands for respect to the respect due to those who fought and died on the beaches of Normandy. You can accuse John of many things, but the ability to recognise when you’re being crass isn’t one of them. Today in the Scotsman there’s a report that John has been criticised for linking the commemorations of the D-Day Landings to the independence referendum. He claimed that the landings showed that “men and women drawn from Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales – ordinary men and women […] did extraordinary things and did it together” with the clear implication that it’s only possible for ordinary people to do extraordinary things under the aegis of the Westminster Parliament.

John’s comments are an insult to the memory of those who died on the beaches of Normandy – it is not for him or anyone else to tell modern generations what the personal motivations of the fallen were. My Irish republican grandfather served in WWII, he took no part in the D-Day landings and thankfully he survived the conflict, but he was not fighting for King and Country, he was fighting against fascism. Those who died on the beaches of northern France died for noble personal reasons of their own, we mourn them because they were humans and individuals, and the war cost them their lives. They are no longer here to tell us what they did it for or what it meant to them. That’s why we mourn and commemorate them John, not because the event glorifies the corrupt and venal politicians we’re lumbered with today.

John Reid’s remarks are also an insult to the thousands who fought and died on D-Day who were not Scottish, Irish, Welsh or English. The Canadians, Poles, Americans and the rest who fought and died were not doing so in order to preserve the Westminster Parliament’s rule over Scotland. They were fighting against the evils of the Nazi regime. The D-Day Landings were not a Westminster affair, they came about because of co-operation between independent democratic nations who freely chose to act in concert against fascism.

There is no positive and substantial case for the Union. John Reid is reduced to doing what he and his ilk accuse independence supporters of – resting their case upon emotive and selective misreadings of a past that is long past. D-Day will remain in history, whatever happens in September. And Scottish people will continue to mourn the loss of the brave and noble servicemen and women from all over the globe who came together to fight against a great evil.

And hopefully, in the future, the politicians in a Scottish Parliament will not employ that sacrifice to make a cheap political point in a democratic debate. If they do, we’ll be able to express our displeasure by voting them out of office and removing them from public life. Westminster does not give us that option with John Reid – and that John, is why we are having this independence debate now.

Jezerna Roza – an apology

‘Jezerna Roza’ once posted on the Herald, however the terms and conditions of that publication demand that people who leave comments do so under their real names. ‘Jezerna Roza’ is not a real name. It is therefore evident that ‘Jezerna Roza’ was misrepresenting herself, a point which she herself has conceded by her admission that ‘Jezerna Roza’ is not her real name. I understand she has admitted that she was banned from posting on the Herald for breaching the publication’s terms and conditions and misrepresenting her identity.

It is therefore disingenuous of ‘Jezerna Roza’ to complain in the comments section of the Guardian that others have speculated as to the nature of her misrepresentation, as I did in an article published several months ago – at a time when readership of this blog scarcely broke into double figures.

I can assure ‘Jezerna Roza’ that she is quite mistaken as to the intention behind the publication of the original blog piece. I would ask her to reflect upon the impossibility of embarking upon a vicious personal attack against an impersonal online ID and the fact that it is logically and legally impossible to defame an anonymous indvidual. My “modus operandi” was not, as she claims in the Guardian comments, to embark upon a vicious personal attack against her. I am afraid that I am in fact considerably more sleekit than that.

My “modus operandi” was to speculate on the limited amount of available information about ‘Jezerna Roza’s’ motives, and thus provoke her into revealing further information which would allow other below-the-line commentators to gain insight into the motivations behind her copious running commentary exclusively on articles about a small and distant country she clearly knows little about. This would then allow them decide for themselves whether ‘Jezerna Roza’ was a political sock puppet, or someone who apparently obsessively projects their own emotional issues resulting from the traumatic and violent breakup of Yugoslavia onto the very different circumstances of the Scottish independence debate.

‘Jezerna Roza’ not only took the bait, but also identified herself as the same individual using other online IDs such as ‘Albiesalba’. I have made no mention of those other online personas. The responsiblity for linking these IDs publicly to ‘Jezerna Roza’ lies solely with the individual concerned. If the online credibility of these other IDs has been compromised, ‘Jezerna Roza’ has only herself to thank for it.

However I would like to thank ‘Jezerna Roza’ for her description of me as “the Guru of Scottish Yes supporters”. I had thought that the aches in my knees were due to arthritis, I now discover it is in fact a product of typing blog posts while sitting in the lotus position. If I have attained the lofty heights of gurudom, it is in no small measure due to the sterling efforts of ‘Jezerna Roza’ in publicising this blog. I urge ‘Jezerna Roza’ to look up the meaning of the English idiom “to make a rod for one’s own back”.

Political sock-puppetry is morally reprehensible, however it is a perfectly sane and logical tactic, and is the only conceivable rational explanation for the motivations behind ‘Jezerna Roza’s’ comment history – which now runs into hundreds of thousands of words. But a sane and logical political sock puppet in the employ of a party would not have republished a link to a blog article exposing their sock puppetry, ensuring that the article gains a far greater readership than it otherwise would, and giving this blog considerable traffic from the pages of the Guardian – at a time when blog readership exceeds 110,000 page views monthly.

I am sorry that my attempts to seek rational and logical explanations for ‘Jezerna Roza’s’ online posting behaviour have distressed her. I now see that I was incorrect and thank her for pointing this out. But since the rational and logical explanations for ‘Jezerna Roza’s’ online posting behaviour have been ruled out, that leaves only irrational and illogical explanations.

I would not presume to lecture the inhabitants of Slovenia about the constitutional future of their country, even though I am considerably more knowledgeable about the history and culture of Slovenia than ‘Jezerna Roza’ is about Scotland. (A long time ago before I met my partner, I had a Slovene lover. Funnily enough all the Slovenes I ever met were wildly enthusiastic about Scottish independence. It saddens me greatly that the image of this remarkable and beautiful small country has been sullied in the Scottish media by the obsessive postings of ‘Jezerna Roza’. In my experience, she is not representative of Slovene opinion.)

If ‘Jezerna Roza’ does indeed have a valid contribution to make to the Scottish independence debate, then I urge her to do as I have done – to have the strength of her convictions and publish her views under her real name. Otherwise I will continue to be of the opinion that ‘Jezerna Roza’ is merely an unfortunate individual who is projecting her own post-Yugoslav traumas onto the future of Scotland, and from a position of emotionally charged ignorance is lecturing the inhabitants of a country she knows little about.

Failing that ‘Jezerna Roza’ should be dismissed without further consideration as an object of pity. I shall therefore return to skipping over her comments without reading them.



Trams and a wet Yes in the Park

Has independence had any more blows? I was away at Yes in the Park and didn’t see the news. It’s safe to say it probably did though, as independence gets more blows than Whitelees Windfarm. But that’s still standing too.

It was a great day with traditionally Scottish summer weather, it pissed doon all afternoon. Despite receiving no publicity in the mainstream media, and an atrocious weather forecast, there was an enthusiastic crowd of, well, loads. Don’t ask me to estimate. Admittedly after the rain started really tipping it down, a lot of people buggered off – which if nothing else proves that independence supporters are certainly not insane. Mind you tomorrow we can expect a press release from Blair McDougall saying that today’s event proves conclusively that alicsammin can’t guarantee better weather after independence, so we’re better off with Westminster’s fog of war. I’d still prefer the uncertainty of independence weather above Westminster’s guarantee that a depression will sit over Scotland forever.

wetdugAnyway – a huge thanks to Sharon for giving the dug and me a lift, to all those lovely people from Yes Clydesdale who let us shelter in their stall and escape from the rain, and the equally lovely people from Wings Over Scotland who bribed the dug with a roll and square sausage. Here’s a photie of a very wet dug at the Yes Clydesdale stall.

Due to popular requests (no, really), here are some more photies of the model tramway. If you’ve not read my previous posts on this topic, I started to build this after my partner was diagnosed with vascular dementia. The plan is to exhibit in in residential homes for elderly people and people with dementia as reminiscence project. The idea is to use the model trams and Glasgow buildings as a way of helping residents and their families and carers engage with one another.

I am a complete novice with models like this, so have been trying to keep the technical aspects as simple as possible. The layout is built from ordinary model train track, embedded into flooring cork glued to an MDF board. The cobblestones around the track are made from a flexible roll of cobblestone roadway made by a German company, which were cut into strips and glued into place. The asphalt surface is made from wet and dry sandpaper. The pavements are made from pieces of thick card, painted grey with acrylics then inscribed with a sharp pencil to create the paving stones.

DSCF0235The tenements are made from scratch using thick card. The stone effect is created by gluing blotting paper to the carcass, soaking it in dilute PVA glue, then inscribing it with a sharp pencil. When it’s dry it gives a nice textured stonework effect which can be painted. Painting is a bit tricky, and I’m still trying to improve my technique. The roofs are made from strips of thin cardboard which are fluted, then glued to a thicker card in an overlapping pattern and trimmed to size. Then the whole thing is painted grey. They’re all based on real buildings from the East End of Glasgow. All the buildings have internal lights operated by batteries with a switch hidden in the base. The lights are cheapo strings of Christmas lights.

DSCF0236The wee statue of the Duke of Wellington was made from a model soldier on horseback, painted black, and stuck on a plinth I made from card and painted. I was going to make a wee traffic cone, but then discovered that model railway shops sell ready made ones in miniature roadworks scenery kits. So that was easy.

DSCF0238Once I’ve finished making all the pavements, I’ll get started on some more buildings. Next up will be a copy of Riddrie library – which has an interesting shape and will sit nicely on a corner – a copy of the Sarry Heid pub in the Gallowgate, and a model tram depot which will be a mash up of real buildings as it has to fit a precise space on the layout and there’s no real buildings which fit exactly.

The two Glasgow trams are a number 9 to Auchenshuggle and a number 24 to Langside. They started off life as non-motorised diecast models, which a very talented friend repainted in beautiful Glasgow Corporation livery. Then they were sent to another friend who put in working internal lights and electric motors allowing the trams to run on model railway track. They are now officially my favouritest things.

DSCF0231The other trams I’ve currently got are a model London Feltham tram, which used to run along the end of my partner’s street in London when he was a wee boy, and a 1970s Madrid tram – a prezzie from the lovely Pilar in Galicia. I’m hoping to get a working Barcelona Blau tram soon, and am plotting how to convert a cheapo model tram I bought on eBay into a model Vigo tram – the most famous tram in Galicia.

There’s still a lot to do, but it keeps me amused. And more importantly allows me to feel that I am doing a wee bit to help people with dementia.



Visibly reducing the appearance of Danny Alexander

So you can’t buy any Lego figures with your UKDivvie after all. Lego has written to the UK Government to tell them to remove all images of their product from the Treasury’s daft political adverts. The most iconic brand name from a successful independent northern European country of 5 million people does not want to be associated with a campaign to prevent another northern European country of 5 million people from becoming successful and independent too. Lego has complained to the UK Government that its figures were used without permission and without its knowledge, and their use runs contrary to the company’s policy of political neutrality. Lego has pointed out that they make toys for kids to help them learn through imagination and play, not political propaganda. The Treasury has difficulty seeing why this is a problem, since all the adverts were doing was playing political games with imaginary money.

Unlike real Lego adverts, the Treasury Lego adverts are paid for by the very people who are being advertised to. They’re taking your money, and spending it so they can persuade you to keep on giving them your money. You might say that’s exactly the same as real Lego adverts, which are funded by the profits made by the company which in turn come from people buying Lego. But at least Lego buyers get tiny plastic people who appeal to children in return for their money … Oh … I see what you mean …

Commercial advertising is legally prohibited from making claims which are untrue, which is why they’re so often hedged about with statements like “visibly reduces the appearance of wrinkles” which is what you put in an advert when you want to say “reduces wrinkles” but the sciencey bit won’t back you up. “Visibly reduces the appearance of” doesn’t actually mean anything specific. You can visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles by putting a paper bag over your head. It’s a lot cheaper too. They could just as equally say “visibly reduces the appearance of Danny Alexander”, which would probably do much more to guarantee increased sales although it still wouldn’t get him off the telly talking pish about non-existent UKDividends. Mind you, in Danny’s case we’d all prefer the paper bag over his head. That’s a look that would definitely work for him.

But really unlike real Lego adverts, political adverts are not bound by the advertising standards code. They can say any auld bollocks that they like – as long as it’s not defamatory or incitement to commit a criminal offence. It doesn’t matter whether they’re produced by a Government department, a political party, or an astroturf campaign funded by rich Tories outside Scotland and designed by a marketing and branding specialist which was clueless about the market in question. Adverts produced by parties and campaigning groups during an election or referendum campaign are not regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority. You can complain to them all you like, but they’ll act like your appearance has been visibly reduced and you’ve got a paper bag over your head.

This is not actually a bad thing. We live in a democracy and it’s a fundamental human right to make a clown out of yourself in a public place. You can’t legislate against vanity and shortsightedness, and you can’t legislate against vain and shortsighted people voting. Or standing for office, as a quick perusal of most elected politicians will demonstrate. When you combine vanity, shortsightedness, and a whopping great dose of self-interest, you produce a situation where even theoretically intelligent people will come out with the most stupid of claims. Claims whose relationship to reality started off as tangential, before corkscrewing out of control into some fantasy land inhabited by people who say they believe in a federal Britain and are prepared to vote for a pig in a poke. Which brings us back to Danny.

Danny Alexander, and the rest of Project Fear, are under no obligation to tell the truth. And in a functioning democracy there can be no obligations put on them to tell the truth. Otherwise it threatens our own right to make clowns out of ourselves in public places. But the UK isn’t a functioning democracy because there’s no one doing the sciencey bit. A healthy media sector ought to be broadly representative of the society it serves. The media is supposed to investigate the claims made by political parties and campaign groups, to uncover inconsistencies and highlight falsehoods, and where it the media sector as a whole is representative of the entire population, that happens successfully. That’s the sciencey bit in political advertising. And it can even be done without resorting to made up words that you’ve trademarked.

But instead the traditional UK media is a campaigning group themselves. The problem arises because almost all the media outlets have the same stance. Positive news for the Yes campaign is sidelined or ignored, while there is little or no investigation into the inconsistencies and falsehoods of the No campaign. It’s perfectly fine for an individual publication to have a stance. Dante Alighieri said that the darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who stayed neutral during a time of moral crisis. Having a open and publicly stated stance is in many ways more honest than attempting to be neutral, whose only saving grace is that it’s more honest than pretending to be neutral. State broadcasters hadn’t been invented in Dante’s day, and he hadn’t considered the possibility that the darkest places in Hell might have a sub-basement with a BBC Scotland studio.

But on further investigation it wasn’t Dante who said that the darkest places were reserved for the neutral. It was JFK misquoting Dante. This is precisely the sort of investigative reporting that’s not being done in the UK media. Youshould always investigate what a politican tells you, even when it’s JFK or Barack Obama – never mind Danny with a paper bag over his heid. The only investigation the UK media likes to do is to investigate ways it can be spun into a blow for Alicsammin.

The missing check to the missing balance is the sheer impossibility of holding politicians to account. When they belong to the established UK parties, voting them out of office doesn’t work. They just get a seat in the Lords as a consolation prize. You’d imagine that after pissing off the electorate to the extent that the voters kick them out of office would mean it’s the voters who are in need of consolation, but in the UK it works the other way about. He’ll just become Baron Danny of Paper Bag.

Danny Alexander is so dumb even his imaginary friends want to play with other kids. Even Westminster’s imaginary Lego friends don’t want to play with them any more. And these are the people who want to make all the rules for the rest of us. These are the people who are quite happy with a media that doesn’t investigate their idiocies and ensure that’s all we get.

Let’s vote yes in September and take Danny’s toys away from him. It’s the scientifically guaranteed method of not only visibly reducing the appearance of Danny Alexander and the rest of the plastic figure princes and princesses of Westminster, but giving them them sack for good.