It’s quiet…too quiet

A guest post by Samuel Miller

Other than the daily white noise of Essenpee badness, has anyone else noticed the lack of serious political news out there? Maybe we all got spoiled in May, June and July when daily we were bombarded with the Scottish elections, EU referendum and the Brexit result fallout. As for the effects of the latter on her majesty’s guv and their ‘honourable’ opposition? Popcorn sales shot through the roof in Scotland as the Conservative and Labour parties serialized the political equivalent of the latest summer disaster movie.

The grand Tory pissing contest of Brexitmageddon had everything a Hollywood producer could ask for as lead characters and parties were thrown into full on chaos. You didn’t dare leave your screen, even for a pee break, as resignations, back stabbings, retirements, sackings, abdications and coronations flew everywhere and seemingly all at once. And now? Now it’s so quiet out there… you could hear a fish fart.

Cue the traditional silly season of ‘news’.

Oor meeja (bless em), presenting a daily diet of stories constructed from ingredients so thin you’d struggle to come up with an appetizer, let alone a three course meal. ‘Course that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening out there, simply that it’s being carefully managed and the government press office have their cell phones on mute. As readers will recall, we’ve recently theorized why both Prime Minister Theresa May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon need time on their side right about now. It’s a safe bet to say, that however quiet it appears to be, governments north and south of the border are more than likely a hive of activity. The clock is ticking down and between you and me I’m guessing it’s PM May who is feeling that autumn is approaching way too quickly for comfort.

We may not know when article 50 and the ongoing omnishambles that is Brexit negotiations will be enacted, but we do know that the autumn budget isn’t that far off. Philip Hammond’s ‘fiscal reset’ will be the public’s first clue as to the immediate future of the UK’s economy post referendum and for many it may well prove a cold hard shock to the system. Not so much of a shock for anyone familiar with Conservative austerity ideology or its effects to be sure, but I’m guessing that’s all about to change. For some folks out there it’s probably a good day to make sure you’re sitting comfortably with all breakable objects of any value safely out of reach.

The one bright light on the horizon for the PM is that Labour’s leadership stooshie should overlap this impending ‘bad day at work’ quite nicely. Readers are well aware by this point of the struggle between the two factions for the soul of the Labour party. Depending on how the leadership vote unfolds and concludes, there is a very real  possibility that the Labour party, as we know it, will face a darker and longer night in the wilderness than anyone could have possibly imagined. If some permanent schism does occur? I’d be stunned if titles supportive of Conservative government didn’t hit the rinse and repeat button messily and all over the place right through Mr Hammond’s autumn budget statement.

So what is the one thing common to all of the above and how is it pertinent to Scotland and the readers of this site?

That’s right! No one in Scotland, not in the street or in public service, has any say or control over party and parliamentary events that will have very real consequences for all of us. The party of government and their loyal opposition are probably in the middle of the worst legislative systemic failure in the UK’s post war political record and the Scottish electorate basically have to wait for them to get their collective shit together.

Or do we?

We know the Scottish government have been busy on the Brexit front. They have assembled their committee for assessing options. They’ve hit the road consulting with relevant bodies in Europe and they’ve set in motion preparations for an indyref bill  (just in case). First Minister Sturgeon has recently held a Q&A session with EU nationals to keep those concerned as appraised of the ongoing situation as possible and the SG have even scraped together a few quid from last year’s underspend to help out the economy. No, it’ll be nowhere near enough in the end, but if it saves just one business, one job?  They are now however, at that point where they are restricted in actions they can take as a government until Brexit is actually triggered.

What of Scotland’s electorate?

Well, those who continue to support the current political union and the Westminster system of government will have to simply sit on their hands and hope for the best. That’s pretty much all they can do.

Then there are those who support the idea that a Scottish electorate is best served by a government in Scotland.

If, as many suspect, the finding of the SG’s consultative committee is that remaining a member of both unions is at best extremely problematic and at worst a constitutional impossibility? Then its highly probable that as soon as article 50 is set in motion the Scottish government will move to pass that referendum bill through Holyrood. This will allow the Scottish electorate to resolve for themselves the current constitutional crisis and you can’t say fairer than that.

In which case, this could prove a fairly busy and productive period as pro YES groups seek to ‘put the band back together’. That’s the thing about political engagement in a popular sovereignty. There are always places to be, things to do and LOTS of people to talk to.

What do you think?

N.B. This will be my final post before the heid honcho gets back. I’d just like to thank folks for visiting the site whilst Paul’s been having a well earned break and also for the excellent contributions to the threads. Much appreciated.

Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of @lumi_1984

Who needs a sword?

A guest post by Samuel Miller

‘The pen is mightier than the sword’

True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!

From the play Richelieu; Or The Conspiracy: Edward Bulwer-Lytton

In short? The written word is powerful. People can be moved to acts of great kindness and humanitarian aid, or they can be moved to acts of intolerance and great inhumanity. They can be motivated to feel true empathy, humour, regret, hope, aspiration even. Or they can be made to feel doubt, uncertainty, anger, fear and hatred. In the hands of a true wordsmith it is a tool or a weapon that can influence the emotions and opinions of individuals and populations alike for good or ill.

The medium of newsprint is a tool, as are radios, TVs, tablets, laptops etc. They lie there harmless to all until someone starts to speak to you through them. It is the intent of the user, the nature of the platform from which they speak, which determines whether they remain tools, or become weapons.

THAT is the power of the media.

To coin a popular phrase from pop culture though, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’, or in the case of our media, what responsibility?

After the broadcast time and column space filled over the past four years by the Uk’s media, do I really need to post links to every video, front page or quote written about Scotland’s electorate, the YES movement, or the Scottish Government? Is it necessary to point out or remind everyone that the language used across the media has been less than uplifting or positive? The writers and broadcasters know exactly what they are doing. They have a stake in the outcome and it doesn’t matter whether that is corporate, ideological, political, or all three together.  They are attempting to achieve a goal by any means necessary that is within their power. The aim of the exercise is to remove a potential or perceived threat to their political view/influence, their world view and quite possibly their livelihoods. To be crystal clear, I actually don’t have a problem with their right to earn a coin or believe what they choose. A ‘right’ is not a serving suggestion. I do however, have a major problem with the ‘any means necessary’ part though, which constitutes a massive grey area and which some elements in the media industry find acceptable and exploitable.

They know that the language they use and the narrative they sell affects emotion and opinion. It is pretty much the day job and they’ve been doing it for a very long time. It also has a very real impact on and very real consequences for people’s lives. That’s the part many in media land don’t appear too big on holding their hands up to. When the emotions and opinions they manipulate spill over into harm for the public, the media are just as quick to fill column space with outrage and… ‘sympathy’? That sells too apparently.

Harm can be realised through emotional distress in terms of manufactured anxiety, fear and doubt, or as actual physical harm as one sector of our society is encouraged to mistrust or alienate another. How many times have we seen our public institutions and services undermined by politicians and commentators writing columns as point scoring exercises, misrepresenting demographics, or mis-stating ‘facts’ in order to affect voting intent? What happens if those who read those columns don’t call that emergency number, or don’t call for that ambulance because they have been encouraged to lose trust or confidence that their needs will be met? What happens when politicians the public have been encouraged to vote into power enact societally disastrous legislation? (see under the current administration’s management of the DWP)

The result in all instances is the same… a very real potential for tragedy. As for the public? Collateral damage, electoral coin and seemingly expendable till the next time their opinion requires influencing.

Oh, and the perennial get out of jail free card is insult upon injury. ‘Its a free country. You didn’t have to buy. You didn’t have to read. You didn’t have to watch. You didn’t have to listen and you didn’t have to believe’. No, no I suppose all of that’s true. So long as you choose to live in a cave up by Cape Wrath and foraged for food, you could quite easily avoid media saturation or those who have been influenced by it in your life. This is basically what’s known as a total abandonment of responsibility, or passing the buck. I sometimes wonder if they realise quite how far the effects of their influence go, or do they actually care what those affects may be? Apparently not. I mean they’re just words and its your choice… right? So what is there to feel guilty about or responsible for?

We are all inevitably influenced by our environment, our experiences and those who touch upon our lives. We all choose to trust or believe in someone or something who has an impact on our perceptions. The politicians and the media movers and shakers know this, they count on it. Using the power of blanket media coverage they exploit this behaviour and you in that order, then wash their hands of the consequences by insisting you had freedom of choice.

This debate, this national conversation of ours has been going on, not just for eight or nine years, but for decades and it’s only now coming to a head. How the next chapter in the history of these islands begins is going to come down to the message and the messenger. Look to the example of both recent referendums. Look carefully at the language used by the campaigns, the media, the backers and the supporters. Assess for yourself, the cause and the effect of the language used to influence your opinion by the media especially and consider the fallout politically and societally in the aftermath of both.  Do you like what you see?

The UK that we see today is the end result of the narrative created by thoughtless political strategists and delivered by overly invested and/or compromised mainstream media. This is the UK you get to live in when you use language as a weapon.

Well the way I see it, the YES movement have a very different message and a very different messenger. How we, all of us, put that message across in the future will determine how that next chapter turns out.

A couple of handy links:


A reminder


Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of @lumi_1984

Deal or no deal

A guest post by Samuel Miller

First of all let’s be clear that this post is NOT exclusively about Kezia Dugdale. Besides, the ever vigilant Wings over Scotland has pretty much got the ups, downs, backwards and forwards of Kezia’s current predicament pretty well dissected. How and ever, it was Kezia’s latest exchange on twitter with Ruth Davidson coupled with the seemingly never ending releases by the branch office and meeja, which begs a fairly straight forward question. We’ll get to that question in a minute.

Anyroads, for those of yooz who have been trekking in the more remote regions of the Amazon basin searching for the botanical cure to athlete’s foot for the past six months, here is what its all about. The Essenpee are bad. They are pure rotten badness personified. They are black hatted, twirly moustached, back shootin’, hoss stealin’, cattle rustlin’ bad. In fact they’re so bad, nobody wants to play with them or even admit to having known them. Well, no one other than the Greens, Plaid Cymru, a fair number of the voting public in Scotland and apparently, (not to mention surprisingly), some Corbyn supporting members of the PLP who are up for some grown up politics.

This is a curious, not to mention unique situation in the UKs political history, since pretty much all of the unionist parties have at one time or another, even in the past sixteen years, worked together, voted together or even formed a coalition partnership or two. Labour, a party which led us into a dubious overseas conflict and presided over economic carnage has been known to periodically cut deals with notorious serial fibbers and enablers. The Conservatives, a party known for their warm fuzzy nature and outward looking and inclusive joie de vivre also aren’t above looking for dance partners when the occasion arises. Needless to say their recent coalition with those self same serial fibbers won’t be forgotten anytime soon either. I actually don’t think there is enough space, even on a digital page, to list their recent crimes against the populations of the UK. In times of extreme national emergency, the three establishment parties have even been known to share platforms, hold hands, sing Kumbaya and have sleepovers (see under Better Together).

Right now the populations of the UK face a potentially disastrous economic and constitutional crisis. A crisis brought about by a combination of years of naked personal ambition, greed, ignorance, public manipulation and a level of self serving idiocy that should be measured on the Richter scale. The party of government and its loyal opposition? Those MOST responsible? Absent without leave and indulging in an orgy of self harm.

These parties have actively participated in the deconstruction of the UKs democracy, its economy and its society. They’ve used the forum of the mainstream media to manipulate opinion, foment mistrust and even outright hatred of ‘competitors’ and demographics of their own population. Their strategies have been known to undermine trust in public services and institutions, if it suited their political purpose, causing untold harm in their own society. Yet for all this, its the SNP who have somehow proven themselves unacceptable company for the established political elite of the UK and their meeja chums.

Is it me, or does anyone else not feel entirely crushed about that?

More importantly in terms of the Scottish scene, doesn’t this whole toys and pram approach to politics say so much more about Ruth, Kezia and thingy than anything the SNP could express on the matter? And so we come to the point of this exercise, the real question.

What are they for?

What is the point of the Conservatives, Labour and the Libdems in Scottish politics? And don’t give me any pish about plurality, because if there’s one thing Labour and the Conservatives especially do NOT believe in, it is sharing or playing nice with others. I’ve heard and seen PMQs, SQs and FMQs often enough to know that the chamber security should be armed with rolled up newspapers and buckets of ice water.

From recent memory however, it appears the Tories want to hold the SNP to account for … something or other, (Probably that predilection for badness) and staunchly defend the bestest political union ever. Labour being Labour, like to keep things simple and follow the mantra best outlined by the now infamous tweet from Willie Bain (a one time Shadow Scotland office minister),  “There is a long-standing PLP convention that we do not support SNP motions”… Just because, OK? The Libdems, under successive leaders, apparently are equal opportunities swingers and are well known as a support act for either of the other two. Their weekly rates are cheap, are known to enjoy limelight, pundit couches and long romantic walks in the countryside, but they do like a lie in on a Sunday.

Does anyone know what the current policies of the ‘Branch Offices’ are on anything though? The legislation they’ve worked on, committees they’ve participated in, problems they’ve helped solve through consensus? Well, if they’ve formulated any of the former on their own behalf or aided in any of the latter with the SNP, it appears that these days they don’t want to own up to it. I mean, the media aren’t exactly rushed off their feet releasing copy on the latest policy initiative from any of them.

Mibbies just me, but I’d say that from the end user/voter’s point of view, that doesn’t encourage a lot of confidence in the ability of our public servants.

If, as it appears, their day job is to manufacture Essenpee badness, draw lines in the sand, disrupt policy and process because they can or because the other guy wears a different coloured rosette, then I’d say they’re in the wrong job… frankly. When I see supposed adults, would be legislators and folk who would have you believe they are capable of government, openly compete as to who hates the standing government in Scotland most? I feel a desperate urge to dispense rubber dummies and send the offenders to their beds early for a time out.

Regular readers of this site and any number of indy sites are well used to this catastrophic and childish farce by this point. We KNOW why these parties and their politicians act the way they do. Their motivations, their strategies are all too transparent and the consequences for the public all too tragic.

I’m willing to bet that most folk want to see all Scottish governments held to account, but I reckon we’d also want to see legislation by consensus. Committees and chambers with all views represented and the problems faced by the population solved by people who serve the population. If some politician’s party loyalties, tribalism or pointless, naked hatred of the ‘other’ is getting in the way of our parliament serving our population, then isn’t that person a waste of a public pay packet? We can change this. We HAVE to change this.

Which takes me neatly back to another two tiered question I’ve asked readers before.

What kind of government do you want and what kind of country do you want to live in?

Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of @lumi_1984

Glass half full

A guest post by Samuel Miller

Righto then! I’m seeing some glum faces oot there in the aether and as your resident agony ranter, (whilst the gaffer is having a well deserved lie doon with properly made tea), I huv decided unanimously to look into this glass half empty problem and jot down some of my own thoughts. In fact the last time I saw some faces this glum, they were sitting on a pundits couch at PQ watching the 2015 general election results roll in.

Aye, it appears there are three main gripes which rear their heads on a regular basis. The meeja, which can be broken into a parts A and B type thingy – What can we do about them and how do we reach more people? Brexit – Why hasn’t it been triggered and what are we waiting for? Finally, if we’re already sovereign, why aren’t we independent right now? Why do we need anyone’s permission?

Three huge questions, with equally mahoosive answers I’d say, but we’ll have a stab at it in reverse order and keep it brief as possible. Let’s start with independence, sovereignty and permission.

I like to look at stuff from other perspectives whenever I can. Just for the sheer heck of it if truth be told and in this case I think it kinda helps. With the signing of the Edinburgh agreement and the commencement of the first Indyref, the sovereignty and right of the Scottish electorate to decide their own fate and governance has already been accepted I’d say. In fact, in my opinion, it appears the only folk who require to give any permission to hold a referendum or decide its outcome in Scotland… are the Scottish electorate. Right now we’re currently living with the consequences of the last time we asked that question of ourselves. A slim majority decided it wasn’t a good idea as it turns out and those dastardly baddies, the Essenpee government (Badness Inc.), have attempted to do exactly as they were telt by their own electorate and navigate administration in the aftermath. Vile… frankly (couldn’t resist). As to what that same government will do if they ask the question again in the not too distant future and they receive say, a different instruction from their electorate? Take a wild guess.

Worth remembering that above and beyond ANYTHING they personally desire, the SNP believe in and adhere to, the idea of popular sovereignty. They talk the talk and walk the walk where that’s concerned. They follow the will of the people.

Brexit is probably the easiest of the three to nail down. Partly because it appears to be a procedural  problem and partly timing. We’re well aware by this point that Cameron’s EU referendum was an ill conceived, badly timed and horrendously badly executed attempt to settle the festering divisions within his party over Europe. I reckon he also saw it as a way of hopefully putting the UKIP genie back in its bottle.

The Tories, over a period of years, created a particularly nasty and divisive media narrative of the EU and furriners in general and needless to say, what takes years to ingrain and manipulate cannot be undone overnight. We’re pretty much used to that in Scotland, so what happened next really shouldn’t have come as a huge shock to the powers that be in London. Brexit! A population fed on a diet of massively right wing media whose daily output of fear mongering, scapegoating and othering is considered the policy wonk’s ‘go to’ method of directing a voting agenda. Who knew that after a campaign led by dog whistle politics and misinformation from both sides, the public would opt for the dog whistle they were most used to hearing, reading and seeing in the media? We’d like to take a moment to thank the meeja at this point for making popular household names of Bojo and Farage over a number of years, but frankly I don’t think ah’ve goat the necessary, or appropriate, vocabulary. Bein’ a northern barbarian ‘n that.

Anyroads, TIME is what PM May now requires and as much of it as she get her hands on. Thanks to the aforesaid ‘ill conceived’ part of the recent catastrophic campaign, neither the Brexiteers or the Westminster government actually had a plan in the contingency of a Brexit win. That would be NO economic planning, either on home front or covering foreign trade, investment and crucially for many, subsidy replacement. I’d also hazard a guess that there was NO F.O. diplomatic planning in place and NO security strategy,  not a sausage it appears. So right about now I’d say PM May and her cabinet, those who haven’t been repeatedly slapped silly, are desperately attempting to repair the already considerable damage done by the Brexit vote to the economy as a starter for ten. They then must come up with an exit strategy/deal that won’t get them chucked at the next election by a decidedly grumpy electorate and hold what remains of the UKs international political status together with enormous amounts of duck tape and wishful thinking. Oh, and they’ve also got the small matter of an already grumpy next door neighbour whom they’ve just dragged, against their will and against specific indyref assurances, to the brink of exiting the EU to think about. No pressure then.

The second part is, I reckon, purely procedural. No indyref has been triggered because, at this point in time, we are not technically out of the EU. We may be under threat of that happening, but until article 50 is triggered (and we know the process is irreversible), it has not yet actually occurred. The chances of PM May avoiding Brexit though are slim and given her past, less than welcoming or inclusive, record and the very public nature of the referendum? The risks to not following through probably outweigh the alternative, though not by much. She is to all intents and purposes in the classic ‘Catch 22’ situation. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Finally, the meeja. What can you or the Scottish Government do about them? Well, nothing really. Or rather nothing to convince them of your case. They are who and what they are, which is to say (in the UK), fundimundilly opposed to the idea of an independent Scotland. Whether it is broadcast or print, state funded or private, the media is the orthodoxy and their views will always reflect that. They have a right to hold that view in fact and their output will ALWAYS, but ALWAYS reflect their interests and political affiliations. They don’t really have to reflect anyone’s opinion but their own. It may not be fair, or ethically 100% tickety boo, but technically they have every right to say ‘ALMOST’ whatever they feel like.  That’s democracy for you and of course having friends in high legislative places helps.

How and ever, as consumers, people don’t have to listen to or purchase their product and why should they? If the media don’t represent your views, or speak for you. If they misrepresent, or misinform you, then why should you support them either financially or publicly? Its a two way street kinda thing. You put your money where it will do you the most good and where you feel your views are being fairly represented. We have the beginnings of a popular new media out there and as it grows it will diversify and adapt to suit the modern market. It will only grow however, if you want it to grow. Worth remembering that every title, every broadcaster out there today, which comprises the ‘mainstream’, started somewhere with reader or viewer number one.

Equally as unbalanced at this time, is reach. No, our new media CANNOT compete with the sheer market coverage and penetration of the mainstream media. How could it? Last I checked our lively new media wasn’t awash in multi-billionaires with a media empire to exploit. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You cannot take the media to task head on. Their pockets are a lot deeper than yours and their influence has been known to wreck governments. At which point you’re probably thinking ‘wur awe fecked then’. NOT SO mon braves!

Turn the question around. With all of their coverage, all of their money, all of their influence, all of the decades of media dominance they’ve enjoyed… Why haven’t they won you over? Why is the constitutional question still alive? Why is there a third term SNP government sitting in a pro indy Holyrood chamber? Why are there 56 pro indy MPs sitting on the Scottish benches in Westminster proving the only effective government opposition in the house? Why is there a burgeoning new Scottish media, (actively being a royal pain in the mainstream’s arse), which they can’t simply crush?

Because of you.

You and your need brought this new media into being. You threw a stone in a still lake and the ripples spread. You got the word out, advertised its existence, attracted readers and viewers with like minds looking for a representative forum. They in turn, attracted their friends and family, who told the next door neighbour, who told the postman, who told his missus, who told… others. Ideas and information spread, people became engaged, organized, active and decades of apathy and alienation were forgotten. One person, one vote at a time, the ground beneath Scottish and the wider UK politics began to move. All it takes is for one person to speak and another to listen.

You did all of that.

What else can you do?


Audio version of this blog article, courtesy of @lumi_1984