I should say, there is one position I do respect even if it is the polar opposite to what I feel personally. And that is the person who simply says, ‘I am British and I want to remain British for better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health and therefore I am voting No’. That I can respect because it is not a million miles away from my own position of feeling Scottish and wanting to be Scottish, etc., etc., etc. I have long been able to see the world through other’s eyes and have worked out that I can respect the holding of a view without respecting the view itself. I’ve encountered outright facists, religious fundamentalists and vicious criminals, people I would be tempted to shoot on sight if it were an option, who I can respect for the complete integrity they have to their own personal views. I can hate and oppose them for those views and their actions but those who are willing to die and suffer for their cause I can respect (to an extent) but those who would have others die or suffer in their place; those I find hard to respect in any manner, shape or form.
So when people who are intending to vote No try to justify that emotional position with claims of better togetherness that includes the tacit acceptance that millions of fellow British people living in relative poverty and hardship is just the price of doing business, I lose whatever respect I have for that person very quickly indeed. And that hurts if the person is someone I have liked and whose company I have enjoyed.
The level of wilful ignorance I have encountered amongst measurably smart people is staggering. University students who want someone to do their thinking for them; PhD students who appear to think about research funding and nothing much else. It’s too much to take! Ignorant and stupid strangers I can cope with all day long, I did it for a living for a good few years, but people I know? I quite clearly need new friends …
Then this morning I saw this video from the highly esteemed (by me at any rate) former UK Ambassador, Craig Murray.
That is what I mean. This is exactly what I mean. “It is not possible to be a decent person and vote no, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say that”. I’m glad someone else has said what I hadn’t quite around to articulating even in the privacy of my own thoughts.
I’ve actually been trying not to bombard my Facebook friends with indyref material. Ever since I set up a campaign page I’ve not posted much on my own wall. I was always going to do one last plea, one last roll of the dice and I had kind of decided to do it nearer the 18th but then the deadline hit me hard as one of my No friends whom I particularly want to bring around (because she is one of the most loving and inspiring people I know) posted up a picture of her postal ballot paper and I realised I had perhaps minutes to act or the deed could be done. So I hastily cobbled something together containing the Wee Blue Book and tagged my known No or Undecided friends and gave it one last try. I know it failed; two of them told me it failed, so that is that.
So where do we stand as friends? I don’t know. Time will tell I guess. But I suspect I will let them move on with their lives and I will go on with mine. Do I tell them why they won’t be part of my life any longer? There are only two where it really matters as the others I barely see anyway. But the in-laws, what to do about the in-laws? I could do what that side of the family has done in the past and cause ructions but that wouldn’t be fair on my other half so I’ll probably bite the bullet – and my tongue – for the sake of family peace. I am rather tempted to post up that video on my news feed with a caption saying ‘If you watch this you will know what I think of people who voted No. If you voted No and don’t hear from me again, you will know why’. After the referendum though, no negativity before.
But today I think my campaign to convert my friends and family came to a close. Or it will once I have handed out my dozen copies of the Wee Blue Book to certain family and friends who are not on the internet. But I am going to devote myself to strangers for the rest of the campaign and accept I cannot win them all. Meh.
But moving on with this whole values thing, this idea of social justice which appears to permeate the Yes campaign, there are two things I wanted to share.
The first is this from Referendum TV Live (starting at 40:50 – watch the rest of the video if you have the time, well worth a listen), where Chris Law of Spirit of Independence quotes SNP’s Christian Allard MSP (a man I spent two days campaigning alongside and have grown to like and respect in that time).
He points out that the values that we Scots on the Yes side appear to hold so dear are actually traditional British values that have been forgotten and discarded as a result of the Thatcher years. These are the values that came to the fore in the immediate aftermath of WWII (that period of history so beloved to our No friends) and resulted in the creation of the welfare state and the NHS. Bearing in mind that rationing was still in force and the UK was virtually bankrupt after the war it shows the true nature of the people in power and those supporting them and it is this nature which a large number of Scots appear to have retained while our English cousins have more or less wholeheartedly adopted the Thatcher-esque view that ‘there is no such thing as society’ and the neo-liberal economics orthodoxy which, like accountants, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
It is these British values which ushered in the concept of Human Rights and enshrined them in European Laws and conventions and ultimately lead the Human Rights Act 1998, so hated by the likes of Tory Home Secretary, Teresa May, Tory Mayor of London (and likely future Prime Minister of the UK) Boris Johnson and UKIP leader Nigel Farage (who is quite likely to find himself in parliament and possibly sitting in a Deputy Prime Minister’s chair in the not too distant future (ie. 2015) if we are not extremely lucky. It was British values, derived from English and Scot’s Law, that insisted on evidence and due process and fair representation in court and no secret trials. I’ve policed under the HRA and it is a right pain in the neck that we couldn’t just beat suspects until they confessed or had to go to the trouble of gathering evidence in order to send someone to court. Terrible I tell you, ought to be abolished. Which is exactly what Teresa May is proposing for 2015 onwards.
It is those British values which build social housing in order to remove the slums that predated them. My father grew up in the slums of Glasgow so it was not that long ago. But long enough ago that one generation, perhaps two further on, those values have all but disappeared from many people’s thoughts and actions. We need more social housing throughout Scotland and we are not going to get enough of the in the union because the only housing the UK is interested in is the exorbitantly expensive stuff in London and surrounding areas, the buying and selling of which drives the UK economy from boom to bust and back again and means the 60% of UK people may never afford to buy their own home.
It was British values which formed the free to use National Health Services (that’s right, Services) throughout the four corners of the UK, the Service which the last Labour and current ConDem coalition are furiously dismantling in England while the Scottish Government (under the SNP) have rolled back most of the reforms and we have an actual NHS back again. People tell me it is not as good as it used to be 30 years ago and I know it can be improved but it is still better than all the other state healthcare systems throughout the world. In fact the NHS was put in first place while the US one was put in tenth place (out of ten) and so which system do you think the English NHS is being remodelled on? The American one of course. In ten years you’ll need health insurance to get good quality care in England. Mark my words. Scotland will go the same way if we vote No and who will get hit hardest? The poor of course, because they are the one with the greatest health problems.
It was British values that created a welfare state that was supposed to ensure that nobody slipped off the bottom rung of the ladder. Where the sick and the aged and the infirm at least had the bare minimum to eat and shelter themselves from the elements. Where pensioners were not condemned to starvation and destitution once they were too old to work. But where there was once a retirement age of sixty I now expect to never be allowed to retire in thirty years’ time when I turn seventy. The UK state pension is the lowest in the EU when you compare it to the cost of living. Even the ‘benefit scrounging’ Romanians, so beloved by UKIP, pay their pensioners more relative to ours. And it is only getting worse and worse and worse in the UK. And of course, the Scots don’t live as long as the English do. On reading (and reblogging) this article the author points out that Scottish pensioners, by dying younger than their English counterparts, subsidise the English pensioners. But I was also struck by the fact that while Scotland’s population remains relatively stable we lose approximately 30,000 young men and women to work in England every year and get back, in exchange, around the same number of English retirees. So these English retirees probably skew the age of death statistics upwards in Scotland which means that Scottish born, raised and worked men (especially men) probably die even younger than the official statistics suggest.
This UK of ours is definitely OK and Better Together, don’t you think?
So if you are British and proud and want to live in a country that has core British values like the ones your parent’s or grandparent’s grew up with, vote Yes to allow an independent Scotland save what is left of the British soul.
The targeting of the unemployed and the immigrants is one of my main pet hates. I have no desire to see my country over run by feckless groups of workshy people, whatever their ethnic origins, but the stories put about are simply lies and propaganda and I have been hearing them all my life. Somehow or other the best way to motivate people at the bottom of society is to threaten their very existence, their job and their ability to make a living. They work harder, apparently, if you pay them less and treat them badly. No doubt a sound whipping work wonders for their enthusiasm too. Ah me, back in the good old days… But if you are rich and powerful then the best way to motivate you is to pay you stupid amounts of money and give you every perk that can be dreamed of. And, if you end up making a pig’s ear of whatever executive function you have, a quick exit from the boardroom with a hefty cheque will see you right until your next directorship opens up with a Golden Hello. Nowhere is this more apparent than in politics where rich (Westminster MPs are overwhelmingly very rich now before they get into politics) award themselves 11% pay rises and gold-plated pensions while blocking 1% pay rises for council workers and nurses while destroying their pension schemes by turning them into private, market led and market driven commercial opportunities. And then there is the best Golden Parachute of the lot for a politician booted out by the populous; a seat in the House of Lords with hot and cold running expenses.
Tories of whatever colour (Johan Lamont with her ‘let’s end the something for nothing culture here in Scotland’) claim you have to be tough on the lower orders to stop them taking advantage of the overly generous welfare state. Sometimes they call it ‘tough love’ but I always have to ask, where is the love? Sure, I can be tough (I was a cop for goodness sake) but my first approach I take with people is, I realise, love (sorry to be terribly un-British about stating that so boldly; and no I’ve not been drinking). Any toughness delivered is from love and wanting a person or situation to improve.
It is this love that I see permeating the Yes campaign, Most won’t articulate it like that but the desire to see the country as a whole flourish rather than being in it for what you can get out of it, is love. Love is wanting to close foodbanks and keep the NHS flourishing. Love is not wanting WMDs in our sea lochs. Love is standing out against worldwide public opinion and telling the people of Gaza ‘we will help you’ (I just wish we could do more) and love is Jim Sillar’s idea of converting the next UK aircraft carrier into a hospital ship (that the Wee Ginger Dug would name, the ‘Margo MacDonald’). Talking of the Wee Dug, love is what brought him £10,000 from all around Scotland from people he had never met to help him and his ailing partner and love is what brought in a similar amount to help the Maryhill Foodbank. Sure, there are plenty of people who will be voting No who also give generously to charities but they generally get to pick and choose who they help whereas voting Yes for a different vision for Scotland means the love gets spread to everyone who lives here, and not just the ones deemed worthy causes but those, like myself incidentally, who have the luxury of choosing which charity to support and which group of people deserve their helping hand.
I don’t claim to have The Answers™ but after several years of being confronted by the inequalities and shear injustice of so many of our public systems I know for a fact that the methodology we are using to sort out society’s ills is not working. Thirty years of Thatcher’s toughness has not cleared the unemployed from society. They have not all gone and got a job because their benefits are too difficult to live on because of one simple fact; there often are no jobs to be had for certain people. Sometimes those people made stupid choices as children and entered adult life without qualification but does that mean they deserve to be punished for ever more? The work being carried out by Atos would put an evangelical church to shame with all the miraculous cures they are causing by assessing people as fit to work after years of disability. And then we have the people, ‘good Christians’ all, who say that foodbanks are simply a sign of Scotland being a normal European country and not a sign that we are not even feeding all of our people. How can that be? In one of the richest nations on earth we still can’t (correction, refuse to) feed all the people who live here. Because it costs too much. Price of everything, value of nothing.
I had one such commentator on my blog a couple of nights ago. He was asking how much more money we should give the poorest to stop them visiting foodbanks. He suggested the £60 worth of food was a ‘two man lift’ at Lidl. My thought was that if he wanted to know how much extra money a person visiting a foodbank needed, the best way to find that out was to go and help out in a foodbank and listen to (note, I didn’t say ‘talk to’) the users of these services and find out not only how much money they need but what essential support was missing from their lives. I don’t know how much the average food bank user needs but I do know that for five years or so I gave £200 a month to a couple who were both incapable of working through ill health (she had survived a stroke, a hysterectomy, a double mastectomy and lives with kidney problems and arthritis, not to mention a dodgy heart while he was blown up in Northern Ireland in 1972 and was booted out of the army for ‘failing to achieve the required fitness standard’ without one ounce of support and then suffered several major heart attacks throughout the 90s before diabetes got hold and a stroke eventually killed him last year). They were not profligate but their combined income was not enough to support them when she retired and their income dropped because he was of ‘working age’ and therefore she couldn’t get her full pension. She’s better off now that he is dead. I am too as it happens as she doesn’t need my £200 any more so stopped taking it. Scrounger. So yeah, I would say an extra £50 per week might just be enough to keep people from using foodbanks. Vote No and this sort of thing will be perpetuated further and further.
But if you vote Yes, we could get something different. We could become like Denmark where it is very hard to become a millionaire but nearly impossible to live in poverty. We could get to introduce the Common Weal (go on, buy the book) and govern ourselves according to its principles. There is no good reason why not as several other nations not that far away adopt a somewhat similar approach. And all are wealthier and healthier than the UK today. Have a read of the seven articles written by Robin McAlpine for a flavour of what I am talking about. Will it cost money to implement? Sure it will, but so did the NHS in 1947/48 and so do the nuclear weapons we currently don’t hesitate to spend money on now. No voters and nae sayers don’t like this vision. They see it is rewarding the poor instead of the rich (the very thought!) and fear…actually I don’t really know what it is they fear, but fear is an overwhelmingly common emotion among the No set.
Anyway, I’ve been writing for about 18 hours solid now and I need to finish this epic yarn. So, by all means approach the world with tough love but remember, if you don’t bring the love, you are just a tough. Or a bully if you prefer. Or an excuser of torture done in your name. British values folks, do not include torture but Great British actions all too often do. This union, it is a cracking place to be. No Thanks.
Vote Yes for a better future.