Protesting

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Forgive me
I have slumbered
Closed my eyes
Turned my back
Since that ill
September wind
Stole my courage

Forgive me
I have slumbered….

Now I wake.
What’s the point, I ask you, of gathering to protest in London?  What’s the point,  for that matter,  of gathering at Pacific Quay? The BBC won’t report it. They will stand three streets away and ask people if they are disappointed at the turnout while a million people could be kettled in to Parliament Square. 
Go stand on your own High Street,  then people will see you. Gather by the Town Hall, take your placards. Make sure the folk who normally get their news from the BBC see you,  make sure they know. Make sure they know we’re all angry at the same things… the endless lies, empty promises and greed.

Because if we let the rich away with this, then we won’t get the chance again.

World wars and vanishing history

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Before I start, consider this a rant rather than an essay.
Today is the hundredth anniversary of the First World War, otherwise known as the Great War, although there truly was nothing great about it. It marked a watershed in warfare, the transition point between the time of Cavalry, cannons and sabres and the time of tanks, rocket fire and automatic weaponry. Men and horses, sent to charge through no man’s land as if it were the Crimea rather than the Somme, died gruesomely tangled in barbed wire, under shell fire and drowning in the mud filled craters. Foot soldiers would follow to die in the same mire, choking out their own lungs when shells of mustard gas came raining down on them. Oh! What a lovely war!
Meanwhile, Lord Kitchener’s face was every where declaring “Your country needs you!” and any man with sense enough to see the madness for what it was became labeled a coward, shunned, shamed, jailed and forced to fight. In the end, the victors – those famous donkeys leading their sacrificial lions- were the Entente powers with the help of the Americans, but the actual final result was Entente 6 million dead soldiers : Axis 4 million dead soldiers. Oh! What a lovely war!
For all of my secondary education, year after year from S1 through Standard Grades to Highers, we studied WW1 and the build up to WW2. We learned how Germany and https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_unification unified, we learned about the arms race, we learned about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, we learned about the Black Hand, Belgian neutrality and the Schlieffen Plan. We revisited the assassination of Archduke Frans Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip. We were shown the horrors of the Somme and Ypres, the disgusting existence of life in the trenches and all of the shifting fortunes of the war as it progressed. When finally we came to the Palace of Versailles and the bill of reparations, I already understood why the “war to end all wars” was anything but.
So did a certain failed Austrian artist, who understood the bitterness of ordinary Germans made to pay extortionately for a war begun by a King they had discarded in disgust. Defeated at first by the false prosperity of the Weimar Republic, American reckless capitalism gave him the opportunity to charge up the beleaguered Germans with his own hate and so he seized power. From there on, the rest, of course, is history, but it’s history that we cannot seem to escape.
I work in a small public library, and every time I look at the history section I feel a sense of despair. Though the section is not terribly big, number about four shelves of books, 90% of those books concern themselves with those two wars. Of those books, the majority deal with World War Two. This depresses me because the inclusion of books on other parts of history (oddly, for a Scottish Library these are mostly on English History, but that’s another story in itself) seem token at best, as if the only real history of any note is these two world wars. This is not a phenomenon unique to my small library, just as the almost exclusive focus on that period I endured in my history classes was not peculiar to my school. It is a trend that can be seen in book shops and libraries throughout these islands. It is a trend reflected in documentaries and even fictional films. It’s even engrained in our language with Adolf Hitler’s name more synonymous with evil than Satan in our modern world and the term Nazi being attached to all forms of extremism. Both terms are being used with greater frequency and looseness too, something which is certainly to be frowned upon.
There is such a rich, flowing and enlightening narrative to the history of humanity, one which goes beyond conflict and horror, one which celebrates the tenacity and ingenuity of humanity, one which allows us to understand just how far we’ve come in our short time in this universe. To overlook the greater story by focusing on one, brief but shocking part of it, is to deny ourselves a better understanding of who we are. Some might say we must focus on these things to prevent a recurrence, that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, that we must learn the lessons of these appalling conflicts. I say the evidence of the modern world contradicts this stance entirely.
Since WW2, America has been involved in conflict for all but one of the intervening years, 1977.
Since WW2, the UK has been involved in conflict for all but two years, including the bloody, costly and misnamed Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Since WW2, the Military-Industrial Complex has profited to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, although I haven’t yet found a concise figure.
Since WW2, the refounding of the state of Israel as compensation for Hitler’s atrocities against them has led to a blatant and savage ghettoisation of a dispossessed people which now seems to culminating in scenes of atrocities that I can’t even find a historic comparison for. Except for, maybe, the Pogroms against the Jews in Germany, Poland and Austria during the 1930’s, but with far more sophisticated weaponry and no intent to incarcerate or even take captives.
And yet the world stands by, claiming a lesson learned in persecuting a people means somehow Israel is justified in taking such heavy handed action against the Palestinians who would dare attack their territories occupied illegally by Israel. What historical lesson is this? That the victim is always right, in perpetuity? The German people felt victimised by the outcome of WW1, but that could never be used as a serious justification for World War 2 and the use of death camps for exterminating undesirables.
Therefore I say that by clinging desperately to this one period of history we are doomed to repeat it, because we blind ourselves to the greater story of progress and change the rest of history can teach us. We are made to forget how often victim becomes oppressor, and we are made to forget that old divisions can heal, and that old villains can learn repentance.

Indyref postscript

Can we also get over this “we fought the fascists together” nonsense. It’s a facile argument at best. Britain was not the only country fighting the fascists.

Claudia Beamish on Devo Nano

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My bad, I just discovered I got a reply from one of my Labour MSP’s after telling Write to them that none of them got back to me.  Will actually thank Claudia on Twitter and apologise.  Anyway, seems Claudia is in the group of Labour MSP’s that believe Labour proposals do include lowering as well as raising Income Tax.  To quote :·         “The Scottish Parliament could, using the powers of the Scotland Act 2012, and our extension to their scope, choose to lower income tax, below the UK level, across all income tax bands.”

Here’s her full reply too.

 

Dear Angela Miller,

 

Thank you for your interest in Labour’s proposals to further extend and enhance devolution for Scotland within the United Kingdom.

 

The Labour Party is the Party of devolution. Our founder, Keir Hardie, promoted Home Rule in the early 1900s, we participated in the Constitutional Convention in the 1980s and in 1999 we delivered a Scottish Parliament. In 2012, we extended these powers further when we supported the Scotland Act. And in 2016, as a result of these changes, the biggest transfer of fiscal powers since the Act of Union will take place.

 

In spring 2012, Johann Lamont established a Devolution Commission to examine what could be done to strengthen devolution further. Following two years of deliberations and a yearlong public consultation, we published our proposals on 18th March. The final report of the Commission was endorsed unanimously by Scottish Labour Party Conference on 21st March.

 

Our starting principle is that we believe in a society in which resources are pooled and shared  across the whole country, and in which those with the broadest shoulders and greatest resources contribute most to the support of those in need.

 

Our report is wide-ranging and includes a number of recommendations, including:

 

  • Further devolution of income tax, discussed in more detail below.
  • Devolution of housing benefit and attendance allowance, to align more closely the provision of benefits in an area closely related to devolved services.
  • Devolution of the work programme to Scottish local authorities to better meet the needs of local labour markets.

 

The report of the commission is extensive and also includes proposals to increase the powers available to our island communities, to improve local democratic accountability and to establish better enforcement mechanisms for health and safety in Scotland, including the establishment of a Scottish Health and Safety executive.

 

On income tax, we believe that the changes made by the Scotland Act 2012 are significant, but there is scope to go further.

 

  • Labour would therefore give the Scottish Parliament the power to raise around £2 billion more in revenues beyond the recent Scotland Act.
  • We will do this by widening the variation in income tax in the Scotland Act by half from 10p up to 15p.
  • This will mean that three-quarters of basic rate income tax in Scotland will be under the control of the Scottish Parliament.
  • The Scottish Parliament could, using the powers of the Scotland Act 2012, and our extension to their scope, choose to lower income tax, below the UK level, across all income tax bands.
  • Equally, it would be possible to use the same power to increase tax, above the UK level, across all bands.
  • Alternatively, if the Scottish Parliament wished to exercise greater flexibility between bands, Labour’s proposals mean that it would be empowered to do so by applying Scottish Progressive Rates of Income Tax to increase either the higher or additional rates of tax.

 

Labour’s proposals for further tax powers are designed to enhance fiscal accountability and flexibility at a Scottish level, while preventing destructive income tax competition between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

 

Labour’s policy is that fair taxation for the highest earners would be achieved by setting the additional rate at 50p.

 

Thank you for your interest in the final report of our devolution commission. If you require any more detail on our income tax policy, this can be found on page 148 – 151 of the report. If you wish to read the full report, it can be found on the Scottish Labour website at http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/campaigns/entry/devolution-commission

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Claudia Beamish

 

Claudia Beamish MSP

Member of the Scottish Parliament for South Scotland
Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change

 

Tel: 0131 348 6889  |  Email: claudia.beamish@scottish.parliament.uk

 

For regular updates please visit my website: www.claudiabeamish.com

Follow me on Twitter @claudiabeamish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scots Women of History. 1 – Gruoch, Queen Of Scots aka Lady Macbeth

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If I were to ask you who Lady Macbeth was, I don’t imagine it would take you very long to answer. She was the wife of MacBeth, you’d say. You’d name her a murderess, no doubt, tell me of plots and regicide. Perhaps you would even recite her most famous lines :

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But if I were to ask you who Gruoch ingen Boite was, the chances are you would tell me you have no idea. They were, in fact, one and the same person. Approximately.
After King James VI became King of England in 1603, Shakespeare penned the play MacBeth in his honour, basing many of it’s characters on historical figures, including that of Lady MacBeth. Yet, in the name of theatrical entertainment, his play was more embellishment than fact, throwing in witchcraft, spurious ancestors and even a completely different fate for both the titular Lord and Lady.
In truth MacBeth and his wife, Gruoch certainly led lives both less scandalous and possibly more interesting than their fictionalised counterparts.  Gruoch was Queen of Scots in her own right alongside her King, and together they reigned for 17 long and largely peaceful years (1040 – 1057 AD), respective to their tumultuous times.
A  great grand-daughter of King Kenneth III, she was first married to Gille Coemgáin mac Maíl Brigti, the Earl of Moray.  With him she had the only child of hers that history remembers, Lulach, who later became King of Scots after MacBeth’s death.
It was indeed a very turbulent time in Scottish History, and Gruoch’s first husband  is said to have killed MacBeth’s father. MacBeth took his revenge, serving it cold a dozen years after his father’s death, having Gille Coemegáin killed with 50 of his men.
It may not have been the best bedrock on which build a successful marriage, but in reality Gruoch outlived her husband and wielded power and influence alongside him as Queen. In the only document that survives baring her name,  she gave land to the Culdees, an aesthetic order of monks. Their reign together was peaceful enough for Macbeth to undertake a pilgrimage to Rome, and it was rich enough that he “scattered silver like seeds” to the poor.
Gruoch outlived her husband, although the date of her death remains unknown.
Only fragments remain of Queen Gruoch’s life, but those fragments hint at a woman of some strength of character who thrived in a difficult world. It also seems her reign was peaceful and prosperous, belying the image of a poor, frigid northern kingdom with little to offer history that we have been led to believe . Shakespeare’s account of her life has usurped an important female figure from Scotland’s history. This is why I have begun this little series with her rather than other, better known figures.
It is said that women are less engaged than men in our constitutional debate. I’ve heard it said, even, that the “Braveheart” nature of Scottish Nationalism dissuades women from engaging, as if Scottish History were somehow the province of men alone. I hope that you can see in Gruoch’s story the glimmers of truth that this is not the case. Over these last months of the Referendum campaign I hope to outline the lives of many other fascinating and compelling women in Scottish History, from Isabel of Mar, through Flora MacDonald to Kay Matheson, as well as many others, just to highlight how much women have shaped our Nation in the past.

Written with many thanks to David R Ross and his book, Women of Scotland.

Sovereignty

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Sovereignty Word Cloud

Sovereignty Word Cloud

 
Sovereignty:
Line breaks: sov|er|eign¦ty
NOUN (plural sovereignties)
[MASS NOUN]
1. Supreme power or authority
Oxford English Dictionary

 

”Yet if he should give up what he has begun, seeking to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own right and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English.  It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
Declaration of Arbroath

 

”Parliament means, in the mouth of a lawyer (though the word has often a different sense in conversation) The King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons: these three bodies acting together may be aptly described as the “King in Parliament”, and constitute Parliament. The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty mean neither more nor less than this, namely that Parliament thus defined has, under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever: and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation of Parliament.”
A.V. Dicey Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)

 

This referendum is not about the SNP. This referendum is not about the Tories. This referendum is not about Labour, Lib-dems, Greens, Ukip or any other colour of rosette you can imagine. This referendum is not about “the economics of Independence”, it’s not about being in or out of the EU, it’s not about the pound. It’s not even about welfare, the NHS or Poverty. This referendum is about sovereignty. Specifically, it is about the Sovereignty of the Scottish People versus the Sovereignty of Westminster.
In 1707, a treaty was signed between the Scots and English Parliaments declaring a union between the two nations and making Westminster the parliament of this union.  Westminster was then, and still is, a sovereign parliament. Thus a tension was created in the union between the sovereign people of Scotland and the parliament of Westminster. The Articles of Union were burned in Dumfries, Glasgow and Lanark. Uprisings took place which Westminster crushed ruthlessly by the hand of Lord General Wade. Slowly, over time, and with the growing distraction of Empire, we Scots forgot our Sovereign power. Through the revolutions in America, France, Ireland and latterly the increasingly fractious corners of the Empire, we remained comfortable not exercising our power.  The growing democratic franchise kept us content as the UK followed along with the global trend, and we found expression for our sovereignty in the Socialist Movement of the late 19th and 20th centuries. Yet the continuing use of the First Past the Post electoral system, coupled with the anachronistic House of Lords (both pre- and post reform) undermines the Westminster democracy.
Then, of course, there has been the increasing political divergence between Scotland and England. This would not be as much of a problem if Scots voters weren’t outnumbered by approximately 10:1. Since the highwater mark of British Socialism, the Labour party have become increasingly concerned with garnering the votes of the heavily populated South East of England, pushing their policies incrementally to the right, therefore eroding the Socialist consensus outside and inside the Labour Party. There have been attempts to save Socialism in Scotland, but the FPTP system breeds a culture of apathy in voters who continually see their voices outvoted by the diehard Labour vote that believes so strongly in the past of the party that they seem unable to see it’s present condition. Within the ranks of the party itself a culture of arrogance and entitlement, as dwindling voter engagement has created an easy road into a lucrative job for those prepared to toe the line and parrot party policy. Because of this, the sovereign power of the Scottish People has become stifled within the Union, and made the referendum a necessary step for us to take.
This referendum isn’t about politicians of any stripe telling us what they are going to make happen, it’s about us taking up our sovereign power to decide what is going to happen for ourselves. Westminster as a sovereign parliament has no conception of power other than it’s own, so it is speaking with ever increasing noise and fury into a vacuum. It can’t even begin to speak to our aspirations. The Treaty of Union purported to pass Scottish sovereignty to Westminster, but in the context of the Declaration of Arbroath, as quoted above, this only happens for as long as we consent to it. Power in Scotland belongs to us, it rests with us and we are waking up to find it lying in our hands. This has always been at the route of Scottish nationalism, which is not a mindlessly patriotic nationalism, but one with an implicit egalitarianism borne of our shared sovereignty. Being Scottish does not mean we are better than anyone else, but it does mean that no-one, not even Westminster, is better than us. We are Scotland. We are Sovereign.

Six months in Politics Land

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I don’t know how significant this year is to everyone of you lovely folks who’ve taken the time to read my wee blog, but to me and my compatriots this year is extremely significant. This year, for the first time ever, Scottish people are being consulted on whether we wish to be part of the Union that created the UK or if we’d prefer to be independent.
I believe passionately in Scottish Independence and have done for most if my life. I believe because I know that Scottish folk are the folk who should be deciding Scotland’s future. Not because I am “anti-english” or harbour resentments and prejudices, but because Scotland is largely rural, social democratic, egalitarian and differently motivated from the rUk. That is a fact that has been played out in every election, Scottish, British and European, that I have witnessed in my life. The majority of our MPs are not members of either Co-alition party and it has been demonstrated that every UK general election result since WW2 would have been unaffected by the  removal of the Scottish vote.
So, as a consequence, over the next six months I will be posting a great deal about the Referendum. Consider this your advance warning!!

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Shame on you Scottish Labour

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This list is arranged by child poverty levels.  Any MP’s name that appears voted for the benefits cap and is a Labour MP.

m

Glasgow North East

43%

Willie Bain

Glasgow Central

37%

Anas Sarwar

Glasgow East

35%

Margaret Curran

Glasgow North West

32%

John Robertson

Glasgow South West

31%

Ian Davidson

Glasgow North

29%

Anne McKechin

Glenrothes

27%

Lindsay Roy

Dundee West

26%

Glasgow South

26%

Tom Harris

West Dunbartonshire

25%

Gemma Doyle

Airdrie and Shotts

24%

Pamela Nash

Edinburgh East

24%

Sheila Gilmore

Inverclyde

24%

Iain McKenzie

Motherwell and Wishaw

24%

Frank Roy

North Ayrshire and Arran

24%

Aberdeen North

23%

Frank Doran

Ayr Carrick and Cumnock

22%

Sandra Osborne

Edinburgh North and Leith

22%

Mark Lazarowicz

Kilmarnock and Loudoun

22%

Cathy Jamieson

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

22%

Central Ayrshire

21%

Paisley and Renfrewshire South

21%

Douglas Alexander

Rutherglen and Hamilton West

21%

Tom Greatrex

Coatbridge Chryston and Bellshill

20%

Tom Clarke

Dundee East

20%

Caithness Sutherland and Easter Ross

19%

Edinburgh South West

19%

Alistair Darling

Lanark and Hamilton East

19%

Jimmy Hood

Cumbernauld Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

18%

Gregg McClymont

Linlithgow and East Falkirk

18%

Livingston

18%

Grahame Morris

Midlothian

18%

David Hamilton

Angus

17%

Dumfries and Galloway

17%

Russell Brown

Falkirk

17%

Paisley and Renfrewshire North

17%

Dunfermline and West Fife

16%

Thomas Docherty

Ochil and South Perthshire

16%

Gordon Banks

Edinburgh South

15%

Ian Murray

Edinburgh West

15%

Argyll and Bute

14%

Berwickshire Roxburgh and Selkirk

14%

Dumfriesshire Clydesdale and Tweeddale

14%

East Kilbride Strathaven and Lesmahagow

14%

East Lothian

14%

Stirling

14%

Anne McGuire

Banff and Buchan

13%

Inverness Nairn Badenoch and Strathspey

13%

Perth and North Perthshire

13%

Moray

12%

North East Fife

12%

Ross Skye and Lochaber

12%

Aberdeen South

11%

Dame Anne Begg

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

11%

East Renfrewshire

10%

Jim Murphy

East Dunbartonshire

8%

Orkney and Shetland

8%

Gordon

7%

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

6%

 

Figures from End Child Poverty, taken February 2013

Edit. Extremely disappointed to find Russell Brown also voted for.