The Scottish Revolution

scotland

The 7th of May 2015 was the day the SNP tsunami almost entirely cleansed Scotland of representation by any other party. The SNP’s grip on power in Scotland is almost total.

The biggest immediate impact was to the Labour Party. The Conservatives have been long vanquished, only winning a total of four seats in the last five general elections. Labour went from forty one seats to one. They were routed in their traditional heartlands. Long standing, established ministers were soundly beaten by fresh-faced students. Losing so many seats in Scotland means that Labour, to get close to Government, needs to soundly beat the Conservatives in England, something that didn’t happen in May, and looks a steep mountain to climb for 2020.

What must be galling for Labour is the fact they gave the SNP the route to power. Scottish national identity has lived for centuries, rooted in the history and mythology of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, to the poetry of Robert Burns. What the Scottish Parliament did was to provide a body for this identity to flourish. The SNP had the good fortune to be led by Alex Salmond, and now Nicola Sturgeon, both exceptional leaders. They built on the opportunity provided, and recognised the power of building a strong national identity. The Conservatives and Labour seemed to recognise this far too late, if at all, treating Scotland as a ‘branch office’ of Westminster. Even losing the independence referendum was not enough to stop the SNP wave. Labour and the Conservatives both declared they not work with the SNP in the event of the hung parliament. This, I believe, was critical as it demonstrated a refusal to treat the SNP as equal partners. The last nails in the coffin.

This has left the constitutional settlement of the UK precariously balanced. Non-Scottish parties now have only three MPs in Scotland, due to impact of FPTP has when a party wins 50% of the vote. The pressure for more powers going to Scotland is unstoppable. The path to independence seem this way too. Unless something radical happens, the UK is headed for a messy divorce.

Events have actually demonstrated a clear path to more democratic and sustainable settlement for the United Kingdom. A truly federal nation would have many benefits. Areas away from the capital feel the dominance of London and the South East. Most powers of government could be devolved into regional parliaments – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These should be elected using a proportional system. Powers could include health, education, local government and so on.

A central body would be required for truly national matters such as defence. This could be smaller, made of a proportionate representation of MPs from the regional parliaments.

This plan would devolve powers, increase voter participation as there would be fewer ‘wasted votes’ and remove the pressure to break up the UK. In the Scottish referendum the will of the electorate indicated strongly that most people don’t want to break away, but want more devolved powers. This plan would deliver that and kill off the independence cause.

The party most in need of a plan to revitalise themselves are the Labour Party, as they are facing an existential crisis. This plan would be radical, reforming and bold.

Have they got the courage? If not, how will such an idea be carried forward?


Civil Liberties and Liberalism

liberty

I never thought I’d be writing this sentence, ever.

I miss the Liberal Democrats in Government.

I’m not about to rush off and join the Liberal Democrats. However, it is very clear, following the Queen’s Speech, what a brake they were on the Coalition Government. Of course, at the time it didn’t feel like that. The measures put through the last Parliament seemed to be very right-wing. It seemed Mrs Thatcher herself would have smiled upon most of the Coalition’s policies, and purred with pleasure.

Now free of the Lib Dems, the policies lined up by the Conservative Party are absolutely terrifying. You want freedom? If you are rich or powerful, there are many freedoms coming your way. The freedom to bring even more profit-driven interests into our education system. The freedom to offer workers poor conditions and work practices, safe in the knowledge that even if they get organised by a representative Union, new artificial barriers to ballots will completely neuter them. The freedom to remove desperately needed social housing from the available pool, but only if you can afford to buy it and backed up by a generous taxpayer subsidy. A plan, in short, to clear areas with high property prices of people of ordinary means.

Our civil liberties are being rapidly eroded. The snoopers charter will be brought forward, feeding the insatiable desire for our secret services and law enforcement to get deeper and deeper into our private lives. New laws to tackle extremism are proposed, broadening the definition of extremism to one that could catch a whole swath of anti-capitalist and environmental campaigners at the interpretation of the Home Secretary. Of course, serious analysis of the measures demonstrate that they are very unlikely to achieve what we are told they will achieve.

Many of the above measures were held back partially or fully by the Liberal Democrats. Since they have been send back to their constituencies to prepare for a generation on the side lines, who else will fight the oppressive and illiberal measures in the next five years?

Labour are in a mess, and every indication shows that a likely new leader will head for the centre ground of politics. History shows that Labour have done this before, and when they did they joined the Conservatives in an escalating battle that left civil liberties behind. Labour in Government, sadly, did not hold civil liberties to be important.

That leaves the forces of perhaps the SNP, if they can get out of their Scottish bunker, one Green MP and a hand full of Plaid Cymru parliamentarians. Of course, there are still eight Lib Dems – for now.

As country we are desperate for a rebirth of liberal values and civil liberties.

Who will step up to the plate?


Fox hunting is the tip of the iceberg

 

foxGiven the likelihood of the Conservative Government allowing a free vote to repeal the fox hunting ban, as expected there are numerous Tweets, Facebook posts and online petitions.

The thought of anyone wishing to hunt a fox with hounds, to see it torn to pieces by the pack and call it a sport turns my stomach. I just can’t comprehend the mind of anyone who thinks like that.

This clamour to keep the fox hunting ban also demonstrates the double standards that many people are happy to maintain.

Let’s get this out of the way right now.

I am a vegan.

Yes, I munch lentils.

No, I don’t have any sandals, but must declare the wearing flip-flops from time to time.

How many people have been upset about issues like the consumption of cats and dogs in China, dog fighting, the addition of horse meat into beef products?

How many of these people who were upset subsequently went home and ate a steak, burger, piece of chicken or pork?

Let’s take the egg industry. When born, male chicks are not normally wanted – they are unproductive and won’t lay eggs. So what happens to new born male chicks?

Methods

Several methods can be used to kill chicks:

  • Maceration, using a large high-speed grinder into which the live chicks are fed.
  • Gases or gas mixtures, often carbon dioxide is used to induce unconsciousness and then death.
  • Cervical dislocation (breaking the neck)
  • Electrocution, a new method that has been touted as being cheap, reliable, and humane by its developers
  • Suffocation in plastic bags

Maceration ensures the chick is killed within 1 sec if performed effectively and competently. This method is considered more humane than gassing the chicks with high concentrations of carbon dioxide. Gassing results in gasping and head shaking, and can take up to two minutes for the chick to die.

Source: Wikipedia [1]

 

Every year in UK, approximately 30 million day old chicks are killed [2]. Here is some footage from 2010:

 

If you feel a touch queasy  about that fried egg, at least you can take solace in your cup of tea with milk?

Here’s the story of a dairy cow:

 

The whole relationship people have regarding how they feel about their pets and the animals they like vs the food they eat demonstrates cognitive dissonance. This following video discusses a range of issues that our food chain creates:

 

Milan Kundera said:

“Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test…consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”

 

This is right. Humans have been given the power to do ill, or to do good. We can make choices that reduces suffering, or accept the suffering with a callous awareness or blind ignorance.

 

When you look at your pet dog or cat, look into it’s eyes. Would you really wish any other animal to be treated differently because of a preference of taste in your mouth?

 

 

Peace be with you.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick_culling

[2] http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_factory/ALL/818/


A Letter to Theresa May

Dear Theresa May,

Firstly, congratulations on your election win. Fair’s fair, your party won the popular vote. (Mind you, our ridiculous first-past-the-post system has given you the MPs to totally dominate Westminster, despite winning barely one-third of the vote, but that is another matter.)

Let’s talk about the extremist bill that was trailed in the news today. You and your party really scare me. While I fundamentally disagree with quite frankly many people, freedom of speech is of critical importance. Most politicians spout a painful amount guff, but I would not wish to prevent them from spouting such utterances.

A quote from Mark Easton of the BBC [1]

“Under the proposals, ministers would be able to silence any group or individual they believe is undermining democracy or the British values of tolerance and mutual respect.”

Let’s keep it simple and break this down.

“Undermining democracy”

What do you mean by “democracy”?  Do you mean that what comes from Westminster? With just over a third of the public vote, Westminster can produce laws that nearly two-thirds of the nation voted against, for the next five years. Is there another definition you have in mind? Westminster is ruled by a party carried the will of a minority of the electorate.

Looking back into history, many great social improvements occurred when the “law” no longer represented the common will of the people. This then leads to a tipping point, and our political system has to buckle.

“The British values of tolerance and mutual respect.”

What on earth are British values? There are no such things. I’ve travelled quite a bit, and what are often described as British values are simply common values that exists elsewhere in the world. They are human values.

If freedom to live your life reasonably as you wish without harassment is important, that precludes imposing values, even British ones (whatever they are – see above). If someone wants to live a certain religious life for example, they may choose to live in a community with others who want to live the same way. I believe that is respecting the choice of others to live differently to you. I bet you like the sound of that.

My deep concern is that many of my political peers are to be found within anti-capitalist groups and anti-fracking groups. They and I do not see the world the same as the Conservative Party do. We reject your world view, and will march, argue and protest that we would like to see the capitalism as exists now brought to its knees. We want to replace it with a system that is fair and distributes the resources we have so everyone isn’t left needy. We recognise that as a human race we are exploiting the world beyond its sustainable limits. We change direction or crash and burn.

The narrow scope of the law that comes from Westminster only support the status quo. There may be a time when doing the right thing for the people means doing the wrong thing in the eyes of the law.

Does this make me and my contemporaries extremists? Are the police coming for us soon?

I do not support  terrorism in any shape or form. However, given the laws already in place, the authorities have plenty of powers. They do not need new ones.

So I reject your bill and it’s principles totally. It seems you are trying to legislate ideas you don’t like away. It seems you want to intrude deeper into our liberties.

You and this bill will fail. You can’t legislate ideas away.

The instruments you propose will just be petrol on the bonfire.

We have just commemorated VE Day.

I wonder what they would make of your brand of freedom?

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32714802