Monday, 27 August 2007

Outflanked for Independence

Well, well - the unionist parties are going to start their own conversation about Scotland's future, apparently as an attempt to outflank the SNP.

How exactly is talking about how to bring more powers to Scotland going to 'outflank' the SNP?!? Don't they realise that's exactly what we want?

In accepting that Scotland needs additional powers, like power over inheritance tax, they are accepting the premise that Scotland suffers from our lack of taxation powers. If they accept that we need power over inheritance tax, why not National Insurance? These contradictions will highlight how hollow their arguments against independence really are. I, for one, am extremely pleased that the unionist parties will be making the case for more powers in the future. It is refreshing after a long election campaign, during which they were resolute that any change to the status quo was ridiculous, and to talk of constitutional change was somehow a betrayal to all those who used public services in Scotland...

Apparently, they are going to ask the public and leaders of civic society (perhaps 'leading experts' like Arthur Midwinter I wonder...) to contribute to their debate. But they aren't going to consider independence. So, only people that agree with them need apply to contribute. What will they do if people express support for independence? Will they be prevented from contributing? Will their remarks be omitted from reports? How, in a democracy, can you stifle debate in this way - airbrush out a view held by so many? Can't wait to see them try.

As for outflanking the SNP, well I recall that devolution was also supposed to fulfill that aim and kill the desire for independence 'stone dead'. Oh, would that be the devolution that has delivered an SNP Government?

What the Labour Party, Lib Dems and Tories fail to realise is that they will not be able to 'outflank' the legitimate case for Scottish independence indefinitely. They will have to keep moving towards the growing desire for independence, until there are no powers left to devolve to Scotland other than foreign affairs and defence. We will slowly but surely acquire a status of de facto independence, and we will be holding a referendum about whether to formalise our independence and transfer the remaining powers retained by Westminster. This piecemeal approach will, I believe, eventually deliver independence. Why wait? It will be much better for our nation if we take a collective, proactive decision to become independent so that we can take a coherent approach to making independence a success - and sooner rather than later.

The SNP are not interested in translating support for independence into support for the SNP at the ballot box. We are interested in translating support for independence into the transformation of our nation for the benefit of all who live here. That's why the cynical attempts of the unionist parties to undermine support for the SNP by moving towards what we believe in is no threat to the SNP. Their motives may be flawed, and a reaction to the SNP's electoral success, but the results are a progressive step for Scotland.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Quite a Scare

I wasn't sure whether to blog about this, but on the way back from Byres Road this afternoon I was hit by a car crossing Great Western Road. Nothing serious - I imagine that I'll have an almighty bruise on my side tomorrow morning - but scary nonetheless!

I was crossing at a pedestrian crossing, the green man was flashing, and I looked both ways (left, right, and left again) before crossing - and a car that looked like it was slowing down came from the right hand side and ran the red light! It wasn't just me on the road. A man and his young son were also crossing. I'm glad that it didn't hit him. The front of the car hit my shopping bag, while the wing mirror caught my side. If the boy had been in my place, it could have been his head that took the impact.

The driver was obviously shocked, and stopped to check I was OK. A man and his wife who were driving past at the time also stopped to make sure I was OK. The man who was also crossing at the time took the opportunity to hammer home how dangerous crossing the road is to his son! I'm sure he will be looking left, right, left, right, left, right, left... in the future!

That's why I've posted on this. Even when it looks totally safe to cross the road, always keep checking. One driver today lost their concentration for a split second, and the implications could have been a lot more serious. Take care!

The power of advertising

I was at a workshop yesterday, organised by Amnesty International as part of Edinburgh's Book Festival. The workshop was designed to help children understand more about asylum seekers and refugees by asking them to relate to the experience of leaving your home country and trying to get to a safe place.

It was a fascinating event, and a real eye-opener, to listen to the perceptions children have of asylum seekers, refugees and people from other countries generally. And it was interesting to see how their opinions shifted during the course of the role play activities, which asked them to consider things like how it would feel to have to leave your home and friends, to be separated from family members, to live in a new country where you don't know anyone, and to learn a whole new way of life under a cloud of uncertainty because you don't know if you will be allowed to stay.

Something that struck me is how much children actually absorb. They could certainly understand most of the scenarios put to them, and had a basic understanding of world affairs at the moment - particularly the dialogue over terrorism, religion and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although this was interesting, the point of my blog - I must confess - is rather flippant, but I was just so taken aback at the time...

As part of one of the tasks, the children were asked to consider how asylum seekers in the UK will be able to pay their bills and buy the things they need, when they have no money and the government doesn't allow them to work. One 'bright spark' piped up: 'They should call Debt Buster Loans!'

There's always one...

It also says something about the debt-ridden society we now live in, but that's a whole other posting...

Monday, 13 August 2007

Plea for honest debate

Well, it was good while it lasted... Jamie and I arrived back from our holiday in Budapest yesterday. We had a great time in a wonderful city. It was the first break we've had since our honeymoon last year. After our wedding last September we were in full election mode and since the election, Jamie has been busy as a new MSP.

After such a relaxing break it has been a shock to the system to come back and find the party is indeed preparing for a potential election. I think it is unlikely that the Westminster election will be in October, but it is best to be prepared. Plus, with the SNP apparently so popular, according to opinion polling, an autumn election would be no bad thing.

I'm also looking forward to the imminent launch of the independence White Paper. I must say though, I'm looking forward to engaging in discussion with people on the doorsteps and the streets a lot more than listening to the inane whining of certain unionist politicians. They have been popping up on the TV screens all day to insist that they don't want to engage in debate about independence, only devolution. Of course they don't. Because they know that if the arguments for and against independence were fully and publicly debated, the case for independence would be become all too clear to even more people in Scotland.

I also think that many of them are afraid that they won't actually be able to muster any arguments in favour of the status quo. During the election we all heard many scare stories AGAINST independence, but no abundance of arguments FOR the union. In fact, the only argument I heard made for the retention of the union was Jack McConnell's strange assertion that if Scotland were to remain part of the union, we could dump our nuclear waste in England. Charming!

I do genuinely hope that the likes of Jack McConnell, Nicol Stephen and their likely successors Wendy and Tavish can raise their game - for the sake of political debate and Scotland's future.

I usually have a lot of time for Annabel Goldie - she is at least one of the more straightforward politicians. But today, when she referred to "Alex Salmond's pet project of independence", I lost all respect for her as a politician. Even if she doesn't agree with independence for Scotland, to label the genuine and honest desire held by a great many people in Scotland for their country to be independent, sovereign and equal as some one's "pet project" is gutter politics. It demeans Ms Goldie and it is an insult to the people of this country.

Oh, to be back on holiday, for just one more week...

Monday, 6 August 2007

Harrowing Tale

I watched a documentary on BBC 2 last night, which was filmed entirely on the personal video camera of the main protagonist. The man in question was a television presenter in the US in the 1990s. He had a successful career, lovely supportive wife and two adorable children. Yet he was hooked on drugs.

For years, he kept a video diary of his life - over 3,000 hours of footage - which told a harrowing story of his battle to give up drugs.

Here was a man who knew that he was jeopardising his showbiz career, acknowledged that the drugs would most likely kill him and understood the damage they were doing to him and his family. He was a tormented man - he knew exactly what he was doing, but he just couldn't seem to help himself. He went through more than one course of rehabilitation, and managed to stay clean for long periods of time. But then something overcame him, and he was back on drugs.

Ironically, he was introduced to cocaine by the local police, who he shadowed as part of his job as a crime reporter.

It wasn't until he lost his career and his wife divorced him that he eventually managed to get off drugs - and is still clean. He now speaks to young people about his experiences, and warns them of the damage that drugs can do to their lives.

I find tales like this so disturbing. It is an awful thing to say, but it is easier to accept why people from disadvantaged backgrounds turn to drugs. Poverty is so often at the route of our social ills. So, if we can tackle poverty, then drugs will go away. Unfortunately it's not that easy. There are so many complex reasons why people get caught in a cycle of substance abuse. If we are really to tackle such a complex problem, we seriously need to consider if we are doing nearly enough. Tackling poverty, increasing access to rehabilitation, improving drug education, and improving support facilities to help people stay clean in their communities after rehab are all important. But what more can we do? If some one with so many advantages in life can become hooked on a substance that can so easily destroy it, then what other issues do we have to consider?

Friday, 3 August 2007

Says it all really...

I do my best to try and blog on issues, rather than use my blog to attack people or spread gossip - but I'm sure that this doesn't fall into either of those latter categories...

I just have to repeat Andy Kerr's quote in today's Scotsman. When questioned about his potential candidacy for the Labour leadership in Scotland, he responded:

"I'm saying nothing about anything"


To me, this sums up the dire situation in which Labour now find themselves in Scotland, when one of those touted as of sufficient calibre for the leadership expresses himself in this way. From what I can gather, Andy Kerr is actually quite a nice guy. He is certainly more personable than Wendy Alexander - but neither really have the qualities required to lead a political party, never mind a country. Wendy may be brighter than your average Labour MSP, but it's all relative!

Anyway, on a slightly less biased note, it will be interesting to observe the battle for the leadership in what is an interesting watershed for the Labour Party in Scotland. How do the candidates propose to build momentum among their falling activist base? Will they change their approach to policy development and move away from the managerial approach of recent times? Will they evolve their position on constitutional change? Interesting times.