This was the year I became a political activist worth a damn. It was also the year the paranoid proved to be prophets.
I found both Scottish political year in review programmes exhausting. Rather than revisiting the past, I was reliving it. And it hurt terribly.
As I recall, it felt like a continuously updated sequence of reasons of why the Labour party has become increasingly irrelevant, it’s a lot of fun and simultaneously aching and sad. Their shotgun marriage in Better Together saw them remove old Labour, revitalise New Labour, borrow policies and become Blue. When old Labour hacks like Dennis Canavan, Alex Mosson (former Lord Provost of Glasgow), Sir Charles Gray (former leader of Strathclyde Regional Council) and John Mulvey run into welcoming Yes arms, something’s far wrong in the Labour case for No.
It was a year of, blips and bumps aside, inexorable climbing towards independence. From spending Hogmanay in the National Collective’s art cave dungeon cum planning facility, fixing their accursed website, then jumping straight in through getting much, much better at face to face persuasion, discussion, holding events and organising Yes Edinburgh North & Leith (YENL)’s canvassing and data collection facilities.
This month saw a slight change in the UK and Scotland’s political climate.
It was raining quite a lot, and floods happened. We still didn’t and don’t give a fuck about climate change. Money suddenly became no object for flooded marginal Tory constituencies. I became a bit more of a sharp-tongued misery-guts about it. “Why is climate change still a debate? Ah right… capitalism.”
Donald Trump got told to fuck off – his objection to the windfarm being built off the coast of his Scottish golf course was dismissed. Which was fun.
Dear Donald Trump – GIRFUY. Love, Scotland
— Scott Macdonald (@scott_eff) February 11, 2014
Baronesses and other Lords were doing the “live off £1 a day thing”. Fooling no-one with their poverty tourism. The vermin in ermine will never taste desperate.
Austerity rhetoric met reality. Blah blah “there is no money left” blah blah “tough choices”. Oh, we’ve just found £2.5bn for some new fighter jets.
Scotland agreed that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. That was a pretty great day. The UKIP weather report had heavy downpours of joy, followed by rainbows. I’d written to the leader of the Scottish Tories thanking her for her excellent contribution at stage 1.
It was also the first time I’d ever actually visited the Scottish Parliament debating chamber. To my mind, I adore the Scottish Parliament. But regardless of whether you think it’s an eyesore or a marvel on the outside, inside is simply magnificent. I was running up and down the chamber stairs trying to live-tweet from notes. Not exactly the most dignified of efforts.
Sermon on the Pound
On 13th February, George Osborne came to Edinburgh to tell us we couldn’t share the pound in a currency union. That same night, YENL had a public meeting on the referendum. After the opening blether, of course the public wanted to talk about currency.
And so we did. It turns out, Scotland didn’t really believe Osborne – that the people of Scotland would be denied use of the currency we have built value into for decades. Colin Fox blasted Osborne’s gambit with: “No posh boy from London is going to tell us what to do! – Ye wernae bred for it, pal!” Robin McAlpine gave a lecture on alternatives and negotiation power, and why they would also be good for Scotland.
Voters on the ground agreed. The weekend was filled with people coming up to our Kirkgate stall telling us that Osborne’s arrogant intervention moved them off the fence to Yes. Subsequent national polling confirmed this.
There was a wonderful photobomb.
It was decided there would be no big march and rally for independence in August. The loudest complaining about this seemed to mostly come from those who hadn’t lifted a finger for the cause. (“How’s *your area*‘s canvassing coming along?”, cue radio silence.) My concern was that it took tens of thousands of activists away from where they’d be crucially needed at a late campaign stage. And it risked us looking like Neil Kinnock in 1992.
A note in the diary: “I look around me in the Yes campaign and see aspiration to make life better. I look across at the No campaign, and see those saying it’ll only get worse. I keep wondering how Nicola Sturgeon keeps answering the same damn questions over and over and over. *resolves never to stand for office*”
On Danny Alexander: “I could watch him being butt-stomped into a bed of nails all day and not feel a flicker of emotion.”
Everyone’s childhood dies
Harold Ramis – the star and writer of the great supernatural modern comedy, Ghostbusters, died. And everyone over 25 on Twitter died a little inside.
Colin Fox and Mark Lazarowicz debated at Queen Margaret University.
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The leader of Scottish Labour, Johann Lamont and the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon debated on live telly. It felt like a recorded headache, a hideous, lumpen stairheid rammy.
Easterhouse hosted the first Radical Independence mass-canvass. The SSP’s Liam McLaughlan and Tony Kenny got stuck right in.
The BBC are in tow.
Someone invented a programming language based on Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners. https://github.com/lhartikk/ArnoldC
Six months to go. The referendum campaigning is going from a jog to a full-on gallop.
Wrote a piece for the Scottish Socialist Voice.
Boris gives the Met water cannons. Laurie Penny describes them as “the sexy designer underwear of the modern police arsenal.” The message is clear.
Londoners: resist capitalism and we’ll gouge your fucking eyes out. Love, the filth.
The BBC goes on the road with UKOK.
Alex Salmond delivered a lecture for New Statesman magazine. It’s a good read. I flippin’ loved the last five paragraphs.
Lady Alba becomes an internet sensation. “I’m voting No, coz I like Status Quo!”
Too many excellent people die this month
Professor Ailsa McKay dies of cancer. Here she is delivering a feminist economics presentation at the Radical Independence Conference in 2013. She’s also the prime reason why the White Paper dared to argue for transformative childcare policy.
National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers General Secretary Bob Crow died from a heart attack at the age of 52. A huge loss to the Trade Union and socialist movement.
Tony Benn died a week later. “I do not share the general view that market forces are the basis of political liberty”. RIP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETqOvBKnKdk
Too wee, too poor, too stupid
The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland, (GERS) figures were released. Tax writeoffs for the North Sea oil and gas industries amounted to £14bn, which resulted in lower revenues for the year. Better Together types busy popping champagne corks about Scotland being “too poor”.
Scottish Tory conference
The Scottish Tories had their considerably downsized conference in Edinburgh.
The SSP were there. 🙂
Rosie Kane fundraiser
Rosie Kane held an evening show at the Serenity Cafe, in a solidarity fundraiser for Palestinian author Pamela Olson.
Oddly enough, Glasgow Tory councillor, David Meikle was there. He who flew the Israeli flag out of the city chambers a few months later.
With six months to go before the referendum, the Labour Party released the results of their devolution commission to much simultaneous laughter and chagrin. New names for it were being coined rapidly. DevoNano, DevoThisIsAllWeCouldGetPastTheTwoEds, et al. The report was being published, and their website was still accepting submissions.
At the time of publication – 63% of people in Scotland wanted full devolution of tax & welfare. Labour put very limited proposals put forward on either. An interesting howler – they proposed devolution of administration of Health and Safety but not health and safety legislative competence itself. Administration of the poverty pay work programme but definitely not employment benefits. It was a dog’s breakfast. And the funniest thing was trying to see Johann Lamont try to explain it on Newsnight.
“You can move deckchair A, B but definitely not C on the Titanic. AND FORGET ABOUT THOSE LIFEBOATS!” – Johann Lamont
A nice long Radical Independence mass canvass at Dumbiedykes for the vernal equinox. Plenty of people from YENL, local RIC, and independent Highlands MSP John Finnie turned up and hit the doors.
The Conservatives unveiled their new Long Term Economic Plan website. It’s worth a read, really! Dave goes off on a mighty bender, with a penny off beer.
Grant Shapps decided to celebrate a tax cut on bingo. For hard-working families, natch. The Scottish Socialist Party had a bit of fun invoking Orwell.
According to Panelbase, Yes had closed the gap to 5 points. Reflecting on this, and the sheer positive force of the army we’ve amassed:
“The amount of amazing work I see from this campaign continues to astound and humble me. The key debate is permanent transformation. The Scottish National Party push optimism and self-belief. National Collective push fun and vitality. The Scottish Socialist Party push equality justice through a socialist platform. The Scottish Green Party push local governing and economy. Women For Independence create a grand space for the 52%, reinvigorating gender politics. Labour for Indy seek to bring their party back. Common Weal brings out radical economics and affirming social policy. Radical Independence creates a space for a broad left movement. All of them. Every damn one of them puts boots on the ground. Speakers on the street, in our town halls, at doors and in our lives. We have not seen the campaign’s like before. And win or lose, Scotland will be better for having this engaged army of transformers.”
Colin Fox articulated the devo-max difficulties, by contrasting the socialist case for independence.
National Collective asked everyone for their #indyreasons. There’s some absolute beauties out there.
“To promote peace and international solidarity with struggling peoples of the world against injustice.” – Me
“Michael Gove.” – Greg Moodie, cartoonist
“A peaceful nation where we extend the hand of friendship to strangers not point a gun at them.” – Sandra Webster, co-spokesperson of the SSP
“To live & work in a country of our making, to see our decisions enacted & be rid of nuclear bombs, war & poverty” – Radical Indy Edinburgh
“To make George Osborne cry in public again” – Aidan Kerr
“Because there is such a thing as society” – Ross Greer, Scottish Green
“A country where a house is a home & not an investment opportunity” – Iain Simpson, RIC activist
“To put right the mistakes of Westminster which have saw us become the 4th most unequal country in the developed world.” – Liam McLaughlan, SSP activist
“Time to say a well overdue farewell to the House of Lords” – Stewart Kirkpatrick, head of Yes Scotland Digital
“of course there would be a currency union…”
The Grauniad published a scoop where an unnamed UK government minister was quoted saying “of course there would be a currency union” in the event of Scottish independence. The flagrant spinning was hilarious to watch.
It was subsequently revealed that it was chair of Better Together, Alistair Darling who pushed the UK Government to take the currency stand. Not sure who was more annoyed about the leak.
Flanders and self-determination rally
Covered here. That was fun. Especially the fantastic beer.