Sunday, 21 September 2014
We sit on the eve of the Autumn equinox and mourn our summer dream, which shall shine no more. Yet for strange noctornal creatures like me, there is daring delight in the dark nights which whisper their welcome to wounded hearts.
Our harvest did not bear the fruit of the blossoms which we had dared to cultivate. Our toil did not yield what was deserved for this great rich land, which we love so much. For so sometimes it must be, without a nod to reason, logic or fairness, often the most beloved and tended seed, stubbornly refuses to grow.
But the wounded farmer does not give up. For now is the time to enrich our soil. If we are willing to plough our unripened failures back into the cooling earth, we will nourish the very soul of our argument and feed the lifeforce that will allow it to flourish again.
Many times the bulb planted in the early warmth of spring will disappoint but though an autumn sowing has no chance of an early reward, the patient farmer knows the long wait will be worth it, when at last the harvest bins are full.
What happens in those long dark dormant months is nothing short of miraculous. For without their hardship, the Spring would have no foundation. In truth, they are not dormant at all. The frost to come will only serve to break up the ground for us. We must embrace it. For those who hope to strip our land of strength do not understand its true riches and they will be confused by our faith.
We must now furrow the heat of our spoiled summer back into every field. The fruit that did not ripen must not be wasted. For though we did not eat of it fully, the new seeds which have set are many in number, and they are ripe to take up the task.
Let us cast those seeds now to the autumn winds in faith and hope that we have gathered them well. Let us brew up a winter storm that will refresh our vigour and blow out the rotten that must fall away.
For in the dark, we can dream unseen. In the dark, we will grow un-noticed.
Dig-in Scotland, dig-in.
For in the Spring, our shoots will shatter their slumber once more...
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
1. Democracy: Scotland and her people have been recognised by the world as a country with our own wants, needs and desires for many hundreds of years. At long last the Scottish Parliament has become the embodiment of this but it has no clothes to fashion the society we long to create. Our small influence in Westminster means we cannot weave the change we want to see in our own country because we do not have control over the materials we ourselves have brought to be styled. With Independence the people of Scotland will choose the threads which embroider the tapestry of our democracy and how our parliament shall be woven together.
2. Accountability: No tapestry is ever perfect and neither is any parliament. Westminster has woven many catastrophes and an Independent Scottish Parliament will drop more than a few stiches in its time too. The issue is not perfection, it’s accountability. The weavers of Westminster can fashion any image they wish for us, cut our cloth how they see fit, leave patches unmended and push patterns which pull apart the seams of Scottish society. They can do this because we are powerless to get rid of them, and more important than this fact alone, THEY KNOW WE ARE POWERLESS TO GET RID OF THEM. That is why we ended up with the Scottish poll tax experiment and it’s why our central belt will be fracked without our consent. It isn’t that they can’t hear the Scottish loom creaking under the strain, it’s that they simply don’t have to listen. When the politicians we choose know we can dismiss them for the errors they make, they will work much harder to avoid those errors in the first place too.
3. Better Government: It is because of this lack of democracy and accountability that the wool ends up in a fankle and it takes the charitable efforts of volunteer darners to come in and fix the holes left by the Westminster machine. With better democracy, the Scottish people can judge which threads best fit the pattern of our society, chose the best weavers to bring them together and make the choices of how our cloth should be cut – but there is more to it than that. The politicians chosen to clothe our great nation have her frame right at their hands, to measure and fit, pin, stitch and crucially, unstitch as they see fit. Policy created close to the people it is meant to affect is better policy. It is always preferable to measure your model than to guess and when tailoring needs to be done, you can see where things need to be trimmed and where they need to be let out, without the country having to suffer an ill-fitting garment for years or even decades. At the moment, the state apparatus of the UK is so huge and inefficient that by the time complaints about chaffing are starting to be addressed, the country has lost a leg through lack of circulation.
4. Society: The ties which unite us are strong indeed. There are threads braided in friendship I would never wish to tease apart but when we stand back to look at the rich tapestry of our societies, something is very different. The corridors of power at Westminster are lined with golden childhoods that saw its masters shuttle through public school, Eton, Oxbridge and the like. Not only the MPs but the advisors, the top civil servants, the very underclothes of state are permanently creased with privilege. How can such a golden brocade of decision makers hope to formulate and implement policy which affects the masses when they do not understand the basic cloth from which they have come? It matters not how many times IDS visits Easterhouse, the daily lives of the people who live there are as alien to him as those in any number of slums and shanty towns around the world. Yes, Scotland has many grades of thread running from top to bottom in our society but overall we are a wide checked tartan, much more equal in our beginnings. Our parliament and those who support it are not perfect but they are part of that great plaid rather than its trimmings. Their better understanding of how society works means they are better connected with the people they represent. We need to do more to strengthen that link and greatly revolutionise social mobility. The best way to do that is to give not just thread, but needle, pattern, cloth and scissors to our people and let them choose how best to stich our country together.
5. Future: We have a great future ahead of us but we need to wake up and take charge of it for ourselves. There are so many possibilities for future development but without the control over investment in our economy and the ability to tailor policies across every area to suit our needs, we are only holding ourselves back un-necessarily. We need training opportunities which fit with the investment we are trying to encourage, in industries which Scotland is uniquely placed to excel in, like renewables. We need childcare policies which will fit with the needs of parents, empowering them to get back to work so that their tax contribution can create further job creation and more schemes to get others into work. There is no point in having a pensions policy reserved to Westminster which both forces an aging population to keep working but bemoans the fact that there are not enough young people in work to support them retiring. Grandparents cannot both work to fund their peers’ pensions and be responsible for looking after the childcare needs of the nation to allow their own children to get into work. On this, and so many other issues, having a rag-bag of reserved and devolved powers does not work. We need to have control over all of these areas so that we can make policies which work together, tinker and mend as adjustments are needed.
6. Public Services: Our flag may be blue but in our soul, there are ribbons of red that run shamelessly into every sector of public life. There is an ideological divide, which since the birth of New Labour has only ripped further at the fabric of society as one public service after another is privatised or opened up to competition and pushes workers to the bottom of the pile. It is a fact that the less which is spent on public services in England, the less we in turn get to spend on all which we wish to fund. If they privatise and we don’t that means making tough choices in other areas and ultimately, we are none of us Rumplestiltskin. We cannot weave straw into gold. If we want to protect our public services, we need control over our budget. It won’t make a blind bit of difference how many people are employed in Scotland because additional tax from this goes to the London treasury. It does not feed back into the NHS, Education or any other public service. If we want to make these services better, we must vote to take control of them or risk others forcing our hand.
7. Trident: The true stain and shame on these lands. It must go. Even if it cost nothing I would shout it from the rafters but free it is not. Weapons of Mass Destruction at the head of the Clyde sit mockingly opposed to the foodbanks stiched in their dozens along the banks of that great river. Our aspirations to free and properly funded education are but a dream and fantasy we are told and yet we consent to spend hundreds of millions on replacing this monster of global terror. The world is watching our every move. Let us show them that we are ready to take our place and be a responsible nation but let us show them also, that we will have no part in this mutually assured destruction.
8. Opportunity: This is it. Tomorrow is our one chance. No fancy metaphors, it’s as simple as that. We are a rich country, full of talent and natural resources but when it comes down to it, our potential is limited to what powers we are gifted by others. Those powers are ours by right and tomorrow we should grasp them with both hands and show the world we are ready to take responsibility for all which concerns our nation. Let us go forward in hope for what we can create together. For ourselves, for our children and for their children to come.
WE CAN DO IT.
The time is now.
The answer is YES!
WE CAN DO IT.
The time is now.
The answer is YES!
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
The NHS (or fruit and veg) problem as explained to my 8 year old whilst we were shopping:
People in England need to go shopping just like us but there are lots more of them, so they need to buy lots more stuff and that costs lots more money. This is simple - yes? (8 year old nods) Good.
At the moment, all the money from Scotland gets sent to London and when we need to go shopping, we have to ask for that money back again. It's a bit silly but it's how things work at the moment, so let's just accept it for a few minutes!
(Because the 10 x table is easy for 8 year olds we shall simplify the figures a bit but the premise is the same.)
Let's say for every £1000 England spends on its shopping, we can spend £100, so if England spends £2000, we can spend £200 and so on - so far my 8 year old has this.
Now, it's true, England can't tell us how much meat, fruit, cereal or washing powder to buy -if we want to blow the whole lot on Marshmallows, we can do that (eyes light up) but that would be very very dumb.
We can cook our meat however we want, steam our veg instead of boil, go organic or buy the savers options, it is our choice - but we can't spend any more money than what we get. (there is much frowning at this point)
The problem is, if England decides it isn't going to buy fruit and veg anymore because someone else has set up a shop where the English people themselves can go and buy it - well that means that without Fruit and Veg in the trolley, the English shopping will cost a lot less.
And if the English shopping costs less - 8 year old nods - then Scotland gets less to spend on its shopping too.
Now - we can still spend as much of our budget on fruit and veg as we like. We can steam, fry, boil, eat raw, skin on or whatever. We can even spend the whole lot on fruit and veg if we want to but then what about meat, washing powder, bread, milk, eggs, dairy...8 year old interrupts - "Mum what about salted caramel ice-cream??!!! Please don't say we can't have the salted caramel ice-cream." I agree with her absolutely - such a sacrifice is just barbaric!!!
So, if England spent £100 from their £1000 on fruit and veg but then dropped it, that would leave them with a spend of....pause for 8 year old...yup...£900.
And because we get 10% of that amount to spend, that means we now have £90 instead of £100.
But the problem is we don't want to stop spending on fruit and veg and we don't want the people of Scotland to have to pay for it themselves from a different shop either because they've already paid for the fruit and veg through their taxes.
So we are going to have to choose something else to take out of the trolley. Whether it's the milk, the eggs or the tin foil, I don't know, but we can't spend more than we get, so it has to be something.
8 year old looks pleadingly "what about the salted caramel ice cream mummy?"
Well honey - that's probably the first thing that'll go - and to be honest, from what some (who already enjoyed all the salted caramel ice cream they could eat) have said - that could well be the end of your free education.
We have choices to make. Very tough ones. But let's make them for ourselves and work out what we need to spend on and how we are going to raise the money to pay for it.
My generation loathed the milk snatcher but if you make my daughter grow up in a Scotland without salted caramel ice cream, Lord help you, the revolution will not come with club card points.