(Lack of) Food for thought

Standard

Not a wholly original blog today – stats & video are taken from “The Canary”

The stats below all have links and at the bottom is the link to a gentleman called Peter Stefanovic who is a campaigner and lawyer. He makes arguments that most decent people would support but no-one seems to be fighting for them.

Regardless how you are thinking of voting, please don’t fall for the apathy that some media outlets are already peddling. Ever time we get a chance to vote we should use that democratic right to it’s fullest. This is an opportunity to make your voice heard. If we all moan that nothing ever changes it’s because too many people aren’t voting.

We need to encourage everyone to get out for both the local and Westminster elections and have an impact. If you don’t believe me just look at the Brexit vote – well over 10 million people didn’t vote. That’s madness! Those people could have easily changed the vote either to Remain or to securely stamp Leave rather than the paper-thin difference we ended with.

This is a real turning point for the UK – and not just about the EU. We have had a Tory led government since 2010 and an SNP led Government since 2007 and both north and south of the border things are getting worse for our valued public services and servants. We are looking the other way at Europe and wondering what will happen there while behind us Education, Health, Mental Health, support for Carers and the Disabled are being eroded. Not enough money is being provided and where money is coming in it’s not to the people who so desperately need it. The poorest in the UK are miles behind those at the top – we are one of the richest countries in the world yet we are failing too many people.

Vote – but think carefully before you do and ensure your vote is for a positive change and a strike for hope in a world where too many are being left behind.

  • 400,000 children are now living in poverty, a figure which rose 100,000 in 2015/16. 67% of those are from working families.
  • Food bank usage has risen, with over half a million people reliant on just the Trussell Trust for food packages.
  • In two reports, the UN heavily criticised the Tories for “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. The government, meanwhile, has severely cut their benefits.
  • The past year has seen strikes by junior doctors, rail workers, teaching assistants, library workers, and other public sector staff. Their pay increases have mostly been capped at 1%.
  • National debt has increased by more than 50%.
  • Homelessness has risen by 54%.
  • Corporations have seen tax cuts [pdf] while the tax gap is around £120bn per year.
  • The NHS has seen a real terms cut in the amount of money given to it per patient. While the amount of NHS money paid to ‘independent’ companies has more than doubled to £8bn a year.
  • The government has cut the number of people getting social care by 26%. And it has cut £50m from children’s mental health services.

JD

Omnishambles

Standard

An utterly useless clusterfuck of a move today by Despicable May. I wonder at what point she decided, “Well the world’s on the brink of a nuclear winter, our traditional allies are putting distance between us because we asked for a divorce and the UK’s devolved administrations are all at loggerheads with Westminster – let’s have a General Election to bring us all back together!”

In which sane part of the land is that even an idea – never mind a good one? It comes of course with a huge amount of baggage and politically the public are confused to what to do. Do Labour Voters who support Brexit vote Tory or UKIP for the first time in their lives? Do the Remainers return to the Lib Dem fold even though Fallon is as wet as Corbyn during a wet t-shirt contest? Does it really matter how Scotland votes?

It appears to me that there is no positive outcome to this election. Starting with the Tories –  if they gain seats as predicted, then Brexit is not just Hard but Granite – a majority would leave backbenchers without the ability to frustrate and hold its own party to account. We would be looking at a possible exit without a deal as we know these things could take up to a decade to finalize and we have 23 months. May would be bolstered and would march into Brussels thinking she had a mandate – but the figures from the EU referendum don’t change because of a General Election, it’s a different vote altogether.

She assumes that because the other parties are weak that she’ll automatically be put back in, but she has to be careful. The 52% of the country who voted to Leave the EU are not all right wing voters. All other parties (apart from the SNP) have said they respect the decision but want checks and balances the other end of the negotiations. To many this seems like a fair thing to do and her hardened stance that she and her government have the final say may come across as dictatorial and unreflective of the uncertain mood in the country.

Labour must be both loving and dreading this. On one hand Corbyn could be out on his ear and we’d get a stronger leader. His ideas are good, he’s just not the man to deliver them. A more public service friendly, compassionate and thoughtful leader he has been – but his charisma is now on watchlists as it hasn’t been seen for years. The upside could be they pull back in the working class vote lost to UKIP but the mixed messages on Brexit could be their undoing.

Where the have an opportunity is by fighting on traditional Labour platforms – the Health Service which is in crisis, education being damaged across the whole UK, tax cuts for the rich, abolition of support for the most vulnerable and disabled – these could be winners if they get their message straight. Will they? I doubt it. £10 minimum wage seems unrealistic and considering that the front bench can’t agree on very much would see a very divided party pushed front and centre. Do we need that as a government at such a difficult time as we live in?

The Lib Dems are frustrating. Tim Fallon is a worse leader than Uncle Jeremy for me. Regardless of your opinion of Nick Clegg and his coalition with the Tories I think hindsight has shown us that actually he did a good job of keeping the rabid right-wingers at bay during his time as Deputy Prime Minister. They have sensible ideas just as Labour do, but I find it difficult to buy into them as they struggle to be heard above the noise.

UKIP are racist, misogynistic, sexist, thugs that don’t deserve the inflated the platform that they continue to get from the media. It’s an embarrassment to this country they have had the airtime they have considering their only MP is no longer in the party. But they could make an impact if the North of England tip to the right as they did in the EU referendum. Labour really are the only alternative for many voters, but with such a weak leadership many might look to UKIP to ensure money is taken from the EU and given back to the UK. In my humble opinion, I do think this is the end of the road for the party – what do they stand for now? They got their wish and unless the LIb Dems become the government the other two main parties agree that leaving the EU will happen.

SNP are in a strange position as well – they can only really lose in this election. Consider where we were last May compared to where we are now – leaving the EU and on the edge of the break-up of the UK. Around a third of SNP voters wanted to leave so that may well impact on their votes and the rise of Ruth Davidson as a sensible voice north of the border could see the Tories take away some of those yellow patches on the map. I can’t see Labour or the Lib Dems doing much damage in Scotland, but if they did it would start to bring into question Surgeon’s decision to demand a second Scottish Referendum.

So where does all that leave us? Potentially even more split than we were after the 23rd June 2016 and the EU referendum. With the country divided and uncertainty ahead will we stick with the shambles that is May, Boris, Hammond and Davis or bring in a potential coalition of Uncle Jeremy, Tim-liberal-but-bland and the SNP?

A rainbow coalition? No, just storm clouds ahead.

JD

JD’s Last Stand

Standard

scotland

My final thoughts before tomorrow’s voting opens – not about policy but about my heart & head response to everything I’ve seen and read.

It’s easy to pick holes in the opposition’s ideas and proposals – we all know politicians lie and we also know that that is true of most, if not all, who have been involved in this referendum debate – but I want to focus on the positives of why we should stay as part of the UK.

Firstly I want to state clearly I am a proud Scot and I’m annoyed that the Yes side hijacked the Saltire as their emblem because it doesn’t belong to either side – it belong to the whole country. Being fiercely behind Scotland as a nation but still wanting to be British is not a paradox in any way and to suggest so shows a real lack of intelligence. This is an inventive, creative, joyous, beautiful and honest land. The people are amazing and sadly we’ve lost the togetherness we have enjoyed over the last three hundred years in the space of two because of this divisive vote. My No vote is protect that country so it exists for my own children to enjoy.

What we have achieved as the UK should not be undervalued by anyone. All my grandparents lived through wars that had them standing side by side with allies and friends from our sister countries again the Nazis and fascism; fighting on the frontline to ensure votes like tomorrow could happen. Their dedication to the UK as a whole is celebrated every November and should not be thrown away lightly – especially when this generations armed forces could be decimated in an independent Scotland. Working as one we made the NHS – possibly the greatest thing politics has ever achieved in the UK. A free at source healthcare system that treats us all equally and will even support those who come from abroad if we can help them. I wouldn’t be alive were it not for the amazing work they do and I know many others that would not be here either. We did that together – why break it up? My No vote is to protect and ensure a real future for the generations who saved us and the NHS that continues to do so.

We share a culture – despite what we joke about there are many shared values in the arts, music, customs and traditions. SHakespeare and Burns are both our bards, Sherlock Holmes is the quintessential Englishman created by a Scot, James Bond played best by a Scot in many people’s opinion and three of our thirteen Doctor Whos have come from North of the Border. It’s that melting pot of ideas and creativity that makes us great. The BBC is another fantastic example of how joined up thinking can make world class programming. They have taken a beating (unfairly I would add) from the Yes campaign but look at the coming together of BBC regions to make some of the greatest Dramas, funniest comedies and fascinating documentaries – if we leave we won’t have a right to that any more as we will only be paying in 8% of the overall licence fee. My No Vote is to protect the creative spark we share.

We share a conscience too. While there are always political disagreements our togetherness is an enviable thing. Remember that moment at the start of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics? We were all poised on Facebook and Twitter to rip it to pieces and then we saw it hold up a mirror to our achievements from the Industrial age, to the NHS to music and we sat back in amazement at the joy and pride we had in the UK. Even the most hardened nationalist must have been impressed as we watched the words “This is for everyone” appear around the stadium from Tim Berners-Lee and recognised how we have invented and gifted things like the internet to the world.We keep each other in check – we are a largely liberal country and have taken leaps in social justice – even during times of Tory governments with right to buy and the legalisation of Gay Marriage. We don’t stand for unfair things, we challenge those who challenge us, we rally like no other nation when it comes to charity. My No vote is keep that shared mindset.

I’m proud that my country has the West End of London, the beauty of Snowdonia, the mystic Giant’s Causeway, Nessie, Blackpool, Tiger Bay, Iona, Sherwood Forest and Edinburgh Festival. We have all those things and can count them as ours in the shared wealth that is the UK – not financial wealth but an embarrassment of riches in unique places to visit and enjoy. We have so much more in common that things that divide us – our towns and cities up and down these isles are welcoming. From Robin Hood to King Arthur, Scottish Ghost stories to Stonehenge our myths and history combine to make this a huge map of possibilities for us right on our doorsteps. My No vote is to keep that geography together.

This is my country, these are my friends. Being made to choose between the ones here and the ones across each border is not something I want to do – what is a border anyway but an invisible line that means nothing to friends either side of it. I will vote no because I honestly believe that we are Better Together – not in twee way as many have depicted the No campaign to be – but as a way to combine and bring out the best in each other. Science, education, healthcare, literature, the arts, music, justice, morality, brotherhood & sisterhood; We can put a wall between us and our friends to the south but nothing will be positive about losing all this. Yes it allows those who question the power of Westminster to remove themselves from it but the issues will still be the same and instead of London we’ll blame Edinburgh – we’ll be worse off for it. I support devolution for all the areas of the UK with Westminster pulling us all together when we need it.

It doesn’t come down to Political parties or slogans or posters, it’s about how you feel in your heart and your head. I understand the draw of Independence for the romantic reasons, but I still think we gain so much from our neighbours that we’d lose an important part of ourselves by leaving.

Vote No to protect Scotland and continue to make it a great nation within the UK

JD

The Storm

Standard

calm-before-storm-1

It lies there on the horizon watching and anticipating our next move. As the clouds creep towards us the inevitable cooling of the air is matched by an increasing electricity that lies in those dark monsters above. We’ve known about its arrival for years yet here we are still unprepared for the downfall; the deluge of decisions upon which a future must be staked. Neighbours and friends now stand either side of the road looking up and expecting the sun to shine on them by the time the tempest passes. Neither will escape the rain and heavy winds, yet both expect the warmth of the aftermath to be theirs alone. All that lies behind the cloudburst is more darkness. The lightning that illuminates the air and cracks in the air cries of offensive words across the cyberspace divide with former friends eyeing each other with disdain.

The air has turned. There is a closeness about it. A feeling of claustrophobia surrounding five million souls. The way out or to shelter is unclear for many. A stillness falls. The proverbial calm before the storm.

Our suitors have tried to show us their wares to protect us and guide us through, but it won’t be enough. The storm that’s coming will leave damage and erosion to our land and we will be unable to sort in the short-term. The naive blame the mythical from the big bad wolf to karma, the educated throw percentages and facts around but neither offers a solution or any real hope. Standing on the echoes and shadows of those who fought the storms previously we think we’re more knowledgeable, more understanding of the problem, but the truth is we are the same frail humans that have faced rounds of dark clouds for centuries.

Do we hold on when the moment comes or let go and see where the rainwater takes us – shelter or embrace the elements? We sit watching, listening, disagreeing, supporting but only the elements have certainty. The storm will hit hard. The vandalism in some places irreversible. And for what? Our own human version of climate change forced upon a country ill-prepared and misled by those in charge. To deny it is dangerous as the outcomes are our shadow in the future. An “Us” that lives with hindsight and regrets is the only guarantee and an “Us” who claim survival despite the loss of half their kith and kin.

Will we survive the storm? Yes, but we will not be unchanged by it. Words cannot be taken back; lies cannot be made true; celebrations will anger and ruin friendships.

We knew it was coming, but we chose to argue amongst ourselves rather than have an open and honest dialogue about how we should all work together for the best outcome. Winning will be bittersweet, losing will be heartbreaking as we look back at he decimation left behind by a storm forecast years ago.

The rain is starting. Shelter.

JD

Dear Undecideds

Standard

Yes and no campaigners in scottish referendum

Sorry guys but you have the deciding votes. With there being only 6% between the sides in the latest polls the “Undecideds” hold the real power in Thursday’s Referendum. So the famous line goes, “With Great Power comes Great Responsibility”- No pressure then.

It would be easy for me to say you should vote No with my side of the argument, but instead I’m going to pose a few questions that you need to consider before you enter that polling booth on Thursday – and please do vote, even if you only make up your mind at that last second as it’s too big an opportunity to lose. You need to make up your own mind.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Politicians lie. We know that his is a fact and everyone across the spectrum of opinion on the Referendum will be saying things only to get your vote. So you have to look at it this way: Go with the liar we know and hate from Westminster and the Devolved Scottish Parliament on the No side, or the Liars on the Yes side of the campaign. Which has a better track record and where is your voice and vote really heard?

2. Is the timing right? Look at the way things are. Neither side has a strong lead and we’re split 50/50. Would it not be better to let this Referendum go and then have a real open conversation and have another referendum in a few years time when there is a consensus?

3. Can we afford it? With the UK, EU and world economy just recovering is it the right time to unsettle things again for ourselves? Do you put the recent growth at risk for a gamble that might not pay off?

4. What are we actually getting? We don’t know what lies ahead after a yes vote, but we do have a fair idea if it’s No. Again should we take the time to negotiate and discuss the future without timetables putting false deadlines on massive decisions?

5. If you are truly undecided isn’t there only one sensible option for you? Yes is not an impulse vote – the complete change of course, a new uncharted one, should not be like an impulse buy at the checkout of a supermarket when you throw a Mars Bar on the conveyor belt. If you are at all unsure isn’t the sensible and decent thing to do is Vote No? Yes shouldn’t be a whim or the result of a toss of a coin – it’s too important for that.

The power you have to swing the result in either direction scares both sides. So here’s some unimpartial advice:

  • Look at your own circumstances because you know and understand them – could you afford an unsettled period of between twenty or thirty years in your life?
  • Listen to your head – while your heart will be filled with the best of Scotland, your head knows the reality. It’s not a gut reaction you need but a sensible considered approach.
  • Don’t be swayed by the bullying tactics and scaremongering on either side. Think about yourself – be selfish, how would you be better off personally and as a family?
  • In the legal system we have a thing called doubt that plays an important part in making a decision. If you have doubts then No is the sensible option.

I would ask you to vote No if you are at all unconvinced by the policies of the Yes side – this is something that cannot be undone. The rest of the UK would not take us back, it’ll be a messy break up with bitterness on both sides. There is however the vote no now, vote yes next time option. We can hold a referendum whenever we want in the future; a second chance to discuss the ideas and policies properly – voting yes will not give you any other options than starting down an unknown road. While it might seem like fun or a laugh to see where we end up think about your mortgage, your kids’ education. your parents’ and grandparents’ welfare, pensions and care, taxes, the money in your pocket and all the jobs involved – possibly even your own.

Good Luck

JD

 

Roll on September 19th

Standard

alex-salmod-nicola-sturgeon-krankies

I’ve had enough. I know it’s democracy and we should be hugely grateful we live in a country that can make this decision without firing a bullet, but enough is enough.

The Scotland we know and love is gone. The UK as we knew it has gone too. What could and should have been a positive and wide discussion about the future of our country (and you can see that as both Scotland and the UK) has instead turned into a pathetic tit-for-tat spat. Over the weekend one poll put the Yes vote ahead by two points if the undecideds were not included. I would point out that if you check all the other polls not one of them agreed with that assessment. But then that’s not news. I’ve had enough of it:

Enough of lies: Why are we at all surprised that politicians are lying to us from all sides on the issues involved? Did you really think that they would finally behave themselves during this campaign? If you did, you deserve what you get when it all goes tits up.

Enough of the bickering: Semantics are easily played with and that’s what has been batted around for the last two and a half years. The slightest contradiction is blown up beyond all sanity for the sake of a soundbite or headline.

Enough of the bitterness: This is what we’ll be left with on the 19th – a divided and bitter country who will look at the other side with anger regardless of the outcome. Politicians against politicians, friends against friends, family members against family members – and for what? Do we really want a country that only just believes in the decision by 2 or 3% points? We wouldn’t have a chance in the future as a united Scotland.

Enough of the heckling: You can’t post anything online without the nit pickers moaning and correcting you – I have an opinion and you have yours, fine, but stop “correcting me” as I haven’t done that to your posts. There seems to be a fear in Yes voters that other opinions exist – I’ve read interesting articles from both sides but I don’t automatically negatively comment on the Yes ones because I’m a No voter – each to their own.

Enough of the Apathy: “I don’t think I’ll vote”. Get off the fence and decide, because the last thing I want is this to squeak by either way because it means we are in trouble.

Enough of the SNP: The sooner their smug and patronising faces vanish from my TV the happier I’ll be. (To be honest all the politicians involved are really grating now!) You do not speak for Scotland. You do not have a mandate to do anything. The majority of Scots did not vote for you so stop pretending you are the only solution to the problem you yourself have caused. Also you had the chance to bury the Bedroom Tax but rather than travel down to Westminster to vote you were campaigning instead.

Enough of the vandalism: I’m a no voter but I wouldn’t pull down any Yes campaign material – others haven’t been as sensible. Both sides are guilty, but from what I’ve seen the No material is more likely to be removed or torn up.

Enough of the division: We are going to have to work out a way to carry on as a group after the vote regardless of the result. We were a decent wee country, a country that had an identity but was part of the UK – that will be gone the day after the votes are made. We’ll no longer be a society who pull together because too much has been said and done for it to just pass without consequence. In my opinion this has ruined Scotland for at least a generation if not more. The polarisation of this campaign has removed a lot from the Scottish character and it’ll be difficult to get it back.

Enough of the fantasy: If Scotland becomes independent it will not be a great place to live for a long time – the change over will be painful financially so let’s stop pretending it’ll be fine, because it won’t. Stop using Norway as an example in comparisons because if you actually look at the rate of change and building of it as a sovereign nation then it’s path has been really hard going – have a wee read of your history books before going there again. Also we won’t be free of Westminster even if the SNP get their way because the Queen will still be head of state, the Bank of England would still set our rates (and they’ll be different to the rest of the UK) and we’ll rely on England, Wales and N Ireland to help us out initially.

Enough. Just stop, stand back and look at our country. Look at where we were a few years ago and now consider the 19th of September. Have we lost more than we’ve gained? Have we damaged our society? Are we still one country? Are we still Scotland?

The only question left to answer now is the one on the Ballot paper and regardless the result, I think we’ve already lost.

JD

A Plague on both your houses

Standard

plague illustration

I only watched a bit of the referendum debate tonight but I’m really fed up of the whole thing now – can we just fast forward to Sept 19th and get on with our lives?

The reason I say this is that Mr Salmond said he didn’t think that the debate had become divisive or damaging and he’s wrong. He was right that it has engaged the country in talking about the most important issues, but to not see the irreparable split in our nation is very short-sighted.

There are only just over five million of us in Scotland, we’re a small country that has survived on being a collective as part of the UK – now we’re turning on each other. If you don’t believe me take a look on any thread from either side and you’ll see the trolls at work shouting and stomping their feet. Newspaper comments are the same, for me this is not something we’ll all just put aside – I wish it was, but as things get closer to the date I’m seeing the darker side of some people online.

Also the vandalism I’ve personally seen to “No Thanks” billboards, signs etc is unbelievable. I’ve honestly yet to see a “Yes”one damaged although I am aware it has happened. I’m not just pointing this out because I’m a no voter, but there seems to be a certain pressure put upon those voting against as our “Scottishness” is being questioned. Having spoken to a lot of people about it there are many getting annoyed with the whole thing and others who are annoyed that to want to stay in the UK is seen as unadventurous or unpatriotic.

I know that this is a subject that many are passionate about – myself included – but it’s not as if we’re going to cordon off Glasgow if it’s a no vote and herd all the Yes voters in (although it is a good idea…) we will still have to live, work and speak to those on the opposite side and there are some things said that can’t be taken back.

More than anything else this is the thing that worries me most about the 18th of September, not if it will be a Yes or No, but if we will all still be that gang north of the border that have achieved so much together.

JD