(Lack of) Food for thought

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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

Lies, Damn Lies and Alternative Facts

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It would be easy to do a character assassination on this man – who will only be referred to as 45, his position in the succession of Presidents. What that hides is the more important job of actually looking at his actions and why as non- Americans we have a job to do.

45’s actions so far have been to appease his core supporters – to show those who voted for him that he was serious about the things he said. The truth is far scarier in that he doesn’t actually know what he is doing, does not have the support of his party and is already in danger of ignoring the principles that created the USA in the constitution.

While his Executive orders can always be overturned in the Senate, House of Representatives and a half decent court of law the are still having impacts on the people of America and those who visit and work there. So what has he actually done and how can we help stop them from this side of the Atlantic?

Border Security is the big one: Building that wall, tightening all borders, increasing officials, banning travel from seven mainly Muslim countries and stopping refugees from entering the country. This is the move that has finally sparked people to life and to take to the streets and online to form petitions of protest. The UK petition on the Government website to remove the State Visit privileges broke through the million mark on Monday morning and only looks like continuing to climb. In the US the people are taking to the streets in protest and surrounding airports and ports to try to help the causes of those trying to return or enter the country.

What difference can we make? We can campaign to try to do more to help refugees around the world – lead by example and take in more ourselves. Utterly condemn the position of the US and work with the UN and other organisations to help these people being forced from their home lands with shelter, food and safety.

This alongside the action to remove women’s health care support when an organisation deals with abortion shows the pure callousness of 45 and his administration. He proclaims he is trying to put America First (an anti-Semitic slogan of the 1930s) but he is damaging America’s standing in the world and actually setting them up for a bigger fall and placing a larger target on themselves.

The claim to be championing the working and forgotten in America is undermined by his actions on weakening Obamacare and the U-Turn on the two pipelines. He is damaging the health of the nation in so many ways through these two actions and they will both in turn damage the economy. Add to that the freezing of hiring for Federal jobs and you wonder if he really understands anything about the job. (A rhetorical point if there ever was one!)

My concern as a citizen of the UK is that we are not doing enough to speak up and out about these actions. We could be come a strong leader and rally voices from across Europe and the wider world in challenging these moves. But we won’t because Theresa May’s thirst for Brexit is stopping her from showing strength and leadership. She is scared to go toe to toe with 45 because we might not get a trade deal. Here’s an idea – forget the referendum and Brexit. Go to the country and explain that despite the narrow victory for leaving the change of situation in the US means that we would be in a poor position were we to leave just now.

Also she had a platform to criticise 45 whilst in front of the world’s press last week – and I’m not thinking of “Love Actually” when I write this. If she truly is a strong female, daughter vicar then a graceful speech about respect for women, their bodies and their rights was needed. Respect for faith and religion from peaceful people should have been represented. The need to open our arms to those we are bombing out of house and home is essential and our duty as citizens of the world to ensure the planet is safe for generations to come. Instead we had a simpering, apologetic, pandering, sycophantic congratuwank of a man who deserves nothing but derision.

May is not the only one that could be doing this. Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of backbone on this issue is embarrassing. He has a platform that could, alongside the SNP and Lib Dems, pull in Tory MPs to enforce that we look again at the Brexit issue once things settle down. We have a choice here – 45 or Europe. That’s not a choice, it’s simple. Our biggest market is on our doorstep and to leave that and make deals with countries like the US, Turkey, China – all of which are not aligned to us in terms of vales – would be financial suicide. As would potentially opening our NHS and other civil services to international privatization.

We cannot let 45 dictate the future of this country, let alone damage his own. To leave Europe now means we’re desperate for a deal, which as “Art of the Deal” ghostwriter makes clear is the best time to get what you want – 45 has the upper hand.

We have to stand up to him and we have to support others who do the same in a peaceful manner. Picking up weapons, threatening behaviour and physical violence is not the best way forward right now as that is sinking to 45’s level. Instead we need to support the media in reporting facts; good investigative journalism is key to bringing him and his administration down to earth. We must also stand up with those of different creeds and colours and show they deserve respect and equality across society. We need to be articulate, intelligent and factual.

We also need to use humour and language because he cannot match us here either. His skin is at its thinnest when it comes to his image. Tease his ego, ridicule his medieval stances on sex, race, religion and gay rights, hold up a mirror to the monstrosity and reveal him for what he truly is – ignorant.

You won’t beat him in a physical fight, but in a war of words, a battle of wits and a united international voice he can be stopped. But this has to happen now before things get worse. At the moment there is cowardice and appeasement from some in the international community – don’t let the UK be one of those who is afraid to speak up because of a trade deal.

JD

Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants

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Groups of people are fleeing Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Israel and many other countries around the north of Africa and across the middle east. Giving up their lives and life savings to strangers to escape persecution and warfare. Our response? Not our problem.

Consider that it is our (the West’s) actions that have caused much of the unrest in this area and you have to wonder why people are tuning their back on these people. Specifically the UK. Germany, France, Sweden and others are welcoming these individuals into their countries but we refuse to help and instead would rather piss around with policy at the Euro Tunnel instead.

I am aware that the influx of “foreigners” is not going down well everywhere – Greece and Germany are facing riots and demonstrations – but overall it is the continuation of decades of living in a continent that is all about people joining ad leaving it everyday.

ISIS, or whatever they are called this week, are creating confusion across the Middle East and thousands are fleeing for their lives. The UK is responsible for the existence of ISIS in the first place. Along with its allies it marched into Afghanistan and Iraq and did untold damage to the infrastructure and then left a free for all for US & UK companies to divvy up the spoils afterwards. This unrest spread and the Taliban mutated and became a new and less peaceful creature.

We now sit here in the UK tsking and tutting our way through the news reports, but whether you were pro or anti the wars we were involved with we need to do something. Forget the terms Refugees or Immigrants or Asylum Seekers and lets call them what they really are – people, our fellow human beings, families running away from danger and death.

Let’s frame the situation this way – without labels or countries or religion involved:

People are being killed, raped and tortured by an enemy who will stop at nothing to get their way and steal land and belongings of others. They sweep through countries and rip out anything of value to help them. The indigenous populations are grabbing all they can and escaping this knocking on their neighbours’ doors to find shelter. Their neighbours lock the doors and ignore the noise outside. 

If everyone took their fair share and ignored the Daily Mail/Right Wing/UKIP rhetoric and actually looked at the images of young children crying as their parents try to find passage to safety with their kids on their shoulders to avoid them being crushed then perhaps we’d see it differently.

We need to confront ISIS. Why are we largely ignoring this wave of hatred across a huge swathe of the planet? There needs to be a more focussed and collaborative approach – especially from those who were happy to march in over a decade ago and cause the issues in the first place.

The UN has to intervene and organise passage for those arriving in Malta, Greece, Macedonia and other countries and have a fair sharing out of people. Stop putting all the pressure on a few countries and look how best we could solve this human travesty.

Finally we in the UK need to stop being so blinkered. Immigration to this country is not massive. And the laugh is that we wonder about all across the globe, living in other countries and retiring across Europe – but still we make the most noise about incomers when we’re one of the worst for emigration.

Until we see those faces on the news as our neighbours and fellow humans struggling to survive this problem will not go away.

JD

Scott Commission vs The SNP

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So three days ahead of schedule the Scott Commission has published the final version of the new powers that the next UK Government will put into place for the devolved Scottish Parliament. It was based on a cross party group with those from both sides of the fence – but already Nicola Sturgeon is on the grump.

She claims that the proposals and powers have been watered down – maybe they have but in the world of grown up Nicola it’s called compromise. Having lost the referendum Sturgeon has done nothing but moan and bitch about everything since, a skill learnt from her predecessor. So compromise was the only option.  You can guarantee that everyone round that table had to give some in the negotiations otherwise nothing would have happened.

The other consideration here is that more power whilst still part of the UK as a whole is not a bad place to be for anyone of any political persuasion. The more the SNP can prove that Scotland could look after itself then the more likely Independence would be. Consider the current halving of the price of a barrel of oil and we can easily see the dangers of going it alone at this point in time. Also it suits the “Unionist” parties because they still have the UK as a whole but the more federal template that is emerging will allow a common sense approach to our national and local politics.

As much as the SNP will moan and complain about this Commission Report they have to realise that largely it represents the will of the people. We didn’t want independence so we’re not going to get anything like home rule and those demanding it need a reminder of the referendum result. Also the idea that the SNP are going to hold the balance of power in the next General election is a brave claim – one in which Alex Salmond sees himself as the new deputy Prime Minister. Don’t think so Eck! You need to get voted in first and you’re in my district of Gordon which is a traditionally Lib Dem constituency.

As always with the Nationalists you have to take them with a pinch of salt. What we saw in the campaigning of the referendum was that the people on the street, online and in town halls were the ones with the power and politicians need to remember that regardless which parliament they sit in and what colour their rosette is. While the SNP are in power at the moment in Holyrood we are still part of the UK and have to ensure we get the right result in May to keep out the extremes of UKIP from our political system first.

JD

Here’s a really good breakdown of the powers being proposed in a simple format:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30215512

One Scotland

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I’ve been avoiding writing anything about Thursday’s result because if you say anything at all people are still raw and disappointed or vitriolic and relieved. How do I feel? I’m glad the vote went the way it did obviously. I made it clear I wanted to maintain the Union we share with the other countries in the UK – but for me it may have been Westminster’s last chance. Next time, and there will be a next time, I may not vote the same way.

Before we go any further I’ve had several things on social media I wanted to comment on and rather than do it a hundred odd times I’ll say them here:

1. The so-called vote fixing and piles of votes in the wrong piles etc. Here, from someone who is involved in such counts are the facts about the conspiracy theories:

  • Point 1-the guy who is accused of filling in votes is filling in a slip of how many in that bundle & then elastic bands it!(standard counting procedure)
  • Point 2 – the Yes votes on the No table, it was confirmed on live TV (cleverly cuts out before this) that these bundles were yet to be split – therefore they were still mixed bundles & the table was only used for space until it was used for its real purpose!!
  • Point 3 – the woman who is accused moving Yes votes to No – looks to me like she realised she’d put them in the wrong pile then corrected them.
  • Point 4 – bundles being emptied out of boxes with elastic bands – Postal Votes!! They are closely monitored & counted then re counted along with normal votes (less margin for error don’t you think)!

So all the “Recount” and “Rerun the Referendum” petitions need to grow up accept the decision of the Scottish people. There are so many observers at the counts there is little to no chance of 400,000 votes being hidden, changed, lost etc.

2. Alex Salmond’s stepping down. I did ask the question during the counts if he would step down if he lost by around 10 points, because I believed he’d done all he could. I’m not going to make a big thing about it but I’m not a fan of the man or most of his politics. But you have to respect what he has achieved in his political life. In 1992 he was ridiculed and laughed at by the establishment – today that same establishment has been rocked to the core by his achievements and his legacy could well be the federal UK.

3. The “45” gang. Grow up. Seriously, we are all one Scotland who need to accept the decision. Now this doesn’t mean I expect you to stop wanting or campaigning for Independence but the line is now drawn under Thursday’s vote so can we move on to the more important issues facing us, the UK and the wider world.

4. George Square last night. No I don’t approve, condone or like that group of idiot last night who were setting off flares, shouting abuse and using Nazi salutes. These people are idiots who don’t deserve our attention or the air time they have been given. I’m glad the Police have already rounded up a lot of them and through CCTV and other surveillance they will find a lot more. I would say that both sides need to stop these kinds of “public protests” and move on.

5. All those who have said that they are embarrassed to be Scottish need to get a grip of themselves. I am hugely impressed, proud and amazed by the Scottish people and what we have done with grassroots groups springing up everywhere – bringing people together to discuss the most important issues facing our society. We need that passion and interest to continue through into next year’s General Election and the following year’s Scottish Elections. Both Yes and No should be proud of what we achieved – true democracy.

6. Finally the Future. “They’ve already broken their promises” etc. No they haven’t. Yesterday a paper was published by Gordon Brown and once Parliament returns it will be seen. That’s part of the promised agenda.

So what does the future hold? Well that’s up to us as a nation. We have been offered further powers which Westminster must deliver or else there will be retribution at next year’s elections. We have also heard that England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to get further or new devolved powers. This is the start of a possible federal state – the best outcome in my personal view. Each individual country should make its own decisions and then come together to debate and vote on issues that effect us all. The West Lothian question is simple – vote on your own affairs. I know the Labour Party won’t like it because they need Scottish MPs to help them with English votes but this is too important to play party politics with. It means more co-operation and less of the “Punch & Judy” bollocks we’re all fed up with. Suck it up Ed and do the right thing.

I want all those new powers delivered to the Scottish Parliament as promised because for me and many others we voted on Thursday on Trust – misplaced many in the Yes camp have argued. This is their last chance to get it right, because next time – and it’ll come very soon if they renege on their promises – will be a very different outcome. Yes would romp home. But there is another Referendum that could decide things before that. In 2017, if the Tories get in again next year, we’ll have an In/Out vote on the EU. Scotland needs to be part of the EU, so if that goes against us then you might find there’s another Home Rule vote.

Lots of “ifs” at this stage but it shows that the next three years are hugely important ones in the history of these isles. If we spend all our time distracted by Thursday’s vote we may well miss the other important decisions on the horizon. We need to stand now as one Scotland and ensure the powers are delivered then we need to stand together on the issue of Europe because the Tories and UKIP will do everything they can to get us to vote No.

So let’s put our differences aside, stand and work together for the good of our country. Hold your views freely but don’t let them divide what is a strong and brilliant country.

JD

JD’s Last Stand

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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

Roll on September 19th

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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