Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jo Cox - that's where it ends

Today's murder of a pro-Euro and pro-immigration Labour MP has been brewing for years.

In the 70s, the loony National Front campaigned chiefly against black immigration. For different reasons that and a fear of general immigration subsided a bit and became the preserve of posh bigots and council-estate fuhrers. For a while.

Then it was 'illegal immigrants' though 'genuine' asylum seekers were welcomed. Now, hard-working Polish plumbers are scorned and no asylum seeker is genuine.

Now, it's mainstream and everyone from Syrian refugees to 'migrants' from other EU nations to Gaelic-speaking Australian children are objects of derision. Immigration must be 'controlled' says an England/ Britain that has long since surrendered her industries, working classes and much of her culture to multi-national big business and the banking classes.

'We want our culture back' scream toffs and neds alike as they guzzle Belgian beer, curries, nachos, pizzas, kebabs, drive German cars, use Japanese technology, watch American films, wear Bangladeshi-made clothes, write barely literate Tweets using a Roman alphabet and Arabic numerals.

For wealthy bigots like Nigel Farage and his self-appointed bodyguards in Britain First, publicity has been easy to find. Add to this the tabloid front pages - what started as a drip-fed poison has become a daily scream of fearmongering hate.

The BBC must shoulder a lot of the blame for Farage's disproportionate appearances on Question Time. The press have built him and his party up while stoking 'legitimate' fears about immigration. Britain First and other morons like the EDL - whipped up into a fury by Farage and the media - have taken their hate onto the streets in a mirror image of NF ugliness from the 70s.

Far-right terrorists
Britain First and their terrorist chic.

This has culminated in the sorry spectacle that is the #Brexit referendum. Immigration has always been the main beef for most Brexit enthusiasts though unfettered access to wealth through exploitation has had its attractions too. The Leave campaign's leaflets are evidence of this - little or nothing about what Britain would do with 'complete' control - but lots on immigration. The threat of Turkey joining - and the implication that millions of their dark-skinned Muslims will come here. More insidious was the highlighting of Iraq and Syria as if they could conceivably join too at a future date.

No. The EU has its faults but fuck Brexit. We will become a fascist-lite fantasy isle as envisaged by Farage if we exit. There will be no socialist resurgence. For Scotland, we may have a second indyref  as a way-out from the madness but for England...?

Fear of foreigners shows no sign of abating.

Labour too have infamously joined in the melee with 'control immigration' mugs and even Milliband's talk of 'border guards' on the Scottish/ English border should us Scots vote for self-determination.

To their credit, some in Labour such as the late Jo Cox and leader Corbyn have stuck by their internationalist and anti-racist principles. I only wish there were more of their calibre in Labour, north or south of the border.

I'm of the view that immigration has never been an issue. People come, people go. They always have and they always will. It's nature.

Sure, some will always fear and hate the new or the unknown. There should be no excuse for that in 2016. We don't believe priests and witchdoctors anymore.

If these people, racists and fascists, cannot be educated or persuaded to keep any poisonous thoughts to themselves then they must be opposed.

The lessons of history from Spain '36 to WWII to Islamist fascists such as Daesh must be learned.

Fascism doesn't start with concentration camps - that's where it ends. No pasaran.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Seven things we have learned about #SP16

I say, jumping on the latest clickbait jargon for lazy hipster journos.

The aftermath of the 2016 Scottish elections has created a lot of froth and foam. Let's sift through the debris.

1 - The Tory revival. In footballing terms, the Tories have made the top six of the SPL after years flirting with relegation. They're still playing guff fitba but they've enjoyed some fortune against their derby rivals. They are however, a country mile behind the league leaders. Perversely, they actually polled lower than hapless Labour meaning that only one-in-five of those who voted chose Satan. Many of these were tactical votes - some from Blairite ex-Labour voters and some apparently from the farming community, angry at an SNP delay in payments.

They're still polling less than John Major did. Christ on a crutch...

SPFL league according to Ruth Davidson

2 - Labour are now entering their habitual post-election period of 'listening' to the public having acheived yet another low. It's not easy to pinpoint where exactly Labour lost the trust of its once natural constituency - Blair and Iraq? Blair himself? Abandoning nationalisation? Selling policy to billionaires like Bernie Ecclestone? The PFI disgrace? Slandering striking workers as 'fascists'? Miliband? Anti immigration mugs?

Poor Kezia Dugdale who was bewildered just a few years ago at actually being elected is even more befuddled in her current stint as human shield for the Branch Office. Maybe pics of her holding up a 'Vote Green' poster are a sign that she has sights on coming over to the good side eventually?

3- The Rev Stuart Campbell from Wings Over Scotland continues to be an objectionable wank. Tocasaid has covered his bizarre anti-Gaelic rant before but he's topped that by his stubborn and insensitive - wrong, even - comments on Hillsborough. He's also peeved that the SNP didn't get an outright majority due to us dullards not following HIS instructions though he does admit that the SNP actually increased their vote. He's now aiming his blunderbuss at anyone who questioned his #BothVotesSNP dictat, including the likes of Bella Caledonia and the Greens. Bizarrely, he's now attacking Green voters on class grounds and Bella on readership stats. I'd imagine that there's a fair bit of truth in the claim that Green voters are mostly middle-class. It's just that Stuart Campbell's adopted home of Bath, that's BATH, sticks out a bit in the roll-call of Proletarian heartlands... Toxteth, Brixton, Easterhouse, Hulme, Craigmillar, Bath...

Bye Wings, was nice while it lasted...

4 - RISE didn't rise very high at all. While I agree with the jist of them - I've voted SSP in the past - I find their existence as a political party to be pointless at this moment. Some of their stunts are bizarre and the little communication I've had with them has been off-putting.

I was amazed that while their manifesto was a nigh-comprehensive list of worthy causes that they couldn't find room for Scottish/ Gaelic culture and the more the campaign wore on, the less relevant they were to me... Driving around Glasgow in a transit blaring out Bella Ciao? A fine song, but what on earth does an Italian partisan anti-fascist anthem have to do with the Scottish elections? If RISE really need to enforce their playlist on Glaswegians, could they not find something a bit more relevant? Dick Gaughan? Hamish Henderson?

And bellowing at McDonald's customers with megaphones?

And the RISE Young Team? Who?! Presumably it was one of the Youth Team, and a candidate no less, that tweeted a death wish to the Rev Stu...Word on the street bruv is dat's a dumb ting to do...

Little wonder that despite disproportiante media coverage they finished behind Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity. Bit of a 'red neck' given their antipathy towards Tommy and his ego.

5 - The SNP did well. The SNP are patently the best vehicle on the road to independence. I'm not wedded to one party though and a plurality of parties in a future Yes campaign must be for the good. Wings Over Scotland may be right that the Greens, so far, are not 'popular' with most voters but then again neither are the SNP. Nevertheless, they do represent a significant body of opinion and that 6 to 12% depending on where you vote may deliver a crucial majority in #indyref2.

Nicola Sturgeon is a powerhouse of a politcal leader and the SNP generally a force for good. However, they do need to pay attention to who they choose to represent them in elections. Taking money from the likes of Brian Souter may not be cool but if the SNP can put his dosh to progressive use then I can live with that. On the other hand, wild horses would not drive me to vote for Christian heidbangers who openly display their prejudice to gay and women's rights. I believe there were one or two such 'guid Catholics' on the SNP list. Get rid. Personal beliefs should be kept personal. An invisible guy in the sky should have no bearing on government in a modern Scotland.

6- The Lib Dems. Meh. Can't be bothered writing about them.

7- All-in-all, with more than 50% of the vote going to pro-Indy parties and an SNP/ Green majority in Holyrood, the mandate is there to call #Indyref2 when the time is right.

Pour yourself a dram, relax and prepare for an independent Scotland sometime in the near future.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Scottish Gaelic in the #SP16 manifestos

Or not, in the case of RISE Scotland and the Lib Dems. But more about them later.

With the Scottish elections air faire - I thought I'd break my sabbatical to explore what the main parties have to say on the place of Scottish/ Gaelic in our society. Gaelic is mostly a non-partisan issue. It is a language and if it is truly of equal worth and status then a plurality of viewpoints expressed through it as a medium should not be a surprise. There are some bigots whose regular but erroneous outbursts on Gaelic issues are fodder for a new ugly breed of fringe Unionists but by and large Scottish is supported across the political spectrum.

Despite the gurning that the SNP are 'forcing' Gaelic onto an unwilling populace, they are for the most part only following legislation signed or implemented by Tories, Labour and Lib Dems in both Westminster and Hollywood.

Here we go. Let's get the worst done and over with...

The Tories - despite loose cannons like Alex Johnstone and Jackson Carlaw - the truth is that the Tories have supported Gaelic since Thatcher. Significant funding for Gaelic was first put in place by a Tory government in London. In their current manifesto, they even have a picture of Bagh a' Chaisteil and manage to state:
We continue to support Gaelic education and would welcome further dedicated Gaelic schools being set up.
Labour - the Branch Office has been generally supportive over the years. Alasdair Campbell is a piper of Gaelic-speaking Tirisdeach stock while the arch-Unionist and pro-nuke bag of bitterness that is Brian Wilson can even speak it to some degree and has been a vociferous proponent of the tongue for decades. On the other hand, one of Kezia Dugdale's first statements after expressing shock at being elected (you're not alone there a' ghràidh) was to oppose BBC Alba receiving a slot on Freeview.

Labour though is currently a chaotic mess on many fronts. As I write, a mere week before the election, their manifesto is hot of the presses. Well, kind of lukewarm. In fact, it seemed as if Scottish Labour would abstain on a manifesto this year. Sure enough given the ever decreasing standards of Labour personnel over the past few years this manifesto made even Rise Scotland's seem slick.

Two gaffes immediately caught the eye. First, the online version was published with at least one section missing - the now infamous 'hello there, hello here' gunshot to foot. Next in the language section was this...

Where on earth did they get 'Nordic' from? Norn or Norse? Or did they mean Doric? This sums up a party that has taken the electorate for granted for decades - producing shoddy campaign material with factual errors, spelling mistakes and all the finesse of a stoner staying up all night to finish a crucial essay before next day's deadline.

As to the real life language that is Gaelic, it's pretty wishy washy. Just what you'd expect from a party now famous for abstaining.

Shame, as it wasn't always like this. In their 2011 manifesto for the Highlands and Islands they stated:
Scottish Labour recognises the crucial importance of Gaelic medium education to the continued survival and flourishing of the language. We support an expansion of opportunities for learning Gaelic, including removing the obstacles to Gaelic education and growing the number of Gaelic medium teachers, especially in areas where there is strong parental demand. We will build on the achievements of the Gaelic Language Act and will enhance our support for Gaelic through encouraging Gaelic broadcasting, Gaelic arts and increased visibility for the Gaelic language in Scotland. We will also support the work of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye, and encourage new learners as well as native speakers from the traditional heartlands and beyond.

Liberal Democrats - skimming over this document after taking several wrong turns in their garish eye-stabbing website was worse than perusing the Tories' letter to Santa. Please note, multiple pics of Willie Rennie (minus mating swine) is not a positive! He either looks as if he's struggling with a bout of anal cramps or is trying very, very hard to add up the numbers of remaining Lib Dem MSPs.

This is a party that has lost any relevance it once had. With a strong representation in the Highlands, it was once very pro-Gaelic. Elected members such as John Farquhar Munro and Charlie Kennedy not only spoke Gaelic to varying degrees of fluency but were honest, likeable and even radical politicians. Now, we see the likes of the ridiculous Tavish Scott - son of the laird - playing the anti-Gaelic card in an attempt to hold onto the party's remaining 'heartland' of the Northern Isles where Gaelic does have a 'history' albeit not as a recently spoken community language by a significant percentage of the locals.

In 2011 though, they did say:
Support Gaelic medium education where there is demand and promote the language in cost effective ways.
Though funnily enough they now say that if parents in Shetland were to demand GME, they would oppose the desire of those Shetlanders to have their kids educated in Gaelic. Then again, what do you expect? They are Lib Dems after all. Would you trust a Lib Dem?

Curiously, the link to the Lib Dem manifesto I sourced included the words 'no to nuisance callers' (??!)

Answers in a Tweet please...

Scottish Greens - their online document is certainly more pleasing to the eye and does not focus on one personality (if that applies to Wille Rennie). Nothing on Gaelic education but this comes in under Arts and Cultural Diversity:
We support cultural ventures in all the languages of Scotland, including measures to encourage the use of Gaelic, the Scots tongue and the languages of those from minority ethnic backgrounds
Could do better. Support is good but any new ideas at developing the use of Gaelic?

SNP - Compared to some 'national movements' the SNP has been relatively 'language-lite' perhaps in an attempt not to 'scare the horses' as was said of the Yes campaign. Gone are the days when Gaelic slogans were part and parcel of SNP conferences. On the face of it, the SNP offer perhaps the strongest case for Gaelic though as mentioned above, until now they have mostly been building on common ground cultivated by the three main Unionist parties. That said, the present Gaelic 'heartland' of Na h-Eileanan Siar is strongly SNP at both Holyrood and Westminster levels.

Here though we have a bit more to chew on with Gaelic coming under both education and culture (A Creative Scotland) - not rocket science but something the other parties have failed to recognise. Here we go:

We will also implement new legal duties and rights to support Gaelic Medium Education as part of our ongoing commitment to stabilise and increase the number of Gaelic speakers.

 We support the central role of Gaelic arts in engaging people with the language, and enhancing the relevance of the language to Scottish society. We will also provide support for the Scots language

 We will maintain our investment in BBC Alba as a vital part of Scottish broadcasting output, and in recognition of its contribution to the development of the Gaelic language.
RISE Scotland - the new radical pro-indy alternative to the SNP 'establishment'. One could ask what is wrong with the Greens and why did the already extant SSP need to be subsumed into a new organisation but...

Nothing. They have words on many valid causes but nothing on Scotland's indigenous culture - the language, music, education, research, media, sport - not a syllable. The closest they come to Gaelic culture is promising to add yet more tax onto a bottle of whisky! Though some of their policies have a worryingly libertarian tone about them:

The primary curriculum is too cluttered, and in secondary schools the burden of assessment has become a direct barrier to better learning and teaching.

Gaelic and other languages taught as a second language would be easy pickings in attempts to 'declutter' the curriculum. Could Gaelic and other languages be taught and encouraged in other 'radical' ways? Er, we don't know. It would seem as if RISE have taken the Lord Robertson's words on 'Scotland not having a culture and languages' to heart.
Nationally, RISE will ensure that councils’ spending decisions are made using participatory budgeting techniques such as those developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which allow citizens to decide for themselves how their funds are spent.
'Citizens' such as Tavish Scott who could whip up a sizable minority of whingers with a grudge and decide that 'his' local area does not demand Gaelic education/ services and even if locals were to demand it, we're not going to let you have it anyway. How will these citizen panels operate? Will a simple majority vote suffice? We aren't told.

RISE should know that getting 100% agreement, or anywhere near, is nigh impossible amongst virtually any grouping of people. Otherwise, the socialists of RISE would just have joined the SSP instead of creating yet another organisation, no?

But I digress...

I expected better from RISE even though their existence at this point in Scotland's journey towards independence is a mystery to me. Their manifesto document itself is difficult to read - black text on a dark red background on some pages- gu sealladh orm!! So far, RISE seem relatively well known for certain members who gained notoriety during the indyref campaign and for others shouting at McDonalds' customers about said company's working conditions. Their highlight in the polls seems to have been a subsample of 39 voters in Glasgow, 2 of which were going to vote RISE.

In terms of a positive vote for Gaelic, the SNP promise the most. For that important list vote, you may consider the SNP again or the Greens assuming the Tories' warm words of comfort to Gaels don't wash away the knowledge of just who they are. The Lib Dems continue their downward spiral and Labour can barely get their half-baked manifesto out on time though we can assume they are still pro-Gaelic given recent voting records. RISE may as well not exist as far as we're concerned. Certainly, we don't exist in their eyes.

All in all, there's a worrying lack of action on languages of any kind from any party. Bilingualism is the norm for most people in the world. The benefits of bilingualism to children are proven. The EU is still pushing the 1+2 approach to languages and education. Bilingualism has been shown to promote positive attitudes towards diversity in children and has valuable cognitive benefits to the child.

It's been said that English is the Walmart of languages. Surely this type of myopic and imperialist attitude should be consigned to the past? If so, our politicians need to do more to equip our young people with a knowledge of their own languages, culture and history as well as insights into those of others in the world community.