Thursday, 25 December 2014

Everybody's Plans for Christmas

Like the rest of the nation, I was grateful to Vanity Fair this month for advising us that, after the compulsory hob-nobbing with the subjects at church in Sandringham,  Wills and Kate will be spending Christmas with Kate’s siblings at their own modest little but and ben, Anmer Hall. I reckon it’s as well to be on home ground, where Kate can discreetly throw up in a Ming vase if necessary, and the fawning equerries won’t get uptight if wee George decides to plaster some Regency wallpaper with crayon.

I’m sure you, too, simply can’t relax until you know what notable people around the world will be getting up to for Christmas. Fortunately, due to a vivid imagination and copious use of mind-bending drugs, I can tell you.

Her Majesty the Queen was working right up to the last minute on a re-recording of her Christmas broadcast to tone down references to the independence referendum.  It’s nothing to do with appearing to be neutral, it’s just that anything that sounds like purring totally freaks out the corgis.       

Alex Salmond will be performing his now-traditional Christmas Day walk across the waters of Strichen Lake. Fledgling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will for the first time attempt a similar feat on Hogganfield Loch, with small flotation devices discreetly attached to her tartan stilletoes.  Meanwhile new Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy will outdo them both by jogging down the middle of the River Clyde, clad in a bright yellow T-Shirt so that if anyone lobs an egg at him it’ll blend in.

Alistairs Darling and Carmichael will be clutching their lucky teddies in keen anticipation of the New Year Honours List.  It’ll need to be gongs for both, or they’ll scweam and scweam until they’re sick.  Hell hath no fury like an Establishment mouthpiece scorned.

Gordon Brown will have vanished off the face of the earth.  It doesn’t matter how many Santas you yank the beard off with a cry of “Aha!”, or how many china shops you open so he can come rampaging through them, you’ll never find him.

Danny Alexander will be busy pretending everything the Coalition Cabinet did in the last five years was someone else’s idea.

David Cameron and a group of his well-heeled Chipping Norton friends have been spending Christmas Eve pouring dozens of jeroboams of vintage champagne into a giant swimming pool, so that today they can all be in it together.

George Osborne will be totally compos mentis, and in no way dishevelled or completely off his tits, and if you express any alternative views you’ll be hearing from m’learned friends.

Nigel Farage has asked Santa for a purple-and-yellow submarine with a large fin on top, so that he can pilot it up and down the Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament menacingly humming the theme music from Jaws.

Boris Johnson will be cutting his own hair as usual. It’s worth the extra effort to get it just right.

Andrew Mitchell MP is taking his annual training course. In 2012 it was cycling proficiency, in 2013 anger management and this year it’s “Libel Law for Dummies”. Meanwhile, the “Justice for Andrew” group of backbench Tory MPs have sadly just missed out on a Christmas Number One with their charity single He Ain’t Plebby, He’s My Brother.

The Miliband brothers will prepare the family Christmas dinner together. During this process, Ed will lose three teeth through repeated contact with a heavy frying pan, David will suffer neck injuries in a bizarre incident involving a pedal bin, both men will have to be restrained in case they get their hands on the carving knives and the brandy poured over the Christmas pudding will, when lit, unexpectedly turn out to be petrol.

Nick Clegg will gaze forlornly out of the window, wishing he could build a snowman to be his friend.

Eric Pickles will be glued to Strictly Come Dancing Christmas on BBC1 and thinking, “Next year, that could be me, if only I can restrict myself to four pies at lunchtime. And if Health and Safety don’t object to me getting my top off.”

Iain Duncan Smith will take his ukulele to a nearby old folks’ home and perform a series of George Formby numbers. His version of When I’m Cleaning Windows, about spying on alleged benefit scroungers, always gets the audience going. Staff at the home say it’s remarkable how far they can hurl bulky objects at that age.

Lord Sugar will head off to the local food bank to help out for the day. By the time he leaves, most of the staff will have been fired and it will be turning a tidy profit.


The world’s most prominent bankers, having decided there’s nothing left on Earth worth stealing, will climb aboard the Shard, the escape rocket they’ve secretly been building in London for the past few years, and blast off to exploit the rich resources of the planet B’staad.

As soon as they’re gone, mankind will discover that peace, love and brotherhood really is the cure for all problems, and there will follow a golden age, without want or suffering of any kind. Just as satisfyingly, the Shard will collide with a huge rocket accidentally launched by North Korea after an unexpected computer malfunction, and its fragments will hurtle randomly into the vast emptiness of space for ever.

Well, what would Christmas be if it didn’t bring us a message of hope?


Merry Christmas, folks!  A brief encounter with writer's block, an entanglement in pre-Christmas consumer madness and a bout of Yuletide lurgy have all combined to keep me away from the keyboard this month. Sorry about that, and I'll be taking steps to rectify that, big time, in the New Year.  With any luck you'll be hearing from me before that, as I have a half-completed Jim Murphy rant I really must get off my chest.

Anyway, compliments of the season to one and all, thanks for sticking with me over this roller-coaster of a year, and remember  -  the best is yet to come!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Walking in a Wonga Wonderland

Christmas time – tills are ringing
But your credit score’s minging!
There’s only one way
To stretch out your pay:
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland

Dim the lights, cut the heating,
Scold your children for eating,
Just go on a spree,
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland

We’ll inject a swift financial fix, and
You’ll believe you’re in a better place,
Till, before you know it, you’re in quicksand
As our fees and charges hit you in the face.

If the outlook is drastic
And you’ve maxed out your plastic,
We’re right up your street
And you’re easy meat,
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland

When you’re plumb out of headroom,
‘Cos the State’s taxed your bedroom,
We’re waiting for you
Like Nosferatu,
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland

All the future fruits of your endeavours
We’ll enjoy, and leave you with the dregs.
We’ll secure your loyalty forever,
‘Cos the competition tends to break your legs.

Circling round like a vulture,
That’s the free market culture,
Exploiting your pain
For shareholders’ gain,
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland
Walking in a Wonga Wonderland
(repeat until bankruptcy)

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Au Revoir, Mr Salmond

Alas, man-flu sufferers in the City of Perth!  Last weekend, if you desperately needed to wipe your nose but your hanky was in the wash, your only options were shirt sleeves, scrunched-up chunks of toilet roll or the nearest small dog. There wasn’t a single box of tissues left on any shelf within five miles of Perth Concert Hall, as the SNP conference collectively welled up to mark Alex Salmond’s transition from inspirational leader to freelance troublemaker.

The reverberations of this momentous event spread far and wide. Deep in the bowels of New Broadcasting House a chill wind rattled the bars of Kirsty Wark’s cage and garlanded Nick Robinson’s peely-wally heart with icicles. In a fashionably postcoded Edinburgh attic Alan Cochrane, the Telegraph’s Scottish Editor, muttered darkly as he began the task of converting his 57,263 Salmond voodoo dolls into mini-Sturgeons, complete with wee tartan shoes.  And, with his Inverness constituency programmed into the Sat-Nav of Salmond’s 2015 electoral bandwagon, Danny Alexander glanced nervously at his CV, wondering how the career highlight “wretched lickspittle of Osborne and his nest of vipers” might fare in the local job market.

To those of us who woke on 19 September to a breakfast of sawdust and ashes, the transformation of the last two months is surely a modern-day miracle. Salmond hasn’t simply treated defeat as an impostor; he’s shoved a custard pie in its face, pulled its trousers down and invited us all to laugh at its microscopic willy.

His legacy? A humungous upsurge in political engagement in Scotland, in clear contravention of our masters’ advice that it’s dangerous and best left to the experts. Meeting organisers previously unsure if they’d draw a crowd big enough to justify buying a packet of Hob-Nobs are now wondering how many folk they can cram in without Health and Safety getting antsy.  All the pro-indy parties are bursting at the seams, and the SNP conference was so over-subscribed that they’ve had to organise a 12,000-seat reprise at the Hydro. I bet the Nawbag Chorus, with its constant refrain “Back in your box, Yessers”, wasn’t expecting us to need a box that large!

It’s also principally thanks to Alex Salmond that independence, previously unmentionable at parties unless you wanted to end up talking to the hatstand, is now part of mainstream political discourse. The other 200 or so countries on Planet Earth may not fully appreciate this achievement, since they’ve never had a problem taking themselves seriously. But, for a nation whose government from 1999 to 2007 couldn’t even be bothered to call itself a government, it’s a massive uplift in self-confidence.  And, even better, it totally gets on Alistair Carmichael’s tits.

In these first nano-seconds of the early days of a better nation, we’re finally shrugging off the Scottish cringe that’s intruded on our political thinking like a Dalek gatecrashing a poetry festival. For broadcasters in London complacently pre-scripting the democratic process, or pyromaniacs in East Sussex metaphorically engulfing it in flames, this is a huge culture shock. Is there a danger, as even some rock-solid Yes commentators have warned, of us occasionally wandering too far along the assertiveness/chippiness spectrum? Perhaps, but that’s an unavoidable part of discovering a voice. And, frankly, zero tolerance for business-as-usual bullshit is exactly what we need right now.

So, for the avoidance of doubt, we’ll not stand for INEOS fracking seven shades of shale out of our back gardens while we strain our drinking water through a pair of tights. To hell with West Central Scotland being put at risk of vaporisation just to ensure UK ministers’ bum-cheeks grace a UN Security Council seat. And a wee message for the First Sea Lord:  stick to being a Gilbert and Sullivan character and stop bumping yer gums about handing shipyard jobs to France.

Our self-belief would never have flowered in this exciting, potentially earth-shattering fashion were it not for Alex Salmond.  If, back in 2007, he’d been run over by a bus driver under the hypnotic 
control of Margaret Curran, the face of present-day Scotland would be very, very different.

The Labour ‘B’ team would still be in office at Holyrood, ineffectually managing decline with mournful expressions and a #supinesocialism hashtag, while the country’s brightest young talents headed off to London in search of jobs to pay off their £27,000 student debt. Glasgow would have abandoned its 2014 Commonwealth Games bid on the grounds that it was awfy expensive and we’d just muck it up anyway. Meanwhile, crowds would be spontaneously gathering at Pacific Quay to congratulate BBC Scotland on its BAFTA-winning documentary series God, What A Depressing Place, And It’s All We Deserve.

Of course, for the cadaverous UK establishment whose lifeblood is the status quo, this represents a dream scenario that Salmond has irritatingly thwarted. That’s why, bereft of arguments but making full use of the media’s relentless megaphone, they launch ad hominem attacks, vilifying him for being divisive, egocentric, selfish and bullying and writing off the thrilling campaign that set 1.6 million aflame as “Alex Salmond’s Vanity Project”.

Divisive? Well, I was busy cheering for Judy Murray on Strictly, so I must have missed the riots. But I’ll suspend judgment until I get through Christmas dinner without my family using the carving equipment to hack out my black separatist heart and impale it on a broom handle.

Egocentric? You mean they’ve invented a politician who isn’t? Anyway, since I'm convinced that I inhabit the centre of my own personal universe, and that my farts have the sweetest aroma of any I’ve encountered, I’d be a hypocrite to blame Salmond for that.

Selfish? It’ll be fun watching the nay-sayers try to push that one after he donated his First Minister’s pension to charity. Ah, but isn’t absolute altruism impossible?  He probably just did it for the warm glow of satisfaction. Now, if he’d done proper ex-leader stuff, such as racking up a tidy property portfolio, masquerading as Middle East Peace Envoy and inexplicably avoiding arrest for war crimes, everyone could surely respect that.

Bullying? I certainly wouldn’t want to be a butterfingers intern on his payroll, because I daresay a full-on tirade from him would shred several layers of skin. Still, his staff appear to be pretty loyal to him, which suggests that either his cuddly moments outweigh his fearsome ones or he’s a whiz at selecting masochists.

The truth is that Salmond could discover the cure for all known diseases and still be lambasted for hogging all the glory and creating a pensions bombshell. To the Labour Party in particular, he’s a usurper who robbed them of the Scottish people’s votes against rhyme, reason and the clear instructions of the Eleventh Commandment. Obviously the electorate let Labour down too, but, as they have the excuse of being bamboozled by Salmond’s roguish charm, they’ll be forgiven as long as they behave themselves in future.

Me? I don’t know Alex Salmond personally, although, as his unauthorised biographer David Torrance has demonstrated, that’s no barrier to pontificating emptily about him.  If pressed, I’d say he seems to have some interesting flaws, in common with roughly 7 billion human beings, and some phenomenal good points, in common with a great deal fewer. And, even if I’d never seen him in my life, one look at most of his enemies would suggest to me he’s one of the good guys.

He’s given 1.6 million of us the roller-coaster ride of our lives, something no-one else could have done without actually possessing super-powers.  He steps out of the spotlight (not off stage; please get something right, BBC) with a frighteningly impressive successor in place and a truckload of reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Best of all, he’s free of the restraints of office, with no obligation to hold back any more, and there are several targets out there who could really do with a barrage of withering scorn. Significantly, at the end of Salmond’s calculatedly gracious Bonfire Night response to the burghers, or however it’s spelt, of Lewes, he observed, “If they think I’m a threat to the Westminster establishment like Guy Fawkes, they’re right.”

See you soon, Alex.

Monday, 10 November 2014

I Want My Devo Max

By Wee Ginger Dug

Thanks to Wee Ginger Dug for his permission to re-publish this post, which sums up where things stand with devo max better than I ever could!

So where’s my devo max then? Like most people in Scotland who have been following political developments over the past few years – which is most people in Scotland – I fancy I have quite a good idea of what the phrase “devo max” means. It means that the Scottish Parliament raises all its own revenue including oil revenues, and exercises all powers except those to do with foreign affairs and defence – which would be retained by the UK Parliament. Seems straightforward enough doesn’t it. There would be no arguments about supposed “subsidies” from England, no disagreements over Scottish MPs voting on English only matters. What’s not to like? And as the icing on the devo cake, this is the settlement which, according to opinion polls, is consistently favoured by a large majority of the Scottish population, and had it been on offer prior to the independence referendum campaign, there wouldn’t have been an independence referendum campaign.

I seem to recall that during a certain referendum campaign a certain ex-prime minister promised us the most maxiest devo you could ever find this side of a federal state. In fact, we were promised the most federalest devo maxiest in the history of this most perfect union of nations ever seen in the history of the multiverse. It was all over the BBC, which as we all know is famous for its realistic depiction of all things Scottish – just watch Waterloo Road for its realistic depiction of a school that follows the English curriculum even though it’s in Greenock. Point proven.

Onieweys, this promise – or dare I say vow – came when yer actual prime minister and the heads of the other Unionist parties were all quite happy for the ex-prime minister to act like he was still prime minister, although to be fair Gordie Broon’s relationship with his employment status has always erred on the side of fictional. This is after all the man who described himself as an ex-politician while he’s still the MP for Kirkcaldy and who can rarely be arsed to turn up to represent them in the House of Commons.

What we were promised by Gordie and his tangential relationship to reality was for Holyrood and the other devolved administrations in the UK to have “the same status” as the Westminster Parliament. The new sort of federal government, according to the ex-politician ex-prime minister, would retain powers over defence and foreign affairs – everything else would be left to the control of the national parliaments. Gordie’s promise was going to save the UK, and that’s what Gordie’s promise did. Only Gordie’s promise was never going to be realised and it has now gone much the same way as the Labour party’s prospects of re-election in Scotland. There’s more chance of reviving a velociraptor for Jurassic park than there is of resuscitating devo max – or the Labour party.

Just a few days before the vote, Gordie vowed:

“The status quo is no longer an option. The choice is now between irreversible separation, or voting for a stronger Scottish parliament. We are talking about a big change in the constitution. It’s like home rule in the UK. We would be moving quite close to something near to federalism in a country where 85 per cent of the population is from one nation. Change is in the air and change is coming.”

Two months after the event and it doesn’t look like the Unionist parties are going to deliver anything close to that. Gordie himself stood up in Westminster and laid into the Tories because they wanted to devolve more taxes than he did. That’s the Tories, offering more devo than Labour – the self-described “party of devolution”. And then Labour wonders why its polling ratings have plunged further than a jobby that’s been flushed from a tenth floor toilet.

Still, Unionist politicians don’t have to keep their words, because Unionist politicians’ words mean whatever the Unionist politician wants them to mean at any given moment. Gordie might be an ex-politician, but he’s not an ex-fantasist. The devo max Gordie promised bears a similar relationship to reality as his promise to end boom and bust. That’s devo max bust then. As are the Unionist parties.

Devo max is not on offer after all, not even close. The Unionist parties are proposing minor tinkering with the existing settlement, arguing about what percentage of income tax revenues can dance on the head of a Holyrood pin. It’s devo-get-what-you’re-given, devo-dae-as-yer-telt. It’s the devolution that suits the political requirements of the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem front benches.

Devo max will never be offered by the Unionist parties for one very simple reason – it stands the relationship between Holyrood and Westminster on its head. Under the current devolution settlement, powers devolved are powers retained – and the ultimate power rests very firmly with Westminster. It means that they can preserve the fiction that only the Westminster Parliament is sovereign – and not the Scottish people. So Westminster collects all the taxes, and decides how much Holyrood is going to get. In the process it is conveniently able to obscure just how much of a contribution Scotland and Scottish resources make towards the extremely expensive upkeep of the United Kingdom and its addiction to nuclear missiles, foreign wars, and transport infrastructure in the South East of England. Then when Scotland gets uppity they can threaten us with warnings of financial meltdown without the kindness of Davie Cameron and Ed Miliband to look out for us.

With proper devo max, that couldn’t happen. Proper devo max means that Westminster’s fiction of the sovereignty of parliament is rendered meaningless and toothless. Holyrood would be responsible for raising all Scottish revenues, so Westminster would no longer be able to cook the books and tell us we were dependent upon them. And Holyrood would no longer be dependent upon a block grant from Westminster, it would be the other way around – Westminster would receive a grant from Holyrood to pay for those services which remained under centralised UK control – defence and foreign affairs. In effect this gives Holyrood a veto over Westminster’s foreign adventures – should there be another Iraq, then the Scottish Parliament might just refuse to pay its annual subvention to Westminster to pay for Scotland’s share of the costs of an illegal war. That’s why the Westminster parties won’t allow devo max, no matter how popular it is with the Scottish electorate, and no matter how often or loudly we demand it of them.

So if you want something that is yours by right, but the other party is not disposed to give it, then all that is left is to take it. We can do that by ensuring that at the next Westminster General Election and the next Scottish elections we return a majority of pro-Scotland MPs who can block any attempts by Westminster to impose a devolution settlement which falls short of the devo max they promised. It’s up to us to ensure they keep their promises, and to punish them if they try – as they most assuredly will – to weasel out of it.

You can follow Wee Ginger Dug's continuing excellence on his own blog at

Monday, 3 November 2014

Dial M For Murphy

Well, thanks a bunch, guys. Leaderless, rudderless and beset by poll figures more terrifying than all the Halloween movies rolled into one, the Labour Party (North British Branch) has finally drifted beyond the reach of satire. At least, that’s my excuse for spending the past week periodically staring at a blank screen, muttering “Bugger it” and flouncing off to watch Family Guy.

Comedians usually have a gift for timing, but even that seems to have deserted Scotland’s natural party of merriment. Johann’s detonation of the world’s largest-ever irony bomb, featuring the nation’s sarkiest anti-independence campaigner girning about her work unit’s lack of independence, ensured that all eyes were fixed on Labour at the very time they’d organised a £200-a-seat knees-up in a city containing 34 food banks.

The Twittersphere was agog with the possibilities. Would Ed Miliband unphotogenically choke on a dodgy prawn? Would Margaret Curran place the poison capsules in the wrong wine glasses and wipe out half the Shadow Cabinet? Would Johann’s blood-stained ghost appear, anxious for a “debate” with her betrayers? Did Jim Murphy’s publicity-stunt grocery bag for the food bank protestors contain eggs, and if so was he trying to provoke them?

As the world now knows, the headline-snatcher of the evening was something no-one could ever have predicted. Anas Sarwar, whose reputation for uninterrupted inane wittering had been surpassed only by the legendary Havering Fruitbat of Madagascar, finally said something interesting. All right, it was only his resignation as deputy leader, but it got him the only standing ovation he’s ever likely to earn. As for his “soul searching”, did he really mean “shoulder-blade searching”? Always a possibility when the political “family” you’re constantly gabbing about turns out to be the Borgias.

But step away from the Kleenex, folks! We needn’t weep for Anas, for there’s always a place in Labour’s Westminster hierarchy for a privately-educated millionaire with a humungous inheritance in the pipeline. And if that doesn’t work out, his inability to shut up makes him a shoo-in for next year’s Mercury Music Prize, as part of the rap outfit “Young Fatheads”.

Observers of the bleedin’ obvious soon clocked that this was a complete stitch-up, paving the way for Jim Murphy to call the shots from Westminster, with a suitable poodle established as deputy in Edinburgh. In this context, it may be significant that Kezia’s surname is an anagram of “dug lead”. Of course, the rules will force Jim to shift to Holyrood by 2016, but that’s bags of time to adjust the Barnett Formula to cover his expense claims.

It’s difficult to imagine Ed Miliband enthusiastically endorsing anything, apart from possibly fratricide, but having Murphy in the hot seat here would suit him nicely.  For one thing, it would give him one fewer explosive sociopath with a Messiah complex to worry about at Westminster. And, with Jim drawing most of his policy influences from the mean streets of Giffnock, there’d be no threat to the people’s flag remaining consistently Blairite beige throughout the UK.

Predictably, the broadcasters appear totally awestruck that a Westminster “heavy hitter” (hey, watch out for these elbows!) has deigned to take an interest in us. “He’s the candidate the Nats fear most,” runs their mantra, although the SNP’s biggest fear is of needing Paracetamol for their aching sides. Interviews, conducted with the ferocity of a Care Bears group hug, are painstakingly pitched to cultivate Jim’s image as “the self-deprecating bloke who goes to football”. Your granny would adore him, as long as she hadn’t attended one of his Irn Bru summits and asked an awkward question on Trident, or the Middle East, or student fees, or never having had a bloody job in the real world.

If you keep watching long enough, you’ll discover there are two other leadership candidates, who are generally given as many seconds on screen as a photo-fit on Crimewatch before we’re whisked off to the next gargantuan slice of Murphy hagiography. Yes, I know I myself haven’t mentioned them yet. Looks like bias is contagious, so after I finish this blog I’d better make sure I go into quarantine, preferably where there’s plenty of beer.

Sarah Boyack might, astoundingly, be a decent shout for the diminishing number of people who care whether Labour can ever pull its shivered strands together into a coherent political force.  She’s reputed to have no enemies within the party, even though that’s technically impossible. And, while carrying out the 2011 review of Labour in Scotland, she managed to work with Murphy without smashing a chair over his head, indicating either Zen-like levels of calm or inability to recognise a chair.

Her problem is that, even though she’s been in the Scottish Parliament since 1707, half the media movers and shakers have never heard of her and the other half think she’s that wumman who sang "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain’s Got Talent. Still, she was once sacked by Jack McConnell, so that’s surely some sort of accolade.

Neil Findlay is definitely the candidate most likely to wear a T-shirt saying “This is what a socialist looks like”. His left-wing credentials, plus an interview with Andrew Neil best summed up in the words “rabbit” and “headlights”, got him soundly patronised on the BBC’s Daily Politics by irritating celebrity polymath Gyles Brandreth. However, at least it was a profile-boosting moment for Neil, since previously Gyles wouldn’t have been able to spell his name even if you’d given him 11 Scrabble tiles in the correct order.

Neil’s selling point is his “life experience”, which is (1) a neat counterpoint to cocooned greasy pole climber Murphy, and (2) his way of deflecting criticism that he’s only been an MSP for five minutes, albeit the same five minutes as Ruth “Instant Stardom” Davidson. His varied career has encompassed being a bricklayer, a teacher, a housing officer, a councillor and, in originally backing Gordon Brown for the leadership, a spectacularly bad judge of character.

Of course, the contest isn’t as open to media jiggery-pokery as certain other political events I could mention, because the choice will be made by an electoral college, not a sofa-supine public brainwashed by Jackie Bird while eating baked beans straight from the tin. The “Murphia” support team, festooned with old Better Together super-villains such as Blair McDougall and blessed with the enthusiastic backing of ermine-bound Alistair Darling, may have more of a challenge on their hands than they think. One shouldn’t intrude upon private grief, but there could be mouth-watering schadenfreude opportunities in prospect.

As for satire, we bloggers may have to wait a little while before we reclaim that. Hmmm, I wonder where I put my box set of the early seasons of South Park?

Saturday, 25 October 2014

JoLa - A Farewell Tribute

I don't reckon Dolly Parton takes all that much interest in Scottish politics, but if she did her reaction to Johann Lamont's departure as manager of Labour's Scottish branch office might go something like this. Those of a musical bent who know the tune are welcome to sing it heartily.

JoLa, JoLa, JoLa, JoLa
I’m begging of you, please don’t step aside
JoLa, JoLa, JoLa, JoLa
Stay and watch your party’s prospects slide

Succeeding hapless Iain Gray
You thought they’d let you have your way
But that’s not in their DNA

They used you as a junior clerk
For policies out of the Ark
Dictated from Jurassic Park

It surely must have got your goat
Transcribing on a Post-It Note
The devo plans that Ed Balls wrote

Your face on Newsnight turning blue
Explaining what those powers would do
But you never had the slightest clue

JoLa, JoLa, JoLa, JoLa
I’m begging of you, please don’t walk the plank
JoLa, JoLa, JoLa, JoLa
Stay and watch those polling numbers tank

Though you were just a marionette
Your attributes we’ll not forget
In nightmares drenched with icy sweat

Your overblown debating skills
Your filthy looks that gave us chills
Your leaden jokes, like poison pills

Your stunning lack of bonhomie,
Your hatred of the SNP,
Your weird insistence things were wee

Your constant tinny little sneer
Dismissing hope and spreading fear
As Tories gathered round to cheer

JoLa, JoLa, JoLa, JoLa
I’m begging of you, don’t call it a day
JoLa, JoLa, JoLa, JoLa...

Stay and watch while we make Labour pay.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Forces Of EVEL

What a superb week it’s been in the Mother of Parliaments, as long as you’re enthused by buttock-clenchingly awful puns and not too concerned about democracy. The buzz-word on everyone’s lips was EVEL, the stench of which filled the House of Commons on Tuesday. But, as our imperial masters’ exchanges steadily eroded listeners’ will to live, it was an open question whether it really was a pun, or simply stood for “Egotistical Vultures Endlessly Lying”.

The debate was supposed to be about Scotland, but just for a laugh economy-sized Speaker John Bercow invented a new school rule that banned everyone from actually using the word “Scotland”, on pain of being forced to do gym in their underpants. This didn’t bother 90% of the participants, who weren’t planning to venture anywhere near the S-word, preferring to stick to self-righteous whining on behalf of constituents they ordinarily despise. However, it utterly discombobulated the embattled enclave of SNP MPs, who found their attempts to haul the discussion back on topic constantly smothered by pompous put-downs from the chair.

The three authors of the notorious Vow – that is, the guys who were happy for the Daily Record to print any old plop in their name as long as it was written on authentically scabby-looking parchment - were absent on snivelling coward duties elsewhere. So it was left to the Government’s one-man public address system, Wee Willie Hague, to announce in booming tones that new powers for Scotland would definitely arrive on schedule. Or maybe that was the 15:10 Trans-Pennine service from Wakefield, it was hard to tell.  Anyway, this is a bloke who once wore a back-to-front baseball cap and boasted about sinking 14 pints in a half-arsed attempt to look cool, so who fancies relying on that sort of judgement?

Not Gordon Brown, that’s for sure. Aghast at the public’s growing realisation that his planet-sized brain occupied a thumbnail-sized universe, and having been taken for an absolute mug by David Cameron, he was in full fidgeting and fuming mode. Still, you couldn’t help but feel he was focusing less on constitutional innovation than on panic-button damage limitation, now that Dave’s new-found fascination with curtailing Scottish MPs’ voting rights was threatening to rip the Labour Party’s knitting permanently to shreds. (It’s touching that Gordy thinks the Scottish public will be daft enough to vote for Labour in the first place, but I’m buggered if I’m going to be the one to tell him otherwise.)

Elsewhere in the chamber, MPs’ reaction to the Vow was as if they’d just opened the fridge and found a giant rat smirking at them. “Not in our name,” they spluttered, inconveniently for the Three Stooges and predictably for everyone else over the age of five. The Smith Commission cement mixer can chunter away as noisily as it likes, but its end results will still have to face the wrecking ball of Parliamentary scrutiny. Oh, and planning permission may have to wait while MPs fart about with a decades-long project to turn the UK into a federal paradise half of them don’t want, so don’t get yer hopes up, Jock.

Of course, advocates of “English votes for English laws” do have a point, as long as you can work out what an “English law” is without your cerebellum bursting like a clapped-out sofa. The West Lothian Question may have broken loose from the attic at a spectacularly inconvenient time, but it’s a serious constitutional issue. SNP MPs, uniquely, acknowledge this by voluntarily abstaining from votes that don’t concern them, which is why we never hear their views on the regulation of toad-sexing in Dorset.

At the risk of being inundated with furious tweets from constitutional experts with nothing better to do, I’d say that most sentient beings accept that the Question has three possible answers. The first, to abolish Holyrood entirely and line George Square with tanks to keep the peace, is probably a non-starter, though I’m sure Call Kaye could come up with several punters who think it’s a tremendous idea.

The second is devo-max bursting out all over, with all parts of Britain enjoying more autonomy and Westminster’s responsibilities strictly limited to defence, foreign policy and, er, belisha beacon maintenance around Whitehall. Sorry, I must have been inhaling my screen wipes again, that’s a pipe dream. 800 unemployable peers scraping a living as the world’s most exquisitely attired buskers? Civil service mandarins forced to move to areas where their neighbours might keep whippets? London property prices collapsing to merely extortionate? Never gonna happen to the UK, and by the same token never to Scotland either.

There is (ahem) a third possible answer, and I know it’s irritating for self-appointed commentators who’d like its advocates to get back in their boxes so they can apply padlocks. Independence is off the table for the moment, although, with odds shortening on the parliamentary Conservative Party morphing into a terminally Eurosceptic Tory-UKIP coalition, that may soon change. However, and I’m sure John Redwood, Vulcan ambassador to the Court of St James, would agree with me, as an answer to the West Lothian Question it’s perfectly logical.

In that light, you can see why the powers-that-be within the UK broadcasting cartel want to exclude Nicola from their General Election debates. She’d probably talk the other participants around to the idea in no time.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

A Cacophony of Cant

Fed up with the effin’ Tories, scunnered with scumbag Labour or pissed off with pusillanimous Lib Dems?  Hard cheese, viewers in Scotland. In the aftermath of the referendum, not only do the winners get to write history, but they’re given carte blanche to plaster their version all over your TV screens till your eyeballs spontaneously combust.

Unless you’re Mystic Meg, it’s tricky to write a topical blog without subjecting yourself to the occasional news broadcast, so watching the conference season is a necessary evil, which you survive by gritting your teeth and paying close attention to your booze-hangover balance. This year, however, with flag-waving triumphalism accompanying the usual cacophony of cant, it’s required the patience of Job not to hurl the telly down the nearest mineshaft.

How much more palatable the Labour jamboree might have been if we ordinary punters had been granted Ed’s magic powers of forgetfulness! As it was, we sat squirming as the faithful, oblivious to their looming “cost-of-lying crisis” in Scotland, gleefully rang the bells for their heroes returning from the battlefield.

Smirkers-in-chief included Alistair Darling, displaying all the magnanimity of a wasp with a bad case of piles, Jim Murphy, soon to publish his self-help book on surviving the trauma of everyday stains, and Douglas Alexander, still several voice-coaching sessions away from sounding as authoritative as his big sister. Just out of camera-shot, Johann Lamont struggled to get through security as the knives in her back kept setting off the metal detector. Meanwhile, on the positive side, we rejoiced in the disappearance of world saviour Gordon Brown, who had swept off aboard his chariots of wrath in search of a petition to hijack.

But there was still plenty to delight masochists, as Ed Balls pledged to maintain the Tories’ welfare cap, albeit with a more compassionate face, or at least as compassionate as his mad staring eyes would allow. A 91-year-old firebrand’s passionate defence of the NHS moved delegates to tears, which, for those who during the referendum campaign had denied it needed defending, should have been tears of shame. And dear deluded Margaret Curran undertook to discover how to regain the trust of Yes voters in the Labour heartlands.  Hi there, Mags, my suggestion would be, “Leave public life forever and take that ragbag of charlatans with you.”

Of course, as soon as Ed Balls started photocopying the Tories’ policies, it merely encouraged them to go further. The Tory conference was hard-core “We’re the Nasty Party, live with it” viewing all the way from the opening ceremony, which featured the creepily enigmatic Grant Shapps and serried ranks of Stepford ideologues in Union Jack T-shirts, to the finish, when David Cameron thrilled his audience with deficit reduction plans based on, ooh guess what, squeezing the poor. The only thing missing was Kenny Everett rushing on stage wearing a pair of giant hands and yelling, “Let’s bomb Russia!”

Ruth Davidson, who spent the conference grinning as if she’d bitten into a sandwich laced with Evo-Stik, was singled out as the new star in the firmament, eligible to be applauded even by old buffers without the slightest clue who she was. Immediately embraced as one of the family, she was awarded the place of honour next to SamCam as Dave romped through his keynote list of unfunded hand-outs to the middle class.

Sadly for Ruth, it’s unlikely the love will prove to be unconditional. Thanks to Dave’s bizarre impression that voting No means Scotland is full of embryonic Tories, welcoming the Osborne austerity agenda like turkeys writing letters to Santa, he’s now expecting her to work miracles at the 2015 General Election. When she inevitably disappoints him, he’ll have no option but to abandon her in a pub somewhere. The hallmark of the Tories is, after all, Ruthlessness.

But these days the party isn’t motivated solely by the urge to give Big Issue sellers a kicking and toss bricks to drowning people. An increasingly influential driving force, nibbling away at what passes for its soul, is dread of the relentless advance of UKIP.  Defecting MPs and councillors can always be replaced, since the well-spring of power-crazy numbskulls never runs dry, but once moneybags donors start jumping ship you’ve got a real crisis on your hands.  If some of the conference rhetoric seemed especially shrill this year, it may have been an attempt to divert the audience’s attention from the sound of Nigel Farage sawing away at the floorboards beneath them.

The policy arms race with UKIP is beginning to produce some spectacular collateral damage. A glaring example is the European Convention on Human Rights, good enough for Winston Churchill but not, apparently, addle-brained pipsqueak Chris Grayling. 

Grayling and his fellow hooligans are dismissing the ECHR as meddling frippery because it threatens to stop us handing people we don’t like over to torturers. But don’t fret, chattering classes, because when we unplug ourselves from that namby-pamby nonsense we’ll have our own British Bill of Rights! It’ll be drawn up by Daily Mail journalists in their spare time, beginning with “the right to shut up and applaud everything the Government does, until it’s your turn to be arrested”.

And so, with a heavy sigh, to the Liberal Democrats, unless since I started this post they’ve had an outbreak of honesty and renamed themselves “The Useful Idiot Party”.  Where the Tory conference came across as a resounding trumpet voluntary, the Lib Dem one was more like a comb-and-tissue-paper rendition of We’ll Meet Again, although in their hearts they know we won’t.

So, no tittering missus, here’s the Lib Dem case for the defence. For the last four-and-a-half years they’ve been driving a getaway car for a masked gang carrying bulging sacks marked “Loot”, and they’ve just become aware that these people may be thieves. Since they’ve never broken the speed limit or parked on a double yellow line, they reckon they're a moderating influence, and we should throw up our hands in gratitude and let them have the ignition keys for another five years. Oh, and depending on how things pan out they may suddenly decide to work for a different gang, but that’s none of our business.

As we considered whether "wasting voters' time" should be made a criminal offence, the post-indyref claptrap brigade came out in force: Alistair Carmichael, the “bruiser” who’s really his mammy’s big tumfy, administering a “stern rebuke” to Nicola Sturgeon for not ruling out independence for eternity; the waspish (and still is) Malcolm Bruce, comparing the Salmond administration to the Soviet politburo; and the gossamer-thin reality grip of Paddy Ashdown, classifying the SNP alongside various fascist, extremist or looney-tunes outfits in Europe.

But somehow this didn’t matter, for as they burbled on you could sense their imminent irrelevance, as if they’d taken a gulp of helium before speaking and their voices had gone all tinny and gurgly. This was a party enjoying a last picnic on the railway line, in blissful denial about the InterCity 125 of electoral oblivion hurtling towards them.

Less widely reported than any of the above, partly through their own choice but partly because their name contains a word that brings the BBC out in a nasty rash, was the gathering last Saturday of Women for Independence. 1,000 of its members packed out St Matthew’s Church in Perth more comprehensively than had been witnessed in decades of Sundays, and by all accounts had a whale of a time sharing experiences, floating ideas and laying plans.

Could this be the future? A forum where participation takes precedence over stage-management?  More concerned with changing things in future than name-calling about the past? Driven by hope, not fear, career advancement or competitive mania? Composed of individuals, not delegates, and with a thousand personal visions rather than one stifling party line? Not seeking power, just striving to improve things for the better?

Nah, it’ll never catch on, surely.  Will it?

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Political Rehab

Guest post by Gary Baldi, a first-time blogger -  I do suspect that's a pseudonym, though - who I think should consider writing more often!

Those of you concentrating really hard may be aware that the Liberal Democrats are currently convening in Glasgow, in an appropriately well-protected shelter that goes by the name of the Armadillo.  They appear bullish about their electoral prospects, declaring that it’s up to the voters whether they form the next coalition with Labour or with the Tories. Presumably their manifesto is going to contain two different what-if scenarios, or perhaps they’ll dispense with it altogether and just sell lottery tickets.

Observers of opinion polls take a somewhat less optimistic stance, viewing Lib Dem MPs not as versatile political operators with a gentle hand on the helm of history, but as an endangered species, singing one last sweet but sad refrain before obliteration.

Such an outcome will, of course, be a mere career blip for the party’s high heid yins, such as Messrs Clegg, Cable and Alexander, established as they are on the gilded path to ermine goons, a well-upholstered red bench and a lifelong attendance allowance. But what about departing MPs of more modest talents, whatever colour their rosettes may be? There simply aren’t enough whelk stalls in existence for them to take over and drive out of business, so what’s their route to rejoining polite society?

For the answer, you’re welcome to join me on a visit to my state-of-the-art Political Rehab Clinic, tucked away in a delightful rural setting reminiscent of a People’s Friend calendar. We’ll have to make it a virtual tour, I’m afraid, unless you’d prefer to be blindfolded and drugged by our state-of-the-art taxi drivers.  We can’t take the risk of the electorate discovering its location and turning up in force with pitchforks and firebrands.

After an initial sluicing to remove residual oiliness, arriving ex-MPs are ushered into an echo chamber, to be educated out of needing to have the last word. Usually they adjust, if only through fatigue, within a few days. In the case of more persistent motor-mouths, sedatives may be administered. There’s also an emergency procedure known as the “George Galloway option” where the candidate is enclosed in a thick roll of carpet, taken to a nearby empty house and left to knock himself senseless in the inevitable fist fight.

Frequently subjects are unaware that, with the loss of Parliamentary privilege, ordinary laws apply to them once more. In extreme cases they may plummet from upper-storey windows under the misconception that they can still defy gravity. Our next de-programming step, therefore, is to put them through a gauntlet of Metropolitan Police officers, who periodically shove them to the ground, hit them with riot shields and prevent them from leaving the area for several hours. We tend to find that, after a few episodes of that, they know their place pretty sharpish.

Specialised highly expensive treatments are available depending on a candidate’s political history. Opposition politicians, used to simply slagging off the Government no matter what it does, are offered a brain transplant. Government politicians, accustomed to ramming their measures through no matter what the human cost, qualify for a heart transplant. Those eternally stuck in the middle, including the hapless Lib Dems, get an implant of courage to combat their feelings of uselessness and irrelevance. Of course, it’s all a pack of lies and we’re really just fooling everyone with hypnosis, but we should be OK as long as no-one notices we stole the whole idea from The Wizard of Oz.

Finally, and crucially, a team of orthodontists is on hand to wire our patients’ jaws shut. Sorry, but we simply have to stop them smiling at all costs. In fact this will probably happen automatically when they realise the days of 11% annual pay increases are over, but it’s best to err on the safe side.

It would be wonderful to be able to say that alumni of our clinic go on to play useful roles in the community. Though we do perform a valuable service that in my opinion deserves adulation and massive financial rewards, we’re not miracle workers, so that remains a distant aspiration. But all is not lost. In another part of our complex we’ve created the ideal work environment to keep these poor unimaginative drones occupied for the rest of their lives: a production line manufacturing huge numbers of baseball bats.

What do we need all the baseball bats for? Join me soon, and I’ll take you on a tour of our fabulous new treatment centre for bankers.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Beyond September

Even though the grass refuses to stop growing and my unprotected pate is sizzling gently in the Perthshire sun, I discover to my alarm that it’s the first of October.  It seems only fleeting moments ago that I started this blog, yet already here I am past the first part of its title, with an ocean of possibilities stretching into the vast Beyond.

Time, therefore, to consider my own response to the huge question occupying Yes supporters the length and breadth of the land.  Where do we go from here?

First and foremost, as if you hadn’t already guessed, this blog will be continuing. All the other bloggers on the indyref scene seem to be hanging in there, and several enviably energetic and eloquent new voices are also kicking down the door, so it would be crazy of me to leave the party now.

I’m even keeping the To September And Beyond title. I’d hate to confuse my faithful and growing readership by suddenly switching to another name and, more to the point, can’t currently coax my brain into formulating anything better. Of course, if the independence referendum that inevitably results from the Cameron/Farage junta yanking us out of the EU in 2017 is held in a month other than September, all bets are off.

It’s an impossible dream for this titchy wee blog to emulate the “market leaders” such as Wings, Wee Ginger Dug, Bateman and the rest, but I’d like at least to make a start down that path by updating it more frequently.  Naturally, this will be impossible for me on my own, given my inability to write the simplest of sentences without chiselling away at the words for hours as if I’m Auguste bloody Rodin.

So I’d like to issue a general invitation to bloggers out there, especially if you don’t have a site of your own, to contribute guest posts to fill the gaps whenever I’m helpless in the grip of creative angst. They don’t have to be humorous (especially if your jokes are better than mine), but it would be handy if they were readable without too much editing, and about, or with a slant on, Scottish politics. 

I can’t promise to publish all submissions, because (a) I may unexpectedly get swamped, (b) anything offensive, actionable, illegal or unhinged will have to go in the bin, and (c) I’m a complete control freak.  Those caveats apart, I’ll do my best, and if I can’t find a place for something I’ll see if anyone else I know can.  You’ll not receive any payment other than kudos, and the occasional brickbat if you’re unlucky, but then neither do I.

If you’d like to send me something, just drop a line to william_duguid [at], replacing the [at] with @ when you mail.  Or you can just copy and paste the e-mail address from the top right-hand corner of the blog! 

Now, something else important.

There’s a lot of discussion going on at the moment, as the grand panjandrums of the Yes movement figure out how best to enhance our “media presence”, about sharing and co-operation.  Newsnet Scotland, who made their own content freely available to all-comers in the run-up to the referendum, waxed lyrical about this on Monday in an article that gave a tantalising glimpse of the future.

That sounds a pretty neat idea, so in response I’d like to state, quite explicitly, that anyone is welcome to reproduce the posts on this blog without seeking advance permission from me.  (That includes guest posts, so be warned, aspiring scribblers!)  All I ask is that you credit the blog as your source and, if you possibly can, let me know when you’ve done it, so that I can Tweet the blazes out of it.  Hey, I’m a self-promoter at heart, not a total altruist!

Oh, and if anybody involved with plans for a brilliant new media platform needs any help or contributions from middle-aged fat blokes, yoo-hoo, I’m right here!  I’ll wear my bright yellow Yestival shirt through the winter so that you can find me in the fog.

That’s about yer lot, readers, apart from one or two surprises I’m hoping to inflict on you in the next few weeks, which are so secret even I don’t know about them yet.  Now I’m off to boak my way through BBC iPlayer coverage of the Tory party conference, about which I expect to unleash a rant some time before the end of the week.  After an extended session of word-chiselling, of course.

Ocean of possibilities, here we come.  Inflatable armbands at the ready!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Ten Days After

Call off the search party, I’m still here.  It’s just taken me a bit longer to return to blogging than I expected. 

It’s not that I’ve been lying disconsolately in bed, surrounded by tear-sodden Kleenex and empty beer cans. Apart from that first Friday, anyway.  It’s just that when your stock-in-trade is jokes, and you look in the Quality Street tin where you keep them and find nothing but sarcasm, sweary words and barely suppressed rage, it’s probably sensible to step back from comedy till the sense-of-humour fairy brings fresh supplies.

For my own rehabilitation I have to thank one or two prominent No campaigners whose patronising triumphalism stank out my Twitter timeline, swiftly replacing gloom with anger and determination. Other grieving Yessers, even if they body-swerved the social media wasps’ nest, were perhaps roused to resistance by the BBC’s footage - only kiddin’, it was Russia Today’s - of George Square being desecrated by sectarian wankers bent on mayhem.  

However, as the dents in my filing cabinet testify, the path to renewed optimism hasn’t been entirely smooth.   After all, for 1,617,989 of us the word “Clackmannanshire” will forever trigger nightmares, as we recall our jaws clanking to the floor at the silent majority suddenly materialising out of nowhere.  I’m sure some of us are still enveloped in a monochrome fog, surveying the popping-candy vitality of the resurrected Yes movement with a mixture of bemusement and envy.  Hang in there, folks, take as long as you need to get your mojo back, and we’ll save you a seat at the coming firework display.

Anyway, for the record, and to satisfy the thought police hovering over my shoulder, I accept the referendum result.  I acknowledge there’s a core group of people who, for reasons ranging from respectable to ridiculous, will always vote No to independence, even if scientists prove that it’ll transform Campbeltown Loch into whisky. 

And I won’t condemn anybody else who in good faith voted No, although I hope Hell has a special barbecue setting for the duplicitous weasels who lied to them on their TVs and doorsteps.  When those voters’ expectations unravel like a moth-eaten semmit, I’ll rely on Zen-like emotional control to reach out to them with warmth and sympathy, rather than sand-blasting them with colourfully-embroidered cries of “Told you so!”

Tip-toeing into controversial territory, and squeezing into my Kevlar onesie for protection, I have to say that I disagree with claims that the count was rigged.  Small-scale jiggery-pokery in Glasgow, a drama-queen fire alarm in Dundee and a notorious YouTube video casting doubt on easily-explained activities don’t amount to wholesale Government pauchling. Beady eyes from both camps, scrutinising every event from the sorting of ballots to the scratching of bums, would make such a stunt impossible to pull off, unless you kidnapped the entire count staff and replaced them with clones of Derren Brown.

But, before I morph into a cheerleader for the Electoral Commission, I’ve got one or two wee niggles. Firstly, control of the electoral register at Glenrothes obviously fell into the hands of Mr Frank Spencer, as several punters arrived at the polling place only to discover a bunch of spivs had already voted in their name. Few observers considered this a surprise, given the town’s fast-growing reputation as the Bermuda Triangle of fair electioneering.

Secondly, cyberspace is awash with allegations that ballot papers in some places were blank on the reverse, without the official bar-coding people were expecting.  Now, it’s quite possible that (1) this doesn’t matter, because Big Brother knows best, (2) it’s merely a public-spirited saving of ink in Austerity Britain, or (3) it’s the most widespread example of false memory syndrome since half the population claimed they’d always suspected the 1978 World Cup squad of being a bit rubbish.  But, if the authorities want to see the 84% indyref turnout repeated any time before the rocks melt with the sun, that sort of thing deserves a decent explanation, not the bog-standard civil service brush-off.

As for postal votes, I may be a vinegary old cynic, but aren’t they simply a licence to cheat?  I preferred the days when they were reserved for those who genuinely needed them, rather than being given away with copies of the Metro or dropped from helicopters on to a grateful populace. I’m not griping about the referendum, where I’d say either postal voters behaved themselves or both sides cheated equally, but this could be dynamite in a closely-fought constituency with tactical voters on the prowl.

Ruth Davidson is probably fed up with the whole idea of postal voting, having inadvertently stitched up the No campaign’s polling agents live on TV by blabbing that they’d sampled ballot papers during verification checks. Of course, sampling has been a widely-practised black art ever since homo sapiens first won a slim majority over the Cro-Magnons, but because it’s the electoral equivalent of insider dealing people normally have the sense to stay schtum about it.  Not so the hapless Ruth, whose prefect’s badge is now at a decidedly un-jaunty angle as the Crown Office polishes its knuckledusters.  Edge-of-seat entertainment to keep the Yes movement buoyed up in the coming days.

And it’s the coming days on which we must concentrate. Our sneerier detractors would like nothing better than to see us mired in the past, wide open to caricature as conspiracy theorists, tetchy losers and woad-wearing fantasists. Sorry, perhaps there’s one thing they’d like more: for us to shut our traps, chuck this political engagement malarkey, melt our Yes badges down to make cereal bowls, settle down on the sofa for the next 307 years and proudly join in the booing of Alex Salmond. Any alternative activity, the irony-deaf Dalek voice screeches, is “anti-democratic”.

Bugger that. I don’t know if my ballot paper had a bar-code on the back, but it certainly didn’t have the words “For Ever And Ever Amen” beside the No option. We’re in the minority, and we don’t need a Professor Branestawm lookalike on the telly to remind us, but it’s only two letters and an episode of Westminster stupidity away from becoming a majority. We’ve got every right to keep striving for that goal, and reason to believe we’ll find ears willing to listen. This isn’t denial or bloody-mindedness, it’s a gravitational pull.

Now is the time for everyone to be politically engaged, no matter how they voted. Just ten days after the referendum, “New powers for Scotland” has mysteriously become “Hey, what’s in it for England?”, fracking operators are gearing up to shaft the Central Belt, knives are being noisily sharpened for the Scottish budget, and we’re dropping bombs on Iraq for the third time, yet again without the haziest clue what happens next. Even if there’s no public appetite for another referendum, that little lot should surely resonate with some No voters who can be persuaded to stand alongside us.

I’m not particularly uptight about what we call ourselves, though I have sympathy with those who think “the 45” is too exclusive, “45 rising” too Jacobite and “45 plus” too like an intelligence test for middle-aged people. In these early days, it’s sometimes frustrating seeing energy being wasted on “Judaean People’s Front” naming scuffles, but the wizened old sage in me says these things have a habit of settling down and evolving naturally.

Personally, for the moment, I’m going with the “butterfly rebellion” idea first suggested in Robin McAlpine’s brilliant article here. In large numbers, butterflies are a near-impossible target for an opponent relying on brute force.  Individually, a butterfly is colourful and attractive, and has a nifty set of wings just like the sense-of-humour fairy.

Oh, and if it decides to flap those wings you never know what hurricanes might result.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Week Of Shock And Awe

I’m sure we’d have preferred a nice bunch of flowers and a candlelit dinner, but a Westminster Establishment schooled in the ways of the military-industrial complex was never going to waste time on that malarkey.  Instead the wooing of Scotland has turned out to be a half-arsed re-run of Operation Shock and Awe, leaving our ears buzzing and the landscape glowing eerily like Dalgety Bay at twilight.

Until YouGov accidentally, or perhaps conveniently, snuck out its poll result showing Yes nosing ahead, the London-based media were roughly as familiar with campaign developments as a rhinoceros is with differential calculus.  This knowledge gap allowed a skip-load of debunked scare stories to be unleashed on us again in zombie form, with broomsticks strategically inserted to prevent them collapsing in a squidgy heap. 

One of these was the beguiling notion that, at the first sign of 5.3 million Scots taking charge of their own affairs, financial institutions would with a screech of brakes vanish south of the border, replace their Scottish employees with more expensive London ones and cheerfully start paying Corporation Tax 3% higher than they needed to.  BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson, temporarily manifesting himself in Edinburgh like a peripatetic haemorrhoid, was the principal mouthpiece for this. 

Nick shares with the Prime Minister, and indeed many of our imperial masters, the distinction of a PPE degree from Oxford, and is therefore a man of unimpeachable probity.  So clearly there was no collusion when the Treasury inadvertently e-mailed him the outcome of a Royal Bank of Scotland board meeting that hadn’t yet finished, and no impropriety when he inaccurately pimped it on the airwaves before the stock market had even opened. Purple-faced RBS investors, spitting out toast and marmalade as they surveyed the share price in free fall, simply had to accept the sacrifice for the good of the nation.

The truth, which was that a name-plate might move but jobs would be unaffected, was no fun at all.  So, with a rush of blood to the head that somehow missed his brain, Nick decided he’d better muddy the waters by heckling Alex Salmond at that day’s press conference. This was, sadly, tantamount to taking on a master swordsman armed only with a plastic knife and fork.  The embarrassing rout that ensued, to chortles of appreciation from the international press corps, is - as you might imagine - unavailable on BBC iPlayer, and will be fully expunged from history just as soon as Nick discovers how to un-invent the Internet. 

In the media's fantasy world, threatening to move name-plates southwards soon became the hot new craze. Birds, bees and educated fleas were all reported to be in Peckham, checking out cut-price Brasso suppliers. Lloyds Bank was allegedly fired up and ready to go, until tiresome pedants pointed out that its head office was already in London.

Equally gung-ho was Standard Life, although - without wishing to be churlish - we’d heard the same thing from them back in March.  And in 1997, before the devolution referendum.  And, to be honest, any time in the last 189 years when the dreich weather had been getting on their tits, or the locals hadn’t been giving them enough cringing respect, or they’d thought someone was looking at them in a funny way.

A new, more blood-curdling threat was obviously needed.  Step forward Deutsche Bank, recently fined £4.7 million for inaccurate reporting of past events, but now touted by the media as somehow able to predict the future without its audience busting a gut laughing.  It turned out that the bank’s previous analysis of Scotland, in May 2014, had failed to take account of one crucial fact:  that UK Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid, previously a Deutsche Bank board member, desperately needed a favour from his old chums.

To the sound of principles crackling merrily on a bonfire, the bank now fast-tracked a re-evaluation of Scotland’s prospects that was a tad more pessimistic.  It seemed they’d analysed all the stupid things it was possible to do, including microwaving your private parts, reversing a petrol tanker off Beachy Head and skinny-dipping with a school of piranha fish, and reached the inescapable conclusion that Scottish independence was the daftest of the lot.  With absolutely nothing going for it but significant wealth, outstanding natural resources, a highly-skilled population and a reservoir of international goodwill, all a fledgling Scotland could look forward to was another Great Depression, so the German equivalent of “yah boo sucks” to the lot of us.

Meanwhile, Asda, John Lewis and M & S were reported as saying that was all fine, but could they possibly introduce a bit of hyper-inflation too?  “Scottish wheelbarrows will buckle under the weight of people’s everyday cash needs!” lamented No campaigners from a carefully-prepared script, as the Morning Call switchboard burst into flames. “Alex Salmond has no Plan B for mass-manufacturing reinforced axles!”

To add to the apocalyptic mood, Glasgow experienced a sudden plague of Labour MPs, trolley-cases laden with bankrupt ideas, parading out of Central Station and up Buchanan Street.  They coalesced into one giant doughnut round the statue of Donald Dewar, obediently chanted “Naw” as their soon-to-be-former leader Ed Miliband cranked the platitude generator up to 11, and then, er, slunk away again.  The BBC, naturally, found the experience so awe-inspiring that they vowed never to film on that spot again, no matter how many Yes campaigners turned up.

The day-trip will be especially remembered for the visitors’ piss-taking welcome from a guy in a rickshaw, who serenaded their miserable crocodile step by step with an amplified blast of the Star Wars Imperial March.  This rib-tickling episode highlighted the value of music in politics, if only as a means of preserving the public’s sanity.  

Any appearance by Cameron and Clegg would surely be much improved if accompanied by the Laurel and Hardy theme. Lugubrious wind turbine Jim Murphy, nabob of the expenses claim, deserves to have his harangues framed by a chorus of Money, Money, Money.  And, particularly if Scotland votes Yes on Thursday, shouldn’t Johann Lamont be permanently identified with Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now?

And so to the climactic payload of the week’s bombardment, which arrived with an almighty squelch on the front page of Tuesday’s Record.  This was the three main Westminster party leaders’ galactic, ground-breaking, oh-for-Pete’s-sake-not-again “VOW” to festoon Scotland with sparkly but useless trinkets if we Do the Decent Thing. 

Where to begin? Apart from the fact that the document is signed by Nick Clegg, and therefore inherently risible, there’s the itsy-bitsy problem that not a single MP outside Scotland has been consulted about it.  Westminster is already awash with the sound of knuckledusters being polished, and by the time the three stooges’ Sellotaped-together proposals come up for debate the atmosphere will be like a Wild West saloon waiting for the first chair to be broken over someone’s head.  I Predict A Riot.

So here we are, folks.  The clock is ticking ever more loudly, and there’s no further outrageous propaganda tarted up as humour I can sling at you.  It's now up to you.  Vote once, vote wisely, and be proud of the choice you make.

See you on the other side.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Getting Involved

While the next blog chapter is gently stewing in my brain, here’s a guest post from @HoppingHaggis, a call to arms reminding us that time is short and we still need to make things happen in the next six days!  

I know, there are tons of people out there campaigning already, but if you haven’t yet dipped your toe in the water, this post is for you! Canvassing may or may not be your own cup of tea, but we can all do something, and it’ll be worth it to wake up the morning after and think “I was part of that.”

I’ve been canvassing for the first time, and it feels good! 

It started with the rolling 24 hour party political broadcast at the start of the week.  You know, even if it wasn’t complete tosh about losing the BBC, this latest stunt makes me question whether we even want them!   Instead of getting angry, I decided to wrestle my trembles into submission and get out to chap some doors.  I’ve never campaigned for anything before, and I’m quite a quiet person, so it was with some trepidation that I emailed Yes Forfar, but I got a speedy reply from a very nice lady who invited me to come out with them.  

I’ve just returned, and I have to say I’m so glad I did it!  We met in a wee car park and I was paired up with a friendly lady who worked at a local university.  She quickly kitted me out in some Yes garb (I didn’t even have a badge!) and off we set.  We had a list of registered voters to work from: the first few people were out, but our first answer was for a Yes. We gave him a sign to pop in his window, marked our sheet and moved on.

It was a good night: a couple of No’s, a couple of undecided and a lot of Yesses, but my favourite was an extremely friendly Russian lady who proudly told us she already had her signs in the window – it pleases my heart how inclusive this movement has been!  Sure enough, when we walked round the corner of the block, we saw her window decked top to bottom with a big Yes Saltire.

When we finished our list, we headed back to the car park and met up to tally results (stopping to wave at the wee guy driving by, giving us a big thumbs up!)  Our wee group got:

60% Yes
20% No
20% Don’t Know
So with the Don’t Knows removed, that’s 75% Yes!

Please, we have so little time left and EVERY VOTE COUNTS. I’m a fearty computer nerd at heart, I hate speaking to people, but this is SO important and we all need to make it happen.  Even if you’ve never done it before, it’s not so hard - you just have to stand and smile. Everyone can stand and smile;  you’ll enjoy it, it’s liberating!  

If I can do it, then anyone can, and you’re needed. With something so important we can’t afford to be complacent.

People of Scotland, this is our time... Let’s make it happen.

Vote Yes! 


PS:  I asked William to post this for me on his blog, because his was one of the first blogs I ever read about independence 3 months (or so) ago and he drew me into the movement.  A brilliant humorous writer, if you haven’t read his posts elsewhere on the blog, I would encourage you to have a look. Be prepared to giggle!

(Aw, shucks…. WD)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Union Wakes Up

Flying back from my holidays at the weekend, wondering if the pilot would be able to avoid the clouds of volcanic pish spewing into the atmosphere through the efforts of Jim Murphy, I was blissfully unaware of the stushie that lay ahead. Thanks to a disastrous security lapse at YouGov, some truthful indyref poll results had accidentally escaped into the public domain, sending a ruddy great ferret up the trouser leg of the UK body politic.

In recognition of the national crisis, the BBC immediately abandoned its commitment to impartiality, not that anyone noticed much difference. Andrew Marr, his fingernails glistening with red, white and blue varnish, invited George Osborne on to his show to offer reassurance to the people, in so far as that’s possible for a creepy cadaver with coal-black eyes and no reflection in any mirror.

There would be no currency union, no way, no how, not on your nelly, re-iterated the Chancellor, sending sterling into a tailspin and his speculator chums into froths of excitement. But, by sheer coincidence, and in no way a colossal panicky bribe, this was the very week when the Unionist parties had been planning to announce some really bitchin’ extra powers for Scotland if it voted No. 

It wasn’t clear what these powers would entail, although enhanced control of lightbulbs, pop-up toasters and the colour of men’s socks were just some of the mouth-watering possibilities. But, whatever they turned out to be, they’d make Scotland just the proudest subordinate region of a bankrupt, clapped-out colonial power led by lying charlatans you ever did see!

Hang on, said some annoying swots who’d read the Edinburgh Agreement, you can’t move the goalposts so close to the referendum, especially when so many postal votes have already been cast.  The Internet began gently to smoulder as people Tweeted images of indignant e-mails they’d fired off to the Electoral Commission, under the misapprehension that this august body was any more useful than a wet wipe in a tsunami.  They might as well have written their messages on leaves and entrusted them to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

It rapidly became clear that any prohibition in the Edinburgh Agreement on introducing faaaabulous new offers in the 28-day pre-referendum “purdah” period didn’t apply in this case, because (1) the Agreement wasn’t a proper treaty, suckers, just a wee pretendy scrap of paper signed by an oleaginous, dish-faced Tory with his fingers crossed behind his back, and (2) the three Unionist parties weren’t actually offering anything new, just the same unspecific mouldy old toot as ever.

As the Yes camp hooted in derision, the Establishment showed signs of being genuinely spooked. Alistair Darling, asserting to a slack-jawed John Humphrys on Today that all was going according to plan, had to be strapped into a life-size jelly mould so as not to slide off his chair into an amorphous mass on the studio floor.  A Royal foetus, usually a dead cert to instigate a forelock-tugging epidemic, failed to lay a glove on the public imagination, with Nicholas Witchell’s fawning adulation becoming an irrelevant background drone.  “10 DAYS TO SAVE THE UNION!” chorused the vassal press, in 30-foot high letters composed mainly of phlegm.

“Let’s publicly fly the Saltire everywhere, because that sort of patronising bollocks never pisses off the Scots!” declared David Cameron.  But, alas, the Downing Street pole was too greasy, and the flag fluttered disobligingly back to earth, in an omen both sides immediately claimed as disastrous for the other.  It was becoming increasingly hard to track down Tory MPs, most of whom had scuttled down palatial gold-plated rabbit holes.  A human shield for the Westminster establishment was clearly required – but who?

Only one man had all the necessary attributes:  elephantine lack of self-awareness, delusional faith in his own abilities and cast-iron certainty about the world, undisturbed by trivial distractions such as facts. A man still hugely influential in Scotland, according to BBC correspondents who either don’t get sarcasm or have been speaking only to folk who spent 1997 to 2010 goat-herding in Patagonia.  A fitting wearer of the “out-of-touch political relic selling moonbeams to gullible peasants” mantle so infamously worn by Alec Douglas Home in 1979. 

Yes, Gordon Brown, his world-saving superhero costume cunningly hidden under his trademark “sack of potatoes” suit, was back in the limelight.  Just as well, with sales of his book ominously circling the toilet bowl.  The BBC, whose standard-issue Sat-Nav had previously been unable to distinguish Loanhead from Bhutan, loaded its top news commentary talent into a fleet of articulated trucks and rumbled over the border to give us wall-to-wall coverage of Gordon’s manoeuvres to foil the insurgent natives.

We got Gavin Esler, who’d discovered the caterwauling Vote No Borders teenagers but completely missed National Collective.  Huw Edwards, who managed to conduct an entire interview with Ian McDougall of Business For Scotland without apparently twigging that the organisation supported Yes.  Robert Peston, bouncing up and down on his toes, either in eagerness to deliver the latest economic smackdown or because the Calton Hill breeze knifing through his loins made him want to pee.  How heartbreaking it would be for Scotland to lose access to such expertise through the silly nonsense of self-determination!

The centrepiece of the media onslaught was Gordon’s Big Announcement, which the Beeb marked with a 50-minute party political broadcast for No that would have been the envy of any banana republic.  Naturally, they reported that the great man’s words were pearls, dropping as the gentle rain from heaven, and that it would be unconscionably rude of Scots to reject such largesse from a generous, forgiving UK Government.  Of course, they’d have been equally complimentary if he’d simply read out the takeaway menu from the Rawalpindi Tandoori, and on reflection that would have been more informative than what he actually said.

As you don’t need me to tell you, the whole palaver turned out to be about nothing more than a timetable, which, as anyone knows if they’ve ever been stranded on a platform with their nads freezing off, isn’t a great deal of use.  It would also be fair, albeit uncharitable, to point out that not only does Gordon have no clothes, but he isn’t even an emperor.  Never mind, we were told, the three main Westminster parties will endorse everything he says, as long as it doesn’t involve anything concrete. And they’ll start the meter running the very nanosecond after a No vote, assuming they aren’t too busy flicking V-signs at us and orgiastically drowning each other in champagne.

At the end of October, presumably the next time Gordon intends to bother showing up in the Commons, we’ll get a Progress Report, with him pronouncing everything hunky-dory in the same tone he used for the knock-down gold reserves and ravaged pension funds. In November we’ll get a White Paper, which if the Unionist cabal has failed to reach consensus will no doubt be covered in equally white writing.  In January there’ll be a massive Commons mutiny over the proposals, in March the remaining few scraps will be sneeringly shredded by the House of Lords, and in May Nigel Farage will be elected Prime Minister, with a mandate to ditch devolution entirely and plunge us all into the abyss. 

Not far away, but in reality a million miles, Nicola Sturgeon was on the campaign trail in Glasgow, livin’ the high life with actor Alan Cumming, who doesn’t have a vote - hey, neither does Dave, Ed or Nick - but is a fervent Yes supporter.  Amongst Alan’s illustrious career highlights, as sad geeks like me know, is a role in the X-Men films as a teleporting mutant. The character also has blue skin, pointy ears and a forked tail, but let’s not stretch the metaphor too far.

There’s the whole shebang in a nutshell.  In Loanhead, one superhero offering a vague timetable to who-knows-where, subject to irritating small print, unpredictable revisions and footnotes such as “Service may not run after May 2015 in the event of utter bastards taking office”.  In Glasgow, another superhero advocating the chance for us to exercise our power and, in a puff of smoke, simply teleport ourselves away wherever we want to go.

No-brainer, isn’t it?