It’s Time…

Last post before voting…a couple of salient points occur. The first is about you. You are part of Scottish history now, woven into the national story as one of those who resisted, objected, debated and won the argument. The books may not record your name, but you will be there – entwined in the description of ‘a mass movement’, ‘a people’s rebellion’ and ‘those of all parties and none who took to the streets, filled the halls and the social media with demands for real democracy, for fairness, for dignity and wealth-sharing’.

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That is what the history will say of you. The barricades may, thankfully, not be car tyres, pallets and metal railings but they were barricades – of corporate power, private wealth, government connivance and media distortion. As revolutionaries you may not have held guns but you did carry a weapon – national dignity. And as the relentless onslaught hammered away, you stayed strong, remained standing and smiled.

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Your success is already being written. In the mainstream media that almost exclusively sided with the failed Establishment, the despised No campaign is being prepared for burial in a corner plot marked Never Again. What will be remembered instead is your rising optimism, intellectual rigour, irrepressible humour and unquenchable spirit. You are the generation that argued for social justice, internationalism, people power and collective pride – you have been on the side of the angels. They will say you lit a beacon that inspired others in these islands to get off their knees and take command of their lives…that you electrified friends abroad in their quest for self-determination and that you shook the power base to its roots.

You did that. You stood up to be counted…for real democracy…for Scotland.

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Whenever the referendum is talked of in years to come, you will remember. You will remind each other with a look or a nod that you were there and you were Yes. Words won’t be needed. This has been tumultuous, revelatory, life-changing and, yes, nation-changing  and you were its beating heart.

Lastly, there is something else that needs to be said. Alex Salmond is a great Scot. Politician he may be, open to the jibes of venality and vanity. But he has proved to be a man of transcending qualities, all the more sharply defined because of the feeble attempts to vilify him. He has shown all the skills of a true national leader and a man at the top of his game whose masterly touch has kept together a kaleidoscopic array of political interests focussed on one objective. If they slight him as sleekit, they must allow that you’d need the cunning of a sewer rat to fend off the British Establishment. While his opponents have pushed face after face to the fore to claim campaign leadership – and even provided a human shield for their de facto leader – Salmond’s supremacy over Yes has been the rock behind the movement.

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The shrill contempt he endures from Unionists draws us ever closer in his protection and generates a loyalty even among those with no SNP affiliation. On September 19, he will still be the undisputed leader of the nation. I am proud of him.

So, the arguments have crystallised. The time for words is over. We are ready.

It is time, Scotland. It is time…

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The People’s Champion…

 

Just as I was writing the text below looking at an idea for helping the country move forward – along with No voters – and to harness the inclusive sense of community we have generated, this arrived….Click on the image and read it and tell me is this is the kind of honesty and attitude you want in your country or is it the most damning indictment yet of the paucity of vision and integrity of today’s Labour Party? Check out the bottom line and ask how that helps the democratic process!

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Do Your Duty

What are we going to do on September 19? Yes, I know…party long and hard, barbecue the haggis and smear on the chip fat etc. But that’s also the time when the work starts because the referendum is only the mandate. The talks follow along with the job of building the new nation which isn’t left to politicians and institutions but is done by us.

The most important part will be a sense of urgency and purpose to bring about the plans for change from streamlining and collecting the taxes to prioritising the areas where they should be spent. And if this new people engagement means anything, it is that we are no longer bystanders, passive observers in our own society as things are done TO us and FOR us.

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I believe that each and every one of us (that’s No’s too) should see a role for ourselves in energising and supporting the momentum that has got us here. Loosely basing my idea on JFK – Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country – I think we should start a national volunteer register.

Everyone has a talent. I’m always struck by the range and depth of knowledge of contributors who post here – their life stories of living and working abroad (as some still do), of their professional experience in medicine, finance, oil and academia – and I realise that if you multiply that by the population at large, we have an unmatched reservoir of ability not defined by age or employability but by availability.

We should establish a register of names with identified talents. We can add ourselves to it and say what we are capable of, what we can offer in time, money and expertise and make ourselves available for the national effort.

We can put our shoulder to the wheel in the common weal. There is a great tradition of volunteering – we saw it at the Commonwealth Games – and we have a huge and valuable Third Sector in Scotland. The campaign has got people out of their houses and on to the streets and speaking to each other. In fact I think we may have overlooked the community spirit created by Yes canvassing, street stalls and discussions which has taken us beyond politics into a healthy involvement with our neighbours (and with strangers). This is a feel good factor to be nourished and used in future.

When a job needs doing in our area, the names on the register can be contacted and asked to give their time to the cause – and there couldn’t be a greater one than Scotland. This is an area where both sides can be reconciled and learn to work together in a shared interest. How good would it feel to know that not only did you deliver independence by campaigning and voting but that you stood ready to help when the country called?

A National Volunteer Register. Why don’t we start it – now?

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Oh. Not Again!

Oh alright…I have been avoiding the old media debate because we should be concentrating on winning. On the other hand, it is still live and I did rather start it, or at least joined the party, when I took on the BBC a year ago.

My first point is that people unhappy with any outlet of news, or any public organisation, if they feel strongly enough, should exercise their right to demonstrate and to boycott.

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What on earth is threatening about that? It is an extension of market forces – I don’t want your product, it’s not good enough so I’ve come along to tell you and I wont be buying any more. It is, I think, a free country.

The journalistic voices who look at this and claim sinister intent are the same self-regarding opinionated agenda-setters who never cease telling us what to think of what to be frightened of. They expect the immunity of old where their job was to pontificate and ours was to consume and if, appropriate, fume silently. These guys need to catch up with the agenda. Just as their news organisations failed to keep up with readers’ tastes and the digital era, so they too are stuck in an ivory tower past.

The BBC is a major player in the case for and against independence and should have known it would be scrutinised minutely. The management didn’t get it. They didn’t prepare. They didn’t budget. They didn’t listen. They didn’t lead. They didn’t manage.

The written Press is now the rotten Press. What used to be a proud tradition of newspapers in Scotland is exposed as a scabrous bunch of uncritical hacks swallowing a PR man’s agenda and, with honourable exceptions that we know about, didn’t understand that the job entails asking questions, challenging assumptions and shaking the tree till the apples drop. Scottish journalism is tired, un-enterprising and frankly backward in its approach to the massive challenge and exciting prospect of national independence.

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However, in the case of the BBC, the journalists are let down by the management. Of course there is poor decision-making, inexplicable scripting, warped priorities and puzzling omissions. There always is. But this is a sensitive time when every word, every image, every nuance is a potential grenade and that requires intelligence and experience to handle. Ask yourself: Has Brian Taylor put a foot wrong? Allowing for my own self-imposed purdah from BBC output, I do catch some of it and see and hear only professional neutrality from him, sometimes painfully so. He must be tempted late at night in yet another live two-way to just say: ‘Of course they’re lying…they’re politicians in a campaign. What did you expect?’

If I have any criticism it is that I think he should as political editor be leading the coverage by checking scripts and terminology. It sounds to me as if no one is doing that.

Some reports have been execrable. In one of the endless ‘brave wee Jim Murphy’ items we heard a full story about how he was surrounded and about the jostling and the eggs. At the end, the very last line of copy said… ‘ meanwhile a man has appeared in court in connection with an abusive message sent to the First Minister’, or something similar. To my knowledge the man had been convicted of threatening to assassinate Alex Salmond. Yet that wasn’t mentioned and it was clearly not the story narrative – Murphy’s Egg Armaggedon was.

Was a reporter instructed to do that? Not a chance. I know of no one who has been told to write copy or cover an event or omit news for a partisan reason. I DO know people are told to ‘make sure somebody gets a hard time’ in order to balance a previous interview. But ask Lesley Riddoch or Iain McWhirter if they were told to be biased for or against one side…

People ask if the BBC really can be that bad and the answer is Yes, it can.

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I don’t hold with campaigns to have people lose their jobs. I don’t agree with banners calling individuals liars and I don’t think Nick Robinson is one. At the same time, some of those complaining used to march themselves and carried all sorts of Fuck This and Fuck That banners which were designed to shock. And, Nick gets to impose on us his interpretation (or rather Downing Street’s) every night so he’s hardly in a position to moan about the exposure. He is front-of-house, richly rewarded and, I suspect, able to take it. If it is true he connived with Number 10 to leak market sensitive information about RBS, I’m afraid his reputation will be rightly damaged. He might even be convicted! What I don’t like is what seems to be a rush to broadcast political propaganda to frighten the Scots – that is not the BBC’s job and we need to tell them so. They are another of the failed institutions of the crumbling UK.

What is revealing is who is complaining. First Charlie Wheelan…yes, the man who was Gordon Brown’s shit-kicker for years, leaking government information to journalists, destabilising his own side and manipulating the media – and he doesn’t like some Scots objecting to the BBC’s coverage. Rich, isn’t it?

Then our old friend now under intense pressure – because he’ll never get another Labour gig – Blair McDougall. On radio today he went from sensible spokesman to sinister and scary spitter of contrived innuendo. Alex Salmond orchestrated the protests…How? By ‘insulting’ Nick Robinson, of course. That was the demo’s cue therefore it is, yet again, the demon Salmond wot’s to blame.

Bear in mind this comes from a man who is running, by common consent, the worst campaign in political history based on frightening voters with implied threats based mostly on myth.

I have consistently argued that the BBC has failed the test as national broadcaster this year and I have laid out in detail what I think should have been done instead. I believe major personnel changes are needed on the executive board (and I believe they will come) and in the management of news and current affairs. But one thing I learned in my years there was how poor professionalism or bad reporting is immediately viewed as wilful or deliberate by some of the audience. I have painstakingly explained to listeners in writing why I said what I did or why I omitted something and it is clear that often they have, naturally enough, strong opinions of their own which they thought I was offending – deliberately. In the heat of a campaign, this is magnified and newsrooms are not always happy places to be as the parties and their outsiders pile in with the accusations.

This was all predictable by anyone with knowledge but was completely missed by the rabbits-in-headlights at Pacific Quay. When things began to go wrong they failed to respond, taking the line of least engagement so the licence fee payer was not informed of their plans of the effect of budget cuts which, of course, they claimed had no effect on quality. They compounded failure by threatening their academic critic John Robertson, confirming their aloofness from reality.

We should express our anger and disappointment at a public organisation gone wrong but we need to remember that journalists too are victims – of cuts, intimidation, lack of direction and low morale. I have contact with people inside and some are angry and embarrassed at how low the BBC has fallen in this time of national debate.

I don’t mean people aren’t above criticism – I was brutally honest about a newspaper journalist whom I don’t think matches up to the historic standard of his paper. Named commentators and presenters can take it. But just as you wouldn’t shout in someone’s face in a discussion, a measure of civility is called for. Like everything else, this is a question of degree and after Thursday a determined but respectful approach to the critical area of broadcasting will be needed. Like the Labour voters needed to win the referendum, BBC journalists do not need to be alienated – they aren’t going anywhere. It may be that we will hear soon what has been happening inside from those that know.

I think (I say again!) that we are about to win. When we do, a good Scots degree of grace and magnanimity will be required while we step forward on the road of national reconstruction.

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WE ARE STILL GOING TO WIN

Every time I sit down at the keyboard, I write the same thing…WE ARE GOING TO WIN. I can’t stop it. It’s like a madness taking hold of my fingers.

It must be madness of a kind because I also think the die is now cast. We keep hearing about the tiniest mistake that could make the difference or the swithering Don’t Knows deciding the outcome. Yet I’m unconvinced.

To me the momentum is sliding iceberg-like towards Yes, inexorable and crushing. We may be fooled by traditional polls which base their methodology on general elections yet this is not an election at all. Some polls are by landline phone, some the internet, some face to face and respondents don’t always tell the truth which I think is true of people who are breaking with a personal habit and moving outside their comfort zone – a feature I think accounts for many Don’t Knows. Look at the total confusion over the weekend as the polls told conflicting stories.

The hundred thousand plus who have registered for the first time are overwhelmingly Yes as there can be no other reason for their sudden desire to vote – you don’t make that decision just to back the status quo.

Then there is the increased turnout. Just look at the two campaigns and ask who has the enthusiasm, the drive and determination to make this happen and who therefore is more likely to make sure they turn out and vote.

There is a very real chance that Yes will punch right thorough the 50 per cent barrier and produce a result that makes even the anti-democrat George Robertson blanche.

I am also saying this because it is surely clear that the No side also knows what is happening and if you put yourself in their position it explains the panic and desperation. It wasn’t just the one poll, it is the movement they detect on the ground that lit the fire under them.

And look at their response. When they needed to inspire Labour voters they had only Gordon Brown, as vainglorious a figure as any in recent history with a threadbare record and a stained character. His analysis of why we are at this point today is devoid of any mention of Labour. Just as he never took responsibility in office, so even now he is still in denial that it was the vacuum created by a failed Labour Party that created the space for the SNP to occupy.

He is promising what is not in his gift to deliver and it is abundantly clear from the reaction in Westminster that the changes, such as they are, need full scrutiny and endorsement, have implications for the rest of Britain and will be buried in the chaos of a fevered General Election.

And as the tide engulfs them, the voices of Unionism become every more bitter and shrill. Some complain of misrepresentation and of enthusiasm covering up for lack of clarity…others that there is a dark side which is spiteful and repressive and berates those who disagree with it. And John Reid – again when Labour folk need inspiration for the Union – tells them they are anti-English racists. This is all the language of losers thrashing around for justification for defeat.

So misplaced and overblown has this rhetoric become that I fear for the atmosphere afterwards if there were to be a No.

But it is now clear that a Yes vote will be achieved against every organ of the British State striving to block it, even illegally as the RBS controversy shows. All the adherents of big power – the military, diplomatic, business, landowners – have been blown away by the will of the people. This is the realisation for England that it can be done – the Establishment can be confronted, resisted and defeated. People can reclaim their country. We are already the beacon for social democratic change the British Left is looking for.

The next trick will be to ensure that we enact the changes we demand in the new Scotland. That means Yes today and Yes tomorrow – the movement will be as important after September 18 as it is now.

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