“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A saying that is derived from ‘To a Mouse’, one of the many splendid poems written by Scotland’s legendary National Bard Robert Burns. Although he put it better:

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

I have next to nothing in common with Tory Prime Minister Theresa May but this evening both of us will have reached for those words from ‘oor Rabbie’ to explain our situations.

I had planned to pen a column about the economic ineptitude and political theft and vandalism displayed by successive governments’ privatisation programmes which have diminished the UK’s wealth and reduced service provision to millions.

Theresa May hoped to have a short meeting with her Cabinet colleagues over some stiff brandies and caviar coated salmon canapes and hors d’oeuvres while securing their support for her 500 page Brexit deal.

I have postponed my public ownership versus privatisation column while Mrs May’s Cabinet sojourn turned into a marathon session with much gnashing of teeth and wailing protests. Both examples of the best laid plans going ‘awry’.

I watched Channel 4 News live last night as May emerged meekly from No 10 to address the nation via the lone microphone that had become very sad as it had been left alone for hours. Her body language exposed her predicament as eloquently as her words. Alone, unsure and drained with a strained expression even worse than her default one Mrs May then sought to reassure everyone that her Cabinet was united behind her deal. She was as convincing as Donald Trump explaining he has nothing to fear from his tax returns being exposed.

I have said it since the June General Election failure of last year and I believe it to be truer than ever today. Mrs Theresa May is a political corpse. She may formally be in charge but she is not in power. She is a Prime Minister on borrowed time and whatever else emerges from the political shenanigans in the Houses of Parliament over the next few days and weeks I believe Mrs May is finished. She will be dumped by her ruthless party of spivs, charlatans and landed gentry.

I don’t have an iota of sympathy for her. She herself has displayed the cold, cruel and callous characteristics required to succeed within and lead the Conservative Party but her tactical blunder in calling a General Election when she didn’t have to backfired spectacularly as she listened too intently to the comfortable advisors and rich polling friends who predicted a Corbyn led Labour party would dive at the polls.

On the contrary, and defying all the arrogant out of touch pundits, Corbyn recorded a 10% swing towards him, the biggest since 1945. Not in Scotland mind you. There the swing was derisory at less than 3%.

Mrs May was fatally wounded in terms of authority and had to enter into a grubby £2 billion deal with the reactionary bigots in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in the North of Ireland to try and shore up a governing majority in Parliament. In almost 50% of crucial votes in the Commons since then she has had to rely on that grubby deal to survive. Now the whole sordid arrangement is about to unravel.

I hate to be fair to Mrs May but she would have had a better chance of nailing raindrops to the wall than uniting her Tory Party and the DUP around a deal always bound to be weighted in favour of the EU and its institutions and traditions. Let’s face it the UK voted to leave an organisation of 27 other countries. If the exit package was anything other than complex, painful and costly other malcontent members would be encouraged to travel the same path.

The Tories are riven with division on the question. Some have illusions of grandeur that hark back to the old days when Britain controlled two thirds of the planet through its brutal and bloody Empire. Plundering and pillaging the natural resources and wealth of other countries and continents allowed it to ‘rule the waves’. Those days are gone. Britain is no longer the superpower it once was and its main influence on the world stage is reduced to the status of America’s poodle, the unofficial 51st State of America. From Bulldog to Poodle aptly illustrates Britain’s declining influence and importance on the world stage.

Bumbling bumpkins like Rees Mogg and Buffoon Johnson pretend to care about ordinary people. The truth is they don’t give a damn. They see an opportunity to enhance their own considerable personal wealth in an isolated Britain free to lower wage rates and employment protection even further without the troublesome regulations and treaties of the EU. The reality is the EU is a big business friendly institution tied to and promoting the free market and privatisation at every turn but the level playing field of sorts is restrictive to the millionaire Tories who want to drive living standards and workers’ rights further down and back to the 19th century.

Other Tories more wedded to finance capital see the EU as an important gateway to lucrative markets and fear the loss of influence outside the club. Those contradictory views within the Tory party are irreconcilable. May’s chances of herding these cats within her own party in the one direction are as high as mine are of waking up today with a full head of hair. They are non-existent.

She will be replaced within the coming weeks and months. Already letters to the Tory 1922 Committee seeking a no-confidence vote in her are mounting up, apparently the requisite 48 letters have been sent. The DUP are adamant they won’t back her deal. Labour won’t back it. The Liberals won’t back it. And enough Tories won’t back it to make the deal and her Prime Ministerial post dead in the water.

The massive question for me is what the SNP now choose to do? The whole Brexit fiasco sums up entirely why we as a nation have to get out of the abusive union and establish our own solutions and path to growth and prosperity for all.

England voted Brexit. They are getting it. Wales voted Brexit. They will get it. The North of Ireland voted Remain. They are getting special treatment. Gibraltar voted Remain. They are getting special treatment. Scotland voted Remain more decisively than either the North of Ireland or Gibraltar and we are getting nothing. Treated with disdain and contempt throughout the whole process.

Our First Minister is due to make a statement at 2.30pm today. That statement has to be clear and concise. The mandate for IndyRef2 has to be triggered. We cannot stick around in this abusive British union any longer. Our destiny awaits us but first we have to secure our independence and become a normal nation once again.

The UK is due to check out of the European Union on Friday 29th March 2019. Our independence referendum should be set for Thursday 28th March. Their Brexit from the EU should signal our Exit from Britain the union.

The only other acceptable scenario in this fluid and high stakes situation is an early General Election. Given the Fixed Parliament Act such an election could only be held if two thirds of the Parliament votes to hold it. That is a high threshold and many selfish Tories may resist it for fear of losing their seats. It is not however an outlandish development. It could take place in February next year, or sooner, with the winner free to deliver a different Brexit deal or decide to put the whole issue back to the people with the reversal of Brexit on the ballot paper.

If a new General Election does transpire, my preferred option as I want Corbyn to win enough seats in England to form at least a minority Government, then the SNP must step up to the plate and declare a vote for them is a vote for independence. Thus when they secure the majority of the Westminster seats in Scotland for a 3rd time in a row it will be a sufficient democratic basis to call UDI, a Unilateral Declaration of Independence.

So either way via a new referendum or an open commitment to UDI the SNP must be bold and brave today and in the coming months. Scotland is crying out for a new start. A country wedded to communitarian values, public ownership of health, land, energy, water and eventually oil. With a national bank able to fund ambitious and necessary public works programmes to improve access to housing, health care and education.

Independence in and of itself will change nothing other than giving us the power and tools to change everything.

I will celebrate the demise of Prime Minister May. She has proved herself to be every bit as cold, cruel and callous as Thatcher and Cameron before her. She deserves no sympathy.

But her demise is Scotland’s opportunity. Through the route of a new referendum or a unilateral declaration of independence following a successful General Election we will soon be free.

My vision of an independent socialist republic will then compete with the visions of others to secure the allegiance of Scots. However our destiny will at long last be in our own hands free from the restrictive chains of the corrupt Westminster and able to utilise our resources for the benefit of the millions not the millionaires. Bring it on.

‘Break the chains from the unicorn and show Westminster Tories that Scotland’s no longer their slave’, to quote from the wonderful song ‘Hope Over Fear’.

 

Tommy Sheridan

Solidarity Is More than the Name of a Political Party – It Is A Way of Life

My task on Saturday was to address my political party’s annual conference and try to inspire the gathering with some socialist vision and ideas. The name of the party is Solidarity and it was formed in late 2006 out of a messy battle within a bigger party that I used to lead and represent in Parliament. Over the past eleven years it has been hard to maintain a left party committed to independence in the face of a rampant SNP that has adopted many policies formerly associated with left and socialist parties while being best positioned as the de facto political leadership of the mass grassroots independence movement.

The rise of the SNP has been spectacular over that period. From securing the right to form a minority Scottish Government in 2007 for the first time to the incredible outcome of 2011 when against all predictions, and confounding the complex intricacies of the more proportional Regional List and Constituency voting system, they won an outright majority which was truly ‘historic’ and ‘emphatic,’ even according to arch unionists like former Tory PM David Cameron https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-13319936 .

On the back of the politicisation of Scotland during the Independence Referendum of September 2014 the SNP’s meteoric rise continued in the May 2015 General Election when they secured 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats and actually won more than 50% of all votes cast in that election. In 2016 the SNP hierarchy and army of loyal online supporters ignored sound advice from people like me on the best way to use the unique Scottish Parliament voting system. Due to their dominance in the constituencies across Scotland I humbly suggested YES supporters give their First Constituency vote to the SNP but their 2nd Regional List vote to one of the other progressive pro-independence parties that were standing, namely Solidarity, The Greens or a group called RISE. This would maximise the number of YES supporters elected to the Parliament and minimise the presence of unionists. It became a discussion about the two different coloured ballot papers (peach and lilac) that would be issued at each polling station and the importance of tactics in how to use them (Please watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm9O1gOuYRM ).

Sadly my voice and those of others was ignored on this question and the opportunity for an even greater pro-independence majority in the Scottish Holyrood Parliament was missed. Instead almost every List (2nd) vote cast for the SNP amounted to a wasted vote. They attracted 953,587 List votes but won only 4 List seats while the 524,222 List votes for the Tories secured them 24 seats.

Ironically enough the Tories have always opposed the more proportional voting system used for Holyrood elections yet without it they would be a mere rump in the Parliament with only 7 Constituency seats. Frustratingly for the YES City of Glasgow we have only one Regional List MSP representing us and six unionists (4 Labour & 2 Tories) because the SNP and its supporters ignored the warnings.

Some of the numpties elected to represent the Tories are not fit for purpose but every one of the 111,101 Regional List votes cast for the SNP were completely wasted. A slight re-distribution of those votes could have boosted Glasgow’s YES representation from one to three or four but the warnings prior to the election were dismissed and sadly ignored https://livestream.com/IndependenceLive/DebateSplitVoteEU/videos/113573445 .

Solidarity emerged from the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections with 14,333 votes which made them the 3rd best supported pro-independence party in Scotland and the best supported socialist party in Scotland (discounting the Dugdale led Scottish Labour party) but it wasn’t enough to secure representation in the parliament. So like many small parties it is hard to be taken serious or have any impact in society without the platform afforded by a parliamentary seat. So how would I raise the spirits of my small socialist party assembled in the Nan Barbour room of the Pearce Institute in Glasgow’s Govan on Saturday morning?

I sought assistance from two unlikely sources for my opening remarks, Dalai Lama and Muhammed Ali. It was Dalai Lama who offered timeless encouragement to those who perceive themselves to be too small to influence matters when he said:

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference … try sleeping with a mosquito in the room” https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/264586546834449898/?lp=true .

While the inspiring legend that was Muhammed Ali wisely observed:

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe” https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/muhammad_ali_167368 .

Two wise quotes which caution us against pessimism rooted in relative size and weight when confronting major challenges from bigger foes. The immortal ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it the size of the fight in the dog’ should have been lumped in for extra measure.

Small parties do matter and can influence the political scene. Sometimes negatively, aka the narrow minded and racist UKIP seeking to scapegoat immigrants for every social ill and promote intolerance and antagonism towards minorities, but often positively. In 1999 I was the sole representative of my small socialist party elected to a Parliament of 129 members. Yet within the four year term I was able to win support for the first Private Members Bill of that Parliament and secure abolition of the ancient and abhorrent practice of poindings and warrant sales which were wielded with force and shame against the poor http://www.parliament.scot/visitandlearn/Education/18640.aspx .

I also introduced a wider anti-poverty and pro-health measure in the shape of the School Meals (Scotland) Bill which was designed to tackle the stigma often attached to free school meal provision, improve the daily diet of all of Scotland’s children and ensure every child was able to access a healthy meal at school. It was a measure supported by scores of anti-poverty campaigns and lone-parent charities as well as trade unions concerned with progressive measures http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/schoolmeals.html .

The Scottish Parliament debated that proposal in June of 2002 and the Green member, the SNP members and the independents all backed it. Disgracefully, however, the Labour, Liberal and Tory Members of the Scottish Parliament united in shame to vote it down. They said it was too costly thus exhibiting wilful blindness to the mounting health costs associated with increased obesity and obesity related type 2 diabetes while ignoring the evidence from countries like Finland who now benefit from reduced health expenditure due to their bold investment in free and healthy school meals. These same unionist MSP’s voted consistently to support nuclear weapons expenditure but protested that we couldn’t afford to provide a free and healthy school meal to Scotland’s school pupils. No wonder I was raging at them in 2002 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2044670.stm .

These short-sighted politicians have brass-necks as bright as lighthouses. The same comfortable MSPs and MPs who pontificated against free school meals in 2002 from within the Liberal and Labour parties are now supporting calls for free school meals in Scotland and across the UK https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-free-school-meals-universal-primary-school-children-vat-private-school-fees-a7668811.html .

Of course the stunted vision doesn’t stop there. In the course of my 8 year stint within the Scottish Parliament I also introduced Private Members Bills to re-nationalise the railways. It was voted down in 2005 but now Labour and SNP back the measure. I wanted to ban public sales of airguns without production of a licence. It was voted down but is now in force. I wanted to replace the inherently unfair council tax with a fairer and redistributive income based alternative. It was voted down but is now official SNP policy. My party promoted a free prescriptions bill which was voted down but is now in force across Scotland. My party promoted a health approach to drugs misuse instead of a criminal approach which we said was counter-productive and expensive. We advocated legalising cannabis and other illegal drugs under a strict licencing and regulation regime. We were ridiculed, attacked and opposed. Now just about every party has changed their attitude and policy position on tackling drug misuse to be closer to ours.

It is fair to comment that although unionist Labour and Liberals have changed consistently and the SNP on significant areas the Tories have remained steadfast in their opposition to free school meals, rail public ownership, drugs attitudes and defence of the council tax. They are cold, cruel and callous bastards but they are consistently cold, cruel and callous.

The point is that what appears to be a minority view emanating from a smaller political party at one juncture in time can quite often become a widely shared view. Solidarity passed policies calling for a maximum wage as well as a minimum wage. For every business and employer to be compelled to pay each employee at least £10 an hour, a living wage to tackle the unacceptable and growing incidence of ‘the working poor’. Instead of individuals being required to fill in long and complicated forms to access Housing Benefit, Working Families Tax Credit, Council Tax support, all measures which effectively subsidise employers who pay low wages, we should have a business support scheme which assists those small businesses genuinely unable to pay as much as £10 an hour.

Such a scheme would cost less and be much more efficient in targeting cash were necessary. The Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Amazon, Boots and other big stores and employers who currently have their low wage policies underwritten by central government benefits would instead have to pay real living wages to their staff. Small businesses with small profits margins can qualify for financial support. Properly staffed tax and benefit agencies can ensure abuses of the system are rare while society as a whole would benefit from the increased spending power and dignity attached to a workforce paid properly.

Instead of longer working weeks and extending the retirement age lets implement a unitary state pension, earlier retirement and a 4 day working week. A living pension would be easily affordable if the pensions and finance industry was publicly owned and run for the maximum benefit of everyone instead of the enrichment of the few. Retiring at 55 on a living pension will not only extend the quality of life in later years but help create millions of jobs for young people often without prospects. So too would a shorter worker week. In addition all the credible research shows that shortening the working week will not hamper productivity but enhance it.

A society built on the promoted values of love, cooperation and human solidarity as opposed to hate, competition, greed and selfishness is what the socialist vision offers. As my old comrade Tony Benn used to say repeatedly:

“If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/15/10-of-the-best-tony-benn-quotes-as-picked-by-our-readers .

So we all left our Solidarity conference in Glasgow on Saturday convinced that another and better world is possible and committed to human and political solidarity as our philosophy of life https://solidarity.scot/ . We will redouble our efforts to fight for an independent and socialist Scotland, a democratic republic seeking friendly and cooperative relations with other peoples in other nations across the planet.

The world of permanent war, racism, bigotry and intolerance is all the Trumps and trumpets at the top of society have to offer. We reject that. We say there is a better world to be won and to those who accuse us of being ‘dreamers’ we say yes, ‘but we’re not the only ones’. We don’t just imagine there is a better world we are determined to secure it for our children and our loved ones https://www.facebook.com/Scotyesfreedom/videos/2201316140141626/UzpfSTYzNjQxMTA5NDoxMDE1NjkwNzUyMDUxNjA5NQ/ .

Tommy Sheridan 

For The Sake Of The Children And Much More Besides – USE THE MANDATE

“Thank you for giving my mum food so we can eat”. Those were the words written by an eight year old boy who had been caught stealing tomato sauce sachets from his school as he thought he could make soup with them. A heart-breaking and scandalous glimpse of the reality of poverty in the 21st century.

Yet what makes the story https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/starving-schoolboy-child-poverty-steal-tomato-sauce-food-bank-glasgow-a8607461.html even more shocking is it did not emerge from a war torn region or third world country it emerged during evidence to the Social Security Committee of the Scottish Parliament last week and concerned a hungry child in Glasgow.

That Committee heard from both those in the front line working for charities trying to help the poor and victims of modern day poverty. In an area of Glasgow’s Southside, not far from where I live, a divorced father of two children had survived on nothing but water for four days such was his dire lack of income while The Trussell Trust, which now runs 53 food banks across Scotland, reports use of their services have soared by 80% in the last few years https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17008458.starving-scots-families-are-raiding-skips-at-night-for-food/ .

Many others too embarrassed to use food banks are reduced to raiding skips (large metal refuge bins) in the cover of darkness as the reality of benefit cuts, sanctions, the chaos of Universal Credit and inordinate delays in processing claims kicks in.

The most haunting warning given to the Parliament Committee by the charities working with Scotland’s poorest citizens and children was that the dire situation faced by increasing numbers was rapidly becoming “unsustainable” https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17008458.starving-scots-families-are-raiding-skips-at-night-for-food/ .

Glasgow used to be referred to as the ‘second city of the Empire’ such was its dominance in the world of shipbuilding and engineering in the early part of the 20th century. Poverty and inequality has always stalked the city but many believed concrete progress had been made in raising the 1990 City of Culture out of the swamp of poverty affecting so many of its sons and daughters.

Yet as we approach the 19th year of the 21st century we have kids stealing tomato sauce sachets and families scavenging in bins for food. It is a shocking and shameful situation.

Weeks prior to the Committee meeting the Joseph Rowntree Foundation released their Child Poverty in Scotland 2018 report that showed years of improvements were now reversed as far as relative poverty was concerned and 230,000 children are now in households classed as poor as they are unable to provide the things most families take for granted like nourishing meals, warm clothes, an adequately heated house and every day treats. In the year 2018 almost 1 in 4 of Scotland’s children (24%) are raised in poverty https://www.jrf.org.uk/press/one-four-scottish-children-poverty-parents-locked-out-jobs-market .

The situation would be even worse if the Scottish Government was not protecting Scottish families from the cruel Tory Bedroom Tax and providing crisis payments to the poor through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

Established in 2013 applications to the Fund have increased by 70% in the last 12 months and applications for emergency help are now over 45,000 with the increased threat of homelessness through rent arrears driving up the demand. In the last 5 years the fund has paid out £173 million to allow the poorest to buy food and avoid being made homeless https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/number-scots-asking-crisis-grant-13509410 .

The situation right now is shocking in a country so rich in natural resources and the ability to generate vast amounts of wealth. We don’t just possess Europe’s largest supplies of oil we also produce vast quantities of natural gas and have a food and drinks sector which is the envy of the world let alone Europe. Our potential to be a world leader in the production of clean and sustainable energy was graphically illustrated only a week ago with the news that wind farms were being paid millions of pounds to turn off the wind turbines because the National Grid is unable to cope with the amount of energy generated on windy days https://wingsoverscotland.com/another-disaster-for-scotland/ .

Yet the bad news is set to get worse under the Westminster Tories and their cold and callous policies of further wealth transfer from the poor to the rich.

An independent economic analysis carried out for the Scottish Government last month predicts poverty in general and child poverty in particular will get even worse under the planned Tory cuts. Despite all their measures to try and mitigate the benefit and income cuts the percentage of children suffering from poverty in Scotland will rise from 24% to 38% over the next decade https://www.gov.scot/publications/tackling-child-poverty-delivery-plan-forecasting-child-poverty-scotland/pages/8/ .

Child poverty in Scotland is predicted to rise from almost 1 in 4 to well over 1 in 3 while other small independent countries in Europe, who have also suffered from the world economic crash of 2008, have child poverty levels of 1 in 10 or less (Denmark  9.2%; Iceland 10%; Norway 10.2%; Finland 10.9%) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/these-rich-countries-have-high-levels-of-child-poverty/ .

There are so many arguments for Scottish independence but right now I want to highlight these shocking child poverty statistics as a huge motivation for the Scottish SNP Government to use the democratic mandate they possess to call and organise IndyRef2.

British unionists argue that we had a referendum in 2014 and that should be the settled will for a generation, around 2039 or longer. I say away and ‘bile yer heid’, to use an old Scots phrase.

Democracy is nothing if it is not alive, constant, always engaging with the populace. The evidence that the 2104 Referendum was fought on a deceitful and fraudulent basis is now unassailable. The unionists insisted that the ‘only’ way Scotland could stay in the European Union was to vote NO to independence. Set aside for a moment the lies about pensions being under threat from independence, shipyard order books being dependent on rejecting independence and banking and civil service jobs being safe only on the basis of a NO vote. They were all lies. Part of the cynical ‘Project Fear’ campaign that specifically targeted the elderly.

The concrete reality of Scotland voting by 62% to stay in the European Union but being dragged outside it by England which voted 53% to leave is a massive material change in circumstances which on its own justifies a 2nd independence referendum.

However the SNP fought and won 56 of Scotland’s 59 Scottish Westminster seats in 2015. It won the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. It then won the 2017 snap General Election with 35 of the Scottish Westminster seats, more than all the other parties in Scotland added together. It organised a debate and vote on the issue of a 2nd Referendum in the Scottish Parliament last March. By 69 votes to 59 that democratically elected Parliament, Scotland’s Parliament, voted to hold IndyRef2 between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

This mandate is referred to as a “triple-lock” mandate as was clearly explained by the SNP Manifesto for the June 2017 General Election:

“If the SNP wins a majority of seats in this election, that would complete a triple lock, further reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists”.

“In such circumstances, any continued Tory attempts to block the people of Scotland having a choice on their future, when the options are clear, and on a timescale determined by the Scottish Parliament, would be democratically unsustainable.” https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/snp-manifesto-sets-triple-lock-second-independence-vote/

The situation could not be clearer. We have in Scotland a rock solid mandate to hold a second independence referendum anytime between now and April next year. That is the terms of the mandate. A mandate which was secured through hard work and vigorous campaigning in the teeth of an overwhelmingly hostile and biased unionist press and media. To fail to use this mandate would be a gross dereliction of duty and a betrayal of the trust bestowed on the SNP by the broad Independence Family.

Nicola Sturgeon is Scotland’s First Minister and she has led the SNP into the democratic battles of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and won every one of them. She is head and shoulders above the leaders of the unionist parties in Holyrood.

Last month she delayed calling the date of IndyRef2 at her party’s conference in Glasgow on the basis that the Brexit exit terms are not yet clear and therefore some ‘patience’ and ‘pragmatism’ was required.

I reckon her performance as the SNP Leader and First Minister over the last 3 years has earned her the right to be trusted on the IndyRef2 timing question but I am also acutely aware that there are voices close to her urging a significant delay.

In fact some are urging her to ditch the hard won mandate and seek a new one at the next Scottish elections in 2021. I say no. Don’t listen to the gradualists who would have you throw away a triple-lock mandate for the gamble of securing another Parliament Indy majority in 3 years’ time. The credibility of the Scottish Parliament is on the line. The credibility of SNP Manifesto commitments is on the line. The strength, energy, enthusiasm and commitment of the grassroots Indy Movement is on the line.

Most important of all the future of Scotland’s children, our public services and the welfare of our country is on the line. Those who urge caution may be able to wait another 3 or 4 years but the victims of Tory unionist austerity can’t afford to wait. Their opportunities, life chances, hopes and desires are being trampled upon right now and the situation will only worsen over the next 3 to 4 years. Sure many of us will still fight the cause of independence no matter when the next vote is held but what’s at risk right now is the onset of disillusionment.

An incredible 1.6 million Scots (1,617,989), predominantly those under the age of 55, voted YES in 2014 in a referendum which motivated a record turnout of 84.6%. Some eight months later 1.4 million (1,454,436) voted SNP at the 2015 General Election, 50% of those voting on a higher than normal turnout of 71%.

However two years later the SNP vote at the snap General Election in June ‘17 fell by almost 500,000 votes (476,867) although they still recorded their second best General Election result in their history. The point is the Tory vote increased by over 300,000, Labour by less than 10,000 and the Lib Dems lost 40,000 but the turnout was down 5% points and the reality is the SNP suffered more from disillusion than defection, reflected in the lower turnout https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40246330 .

Although the IndyRef2 commitment made it into the Manifesto the SNP tried to fight the election on other territory and that did not enthuse and mobilise the core YES vote while the Tories fought on virtually nothing else but the constitutional question hoping to sweep up the hard core unionist votes.

In the context of a disgracefully biased anti-SNP, anti-independence press and broadcast media the run up to the 2021 Scottish elections will be dominated by SNP bad stories and blame for everything negative, from low wage rises to public service and welfare cuts, will be falsely laid at the SNP’s door. In such circumstances the SNP will do well to emerge as the largest party in the parliament but the independence majority with the Greens could easily be lost. A recent opinion poll has in fact predicted such an outcome https://wingsoverscotland.com/another-crushing-defeat/ .

Failure to use the current IndyRef2 mandate could make that scenario even more likely as those in the Indy Movement who give the SNP their votes on the basis of independence alone, as opposed to party loyalists, may instead refrain from voting or choose another available Indy option.

So not only would it be wrong in principle to fail to use the current live democratic mandate it would also be a tactical blunder which the SNP would regret.

Some say wait until the opinion polls record consistent majorities for YES before calling IndyRef2. I say that is pie in the sky. Polls are mere snapshots of opinion and many have proved fragile recently. If polls were to guide the first referendum of 2014 it would never have taken place. On 23rd January 2013 the Guardian newspaper reported support for independence had slumped to the lowest level since devolution in 1999 with only 23% support https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jan/23/support-scottish-independence-slumps-lowest .

Nine months later the picture had barely improved. It looked dire. The Scotsman newspaper gleefully reported that the broader and supposedly more reliable Scottish Attitudes Survey recorded support for Independence was only a mere 25%. That was on 12th October 2013, less than twelve months before the actual vote https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-support-at-25-per-cent-poll-1-3138404 .

Yet despite the unionist British Establishment promoting lies, distortions and fears about independence the YES vote actually rose to 45%.

The crucial point is it hasn’t fallen below that level in the last three years and some polls have suggested it has risen to 47% with a recent poll that factored in the Brexit issue suggesting a majority for independence post Brexit of 52% YES to 48% NO once Don’t Knows are excluded https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/constitution/scottish-parliament/news/97924/support-scottish-independence-would-take-lead .

If we were able in the Indy Movement to rise from 25% to 45% in the teeth of British Establishment lies, distortions and ‘Bitter Together’ promoted fear in 2014 we could most definitely rise from 45% to over 55% in the space of a short, enthusiastic, energetic and informed campaign over the 4 months from December to late March.

Our foe is very formidable but crucially for us they are divided right now. The British Establishment are past masters at devising and promoting divide and rule tactics but right now it is they who are divided. Some want a soft Brexit, some a hard Brexit and others want to reverse Brexit. Their division is our opportunity.

The waiting for the outcome of Brexit negotiations cannot be allowed to stretch beyond the end of this month. As far as Scotland is concerned the details of whatever is brought back from Brussels is irrelevant. As a country we voted to stay in the European Union. The May Government does not talk for us or represent our views. Scotland did not vote Tory in 2015 or 2017. The fact we have a Tory government is a democratic deficit that only independence can resolve.

From well-known celebrities like J.K. Rowling and Billy Connolly https://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16997836.billy-connolly-scottish-independence-may-be-the-way-to-go-after-brexit-disaster/ to prominent and effective NO campaigners like Murray Foote, former Daily Record Editor, and Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor at the Govan Law Centre, the Brexit issue has changed their minds. They are all now in the YES camp and they are representative of hundreds of thousands who when given a second chance after witnessing the unravelling of Project Fears’ lies and the Brexit chaos will choose the path of Scottish independence and controlling our own destiny rather than being tied to the increasingly narrow, nasty British nationalist coat-tails of Westminster.

We have marched all over Scotland in 2018 to demand IndyRef2 culminating in a massive show of strength in Edinburgh last month of over 100,000. That is the equivalent of a million marching in London. The message we have is a positive one. We want the tools to be able to build a fairer, more equal, inclusive, prosperous and non-nuclear weapon scarred Scotland. Nothing will change the day after we win IndyRef2 except the ability to change everything. Our plea to First Minister has to be loud, clear and positive #UseTheMandate.

Tommy Sheridan 

The Red Poppy Is Not About Remembrance It Has Become A Symbol of Militarism and Imperialism – I Prefer The White Poppy of Peace

“Politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.” 

“Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims”

These are the words which should appear in bold print and be accompanied with clear voice overs for the blind and signed prominently for the deaf and hard of hearing on every single news programme and politics show for the 18 days which lead up to the 11th of November every year.

News readers should inform the viewers at the end of every show that these are the words of a man called Harry Patch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Patch and the reason his words deserve prominence and repetition at this time of year every year is because he was the last living survivor of the war which has been grotesquely dubbed, The Great War of 1914-18, which stuttered to an inglorious end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of 1918 after consuming the lives of some 37 million civilians and combatants.

There is in truth nothing ‘Great’ about that horrible and unnecessary war that pitted man against man the world over for nothing more than the right of the rich in each country involved to have greater access and control of markets to reap even greater profits to feed their insatiable greed. There was no glory in a conflict that saw conscripted men on all sides slaughtered by their thousands day after day suffering horrific deaths and writhing with agony in European battlefields like the Somme and Ypres.

Harry Patch was typical of the ordinary men conscripted to fight that futile war which is why his words should be given so much attention and prominence now.

He lived to the age of 111 and became not just the last British survivor who fought in WW1 but the last survivor across Europe. He became known as ‘The Last Tommy’ in reference to the nickname associated with British soldiers for several hundred years. His book ‘The Last Fighting Tommy’ is a searing condemnation of the brutality of WW1 and the cruel, cold and callous loss of life it caused.

For many years Harry refused to discuss his memories of the First World War as they haunted him so deeply. But after several years of being cajoled he eventually opened up and made many speeches and visits across Europe to promote peace and reconciliation. He received 8 honours for bravery during WW1 and a Defence Medal for service in WW2.

A particularly poignant passage from his book was read out at his funeral service in his Somerset place of birth on 6th August 2009 before the Wells Cathedral bells were rang 111 times from 11am in his honour:

“We came across a lad from A company. He was ripped open from his shoulder to his waist by shrapnel and lying in a pool of blood. When we got to him, he said: ‘Shoot me’. He was beyond human help and, before we could draw a revolver, he was dead. And the final word he uttered was ‘Mother.’ I remember that lad in particular. It’s an image that has haunted me all my life, seared into my mind”. (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-last-fighting-tommy-9781408897225/)

It is passages like this and recollections of the very real consequences of wars which should adorn our screens and occupy our city centre streets at this time of year not the General Haig associated red poppy.

That poppy has been kidnapped by the military and the politicians as a symbol not of remembrance but of justification for every bloody war and militaristic campaign regardless of cause. It is a symbol of military might and imperialist plunder. Most wear it to show respect for the fallen but the truth is it represents the hypocrisy and cynicism of the ruling classes who couldn’t care a jot about lives lost in conflicts across the world.

World War Two veterans like Harry Leslie Smith refuse to wear that poppy any longer in protest at how bastardised the message it portrays has become. Politicians with the blood of illegal and immoral wars and conflicts on their hands stand at Remembrance Ceremonies without a flicker of contrition and lay wreaths that used to be about ‘Never Again’ and ‘Lest We Forget’ but are now about ‘support us whatever conflict we get involved in’ and ‘don’t question just obey’.

Harry Leslie Smith served with distinction in WW2 as an RAF pilot and used to wear a red poppy every November in memory of his fallen comrades in that war and all the fallen from WW1. He vividly recalls a time in history when actual invasion was a real threat across the UK and how determined millions were to defend their homes and communities against the brutality, intolerance and inhumanity carried in the Nazi swastika. Now he rejects the jingoism and hypocrisy associated with the red poppy.

He believes it is used unscrupulously by politicians eager to manipulate the populace into supporting arms trading and unnecessary conflicts in our name. Writing five years ago in 2013 he said;

“However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one’s right to privacy” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/08/poppy-last-time-remembrance-harry-leslie-smith?CMP=share_btn_link .

With perfect precision Harry later blasted the rank hypocrisy of the politicians who insist on uniform conformity to red poppy wearing while they insult its supposed meaning when he said:

“Almost immediately after November 11(2014) the Tower, which had been used to mourn our dead, hosted a dinner for the arms merchants of the world which shows not only poor taste but the sheer hypocrisy of the government that commissioned the commemoration” https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/07/veteran-harry-leslie-smith-red-poppy-politicised_n_8498786.html?ncid=other_email_o63gt2jcad4&utm_campaign=share_email .

The same politicians who jostled furiously to be in the pictures commemorating the 100 years since the start of the First World War in 2014 with their bright red poppies on display were within days back to the same venue to sell armaments to any rogue nation or tyrant with the money to buy them.

Pause for a moment in the coming days when you are blinded by the size and brightness of the poppy adorning the Tory politician on the news or pontificating in Parliament that his Government sells missiles and arms with abandonment to the Saudi Regime responsible for the carnage in Yemen and the murder of critical journalists in broad daylight.

Days ago in the European Parliament the Tories refused to support an almost universally supported motion (it was passed by 242 votes to 23) to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia in protest at their involvement in the Jamal Khashoggi murder and the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children civilians in Yemen where their involvement and deployment of UK supplied weapons has left two-thirds of the population relying on aid and 8 million on the brink of starvation https://www.independent.co.uk/news/conservatives-european-parliament-weapons-embargo-theresa-may-saudi-arabia-jamal-khashoggi-a8601591.html.

Weapons they purchased from the UK in 2014 were used by Saudi Arabia to cause carnage and destruction in 2015. So much for the ‘Lest We Forget’ red poppy message they wore with such pride before selling the arms to that regime and many others with deplorable human rights records. In fact the proud red poppy proponents have actually increased arms sales by £5billion to recognised repressive regimes across the globe since 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/09/arms-sales-repressive-regimes-saudi-arabia. But don’t fret they wore their red poppies for 18 days so it’s okay to sell bombs to regimes to kill hundreds of thousands of innocents because they ‘remembered’ our fallen soldiers. Their shame faced hypocrisy fills me with rage.

An example of the hypocrisy and ignorance which pollutes the Tory Party was on display last week when a Tory MP decided to publicly attack those who choose to wear a white poppy as a symbol of remembrance instead of the military associated red one. Johnny Mercer MP accused white poppy wearers of “hijack” and said “White poppies are attention seeking rubbish” https://ppu.org.uk/news/johnny-mercer-mp-reveals-ignorance-attack-white-poppy-wearers .

This idiot was blissfully unaware that the white poppy was introduced by war widows in 1933 angered by the increased militarism and move away from the ‘Never Again’ message originally promoted around Armistice Day celebrations after 1918. The Peace Pledge Union has produced and promoted the white poppy as a memorial to the fallen in every country and every war since 1934 and have unashamedly campaigned against militarism and for a world without wars. If the women in 1933 who were left without husbands, sons and brothers due to the WW1 calamity were seeking attention for anything it was the right to insist on peace instead of constant war. The war to end all wars was how the First World War was described yet within 20 years of it ending conscription was once again introduced.

Of course the war against Hitler and Fascism was at least a just cause and an unfortunately necessary battle but what an insult it is to the many who fell in that war to now regularly witness the thugs and reprobates associated with the English Defence League, BNP and other fascistic organisations openly performing Nazi salutes on streets across England, Wales and Scotland. ‘Lest We Forget’ has been too often forgotten. These are the people who insult the memories of the war dead not the white poppy wearers who promote peace and oppose wars.

Away back in 1995 I was a guest on the BBC Scotland ‘Elaine’ show hosted by comedienne, presenter and actress Elaine C, Smith. It took place in November and the BBC tried to insist I wear a red poppy. I refused. Instead I wore a white poppy as I had done since I was 18 and discovered the Peace Pledge Union at Stirling University, in 1985. Elaine and I discussed the white poppy and the clear message of remembrance of the fallen in all countries and the promotion of peace. To the issue of the good causes which the red poppies raise money for I answered then as I answer now. If a government is going to send men and women into conflicts at their behest it has a legal and moral duty to care for them afterwards.

The idea that veteran soldiers should have to rely on charitable donations for welfare and housing is utterly abhorrent. Instead of buying red poppies for 18 days every year why don’t we sell small Trident Missile badges and whatever is raised can be spent on illegal and immoral nuclear bombs. The £200 billion plus we are currently committed to spending on those nuclear bombs can instead be diverted to proper care for veterans and other needy and vulnerable citizens. If nuclear weapons are as popular as some politicians tell us they are they should have no problem raising the required funds.

Although my arguments were generally well received in the TV studio that night I faced red top newspaper attacks in the days that followed. I was a ‘disgrace’, ‘unpatriotic’, ‘disrespectful’ and mush more besides. All because I refused to wear a red poppy which I associate with militarism and jingoistic imperialism. The one argument which most annoyed the gutter press in heated phone calls that followed was my reference to my Irish heritage. My grandad on my dad’s side came from Ireland and growing up attending a Catholic primary and secondary school I was of course familiar with what was called ‘The Troubles’ and Britain’s role in occupying that island.

My special study in Modern Studies at the age of 14 was that dark period of British repression in Ireland. I was sympathetic to those who were fighting against the presence of British troops. Given the murders of unarmed civilians in places like Ballymurphy in August 1971 and Rossville Street in the Bogside in January 1972 by the British Army how could anyone with Irish heritage or connections support a red poppy appeal so closely allied to the military?

General Mike Jackson commanded the troops on the ground while they slaughtered innocent and unarmed men and women. He then lied to cover up the truth. General Douglas Haig was callous and complicit in ordering hundreds of thousands of men to advance slowly to their horrible deaths at the Somme and Ypres. He was both an incompetent fool and cold hearted butcher http://www.historynet.com/field-marshal-sir-douglas-haig-world-war-is-worst-general.htm. These men epitomise the worst excesses of the British Army. The red poppy appeal is integrally wrapped in a British Army uniform. Those who buy and display a red poppy over the next week or so are entitled to believe they are supporting a worthy cause. I am entitled to disagree.

For me the red poppy is too closely associated with the blood soaked history of British imperialism, in Ireland and across the globe. It is not a symbol of peace and remembrance but of war and militarism. Like an increasing number of others I will remember the victims of all wars and oppose militarism in pursuit of peace by wearing my white poppy again this year.

Tommy Sheridan

Millionaire Hammond Delivers Nothing But Spin – The Rich Are Protected Again

Multi-millionaire property tycoon charges the taxpayer for “superior” teaspoons despite being paid a salary of £141,505 a year from the public purse and receiving outrageous expenses, a huge pension, a free central London flat and a grace- and- favour country mansion in Buckinghamshire in a package worth around £400,000 a year announces austerity is nearly over but continued discipline is required.

It should be the headline in today’s newspapers. It could be the basis of a sketch for a comedy sit-com but unfortunately it is no joke for millions of over-worked, understaffed and under-paid workers across the UK. It is the warped reality beamed into our homes yesterday as the Tory Chancellor, Happy Hammond, pontificated about the need for continued financial sacrifices and the benefits of prudent budgeting.

Over the last 10 years he and his cold-hearted, callous and conceited Conservative Cabinet chums have put Dick Turpin to shame for the day-light robbery they have inflicted on the majority across the UK for the benefit of the rich few. At least Turpin had the decency to wear a mask while he robbed the public. All Hammond and co wear are sneering smirks while they slash real living standards for millions but cut income taxes for millionaires like themselves. Malevolent May’s Tory Cabinet is stuffed with millionaires and the stench of privilege https://www.theguardian.com/business/shortcuts/2017/jan/17/theresa-mays-cabinet-pretty-rich-but-nothing-on-trumps and their collective assault on public services, public service workers and those struggling to survive on low incomes over the last decade has been every bit as criminal as Turpin.

A few weeks ago May announced, to the surprise of her party, that austerity was over. Philip Hammond stood up yesterday to apparently confirm that statement but instead succeeded in exposing Prime Minister May as the liar she is. May has form when it comes to deliberately misleading the public for personal preservation from her Home Office “hostile environment” approach to airport runway positions, Brexit and now the end of austerity https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/oct/30/theresa-may-lie-and-lied-to-become-prime-minister . In keeping with the Halloween season Hammond should have donned ‘The Joker’ outfit as his speech was riddled with unrealistic economic forecasts, spurious unemployment claims and pathetic references to improved standards of living. The most ridiculous riddle was the one about him helping not the few or the many but ‘all the people’. Aye right and those teaspoons he claimed for, along with the teapot and mugs were legitimate expenses… https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/who-philip-hammond-what-net-11560679 .

Literally millions have lost their jobs in local government, retail and manufacturing over the last ten years but don’t worry they have been replaced by the unregulated, zero-hour, insecure ‘gig economy’ jobs delivering fast food, driving taxis and leaving millions reliant on more than one job to try and make ends meet. Unemployment figures are artificially reduced and fail to reflect the increased poverty among working families unable to cope on inadequate wages and frozen in work benefits. The single biggest growth in poverty is among the ‘working poor’ and that is a disgrace https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2017 .

If I wasn’t writing this column I wouldn’t have watched the Budget speech yesterday. I hate the sight of the pompous, pious, politicians sitting in their comfy attire yahooing like unruly school children while pontificating to the rest of us how we should live. It really is the biggest collection of benefits scroungers in Britain. Basic salaries of £74,000 per annum and access to travel, accommodation and expenses accounts that most workers could only dream of elevates them onto a different planet from that occupied by most ordinary folk.

Sure there are exceptions to the rule but the majority of elected politicians haven’t a clue what it’s like to live on low pay or survive on benefits. The last 10 years have been tough and instead of blaming the millionaires in Parliament and the Boardrooms who have caused the economic mess that led to cuts and reduced living standards many are duped into believing the narratives consciously and cynically promoted by the mainstream press.

Not enough houses? Blame the immigrants and benefit recipients. Longer hospital waiting times? Blame the immigrants and benefit recipients. Lower real wages? Blame the immigrants and benefit recipients. It is scapegoating of the worst kind because it is dishonest, deceitful and destructive. Immigrants are net contributors to the public purse and help run essential services like our NHS while benefit recipients are millions of workers whose wages are so low they qualify for means tested assistance via housing benefit, working families tax credit and council tax benefit.

Ask yourself how much of the £264 billion welfare bill across the UK last year was spent on unemployment benefits? The answer will surprise you given the benefit bashing practice of the nasty tabloids. Only £2 billion is the answer, a mere 1% of the annual welfare bill https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/governmentpublicsectorandtaxes/publicsectorfinance/articles/howisthewelfarebudgetspent/2016-03-16 .

The tax dodging billionaires who own the papers and dine regularly at expensive restaurants with their puppets in parliament can’t have you pointing the finger at the real culprits causing low pay, NHS queues and housing shortages for that would draw attention to themselves. Much better to blame those who have no voice to defend themselves. Don’t blame the architects of poverty and austerity. No blame some of the victims instead. The gullible public will buy the myth.

Such deceit provokes intolerance of people who are the victims of austerity and cuts not the cause. The rich inside and outside the Parliament are the ones to blame but they own and control the mainstream media in the UK to act as a smokescreen for what is really going on. Like urinating on our shoes but insisting it is raining we are encouraged daily to blame the poor, the public service workers, the immigrants and the pensioners but never the rich and powerful.

Jeremy Corbyn is wrong not to support Scottish independence but he is right on many other things. His response to Hammond’s verbal con-trick highlighted the reality of continued austerity and the fact that teachers are on average £4,650 worse off today than 8 years ago, nurses are £4,750 worse off and firefighters, the men and women who risk their lives daily in performing their duties, are £6,700 worse off https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-politics-46025174/budget-reaction-from-jeremy-corbyn-to-hammond-speech .

Hammond and May are fraudsters in relation to their austerity claims. It is far from over and the Universal Credit scandal which has already increased hardship, food bank use, rent arrears, indebtedness and despair in the pilot areas will only serve to drive millions more into poverty if the switch over of the almost 4 million others is allowed to proceed. Even the cross-party Select Committee is calling for a pause in the staged migration of benefit recipients to Universal Credit such are the stories of hardship and despair they have listened to https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1667/166703.htm but what is required is not a pause but the cancellation of the whole wasteful exercise. Reform of the benefits system to improve uptake and ensure wider support and less complexity is welcome but Universal Credit is far from the answer.

My appeal to ordinary folk everywhere is open your eyes to reality. Don’t allow the billionaires and millionaires to fool you any longer. Wages are lower in real terms, poverty is increasing and public services are being cut to the bone to serve the rich and ruling class insatiable appetite for more and more. Stop blaming those suffering austerity and start blaming those causing austerity. Lack of money is not a problem. Society is awash with money. It is richer than any time in history. It is not the amount of wealth which is a problem it is the distribution of that wealth.

Imagine squeezing the richest 1,000 people in Britain into one room. It would be a tight squeeze but most of them deserve to be squeezed. For 10 years ago, when the economic crisis they caused with their greed began, those 1,000 richest individuals had an obscene amount of wealth between them. They were worth £256 billion at the end of 2008. Today the richest 1,000 in the UK are worth an outrageous £724 billion https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/the-richest-people-in-the-uk-have-increased-their-wealth-by-183-in-10-years/23/10/ . Let that sink in for a moment. Only 1,000 people possess a combined wealth of £724 billion, more than 2.5 times the annual spend on welfare for millions of pensioners, children and the disabled. Only 1,000 people…

So while the real wages of nurses, teachers and firefighters have been reduced by several thousands of pounds the richest 1,000 have seen their wealth increase by a staggering 183%. We are daily encouraged to believe the mainstream media narrative about shortages of cash, the ‘problem’ of an aging population putting strains on our health service and the need to freeze public sector pay and cap in-work benefits but the rich have saw their personal wealth increase by 183%… If that doesn’t make you angry then you simply aren’t paying attention. In the last year alone those 1,000 people added £66 billion to their collective incomes. No wonder the Equality Trust has been so strident in their comments:

“Our annual Wealth Tracker research in recent years reveals that a vast amount of the nation’s wealth has been captured by a tiny number of people. This is economically illiterate, socially poisonous and politically dangerous and draws a harrowing picture of UK inequality. It should be a source of national shame.

“At the same time, many will be wondering why they have not seen their wages increase over the last five years, or why despite working hard and working long hours, they are struggling to put food on the table.”

“Socially poisonous and politically dangerous” is indeed what this grotesque distribution of wealth represents. What Hammond and the Tories have done over the last 10 years has facilitated this ‘poisonous’ growth in inequality and what he said yesterday will do nothing to address it let alone reduce it. Radical wealth taxes, returning stolen assets to public ownership without compensation to the rich thieves and a legally enforceable minimum wage of at least £10 an hour are immediate first steps in the long journey towards greater economic equality and real social justice.

Tommy Sheridan

 

 

“What do we want? Equal Pay!!! When do we want it? Now!” Glasgow’s Army of Low Paid Women Workers Take Over the City.

History was made in Glasgow over the last two days. In years to come it will be a date and event taught in schools and universities to students anxious to learn how women eventually won the right to equal pay with their male counterparts for doing jobs of equal value. Sure the Ford Dagenham strike of 187 women in the summer of 1968 was a trailblazing action which resulted in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 but the streets of Glasgow were filled on Tuesday with the new women trailblazers, the new women history makers. Despite the Equal Pay Act being 48 years old and the Equality Act being 18 years old 12,000 women workers in Glasgow are still waiting for compensation in relation to the unequal pay they have received over the last 12 years.

The women involved care for the sick, the elderly and the vulnerable across Glasgow. They perform essential duties that allow many to live a semblance of independent and dignified lives in their own homes. Without these carers hospitals would be filled to overflowing. They cook for our children in state schools. They provide additional support for children with special needs. They are Glasgow’s army of carers, cooks, caterers and educational support workers. They are the heart and soul of the City and they have been underpaid and thus undervalued for the last 12 years.

It was a joy and pleasure to join with these women at Glasgow Green on Tuesday and march to the incredible rally in Glasgow’s George Square. The Square is adorned with male statues to the great and the good but disgracefully no women statues are erected representing our patriarchal and sexist past. On Tuesday the Square was literally a sea of women. Angry, determined, compassionate and courageous women, on strike and standing up for equal pay.

Up to 12,000 have suffered from historic unequal pay. At least 8,000 of them participated in a two day strike to force Glasgow City Council to finally settle their claims. The Square was full to capacity and the City Council can delay no longer. Promises to settle made last year will have to now be honoured.

On social media I have had to fend off critics of the strike who complain the women didn’t strike during the 2006 – 2017 period when Labour was in charge of the City. The SNP were only elected to take over in May 2017 and have not had long to sort out the mess left by Labour. This is a ‘political’ strike ‘against the SNP’ is the cry from some quarters. Why did the unions not organise strikes against the Labour council over this issue some ask. The women are being “used”; “manipulated”; “misled” is the accusation. Well let’s be absolutely clear. The single biggest villains in this whole equal pay fiasco are the previous Labour Administrations. Three different leaders knew these women were due equal pay compensation but instead of settling with gusto and integrity they disgracefully mounted a legal campaign to try and block the settlement in Scotland’s courts.

A Labour Council scuttled around expensive lawyers’ offices spending £2.5 million on legal costs to try and prevent their own low paid women workers receiving compensation. That money could have and should have been used to settle the equal pay compensation. Those leaders should be named, shamed and never forgotten for their despicable actions.

Similarly the unions involved. In the early days after the 2006 decision that these women were indeed discriminated against and due equal pay compensation their trade unions were too slow off the mark to press the claims and are undoubtedly guilty of letting the Labour council off the hook over the issue.

Some say union connections to the Labour party were to blame but that is a simplistic and inaccurate conclusion to draw. The fact is the unions failed to take the whole issue serious enough in the early days and that dictated their inaction on this vital issue. It was more incompetence than conspiracy.

If unions in Glasgow were not prepared to support strikes because of a Labour council being in office then how could you explain the library workers strikes, nursery nurses strikes, janitors strikes, cleansing workers strikes and many more over the last two decades while Labour has been in power?

I find suggestions that these women strikers in Glasgow are being “manipulated” by Labour supporting unions or Labour politicians in the background to be utterly patronising. The 8,000 women strikers are low paid but they are not daft. They are not ‘pawns’. They are caring, compassionate and considerate adults who took the decision to strike for 48 hours with heavy hearts. They don’t wish to upset or let down their vulnerable clients or thousands of children who depend on them but they had to make a stand.

Sacrificing two days of pay for women already on low paid is no easy decision either. This historic strike action is political in the sense that it is striking a blow against pay discrimination in the workplace and helping to put flesh on the bones of the Equal Pay and Equality Acts. But it is not a Party Political strike.

Thousands of the women striking will have voted SNP, some on the basis of their explicit promise to ‘fix’ the equal pay scandal. Hundreds of the faces I saw on the march and during the strike rally were familiar faces from various independence marches and rallies. On the picket lines supporting these women I spoke with many who are proud to support independence for Scotland. These low paid women deserve respect, support and admiration not patronising comments about ulterior motives.

I was very pleased to read the First Minister’s Tweet in relation to this strike action https://twitter.com/NicolaSturgeon (Oct. 23rd). She rightly condemned the hypocrisy of Labour politicians supporting the strike over the last two days while hiding the fact they had fought the women’s claims in court. These Labour politicians are indeed guilty of hypocrisy and deceit.

However the First Minister also expressed her “admiration” for the strikers:

 While I wish the strike wasn’t happening, I have nothing but admiration for the women involved. However, I feel contempt for a Labour Party expressing solidarity now when, in power, they took these women to court to deny equal pay. @theSNP and @SusaninLangside are working to fix.

No condemnation. No accusations of being misled. She rightly expressed her admiration for an army of low paid women who have had the courage and commitment to stand up and be counted in the war against unequal pay specifically and low pay in general.

My favourite placard on the march and rally the other day illustrated clearly the understanding these women have of the real culprits in denying equal pay compensation over the last 12 years. It read “Decade Of Delay” with the pictures of three of the main sinners, Frank McAveety, Gordon Mathieson and Stephen Purcell, superimposed in the background.

Each of them were at crucial times over the last 12 years Labour leaders of Glasgow City Council and instead of moving might and main to settle the equal pay claims they chose to fight the claims in court. Disgraceful and unforgivable actions.

Another placard had the slogan “Fight The Power” with the picture of Glasgow City Council Chief Executive, Annmarie O’Donnell, superimposed onto it. This woman is far from being low paid with a bumper and record pay cheque last year of £252,860 http://action4equalityscotland.blogspot.com/ . In my opinion neither she or any other Council Executive, male or female, is worth such a huge salary but at the very least she should be earning her money by organising a just settlement of this 12 years long issue instead of steering foolish legal actions through the courts.

Of course current Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken is now in the hot seat. Her party is the SNP and they made bold commitments to settle this dispute during the council elections hustings in May 2017. They have done some good things and made some positive noises. They settled a long running janitor dispute in the City https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-40927374 favourably and took vital care services back into Council responsibility where they belong and wound up the arms-length company Cordia https://glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=23210 .

But leadership is a constant series of challenges and is not easy. She picked up the equal pay challenge and now has to come up with the answers. She indicated publicly that a settlement was near and the women would start to be compensated by April next year as part of the new financial year’s budget. Those are positive words but up until now they are only words. They must become actions soon or the SNP’s credibility across the City will suffer.

New Labour abandoned these women workers. The SNP must not repeat that unforgivable mistake.

Before signing off I must recognise and applaud the cleansing workers across Glasgow who refused to cross picket lines and thereby took solidarity action with their striking women colleagues and the Art Galleries and Museums staff who did likewise. Thatcher and successive Blue Tory and Red Tory Governments have outlawed solidarity action by one group of workers in support of another. It’s what prevented the miners from defeating her in 1984/85 and that defeat ushered in vicious anti-working class legislation and cuts to wages, benefits and living standards. Solidarity actions like those in Glasgow are what make workers strong against the bosses and should be applauded. My bins and thousands of others were not emptied yesterday but the inconvenience is for a good cause.

A final word is due to Stefan Cross and the campaign group Action 4 Equality Scotland https://www.a4es.co.uk/ . Without the determination, commitment and considerable skills of Stefan Cross this whole Equal Pay claim may never have reached this stage. A working class guy who has never forgotten his roots or sense of Justice Stefan has worked tirelessly on behalf of the low paid women of Glasgow and across Scotland. His efforts have actually moved and influenced the trade unions to act and I’m sure I speak on behalf of thousands when I say well done Stefan and please keep up the good work.

Tommy Sheridan

AUSTERITY IS JUST A FANCY NAME FOR CLASS WAR: PUNISHING THE POOR FOR THE MISTAKES AND GREED OF THE RICH

The Tories and their billionaire backers and lickspittles in the mainstream media rarely mention the ‘class war’ because they are too busy executing it. Tony ‘war criminal’ Blair used to pontificate to all and sundry that talk of class war was irrelevant in the 21st century as society had moved on and it was wrong to use such antagonistic phrases any longer. The “class war is over” declared the born again ‘Tory Blair’ in September 1999 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/460009.stm . What utter tosh. I remember rising to ask one of Blair’s enthusiastic acolytes in the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Donald Dewar, if he was an adherent to Blair’s proclamation about the death of the class war and if so ‘who won’? Mr Dewar stumbled and mumbled but as usual avoided the question while backing his New Labour Messiah.

The class war is far from over and the introduction of ‘austerity’ by the Tory/Liberal coalition Government elected in 2010 on the back of the bankers crash of 2008 was just another name for the explicit conduct of class war by the rich for the rich. Rich and greedy bankers, shamefully de-regulated by Blair’s New Labour Governments, where up to their necks in irresponsible and illegal financial deals and transactions which eventually erupted in the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008 which exposed the empty re-payment promises as the fiction they were and led to a catastrophic banking crash.

The response of former ‘socialists’, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Chancellor Alastair Darling, was not to signal to the world that the fraud and fragility which underpins the so-called ‘free-market’ economy was finally exposed for all to see and set about reversing the years of tax cuts for the rich and deregulation of the finance markets and labour market. No, these Blairites decided to declare their loyalty to the millionaires first and foremost by bailing out the rich and fraudulent bankers to the tune of trillions of taxpayers pounds.

For years workers in the coal, steel, shipbuilding and motor industries had been lectured about the iron laws of the market and how ‘subsidies’ and ‘bailouts’ were unacceptable and evidence of a deep malaise in those industries that only collapse could remedy. Hundreds of thousands in the boiler suits and hard hats of the mines, steel mills, shipyards and car factories of the UK were left to rot when they ran into economic problems but not so for the sharp suited spivs and charlatans in the banking industry. Incredible sums of public money were poured into save the banks and the bankers on their obscene salaries and shameless bonuses. Almost £1.2 trillion was found by a New Labour Government which had preached wage restraint to low paid nurses, carers, street cleaners and other public servants for years and foisted the economic lunacy of Private Finance Initiatives (PFI – Paying For Infinity) upon us to build new schools and hospitals and roads because we ‘couldn’t afford’ traditional, and much more economically sane, forms of public investment.

Like magicians on a stage Brown and Darling found £1.029 trillion in non-cash Asset Protection, Credit Guarantee and Special Liquidity Schemes and £133 billion in cash loans to failed banks like Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Northern Rock and others https://www.nao.org.uk/highlights/taxpayer-support-for-uk-banks-faqs/ . The real class nature of politics was laid bare for all to see. There was no money to save coalmines, shipyards or steel mills. There was no money to publicly build new schools, hospitals and roads. There was no money to improve the wages of low paid public service workers or essential service workers like the Fire Fighters. But as soon as the bankers went bankrupt the money was found in spades to bail them out. Within a year these economic parasites in the finance sector were sticking their middle fingers up to the foolish masses as bonuses and salaries of £billions returned and even arch Tory papers like the Telegraph had to admit:

“It is hard not to conclude that the bankers have somehow “got away with it”. Unapologetically, although far more discreetly than at the height of the boom, they are making millions again.” https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/edmundconway/6343835/The-return-of-the-bonus-bonanza-for-bankers.html

Those bankers should have been criminally prosecuted and jailed not rescued and allowed to resume their lives of luxury.

To pay for the bailout of the banks and the bankers the Tory/Liberal coalition Government decided in 2010 to punish those who were completely blameless in the economic crash. For the mistakes and greed of the bankers the Blue and Yellow Tories determined that already poor people on benefits, low paid council workers, hospital porters and carers in old folks homes should pay for the banker’s bailout through benefit cuts, wage freezes and local authority budget reductions resulting in thousands of job losses and local service provision being cut back to the bone. They called it ‘austerity’ and got their puppets in the press and media to punt the narrative that it was the ‘only alternative’ and it was everyone’s patriotic duty to ‘tighten their belts’ and accept the necessary medicine. It was the actions of class war under the guise of ‘pulling together’ for the greater good.

The result has been yet more transfer of wealth and privileges, from the working classes to the upper classes. The use of fancy phrases and clever terms should not be allowed to confuse us. The Thatcherite policies of the 1980’s were naked class war. The Blairite policies of the late 1990’s and early 21st century were also Thatcherite but dressed as lamb while the Cameron and May Governments have continued the assault on ordinary living standards under the pathetic ruse of ‘all in it together’ austerity. Remember the sermons about the necessity to reduce the public debt? That’s why austerity was necessary we were told. Yet the £823.3 billion net debt of 2010 has not been reduced but grown to £1.781.9 trillion today https://leftfootforward.org/2018/10/austerity-is-a-tory-choice-the-prime-ministers-empty-words-wont-end-it/ . The UK debt burden has increased from 56% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010 to 84% of GDP now.

Austerity has not reduced UK debt but it has done the job it was designed for. It has shifted more income and wealth towards the stinking rich minority at the top of society. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show the wealthiest 10% in the UK now own 44% of all the wealth and the share of income going to the top 1% has more than doubled from 6% to 14% in the last three decades https://leftfootforward.org/2018/10/austerity-is-a-tory-choice-the-prime-ministers-empty-words-wont-end-it/ .

The observation that the rich just keep getting richer is not a jealous jibe it is an economic fact which translates into wealth inequalities which are obscene and completely unproductive. The rich don’t spend their money on local goods and services the way the poor and average paid do. They hoard it and stash it away in tax havens thus compounding the corrosive effects of inequality.

I learned about the Marginal Propensity to consume while doing my Joint Honours Degree in Economics and Politics at Stirling University in the early 1980’s. It sounds complicated but it’s really straightforward. Give a low or average income family and extra £25 a week or £100 a month and they are likely to spend it all as they are nowhere near satisfying all their needs. But give a rich individual an extra £100 a month and they won’t spend it as they have already met their needs. They will save it or hoard it thus making it an unproductive £100.

The combinations of tax cuts and tax relief schemes for the rich in society are morally repulsive and economically illiterate as they don’t boost the economy. The billionaire press barons who own the press in the UK and their Parliamentary Praetorians punt the idea that the rich are over taxed. What a pile of pish. The ONS Data clearly illustrates that the poorest 20% of households across the UK pay 29.7% of their income in indirect taxes, like VAT, and 12.9% in direct taxes, like income tax. While the richest 20% pay 14.6% of their income in direct taxes and 23.2% in indirect taxes. So not only are the rich getting paid massive and obscene salaries but their income is also taxed less than the income of the poor, 37.8% of their income compared to 42.4% for the poorest https://leftfootforward.org/2018/10/austerity-is-a-tory-choice-the-prime-ministers-empty-words-wont-end-it/ .

Incomes for the vast majority in society are either stagnant or increasing only marginally. A recent Resolution Foundation study revealed average income for all households in 2017/18 increased by only 0.9%, the lowest rise for over four years and representing a real terms cut when compared to rising rents, fuel costs, food costs and transport costs https://leftfootforward.org/2018/07/theres-only-one-way-to-solve-inequality-and-fat-cattery-and-it-isnt-naming-and-shaming/ .

In 2003, households on the lower half of incomes across the UK earned £14,900 after inflation and housing costs. By 2016/17 that same massive group in society had incomes of £14,800 https://leftfootforward.org/2018/07/theres-only-one-way-to-solve-inequality-and-fat-cattery-and-it-isnt-naming-and-shaming/ . What a condemnation of successive governments whose policies have only served to increase poverty and inequality.

The average chief executive in Britain today receives a pay package worth £4.5 million, an incredible 160 times greater the average wage and 262 times greater than the Living Wage https://leftfootforward.org/2018/07/theres-only-one-way-to-solve-inequality-and-fat-cattery-and-it-isnt-naming-and-shaming/ .

Austerity, privatisation, wage freezes, PFI schemes, ‘living within your means’ are all just clever synonyms for class war. Tax evasion from multi-national corporations and individual millionaires and billionaires is estimated to have grown to almost £120 billion a year http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2014/09/22/new-report-the-tax-gap-is-119-4-billion-and-rising/ but these companies and individual culprits are showered with government grants and knighthoods instead of criminal prosecutions. Imagine what we as a society could do with an extra £120 billion a year in income?

A low paid Scottish cleaner is hunted down like a dog and imprisoned for fraudulently claiming £25,000 in benefits while trying to care for her dying elderly mum but a millionaire property tycoon is caught trying to dodge a £150,000 tax bill and is treated with kid gloves and offered a settlement when he is finally rumbled and a criminal prosecution is not contemplated https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/14/tax-dodging-father-benefits-cheat-system . That’s class war.

Bankers run the economy onto the rocks with irresponsible and illegal loans, market manipulation and finance deals designed to enhance their salaries and bonuses but not a single banker is criminally prosecuted for the mess they caused, unlike Iceland who held the culprit bankers to account for their crimes https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-03-31/welcome-to-iceland-where-bad-bankers-go-to-prison . Protecting the bankers in Britain from criminal prosecution is class war.

The next time some overpaid BBC presenter tries to convince you that we really can’t afford to fund the health service anymore, or we can’t pay nurses, firefighters, carers, cleaners, refuge collectors or teachers a better wage I want you to recall the facts in this column. We can afford those things and a whole lot more. Money can always be found when it is needed by the ruling class. Whether it’s for one of their wars or to renew their illegal arsenal of nuclear weapons they always seem to find the funds for those projects.

If we actually employed enough tax collectors to compel the rich to pay their bloody taxes society would be a much brighter and better place to live. Everything the May Government does is in pursuit of their class war. They don’t talk about it they just get on with it.

Tommy Sheridan

Never Cross A Picket Line – Don’t Be A Scab

An acid test for so-called radicals is where they stand when industrial disputes rage and strikes take place. Words are puny compared to action when the time comes to choose a side between the boss and the worker. It is simply an iron law of working class life that you never betray your fellow worker during a legitimate and official strike. You never cross a picket line and take the side of the boss. You never scab on your colleagues.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday in Glasgow almost 8,000 predominantly low paid women workers will stop work in pursuit of an Equal Pay claim that stretches back over 12 years and involves up to 12,000 women employed by Glasgow City Council. To say the action is overdue is an understatement. To say it is just is to state the bleeding obvious.

All Glasgow City Council Education and care workers, who used to work for an arms-length company called Cordia before the new SNP minority administration took the welcome decision to bring them all back in-house, will strike. So will school support for learning staff, child development officers, school administration workers, home carers, caterers and all other workers in these services. These workers are overwhelmingly women and they perform essential duties every day of the year. They care for the elderly, the vulnerable and children with special needs. The City Council has condemned the action because those most in need of care and support will suffer. But no strike action is without consequences. The women feel they have no other choice.

The women workers in these jobs have been pursuing an Equal Pay claim since 2005 when it was revealed that these ‘essential’ care jobs were undervalued and underpaid in comparison with male workers in other sectors of the council performing jobs of similar value. Thousands of women were being effectively denied proper pay and their right to equal pay was ignored. During the last 12 years Glasgow Council was a majority Labour administration. Labour councillors were in charge while thousands of low paid women workers were denied equal pay. It is a scandal of epic proportions. Labour is supposed to be the workers party. They are supposed to be for equality and women’s rights. They are supposed to be about justice and upholding the rights of minorities. On all fronts Labour failed these women terribly.

It is, however, even worse. Not only did a Labour council deny low paid women workers compensation for years of underpayment over the last 13 years they also went to court to fight against these equal pay claims and squandered £2.5 million pounds in legal bills and associated admin costs thus delaying the inevitable and building up the level of compensation eventually owed https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15568711 revealed-labour-led-glasgow-council-spent-millions-fighting-women-workers-equal-pay-claims/ . They not only denied justice to these women they made the situation even worse. Some estimates to settle the outstanding claims now range from £500 million to £1 billion, although the council disputes those figures https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-45507319 . No wonder that Labour administration was kicked out of office in May last year with the loss of 13 seats and almost 16,000 votes.

The SNP in the city swept up most of the former Labour votes and won an additional 12 seats to become a minority leadership of the council. In the last 16 months or so the new SNP led council have had a massive mess to clean up. Labour took the people and the city for granted and were deservedly dumped. Some SNP supporters make the legitimate criticism that the equal pay dispute was going on for 13 years and never once did the main trade unions organise strike action to further the claim. Yet within 16 months of the SNP taking over those same unions, GMB, UNISON and UNITE have manged to organise next week’s action. What the hell were they doing during the last 13 years is the legitimate question?

The SNP Council leader says the claim will be settled soon but according to the unions that was a promise made last August and progress has been far too slow.

I have sympathy with the current SNP administration and contempt for the previous Labour one. The equal pay claim should have been settled many years ago. No doubt about it. But when the women carers, cleaners, caterers and education support staff visit Tesco or Asda to buy their weekly shop the checkout assistants don’t accept promises to pay sometime in the future. They demand money to pay for the groceries there and then. Just as landlords and banks demand money to pay for rents and mortgages. So although I sympathise with the plight the new SNP council faces in trying to clean up the mess left by Labour in the city my support and that of all trade unionists should be with the women workers.

Yes any attempt by union leaders or officials to make political capital out of the dispute by attacking the SNP should be roundly condemned and those organising next weeks’ action should point the finger of blame firmly at the previous Labour administration but these women have waited long enough for justice. They have had empty promises for years and their patience has been exhausted. None of them want to strike. Many are scared and can ill afford to lose two days’ pay. They also feel guilty about the loss of service to the vulnerable service users. But they have to make a stand eventually. The fact 98% of the GMB women members who voted in the strike ballot voted yes to strike is a vivid illustration of the mood of anger that exists.

Throughout history women workers have had to show incredible courage and strength to stand up to intimidating bosses who have denied them equal treatment and equal pay. From the Match Girls of Bryant & May in London, some as young as 13, who struck in 1888 to prevent a damning health report being covered up and won improved conditions, to the women transport workers in London who had to strike in 1918 to get the same war bonus that had been paid to the men but not them. Through to the 187 Dagenham Ford women workers who struck in 1968 against unfair grading and unequal pay. Despite ridicule and management intimidation these trail-blazing women eventually forced Ford Motor Company to improve their pay and treat them equally and their action led directly to the introduction of the 1970 Equal Pay Act. It is in that spirit and on those shoulders that the Glasgow City Council women stand next week.

At the age of 8 I was acquainted with the basics of trade union action and solidarity when my mother sat me on her knee to explain why there were no lights and we had to light candles in the house. I was crying because I couldn’t play with my small plastic soldiers on the floor. She explained how electricity was generated from coal which had to be extracted from deep mines underground and the job was dangerous and hard but underpaid and the men concerned were on strike so that’s why the lights were out. To be perfectly honest I wasn’t really placated. I was still upset that I couldn’t play with my toy soldiers. But that incident has stayed in my mind ever since.

That was 1972 during the miners’ strike which caused electricity blackouts because of coal shortages. My mum had left school without any qualifications and worked as a cleaner and in pubs. She eventually joined a union and started to organise other women bar staff. The big brewers at the time were Tennants Caledonian. They refused to recognise the union and wouldn’t negotiate improved rights and wages. My mum helped organise a strike of bar staff across Scotland to force the company to recognise them.

The company scoffed at their efforts and boasted that the bar staff couldn’t close all pubs and customers would choose to drink in ones unaffected by the strike. However my mum and her new union recruits didn’t picket the pubs they picketed the brewery and the lorry drivers who drove the beer from the brewery to the pubs were also union members and they refused to cross the picket lines. They refused to scab. Within 3 days of action the Brewers gave in and agreed to recognise the union and pay higher wages, overtime allowances and taxi costs for staff left without access to public transport after the pubs had closed. Being in a trade union improved my mum’s wages and working conditions. My mum went on to become a full time union organiser for the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU now UNITE). So I and my two older sisters were raised on the basic premise that a women’s place is in her union.

It was a premise that served them well. They have been trade union members throughout their lives and shop-stewards. One of my sisters will be on strike next week even though she is not part of the equal pay claim. She is in UNISON and will strike in solidarity with her sisters in the union.

Trade unions are the most basic and important organisations that allow workers to be protected from bullying and exploitative bosses. The rich and powerful hate trade unions because they threaten their power and privileges. From better rates of pay to equal pay, from employment protection to holiday pay and sick pay through to proper pensions and reductions in the working week. All major improvements in workplace conditions are due to the trade union movement. Every worker should join a union. You may never need your union but when you do you will be glad you joined. They are far from perfect but they are necessary.

The final word belongs to the American writer, journalist and social activist Jack London (1876-1916) who expertly summed up in his 1915 poem https://www.rmtlondoncalling.org.uk/content/ode-scab-jack-london-1876-1916  what a scab was and why you should never be one:

Ode To A Scab

“After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad and the vampire, he had some awful stuff left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water-logged brain, and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumour of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out. No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body in, or a rope long enough to hang his carcass with.  Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared to a scab. For betraying his master he had the character to hang himself – the scab hasn’t.

Esau sold his birth right for a mess of pottage. Judas Iscariot sold his saviour for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British Army. The modern strike breaker sells his birth right, his country, his wife, his children and his fellow men for an unfulfilled promise from his employer, trust or corporation.

Tommy Sheridan

Our Oath Should Be To The People Not The Queen – Abolish The Monarchy

Scottish Socialist Party leader and MSP Tommy Sheridan swears allegiance to the Queen under protest and with a clenched fist at the opening of the Scottish Parliament. (Photo by David Cheskin – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

My plan today was to write a column supporting the honourable, overdue and courageous Equal Pay strike action planned by thousands of Glasgow City Council employees next Tuesday and Wednesday, 23rd & 24th October. That action will be the subject of my next opinion piece now. For I simply couldn’t stand anymore of the Royal Family pomp and ceremony being force fed down our throats by an ever more compliant and subservient mainstream media without indicating some form of protest immediately.

It was Prince Harry and Meghan getting married in May, Princess Eugene (who?) and Jack (who?) getting married on Saturday and today, 15th October, we have the aforementioned Prince Harry and his Royal wife announcing the arrival of another Royal baby next spring. Now I have nothing against weddings and children being born. Weddings are usually splendid occasions with much joy, laughter and tears while the birth of children is the most magical moment in any parent’s life. Both those joyous events do however come at a cost. Weddings cost over £17,000 on average while raising children is an ever increasing expense.

Unless, of course, you are part of the Windsor family in Britain, no matter how slight or distant the link. And therein is the problem. Every time there is a Royal wedding or new baby the cost to the taxpayer to support these rich benefit recipients rises. The hard austerity pressed public had to stump up £2.25 million for the marriage of a Royal nobody at the weekend and £1.25 million for the Harry and Meghan shindig in May https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/princess-eugenies-wedding-leave-taxpayers-13385960?utm_source=sharebar&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharebar .

I heard the BBC’s Royal brown nose, Nicholas Newton Henshall Witchell, (I kid you not that is his name) bemoan on breakfast news this morning that poor Meghan would have to take things a bit easier from now on as her and Harry were about to embark on a world tour which would include a “gruelling” 22 hour flight to Australia followed by a “tough itinerary of events”. ‘Gruelling’ and ‘tough’ are not adjectives I would attach to First Class travel with first class service, first class food and first class seats that transform into beds at the push of a button. Of course it will be a ‘gruelling’ experience choosing which films to watch during the flight in between meals and liquid refreshments.

And imagine having to exit the flight into chauffeur driven cars and being whisked to your 5 star hotel room without even getting to experience the delight of jostling with everyone to rescue your luggage from the arrivals carousel and waiting in a long queue at passport control? Then the endurance required dealing with the pampering and luxury lavished on them during the tour would surely test the toughness of any mere mortal.

The difference between a truly independent mainstream media and the slavish puppet of the rich and powerful that we have is the bold Nicholas should have been on the morning breakfast show lambasting the cost to the taxpayer of the two recent weddings, the cost to the taxpayer of the luxury tour and the cost to the taxpayer of another Royal baby to feed and fawn over rather than expressing concern about a ‘gruelling’ flight and ‘tough’ all expenses paid trip.

The Royals receive the best biggest benefits deal in Britain. They cost the ordinary taxpayer in excess of £345 million a year in grants, travel costs, security provision and lost revenues from the Duchy of Lancaster and Duchy of Cornwall which should go to the public purse but instead pours into the Royal purses https://www.republic.org.uk/what-we-want/royal-finances .

The obedience and timidity of state run media in places like North Korea is often bemoaned by flunky pundits in BBC or ITV studios but the irony is these outlets are every bit as timid and obedient as those in alleged dictatorships.

Whenever I hear politicians or campaigners call for ‘us’, the public, to get tough with the ‘scroungers in society’ I cheer to the rafters. I concur. I agree. I second that plan of action, overdue as it is. For I too want to get tough with the ‘scroungers’. I want to abolish the Royal Family and all their inherited perks and privileges. I have nothing against them personally but I despise them as an institution. I believe they epitomise the inherent class snobbery, inequality of wealth and stench of upper class entitlement which pervades and pollutes the British Establishment. The idea that certain children are born to become Dukes, Duchesses, Lords, Ladies, Princesses, Princes, Kings or Queens is quite simply outrageous. The very existence of the Royal Family is an insult to our intelligence, never mind the cost to subsidise them in their obscene luxury.

I well remember the dilemma I faced in 1999 after winning election to the re-called Scottish Parliament, re-called after a 300 year absence. I wasn’t aware that to take up my seat as a representative for the people of Glasgow I first had to swear an oath to the bloody Queen. I have been a believer in and advocate of democracy all my adult life. That means Royalty and vested privilege is alien to me. How could I possibly declare an oath to an institution I abhor and do not believe in? The relevant Section of the Scotland Act 1998 was very specific:

“Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, Sections 84(1) and 84(2), a person who is returned as a member of the Scottish Parliament cannot take part in parliamentary proceedings until he or she has taken the oath of allegiance or made a solemn affirmation”. (http://www.parliament.scot/newsandmediacentre/17310.aspx )

How ridiculous was this? A new, modern Parliament is to be established on the eve of the 21st century and the first requirement of everyone elected to it is to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown? This made me angry. I examined the issue further only to find that our new Scottish Parliament was not just being trapped in the past with oaths of allegiance to the Crown it was actually to be more slavish towards the Crown than even the Westminster Parliament.

In Westminster there is also a requirement to swear the oath and Sinn Fein MP’s refuse to do so as they are Irish republicans and do not recognise the authority of that institution. They therefore do not take up their seats and serve their constituents from the North of Ireland constituencies they were elected to serve. I considered such a refusal to swear the oath. I discussed it with my family and close political comrades. The consensus was it would be futile as I was the only socialist elected and those who voted for me expected me to go into Parliament to fight against low pay, poverty and cuts to public services.

Then I discovered the Sinn Fein option was effectively unavailable to Members of the Scottish Parliament. The ancient and outmoded allegiance to the Crown was even more immersed into the Scottish Parliament than the UK Parliament. For refusing to swear the oath didn’t mean you couldn’t take your seat it meant your seat was taken away from you completely:

“On being returned as members, all MSPs are required either to take the oath of allegiance or make the solemn affirmation before the Clerk at a meeting of the Parliament. The form of the oath is set out in the Promissory Oaths Act 1868, and the corresponding affirmation, which may be taken instead, is set out in the Oaths Act 1978. An MSP may not participate in any other proceedings of the Parliament until he or she has taken the oath or made the solemn affirmation. An MSP that does not do this, normally within a two month period of being returned as an MSP, will cease to be an MSP.” (http://www.parliament.scot/help/769_795.aspx )

What an incredibly backward step for the new Scottish Parliament to take. Each and every elected MSP had to swear the oath within 8 weeks of being elected or be removed:

“I (Member’s Name), do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Her Heirs and Successors, according to Law.” (http://www.parliament.scot/newsandmediacentre/99397.aspx )

As it happens over one third of the first batch of MSPs elected to the new Parliament in 1999 made some form of protest at having to swear that oath. No wonder. Think about how pathetic it actually is. The first thing elected MSPs who reject the authority and legitimacy of the Crown have to do is lie. They have to lie in public.

An academic study of the new Parliament noted my personal protest as the most controversial as I firstly declared what I was about to say was said under protest as I owed my allegiance to no unelected Monarch but to the sovereign will of the people who elected me and then, inspired by the Black Power protest of athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympic games in Mexico City, I raised my arm and clenched my fist while reciting the oath through gritted teeth. What a democratic abomination that a new and modern Parliament’s first act was to compel at least a third of those elected to lie in public. At least my protest is now a matter of public record:

“The socialist Tommy Sheridan undoubtedly staged the most controversial and provocative performance affirming only under protest and offering the clenched fist. He declared his allegiance to a Scottish democratic republic. In the end one third of Scotland’s new representatives had their individual interpretation of the oath put on their records.” (https://www.audimax.de/fileadmin/hausarbeiten/anglistik/Hausarbeit-Anglistik-From-Westminster-to-Holyrood-The-New-Scottish-Parliament.pdf p23)

Almost 50,000 people signed an online petition opposed to spending any public money on the Princess Eugene wedding at the weekend https://www.republic.org.uk/petition/royal-wedding-eugenie and popular support for the Royal Family has plummeted considerably in recent years from 77% who believed the UK would be worse off without the Royal Family in 1984 to only 51% who thought that in 2012 https://www.republic.org.uk/what-we-want/win-argument .

The more people learn about the secrecy, corruption and dysfunctional nature at the heart of the Royal Family as an institution the more public support will seep away with the younger generation instinctively opposed to the grotesque privileges and inequality their very existence represents. The explosive revelation in the Paradise Papers leak last year that the Queen is effectively a tax dodger, no matter the pathetic excuses of her hired quislings, will further erode support and respect for the archaic body.

Even the supremely loyal aforementioned BBC Royal correspondent, Nicholas Newton Henshall Witchell, was forced to appear angry when faced with the news that the Queen’s private estate invested at least £10 million in offshore funds in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to avoid being taxed, a fact that had never before been disclosed. He said:

“It is extraordinary and puzzling that her advisers could have felt that it was appropriate – for somebody whose reputation is based so much on setting a good example – to invest in these offshore funds.

“There will be meetings and questions being asked within Buckingham Palace this morning as the monarchy finds its reputation tarnished by association.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/does-the-queen-pay-taxes_uk_5a005b59e4b04cdbeb34b73e ).

The Queen is exempt from tax laws, exempt from Freedom of Information laws and gets to make voluntary contributions to the tax man despite being one of the richest people on the planet with an estimated wealth in excess of £67 billion https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/royal-family-british-monarchy-wealth-value-how-rich-money-queen-elizabeth-ii-a8067946.html . Her alleged contributions to society via business stimulation and tourism are vastly overstated and unproven with Chester Zoo, Stonehenge and the Roman Baths being much more successful tourist attractions and VisitBritain, the UK tourist agency, unable to find any evidence that the Royals stimulate tourism https://www.republic.org.uk/what-we-want/monarchy-myth-buster/its-good-tourism .

Some people suggest a ‘slimmed down’ Monarchy but I am not interested in an Atkins diet or Low-Carb programme for the Royals. I just want democracy to triumph and the Monarchy as an institution scrapped completely. I demand to live as a citizen not as a subject.

Tommy Sheridan

Banning The Sun Is The Right Thing To Do – Well Done Livingston

I love football. It is my favourite sport. I’ve played it all my life and still turn out for charity games and a weekly 7 a side game. I am very deceiving on the park because I’m actually slower than I look. My generous waistline and massive bum doesn’t help when up against younger and fitter players but that failing body is the responsibility of my feet. They constantly take me into local fish and chip shops and the cream cake stands in Greggs the bakers. Naughty feet.

My team is the Famous Glasgow Celtic. My late dad used to take me to see them every week from around 6 years of age. But a couple of weeks ago another Scottish football team also won my support and respect. That team is newly promoted Livingston. They are now in Scotland’s top Premier League. In fact they have lost only one game in eight, against my team on the first day of the season. A week past Sunday they beat Steven Gerard’s Rangers team and that endeared me to them. However what they did on 27th September was even more impressive. The courageous Livi, also known as The Lions, banned the Scottish Sun (SS) newspaper and Sun Group papers from their stadium http://livingstonfc.co.uk/club-statement-the-scottish-sun/ . Brilliant. Well done Livi.

The Scottish Sun pretends to be a newspaper but is in reality a lying rag which daily prints half-truths, distortions and downright lies. It is a powerful rag owned by Rupert Murdoch’s multi-billion pound corporation News Group Newspapers (NGN). It is a massive media empire which has accurately been called a ‘criminal enterprise’ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/nov/10/murdoch-memory-mafia  That empire includes The Scottish Sun, English Sun, The London Times, The Sunday Times and TalkSport Radio alongside a publishing company and other interests. It can destroy lives at the flick of a prejudiced and vindictive switch which is why many politicians and others are afraid to call it out for what it is. I’m not. I’ve fought them all of my adult life on picket lines, in debates chambers and inside rigged courtrooms. I have stared the beast down and know it is thoroughly rotten to the core and steeped in criminality, hypocrisy and corruption.

They used to publish a rag called The News of the World (NotW) but that was closed down in utter disgrace and shame in July 2011 on the back of the most disgusting revelations about the organised criminal activities conducted by that paper in pursuit of stories in the previous decade. These despicable and criminal activities included the hacking of murdered school girl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone in 2002. Hacking of the distraught mother Sara Payne, whose eight year old girl was tragically murdered in July 2000. Hacking of mobile phones belonging to relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hacking of mobile phones belonging to relatives of victims of the 7/7 London bombing in 2005 and coordinated and consistent illegal hacking of mobile phones of several hundred celebrities, politicians, sports stars and members of the Royal Family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_International_phone_hacking_scandal .

This massive company had top police officers in its pocket and direct access to whoever was residing in Number 10 Downing Street. It operated above the law with impunity for years. Investigation after investigation resulted in cover up after cover up. To hide their criminality NGN paid out hundreds of millions in invasion of privacy claims before being exposed and they have had to pay hundreds of millions more in settling such claims after closure of the NotW title. It is an episode which led to the Leveson Enquiry (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122144906/http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/ ) into the culture, practices and ethics of the press  and that shone a light on the dark and murky practices involving the British Elite and the Fleet Street Press, especially NGN.

This scandal involved Prime Ministers, Police Commissioners, Government Ministers and corrupt public officials in police offices, prisons, the civil service and the judiciary. Yet incredibly none of the Murdoch family has ever faced prosecution for the thousands of crimes committed over at least a 10 year period perpetrated by the NGN Corporation. That’s what you call influence.

I have been a victim of NGN Corporation lies and criminality and I will write more about that on another day. However Livingston Football Club was the victim of classic NGN style journalism. An untrue story was printed despite explanation and cooperation from Livingston officials. The SS wasn’t interested in the truth just a salacious story. They couldn’t give a damn about the good reputation of Livingston or the excellent community and youth work they carry out. Instead of ignoring the tripe printed by the SS, which other clubs often do, Livingston chose to stand up and refuse to be bullied. They have banned the rag from their stadium and I applaud them for doing so. I only wish my own club, Glasgow Celtic, would follow suit. The SS constantly prints rubbish about Celtic and tries to promote strife and division with misleading ‘insider’ quotes more at home in fairy tales but that is not the only reason Celtic should ban the SS.

On 15th April 1989 a terrible tragedy took place at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, the home of Sheffield Wednesday. Criminal mismanagement of the stadium gates and the supporters by the police resulted in a horrific human crush which left 766 fans injured and 96 dead. Yet within only 4 days of that disaster, and while some fans were still fighting for their lives on life support machines, The Sun on 19th April printed a front page exclusive under the heading ‘The Truth’ which accused fans of causing the disaster and acting like animals by stealing from dead fans, urinating on them and assaulting police officers who were performing mouth to mouth resuscitations. The editor was a sad excuse for a human being called Kelvin MacKenzie. The owner, then and now, was Rupert Murdoch. The story was a tissue of lies apparently fed to the paper from police officers anxious to shift blame from them onto the fans. Not only did the story insult the memories of the 96 deceased and all their remaining family and friends it also delayed a proper enquiry from taking place as it created the illusion that the fans were responsible.

Since that day many in Liverpool and across Merseyside have refused to buy the Sun newspaper. Subsequent public enquiries, denied for years by Murdoch’s favourite Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, have completely exonerated the fans and exposed the criminal culpability of the senior police officers on the day. Sadly none of them have yet been criminally prosecuted.

Celtic fans have cause to show solidarity with Liverpool fans. In August 1977 I was an irate and disappointed 13 year old as I sat in a caravan on Millport in the Isle of Cumbrae and read the Evening Times story that Kenny Dalglish had signed that day, 10th August, for Liverpool. The fact it was a club record £440,000 fee cut no ice with me. He was our golden Bhoy. Our star player. However like many Celtic fans at the time the signing of King Kenny meant we now had a soft spot for Liverpool. Dalglish went on to be a legend as both a player and a manager. He was managing Liverpool on the day of the Hillsborough disaster. In solidarity with the Liverpool fans we should have joined their boycott of the Sun in 1989.

Roll on 28 years and in February last year Liverpool FC took the decision to ban The Sun from its ground and press conferences in response to its disgraceful coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/liverpool-ban-the-sun-hillsborough-disaster-reporters-attending-matches-anfield-a7573621.html . Many believed it was a woefully delayed decision but better late than never.

Within two months of that decision the other giant club on Merseyside, Everton, also took the decision to ban the Sun from its ground and press conferences. This was in response to a low-life, ignorant and racist column by a Sun columnist who compared one of their mixed race players to an ape and implied that Liverpool the city was effectively a den for drug dealers and assorted criminals https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/everton-ban-sun-goodison-park-10230725

Guess who wrote the deeply offensive column? None other than the deeply offensive Kelvin MacKenzie. Apparently the Sun are sorry about the lies and slanders they carried on their front page in 1989 and accept they were wrong. In fact they are so sorry they continued to employ MacKenzie long afterwards and right up until last year he was still being paid to spew his racist, sexist and bigoted bile by the Sun. In the aftermath of the offensive Ross Barkley article and the decision of Everton football club to ban the Sun MacKenzie was suspended from the paper. I would have preferred he was suspended from the Mersey Bridge and pelted with rotten fruit, eggs and urine for several days.

As a socialist and trade unionist I have despised the Sun since at least 1984 when an editorial referring to striking miners as ‘scum of the earth’ and a front page depicting National Union of Miners leader Arthur Scargill as Adolf Hitler https://flashbak.com/the-sun-at-40-when-arthur-scargill-was-mein-fuhrer-16468/  were only prevented from being printed by fellow trade union printers who could not stomach such biased reporting. They were subsequently sacked within 24 months when Murdoch moved his whole operation to a new Wapping factory and dismissed all 5,000 printers and skilled production staff in January 1986 sparking a bitter 12 months long industrial dispute which the print unions lost.

The Sun and the NGN Group of newspapers has long been a sexist, racist, bigoted and anti-trade union company which any socialist or trade unionist wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole. Maximum respect to former TalkSport host Colin Murray who built up a huge audience during his time with the talk radio station and was offered a contract to 2019 when NGN took over the station in 2016 but quit in protest at the link with the Sun  https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/13/colin-murray-quits-talksport-sun-owner-news-corp  If only others had the same courage and conviction as Colin Murray and refused to have anything to do with NGN papers or media outlets.

Some will suggest all the papers are as bad as each other and there is some mileage in that argument. It is a shameful fact that 80% of the newspapers sold in the UK are owned by only 5 billionaires famed for avoiding paying taxes and living abroad but pontificating everyday on how others should live their lives. Think about that statistic for a moment. 5 billionaires own and control 80% of all papers sold in Britain https://educateinspirechange.org/alternative-news/great-britain-owned-run-5-billionaires/

A free and open press you say? Chance would be a fine thing. The press across the UK is neither free nor open in any meaningful democratic sense. They are owned by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful. They are under-regulated and allowed to flaunt tax laws and human rights at will. They portray the poor and dispossessed as scroungers and a danger to society when in fact it is these 5 stinking rich tax dodgers that are the real scroungers and danger to society.

All of the newspapers are tools of the rich and powerful to spout their pish and promote their austerity, low tax, privatisation and nuclear weapons narratives. Their influence in society is dropping almost as fast as their sales figures but still they retain far too much power with far too little accountability. NGN is the worst of a bad bunch, the most hypocritical and untrustworthy of them all which is why the banning of the SS by Livingston and the English Sun by Liverpool and Everton is so welcome.

Groups like ‘Total Eclipse of the S#n’ and ‘Shun the S#n’ are now working hard with some success to encourage stores to stop stocking the paper https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/kw9k5z/total-eclipse-of-the-sun-the-evolution-of-the-liverpool-newspaper-boycott  . I applaud their actions and wish them all the best. Here in Scotland I hope other clubs follow the excellent lead of Livingston and I would encourage every person with an ounce of decency to also Shun the SS. #JFT96

Tommy Sheridan