Alex Salmond Wins the First Skirmish in the Political Witch-hunt against Him

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck chances are it is a duck. Now replace duck with witch-hunt and you have the essence of the ‘sexual harassment’ case against Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond.

On the back of incredible lashings of tabloid and broadcast media coverage almost five months ago, beginning on 24th August 2018, we were invited via sensational headlines, loaded paragraphs and ‘leaked’ details to conclude that Alex Salmond was a sexual predator guilty of instances of sexual harassment that were worthy of a criminal investigation https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/alex-salmond-reported-cops-over-13129661 and informed that he had been properly and fairly investigated by the Scottish civil service and the police had been invited to conduct an enquiry into his alleged conduct.

Immediately one detail sounded an alarm bell in my head and made me suspicious of the whole story. The alleged conduct at the centre of the investigation was said to have occurred in 2013, while Mr Salmond was Scotland’s First Minister, but was not complained of until 2018. If rape or serious sexual assault is being alleged against anyone the time lapse before reporting should not be considered critical. There are a multitude of very reasonable reasons why a woman may decide against reporting a rape or sexual assault against her. Such assaults should never be time-barred and alleged assailants should always be liable for their actions regardless of the lapse of time. But Alex Salmond was not being accused of rape and when the details of some of the allegations were made public in glorious detail by the red top tabloid which splashed the story the stench of a witch-hunt grew stronger.

I read the Daily Record of 25th August 2018 with a heavy heart. In a “world exclusive” they were publishing the details of the sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/alex-salmond-accused-touching-womans-13134675 . Over a period of thirty years or so I had campaigned alongside Alex Salmond against Thatcher’s Poll Tax, in opposition to water privatisation, for Scottish independence and in 1999 we met in the Scottish Parliament to discuss his party’s attitude to my Private Members Bill to Abolish Poindings and Warrant Sales. He was candid and cooperative regarding the Bill. He promised his party’s support for it and he delivered. Indeed one of his closest political colleagues at the time, Alex Neil, agreed to co-sponsor it.

Alex and I disagreed on economics. He was for the free market with some more regulation while I was for public ownership and control. Our disagreements were, however, always cordial. There was no malice in our verbal jousts. I respected his achievements within Scottish politics and his leadership of the SNP. Unlike others in the Scottish Parliament he tended to play the ball and not the man in the course of political discourse.

So Alex is a guy I quite like. To my face he has always been cordial and polite. I believe he led the 2014 Referendum Campaign with gusto, commitment and energy. The fact we came so close to success was in large part down to his leadership. His decision to stand down after the defeat was honourable but, in my opinion, unnecessary. So when I prepared myself to read the ‘sordid details’ on that Friday morning last August I feared the worse. After fifteen minutes and detailed discussion with my wife Gail, who had also been sad to read the previous day’s story, I found myself raging. There was nothing there which merited a criminal investigation. If this was the height of the allegations against Alex Salmond then the delay in reporting them became unwarranted and the referral to the police became inexplicable.

This guy’s whole reputation was being destroyed on news bulletin after news bulletin, tabloid headline after tabloid headline and the referral to the police for a criminal investigation was the critical and most serious part of the story. Of course I could be wrong, not for the first time, but if the material so brazenly published by the Daily Record amounts to grounds for a criminal investigation I will be amazed.

The real truth is Alex Salmond has been set up by political opponents aided and abetted by staunchly unionist newspapers and media outlets salivating at the prospect of taking down a champion of the independence cause. Let’s get back to basics here. The media have this man condemned and guilty from the outset. The coverage against him has been outrageous. Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’? But now we have the utter humiliation of a Scottish judge having to announce yesterday in the Court of Session that the investigation into Alex Salmond was:

 “unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and that they were tainted with apparent bias”.

This was a result of Salmond’s Judicial Review proceedings against the Scottish Government in respect of their internal investigation and should cause complete embarrassment to the senior civil servants who drove the whole process forward. What we now know is shocking and stinks to the high heavens.

A senior civil servant somehow learned of the alleged incidents in 2013 and sought out the two women concerned. These women, who had not seen fit to report the incidents for over four years, were ‘encouraged’ to report them retrospectively. The code of conduct rules pertaining at the time, of initial contact with the women, were not conducive to such retrospective reporting and investigations so the senior civil servants already involved in the process decided to re-draw the code of conduct rules to allow such reporting and investigation. Then the most senior civil servant appointed the one who had made initial contact with the women as the Investigating Officer. So the woman who had already discussed the alleged misconduct with the two Scottish Government employees was now to carry out a proper, fair and impartial investigation!!! Aye right. And then deny the complainant, Alex Salmond, access to the evidence or the right to introduce witness statements on his behalf. No bloody wonder the judge threw the whole thing out yesterday.

It has been a sham from start to finish and while Nicola Sturgeon as current First Minister has been right to emphasise that absolutely no one is beyond reach when it comes to inappropriate behaviour and apologised to the complainers for the shambolic conduct of the investigation there should have also been a public apology to Alex Salmond. An apology for having subjected him to such an unfair investigation in the first place and an apology for the very damaging leaks in the investigation which have seriously damaged his reputation and standing in society. No wonder Alex is contemplating suing the government for damages in respect of his treatment.

Alex has called for the resignation of Leslie Evans the Permanent Secretary in Scotland, making her Scotland’s top civil servant. He is right to do so. She has been incompetent at best in this whole saga and nefarious at worse. She appointed the senior civil servant to investigate the complaints against Alex Salmond and insisted for months that the whole process was fair and proper. However her story was fatally wounded on December 14th last year when a court order seeking independent review of hitherto redacted emails and notes pertaining to the investigation into Salmond was won by his legal team in the teeth of opposition by the Scottish Government legal team https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-46572122 .

So in December Leslie Evans must have known that the emails and notes being sought by Mr Salmond were helpful to his case and would prove the investigation into him was unfair and therefore illegal. Yet she instructed the legal team to oppose that order. If the judge had not disagreed with her QC the documents would have remained hidden and the whole 4 day hearing scheduled for next week would most likely have proceeded.

The emails and notes revealed that the same civil servant who had contacted the women prior to the complaints being made was appointed to ‘independently’ investigate the complaints. That woman was Judith Mackinnon. She was appointed by Leslie Evans. Either she knew it was unfair to be in prior contact with complainers before independently investigating their complaints and that it was wrong and unfair or she didn’t know which makes her incompetent. Either way she should be in the process of clearing her desk today. Craig Murray, himself a former senior civil servant but now a ‘troublesome’ Indy campaigner, has called for hear head also in his excellent blog https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2019/01/the-salmond-stitch-up-the-incredible-facts-and-why-mackinnon-and-evans-must-be-sacked/amp/?__twitter_impression=true .

Incredibly Leslie Evans would have us believe she appointed Judith Mackinnon to conduct the investigation into Alex Salmond but didn’t know she had had prior contact with the complainers. Yes and pigs often fly!!!

If everything in relation to contact, prior knowledge and rigorous fairness of process was robust why oppose the release of the emails and notes in court on December 14th?

The reality is Leslie Evans and Judith Mackinnon, at least, were complicit in a biased, unfair and illegal investigation into Alex Salmond that was politically motivated and designed to ruin his reputation and standing. Nicola Sturgeon should be seeking the resignations of both these very senior civil servants and initiating a swift and focused public enquiry into the damaging press leaks which have occurred.

The Scottish public has been saddled with a legal expenses bill that could amount to £500,000 because of the mistakes and incompetence of two senior civil servants, or their role in a political witch-hunt against Alex Salmond. Either way their respective desks should be getting cleared as you read this column. If the enquiry into the leaks to the press leads to their doors it would amount to misconduct in public office and should result in a police investigation.

Make no mistake about it the assault on the character and standing of Alex Salmond was considered and planned. It was a conspiracy involving at least the two individuals above named. In the interests of transparency and in pursuit of justice the emails and notes which the Scottish Government lawyers fought and failed to keep private should now be produced excerpting only the individual details of the complainers in this sorry mess.

Let us all see who else, if anyone, was complicit in this witch-hunt against our former First Minister and independence champion.

Tommy Sheridan 

FEAR IN 2019 – Face Everything And Rise

My first column of the New Year 2019 was delayed by a combination of gastronomic illness, the details of which are entirely inappropriate to share, and my wife Gail’s birthday. So even although today is the 6th day of January I will still take the opportunity to wish you all the very best for the year ahead and offer hope that your dreams and aspirations are realised. Remember always that basic human kindness and compassion towards others costs us nothing but yet is priceless. Judging people by the size of their hearts, depth of their integrity and sincerity of their actions rather than their looks, material belongings or social status is surely a New Year Resolution we can all adopt and apply.

The stomach bug that laid me low as we crossed from the old year into the new one prevented me from attending the ‘Hear Us Rise’ independence shindig in Dundee organised by the excellent group ‘The Graham Brown Band’ on the evening of the 1st of January. That was a pity for me but by all accounts it was a first class way to celebrate the birth of a New Year full of independence hopes and expectations. Hundreds gathered to sing, dance and pledge renewed allegiance to the independence cause. A cause which has matured and ripened over the last four years in the face of economic mismanagement, cruel and callous welfare policies and the realisation that the unionist promises of stability and prosperity which were promoted alongside the engendered climate of fear for the unknown in 2014 have now been exposed as a tissue of lies, deceit and distortions.

What is clearer than ever in the first days of 2019 is the days of the British union are numbered. The brutal and bloody Empire that the Rees-Moggs and Buffoon Johnsons hanker for is long gone and will never be revived. Their narrow nationalistic chauvinism full of empty promises about £350 million a week more being spent on the NHS and milk and honey aplenty for everyone only struck a chord with large sections of the working class because they have been so badly alienated and marginalised by the mainstream political system that enrichened the tiny minority at the top while impoverishing millions at the bottom.

Remember the richest 1,000 in the UK have seen their combined wealth rise from an incredible £256 billion to an incredulous £724 billion over the last ten years. Ten years of acute austerity and reduced real wages and living standards for most has spawned a grotesque rise in wealth for the tiny minority at the top of society. Those same billionaires and millionaires who have benefitted from top rate tax cuts and immoral tax evasion and avoidance schemes have used their lickspittle rags that shamefully pretend to be newspapers to demonise the immigrants, the unemployed and poor larger families and offer them as sacrificial scapegoats for the many problems which confront struggling households and communities.

What an ingenious plan from the billionaire tax cheats who own alleged ‘newspapers’ like the Daily Mail and Sun. Lord Rothermere is the billionaire owner of The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and the Metro. He lives in France. Rupert Murdoch is the billionaire owner of the Sun and Sun on Sunday, Times and Sunday Times through his News Group Newspapers Group and News Corporation which also owns the radio station TalkSport. He lives in America and like Lord Rothermere pays no income tax in the UK. Between them these tax evading billionaires control over 52% of all newsprint and online news across the UK https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/british-people-think-their-media-is-the-most-biased-and-right-wing-in-europe-and-theyre-probably-a6860911.html .

On a daily basis they spew lies and bile about immigration, asylum seekers and benefit recipients. They use their immense unchecked power and influence to manipulate and distort reality. Why blame the rich and powerful for low wages, lack of affordable housing, NHS waiting lists and education cutbacks when constant distortions and lies can shift the blame onto the immigrants, asylum seekers and poor. What a great idea it is. Blame the victims of poverty for causing poverty. Just make sure the newspaper industry is under regulated to allow the plethora of lies to continue unabated. No wonder the Cameron promise to introduce Leveson 2 has been ditched. It would have exposed the rotten and corrupt relations between newspapers, politicians, the police and public officials.

Of course the biased manipulation of news to protect the rich and powerful does not stop at newspapers as the BBC and ITV are willing and able acolytes of the billionaires and accept big wage packets to ensure the spotlight of blame for society’s ills is never shone on the real culprits selling stocks and shares, armaments and financial pipe-dreams through their ownership of banks, insurance companies, newspapers and global corporations. The real crooks don’t wear masks they wear smart pinstripe suits and their most potent weapon is ignorance through control and manipulation of news output.

It is why the billionaires consistently try to undermine social media and attempt to assume ownership of it in equal measure. They despise the fact they don’t control what is published, promoted or read. Only 5 billionaires own over 90% of all the national and local newspapers published in Britain but they effectively promote the myth of a ‘free and democratic press’. Free and democratic press my arse. Free to lie, distort and manipulate but certainly not democratic in any way, shape or form.

The influence of the newspaper industry is waning but the rise in racist attacks and abuse across many parts of England is the toxic legacy of the distortions pedalled daily against anyone who is not ‘like us’. What the hell does that actually mean? I heard the ‘look after our own first’ phrase many times while an elected councillor and MSP in Glasgow. I heard it particularly in early 2001/02 when Glasgow began to accept quotas of asylum seekers and placed them in the High Rise flats in Sighthill. Meetings I was invited to attend were packed with residents of the area anxious to know if the stories in the Sun and Daily Mail were true. These asylum seekers were getting enhanced benefits, special furniture packages and preferential treatment. They were ‘jumping’ the housing queue.

It was complete and utter crap wrapped in manure designed to sell papers. Sensationalised nonsense designed to divide the community. Random racist attacks and incidents grew. It was necessary to confront the lies with facts and patient explanation. How could these individual human beings with their children fleeing countries we had bombed to smithereens, like Afghanistan, be accused of ‘jumping’ housing queues when they were being placed in flats that lay empty for many months because no one would accept them?

The only packages these new potential citizens of Glasgow were entitled to were the homeless packages available to everyone else. While they were seeking asylum they were barred from working so they needed benefits to survive but their benefit entitlement was less, not more, than anyone else on benefits.

The truth eventually won the day and these new human beings and their children soon became assets within the community and helped rebuild the area, much to the disappointment of the nasty tabloids who had hoped to stir discontent. That one example of Sighthill in Glasgow is the prototype of the new independent nation we can build in Scotland.

Independent Scotland, a country that is outward looking and friendly to other nations not arrogant and insular.

Independent Scotland, a country intent on extending a hand of friendship to those who seek to come and live with us not a fist of ignorant fury.

Independent Scotland, a country building bridges between and within different cultures and nationalities not walls of isolation.

1789 saw the storming of the Bastille in Paris and the beginning of the French revolution to overthrow unelected monarchy and the introduction of early democracy.

1819 saw the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester when unarmed citizens gathered in support of lower food prices and universal suffrage only to be slashed and mowed down by soldiers on foot and horses.

1909 saw the heroic suffragette Mabel Capper force fed inside Winston Green Prison in Birmingham to break her hunger strike in support of votes for women and to break the spirits of the suffragette movement. It failed to do so.

1919 saw Mahatma Gandhi launch his nonviolent resistance movement against British rule in India, the Battle of George Square in Glasgow in support of the 40 hour week resulting in the imposition of martial law for three days across the city and the Declaration of Independence from Britain by the newly elected Irish government in Dublin.

1929 saw the Great Crash on the US Stock Market ushering in the first financial disaster of the Great Depression, the first large-scale outbreak of Jewish-Arab violence caused by a clash at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and the legendary gangland massacre in Chicago that went on to become known as the St Valentine’s Day massacre.

In 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland and renounced non-aggression pacts with Britain and Russia ushering in the beginning of World War II.

In 1949 the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is formed, the German Federal Republic (West Germany) is established and the People’s Republic of China is proclaimed. Britain also recognises the independence of the Republic of Ireland.

In 1959 military dictator Batista is forced to flee Havana in Cuba and guerrilla leaders Fidel Castro and Che Guevera assume power and begin building a nation committed to healthcare, education and peace for its citizens.

1969 saw Colonel Muammer Gadaffi depose King Idris of Libya and establish a new anti-US Islamic republic and the Stonewall riot in New York marking the beginning of the gay rights movement.

1979 saw revolution in Iran and the overthrow of the Shah, the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan, victory for the Sandinsta freedom fighters in Nicaragua over the brutal Somoza regime and the election of Britain’s first ever woman Prime Minister.

1989 saw the fall of the Berlin wall after 28 years and a Romanian uprising which overthrew brutal President Ceausescu.

1999 saw the re-convening of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh after an absence of 292 years.

Hopefully the pattern is clear folks. Years which end in a 9 tend to throw up significant events of an important and historical character with those above only a select few. 2019 will be no different.

This will be the year the British union is dissolved and Scotland’s status as a normal independent nation is restored. Of course we will all have to campaign hard and persuade our families, friends, neighbours and workmates to vote for normality and independence but from where we stand now to where we have to reach is a much smaller leap than in 2014 and I am confident we will win this time.

Fear has two meanings. Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. In 2019 we as a nation will choose meaning number two. We will Face Everything And Rise. Use the Mandate Nicola, Name the Date. We are ready.

Tommy Sheridan 

Celtic to the Core But Don’t Just Keep the Faith – Also Keep the Heid

Today I am excited, nervous, pensive but optimistic. Confident but not conceited. My first thirty three columns have been about politics but my thirty fourth will be about my other passion in life, football and the famous Glasgow Celtic.

My team travels to the Ibrox home of our fiercest football rivals for the last league game of the 2018 calendar year. We travel with the smallest band of supporters since the first ever Glasgow Derby match in 1890. Normally 7,000 tickets are issued to Celtic for the Ibrox fixture but the high heid yins at Ibrox, home of Rangers F.C., took the decision at the start of the season to reduce that allocation of tickets to only 750. In retaliation Celtic similarly reduced the Rangers fans allocation of tickets which meant only 800 of them were present https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/celtic-vs-rangers-only-800-13178751 to see their team outplayed and comfortably defeated 1-0, going on 3 or 4 but for the woodwork and display of the Rangers keeper on the day, on Sunday, September 2nd at Celtic Park.

Such is the rivalry connected to this fixture many Celtic fans, and others, refuse to recognise Rangers as the same team that was formed in February 1872 as it was effectively liquidated at the end of season 2011/12 as a result of years of financial mismanagement and tax evasion that resulted in thousands of creditors not being paid and the club being demoted to the 4th tier of Scottish football to start all over again.

It had been in the top league in Scotland continuously since 1872 and became the first club in the world to win more than 50 national league titles, currently claiming 54 such titles. However the schemes the owners of the club devised to enable them to sign top quality players and pay them tax free wages and bonuses disadvantaged all the other clubs in the league and amounted to cheating. The fans of the club should not be held responsible for those disreputable actions but the owners certainly should as they acted criminally and with disregard for the inherent rules of fairness attached to sportsmanship.

The club and its fans have been punished through demotion and many associated with the old regime are still being pursued by the Inland Revenue for unpaid tax bills https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45322276 so I will refer to them as Rangers for ease of reference but acknowledge there is a strong case to consider them a new club given the liquidation of the old club, just as the continuous history of my own club was threatened in March 1994 when Celtic was hours from bankruptcy and liquidation due to mismanagement by two family dynasties, the Whites and the Kellys https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/fergus-mccanns-battle-save-celtic-3013568 . If Glasgow Celtic formed in 1888 had indeed went into liquidation in March 1994 one wonders if we would have lost the right to continue to call ourselves Celtic?

The aim of this column is to applaud the passion and devotion of football supporters everywhere while seeking to caution against rivalry becoming hatred and healthy competition becoming unhealthy detestation.

Violence in any form has no place in sport and getting behind your team should mean songs and chants of encouragement designed to inspire your players to brilliance on the park not hate filled jibes or songs directed against your opponents drawing attention to their skin colour, religion or other personal characteristics. By all means make your home ground an intimidating place to perform in through the volume of noise and chants in support of your team. But ditch the poison of ignorant and ugly racism and religious bigotry.

Rangers supporters should ‘Follow, Follow’ their team by all means but abhorrent declarations about ‘being up to their knees in fenian blood’ are simply unacceptable. They should stick to ‘Simply The Best’ and sing about saving their beloved Queen if they wish but ditch the hate filled bigotry and associated racism.

Passion and football go hand in hand. They are inseparable ingredients to both playing football and watching your team. It is a contact sport requiring commitment, skill, energy, thought and courage. I love players who give 100%, who play for their jersey, who are willing to run through brick walls for their team. That is what makes football the greatest of all sports. But aggression without control and commitment without discipline is simply not good enough, both on and off the park.

As a wee boy I remember travelling all over Scotland alongside my dad and uncle to support Celtic. We travelled in the St Brendan’s Celtic Supporters Bus from Linwood and from age six to ten every Saturday afternoon, and some weeknights, we faithfully followed the ‘Bhoys in Green’. In those days TV companies didn’t run football and 3pm kick offs on a Saturday were certainties.

I was spoiled as a Celtic supporter. I was too young to remember our finest triumph in Lisbon on May 25th 1967 when we became the first British team to lift the European Cup, brushing aside the mighty Italian giants of Inter Milan with style and panache and with a whole team recruited from within 30 miles of the Celtic Stadium in Parkhead on the east end of Glasgow, a feat that will never ever be repeated by any other team. But I do remember watching the incredible Battle of Britain matches between English Champions Leeds United and Scottish Champions Celtic in April 1970. It was the European Cup semi-final and Celtic had already disposed of FC Basel, Benfica and Fiorentina before meeting Leeds.

I was only 6 years old but I remember my dad and uncle being upset at how roundly Celtic was written off prior to the games by the English press. Yet we went to Leeds and won 1-0 before defeating them 2-1 in the return leg in front of an all-time record crowd in European competitions of 136,505 https://talksport.com/football/130174/top-10-biggest-attendances-european-cup-champions-league-history-unbelievably-huge-crowds/. Unfortunately we lost the European Cup final in Italy’s San Siro stadium against the unfancied Dutch team Feynoord. They beat us 2-1 after extra time and were deserved winners, the first Dutch team to lift the trophy. Although Ajax went on to lift it the next three years in a row.

My dad refused to take me to matches against Rangers, ‘Old Firm’ games, as he didn’t want me exposed to the hatred and bile that was associated with the fixture. However I distinctly remember being a very happy seven year old in May 1971 when we won the Scottish Cup against Rangers after a replay. The first game ended 1-1 in front of 120,000 supporters at Scotland’s national stadium, Hampden, and the replay took place four days later on May 12th again at Hampden. I watched the highlights of both games and thought Celtic deserved to win. Lou Macari and Harry Hood scored the goals in the replay. For a midweek game only four days after the drawn final the crowd of over 103,000 was incredible.

As an eight year old I witnessed Celtic clinch their record 7th title in a row at tiny Methil in Fife on Saturday, April 15th. We beat East Fife 3-0 but the after match celebrations were muted as we had a huge game coming up only four days later. Earlier in April Celtic had secured a credible 0-0 draw in the European Cup semi-final 1st leg away to Inter Milan. They were visiting Parkhead for the 2nd decisive leg on April 19th and we fancied our chances at home. It was a very tight game and ended goalless again. It went to penalties to decide who would play Ajax in the 1972 European Cup final. I couldn’t believe my eyes when my favourite player that season blasted his penalty over the bar. It was our 1st kick and Dixie Deans just loved scoring goals so everyone expected him to score. Sadly it wasn’t to be and the Italians were coolness personified as they each slotted their kicks home to send us home despondent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjhrLqndD1U.

However as a Celtic supporter there is always another challenge around the corner and two and half weeks later we were back to Hampden for the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian from Edinburgh. They had a right good team in those days and Celtic had an exhausting season so a tight game was expected. The crowd was again huge at over 106,000. We were moved during the game due to some overcrowding and I was placed onto my dad’s shoulders and guided onto the gravel running track surrounding the pitch and moved to another part of the ground. It didn’t dampen my spirits. We scored two early goals through legendary captain Billy McNeil and Dixie Deans before they pulled one back and half-time saw the game poised at 2-1. Then wee Dixie redeemed himself with two more wonderful goals and wrote himself into the cup final hat-trick scorers record books (he was to score another one in the league cup final two years later against Hibs again) and Celtic went on to a record setting 6-1 cup final victory with two other late goals from Lou Macari. Dixie’s ‘roly poly’ celebration after his hat-trick goal remains one of the most memorable in the history of Scottish football.

By the age of nine I began playing football with a proper team called Pollok United Boys Club. My dad took a keen interest in my development and started coming to watch me and within a year volunteered to help run the team. That began a relationship with the local football team that was to span nearly twenty years and my dad and uncle became twin volunteer coaches. I didn’t get to see as many Celtic games thereafter as I was determined to stick in and maybe one day actually play for the famous ‘Hoops’. I missed the buzz of the big crowds and the excitement on the way to the games but I wanted to be on the pitch one day not just the terraces.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be although several of my team-mates did go on to make the professional grade I was only ever good enough to play at semi-professional level for a number of ‘Junior’ teams in the west of Scotland. One of them was St Anthonys from Govan and they played in green and white hoops so those were proud seasons.

I have witnessed a lot of good robust banter and a fair share of hatred and bile so I reckon I know the difference at football matches. On August 4th 1979 I defied my dad’s wishes and sneaked away with my friend Paul to watch Celtic play Rangers in the Dryborough cup final at Hampden. In truth we were poor that day and were well beaten 3-1. Two Rangers Greats turned on the style that day and sunk us with superb goals. Sandy Jardine and Davie Cooper were excellent. A guy I went on to befriend and play alongside in charity football games scored the third, John MacDonald. We left before the cup was presented and what happened next made the day more memorable than the game.

As we waited for the bus to my friends’ house in Glasgow city centre we were involved in an altercation that could have changed my life. In order to hide the fact I was going to the game I had to stay overnight with my friend. We were only 15 and he stayed in a place called Erskine outside of Glasgow. I proudly wore my Celtic scarf around my neck, something my dad always discouraged, and after a while a group of Rangers fans assembled at the same bus stop as us, on Argyle Street under a railway bridge. This one guy with a Rangers scarf around his neck turned to me and said “shite round your neck”. I took that to be a challenge and replied, stupidly in retrospect, “naw shite round your neck”. Within seconds the guy next to the big mouth turned round and approached where I was sort of sitting against the big glass window of a shop. I stood up to meet him and regretted the fact he was bigger than his mate. In for a penny, in for a pound I thought. It’s going to be a ‘square-go’, a fist fight. I stood up straight to face him and readied myself to throw a punch if he raised his hands. Then whoosh, quick as a flash, a big shiny metal blade is held up to my cheek and I froze. “Dae ye wan it the noo”? is what I think I heard him say and I looked up at the bus top deck which had now arrived at the bus stop and saw a number of Rangers supporters gesticulating in a way which was designed to encourage this guy to slash my face.

This all happened in a matter of seconds but felt like an eternity to me. The blade looked huge and I swear I could feel it against my jaw when I suddenly noticed a big bare forearm in my eye-line firmly grab this guy’s knife-hand and pull it away from my jaw with the words “you don’t need tae dae that tae him”, quickly followed by an instruction to me, “fuck off wee man”. I didn’t need any further encouragement. My legs were like jelly but they managed to carry me away from the bus stop along Argyle Street and around the corner into Anderston bus station where I stopped to catch my breath and discuss what had happened with my mate Paul and try and stop my legs shaking.

I should say to this day I rebuke my mate for not intervening to save me but he insists it was better for both of us that he didn’t rise to the challenge that day. The real moral of this tale is that the guy who saved me with the large bare forearm actually had a prominent tattoo on it. I remember it vividly. It was a man in a big white horse. It was a depiction of King Billy of whom Rangers fans sing constantly in reference to the 1690 Battle of the Boyne which they interpret as a victory against the ‘Papists’. Frankly that day, at that moment, I couldn’t give a damn about the historical dubiety of the whole story I was just glad to be kept out of the hospital accident and emergency department getting stitches to what would have been a permanently scarred face.

At fifteen years of life I could have been horribly disfigured for wearing a Celtic scarf and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sadly many others have not been as fortunate as me. Some fans have been brutally assaulted and even killed in hate filled violence connected with ‘Old Firm’ games (https://www.theguardian.com/football/1999/sep/18/newsstory.sport15 ; https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/rangers-fan-admits-kicking-celtic-1034336 ; https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-1362761/Old-Firm-derby-shame-Pitbull-savagery-Celtic-Rangers-worth-mayhem.html ). Mindless and savage acts of violence that have killed and maimed individuals over football rivalry are simply pathetic and unacceptable. They are a badge of shame for Scotland and although statistics show things are not as bad today as they were when I was in my teens one single assault is one too many.

I am a pretty fanatical Celtic fan. I will be over the moon if we win at Ibrox today and Brilliant Brendan Rodgers writes himself into the history books as the first manager to lead Celtic to 5 successive victories there for 100 years. I will be sad if we get beat or even only draw but that passion is contained within the necessary recognition that it is only a game of football. I will watch the game in my house with mixed company. The 5 Celtic fans will outnumber the 2 Rangers fans and will be given uncomfortable seats but we will watch the game together, slag each other, rip the piss out of each other and then move on. We are friends before the game and we will be friends after the game no matter what happens.

Some of my closest, most loyal and most trusted friends are die-hard Rangers fans. Our banter can sometimes be fierce but it is always only banter. I hope for a great Celtic victory today as much as any fan but I hope just as much for a trouble-free and violence free day. Don’t let yourself down today whatever colour you are wearing. Support your team to the hilt but remember it is only a game. Hail, hail.

Tommy Sheridan 

“Remember No Man Is A Failure Who Has Friends”

I am writing under duress. I am under strict orders from my boss and harshest critic to lighten up this column. To be cognisant that it will appear on December 24th, Christmas Eve, and many people don’t want hard hitting politics at this time of year but some light hearted comment and chat. Those instructions are issued by my rock in life, my best friend, my inspiration and my most trusted and loyal companion. The woman I love and adore with all my heart. My school friend over the last 40 years, my girlfriend for 25 years and my wife for 18 years, Gail is both my boss and my best friend. She has ordered me to lighten up and her instincts are normally better than mine so I will try to comply.

Gail, me and my 13 year old daughter Gabrielle were tucked up together in front of our cosy fire and big Christmas tree watching the best Christmas movie of all time last night. I’m not talking about ‘National Lampoons Christmas Vacation’, or ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas’, or ‘Christmas with the Kranks’ or even ‘Miracle of 34th Street’, all of which are excellent Christmas films. And I’m certainly not talking about ‘Die Hard’, which is never a Christmas film. I’m talking about ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

We have seen it loads of times but every year we watch it again close to Christmas day. We laugh and cry in equal measure. It is a story full of hope that promotes the values of human solidarity and friendship above individual greed and selfishness. The story the film is based on, ‘The Greatest Gift’, was written in 1939 when the world was plunged into a dark but ultimately necessary war against the inhumanity and savage cruelty of Hitler’s fascist forces as they sought to dominate the world. Perhaps it was meant as an antidote to that darkness.

The name Philip Van Doren Stern is not as recognisable as Frank Capra (born Francesco Rosario Capra) but both were born into humble households in America, Van Doren Stern the child of immigrants from Bavaria and Capra an Italian immigrant. Although started in 1939 Van Doren Stern didn’t finish his 4,000 word story until 1943 but couldn’t find a publisher. It is a story which essentially compels us all to appreciate what we have in life and what we have achieved, large and small, through the trials and tribulations of an ordinary man who reaches such a low point in his own life that he contemplates suicide.

A second class angel seeking his first class wings intervenes to prevent the man from jumping to his death from a bridge. He grants him his wish of never being born and allows him to see for himself the consequences. The brother whose life he had saved in a grave instead of becoming a war hero, the loved ones whose lives took less happy paths without him and the friends who didn’t benefit from his kindness and friendship. Saddened by what he saw the man realised he was worth something after all and that he had helped many people in his life. He begged the angel to reverse the initial wish and the powerful message that is conveyed by the tale is that life itself is the greatest gift of all.

Van Doren Stern’s story is as inspiring in fact as it is in fiction. Started in 1939, finished in 1943, he refused to be defeated by the fact no publisher was interested in it. He printed off 200 copies into a 21 page booklet and sent them to his friends and family as Christmas presents in December 1943. Two years later he privately published it and copyrighted it. That was a wise move. The film production company RKO purchased the film rights to the story before selling them on for the initial purchase price, $10,000, to the production company of Frank Capra in 1945. He and other writers adapted the story for the big screen and the story, ‘The Greatest Gift’, became the film, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in 1946.

The core message in the story was obviously retained but welcome adaptations included the changing of the man’s surname from George Pratt to George Bailey and the changing of the surname of the woman he married. She was originally Mary Thatcher but was changed to Mary Hatch. I simply couldn’t retain the same warmth for this film if the main female role was a Thatcher and the main man was a Pratt…

Although considered a classic Christmas movie nowadays, securing top spot in Channel 5’s ‘Greatest 100 Christmas Movies’ two nights ago, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was actually panned as a flop in 1946/47 and lost a considerable amount of money for the film studio at the time https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Wonderful_Life . However it has stood the test of time and should, in my opinion, be required viewing in every household and included in the senior school curriculum.

The film is so good it attracted opprobrium from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its display of “communist tendencies” and its attempt to “discredit bankers”. The triumph of basic human solidarity over cold and callous business practices was too much for the paranoid and witch-hunting FBI to stomach. On May 1947 they issued an angry memo:

“With regard to the picture ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. [In] addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.” https://www.wisebread.com/fbi-considered-its-a-wonderful-life-communist-propaganda

 

Movies that “deliberately” malign the “upper class” are always welcome in my book but in truth the core message of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is that true wealth is not defined by the size of bank accounts, cost of cars or value of houses but by family, friendships, virtue and principles. Integrity is priceless is what ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ conveys in abundance. No wonder the multi-award winning director Frank Capra insisted throughout his life that it was the best film he ever made https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Capra . If the FBI doesn’t like something then it’s probably worth watching in my opinion.

When Gail reads this column I will in all likelihood get a clip around the ear. She ordered it to be light but I’ve managed to politicise my top Christmas movie choice. The dog house beckons. The point is everything in life is political. Those who run society and benefit from the status quo of grotesque poverty and inequality always discourage us from being political. We should leave all the big decisions to them for they know best. Just do as your told and don’t ask the most important question of all, ‘why’? Why thousands more are homeless this Christmas when the UK is considered the 4th richest entity in the world? Why wages for millions of workers are inadequate to live on? Why the gap between rich and poor is bigger now than at any time since records began?

I start out trying to be less serious, more irreverent but my whole adult life has been consumed by a burning anger against injustice, poverty and needless wars so I can’t help myself. Gail will understand. She knows me better than anyone.

Tomorrow is Christmas day and even those of us without religious beliefs can still enjoy and endorse the encouragements to treat each other with love and tolerance and respect at this time of the year and use those sentiments to promote such feelings throughout the year. Remember regardless of colour, creed, nationality or religion we are all members of the one race, the human race.

When I make my annual appearance in Our Lady of Lourdes chapel tonight for the traditional midnight mass service (a family tradition that now takes place at 7pm or 9pm in this Parish) the most potent message from the Catholic Priest will be his exhortation for all of us in attendance to offer each other a sign of peace by shaking the hands of those next to you and around you. Strangers whose hands you embrace as a sign of friendship. That’s the symbolism that should be universal from all religions and none. Those strangers are merely friends we are yet to meet.

I am lucky indeed to have so many riches in the shape of loved ones and friends. Sometimes in the midst of our busy lives and determination to do all we can to provide for our children we lose sight of what really matters in life. Many are compelled to work long and hard hours for the benefit of the kids but forget that quality time spent with them, talking to them, holding them and expressing our love for them is more important than any super-duper x-box, iPhone, new trainers or laptops.

Just as Philip Van Doren Stern tried to teach us in his ‘The Greatest Gift’ story and Frank Capra sought to convey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ our treatment of other human beings, our acts of kindness and compassion towards one and other and our willingness to support and respect others are the real riches in life.

The closing scene of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ has a poem of one of Scotland’s finest sons, the sublime Robert Burns, playing in the background. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is being sung as George Bailey opens the gift left under the Christmas tree for him by his departed angel. That gift is his copy of the Mark Twain classic, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’, with the magnificent inscription: “Remember no man is a failure who has friends”.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Tommy Sheridan

“Pan Am 103 – The Truth Must Be Known”

Today more than any other day I implore you to embrace the loved ones you live with and declare your love for them. Contact those you do not live with and tell them how much you love them, think about them and care about them. Call your mum, dad, children, grandparents and others special to you but out of reach of your physical embrace. Do it and do it today.

You see Jim and Jane Swire would give up all the riches on earth, all the money in the world, just to be able to pick up a phone and speak to their daughter Flora and enquire after her life, her work, her travels and her hopes for the future. But they can’t. They are denied that simple delight because their “vivacious, funny, shrewd and beautiful” daughter, “a terrific searcher after truth” http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/ is gone forever, claimed ruthlessly on this evening exactly thirty years ago across the Scottish town of Lockerbie on the eve of her 24th birthday.

Flora perished alongside 258 other passengers and crew on board the Pan Am 103 flight from London to New York and 11 residents of Lockerbie unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as the wreckage of that fateful plane crashed to the ground causing carnage, pain and devastation which still cuts deep into the memories of all affected and the whole of Scotland 30 years on.

Two hundred and seventy men, women and children, including babies and toddlers, were murdered on the 21st of December 1988. The worst terrorist atrocity in the UK’s history saw the lives of the likes of Flora Swire, on route to visit her boyfriend in New York for Christmas, snuffed out. Two hundred and seventy lives were ended suddenly, without warning. It is a dark and sad day in our history and it is why I urge those of us still here to think of our loved ones and communicate our feelings on this day. We should never take life for granted. We should cherish it, live it and regularly hold those we love close and tell them how we feel.

Within weeks of this terrible tragedy in Lockerbie the incredible Jim Swire became a face on our TV screens and newspapers and an eloquent voice for truth and justice in relation to the atrocity. The lapel badge he wore read: “Pan Am 103: The Truth Must Be Known” and through his unbearable pain and intolerable grief he demanded answers and justice for his daughter and the other 269 victims and their loved ones devastated by the bomb which exploded on that Boeing 747 that dark winter night.

Like rubbing salt into an open wound Jim Swire’s grief and torment is as searing today as it was when he had to identify his daughter’s scorched body by a mole on her toe in the Lockerbie mortuary two days after the plane was blown from the sky because thirty years on the perpetrators and organisers of that atrocity are still at large. Those who planned and carried out the Lockerbie bombing are yet to be prosecuted and justice delayed is justice denied.

Now 82 years of age Jim Swire continues to fight for truth and justice in relation to Lockerbie. Like anyone with a morsel of brain matter in between their ears he knows that the trial of Abdelbaset al Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah in a makeshift Scottish Court convened in the Netherlands in late 2000 that led to the conviction of Megrahi in January 2001 was not just a farce but a concerted and contrived cover up involving the British and American governments at the highest levels.

The pre-trial preparations, live trial obfuscations and subsequent conviction of Megrahi represents the darkest day in Scottish legal history and process. The collusion of some of the most senior judges in Scotland in what was no more than a pantomime of justice is shocking and although criminal conduct has been surprisingly ruled out by a lengthy police investigation, Operation Sandwood  http://www.scotland.police.uk/whats-happening/news/2018/November/Outcome-of-Operation-Sandwood-investigation , professional negligence charges should still be brought against the three senior judges who jointly prosecuted the case against the two accused and determined their guilt or innocence. The role normally reserved for a jury of peers in murder trials was subsumed by three judges whose decision to find Megrahi guilty on the basis of the evidence presented was both bizarre and troubling.

The Justice For Megrahi (JFM) Campaign was formed after he was convicted of 270 counts of murder on 31st January 2001 and involves victims’ families, former and current legal practitioners and others concerned with opposing miscarriages of justice. One of its members, Len Murray a retired Scottish criminal court solicitor, said of the conviction of Megrahi:

“any notion that the case against Megrahi was “overwhelming”, “could not be further from the truth”… and

“It is worth bearing in mind that while the three [Scottish] judges [who tried the case] were experienced judges, judges in our High Court have never ever had to determine guilt or innocence – that’s always left to the jury,” he added. “But, when for the first time in modern legal history, it’s left to three judges, they get it appallingly wrong.” https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/02/pan-flight-103-lockerbie-bomber-guilty-160211101436307.html

“Appallingly wrong”. That is the verdict of just about anyone who followed the case in 2000/01. Megrahi was subsequently released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 as he had contracted terminal cancer and eventually died of his cancer in 2012 in Libya. He was appealing his conviction prior to compassionate release but was advised to drop the appeal to help facilitate his return to Libya. Fortunately a posthumous appeal is still being pursued via the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, a body specifically established to examine potential miscarriages of justice and make recommendations for conviction appeals to be heard based on examination of the trial evidence, new evidence and/or legal process failings. They are currently considering the case and will hopefully recommend Megrahi’s conviction is appealed against in Scotland’s’ Criminal Court of Appeal next year https://inews.co.uk/news/scotland/lockerbie-bomber-abdelbaset-almegrahi-exonerated/ .

It is a fact of life that atrocities lend themselves to miscarriages of justice. The more grotesque the crime the greater the clamour for some sort of justice and corners in investigations will be cut, proper legal processes warped and even evidence concocted or withheld to secure convictions. Think of the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six, Maguire Seven https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-46255575 all prime examples of unsafe convictions delivered on the back of false testimonies, fabricated evidence, withheld evidence and warped police investigations and judicial failures. In the pursuit of those guilty of heinous crimes often innocent citizens can find themselves framed and ruined.

Do yourself a favour over the next couple of weeks. Take a rest from festive films and watch Jim Sheridan’s ‘In The Name of the Father’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Name_of_the_Father_(film) . It is based on the autobiography of Gerry Conlon, ‘Proved Innocent: The Story of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four’ and is a devastating condemnation of the British justice system. If you watch it and are not enraged and driven to tears of anger at the injustice it portrays you are bereft of humanity.

The arrest, trial and conviction of Abdelbaset al Megrahi for the murder of 270 people above and in Lockerbie 30 years ago today is also a travesty of justice. Don’t take my word for it. Consult the evidence painstakingly sought, found, uncovered and presented by the likes of the outstanding investigative journalist, the late Paul Foot, http://www.sacc.org.uk/sacc/docs/lockerbie_flight_from_justice.pdf , the bastion of legal integrity in Scotland, Professor Robert Black QC, http://lockerbiecase.blogspot.com/ , the incredible and inspiring Jim Swire http://www.lockerbietruth.com/ , the courageous and consistent English solicitor Gareth Peirce, who was also integrally involved in the Guildford Four case, http://www.sacc.org.uk/articles/2009/framing-al-megrahi and the various campaigns which have done so much to expose this miscarriage of justice and many more like the Scottish Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) http://www.sacc.org.uk/ .

I dedicate this column to the victims of Lockerbie 21st December 1988 and the truth and justice campaigners like Jim Swire who have managed to deal with the unbearable pain and suffering associated with the loss of a child in such tragic circumstances but still pursue the truth on behalf of the whole of society. He will not rest until the truth about Lockerbie is uncovered and he and all affected by the horror that visited Scotland 30 years ago deserve those answers and that truth to be revealed. As for the rest of us let us reflect today and tonight just how lucky we are to still be able to hug our children and loved ones and tell them how much we love them.

Tommy Sheridan 

“I am out, I’m leaving” – Brilliant News from Lord ‘Self-Seeking’ Sugar

Good Morning Britain on ITV rarely inspires me to smile. The sound of pompous Piers Morgan pontificate endlessly about the only topic which interests him, namely himself, spoils your morning and can cause grumpiness to infect your day. Sadly the memory function on our telly means the cost of watching anything on STV the night before is his bullying ‘baw’ face beaming from the screen when you switch on for some news with your breakfast in the morning.

Before I could rescue the remote control from Gail’s gentle hand last week to remove the egotistical and vainglorious buffoon from my kitchen I heard one of his equally self-absorbed and conceited mates, Lord Alan ‘Smug’ Sugar, state with the conviction of a deluded self-important narcissist his intention to “leave this country” if Jeremy Corbyn is elected Prime Minister. “I am out, I’m leaving, I will leave this country” he repeated, oblivious to the millions of cheers he inspired in households that had similarly stumbled upon his interview.

Leave aside for the moment his “this country” ignorance. Britain isn’t a country Mr Sugar. It is a union of countries which includes England, Scotland and Wales. However I don’t want to undermine his commitment in any way. I accept he meant England. That he would leave England. I’m happy with that. So, I suspect, will millions of others pissed off with this guys’ ignorant racism, boorish sexism and snobbish belittlement of anyone not a multi-millionaire like him.

Alan Sugar is in truth the ‘useful idiot’ poster boy of free market capitalism and its wealthy acolytes. Never mind the grotesque inequality, longer and longer hours, reduced public services, ripped social fabric and ‘dog eat dog- me myself I’ mind-set caused by capitalism’s private ownership of the means of production you too can become a millionaire ‘if you just work harder and accept more shit’ is the fantastic dream peddled shamelessly by the Mainstream Media on a daily basis as it defends and props up the status quo.

I remember hearing it over and over again when I was a boy that so and so the millionaire was ‘self-made’ and therefore beyond reproach and not like the other ones who were born into wealth and privilege. They ‘worked hard’ to get where they are. It’s not all about inherited privilege and wealth. This free market capitalist system is actually a meritocracy and rewards hard work and endeavour. It is a fair system.

Then I would think about my dad on early morning starts walking the 3 miles from our tenement in Pollok to his Hillington Rolls Royce factory every morning to work in the storeroom. He and thousands of engineers, draughtsmen, cleaners and managers who ‘worked hard’ but never seemed to make the grade as millionaires. Sure my dad turned down overtime shifts because he believed instead of offering overtime the company should take on more full time staff. He then started managing the local football team as an unpaid volunteer alongside scores of other ‘hard working’ men and women who just wanted to make our community a better place with opportunities for local kids.

When my dad passed away a couple of years ago he left behind a legacy of three balanced children with assorted skills and qualifications. His volunteer football work had opened the door to scores of young men to step up to the grade of professional footballers and managers. But he hadn’t made the grade as a millionaire. Was he lazy, unlucky or just not a hard enough worker? No he was far from lazy, lucky to have a great family and worked just as hard as most working class mums and dads. Not becoming that millionaire is not a personal failing it is a systemic failure of a system which promotes the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Lord ‘Self-Obsessed’ Sugar may have millions in the bank but his values account is empty. He looks down his nose at qualified teachers, trained firefighters, dedicated nurses, office cleaners and others and refers to them as ‘losers’ and ‘jealous non-achievers’ for the crime of joining the Labour Party in England and supporting Jeremy Corbyn. Sugar was a Hackney market trader who made it big in the world of sales and was prepared to sell his proverbial granny to succeed. He loved Margaret Thatcher and was prepared to forget his working class roots to embrace the Conservatives and their vicious anti-working class policies which caused mass poverty, despair and division. He donated thousands of pounds to the Tories. He also supported John Major. But in true principle barren fashion he soon dropped his Tory infatuation for love of Tony Blair after he was elected PM in 1997.

From being a “tremendous supporter” of Margaret Thatcher https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/lord-alan-sugar-jeremy-corbyn-labour-leave-country-gmb-the-apprentice-a8685171.html in the 1980’s pithless Sugar embraced Tony Blair and even joined the Labour Party. From Thatcherite True Blue to Blairite Apostle in the blink of an eye! That says as much about Sugar as it does about Blair’s New Labour Party. Of course the allegiance to war monger Blair and donations of hundreds of thousands of pounds was purely driven by sincerely held principles and had nothing to do with the promise of a peerage. That ‘accolade’ was a mere coincidence bestowed on him in 2009 allowing him to swan about in his taxpayer funded red ermine robe and be called a Lord with the type of life peerage that only good money can buy. No wonder I despise that place and demand its abolition. More will follow on that topic in a future column.

Mr Sugar utilises his Twitter account to espouse his casual racism, overt sexism and fundamental ignorance https://www.digitalspy.com/showbiz/a862872/the-apprentice-lord-alan-sugar-twitter-sexist-tweet/ yet he still receives public money from the BBC to front the blood curdling ‘The Apprentice’ show and whenever he decides to clock in at the Lords for his £300 daily allowance. The guy is a brash loudmouth who abandoned Labour under Ed Miliband and branded him, without a hint of irony, an “idiot” and now attacks ordinary Labour Party members and basic democracy:

Hah democratic election. “Hi losers I know you cant stand people who seem better off from by being successful and you have achieved nothing in your life so for £3 you can join the labour party and vote in the anarchist Marxists Corbyn. First thing we will do is buy him a suit https://t.co/XPpjyylnfg

Yes they had more 
members as the idiot Ed Milleband made Labour nembership fee £3 . This attached all the jealous non achievers
https://t.co/MhN87uoTS6

 

Forget the spelling, grammar and sentence construction errors for a moment (has the former computer salesman forget to activate his spellcheck?) concentrate on the condescending and patronising dismissal of critics as “losers” and “jealous non achievers”. This guy will never suffer from any bowel related medical problems because he is undoubtedly a perfect arsehole.

Ordinary Labour member victims of his insults have offered even better ripostes on Twitter:

Thank you Sugar, because of your utter contempt for the poor who you believe are jealous of your wealth I shall for the 1st time ever join  @UKLabour it seems us poor people should stick together and destroy the elite!! https://t.co/nH9r3khwXG

 

And:

Replying to @Lord_Sugar

Pretty bold to call the party with more members than the rest combined and 42% of the electorate ready to vote for them “anti enterprise” or anarchist. I’m a small business owner. I support Labour as I beleive in social justice. It’s not the jump you make it sound like, Sugar.

9:58 PM – 14 Dec 2018

https://twitter.com/JackDunc1/status/1073683555790786563

The list of “jealous non achievers” Silky Sugar refers to would include the hundreds of thousands of teachers, social workers, nurses, fire fighters and other public service workers and ordinary citizens who have joined Corbyn’s Labour Party because it appears to be committed to real social justice and attacking the grotesque inequalities of wealth and power which scar society. Sugar and his millionaire elite don’t fancy a political party in power committed to fair taxation, public ownership and improved workers’ rights. That’s why they denigrate him at every opportunity.

This is a man who stooped lower than a sewer rat to Tweet a Photoshopped picture of Corbyn in a car alongside Adolf Hitler. A man who has spent his life verbally and physically opposing anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms is depicted as a friend of Hitler by this ignoramus. Under pressure he deleted the picture but showed no contrition:

pi.. off enjoy life with @jeremycorbyn I reluctantly took that picture down , but you know what they say “many a true word spoken in jest” https://bit.ly/2A2Hvnp 

 

Well Mr Moneybags Sugar I will be voting for a party at the next general election committed to Scottish independence and cutting off political ties with a system that allows a democratic carbuncle like the place you bought your seat in to exist. Sadly that is not Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party because it persists in denying the right of self-determination to my nation however I urge any English citizen with a fibre of social justice in their blood and an ounce of courage in their body to vote for Jeremy Corbyn and his radical programme of wealth and power redistribution.

I hope with all my heart that Jeremy Corbyn does become the next Prime Minister and you are forced to keep your word and piss off to some tax haven province that will welcome you with open arms. I will gladly contribute to any crowd funder established to raise the taxi fare to the airport.

You should be ashamed of your casual racism, your overt sexism and your belittling denigration of ordinary working class members of the Labour Party. But your recent Photoshopping of a man with an impeccable record in fighting fascists and racists alongside a picture of the despicable Adolf Hitler illustrates just how low you are prepared to stoop as an individual. You are a disgrace Mr Sugar and the sooner you “leave the country” the better for everyone who adheres to basic social justice and equality. You constantly bleat about paying your taxes. Big bloody deal. Millions of workers pay theirs every single week at a higher proportion of their income than you and your millionaire chums. Don’t forget to pack your mirror when you leave. I doubt you could survive without it.

 

Tommy Sheridan 

Save Scotland from the British Union – Not Britain from Brexit

In a timelyintervention this week one of the Scottish National Party’s longest servingMPs, Angus MacNeil, sought to remind his parliamentary colleagues in bothWestminster and Holyrood that the SNP stands for Scottish independence and isnot the ‘Scottish Stop Brexit Party’ https://www.thenational.scot/news/17291135.the-snp-must-focus-on-independence-not-stopping-brexit/. Writing in The National newspaper on Wednesday, December 12th,Angus put the whole British Brexit mess in context for those of us committed tobreaking up the British union not saving it:

“Against all of this, the SNP has to refocus and has to be clear on its demands, given the ruling from the ECJ (the European Court of Justice ruling that the UK Parliament can unilaterally revoke the Article 50 process of exiting the European Union). The demand has to be to revoke Article 50 or we hold our mandated independence referendum, as the SNP manifesto stated we would do, if we were taken out of Europe against our national sovereign will.”

“Independence is the core policy of the SNP. People’s Votes and even votes of no confidence are merely rabbit holes to get lost in …”

Not for the first time I applauded Angus in his forthright, correct and utterly appropriate statement. I well recall speaking at scores of meetings during the 2015 General Election campaign urging socialists and Indy supporters to unite behind the SNP as the vehicle most able and likely to deliver IndyRef2 and ultimately independence. I took a lot of flak from fellow socialists who felt I was selling the socialist jerseys by supporting a party that was tied to the free market not committed to overthrowing it.

My position then, as now, was the interests of the Scottish working classes are best served by the break-up of the repressive, restrictive and exploitative British union and that meant supporting the party of independence best positioned to win.

Some good comrades of mine disagreed and even left Solidarity, my socialist party, in protest. I don’t hold grudges against those comrades. They are class fighters and in 99% of battles we will be on the same side of the barricades.

However in a General Election scenario, with a deeply flawed First Past the Post electoral system, every vote cast for the SNP was a vote for independence and against the British union. The fact the SNP manifesto was explicitly anti-austerity, anti-nuclear weapons and anti-privatisation of the NHS and other public services made the decision easier to defend as they were clearly standing on a left of centre manifesto. Not a socialist manifesto but definitely a left of centre one.

Faced with the choice of Meek Milliband and his Blairite band of austerity apologists it was a no-brainer for me. It would be an unnecessary and unwise division of the Indy Family to stand against the SNP. The strength of the unionists in uniting for Britain in the 2014 referendum could become the strength of the YES Movement in 2015 by uniting behind Scotland’s left of centre party of independence.

That unity strategy required other parties to lower their flags for the good of the bigger cause. Sometimes your own party political interests must become subordinate to the bigger interests of the cause. It was hugely successful. The SNP won an incredible number of Scotland’s Westminster seats, 56 of the 59 contested. Indeed had the Green party stood aside in the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale County Constituency and urged their supporters to back the SNP at that election the supine and supremely slavish and anti-Scottish interests Tory MP, David Mundell, the only one elected, could have been ousted. The Greens only attracted 839 votes but those votes diverted to the excellent SNP candidate, registered nurse Emma Harper, instead would have been enough to prevent Mundell being elected and going on to become the Scottish Secretary of State. Instead of one MP in Scotland the Tories could have been reduced to none https://www.dgwgo.com/regional-news/general-election-2015-results-for-dumfrishire-and-dumfries-and-galloway/ .

I travelled to Dumfriesshire to support the SNP campaign there and to several other key target seats. Alongside my United YES Movement message was the clarion call to all SNP representatives sent to the Westminster Parliament:

“We are sending you down there on behalf of Scotland to settle up, not to settle down.”

In the course of the last three years I sincerely hope that clear statement of intent has not been forgotten by the band of SNP MPs. There were 56 of them elected in 2015 and 35 of them elected in 2017, more than all the unionist party MPs combined. Frankly I couldn’t care less if they secure positions on parliamentary committees or turn up to more debates than any of the other MPs. They are there with the goal of disruption and destruction of the British union in mind not to make it work better or run smoothly.

Westminster has exploited Scotland’s abundant natural resources for years and squandered our vast oil wealth on enriching the few while impoverishing the many. They have treated Scotland and her people with utter contempt. It is an institution which deserves no respect from us or our representatives.

In June this year the SNP Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, led a walkout of SNP colleagues in protest at Westminster stealing powers from the Scottish Parliament https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/13/snp-mps-walk-out-of-commons-in-protest-over-brexit-debate . Last week he implied Theresa May was a liar in relation to her Brexit deal while speaking in Parliament and went further on the BBC Question Time show by actually calling her a liar https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/uk/1625678/you-lied-snp-westminster-leader-tells-may/ . These actions and condemnations are justified and welcome but both were in relation to the Brexit mess not in relation to the scandal of Universal Credit imposition, swingeing real terms reductions to the Scottish block grant leading to deep cuts in essential local government services or the continuing and shameful rise in in-work poverty due to inadequate pay and insecure working conditions. Scotland’s poorest citizens are protected from Tory policies like the Bedroom Tax by the Scottish Government diverting funds from one budget to another but they are the equivalent of an Elastoplast being applied to a gaping stab wound.

While Westminster runs the show Scotland as a nation will experience stunted growth and increased poverty and social inequality. That’s why Angus MacNeil’s words this week are so important and timely.

The SNP has to stop expending valuable time and energy trying to save Britain from Brexit and start spending more time and energy rescuing Scotland from the British union. Their very reason for existence is the pursuit of independence. From Twitter feeds to Facebook posts I want to see SNP politicians devote more space and time to the cause of independence and less to the Brexit shenanigans.

Sure Scotland voted decisively to stay in the EU by 62% but poll after poll indicates up to one third of independence supporters also voted Brexit https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/scotland-blog/2016/may/12/eurosceptic-snp-voters-could-influence-eu-referendum-result-polling-data-shows. Perhaps they see the fundamentally undemocratic nature of that institution and its willingness to impose austerity measures on member nations like Greece, Portugal and others while standing idly by in the face of fascistic repression and brutality against the Catalan people by the right wing state of Spain.

The SNP was for many years opposed to membership of the EU as it was interpreted as a body interfering in Scotland’s sovereignty. Some rejected the idea of replacing London rule with Brussels rule. That changed in the mid-1980’s around the ‘Social Europe’ project of Jacques Delors, the French Socialist President of the European Commission, whose concerns for the poor and poorer countries of the EU contrasted with the cold and cruel chauvinism of Thatcher in Britain http://ukandeu.ac.uk/brexit-reigniting-old-scottish-grievances/.

The left may have held some sway within the EU of the 80’s but today it is a predominantly centre right institution pursuing austerity and free market liberalisation at every opportunity. It is no cuddly friend of the poor or the workers. Nor is it a supporter of national self-determination as the Catalans have found out to their cost.

Socialists like me supported Brexit for radically different reasons than bam pot millionaires like Boris Johnson, racist Farage and double-barrelled Mogg. Just like Remainers supported remain for different reasons than Cruel Cameron, Malevolent May and war-criminal Blair. I am satisfied that the clear majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU but they are being dragged out against their democratically expressed will. In an independent Scotland a straightforward and inclusive referendum can be held to determine whether we apply to re-join or not. Some whom I fight alongside for independence may be on a different side to me in that campaign but that is fine because it will be Scotland deciding for herself not England deciding for everyone else.

In common with other big issues like membership of NATO, recognition of the Monarchy and a distinct Scottish currency I am prepared to postpone final decisions until after our independence is secured and Scotland alone will be allowed to decide. Those united for independence may have different views on those matters but we are absolutely united on independence. Imagine a country being able to decide such issues? Imagine a country getting the government it actually votes for? That is not crazy notion that is a normal state of affairs and that is what we seek for Scotland.

The SNP may be hesitant about ringing the bell to announce IndyRef2 in the midst of the Brexit chaos but it must quickly comprehend that Britain’s mess is not of our making and our energy has to be focused on breaking up the unfair and exploitative British union not keeping it together. Opportunities like this to face up to a weak and divided foe will not last forever.

I implorethe SNP leadership to heed the plea of their own senior Member of Parliamentand concentrate more on pursuing IndyRef2 and less on People’s Votes andWestminster chicanery. They stood on a clear IndyRef2 mandate in 2016 and 2017and won both times. Those standing on a Brexit2 platform in 2017 were trounced.The democratic mandate for IndyRef2 was fought hard for and won. Use it now andconfirm we will get the chance to vote for our freedom from Westminster in theearly part of 2019.

Tommy Sheridan 

‘May Is Finished – Good Riddance I Say: Now Let’s Get the Flock Outta Here’

Staggeringfrom disarray to shambles, embarrassment to humiliation, cock-ups toclimb-downs, Theresa May’s Government is in chaos. Defeated three times inParliament on the one day then found guilty of treating Parliament withcontempt. Her Government is making history for all the wrong reasons. Herlamentable stint as Prime Minister is nearly over but she should considerapplying for a role as an extra in the next series of ‘The Walking Dead’because acting like a zombie would come naturally to her.

I have stated it clearly in previous columns and I will re-iterate it here. Theresa May lost her authority and credibility when she chose to call a snap General Election in 2017 and lost her Parliamentary majority in the process. Despite the storm of lies, distortions and biased coverage against Jeremy Corbyn he actually secured the biggest swing to Labour since 1945. That election result was the death knell for Malevolent May but her arrogance and aloofness prevented her from realising it or admitting it.

May isfinished and I am glad. She is a cold, callous and cruel politician. That madeher ideal to lead the Tory party but incapable of leading the UK. My bloodboils when I hear pompous pundits pontificating about her stoicism and couragein the Brexit negotiations. She is not stoic she is bloody minded and she isnot courageous she is cowardly. It’s the ‘only deal on the table’ she has beentrying to tell us for weeks. There is no other deal available she said. Yetthat ‘May Deal’ was withdrawn from a Parliamentary vote tonight because she wasgoing to get gubbed. Her ‘deal’ was going to be voted down by a margin of over100. She has not withdrawn it in the UK’s interests she has withdrawn it in herown interests. She is so deluded she thinks she can still save her premiership.She is selfish to the core.

When she finally jumps or is pushed, one or the other is inevitable, no one should shed a tear. Those middle and upper class pundits who shower her with plaudits have never had to claim benefits or deal with the real life tragedies of claimants forced onto her Universal Credit scheme and denied the means to live for several weeks. They have never had to confront the pain and anguish of disabled and cancer riddled citizens being informed they are ‘fit for work’ despite their incurable and life restricting illnesses making them vulnerable and reliant on welfare support.

Theresa Mayhas been in Government as a Minister and Prime Minister for 11 years now in oneform or another. She headed up the Home Office when it consciously sought tocreate the type of ‘Unwelcome Environment’ for immigrants upon which the scumof the BNP, English Defence League, UKIP and others fed in a racist frenzy ofignorant scapegoating. As if Britain had no poverty, low pay or housingshortages until immigration from other EU countries was opened up. Utter pish.Many immigrants are the victims of low pay and poverty not the cause butoverall every single analysis has shown time and time again that immigrants arenet contributors to society through taxes, National Insurance contributions andskills inputs not a drain on society as the pea brained racists would have usbelieve.

This is awoman who has supported the illegal removal of Gaddafi in Libya and istherefore implicated in the carnage that followed. She wanted to send fighterjets to Syria in an act of obedience to America and when that was thwartedsupported the supply of weapons to anti-Assad forces despite their clearconnections to ISIS and other Islamic terror groups. She has courted thetyrannical regime of Saudi Arabia to secure missile and bomb sales in the clearand certain knowledge that those bombs were being dropped on thousands ofinnocents in Yemen as the Saudis pursued an immoral and illegal war. This is awoman, in other words, without compassion or morals. Don’t allow the out oftouch ‘mainstream media luvvies’ convince you otherwise.

Yet fromthis carnage at Westminster Scotland can emerge as a potentially stable,progressive and prosperous independent nation if the SNP Government show thenecessary vision and courage to ring the bell and start the process that willlead to our freedom. Freedom to rid ourselves of nuclear weapons. Freedom toimplement a real living wage and banish the scandal of in-work poverty. Freedomto build a welfare system with support and compassion at its core. Freedom toharness the incredible potential for clean energy production within our borderand seas to allow us to become a world leader. Freedom to establish a NationalInvestment Bank to fund the necessary public housing, health and educationprojects we urgently require. Freedom to take our land into public ownership andutilise it for the whole of the country not just the rich minority whocurrently own it. Freedom to take our own destiny into our own hands and alwaysin the future get the governments we actually vote for. Those are the freedomsindependence delivers and poll after poll confirms that support has risen onthe back of the Brexit fiasco and sits now anywhere between 47% and 53%.

Some withinthe Independence Movement in Scotland say we can’t use the current hard wonmandate we have for IndyRef2 as the Tories would refuse us the Section 30permission to hold a binding referendum as proscribed within the Scotland Actof 1998. In other words despite the fact the SNP fought the 2016 ScottishParliament election with a commitment to IndyRef2 in their manifesto and theScottish Parliament voted last March by 69 votes to 59 in favour of holdingIndyRef2 the Tories should be allowed to withhold permission from us to run anew poll. Despite the fact the SNP stood in the 2017 snap General Election on acommitment to honour their IndyRef2 pledge if they won a majority of Scotland’sWestminster seats, and did so winning 35 of the 59, we are to bow down to ourImperial Masters in London and beg for permission?

I say to hell with that lark. We don’t ask for permission to hold IndyRef2 we serve notice on Westminster that we are holding it. The SNP Government, with the invaluable aid of the grassroots Indy Movement, has been supplied with a democratic triple-lock mandate. What they have to do now is use it. I read comments from some urging patience and deploying the old Napolean line about never disturbing the enemy while they are making mistakes. That is all well and good up till now but what is clear from yesterday’s parliamentary fiasco and the previous weeks of debates and discussions is Scotland’s best interests are simply not served within the British union. The time for us to leave is overdue but is now more pressing than ever.

The Scottish Parliament will discuss the 2019/2020 Budget tomorrow but will enter that particular boxing ring with, as always, one hand tied behind its back. Genuine concern for public services, public sector pay, child poverty, rising homelessness, the scourge of drug addiction will all meet the inevitable legal and financial restriction of being an unequal and unappreciated partner in a British union which is way past its sell by date.

To those who suggest patience I implore you to address the rising inequality, child poverty, benefits poverty, low pay statistics and homeless figures and take heed of the fact all reports predict the situation will only worsen over the next few years. Some people in relative comfort may be able to wait for independence but the everyday victims of Tory austerity cuts can’t wait any longer.

Some say timing is crucial as we never get another chance for a generation if we lose this one. I say timing is important but that is precisely why we must go now. Witness the scenes in Westminster yesterday. Look at the mess the Tories are in. Consider the influence Blairites still have within the Labour party. The reality is the unionists are utterly divided just now. They are consumed with factional fights over Britain’s relationship with Europe. Some want to leave in a crash and burn fashion. Some think they can secure a better deal despite little if any evidence that it is on offer. Others want to re-run the 2016 vote despite the fact the two biggest parties at that election both stood on a Brexit manifesto commitment. It is a dog’s breakfast piled on top of a pig sty and mixed with fresh manure. What is clear is Scotland’s 62% vote to remain in the EU means not a jot to Westminster. They don’t care about our democratic expressions of opinion.

When youface up to a powerful adversary you seek out any advantage to help you to win.That is the rule of survival. That is being street wise. Our adversary is oneof the oldest and most powerful Imperial nations on the planet. Britain isdominated by England and Britain used to dominate two thirds of the world’sland mass. They ruled brutally and with cunning for centuries. Their bestdeployed tactic was ‘divide and conquer’. If those seeking freedom from theyoke of imperialism could be lured into division Britain incorporated couldmaintain dominance.

Yet they are now battered and bruised. They are divided and thus weak. They are certainly weaker than they were in 2014 at the time of the last Referendum when Project Fear and the Better Together campaign were in full flow. I say strike now. Strike while they are in disarray and chaos. Strike while they are divided. We don’t ask for permission to hold IndyRef2 we name the date and tell them it is taking place.

I despised David Cameron and his Bullingdon Boy Government of millionaires but I want to remind you of a quote from him in 2009, unfortunately from one of the disreputable rags he was in hoc to:

“Our view is clear. We support the United Kingdom. I don’t want there to be a referendum and, if there is one, I will always vote ‘No’.

“If the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, you can’t stand in its way, but if it ever were to happen, the Conservatives under my leadership would always campaign for a ‘No’ vote. I think actually when you ask people in Scotland, ‘Do you want to break away?’ the answer’s no.”

Mr Cameron said you “can’t hold parts of the UK within the UK against their will.( https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/archives/news/27630/cam-i-dont-want-scots-indy-vote/)

Think about that statement for a moment. “If the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, you can’t stand in its way…” and “… you can’t hold parts of the UK within the UK against their will”.

Well the Scottish Parliament has voted for a referendum and Westminster cannot be allowed to stand in our way. The unionist division is our best opportunity but it won’t last forever. They will recover. To those who say we are still not high enough in the polls I say get a grip. From 23% support for independence in January 2013 (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jan/23/support-scottish-independence-slumps-lowest) to a meagre 25% support in October that year, eleven months before the actual referendum (https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-support-at-25-per-cent-poll-1-3138404), we rose, in the midst of a maelstrom of lies, distortions and biased reporting, to an incredible 45% support.

We are now on at least 47% and perhaps 53% support https://www.thenational.scot/news/17286887.poll-finds-53-think-indy-is-better-for-scotland-than-brexit/ . We need to seize the day. We need to step up to the plate. We don’t ask for permission to hold IndyRef2 we assert the democratically expressed will of our Scottish Parliament and courteously inform Westminster of the date and associated arrangements. Failure to grasp the thistle here will come back to haunt us. A united unionist opposition is much more powerful and difficult to overcome. If we can’t win a majority for independence now in the midst of Brexit chaos and unionist division we may never win. But from a minimum base of 47% I am absolutely convinced in the course of a visionary, confident and energetic campaign we could reach at least 60% support.

The YES Movement is ready and eager to fight. The unionists are demoralised and divided. Let’s go for it Nicola. Use The Mandate. Name The Date. Set Scotland on course to secure her freedom.

“Fair Employers Don’t Derecognise Trade Unions – Cornerstone Are Out Of Order”

‘Union Busting Is Disgusting, Recognition Now’ was the chant outside the Glasgow HQ of the charity and social care provider Cornerstone in Glasgow’s Sydney Street today. It was a wretched afternoon with rain cascading upon us constantly but the despicable actions of Cornerstone in the last week demanded action from trade union members regardless of the weather.

After 24 years continuous recognition this charity and social care provider has taken the drastic step of derecognising the trade union UNISON. Around 40 or so UNISON members, and others, gathered at short notice to demonstrate while Cornerstone hosted an Evaluation meeting with Scottish Government and Care Commission representatives in attendance.

Cornerstone claim to be a fair employer and their Chief Executive Officer, Edel Harris, is apparently a Scottish Government ‘Fair Work Ambassador’. That title must surely be revoked immediately given the shameful actions of this charity over the last 7 days. The Scottish Government has been at the forefront of fair working practices and promotes public procurement policies which require proof of good employer relations and treatment, including payment of the Scottish Living Wage (SLW) which is higher than the UK wide minimum wage (SLW is £9 per/hour compared to the UK minimum wage of only £7.83 per/hour) and equal treatment and non-discrimination policies https://www.gov.scot/publications/statutory-guidance-selection-tenderers-award-contracts-addressing-fair-work-practices/pages/2/ .

Employment Law is reserved to Westminster so the ability of the Scottish Government to positively influence working practices is restricted. However given the fact billions of pounds are awarded to contractors and service providers every single year by the Scottish Government and Local Authorities it is right and proper, and overdue, that fair work conditions are attached to the awarding of any public monies to any contractor. Employers who pay only minimum wage and can’t show they are good employers in relation to treatment of workers should not receive a penny of public money. Only the best employers should be awarded public contracts.

Cornerstone provides care and support services for adults, young people and children who live with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, autism, dementia and other support needs. The workers who provide these support services, like everyone working in the social care sector, do so with care, compassion and commitment. Providing social care demands working long hours, unsociable hours and sleepovers. It is often very challenging work but the pay and conditions of employment do not reflect the demands and retention of staff is a constant problem.

The introduction of a sector wide pay structure similar to that which applies to social workers, teachers and police officers is long overdue. Quality social care requires motivated, well-trained and properly paid workers. The current situation is nowhere near that goal and has to be addressed by employers and the Scottish Government alike.

The low pay culture within social care and the challenging working conditions compels many to join a trade union to avoid being an isolated voice seeking better remuneration for the care they provide. Of course it is always a difficult dilemma for low paid workers to join a union when their level of pay leaves little left for union dues  but the benefits of collective organisation and bargaining over the years have far outweighed the cost of union membership to millions over that period. This is the context to Cornerstones’ shocking decision to not only derecognise UNISON but also bully and harass UNISON members.

After twenty four years of trade union recognition Cornerstone and UNISON had been locked in pay negotiations and discussions over a new working strategy for the last 12 months. UNISON was seeking a 3% rise for staff not yet benefitting from the SLW of £9 per hour, pay for sleepovers at the 2017 SLW rate of £8.75 per hour backdated to 1st April this year and a £12 an hour rate for all carers involved in management responsibilities. Certainly not a set of unreasonable demands.

Cornerstones’ response was to offer only a 1% wage increase, sleepover pay backdated only to October and an hourly rate of £10.10 an hour for those with management tasks. Unsurprisingly UNISON members within Cornerstone, estimated to be over 50% of the 2,000 strong workforce, rejected the management offer. In fact the ballot resulted in a massive 92% rejection of the offer.

With UNISON and Cornerstone management unable to reach an agreement it was agreed to take the dispute to the conciliation service ACAS for third party intervention. That meeting was scheduled for November 29th. But on November 28th, without any prior notice, Cornerstone management issued a press release announcing their decision to derecognise UNISON with immediate effect thus ignoring the expressed will of at least 50% of their workers and reneging on the agreement to continue the pay and conditions talks with the respected conciliation body.

Such behaviour is unacceptable from any employer but is particularly grave and disgraceful from a charity working in the social care sector. Good employers don’t unilaterally derecognise trade unions and avoid independent arbitration meetings just because their pay offer is rejected. However this charity has stooped even lower in the bad employer league. They have issued despicable letters to trade union shop stewards and other prominent members demanding meetings with them to discuss; “your union duties and information sharing”. These meetings are scheduled for tomorrow, 7th December.

What happened to non-discrimination and equal treatment principles championed by the Scottish Government? They must be embarrassed by the actions of this charity and should intervene urgently to inform them that such blatant anti-trade union behaviour will simply not be tolerated from an organisation which receives contracts from local authorities across Scotland. This is not ‘Fair Employment’ practices this is backward, reactionary and unacceptable employment practices.

UNISON has reminded Cornerstone that the right to belong to a trade union is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.4, which states:

The right to organise with others for better working conditions is a universal human right. Everyone has the right to join and to form trade unions for the protection of his/her interests”. (UNISON Scotland Members Bulletin December 2018)

Today I spoke with Unison Scotland’s head of community and social care, Deborah Clarke. She was soaked to the skin standing in the rain for over an hour but her compassion and care for her members was crystal clear. She was shocked at the behaviour of Cornerstone management but determined not to be bullied by them or allow her fellow union members to be bullied:

“Cornerstone’s attempts to breach our members’ human rights by ripping up our collective bargaining agreement is disgusting and makes a mockery of the chief executive’s status as a Scottish Government Fair Work Ambassador … we have been put in an unprecedented position by the unacceptable actions of Cornerstone management. We will have to seek statutory recognition for the first time ever within the social care sector”.

As we approach the year 2019 we are witnessing in Scotland a charitable status employer ripping up a trade union recognition deal and issuing intimidating letters to trade union members regarding their trade union membership and “duties”. This is not the progressive, fair employer Scotland that we voted for.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, will be appalled by these Victorian style employment practices. At her recent party conference in Glasgow she stated unambiguously her intention to drive forward a fair work agenda which related to pay, working conditions and trades union involvement. It is worth quoting her words in some detail from just eight short weeks ago and compare and contrast those words with the actions of Cornerstone management:

“We’ve made payment of the real living wage part of our procurement process, we’ve extended it to adult social care workers and we will soon do the same for early years workers. 

 

“As a result of all of that, Scotland now has the highest proportion of employees paid the living wage of any UK nation.


“But we must do more. Last month, we said business support grants from Scottish Enterprise would have living wage, zero hours contracts and gender pay criteria attached.

 

“I can announce today that, working with unions, business and the public sector, we will extend that approach.

 

“We will adopt a new default position. Fair Work First. By the end of this parliament, we will extend fair work criteria to as many funding streams and business support grants as we can. And, we will extend the range of Scottish Government and public sector contracts that fair work criteria apply to. 

 

“Fair Work First means investment in skills and training, no exploitative zero hours contracts, action on gender pay, and genuine workforce engagement, including with trade unions.

 

And, of course, payment of the Living Wage”.  https://dailybusinessgroup.co.uk/2018/10/employers-face-fair-work-test-to-win-government-support/

 

I have to say as a socialist who advocated voting for the SNP in both the 2015 and 2017 General Elections and giving them my Constituency vote in the 2016 election I was very pleased with these words from Scotland’s First Minister. They are music to the ears for anyone interested in progressive and fair employment practices. But they are wholly inconsistent with an employer who derecognises a union and then issues letters designed to intimidate those who remain members and organisers of that union. Those are the actions of a Bully Boy employer not a Fair Work employer.

I have spoken with several Cornerstone workers over the last few days. I have been struck by their care and concern for the vulnerable clients they work with but also their determination to be treated properly and paid appropriately for the invaluable work they do. Sadly none of them can be quoted directly for fear of victimisation by Cornerstone. They all showed me their letters summoning them to meetings with management tomorrow. They genuinely fear they could be disciplined or sacked if they don’t stop being trade union stewards and members. That is appalling.

UNISON has members in and recognition agreements with 600 charities but has never been derecognised and treated in such a shabby way by any of them. Elements of the deal they sought from Cornerstone have been negotiated successfully with other charities http://aberdeenshireunison.org/unison-response-to-cornerstone-chief-executives-email/ .

The rogue element here is Cornerstone not UNISON. The reason this story needs to be told and action against Cornerstone has to be taken to force a change of mind and reversal of the derecognition decision is a dangerous precedent cannot be allowed to be set here. Employers who act the way Cornerstone has acted must be exposed and compelled to retreat or else other employers will sniff the scent of blood and seek also to derecognise unions and open a path to greater exploitation and mistreatment of workers. Trade union solidarity in support of UNISON members here is vital.

Please contact your local MSP, MP and councillors and ask them to exert influence to force the union busting activities of Cornerstone to be reversed. SNP members in particular must demand the CEO of this company is immediately stripped of her Fair Work Ambassador title. Write also to the First Minister and implore her to honour her excellent words of support for Fair Work practices she issued in October by publicly intervening to declare that Cornerstone’s actions here are unacceptable.

Spread the word about the actions of Cornerstone on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms using the Hashtag #cornerstoneunionbusting

Support campaigns to resist further cuts to local authority budgets as inevitably such cuts lead to less money available to pay social care providers for the essential care work they do. But perhaps most important of all my appeal is to Cornerstone employees, and other workers in the social care sector, who may read this column.

Don’t be intimidated. Don’t be bullied. Stand up for your rights, the rights of your fellow social care workers and ultimately the rights of the vulnerable citizens you care for. Join the union. Don’t stand alone. There is strength in numbers. The past you inherit but the future you build.

Tommy Sheridan 

From Coolio to Celtic and Celebrity Big Brother – Life’s Rich Tapestries

I had a very interesting Friday night. It was spent in the company of between 40 and 50 Catholic Parishioners from the Cumbernauld area of West Central Scotland. Originally I was invited, via Facebook, to speak at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Charitable Men’s Breakfast Club. It was to be a morning meeting with a chat and breakfast. However the club is celebrating its 4th year of existence so they decided to organise an evening meeting instead and invite other parishioners not available in mornings. Tony was the guy who contacted me and he gave me free rein to speak about any topic.

As it was the 30th of November I decided to talk about my political inspiration, John MacLean. As you will be aware from my last column John died on the 30th of November 1923 so Friday was the 95th anniversary of his death. The audience was predominantly ‘mature’, with some more ‘mature’ than others. Several of the 40 to 50 in attendance were in their 70’s and one former Scout Troop leader, Jack, was 84 with a tremendous record of service throughout Glasgow and Scotland in the Scout Movement.

What was sad, but unfortunately typical of Scotland as a whole, was less than 20% of the audience at most had ever heard of John MacLean. They did, however, listen intently and after I spoke for a long time, too long as usual, I fielded questions on MacLean, Scottish politics, Russia, boxing, football, religion, independence and my appearance on Celebrity Big Brother (CBB).

I explained my decision to appear on CBB in January 2010 was motivated by money. I lost my job as an MSP in May 2007. I also lost my job as a radio presenter on the Talk 107 Radio station in Edinburgh later that same year. I successfully completed a Masters Degree in Social Research at Strathclyde University in 2007/08 and then began an accelerated Graduate Entry Law Degree at the same university in late 2008. I had to pay for both degrees myself as my government funded undergraduate degree was completed away back in 1984/85. I had accumulated a lot of debts and wanted to contribute to the family budget for my wife and young daughter. I had knocked back CBB in 2006 because I was working at the time and it would have been wrong to abandon my post as an MSP to appear on a TV Reality show. However the circumstances had changed by late 2009 when I was approached to appear on the 2010 show .

Initially the person who enquired about the CBB decision had doubts about the appropriateness of accepting the offer. ‘Would John MacLean have done it’ was the loaded question. I didn’t know the answer to that but I did ask rhetorically what socialist principle I breeched by agreeing to take part? There was no picket line crossed. No denial of socialist ideals. No racism. No sexism. No anti-trade union behaviour. Sure the show itself is not particularly high brow or sophisticated. It is not intellectually stimulating viewing but choice in such matters is key. One person’s art is another person’s arse. One person’s pudding is another person’s poison. And don’t get me started on what constitutes comedy?

I recall being lambasted by some snotty nosed columnists over my decision to take part in CBB and thinking how wonderful life must be in the Ivory Towers they inhabited. If they didn’t like the show they didn’t have to watch it but I was skint, plain and simple. I was honest in 2009 when asked for the promotional video why I was taking part. It wasn’t about seeking to re-launch a flagging TV or music career it was about being offered an incredibly large amount of money to agree to spend a maximum of 3 weeks in a wee hoose somewhere in London with a group of strangers and being subjected to various tasks that were bound to be mildly humiliating. No picket line crossed. No principles denied. No writing for anti-trade union, racist and sexist tabloid rags for money.

As it happens not only was I paid an excellent fee for my time and efforts I also had a blast. Some of the fellow housemates were top class and my 19 nights in the ‘Mad Hoose’ was extremely entertaining and enjoyable. Sure I missed my wife and four year old daughter like crazy, that was the longest separation from wee Gabrielle since she was born in May 2005, but long chats and silly tasks with the likes of American Rapper and songwriter Coolio, TV Presenter and writer Terry Christian, the late actor Verne Troyer and singer and dancer La Toyah Jackson, among others, made it a unique and unforgettable experience.

I told the Cumbernauld audience about the time I was in the ‘Luxury’ bathroom in the House doing some exercises when La Toyah entered to have a chat and tell me about her life. She was polite enough to ask about me and my politics and I was in full flow explaining the need for, and benefits of, public ownership when ‘Big Brother’ (BB) intervened on the speaker system to instruct La Toyah to repeat everything I said for the next 15 minutes. I reckon she was struggling to understand my broad Glaswegian accent and BB thought it would be fun to challenge her linguistic capabilities.

I parked the politics and decided to sing songs instead. I was trying to help her. I started with ‘Flower of Scotland’ and loved hearing her belt out our current national anthem with her American twang. Then to be mischievous I opted for a song bound to divide my Scottish audience along football allegiance lines. I started singing the anthem of the famous Glasgow Celtic FC called ‘Hail, Hail’. How delightful it was to hear the world famous La Toyah Jackson sing the national anthem of the world famous Glasgow Celtic. It was music to my ears. But not just to my ears. The bold Coolio heard La Toyah sing ‘Hail, hail the Celts are here’ at the top of her lungs and popped his head into the bathroom to demand to know what the song was. He wanted to claim it for the LA Lakers. He loved it. I explained who Celtic were and their incredible history, managing to put Manchester United mad Terry Christian’s gas at a peep (given the fact we were the first club from the UK to ever win the European Cup, which we did in considerable style in 1967 one year before Man Utd), and how their tremendous stadium was called ‘Paradise’ by the supporters. He was hooked.

He visited my home several times while on tour in Scotland after the show and always enquired about visiting ‘Paradise’. After all he was famous for ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. His visits never coincided with a Celtic game until last September 2017. At last, seven years after learning about the famous Glasgow Celtic, he got to visit the ground and watch them play a league game against Hibernian. He absolutely loved it. He was even invited onto the pitch at half-time to draw the raffle tickets and was interviewed by Celtic TV. To hear some 50,000 fans cheer him and join in with the stadium blasting out ‘Gangsa’s Paradise’ made him extremely proud. He was the ‘Gangsta in Paradise’ now. His love for the Glasgow Celtic is now firmly cemented.

The predominantly, if not exclusively, Celtic supporting crowd in Cumbernauld on Friday night lapped up that story. There were many others I could have told but I had been speaking for two and half hours and I think some were worried if I would ever stop. They pretty unanimously agreed that if they had been in my shoes they would also have agreed to do the CBB show.

As I drove home from Cumbernauld after 10pm on Friday I reflected on the rich tapestries of our lives and how particularly blessed I have been to experience the abundance of ups, and some downs, in life. I had just engaged with a kind and appreciative audience of strangers who appeared to adhere to the majority of my views and certainly treated me with respect and warmth. We had discussed the rich social and political history of Scotland through the heroic context of John MacLean and agreed it was disgraceful that we did not learn of him and his ilk at school. We discussed current affairs in Scotland and lambasted the cold, cruel and callous Conservatives. I stated my belief that it was incompatible to be both a Christian and a Conservative given their vindictive and deliberate policies of benefit cuts, universal credit, forced homelessness and increased income inequality.

Although an atheist myself I suggested socialism is more compassionate than most religions and although I deeply respected the right of others to hold to and practice their religions I often wondered where all the love was within and between religious communities. The idea that warmongers like Tony Blair and George Bush professed to be Christians while they ordered the slaughter of up to a million Iraqis based on a prospectus of lies surely undermined the authenticity of Christianity? It was not ‘Christian’ to incinerate innocent men, women and children through a one-sided ‘shock and awe’ bombardment which obliterated much of Iraq and de-stabilised the whole Middle-Eastern region on the altar of cheap oil and geo-political influence.

I returned home around 11pm to a warm home, beautiful wife and incredible daughter. It made me realise just how lucky I am in life. Many in society are struggling with medical problems, addictions, bereavements and a catalogue of other challenges. When contemplating our own set of problems in life I think it is always right and proper to think about the problems facing others. They are often much bigger and more serious than ours. John MacLean often said “We are out for life and all life has to offer”. I think that is a fitting motto for us all. Try and always stay positive and treat others we meet and live alongside as we would ourselves like to be treated.

Tommy Sheridan