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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ode To A Scab

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tommy Sheridan

Today We Remember A Hero – Commandante Che Guevara “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you are only going to kill a man”.

(CHE GUEVARA – A Revolutionary Life; Anderson J.L., Bantam Press 1997 p739)

Those were the last words of a revolutionary who more than any other epitomises the truism that ‘you may kill the dreamer but you can never kill the dream’. Che Guevara’s life was snuffed out by a semi-automatic rifle held at point blank range that riddled his already wounded body with bullets at approximately 1.10pm on October 9th 1967.

Che had been shot twice in his leg and captured the previous day in La Higuera, Vallegrande, high in the hills of Bolivia. He was held captive in a schoolhouse and tied up like a dog. He was asked to sit in a chair to be executed but refused. He preferred to stand and stare his executioner in the eyes as he shot him. Apparently the initial round of bullets entered his arms and legs forcing him to the ground whereupon he bit his own wrist to prevent himself squealing out with pain. The Soldier fired again and a bullet entered his thorax filling his lungs with blood and extinguishing his life. Che was only 39 years of age but he died as he lived, with great honour and courage. He had an unquenchable thirst for justice for the dispossessed and raged against poverty and obscene inequality throughout his life.

The detailed notes of one of the senior Bolivian army officers, Lieutenant Colonel Selich, are very instructive for anyone who wants to know who Che Guevara was and what he stood for. Trying to elicit information from Che about other guerrilla fighters not yet captured Selich said:

“I understand Benigno (one of Che’s comrades) is gravely wounded since the [September 26] La Higuera battle, where Coco and the others died. Can you tell me, Commandante, if he is still alive?”

“Colonel, I have a very bad memory, I don’t remember [and] don’t even know how to respond to your question”.

Selich then sarcastically asks:

“Are you Cuban or Argentine?” (Anderson J.L. p735)

Che was born in Argentina to parents with Irish connections but travelled across Latin America and witnessed himself the poverty, hunger and super exploitation of the poor and the peasants which seared into his heart a desire and determination to fight with the oppressed against the oppressors. He met Fidel Castro in Mexico in 1955 and joined his ‘July 26th Movement’ which was dedicated to the liberation of Cuba from the Jackboot brutality and authoritarianism of the Military leader Fulgencio Batista who ruled the island with the support of and in hoc to the United States of America. Che joined Fidel on the Granma boat from Mexico in 1956 to assist in the Cuban revolution. As a former medical school student he initially travelled as a medic but in the heat of battle he soon proved to be an exemplary soldier, guerrilla and leader. He played a pivotal role in the successful Cuban revolution and was hailed a co-leader alongside Fidel when they triumphantly entered Havana on 1ST January 1959 to begin the construction of a new, fairer, more equal and ultimately socialist Cuba.

Che was born in Argentina but fought with the Cubans and was now captured while fighting in Bolivia. Hence the sarcastic question from Lieutenant Colonel Selich. Che’s response epitomises the visionary he was and serves as a guide for all those who seek a better and fairer world:

“I am Cuban, Argentine, Bolivian, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, etc … You understand?”

(Selich) “What made you decide to operate in our country?”

(Che) “Can’t you see the state in which the peasants live? They are almost like savages, living in a state of poverty that depresses the heart, having only one room in which to sleep and cook and no clothing to wear, abandoned like animals . . .”

This conversation took place in the early hours of 9th October 1967 when Che knew for certain he would soon be executed. Despite his bullet wounds from the previous day’s battle and the fact he was staring death in the face he was still able and willing to articulate his socialist and humanist vision of a better and fairer world. Critics can pontificate from the comfort of their academic offices about the strategic weaknesses of Che’s attempt to export revolutionary struggle and attempt in Bolivia the type of struggle which was successful in Cuba. Sure we can reflect in leisure and perhaps agree that each country will follow its own path to liberation according to their traditions, culture, constitution, conditions and events. No two countries will ever have the same revolution. Similarities are inevitable but there are no guaranteed revolutionary tablets of stone. But such discussion is secondary on this day for today we remember and pay our respects to a revolutionary who became a legend.

The CIA and Bolivian army chiefs who celebrated when they assassinated the wounded and defenceless Che Guevera did not know that he would become even more powerful in death than life. His speeches, writings and spirit continue to inspire the young and oppressed across the world to ‘fight the power’ and rage against injustice.

Eleven years ago in 2007 a story emerged which epitomised the humanitarian and socialist vision of Che Guevera and justified his heroic sacrifice to the cause. Across the world the name Che Guevara is instantly recognised but who has heard of Mario Teran? It was he whom Guevera spoke his last words to for it was Mario Teran who shot and killed Che. This Bolivian army sergeant killed a hero of Cuba yet four decades later this same man’s son wrote to a Bolivian newspaper and thanked Cuba with all his heart for allowing his father the miracle of sight again after he had become blinded with cataracts and was denied the delight of seeing his grandchildren http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7023706.stm .

The socialist trained doctors of Cuba, financed by socialist Venezuela, operated on Mario Teran and restored his sight. What a triumph for the revolution Che helped lead and the cause and ideals he dedicated his adult life to.

Mr Teran was treated under Operation Miracle, a Venezuelan funded medical programme staffed by Cuban doctors which offers free eye treatment to poor people across Latin America. How proud Che would have been of the doctors, the programme and the dignity of his beloved Cuba willing to set aside Mario Teran’s misdemeanour in pursuit of doing the right thing. The official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party is called the Granma after the name of the boat which brought Che, Fidel and the other revolutionaries from Mexico to Cuba in 1956 to begin the Cuban revolution. That actual boat is on display in the Cuban Museum of Revolution in Havana. I know because I have visited it five times. Here is how the Granma newspaper reported the sight restoring treatment given to Mario Teran:

“Four decades after Mario Teran attempted to destroy a dream and an idea, Che returns to win yet another battle. Now an old man he [Teran] can once again appreciate the colours of the sky and the forest, enjoy the smiles of his grandchildren and watch football games.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/oct/02/cuba.international )

 

In 2018 socialist Cuba and Venezuela are still subjected to illegal and immoral trade sanctions and economic embargos by the Rogue Nation which is the U.S. But in spite of the barriers they still display international human solidarity in a way unmatched by richer free market nations. Venezuela is in the midst of serious economic difficulties engineered by the U.S. to destabilise the country but still they assist the victims of natural disasters in Indonesia http://thecubanhandshake.org/venezuela-to-donate-us10mn-to-indonesia-earthquake-victims/ . While Cuba in the face of U.S. aggression still manages to continue its incredible medical aid and international solidarity programmes https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Cuban-Doctors-Head-to-Haiti-to-Help-with-Quake-Recovery-20181007-0008.html .

Che Guevera died on this day 51 years ago but his spirit, ideals and dreams are still very much alive and kicking. I salute you Commandante Che Guevera.

Tommy Sheridan 

 

 

 

 

OVER 100,000 MARCH IN EDINBURGH – THERE IS AN APPETITE FOR INDYREF2

I’m still buzzing as I write this column. I’m not long back from Edinburgh and I was so proud and inspired to march alongside well over 100,000 other supporters of independence for Scotland. We filled our capital city today with men, women and children from all walks of life and scores of dugs as well. Sheldon is a kick in the arse off a horse and marched with purpose while Hamish was there with proud owner and SNP MP Brendan O’Hara and displayed impeccable manners and temperament. It was a pleasure to walk alongside them from Johnstone Terrace near to Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Park down the Royal Mile. A relatively short 15 minute walk that took in excess of 90minutes to complete such was the incredible size of the crowd. I was there with my immediate family, my two girls Gail and Gabrielle, but the truth is we were all part of the one big family, The Indy Family.

To put the turnout into perspective imagine over one million people marching in London and you get the picture. Police estimates of the crowd ranged from 100,000 to 120,000 and the banners and placards were from every part of our broad movement. The English Scots For YES group was there, alongside the Pensioners For YES, the YES Bikers, the Catalonia flags, EU flags, Red flags and a sea of saltires that depicted national identity and pride but without chauvinism or arrogance. There was even a new Rangers Supporters For Independence banner which was made welcome. Young and old, men and women, black and white all marched with hope in their hearts and a vision for a new, better, fairer and nuclear free Scotland in their heads.

The event was organised by the All Under One Banner (AUOB) grassroots Indy Group and was the culmination of a series of marches organised in response to the challenge from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the start of the year to the YES Movement to show there was a genuine desire for another independence referendum. Over 60,000 marched in Glasgow on 5th of May, over 10,000 in Dumfries on 2nd of June, in excess of 20,000 in Bannockburn on 23rd June, 14,000 in Inverness on 28th July, over 16,000 in Dundee on 18th August and an incredible 100,000 plus today in Edinburgh.

Unionists in Scotland constantly say there is no appetite for a 2nd independence referendum. They are not only wrong they are also scared. Hundreds of thousands are starving for IndyRef2 and the reality is YES will win this time. The lies and distortions of the Unionist opposition were articulated via the Project Fear campaign in 2014 but those lies about secure shipyard jobs, threats to pension payments and continued membership of the European Union now stand exposed as the desperate death throes of a British Establishment which knows its time is up, its number is called. Those lies were big and powerful but they were a final throw of the dice. They won’t work again. Scotland knows now more than ever that it is not only capable of standing on its own two feet but its future progress depends on it.

I was privileged to be invited to address the rally in Edinburgh today and be interviewed by Radio Sputnik (https://www.facebook.com/sean.mellon.90/videos/2296181270410399/UzpfSTEwMDAwNzg5Nzg0NjY0NToyMTgwNzcxMDUyMTk2MTM1/   & https://twitter.com/i/status/1048592468382560256).

I followed SNP MP Philippa Whitford and SNP Deputy Leader and MSP Keith Brown. I pointed out that the SNP is not the Indy Movement as the Indy Movement is bigger and more important than any one party or individual but the SNP is the political leadership of the Indy Movement. In successive General Elections in 2015 and 2017 I and my socialist party Solidarity advocated voting for the SNP as an Indy supporting and politically progressive party. Some on the left criticised my call for other Indy and Left parties to stand down and unite behind the SNP. They are entitled to their opinions but I stand by that strategy for maximising YES support in Westminster. As a socialist I was comfortable advocating support for the SNP because their manifesto was not just about independence it also contained commitments to oppose austerity, protect the NHS from any privatisation, investment in public services, welcoming asylum seekers and unilateral nuclear disarmament. That is a positive and progressive left of centre political programme and that is why it is plain stupid for Labour in London to deny the SNP is a progressive force and potential ally.

However I also made a public appeal to the SNP leadership from the platform today. They meet in Glasgow today (Sunday) for their annual conference and Nicola Sturgeon is due to speak on Wednesday to outline the next step in the independence campaign. There is no doubt Nicola and her government are doing a reasonable job of managing Scotland within the fiscal straitjacket of the unionist devolved power deal. They have protected Scots from the cruel bedroom tax, increased carers allowance, broke the public sector pay cap, refused to allow any privatisation of the National Health Service and sacked Atos from PIP assessments for the disabled. All welcome and progressive policies but according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) 19% of the population are still living in poverty and 24% of our children are raised in poor households, half of them in working households http://www.thenational.scot/news/16961938.this-week-is-an-important-spotlight-on-the-toll-of-scotlands-poverty/ . That’s almost 1 in 4 of Scotland’s children denied the life chances and opportunities the rest of us take for granted. In a country blessed with the biggest oil reserves in Europe, an abundance of arable land and fish filled seas and a food and drinks industry which is a world leader we have 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 4 children living in poverty, cursed by low pay, inadequate benefits and unacceptable housing conditions. That is criminal.

The SNP sought a mandate for IndyRef2 in 2016. They won it. They asked the Scottish Parliament to endorse that mandate last March. They did. Deputy Leader Keith Brown described that mandate as “cast iron” last week in response to the ridiculous comments of unionist leaders Ricard Leonard and Ruth Davidson who sought to tear up the hitherto accepted Claim of Right and remove the independence option from the Scottish people no matter how they vote in future. He is right. There is a cast iron mandate in existence. It was hard fought for over the last 4 years and it expires at the end of March next year.

The whole Brexit fiasco represents a real and concrete change of circumstances that justifies a new referendum and although the exit details are not known the fact is 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU and now face being dragged out against their will. The mandate has to be used. So many things depend on it. The credibility of the Parliament for one. If the will of the Parliament is ignored what does that do to its credibility?

The credibility of the SNP? If they refuse to use a mandate they fought hard to secure many will be reluctant to trust them with a new mandate. Political parties live or die based on their integrity and commitment to honour their promises. I implore the SNP leadership to stick to their principles and use the mandate they fought hard to achieve. They have to give the people of Scotland the choice to determine their own future post the Brexit result two years ago. The IndyRef2 mandate has to be triggered next March before it expires.

The grassroots Indy Movement was asked to show there was a desire for a new referendum. In the course of 6 marches all across Scotland in a 6 month period over 220,000 people have taken to the streets to express their desire for a second referendum. They all understand nothing will change the day after independence other than us securing the powers to change everything. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation which reported on the current scandalous poverty figures predicts those figures will rise to 38% of Scottish children by 2030 despite SNP Government attempts to mitigate benefits and welfare cuts http://www.thenational.scot/news/16961938.this-week-is-an-important-spotlight-on-the-toll-of-scotlands-poverty/ .

IndyRef2 is not only desired it is desperately required to allow us access to the tools to eradicate child poverty and begin the construction of a new, fairer and nuclear weapon free Scotland.

The final word belongs to AUOB organiser Neil McKay:

We have full confidence in Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP that the democratic mandate for Indyref2 is in hand and does not need further ratified, and that as such the mandate will be used and used before it’s too late

Tommy Sheridan

Opportunity Knocks. Brexit Means Exit from the Abusive British Union

This column can exclusively reveal why Theresa May failed to turn up for a series of interviews with the UK’s major broadcasters yesterday prompting an unprecedented joint formal complaint to Downing Street about the shameful lack of access and public scrutiny of her actions https://www.shropshirestar.com/news/uk-news/2018/10/02/broadcasters-issue-formal-complaint-to-downing-street-over-lack-of-may-interviews/

Mrs May was escorted to Birmingham Central Police Station in Snowhill Queensway and subjected to a stringent set of controlled drug tests after suspicions were raised by a couple of alert undercover officers that the PM, known for her ‘naughty’ anti-farmer tendency to run through fields of wheat (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2017/06/05/theresa-may-admits-running-fields-wheat-naughtiest-thing-ever/ ) may have been under the influence of illegal mind-altering substances passed to her via the Beluga Caviar she was tucking into at lunchtime. The ever reliable investigative website Bellingcat issued conclusive proof within less than an hour of the news spreading that a highly decorated Russian spy, posing as a Caviar connoisseur, had actually laced her Beluga jar with the unknown substance. However the drug tests proved inconclusive and Bellingcat was forced to issue a defiant climb down saying ‘there may not be any proof but according to our exhaustive research it was definitely the Russians wot done it’.

A thorough internal investigation was immediately carried out by West Midlands Police, a completely new concept for that force, and the route of the false alarm was traced to DI Jock MacDonald who had only recently transferred to Birmingham from Govan CID in Glasgow, Scotland, 6 months ago. He had heard the PM say something which gave him probable cause to act. He noted it in his notebook for all to see. She had stated in public soon after lunch that she, quote; “looked forward to Conservative leader in Scotland, Ruth Aitken, becoming the First Minister of Scotland soon”. Jock couldn’t believe his ears. He had lived in Scotland for the previous 42 years. He knew how absolutely despised Margaret Thatcher was in Scotland and yet Ruth Aitken has never even managed to match her derisory vote percentage, despite the British Biased Corporation’s (BBC) manipulated narrative and constant promotion of Ruth through cosy chats that are presented as interviews. Anyone who thinks Ruth Aitken will ever become Scotland’s First Minister is plain daft or under the influence of mind altering drugs. Jock thought it was the latter. Hopefully the bold Theresa will appear today for the broadcast interviews she had to rubber ear yesterday and answer when she will put her robotic script and accompanying dancing to the side and admit she is in office but not in power.

The reality is UK incorporated is in a mess. Millions are desperately struggling to get by on low wages with real terms increases their lowest since WWII. Employment is less secure and more onerous with millions forced to cope with zero hour contracts and multiple jobs. The retirement age is being made higher while access to affordable child-care and decent housing is a constant challenge. The gap between rich and poor, high paid and low paid is now at unprecedented levels and amounts to obscene and unacceptable inequality. While the pay of top bosses increased by an incredible 11% last year ordinary workers’ pay didn’t even match inflation with average increases of only 1.7%. It would take an average worker 167 years to earn the annual median pay of a top 100 FTSE boss – up from 153 years in 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/15/uk-top-bosses-pay-rise-average-earnings-hit-39m-2017-high-pay-centre . It is quite literally immoral.

While British Bosses benefit from top rate tax cuts British poor people are subjected to welfare cuts like the Bedroom Tax. Local Government services like elderly care and community care for the disabled and mental health sufferers are cut to the bone while classroom sizes rise and school budgets fall cutting educational opportunities for working class kids. That’s why it makes me sick to witness adults at the Tory Party conference fawning over and cheering privileged plonkers like Jason-Rees Mogg and Boris ‘buffoon’ Johnson. What planet do these people inhabit? These posh boys couldn’t give a damn about ordinary workers. They think they are better than the working classes because they were born into wealth and haven’t had to struggle a day in their lives. Malevolent May heads up this band of robbers for the time being but her authority is almost non-existent. She and her Scottish lieutenant are ruthless in their desire to create a society where big business can do as it pleases and the rich accumulate even more wealth and power. Some suggest there is such a thing as a ‘good’ Tory but my life experience teaches me that is rare breed. I’m with the late and great Scottish author, Ian Banks;

“I’m not arguing there are no decent people in the Tory party but their like sweetcorn in a turd; technically they kept their integrity but they’re still embedded in shit” https://medium.com/@grlewry/the-quarry-by-iain-banks-8441452de310 .

All of which leads me to my appeal to Scotland’s actual First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, as we approach what will be a massive demonstration for Scottish independence in Edinburgh on Saturday organised by the grassroots All Under One Banner group https://www.facebook.com/events/473276696435215/ .

I have not yet mentioned Brexit, the issue which dominates British politics right now and exposes the deep divisions within the ruling class and the Tory party about Britain’s future. There is a solid and rational left-wing case for Brexit based on the undemocratic and brutally neo-liberal nature of the European Union. It has nothing to do with immigrants or mythical banana shapes and everything to do with the usurping of sovereign power by faceless bureaucrats intent in imposing free market economics down the throats of all EU nations.

I am an advocate of that view and promoted it alongside other socialists and trade unionists in June 2016. It wasn’t the anti-EU position given any media space and Scotland as a nation voted convincingly against Brexit, 62% to 38%. The SNP fought the May 2016 Scottish election with an unequivocal manifesto commitment that read;

“the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum … if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

 

The SNP won that election with 46.5% of the constituency vote share. Alongside the elected Green MSPs Scotland elected a Parliament with a majority of representatives for independence. On March 21st last year Nicola moved Motion S5M-04710 which sought the support of the Parliament to approach Westminster to trigger IndyRef2. She was in top form and said;

“It is worth being clear: that manifesto commitment, combined with the result of the Scottish election—which returned a pro-independence majority to this Parliament—and the outcome of the EU referendum, gives the Scottish Government an unquestionable democratic mandate for an independence referendum.”

 

 

 

And then, in anticipation of the arguments which followed, she said;

There is an important point here for those who seek to question that mandate. To suggest that an emphatic election victory, on the basis of a clear manifesto commitment, and a parliamentary majority on an issue do not provide a mandate begs the question of what does and runs the real risk of undermining the democratic process”.

“I do not consider that to be right or fair. The future of Scotland should not be imposed upon us; it should be the choice of the people of Scotland” http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10855&i=99383&c=1985354&s=Motion%2520S5M-04710 .

The Scottish Parliament voted by 69 votes to 59 to support that motion with a complimentary Green Party amendment. The democratic mandate for a second independence referendum is solid. On the issue of timing the motion specified Autumn 2018 or March 2019 at the latest to coincide with the UK Government’s Brexit timetable. Nicola said clearly;

“It is also important that the choice is made while it is still possible to choose a different path in a timely manner.

My judgment is therefore that the latest date for that choice to be made should be around the time that the UK leaves the EU—in the spring of 2019. That is the timeframe that I ask Parliament to endorse today”.

 

The Scottish Parliament did endorse that timeframe. On behalf of the Scottish Parliament Nicola wrote to Theresa May on March 31st last year to clarify the Parliament’s intention;

“…In these very changed circumstances, the people of Scotland must have the right to choose our own future – in short, to exercise our right of self determination. 

Indeed I noted the importance you attached to the principle of self determination in your letter to President Tusk. 

As you are aware, the Scottish Parliament has now determined by a clear majority that there should be an independence referendum. The purpose of such a referendum is to give people in Scotland the choice of following the UK out of the EU and single market on the terms you negotiate, or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and build a genuine partnership of equals with the other nations of the UK…”

“…You confirmed to me on Monday, and repeated in your letter invoking Article 50, that you intend the terms of both the UK’s exit from the EU and of a future trade deal to be agreed before March 2019 and in time for ratification by other member states – in other words, between the autumn of next year and the spring of 2019. As you are aware, this is the timescale endorsed by the Scottish Parliament for a referendum.

As I have said previously, if the timetable you have set out changes, we will require to consider the implications for the timing of a referendum. However, it seems reasonable at this stage to work on the basis of your stated timetable…”

https://news.gov.scot/news/section-30-letter

 

Things could not be clearer for Scotland and our First Minister. She has led from the front on this issue of a Brexit deal against the expressed wishes of Scotland justifying a new referendum on independence. It is clear that although the case for independence is much bigger than membership of the European Union the fact that the NO campaign in 2014 explicitly stated that the only way Scotland could stay in the EU was to reject independence is now exposed as a lie, alongside scores of others like threats to pension payments, security for shipyard jobs and several other Project Fear myths.

Supporting independence does not mean supporting membership of the EU but it does mean giving Scotland the right to make that decision. The independence movement is bigger and more important than any political party or individual but the SNP is the political leadership of the cause and my appeal to Nicola Sturgeon is to continue her wise leadership and show again her mettle in the face of typical unionist attacks by announcing at her Party Conference in Glasgow next week that IndyRef2 will be held in March next year.

She not only has a cast iron democratic mandate for the referendum but she has the opportunity of facing down a divided and thus weakened foe. The British Establishment are in a mess at the moment. They are at each other’s throats over Brexit. Hell mend them. Strike while the iron is hot I say. Use the mandate. Name the date. We rose from 23% in 2013 to 45% in 2014. We are sitting on 47-48% support just now. We can rise to 60% with a bold, informed and confident campaign over the next 6 months. Don’t allow the unionists to recover Nicola, ring the IndyRef2 bell next week and lets win Scotland’s independence and freedom in March next year.

Opportunity is the banner headline at the Tory conference and May insists Brexit Means Brexit. Well the opportunity for Scotland is that Brexit means Exit. Exit from the corrupting, restrictive and abusive union which holds us back from realising our true potential as a progressive and friendly independent nation. Go for it Nicola.

Tommy Sheridan