Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Day Before the #indyref (a short story)

As people rush past, Chuckles sips his coffee and stares through the large window onto Buchanan Street. His expensive coffee is his last of the day. As far as all of this rushing, consuming horde are concerned, well, they've rejected him, they don't notice, so he has every right to criticise and laugh into himself at their ignorance to his plan.

Helen dips her finger into top of her frothy coffee and stares at the man in black sitting across from her table and wonders about the interesting thoughts he must be thinking. She has seen him here before. He never seems to notice anyone, his stare always seems to be reversed. Staring back into the infinity that must be his mind. She loves to speculate on what everyone's lives are about. She guesses he is an artist of some sorts. And lonely.

Chuckles checks his phone. It is nearly time. He must be on Hope street for 5.30. It is 5.15. He has all of the stuff he needs. His phone, his bag and its soon to be criminal contents. He unfolds his newspaper. It has no doubts. Like all of the newspapers in Scotland today.
Helen watches him unfold his paper. She reads the headline. It is about tomorrow. She wonders if the man in black has the same opinion as the headline. She stopped buying this same paper because of its views on Scotland's day; tomorrow.
He looks towards the Buchanan Street steps. A battle of PA systems, Yes and No signs and flags has broken out. The crowd are singing at each other and the media thrust microphones in front of red, alive, intense, faces. He chuckles at their certainty.

She hears the singing and sees him laughing. Is he laughing at the melee or at one or the other sides? She sees intent in his eyes and rather than taking off his black baseball hat, he pulls it down tighter onto his head, concealing his dark eyes. She thinks, "if he is from the other side, I should keep an eye on him. They can't be allowed to win."
He stands and knocks back the last drop of his large Americano with two extra shots. He'll need this, he thinks. It'll keep the adrenalin at an alert level. He lifts his bag, slings it over his shoulder and makes for the stairs.
She lets him walk past and regretfully, she leaves her half full cup and follows him down the stairs, pulling on her green, zip up hoodie. She pulls her red curls into the hood. She knows she is recognisable and she is sure he looked at her.
He steps out onto Buchanan Street, pauses to look at the scrum of Yes and No campaigners, politicians, media and the temporarily sane. He smiles at their certainty. He feels he is justified in what he is about to do. He hates their posh, rich, certain voices and the fact that manipulate their supporters with certain, manipulated, unrelated factoids. The world must know the truth and he is the one to ensure they do. He turns to walk down the hill.
She watches him watch. She follows his gaze. Which side is he on? The side of decency or the side of the uneducated?
He remembers his message to the No campaign. The Better Together offices are not accessible to the public. The Yes offices are. He knows they will receive his message soon, by courier. His message to the Yes office is going to be delivered by the contents of his bag, in a few minutes. Their whole office will know this message. It will be clear. Their certainty will shatter. He knows this. His message is subversive. But clear. Certain.
She watches him clutch his grey duffle bag closer, under his arm. She knows he is going to do something. He darts down a side street. She follows. He stops and lights a cigarette. She has no choice but to walk past. Hopefully at the end of the alleyway, she can find somewhere she can stand and watch him again.
He wants to make sure he hasn't been followed. He has been saying to his 157 followers on Twitter that today he will knock the certainties. The new voice will enter the fray. He will challenge these bastards.
He stops; pretending he is sheltering to light up a cigarette. As he draws on the Benson, he notices the tall girl in the green hoodie. A red curl betrays her. He has seen her before. In the cafe. Is she following him? She walks past him without looking at him. He must not let paranoia stop his plan.
She turns left and walks a few paces to a bus stop and hides behind a round, sweating man holding two large "Bags for Life" full of tins and packets.
He emerges from the alleyway and crosses the road. He wants to take a detour to deliver a letter to the Yes Bar, a bar that used to be called the Vespbar until they became certain.
She watches from behind the perspex of the bus shelter. He walks down the street opposite and eventually ducks down another side alley. She knows what lies down that street. The traffic has stopped at the lights up the hill, so she runs across, her hood falls and her hair cascades onto her shoulders. He is up to something. This mysterious man in black has secrets she must know. Is he out to thwart the cause? To leaflet, persuade or to cajole people to vote against their own interests? Or is he out to embarrass one of the other kind? Is he an agent provocateur for her side?
She turns the corner as he walks through the door of the Yes Bar. Is he going in to support or to jeer?
He walks to the bar. The woman behind the bar smiles at him. Another certain person. He knows she is certain. When he downs the pint of lager he takes the envelope out, sets it on the bar and turns to leave.
There she is again. The beautiful red haired woman with the green jacket. She is looking at him. He stares at her as he walks past. Is she following him? Has she read his posts on "The Scottish Rebels" Facebook site? Is she one of those who have dissed his views? Is she MI5? Is he paranoid? He looks at his watch as he walks through the door onto the street. It is 5.34pm.
He turns left and then left again onto Hope Street and quickens his pace up the hill towards the Yes offices.
She rushes out after him. She knows she may well have been spotted, but she is sure he is going to do something wrong- or right. She is certain. Her heart is pounding. His dark eyes penetrated her soul the many times he has stared straight through her and shook her bones just now when he noticed her. She feels she knows her destiny.
He faces the Yes office door. It is still open. Of course it is. Tomorrow is the referendum, they will be pedalling certainties all night tonight. Scotland decides. And they are all so bloody certain. Alex Salmond, Jim Murphy, Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson, Patrick Harvie, Colin Fox, Blair MacDougall, Blair Jenkins, all of them certain.
She is certain. She stares at him standing outside the Yes office. This is either going to be great or terrible. Either way, this man of deep secrets will be revealed. The inward gaze, his thoughts positive or negative will show themselves, she is sure. Should she call the police? Yet what he does could be amazing. It could swing tomorrows vote. Scotland could decide as she has.
He looks from left to right. He knows he must do this. The Yes Bar, The NO Campaign, the political leaders in Scotland, and in London and in the United States will have read or will be reading his statement now. Doubt will now be working through their certainty like a virus. Everything changes TODAY.
He loosens the cords on his duffle bag and plunges his hand in, grabbing the cold metal and he pulls it out, directing it at the glass. He has practised this in his flat many times.
She cant breathe. He is taking something from his bag. She'll be an accessory to a dark crime. A crime that could change Scotland forever. A crime that might hasten or retard Scotland's future. What should she do? She looks from left to right. The traffic is moving, but like all rush hours, even on the eve of this momentous vote, work goes on. The hive must gather honey or die.
He points it at the glass. The young people in the office look on in horror. He sees their certainty fade. And he knows those who open the couriered packages and envelopes will feel the same. Their messages of definitive answers will falter and crack. And somewhere someone will understand that there is more to all of this.

She watches him, puzzled. He turns, his dark eyes darting from left to right. The traffic stops and he launches himself across the road.
In an office across from Kelvingrove Museum, one of Ruth Davidson, MP's office workers opens the envelope and reads the short sentence out loud and shakes his head as he sets it aside.
Susanne in the Yes Bar passes the letter to Jim, her husband. He reads it and chuckles.
Rob looks puzzled as he reads the neatly written sentence and passes it across the table to Blair. The Better Together offices have never been so busy, and he is tired, so perhaps he isn't focussing on what he has just read. Blair will sort it out.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is handed the note as she leaves the BBC News set. She scans it and quickly hands it back to her researcher. They both look puzzled at each other and then smile. The coming weeks are going to be out of this world.
Ross Greer of the Greens stares through the Yes office window. He marvels at the fact the graffiti artist is spraying the words backwards so they can read them inside. They are the same words he read this morning as he went through Patrick's mail.
As Chuckles runs across the road laughing, Helen reads his message backwards.
Scrawled in red paint is, "Mibbees aye, Mibbees naw."
She runs into the road and stands in his way.
He stops, shocked. Is she MI5? Is she a mad Scot or Brit nationalist about to chib his throat? Her eyes are as emerald green as her hoodie and they pierce his soul. She smiles. He smiles nervously at this angel who has noticed him.
She looks into the darkness and knows she has work to do.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Independence, @The_SSP_, the next indyref and me...

Today marks the anniversary of the most exciting day I have had in politics in Scotland, since I moved here twenty years ago.

A wee article I wrote about one of the big YES rallies is HERE, plus a link to a photo essay i did of the day...

The Independence Referendum and the two year campaign I was part of, will go down in history as the single most transforming event for the British Isles in the twenty-first century.

At the time the independence campaign kicked off, I was already committed to Scottish Independence, and had supported the notion since the mid-nineties – shortly after I moved here. I am originally from Northern Ireland and the inequality there had ensured I was a socialist. Although I am from a unionist background there, I have supported independence for Ireland, since my late teens. Although I really did not support the kind of “protest” the paramilitaries exercised there, ie. Murder and mayhem, I supported a socialist approach to the problems, that is, if inequalities of power, finance etc could be addressed, the island could peacefully move towards independence from the UK state.

My support for Independence in Scotland began when I first arrived here to go to Stirling Uni as a mature student. Some of my new friends here lived in parts of Glasgow, like Sighthill, Yoker, Govan and Easterhouse – and the housing and poverty left by the devastation of Thatcher made me think, if a people were oppressed, these people living in areas sandwiched by Bearsden, Thorntonhall, Newton Mearns and Busby were certainly oppressed by the huge inequalities obvious for all to see.

My support for independence has always been about addressing inequality and poverty. And to me, the Scottish Socialist Party where the only party truly committed to that aim. The SSP were convened in 1998 as a party for Socialism, Internationalism and Scottish Independence (and as a republican party – which unusually I suppose, for a proddy mid-Ulster man, I have been again, since my teenaged years). As a branch organiser of the Scottish Socialist Party, we invited the local Greens and SNP around a table in 2011 and we worked out how “Yes East Dunbartonshire” was going to work.

Working with the other parties was a mixed bag – some of the activists I now count as personal friends- though, like all parties have, there were the “roasters.” Unfortunately it was a few roasters who insisted on bullying a local teenager who was a prominent Green Party activist and who also (against the spirit of the joint campaign) invited the unapologetic misogynist, Tommy Sheridan to speak. These meant the East Dunbartonshire Yes campaign had to split into three geographical areas, who although worked independently of each other, all were tied together by the three political parties.

In order for the SSP to ensure the voice of the Greens and those who wanted our campaign to continue as one addressing social and economic inequalities, we formed a local RIC branch that went on to bring Jim Sillars to Kirkintilloch, lead street activism across the constituency and into the Campsie Hills – and even managed to “photobomb” the evening news with a banner made by activists that was used across the countryside and off the side of the Squinty Bridge in Glasgow!

The SSP were highly active in East Dunbartonshire during the referendum and hopefully complemented the brilliant local campaign (I would not have admitted this at the time!) by the SNP – and in particular, the irrepressible Fiona McLeod MSP.

On the 18th, my SSP branch was active across the constituency again, outside polling stations and on the phones, getting the vote out. I worked with my SSP comrades across the constituency (and into Maryhill!) alongside a brilliant last day campaign that because of the weaknesses in Yes Scotland itself, were coordinated by the SNP and activists such as the superbly hard working Ross Greer.

As the day wore on, I did get a bad feeling of what the result would be – the hollow shell of the Labour party seemed over confident – a member who was pro-independence said to me that the bussed up activists, local branches alongside the local active Tories and Lib Dems had ensured East Dunbartonshire would vote no. We knew that would happen – and had hoped to get 40% for Yes – which we did. I really hoped against hope that the rest of the country would see sense.

The count was devastating. Not least for the Labour Party activists cheering and hugging their Tory “enemy” every time an area declared for No.

I left the count at around four am – before the official announcement. I could not take the sickening “comradeship” of the Labour Party, Tories and Liberal Democrats a minute longer – nor could I stomach the declaration as these bastards tore down all hope of a better Scotland.

When I arrived home, I watched a bit of the rest of the referendum night on tv. I sat, totally devastated, trying to comprehend what had happened. The hopes of a generation dashed by fear and by greed.

How was I going to tell my wife when she woke that we were still under the cosh of the Coalition Government and in particular the Tories?

As dawn broke, I realised this was a fight only just begun. This was not finished. This had been the opening battle in the war against poverty and greed on these islands.

And today I am again filled with hope. The Labour Party is transforming itself back to the party of the people it should be. Hopefully soon, the Blairites and Brownites will be banished into the history books (or the Hague) and sense will prevail. A Labour Party reborn and for an independent, fair Scotland could be on its way after they are over the attacks from the Project Fear they had helped design.

I see hope in the realignment of Scottish politics. Some in the SNP at the start of the independence campaign told me a focus on business etc would win the referendum. I am glad to say that after some of the local meetings in our area turned into proper political discussions about redistribution, green issues and local poverty, many in East Dunbartonshire changed their focus to social and economic equality.

I particularly remember a meeting in Westerton to which we had invited Business for Scotland leader, Gordon Macintyre Kemp and Socialist and Women for Independence activist Rosie Kane. Macintyre-Kemp, while making a coffee in the kitchen in the wee hall said to me words to the effect, “the SSP’s message will not have any impact in this campaign.” After the meeting at which Rosie got the biggest response – especially after her opening words of, “he (Macintyre Kemp) can tell us how we make the money – I’ll try to address what it should be used for…” I was glad to see Gordon during TV interviews, focussing on just that. The onceanti-independence, ex-tory supporting Businessman saw the sense in the SSP approach – ie use our huge wealth to address inequalities.

And I see hope in the SNP addressing inequalities in health, education and through heading off some of the Tories worst policies like the bedroom tax. The rest of the UK is looking at our wee corner of these isles with envy as our education is still one of the best systems in the world – and getting even better; our health service is fending off the privations of privatisation and our young people are not saddled with the huge debt the Tories have managed to impoverish a generation of students with. Of course, as a socialist, the SNP’s current form is only a beginning. 

Unfortunately the SSP has not used the new surge in support for their policies as well as some had thought they would, instead deciding to try some sort of alliance they have called Rise to take on the SNP and the Greens on turf they should have stayed away from. Rise as it exists now, is a small, sectarian coming together of ex-SWP, the SSP and a few smaller groups, but led by people who whisper, “don’t mention socialism and don’t be too radical.” I have now left the SSP, hopefully only for the time being, as dissent from the view of those pushing this, in my opinion disastrous new group, is not tolerated and in fact some within the party (and without) have resorted to bullying tactics to ensure the party/alliance line is not diverged from.  And all for a small "leadership" to help shoo in their preferred successors...

When the next referendum is announced it remains to be seen if I will be helping as a member of a political party. But I’ll certainly be helping. And the next time it will be towards the goal of an independent, socialist Scotland – unashamedly.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

God Save the Queen and forget, for today, about the refugees...

Guess what. Syrian people are dying in their country. They are dying escaping their country. Afghans, Libyans, Iraqi's, Eritreans, Palestinians' and many more oppressed and impoverished people are being bombed, shot, starved and drowned for our addictions. To ensure our homes are fashionably shabby chic and our cars can drive us 500 yards to our local store. Children, women and men are being exploited for their labour and bodies across the world to feed our need for cheap tee shirts and pornography. And the BBC reminds us our betters get millions of our pounds to be fed, clothed, housed and be worshipped.

Royalty need your brain space today. Not your guilt in allowing poor people die for your lifestyle. Royalty ensure you know your place in humanity. Helpless, scraping by and forced to consume. Well done, Mrs Windsor. You've done your job today, again in a "working life" of "just being there" to spend our money and practising fashionable hand waving technique (the 1930's one your mum enjoyed haunting you a few weeks ago). Reigning really must be a hard job. And your life, of course, is one much better celebrated and concentrated on than those who have sailed, walked, struggled out of bomb pits and away from flesh tearing exploding white hot metal, blinding gas, torture and obliteration into tented cities of disease and searingly hot, unsanitary despair.

Long may you reign over us so the BBC can divert us from our guilt in children ripped apart by our liberating drones. Long may you grace us with your tax avoidance and "remarkable record" of accepting ours. Keep up the good work in shooting wildlife and in keeping your "malicious wit" private. Your constant presence on my telly has ensured I've forgotten the wee boy washed lifeless onto the pristine holiday beach, and the other children smashed, abused and ripped apart by British interests abroad.

Thanks for your help, mam.

The Queen perfecting the wave she became so loved for.