Monday, 29 April 2013

A Living Death ....

I have not blogged for the last two weeks as I have been processing (in psychotherapy speak but otherwise better known as 'thinking about') events concerning my mother.

My sister and I have been concerned for around four years that our now 81 year old mother was developing Alzhiemers. We could see changes in her patterns of behaviour towards us and others close to her but as she is also highly intelligent we now believe she was able to manipulate the results of the written and other tests. We were told not to worry about our mother's increasing 'crankiness' and repetition of the same stories over and over it was simply 'old age'. The tests showed she did not have Alzhiemers.

My mother was well read, highly intelligent and back in the 70's and 80's she had helped run a WRVS program inconjuction with the local geriatric department looking at the problems of Alzhiemers for both sufferers and their carers. I now think she knew what was happening to her and reverted to her standard approach which has always been to shift the blame for any failure in her life to me, my sister, our relatives, her friends and neighbours. My mother's big weakness was her ability to take the plaudits when things were going well (even if she had no real input into the success) but responsibility ended when the shit hit the fan.

It has been confirmed today she has Alzhiemers of vascular origin. The blood supply to the parts of her brain that make her 'her' are shutting down and over the last six months this has changed her character to such an extent she is now hospitalised awaiting a place in a specialist care unit. At first the increasingly irrational anger and accusations hurt, her attempts to turn me against me sister, my sister against me, drive relatives away and even turn on her next door neighbour Pat with whom she has been friends for 30 years and does her weekly shop - claiming she was robbing my Mum by getting my Mum to sign a blank cheque. My sister and I have also been accused of only interested in her 'money'. The point came ten days ago when the solicitor who has been trustee of my mother's finances for five years received an earful when visiting her in hospital. He contacted my sister and myself and asked how long had this been going on and we told him it has been getting steadily worse since October 2012 where as prior to this it was an intermittant phenomenon. We are currently seeking to put my mother under the guardianship of the court on the solicitors suggestion as a result.

Where does that leave my mother? The horrible reality is she probably understands she is losing her mental faculties, is very frightened and her only response left is to lash out in 'anger' as she has always done when things go wrong.

My sister and myself now have to watch as over the next few months the person who was our mother will in all respects die. She may live on in body another five or more years but what was really 'her' will cease to exist. Just what sort of quality of life is she going to have as she increasingly becomes doubly incontitent and in a developing vegetative state, dribbling and mumbling her way to death's door?

If it was my dog or cat, rather than my mother, I would be considered callous and cruel to allow any animal to suffer in this way yet pro-life religious nutters consider this to be 'compassionate and caring', it makes no sense. Instead myself and my sister have to hope a stroke will take her, end her suffering and give her some dignity in death. In the meantime my mother continues to be forced to suffer a cerebral version of the Chinese Water Torture as her ability to think and 'be her' closes down around her.

As a Buddhist I have no connect to 'religion', I understand that I am the agent of and personally responsible for whatever happens around me by my action or inaction. My purpose is to act in a way to bring a benefit to all life and minimise hurtful actions. At this point UK law and medical practice leaves me powerless without any choice. At present the inability to bring my mother the peace she now deserves at the point she ceases being herself is hurtfull and is frustrating to me. It is time for Scots Law to recognise that amongst the great positive power for good that is in medicine the ability to prolong life, just because we can, has to be addressed - not just for me or my sister but all the others the breadth and length of Scotland watching the same destruction of loved ones no matter their disease. Maybe euthanisia is a now sensible option in the context of modern medicine - it is time to give our terminally ill loved ones the same care and compassion we have long given our pets.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Starbucks World - a novel, Chapter 1

As I did last year I am breaking up the political stuff with the first draft chapters of this year's novel what I am writing as I found the interest and occasional comments most encouraging. 'Bitter Together' nearly went into print but did not make the final, last five 'new author' books Ringwood were seeking to publish in 2013. I am now back looking for a publisher for 'Bitter'. This year's book is a very different construct, a story with occasional flashes of humour but more searching in content. I hope you will enjoy it.

Copyright and all other rights are reserved by the author. Publishing in this blog does not allow any copies to be made, stored in any form or printed with out the author's express permission.

Starbuck’s World - Chapter One

George Dunnet looked at the unthinking mob of Thatcher fanatics standing outside St Paul’s and shook his head. They really did not understand, he thought, just what a total mess she made of this country, how her policies broke up cohesion between people across the UK and her economic policies created the mess that is the current austerity. They stand their glassy eyed, worshiping her as some latter day Boudicca with no clear understanding of the irony of the comparison. Boudicca fought against Roman neo-liberalism and for social cohesion, she managed to unite British tribes not separate them and set them against each other. The Roman historical image Thatcher was closer to was that of Claudius who turned up on a couple of elephants, declared Rome triumphant over the natives and disappeared back there just as soon as he could. Thatcher was more like Claudius in the way she paid of her modern day equivalents of local British chiefs to stay quiet and get their people to do what they were told. If Thatcher had been Boudicca she would have made a bonfire of the City of London and not fund the building of temples to the worship of the quick profit and screw the rest.

He looked over the top of his Starbuck’s ‘decafe with skinny’ feeling sorry for the service personnel who were left standing, honouring a person with no honour in her own life time, who talked about ‘my lads’ while her policies had put George and his comrades in harm’s way, to claw back islands at the other end of the world, as Cabinet Paper’s of the era came into the public view, she did not want to defend in the first case.  It would have been fitting, George thought, if  one of the ‘Shite Hawks’, flying over St Pauls waiting for the crowd to go, so they could clear up, had done a dump in the middle of her coffin. Serendipity was not at home today in the air over St Pauls, mores the pity nor was any sense of justice.

George took one last look at the worshiping Thatcherites, put the half empty Starbucks container in the bin berating himself as to why he ever bought the thin tasteless brew in the first place. Starbucks and Thatcher were two of a kind, bright and shiny in their presentation yet underneath thin, weak and tasteless with a dark secret at their heart – no matter how much they pretend they were parasites on society.  He turned and limped back across the infamous ‘wobbly bridge’ to complete his shift as a security guard at the Tate Modern. He pulled the collar up on his old RN greatcoat to keep the over powering grimness of the day at bay, hearing in some long lost past the voice of his platoon’s Gunnery Instructor at Dartmouth shouting, “Get that collar down at once, sir, you’re an officer , I taught you better than that.” Yes, GI Smith, you did but when it comes down to it, who actually gives a shit? No one anymore, that was another of Thatcher’s legacies, as Dunnet looked at the Starbucks wrappings and cups jammed into the grill on either side of Roger’s famous bridge and the chewing gum spattered all over the place which made the occasional splat of guano, on the walk way, honest in comparison. There had been a time George had been Thatcher neutral and after the mess Governments had made of industry and work force relations during the 70’s, a necessary evil but as the evil grew he was left in the latter part of the 80’s just wondering at the chaos and sintering of society the electorate had unleashed in 1983 with her re-election and the clash of super ego’s that was actually behind the Miner’s Strike and the destruction of Britain’s coal mining industry. Scargill and Thatcher, two sides of the same crown, the only blessing was the armed forces were kept out of it which was just as well as they were tied up in the Northern Ireland hornet’s nest Thatcher’s policies there had stirred up to a crescendo.

Ten million quid was the cost of today’s ‘Claudian Triumph’, all that had been missing was the elephants and the odd benefit scrounger in chains being dragged behind the gun carriage prior to being ritually hung by the Dean of St Pauls, during his eulogy to ‘Thatcherdom’. ‘Do not go silently into that dark night’, never had Dylan Thomas’ words had more poingnance  than today for George, Thomas was right, for too long the little people, like George, had been silent while being dragged down into the neo-liberal darkness and simultaneously being blamed for the problems the neo-liberal economy had created. Trickle down had never worked at any point in history. George tried to remember what Keynes had said about capitalism and the people behind it. The quote was coruscating, George remembered that much. Keynes said something along the lines of capitalism was run by a legitimised criminal business class whose only interest was their own self interest and greed. The creation of Harry Enfield’s ‘Loads a Money’ caricature was a fine reflection of this idea made flesh, a caricature George had never found funny in the slightest as it was to near the bone. Then again, thought George, I could have taken that route, there were plenty of jobs being waved at ex-naval officers by big city firms offering big city wages and bonuses in the mid eighties when he took the opportunity to get out of an ever decreasing Navy he no longer believed in or could stomach. His appointer had tried to get him to stay and extend to a full career commission but all George had seen was years of driving desks and if he was lucky, kept his nose clean and got the internal RN politics right, a sea going command once or twice before he was retired at 55, if there were any RN surface vessels left by then at the rate Thatcher’s Government was scrapping the fleet and failing to replace them. The current fashion was surface vessels were now passé, the future would be in nuclear submarines, so the present mini carriers would not be replaced nor the Sea Harriers that had saved her butt in the Falklands be kept up to date with new avionics and weapon systems. The message from the Falkland’s was simply being swept under the carpet to fit with the latest political idea. There was even talk of the three services being combined into a single UK Defence Force and first to be amalgamated would be the medical branches. While at the same time defence logistics would be privatised and operate with the latest ‘just in time’ supply methodology. The Junior Officer corps in the Navy shook their collective heads. They knew from personal experience how the current system had almost failed them in the Falklands. They joked that ‘just in time’ would translate into ‘just in time’ for the surrender - by when many of them would be swimming for a life raft, if it had arrived in time.

George opened the door to the Tate, let a couple of visitors go first and headed for the staff room to take off his great coat and  go to his post preventing people from touching a series of art works created from or including elephant dung. He pondered for a moment if it was made from, sorry created from, the dung left by Claudius’ elephants which would, after all, be fitting on a day such as today.

George looked at himself in the full length mirror in the cabin in Dartmouth’s Hawke Division he shared with Mike ‘Smudger’ Smith. He checked his uniform was lint free, his black barathea tie firmly against the brass collar stud of his starched collar and central, checked his sword belt and that his sword could be drawn easily, checked his shoes to reassure himself they were polished to a mirror finish, all brass and leatherwork was spotless. Mike came back in from the heads and they both re-checked each other’s uniform and kit and did some last minute work with sellotape. They looked at each other shook hands, wished each other luck and headed down to the parade ground at Dartmouth for the last time as ‘officers under training’ to join their fellow sub lieutenants and midshipmen who would be marching off for the last time. They walked down from Hawke Division to the ramp where they joined up with other young men all excited and chattering to each other about their first postings. Mike and George as Graduate entries were on the fast track which meant they should make full lieutenant in a year if they passed all the courses first time. Mike was heading off to Manadon to complete his engineering training while George was heading for one of the Type 42’s about to be commissioned, HMS Glasgow, and his future as a navigational specialist eventually crossing over the Hydrographers once he made Lieutenant Commander and completed a  First Lieutenant’s job in the proper Navy.

The sun was shining bright and hot, the parade went well, no one in the colour guard fainted so all in all the Marine CSM would be as happy as he ever was. They marched up the steps, past the ‘quarter deck’ through the main doors and into the hall and long corridor behind them the door was slammed shut, they let out an almighty cheer and threw their caps in the air, a quick dash back to their division to store their swords then back to the parade ground to find parents and girl friends and invite them in for drinks and nibbles with the Britannia Royal Naval College staff, after which it would be two weeks leave before joining their new ship or posting. There were few thoughts or concerns about the trembling, crumbling Callaghan Government nor what the election might bring a year hence in 1979. There were more important things to concern ourselves with like parties and holidays. Politics - they were for commanders and above to worry over, as we headed off in to the summer of 1978, with the optimism of the young.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Vitol, Central Scottish Councils and 'fracking'.

A wee bird has told me that Iain Taylor's (of 'dirty money' imfamy) company Vitol have a possible share of a 16% holding (along with a venture capital company through a private company vehicle called GEL/GPEL) in 'Dart Energy' (through Vitol's Bob Finch and Christoper Bake) who are seeking planning permission from Stirling and Falkirk Councils to extend their current methane coal extraction operations onto the old central belt coal and shale fields in their Authority areas.

Dart Energy purchased Greenpark's UK licenses in a cash and share deal to be paid in two main tranches. Greenpark Energy was owned by Gel/Gpel Ltd which is owned half by Grace Greenpark Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands, a known tax haven, and half by Electra Private Equity Partners 2001-2006 Scottish L.P., a subsidiary of Electra Equity via its subsidiary Kingsway Equity Partners LP. It is not hard to surmise Vitol were part owners of Greenpark Energy Ltd through a British Virgin Islands PLC, Grace Greenpark Ltd, as it is the only track that comes to a dead end and loses traceability courtesy of the British Virgin Islands fiscal regime.

The problem with tying Vitol down is it is technically owned by its 330 employees and it is purely surmise that  Bob Finch, its head of trading, and Christopher Bake, managing director of Vitol, Dubai, holdings in “unconventional gas extraction” assets are actually part of the Vitol Portfolio. Though it is clear from Company House records both Bob Finch and Christopher Bake of Vitol are also directors of GEL/GPEL Ltd.

As both these councils are under Labour / Conservative coalitions the donation clearly has no implications concerning  Mr Taylor's sudden interest in subbing £500,000 to 'Better Together' nor I suspect will it have any effect on the planning permission currently under review by both councils. Though the Observer was less than sanguine about Mr Taylor's £500,000 donation to the Conservatives on the same basis.

Clearly the councils will not have to take into account the problems the multinational Dart Energy are already having with a small trial at Cannonbie in Dumfries and Galloway:

"Scotland’s environment agency is investing reports that drilling at operations by coal bed methane specialist Dart Energy is leading to an escape of gas. SEPA, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, will look into reports that methane is “bubbling up” from wells drilled in coal seams near Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway. SEPA said that it would consider whether follow-up work in line with its enforcement policy would be needed once its investigations were completed."

quote: Natural Gas Europe

While this sort of thing may well go unnoticed in the big uninhabited areas of the US or Australia it is quickly noticed in Scotland where folk live and see what is going on and are very sensitive to the condition of local burns and rivers. Environmentalists have been warning people about the actual impact of fracking on the local water table and, in this instance, we already have a clear example of the problems, enough to trigger a SEPA investigation. The next stage of environmental danger is localised geological instability caused as the water allows local compression areas in the rock to release by lubricating them, causing mini earthquakes; just as already has happened around Morecambe Bay. SEPA are only responsible for water quality and have responsibility to ensure the local environment:

"This can present several risks to the water environment including:

  • cross contamination of aquifers due to poor borehole construction;
  • pollution from an unexpected release of gas or fracturing fluid into other parts of the water environment;
  • pollution from an uncontrolled disposal of liquid or solid waste containing potentially polluting substances;
  • abstraction of uncontrolled quantities of water for fracturing operations leading to an unacceptable impact of the water environment;
  • leaks of gas to the atmosphere (also known as fugitive emissions);
  • spills from fluids that come to the surface from storage tanks or lagoons."
Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations 2011

SEPA have the power to close down operations until the problems identified are put right including any preventive actions they request but the control of the Fracking License and its removal lies with the National Coal Authority, a Westminster Quango, which has taken over the issuing of coal methane licenses from the DECC.

You do not have to be much of a genius to understand why Mr Taylor would be interested in backing the 'Better Together' camp as the SNP view is there is no need for 'Fracking' in Scotland as we are more than self reliant in terms of natural gas, from the North Sea, in the first instance and power from re-usable sources in the second. Fracking, like nuclear power has no place in an independent Scotland.

No Union, no National Coal Authority License, no fracking, no fracking profit for Vitol's Bob Finch and Christopher Bake in Scotland ... as they say, you just need to follow the money.

"An Observer investigation has established that energy trading giant Vitol, whose boss has given more than £500,000 to the Conservatives, has emerged as a major shareholder in a company bringing "hydraulic fracturing", commonly known as fracking, and a related technology, coal bed methane (CBM) extraction, to the UK." - Greenwise

"Vitol and two venture capital firms acquired a 16 per cent stake in a company called Dart Energy after selling it a company called Greenpark that has a licence to conduct exploratory fracking at a site on the Anglo-Scottish border." - Greenwise

Vitol's previously unpublicised interests in what are referred to as "unconventional gas extraction" assets suggests the company believes they could be a major source of energy.

The previously unpublicised interests of two Vitol executives, Bob Finch, its head of trading, and Christopher Bake, managing director of Vitol, Dubai, in “unconventional gas extraction” assets suggests they believe it could be a major source of energy.

Jeff Archer exploration CEO at Greenpark now on Dart Energy Board.

Greenpark acquisition Dart Energy 2012 Annual Report:

In December 2011, the Group agreed to acquire the unconventional gas business of Greenpark Energy Ltd, comprising certain onshore licences in the UK for a consideration of US$42 million. The consideration was payable in two tranches and made up of a mixture of cash and shares in Dart Energy and potentially in the intended, to be listed, DEI. The first tranche comprising US$6 million cash and US$10 million in newly issued Dart Energy shares was paid in May 2012. In aggregate, 31,354,118 shares were issued which, post-issue represented 4.1% of the enlarged shares in issue of the Company at that time. A further US$5 million was placed in a retention account and will be released in 2 tranches, 18 October 2012 and 18 February 2013, subject to there being no claims. Deferred consideration for the 2nd tranche of US$21
million is payable by 30 September 2012 in the form of cash and shares or fully in shares.

Dart Energy Quarterly Report Dec 2012:

Consequently, shares were issued such that Greenpark vendor (GEL/GPEL Limited) now hold a total of 145 million shares or approximately 16% of the total issued share capital of the Company.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Vitol and Serbia's National Oil Company

I can not name my sources as they have been threatened by the Serbian Mafia with being 'disappeared' if their uncovering of Serbia's National Oil Company's ramapant corruption through out the senior management including the Minister of Oil in Serbia at the time of Vitols involvement in Serbia.

At the end of the Balkans Conflict the EU sought to help all parties get back on their feet, as part of the deal with Serbia the EU supplied petrol, deisel and fuel oil to Serbia at highly subsidised prices. To ensure it was properly used and the management could cope with the requirements of EU aid it was agreed that a team of senior management from Gazprom, Shell and BP would support Serbia's National Oil company on its commercial resumption after the dislocation caused by the conflict.

It was not long before the EU / Russian team uncovered a major scam which involved EU fuel tankers coming into Serbia  from Hungary. According to Serbia Oil the tankers were off loaded at the main redistribution base and returned to Hungary. What happened was the Serbs persuaded the tanker drivers to uncouple and take back already emptied tanks because they claimed they could not deal with the volume of fuel coming in from the EU. The tanker drivers acted in good faith and did this. The figures showed that around 60% of the EU fuel was entering the Serbian economy the rest was being written off as 'spillage'. It was not long before the EU team worked out what was happening and it was clear the re-sale of the fuel in Eastern Europe was not benefiting the Serbian economy in any shape or form, the money was being creamed of by the Serbian Mafiosa, senior executives in Serbia National Oil and ministers in the Serbian Government.

The Gazprom side said they would get their 'Russian' people to make approaches to the Serbian Government to have this blatant misuse of EU aid ended. The Shell /BP team heard no more until the Serbian Oil management member liasing with them advised they should seriously consider getting out of Serbia. It appeared that at a meeting of Serbia Oil the CEO had made it clear if the Gazprom/ Shell /BP team did not stop causing 'problems' steps would be taken by 'friends' to silence them. The CEO had been told by highly placed members of the Serbian Government that a 'blind eye' would be turned to any disappearances.

The Gazprom side took advice from the Russian Government and the end result was the Shell / BP team withdrew for their own safety. Within a year the Oil Minster had ben assasinated by who, is unknown. It may well have been a conflict of interest within the Serbian Mafia or it could have been Russia sorting out an embarassment to Gazprom's growing collaborations with Shell and BP - no one will ever know.

Yet this was the set up Vitol was working with in Serbia - and leaves the legitimacy of the 'consultancy fee' paid to the Serbian Oil Minister floating in the air, given the context of Serbia National Oil Company and the Serbian Government's modus operandi at the time.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Thatcher's real legacy - austerity?

You have to have a rather coloured view of the 70's if you think the economic train crash of the decade of the 70's, in so many ways, was all Labour's fault. Heath's Conservatives were just as complicit in all the 'beer and sandwiches' tosh of the era.

Thatcher's first term was hardly reknowned for its 'Union bashing' either; that did not take real strides until the NUM in 84/85. In fact if it had not been for the 'just in time' Falkland's 'win', Micheal Foot was heading for number 10 in 1982. Like many Falkland's vets I am left with the feeling I lost friends for no other reason than to save Thatcher's butt, undoing a daft decision by a 'here today, gone tomorrow politician' (John Knott) who would not listen to the intel coming from the South Atlantic because he and Carrington thought it was a MoD insiders plot to stop Knott, as Secretary of State for Defence, axing the armed forces.

From 1979, Thatcher rode a wave of increasing revenue from the North Sea Oil and Gas sector and pee'd it up against the walls of Threadneedle Street with little thought to what happened if her reliance on the 'City of London' ended up being disaterously wrong, which is exactly what happened in 2008. It is increasingly clear the original Halifax / BOS amalgamation was an attempt to bring some sensible banking practice to an out of control Halifax which held a massive subprime mortgage book of whale debt proportions. It is also why the banking services part was run as a defacto seperate business by the BoS team in Edinburgh. It is also why the BoS banking services could have been bought out of HBoS in November 2008 as it was profitable and a going concern. Of course UK Government could not let that happen because it would make the 'sale' to Lloyds of just the Halifax completely unpalatable to the Lloyds major share holders. Yet again Peston was fed information by the UK Treasury to spike the proposed buy out of BoS by a mix of Scottish and Chinese entrepreneurs. The real reason now seems obvious. The demonstration of a profitable, stand alone BoS, run from its HQ on the Mound, undoes the propaganda they had been feeding the UK to counter the SNP's growing support in Scotland using the 'Independent Scotland could not afford the bank bail out' line. A reconstituted BoS would have clearly identified the problems as being 'City of London' based.

It is also clear from a recent US senate report that the Thatcherite, neo-liberal, light regulation of the 'City' created a trading environment where these subprime 'whale debts' were allowed to be built without due diligence or any risk assessment by the banking sector , in the case of Chase Morgan this was £6 billion of 'whale debt' held in its London based company which we, UK tax payers, have paid out for.

Blair and Brown saw Thatcher as their heroine and they are Thatcherite neoliberals to the core. As the evidence becomes clear it is increasigly obvious that by 2008 HBOS was in a worse state than Northern Rock, so a plan was concocted in the Treasury to drive down HBOS share price to make the take over by Lloyds more amenable to Lloyds Bank shareholders. Peston was briefed with information by the Treasury to facilitate the HBOS share price to plummet; a point made in a BBC4 Moneybox program by a 'trader' two days after Peston's original disclosure about HBOS.

The only question there is no clear answer to, at present, was it Lehmann's or HBOS that triggered the subprime 'whale debt' crash that lead us to this point and why, like Norway, did the UK not have an oil fund to cushion our economy or had made serious Government investment in rebuilding a new manufacturing base and UK infra-structure (something that has been done in the Gulf States /  Norway / Venezuela)?

The answer to that is 33 years of unmitigated Thatcherite neoliberalism.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Thatcher is dead ... So?

Thatcher had her faults and strengths. I believe she thought she was doing more good than harm and given the decade of politics which preceded her in the 1970's she may well have been right, up to a point. Unforunately she ended up surrounded by folk who did not stand up to her more crass ideas and after her 'victory' over the Scargill lead NUM, completely lost the plot. Scargill is equally guilty through his actions of what then happened to the UK coal industry. To a large extent their egos deserved each other but it was the workers who suffered in the end.

Without Thatcher there would have been no rise of the SNP nor New Labour's suicidal charge to the right of UK politics, both of which increases the likelihood of Scottish independence, not an outcome Thatcher would wish but one she started, lead to devolution and one I am personally grateful for.

To wish joy upon any death is morally incompetent - the judgement for her will be elsewhere and according to her own beliefs: 'By your actions, ye shall be known.'

Therein lies probably the greatest potential dichotomy for Thatcher's soul; just how is she going to survive the eons in a Christian Heaven, where all are equal? Where the first shall come last? Richmen, camels and needles ....

Even the devil could not have thought up a better punishment ......

Thursday, 4 April 2013

An appeal to Social Democrats asleep in England.

English Social Democrats: I would like you to throw away your unconcious scepticism about Scotland and understand that the 'Yes' Campaign needs only a further 5% swing towards it to win in September 2014 and has eighteen months of Cameron bringing gifts like today's 'speech' at Govan to do it. The SNP claim that Cameron's visit and speech today has given them the most new members in a day for quite a few weeks, 109.

'Yes' in 2014 means 2015 becomes the election to the new English Parliament and not a 'UK Parliamentary election', as to all intents and purposes the UK Parliament ceases to exist on a 'Yes' vote in September 2014, and the opening of negotiations to end the UK Political Union in October 2014. There is no role for current Scottish MP's to play in the negotiations as these negotiations will be between the two original signatories of the 1706 Union Treaty, the sovereign nations of England and Scotland and their governments.

Now you can take the usual Guardianista - slag the Scots voting independence - line or you can stop and think what this means in terms of English party manifestos in the run up to May 2015 given the step change, no Scottish MP's at Westminster, will entail.

First off, just who will be given the 'subsidy Jock' political scapegoat label, Wales, Northern Ireland or Northern England? Maybe the Tories will continue with their current attack scapegoating the poorest and most vulnerable in England but what will New Labour do, existing as they do in a policy and commitment free zone? Who will they turn and scapegoat as an essential part of Westminster politicking? Given New Labour's current track record of sitting on their hands they can hardly have a go at the Tories and attacking a Libdem party they may well need in a coalition is not a smart move.

UKIP, as an England only party with 0.3% support in Scotland, will illogically continue to call themselves UKIP simply because a lot of folk in England will be in denial about the end of the United Kingdom's political union and with it the constitutional basis for the term. If UKIP are smarter than they sometimes seem they will be working hard on policies that will attract the old school Tories - locking lots of oiks up, keeping the poor in their place, bringing back fox hunting, feeding their anti-European prejudices and in general ticking all the Telegraph reading publics' boxes, they may well leave the strident Daily Mail readers for the BNP.

The other three can not be so 'laissez faire' in their approach as they need to attract a broader base to gain their ultimate prize. Their nature is to be as little different from one another than they can get away with while claiming clear blue water between their policies. In this the Libdems probably have more scope to be strikingly different but have the image problem that in power they ended up being no different from the other two.

The right on the new post 2014 English political tatses are well catered for but there is a real gap in the centre left until you hit the Socialist Green Party who represent the other extreme in England to UKIP. Like UKIP if they play a decent 'socialist hand' they will attract votes from the readership of the Socialist Worker and old fashioned hard left Labour voters. The big hole is where a centre left, truly social democratic party should be. England does not have a 'SNP' political equivalent and so where does this vote go or, as has been happening over the last few General Elections in England, does it just sit at home in ever bigger numbers, disenfranchised, angry with the way England is going while feeling ever more powerless to do anything about it?

To this group Messers Byrne and Cruddas are out of touch morons, no one in any of the current parties in England reflects their voice. It is time they spoke out loud and clear and made themselves heard, 2015 and a new English Parliament will be their opportunity but will they take it and create a real change in English politics?

Who knows?

First, the Scots have to vote 'yes' in 2014 and only then can the real political fun in England begin.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

The Scottish 'Common Weal' - what is it?

The weakness of commentators, such as Gerry Hassan, who reject the Scottish trait of social conservatism or the 'Common Weal' as hearsay or an 'urban myth' have to explain how, since the Scottish Reformation, this solid idea and deep seated sense of responsibility of 'being their brother's keeper' is so strong in Scotland.  An idea so strong it informs Scottish Socialism to a greater degree than Marx or Lenin.

Look at the laws passed in the Scottish Parliament prior to 1707 and their interconnectedness with instructions to Scotland's Parishes by the General Assemby about the requirement to provide services for the poor - from simple relief to a basic education. The poor of the parish were the responsibility of the parish. Folk in the parish falling on hard times / ill health were given support to help them through. All this social welfare happening within a formal structure over 400 years prior to Beveridge's 1942 report and the 1948 Health and Welfare Act.

Parishes which failed to meet their obligations would see themselves indicted at the Court of Session and elders held forfeit under bonds to ensure their duties to the poor were undertaken. The Elder's of the Parish of Tranent were twice pulled into the Court of Session to explain themselves in the late 1600's and sought to claim personal 'poverty' for their failings and the unwillingness of their congregation to raise funds for 'back sliders' and 'tinkers' who were claimed to 'infest their parish'. Yet it was a well respected parishioner who had fallen on 'hard times' who petitioned the Court of Session about the failure of Tranent Presbytry and Parish. 'Daily Mail' readers were clearly alive, well and equally prejudiced in 17th Century Scotland.

North of the Highland line the Clan's feudal equivalent of 'kinship and bondsman' also ensured the deserving poor were kept dry and fed in Clachan's across Gaeldom. Many Clan Chief's reputations were made and retained by the succouring of Clan members who fell on hard times. In more modern times the Govan Rent Strike of 1916 was driven by a similar sense of grievance that changes in rental conditions most effected the poorest and most vulnerable - much like today's 'bedroom tax' protests.

This fuzzy, almost intangible idea of the 'Common Weal' in Scotland is alive and well today in NGO's like 'Food Train' (which ensures the old and isolated get their weekly messages in rural Galloway), Church OAP lunch clubs or simply the folk that just go 'opposite' to see that 'old' Mrs or Mr 'Such and Such' is OK. These social actions have little to do with their politics or their religion and everything to do with how they see themselves and their community.

So is it that surprising Scots feel most comfortable with a style of Government which has policies that reflect these innate, but deeply imbedded social democratic traits?

The 'Common Weal'  exists and is action within Scotland on a daily basis. The 'Common Weal' is seen in action everytime some one trips and is helped up, helped onto a bus with their pram or tapped on their shoulder and told they have just dropped their wallet or a glove and it is in action routinely on a daily basis than the stuff that makes the daily headlines on BBC News Scotland or the Scottish press.

I would go further; the actions of the 'Common Weal' are the reasons that so many folk who move from other countries to live in Scotland quickly see and feel themselves as being 'Scottish'.