McCringe- Part Deux

My piece on the Scottish cringe (which I originally penned in April, but seemed to only generate discussion last month) certainly struck a chord. Regardless of how you identified with my blog, it certainly instigated debate. That’s always a positive, in my book.

So here’s my follow up piece. I was pondering how to structure this article. But after a week or so, I became inspired. Here we go.

I’ve concluded that British Nationalists or Unionists as they seem to prefer being labelled are never going to shake off the cringe. It’s not because they want to abandon Scotland, but because they don’t see Scotland as anything other than an appendage of the UK. To them, everything of significance and pride emanates from London and moves outward. Scotland is just a small part of that. Not a place of influence, just a bit of land too far north for most people in London to really bother with it. This suits Brit Nats just fine.

I spend significant time on social media. Probably too much time. But one thing all those hours on Twitter has taught me is that a certain segment of the Scottish population genuinely have no allegiance to Scotland. They don’t care if Brexit destroys our economy. They don’t care if we run out of food or medicine. I’m not even sure if many of them care what kind of impact this will have on their own families. It’s bizarre, but take a casual online stroll around the accounts of the most outspoken Brit Nats. Whether they be Unionist politicians and journalists, wanna be economic gurus, or just anonymous trolls. They all share a common view, and that is whatever happens to Scotland, no matter how detrimental, it’s okay as long as we move in the same direction as the rest of the UK. Did you know these folk have circulated a petition to have the Scottish Parliament abolished? Yep, Scotland is just getting too big for her britches, and that wee “prentendy” Parliament is getting above her station.

Which leads me to a very different conclusion than how I felt last April. I genuinely believed we could help staunch British Nationalists see that Scotland had a brighter future with independence, and that ALL our decisions could be made in Scotland by the people who live and work here. But I was wrong. The Scottish cringe is a part of the very psyche of these people. They don’t have any individual Scottish indentity. I don’t imagine when (or if) they travel abroad they ever try to tell others that Scotland voted 62% to Remain in the EU. And that it was our much larger neighbour in England who decided we would leave the EU. Why? Because to them Scotland has no separate identity. They’re British not Scottish. They don’t see a different attachment to Europe here. As long as more voters in Sunderland say Europe is bad, then it must be so.

So I’ve removed the optimism and hope I had for these people. I’m not even angry with them. I just feel a strong sense of pity for them. I don’t for a moment understand what makes a person so compelled to be so dismissive of their homeland. But now I fully understand, Scotland is only the bit of land they happen to live on. The UK is their first and foremost allegiance. Whatever the government of Westminster decides (a government almost always chosen by our much larger neighbour) is fine. Food and medicine shortages. Oh well. It’s part of a shared heritage for them.

I no longer have the energy or inclination to want to change this view. But come April when food is scarce, do you imagine they tell their kids that hunger is price worth paying to stay part of this “great” United Kingdom?  Here my dear child, try some HP sauce on that union jack, it makes it a big easier to ingest.


Is Westminster a terrorist organisation?

Ok. I bet that got your attention there. Hyperbolic? A year ago, perhaps. Today, I believe it’s an appropriate description of our government in the Westminster Parliament.

In the last few weeks we the people of the UK have been told that we should prepare for the possibility of a no deal Brexit. What does that mean exactly? Well it’s not pretty. In fact it’s downright dystopian. Basically we’ve been told that the shops would run out of food in just days. Hospitals and healthcare facilities could run out of medicines in just 2 weeks. Flights would be grounded. The south coast of Kent would be a literal parking lot for lorries trying to get to mainland Europe. It sounds like some really awful futuristic apocalyptic novel. But no this would be the United Kingdom in 2019, in the event of not securing an adequate agreement with Brexit.

Now, you might be thinking why on earth would a democratic government ever risk such an disastrous outcome for its citizens? Well, exactly. It’s not the way government in a functioning democracy behaves. You don’t set upon a course of action which would lead directly to civil unrest, and possibly even thousands or millions of deaths. This is not what we elect people to do. It’s the kind of oppressive behaviour that people have been fighting against for centuries. It’s certainly not how you would expect a 21st century western government to behave.

Unless. You start to analyse the government in another light. What if the Westminster government is really a terrorist organisation? I know it seems to go against all rational thought. But given what we have heard from them over the last few weeks is it really such an odd concept? We’ve had a Tory MP say on national television, that we won’t see any benefit from Brexit for 50 years. Another Cabinet Secretary stating, that we could be headed for an “accidental” no deal. But it would be all the EU’s fault. Now last time I checked it wasn’t officials in the EU which had imposed an EU referendum on the UK (with virtually no real information as to what leaving the EU would even mean). How is it possible a government which is meant to be working for the people, is leading us towards such a draconian existence, that will make the Middle Ages look like the glory years?

Terrorists attempt to intimidate a population through mass murder. We have seen horrific examples of this just in the last 20 years. They try to cause the maximum damage and upset to a country or ideology which they view as the enemy. The end result is tragically many deaths and severe devastation. The public watches in horror and wonders how anyone could do this to innocent people. We never imagine our own government would try to cause such intentional harm and destruction to its own citizens. That would never happen.

But what is the realistic outcome of a nation of 65 million people not having enough food, or water or medicines? It’s death. There is no other ending to that scenario. Why on earth would any rational government even begin to contemplate this kind of scenario for its people is beyond the realm of rational thought. Except this has now been our political discourse over the last few weeks. We live in a country where are own elected officials are now steering us on a course of utter devastation and potentially massive fatalities.

If a terrorist organisation wanted to bring a country to a complete standstill and cause maximum pain, they could hardly devise a plan as destructive as the UK leaving the EU without any deal.

So, I ask you. Is the Westminster government a terrorist organisation?


Why I march

IMG_1336I am an old pro to marches. My first march was when I was just a teenager, back at university. We were marching for equality of race and religion. It wasn’t for a specific vote, just a large group of like minded people supporting a cause we all fervently believed in. Yes, I have attended many marches in the USA, both in protesting events and supporting causes. Never once was I criticised or looked down on by people, who were allegedly on my team. Sure opponents would scoff at “the lefties” out in their thousands, but my ‘brothers in arms’ always encouraged me, even if they themselves didn’t participate.

So I am more than perplexed when large marches, which I have attended in Scotland are viewed with scorn. Not just by the usual suspects of union jack loving British nationalists, but by people who share my views and goals. Last Saturday’s march for independence through the streets of Glasgow, is one such example.

I attended this independence march alone. My son was meant to join me, but was ill. So a friend stayed with him in Edinburgh, as I was desperate to attend this event. I knew it was going to be special, and I was not disappointed. I took the 9:30am train from Edinburgh to Glasgow. I noticed many others on the train were obviously going to the same place. I imagined there were people from all over Scotland making their way to Scotland’s largest city. My excitement grew as the train progressed westward. Even the increasingly grey cloud coverage couldn’t dampen my mood.

I arrived at Queen Street station and made my way to Kelvingrove Park, where the march was to commence. I was there at about 10:45 (the march was to begin at 11:30am) but already I could see thousands of other marchers. I felt a zing of exhilaration. I had my YES flag in my bag, but have never successfully figured out how to put it on a pole to wave it. But I need not worry because there were men everywhere, selling flags (on poles), scarves, banners and whistles. I admit, I am a sucker for these types of items. I purchased a saltire flag, one independence whistle, and a scarf emblazoned with IndyRef2 across it. Did I look a bit over the top? Perhaps, but I loved it. Besides I was amongst like minded folk from all over Scotland. I was in my element.

I fell in line with the marchers. Somehow I managed to be towards the front of the march. It was kind of exciting as at past events, I had usually been towards the end. There’s something kind of special about seemingly leading a group of thousands. I stood amongst the throng of people and just observed the different groups of citizens I would be marching with. I was struck by the sheer diversity of the population in attendance. I’d been on a few independence marches in the past, but this one felt very different. There was an energy and buzz I had never experienced in previous marches. I was elated.

The march started at 11:30am, and we took our places and proceeded to weave our way through the west end, towards the city centre to our final destination of Glasgow Green. It was extraordinary. As we marched, people lined the streets to cheer us on. I looked up at the tenements we walked by, there were smiling faces waving at us and giving us the thumbs up sign. Every spectator seemed to have their camera phones out. I imagine it’s not often you witness a sea of tens of thousands of saltire flags moving through the streets of Glasgow. It must have been an amazing sight for those watching from above.

I was lucky to be marching just ahead of a group of drummers, who played the entire march. They must have been exhausted by the end, as three hours is a very long time to be beating a drum. Anyway they were a real adrenaline boost for those of us in their proximity. They made climbing some of those hills en route much more bearable.

The crowd who participated was extremely diverse. Young (I had previously never seen so many kids on a march before), old and every socio economic class in Scotland. I know there are those who dislike class distinctions, but for a large political movement to work you need people from every walk of life, that’s just a reality. Middle Scotland was largely missing from our support in 2014. For anyone serious about truly gaining independence this next time, their involvement is crucial to our winning.

It was just an utterly glorious day out. Despite being absolutely knackered by the time I reached Glasgow Green (my health hasn’t been great lately) I was also completely elated. After taking some photos of the throngs at the rally, I plonked myself down on the ground and finished my half eaten sandwich while I gulped a bottle of water. In retrospect I was glad it had been an overcast day. I half listened to the speakers. I was too far from the stage to really make out who was talking. But to me, the rally seemed pretty secondary to the actual march. We’d made a huge impact on Glasgow. Yes, we may have delayed some cars, and disrupted some folks shopping environment. But that’s the point of a large march, to be visual, to disrupt everyday life. To remind the public that we support this cause of Scottish independence, in greater numbers than ever before.

So to the naysayers (you know who you are), just remember these marches excite and invigorate those who participate. They’re not events to be mocked or scorned. They bring an energy and vitality to any political movement, that no amount of canvassing will ever replicate. We’re all on the same side here. Can’t we all just get along.


Power Grab

Admittedly I am not super knowledgeable about Welsh politics. I know Wales has a devolved parliament like Scotland, but my understanding is they don’t even have as many powers as the Scottish Parliament does. That seems strange, but then nothing about the makeup or operation of the British government as a whole surprises me any longer.

But today the Labour led Welsh government completely caved in to the Westminster Tory government power grab, regarding new powers post Brexit.  Why? Well, it’s odd, isn’t it? Only a few weeks ago, the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones was the most outspoken about the naked power grab being attempted by this Tory government. Then with little explanation, he announced his resignation as FM over the weekend.

Fast forward to today, Tuesday, and the Welsh government (without Jones as FM) agrees to hand over all these powers to Westminster for a “temporary” period of 5-7 years. Yeah, and if you believe Wales will ever see those powers again, I have a bridge (or 3) to sell you over the Forth.

Of course now the UK media, along with the Tories in Westminster and Holyrood want us to believe it’s the SNP led Scottish government which are being difficult. Because hey the devolved Welsh government caved in to the Westminster power grab, why won’t the Scottish government?

There are no coincidences in politics folks. This is a naked power grab by the Tories in Westminster to centralise as much power in London as possible. If you think those powers will ever be returned, all I can say is look at what this government has done to the Windrush generation. Would you buy a used car from the Tories?

I hope enough people in Scotland are paying attention to the fact, that we are witnessing the systemic dismantling of the devolved administrations. Anyone who strongly believes in devolution, (and I hope this isn’t just SNP supporters), should be extremely concerned.

We need to be vigilant, and fight in every way possible to ensure Holyrood stays a strong devolved parliament.

If history tells us anything, once a government has certain powers, they don’t give them up easily. This Westminster power grab is wrong and dangerous for the future of Scotland.


Love Their Children Too

IMG_1264Remember the song Russians by Sting. Today I was reminded of these lyrics.
‘I hope the Russians love their children too.’

Brexit is going to be terrible for all of us, but it’s going to be even worse for the younger generations. Our children and grandchildren. You see they just won’t have the same opportunities to live and work anywhere in the EU. Their ability to easily study in France or Germany has been taken away. The older generation (who were the demographic which largely voted for Brexit) have basically taken these opportunities away from our kids. Anger doesn’t begin to define how this makes me feel.

But here in Scotland we do have a lifeline. It’s called independence and it’s the only way for us to ensure we do stay in the EU. Now before the unionists start moaning, but how do you know an independent Scotland will be allowed in the EU? Well because senior figures in the EU have said we would be. Now we can have the debate about what kind of membership we want. Full EU membership, EFTA, EEA. But only independence will allow us any of these options.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, everyone knows the Westminster government and the opposition want the UK FULLY OUT of the EU. No single market, no customs union, no freedom of movement. Although they still seem to have no idea how this will work in reality, we know what their end game plan will look like.

I’ve already concluded those people don’t care about future generations. They don’t care that young people will never have the same European opportunities which they had growing up. They’re selfish bastards. It’s as if the under 35’s just don’t exist.

That brings me back to Scotland. Let’s face it, we don’t impact the UK government here. We could elect every Scottish MP as a pro-EU supporter, and it wouldn’t matter. England decides the make up of the UK government. If you don’t know that by now, well you truly have been living in a cave for decades.

Which is what depresses and frustrates me in equal measure regarding folk who still cling to the idea of staying in a union with the rest of the UK. I regularly read these people bemoaning the inevitability of Brexit, and I sit back and ponder how much are they really worried about the catastrophe of being taken out of the EU. To me, it’s a no brainier. Scotland must be independent, as to no longer be dictated to by our MUCH larger neighbours. There’s no pleading with England to change course. The support for Brexit in England is still as high as it was on the 24th June, 2016.

This is why I have to hope British nationalists in Scotland will put the younger generations’ futures first. Do they want their kids to have the same opportunities that they had? To work in Germany or study in Italy? Do they want them to be able to take a year and travel around Europe with the same rights afforded all other EU citizens? I am not so sure. To me, it appears that Scottish independence is a step too far for them.

Sadly, I’m not at all convinced unionists ‘love their children too.’


The Changeover

My son Ethan spent his spring break with his Dad. Two weeks he was away. It’s the longest period of time I have ever spent apart from my boy. I won’t lie, I enjoyed it. Sure I missed him, but until you understand the constant stress of being a single parent of an autistic child, you’ll never fully comprehend the sense of relief when you don’t have to worry and care for them 24/7.

I personally didn’t do much. I went out with friends on a few occasions. Caught up on films I have wanted to see. Read books without feeling guilty that I should be taking my son out and entertaining him. Cooked and ate when I felt like it. Basically I just decompressed for two weeks, and it was the mental break I so desperately needed.

Yesterday, Ethan came home. My ex and I don’t really feign the pleasantries too much. It’s no secret, he’s not exactly my favourite person. So A. brought Ethan to the end of our lane and I walked up to meet him halfway.

Ethan was so excited when he got home. He had so much to show me. All these new DVDs that Dad had bought him. Not to mention the new jackets, and trainers. He enthusiastically dug out his phone to show me the photos from his trip to London with Dad. It was difficult not to get caught up in his energy. I couldn’t recall if he was ever this animated after our holidays together. Was I not as fun as Dad? It made me wonder.

But after Ethan went to bed, I had time to ponder over his time away. Of course he was excited. He loves his Dad. He so desperately wants every encounter with his father to be special. He has this incredible ability to only ever focus on the good in everyone. He forgets all the pain his father has caused him. So why couldn’t I forgive and forget.

This isn’t about my ex cheating on me multiple times, or the various women he’s had relationships with. I am well over that part. He’s a serial cheater, always has been. Always will be. His brothers told me I should have known this about him before we married. Perhaps that’s true. But anyway that aspect of A.’s life is no longer my problem. I forgive him being unfaithful, because I know it’s who he is.

But I just can’t get past the hurt he’s caused my son. I still remember that newly teenaged boy, asking me every night for weeks, if his Dad was dead. I spent sleepless nights for what seemed like an eternity, wondering how to navigate my son through this hole his father had left. There was actually a time I had wished A. was dead, if only for the ability of my son to be able to grieve. Instead of the constant not knowing.

And then when A. did finally appear, he would demand to see Ethan as if nothing had happened. For years, Ethan always agreed, because like I said, he loved his Dad. He wanted to please him.

But as Ethan has gotten older his attitude has started to change. You see, A. has gone a year at a time (on two separate occasions) without any contact with his son. This has had a negative impact on my son, and he has in the past refused to see his father. I don’t even begin to comprehend how a parent can do that. It’s certainly not normal. But unlike many Dads who just completely disappear, A. eventually returns.

So fast forward to spring 2018, and A. agrees to take Ethan for his spring break. It was my idea, because my health hasn’t been great and I needed a break as well. Ethan was lukewarm to the concept at first, but eventually he became excited at the prospect. Especially as Dad would be taking him to London. We lived in London for a bit, and Ethan had a long list of places he wanted to go back and visit. Great. I was happy for him.

Now Dad is back in the good books. Ethan has put him back on that pedestal and he’s definitely a very happy boy today. But Mom is worried. A text from Dad confirms he has no idea how much longer he’ll be in Edinburgh. And as usual I am given no further information of when exactly he’ll leave, or how long he’ll be gone this time.

Last night, Ethan went to bed full of stories about his adventures with Dad. This morning I am not sure when he’ll actually see his Dad again.

Changeovers are hard.


A Mile in Their Shoes

I can’t promise I will be terribly good at this, but I recently wrote a paper (for my psychology course) on reverse psychology, or trying to think like your opponent. So I decided to attempt it regarding, Scotland, and unionism. If this seems a step too far avert your eyes now. Or just close my blog.

I moved to Scotland in 1999, it was the very early days of the Scottish Parliament, when Donald Dewar was the First Minister, and Labour hegemony seemed eternal. I admit as a young, recently married woman my focus wasn’t that much on Scottish politics. I concentrated much more on getting to know Edinburgh. I was fascinated by the history and the culture. Some times, I’d pinch myself as I could scarcely believe my new life was in such a romantic, beautiful city.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and my life is completely different. Yes, I still live in the amazing city of Edinburgh (although I have lived in a few other places during this period, including London). But I’m now nearly 50, divorced and bringing up an autistic son, pretty much on my own. My rose tinted glasses haven’t just been removed but they’ve been lost in a drawer, somewhere under the Indian and Chinese takeaway menus. I hate to say I’ve became a cynic, but I have definitely lost that innocence of the younger me who moved here all those years ago.

However over the years, one aspect of living in Scotland which has matured in a rather healthy manner is my political knowledge of this wonderful country, I now call home. It didn’t happen straight away, in fact the first election I participated in wasn’t until we moved back here from London in 2012. But as my Scottish political awareness grew, so did my perplexity at the majority who still seemed intent on keeping Scotland down. It’s like a large segment of the population had no vision for a better more prosperous Scotland, where people from all over the planet wanted to move to, because the opportunities here were boundless. As an American, I didn’t understand this mentality. Admittedly, we Americans have many faults (Trump, anyone), but national pride and self belief is not something we lack. I know I have been accused of thinking I’m an American exceptionalist. I am not, but I suspect many Scottish people see self assurance as arrogance.

So what makes a person have so much self doubt? Yes, I understand the media here are forever telling Scots their country is too poor, their population is too dim, and they would be nothing but some pathetic little backwater without their “betters” in Westminster. But why does the vast majority of the media do that? I can only assume it’s because this is what they believe Scots want to hear. So I have tried to understand how thinking the place I come from is just not capable of a better future. For those of you also perplexed with the negative unionist mindset, you can try this at home.

Go to a mirror. Take a good look at yourself. Now tell that reflection, you’re not worthy of a better life. Or of a more prosperous job, or a more promising future for your kids or grandkids. Tell yourself, you just can’t achieve anything more than what you have. And perhaps even tell yourself you don’t even deserve what you already have, because somehow you’re just not worthy. After about 5 minutes of doing this, I was eyeing up that whisky in my cupboard. Jeezo, I felt truly awful.

But to me this is exactly the mindset of roughly half the population in Scotland. I am no stranger to getting into heated debates with unionists on social media. It’s disheartening. Eventually that sentiment can quickly turn to anger. Let’s face it, most of us at some point have been involved in these debates. So what makes a person so lacking in self belief, that they see no better future for themselves or of the next generation? There is certainly a cultural influence at play. Even to an extent a religious one as well. I doubt it’s a concidence the first time I ever heard the phrase, ‘don’t get above your station’ was here in Scotland. I dare say it must take a toll on your long term health to be so engulfed in an, ‘it’s shite being Scottish’ mentality. I suspect it’s probably why so many people here suffer from long term mental health issues.

Perhaps once we identify why half of us, are so consumed with self doubt, we can better understand why Scotland has never fully realised that she could become a flourishing, vibrant nation. A place all other nations look at with awe and envy. Let’s try to walk a mile in a unionist’s shoes. Then once we’ve seen for ourselves how exhausting that is, let’s bring them to the shop and help them pick out a lovely pair of trainers. Something to help them run with the rest of us to the finish line, towards a better Scotland for all.