The Hapless Lord Advocate

Dorothy Bain QC, Lord Advocate of Scottland

Hardly had a minute past publishing a new ‘Postcard of Wisdom‘ when I spotted ALBA MP Kenny MacAskill’s constituency website criticism of the toothless Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC. She was appointed, one must add, by Nicola Sturgeon, a first minister with a track-record for elevating inexpert, unethical non-achievers, a few with damp palms and a penchant for grooming, who wobble over fundamental, basic issues concerning Scotland’s birthright, unsure of the verisimilitude of their case. The postcard read:

“When was the last time Scottish lawyers drew up a treaty or accord with England, with any nation, for that matter? I’ll tell you. 1707. Counsel sought, clueless, they scramble for answers. We lay truth before them but they falter, respectful of English power.”

The Hapless Lord Advocate

by Kenny MacAskill

I’m a huge fan of the Irish comedy show “Father Ted”. The number of shows is sadly limited given the tragic and far to early death of Dermot Morgan who played Father Ted. One of my favourite episodes though was “Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse”. In this show Father Ted has to do the needful to his superior following a forfeit and as you can imagine it’s doomed to failure. The shenanigans along the way though are chortling. 

However, that’s a comedy show but I am minded of it watching the Lord Advocate prepare to go before the Supreme Court with the legislation for an independence referendum. It’s got as much chance of success as I have of getting an American Green Card. Father Ted was funny in his actions and sympathy lay with him, the Lord Advocate [Doroth Bain QC] just looks hapless, as well as cynically going through the motions. 

The fact that she referred it isn’t a cunning wheeze as Father Ted devised to be able to apply his boot to the Bishops posterior. Instead, it’s confirmation that she has no faith in what the Government are doing and frankly no real support for it. She’s simply used an expedited procedure to get it before the court, as she isn’t willing to sign off the legislation as is required.  

Father Ted at least had to profess belief in Catholicism to be appointed albeit to the purgatory of Craggy Island. The Lord Advocate doesn’t even believe in the core policy of the government in which she serves. You’d have thought in the real world you’d avoid appointing an apostate to such a critical position. 

Her submissions to the Supreme Court are the written equivalent of the legal cop-out of “my client advises me” i.e. I’m only saying what they tell me and I don’t believe a word of it myself. It’s so manifest that the SNP are now seeking to enter into the action which has been brought by the government they control. Why? Because the person representing them doesn’t believe in the policy she’s being asked to promote on their behalf. What a waste of valuable party funds.  

Her referral to the Supreme Court’s her equivalent of Father Ted’s forfeit and she’s going to suffer the same fate. But that was comedy, whilst this is just pure farce.     

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Posted in General, Scottish Politics | 6 Comments

The Claim of Right

The indigenous Scottish Wildcat, outnumbered by foreign immigrant grey squirrels, said some ‘expert’

In an intellectual exercise composing detail for a Scottish Constitution (ESSAYS, published 2021) I included mention of the Claim of Right (leaving out the monarchy for a separate discussion) a document which has always seemed to me prima lex, that is, superiour to all else endorsing or augmenting Scotland’s right to continue existing as a separate nation from England, no matter what raggedy treaty exists.

If Scotland did not exist, neither would England, we would be simply be North, Middle and Southern UK with Gibraltarians enjoying a lot more sunshine thn us. England acknowledges Scotland is a separate country, going as far as to register it as such with the United Nations. Had it been otherwise, David Cameron would never have agreed to a referendum to guage the strength of views on Scotland reasserting self-determination.

As I relate in an essay on the subject, there is nothing to stop our elected leaders going straight to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth to inform her that we are withdrawing from a much abused and breached Treaty in order to restore full self-governance so that we can begin negotiating afresh with England’s elected authorities on a new Accord.

But we are saddled with a nationalist party that thinks a smile, a handshake and a pleasantly written letter will alter our oppressor’s attitude to what it sees as their colonial territory. Scots have comprehensively rejected their false ownership down the ages to modern times and today.

The activist Sara Salyrs has lectured extensively on the Claim of Right, and as expected had its worth challenged. Remember, when it comes to colonial argument, our oppressors make plain they think Scots fail even at being failures.

In the last paragraph, what Sara is saying in epitome is: if you think like a Scot, you are a Scot. Here, in an abridged form, is her reply to one interlocutor, retired lawyer, Neil King. A link to his view is appended under Notes and can be read on YoursFor Scotland website.

Arguing the Obvious

I am grateful to this author for the thoughtful, intelligent and careful argument he sets out. It is important to test any theory, political or legal, particularly when it is your own position, so I welcome the opportunity to do so.

Egregious errors

The errors in the argument – and there are serious errors – stem not from a want of knowledge or sound reasoning but from unexamined assumptions and interpretations, assumptions so generally held that they are practically received doctrine. But erroneous they are and erroneous they will remain, no matter how widely accepted. Unpicking an argument is a much more lengthy process than setting one out, so this response is inevitably both longer than I would like and limited in scope – or it would be even longer!

The standing of the Claim of Right as a constitutional document is not in doubt.That there *is* such a thing as Scottish constitutional law and that it diverges from English constitutional law is also undisputed. Whatever Lord Cooper’s opinion, (and he was what Professor Sir Neil McCormick called ‘a DaFoeist’ as opposed to a Diceyist), I draw your attention to the last three words of his famous obiter: “the principle of unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle and has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law” (MacCormick v Lord Advocate 1953 SC 396) 

There is no constitutional law without a constitution. So where is it? And when, precisely, has the largely uncodified constitution of Scotland been interrogated in the way that the English constitution has been? Where, other than in the Claim of Right, are its terms expressly articulated? And what is the source of what McCormick called, ‘the Scottish constitutional anomaly’?

The Claim of Right – 1689

The Claim of Right Act 1689 not only asserts the existence of a fundamental constitution – upon which the rule of law stands and by which it is upheld and enforced – but some of the legal provisions it cites are distinctly Scottish. Thus it supplies in part, what a codified constitution would provide and, in part, a kind of Rosetta stone for the Scottish constitutional record. 

A constitution is, of course, similar to but not identical with the rule of law. And a statute setting out the terms of a constitution as the basis for its effect is also something more specific than a statement of the rule of law. Particularly when the parameters of the ‘rule of law’ itself are so very uncertain in the English/UK context:

“A ‘health warning’ is in order for anyone venturing into this area: a cursory glance at the index of legal periodicals revealed 16,810 citations to books and articles concerned with the rule of law, and that is certainly an underestimation… There is considerable diversity of opinion as to the meaning of the rule of law and the consequences that do and should follow from breach of the concept,” (Professor Paul Craig, House of Lords Select Committee, Constitution Sixth Report, Appendix 5).

The oft heard assertion that the Claim of Right merely upholds the rule of law, (the principle of the legal limitation of even the highest authority in the nation), is a fudge in the context of an unlimited (sovereign) parliament wherein no meaningful mechanism for the enforcement of such limitation actually exists. (As many commentators have bemoaned and as we see all too clearly today.) And the fudge is simply a means by which to iron out ‘the Scottish constitutional anomaly’ with sophistry. 

A compact with the people

The Claim of Right establishes not the rule of law, but the Scottish constitutional compact, which is to say that it neither sets out to establish, nor does it establish, the rule of law. (A very large body of statutes and provisions exists to do that.) Rather, it establishes the *relationship* between the rule of law in Scotland and the precise and enforceable limits which that relationship imposes on a government, (crown in parliament). It is unique among the constitutional statutes of the UK in explicitly and unambiguously doing so.  

It is not required to say, “And finally, if the wheels come off the foregoing arrangements, then we’ll all get together in a big meeting.” Any more than the Bill of Rights is required to say “And from now on the powers formerly vested in the monarch belong to the parliament.” Because what it explicitly does say is that, by violating the rule of law, (it also states which laws),  James VII has forfeited the throne. It imposes a specific and final penalty. 

This is something the English parliament dared not do and thus it used the less than honest device of pretending that James had abdicated. Perhaps I should add that the assertion in the English Bill of Rights that James had breached the limits of sovereignty imposed by parliament, (and, indeed, that sovereignty already resided in the parliament), would have astonished Henry VII who introduced the European doctrine of the divine right of kings, Henry VIII who ruled as an absolute monarch and Elizabeth who did much the same as well as the Stuart kings who fell head over heels for the idea on arrival in England. 

The power of the monarch

The power of the monarch did not require to be limited or altered by the Claim of Right Act, as it did in England by the Bill of Rights. Rather the Claim of Right enforced the existing limits, setting the rule of law within its Scottishconstitutional context and giving it considerably more force and meaning in terms of accountability for government abuses and violations than now exists in the UK. (It continued to do so after 1689, preventing William of Orange from limiting the power to petition over the Darien scheme in 1699.)

For proper context, we should be aware that, at times, James VII used both parliament and the Court of Session to “cass annull and dissable all the lawes”.But it was his intervention in the appointments to parliament from the burghs which was his real overreach, overruling the existing democratic process in the hope of using his own appointees to obtain parliamentary approval for his Catholic emancipation plans: 

“In addition to participating in parliaments, royal and ecclesiastical burghs sent commissioners to regular meetings of the convention of royal burghs, which decided on matters of shared economic and fiscal concern, and prepared the towns’ collective response to parliamentary proposals.” (Raffe, Alasdair, ‘James and the Royal Burghs’ Scotland in Revolution, 1685-1690 Edinburgh, 2018)

James’ attempt failed, in fact, even before 1689. But here you see a very different disposition of power from that in England. (Imagine, today, parliamentary proposals requiring a response from ‘the towns’?)

The people and the councils

The interrelationships between the people, the burgh ‘councils’, burgh convention (or assembly) and parliament and between the Convention of the Estates and these bodies enabled the interchange of draft legislation, opinion and amendment in a way that simply did not and exist in England and does not exist in the UK today. And this brings me to the central problem underpinning the argument. 

The author applies an English prism to a uniquely Scottish constitutional arrangement. This is a longstanding and almost universal error stemming from an internalised, colonising mentality and one that persists so that, where autochthonous interpretation is now extended to the constitutions of former colonies, no such courtesy is extended to Scotland. 

The Convention of the Estates was ‘parliament-lite’ because it was usually called by the king? (Usually but not always.) But why, when it was often more heavily populated than the parliament and at least as difficult to control, (as the record of the parliaments of Scotland demonstrate), did the king choose to call a Convention when he could just as easily summon a parliament? Particularly when many of the same people attended the Convention as did the parliament? 

An English prism

The fact that a ‘parliament lite’, (the only available interpretation through an English prism), cannot satisfactorily explain why and how it existed, except as a kind of vestigial organ, like an appendix, continuing after its original function is lost, ought to be a red flag. It ought at least to raise the question, “Have I applied a foreign concept to a Scottish arrangement and come up with a deeply unsatisfactory and complicated characterisation as a result? Is there an Occam’s razor explanation that is far simpler and more elegant?” 

As it happens, there *is* an Occam’s razor explanation. The Convention fulfilled a uniquely Scottish function. That function has never been examined in the light of its origins nor of the persistence into the 17th century of the influence of an indigenous legal and political tradition that had roots neither in Anglo-Norman feudalism nor Roman canon law. The ‘loan of power’ by the people to the government, monarch, monarch in parliament or chief is a widely recognised, early Scottish principle. (An early form of ‘devolution’ that was the reverse of the present, top down arrangement!) It was not a European idea imported by Bruce in 1320, though he used contemporary language to ‘update’ it, nor by Buchanan in the 1500s. And those whose power is loaned might well require some sort of insurance mechanism, in lieu of a medieval ‘Scotland Act’. 

The most immediate effect of governmental power for the ordinary person on an ordinary day is the imposition of taxes. Thus no tax could be raised without the consent of the Convention of the Estates. Enough said. Nor could gifts from the treasury be made without its consent. It was the Convention that decided and negotiated the side taken by Scotland in the civil war and the treaty with the parliamentarians. It was the Convention (then General Council) that stepped in during the minorities of four Scottish monarchs. And, of course, it was the Convention that stepped in when no legitimate parliament could be called and acted on behalf of the nation in 1689. 

The Convention of Estates

So what was the real standing of the Convention of the Estates? What real power did it have compared to that of the parliament? How was it understood? In terms of its authoritative scope, perhaps the best exponent is the jurist who detested it claims and whose writing continues to provide the underpinning theory of Westminster constitutionalism, A. V. Dicey. He complained that the powers asserted by the Claim of Right Act are:

“In effect a demand for every power belonging to the Parliament of England … far exceeding any power which (the Scottish Parliament) actually possessed and exercised before the Revolution of 1689” (Dicey, A. and Rait, R., ‘Thoughts on the Union Between England Scotland’, London: Macmillan 1920

He was right in so far as no Scottish Parliament ever claimed such powers for itself. Through the Claim of Right Act, however, and on behalf of the nation of Scotland (which is to be understood through the documents and provisions of the uncodified Scottish constitution), the Convention of the Estates does.  (It is also worth observing that, for the Imperialist jurist A. V. Dicey, one of the most obnoxious powers both claimed and exercised by the Convention of the Estates must surely have been that of declaring two rulings of the Court of Session unlawful. An interesting precedent?)

“If the wheels come off, we’ll all get together in a big meeting, which let’s at least agree now we’ll call a convention of estates”? That had *long* been understood and had been put into effect many times before the 1689 Convention of the Estates. And that is the point. What was once well understood in Scotland was and is alien to the English disposition of power. (But we shall yet beunderstood in the light of our own constitutional arrangements, development and historical record. Not those of a foreign power!)

A complex disposition

There was, in Scotland, a much more complex disposition of power than that which in England was largely defined by the conflict between the sovereignty of the parliament and the monarch. And it is the very character of that widely dispersed authority and influence, monarch, privy council, Lords of the Articles,  Parliament, Convention, Burgh Assembly burgh councils and more, which encapsulates the sovereignty of the people. The sovereignty that is claimed for the nation is claimed for *all* the people, high and low as defined in another constitutional document,  the Declaration of the Clergy of 1310, once again in the Declaration of Arbroath and then by the Claim of Right Act 1689.

Finally, I have a confession. Much as I have enjoyed writing this, because it isalways a pleasure to set the record straight and a duty to break the hold of dogma, none of this is necessary.

Whatever its status prior to the assembly at which the Claim of Right was passed, what matters is the status the Act assigns to the Convention that passed it – that of “a free and fair representative of the nation”. (The nation as defined in previous constitutional *Scottish* documents.) 

What matters is not whether the Convention had the powers it claimed, powers so profound that the claim scandalised Dicey, but that its self-proclaimed authority was upheld in 1689 when its members replaced the parliament of James VII (deposed with the crown), and in 1703 when it was enacted by that parliament:

“that it shall be high treason for any person to disown, quarrel or impugn the dignity and authority of the said parliament… “ And…..

“that it shall be high treason in any of the subjects of this kingdom to quarrel, impugn or endeavour by writing, malicious and advised speaking, or other open act or deed, to alter or innovate the Claim of Right or any article thereof.”

What matters most

What matters is that, as a constitutional document, protected in Scotland under penalty of high treason, made a condition of the Treaty and ratified with the Acts of Union as a condition of Union, recognised post Union by the parliament at Westminster, the Claim of Right confers upon the authorising body, the Convention of the Estates the status *it assigns to itself* with the force of constitutional law. Exactly as the Bill of Rights constitutes the principle ofsovereignty in the English parliament. The Claim of Right states that the Convention of the Estates is a free and fair representative of the nation, (as defined in previous constitutional *Scottish* documents) and, therefore, such is its status. The Convention, not the parliament. Not the crown in parliament. 

What *will* matter is whether the majority of Scots choose to interpret their rights and their sovereignty in the terms which I, and many others before me, have asserted and to exercise their democratic right to act accordingly. If they do, it will matter very little whether any legal opinion or court ruling says otherwise. Because ultimately, whatever existing legal interpretation might say to the contrary, history tells us that when it is not vested in the weapons of war, power is always vested in the people.

NOTES:

Discussion on the Claim of Right and its full documented version can be found in ESSAYS 3 – published in November this year.

Petition to the monarch is here: https://wp.me/p4fd9j-oUC

The proposer of the counter-argument that the Claim of Right is out-dated is and can be found here: https://yoursforscotlandcom.wordpress.com/2022/08/05/the-challenge-has-been-accepted-a-champion-for-the-union-has-been-found/as can the full rebuttal by Sara.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 5 Comments

The Great Berwick Bank Robbery

ALBA Depute Leader and MP for East Lothian, Kenny MacAskill, has exposed the scandal of the “Great Berwick Bank Robbery”. Speaking at the press meeting outside the UK Government Offices in Edinburgh, Kenny MacAskill said – at the foot of the article you’ll find a video of what happened when an incomer tried to protect a colonial building set in Scotland’s capital:

With over 300 turbines and the capacity to generate 4.1 Giga watt and power three million homes the Berwick Bank offshore windfarm will be one of the largest in the World. As such it demonstrates yet again the scale and strength of Scotland’s massive energy resources which can meet Scotland’s needs as well as providing energy for export.

The Great Berwick Bank Robbery is seen in the fact that the connection to Blyth in Northumberland will take 40% of the energy produced in Scotland and from Scottish natural resources piped directly south without landing in Scotland.  Scotland’s energy is being siphoned south without any revenue accruing to Scotland or jobs and economic windfall arising from its landing. That bounty off our shores, not just in Berwick Bank but across Scotland, should be a source of affordable energy for Scots, powering homes and businesses across the country but instead we see over half of Scots households facing fuel poverty this winter as average annual energy bills are set to top £3,000.

We are seeing the contrast between Scots families struggling to heat their homes and pay their bills this Winter,  some of whom will be able to see the turbines from their homes, and the massive energy resources off our shores.  The scandal of fuel poor Scots in energy rich Scotland  must end and with Independence it will.”

The skinny

Berwick Bank Offshore Windfarm is located in the outer Firth of Forth, across from the shores East Lothian, Fife and Angus and is being developed by SSE Renewables. It has the capacity of up to 4.1 Giga watt, making it one of the largest offshore sites in the world. The Berwick Bank Wind Farm will see up to 307 of the world’s tallest and most powerful turbines, capable of creating the gigawatt capacity to power nearly 3 million homes. Far beyond the needs of Scotland where the number of households is only 2.5 million. It has a grid connection secured at Branxton, near Torness, in East Lothian. Energy can then be transferred by the national grid south to England or even beyond through the European network.

What Scotland doesn’t require should rightly be made available for export. Leaving aside charges that should be levied for their use in Scottish waters, benefit accrues to Crown Estate Scotland and planning rights and employment opportunities arise for East Lothian and Scotland. Scotland should benefit from its natural resource and her people be helped by it during an energy crisis. But Scotland’s asset is now seeing a connection being prepared to Blyth, Northumberland taking 40% of the energy directly south without landing in Scotland.     

The heist

Two connections will come ashore at Branxton . Completion of the first connection of 1.4GW is expected by November 2026. The second connection also expected at Branxton of 0.9GW is proposed to be completed by November 2027. A total of 2.3GW will therefore come ashore at Branxton. But the third connection carrying 1.8GW capacity will come ashore at Blyth, Northumberland and is due to be completed in October 2031. This means that around 40% of energy produced in Scotland and from Scottish natural resources will be piped directly South.

The Robbery

Scotland is energy rich, yet over half of Scots may soon find themselves in fuel poverty. The heatwave and crisis of global warming has shown the requirement for a transition to renewable energy. In that Scotland is blessed with its geography and environment. It has 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resource. This should mean the availability of cheap energy for its citizens, some of whom may be able to see the turbines from their homes.  

The benefit to Scotland of its offshore resource should see revenue arise for the Government and its agencies. But 40% of the energy resource is being transmitted directly south without any revenue accruing to Scotland or jobs and employment arising from its landing. Energy Rich Scotland yet fuel poor Scots is an outrage and must end.

NOTE: The arrogance of the colonial invader.

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Posted in General, Scottish Politics | 9 Comments

Rejecting Colonialism

Lidia Thorpe breaks the damn of supine acceptance by Australian senators

Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe is something of a rebel, she detests the British colonial. In Australia she is not without supporters. And naturally, she is not without her colonial-minded critics. She was told to repeat the oath of allegiance for Australian parliamentarians on Monday after she initially described the Queen as a coloniser.

This is what we would have liked to see from our elected national representatives. Instead, we had one SNP MP reassure Westminster’s MPs that Scotland’s national party, elected to regain self-governance, was not there to disrupt the Mother of all Parliaments. As many have said before me, we sent our representatives to London to settle up, not to settle down. (Lately, two ALBA party MPs had enough and left the chamber. Previously Ian Blackford had led SNP MPs out but brought them back after a good lunch.)

Here in Scotland, our MSPs in Holyrood are generally accepted by non-partisan people who want full freedoms and party members who want independence restored, as MSPs so far down the road of accommodating our oppressor’s agenda and strictures we might as well have elected the unionist Labour party to govern Scotland again. Even the much venerated investigative writer George Orwell, an Etonian with no great love of Scots, wrote back in the Thirties that Scotland was a nation ‘plundered’ by his own country.

In Australia, a long festering sore survives. It is based on unwanted British rule all the way back to its earliest white history, from using Australia to empty England’s overflowing prisons and beat the French into sticking their flag on the new-found continent, through genocide and theft of land belonging to ethnic Aboriginal people, to removing Australia’s elected premier Gough Whitlam – organised direct from the Queen’s office – he daring to suggest an end to waving the Union Jack and introducing a degree of socialism into the Australian economy.

While down the years Australian writers and journalists have drawn attention to an out-dated association with Great Britain, Lidia Thorpe’s anger is worth studying because it represents an awakening recently seen in Commonwealth countries. In Scotland, we hand our future to the oppressor to decide. We respect and trust them that much.

Thorpe, a Greens senator for Victoria, was chided by her parliamentary colleagues, one of whom yelled, “You’re not a senator if you don’t do it properly.”

Thorpe was absent from parliament last week when other senators were officially sworn in, so took her oath on Monday morning. Walking to the Senate floor with her right fist raised in the air, Thorpe was asked to recite the words written on a card.

“I sovereign, Lidia Thorpe, do solemnly and sincerely swear that I will be faithful and I bear true allegiance to the colonising her majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” she said. The word “colonising” is not in the formal oath. The Labor Senate president, Sue Lines, interjected, as other senators voiced criticism and began calling to Thorpe.

“You are required to recite the oath as printed on the card,” Lines told the Greens senator. “Please recite the oath.”

Thorpe turned to speak to a Labor senator behind her who appeared to voice further criticism, before repeating the oath as printed. Another senator was heard to say “none of us like it”. Thorpe later tweeted “sovereignty never ceded” as she shared a photo of her swearing-in.

Section 42 of the Australian constitution states that “every senator and every member of the House of Representatives shall before taking his seat make and subscribe” the oath.

But Professor Anne Twomey, a constitutional expert at the University of Sydney, said it was up to the parliament to decide whether failing or declining to make the oath would block someone from taking their place as a senator.

“As this is an internal proceeding in the Parliament, I doubt whether it would be ‘justiciable’ – ie., I don’t think it is something that could be enforced before a court.”

“It is a matter for the presiding officers of the Houses to enforce section 42.”

Twomey said Thorpe could have decided not to take up her seat, if she was not prepared to swear allegiance to the Queen. “Failure to do so would mean that she could not sit or vote. She would be entitled to other rights and privileges … However, if she failed to attend for two consecutive months without the permission of the Senate, her place would become vacant under section 19 of the constitution.”

The assistant minister for the republic, Matt Thistlethwaite, last week told Nine newspapers that swearing allegiance to the Queen was “archaic and ridiculous”. “It does not represent the Australia we live in and it’s further evidence of why we need to begin discussing becoming a republic with our own head of state,” he said. “We are no longer British.”

However, under the Australian constitution all senators and MPs must swear an allegiance to the Queen and her heirs and successors before sitting in parliament. The provision cannot be changed without a referendum, which Thistlethwaite said would only be done as part of a broader move towards a republic in a future term of government.

Thorpe last month described Australia as a “colonial project” and said the national flag did not represent her. “It represents the colonisation of these lands, and it has no permission to be here, there’s been no consent, there’s been no treaty, so that flag does not represent me,” she told Channel 10’s The Project.

Thorpe said she stood for parliament “to question the illegitimate occupation of the colonial system in this country. “I am here for my people, and I will sacrifice swearing allegiance to the coloniser to get into the media like I am right now, to get into the parliament like I am every day,” she said.

NOTE: Lidia Alma Thorpe is an Australian politician. As of August 2022 she is a senator in federal parliament for the state of Victoria, representing the Australian Greens. She is the first Aboriginal senator from Victoria. Thorpe has also previously been a member of the Victorian Parliament. (The bulk of this article comes with thanks to Josh Butler and the Aussie Guardian newspaper.)

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Posted in General, Scottish Independence Referendum | 4 Comments

What Have We Done?

Cartoonist Chris Riddell’s view of mankind’s folly

This is another in our Climate Change series of key articles, and for once needs no lengthy introduction other than to say four-fifths of all calories consumed across the world come from just 10 crop plants including wheat, maize and rice. Many of these staples will not grow well under the higher temperatures that will soon become the norm, pointing towards a massive cut in the availability of food, which will have a catastrophic impact across the planet. Wide-spread famine will be the result. Blistering heatwaves are just the start. We must accept how bad things are before we can head off global catastrophe. Robin McKie reviews climate scientist Bill McGuire’s new book which predicts catastrophe.

TOTAL MELTDOWN

The publication of Bill McGuire’s latest book, Hothouse Earth, could not be more timely. Appearing in the shops this week, it will be perused by sweltering customers who have just endured record high temperatures across the UK and now face the prospect of weeks of drought to add to their discomfort.

And this is just the beginning, insists McGuire, who is emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London. As he makes clear in his uncompromising depiction of the coming climatic catastrophe, we have – for far too long – ignored explicit warnings that rising carbon emissions are dangerously heating the Earth. Now we are going to pay the price for our complacence in the form of storms, floods, droughts and heatwaves that will easily surpass current extremes.

The crucial point, he argues, is that there is now no chance of us avoiding a perilous, all-pervasive climate breakdown. We have passed the point of no return and can expect a future in which lethal heatwaves and temperatures in excess of 50C (120F) are common in the tropics; where summers at temperate latitudes will invariably be baking hot, and where our oceans are destined to become warm and acidic. “A child born in 2020 will face a far more hostile world that its grandparents did,” McGuire insists.

In this respect, the volcanologist, who was also a member of the UK government’s Natural Hazard Working Group, takes an extreme position. Most other climate experts still maintain we have time left, although not very much, to bring about meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A rapid drive to net zero and the halting of global warming is still within our grasp, they say.

Running scared

Such claims are dismissed by McGuire. “I know a lot of people working in climate science who say one thing in public but a very different thing in private. In confidence, they are all much more scared about the future we face, but they won’t admit that in public. I call this climate appeasement and I believe it only makes things worse. The world needs to know how bad things are going to get before we can hope to start to tackle the crisis.”

McGuire finished writing Hothouse Earth at the end of 2021. He includes many of the record high temperatures that had just afflicted the planet, including extremes that had struck the UK. A few months after he completed his manuscript, and as publication loomed, he found that many of those records had already been broken. “That is the trouble with writing a book about climate breakdown,” says McGuire. “By the time it is published it is already out of date. That is how fast things are moving.”

Among the records broken during the book’s editing was the announcement that a temperature of 40.3C was reached in east England on 19 July, the highest ever recorded in the UK. (The country’s previous hottest temperature, 38.7C, was in Cambridge in 2019.) In addition, London’s fire service had to tackle blazes across the capital, with one conflagration destroying 16 homes in Wennington, east London. Crews there had to fight to save the local fire station itself. “Who would have thought that a village on the edge of London would be almost wiped out by wildfires in 2022,” says McGuire. “If this country needs a wake-up call then surely that is it.” Wildfires of unprecedented intensity and ferocity have also swept across Europe, North America and Australia this year, while record rainfall in the midwest led to the devastating flooding in the US’s Yellowstone national park. “And as we head further into 2022, it is already a different world out there,” he adds. “Soon it will be unrecognisable to every one of us.”

These changes underline one of the most startling aspects of climate breakdown: the speed with which global average temperature rises translate into extreme weather.

“Just look at what is happening already to a world which has only heated up by just over one degree,” says McGuire. “It turns out the climate is changing for the worse far quicker than predicted by early climate models. That’s something that was never expected.”

From the Industrial Revolution to now

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when humanity began pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, global temperatures have risen by just over 1C. At the Cop26 climate meeting in Glasgow last year, it was agreed that every effort should be made to try to limit that rise to 1.5C, although to achieve such a goal, it was calculated that global carbon emissions will have to be reduced by 45% by 2030. “In the real world, that is not going to happen,” says McGuire. “Instead, we are on course for close to a 14% rise in emissions by that date – which will almost certainly see us shatter the 1.5C guardrail in less than a decade.”

And we should be in no doubt about the consequences. Anything above 1.5C will see a world plagued by intense summer heat, extreme drought, devastating floods, reduced crop yields, rapidly melting ice sheets and surging sea levels. A rise of 2C and above will seriously threaten the stability of global society, McGuire argues. It should also be noted that according to the most hopeful estimates of emission cut pledges made at Cop26, the world is on course to heat up by between 2.4C and 3C.

From this perspective it is clear we can do little to avoid the coming climate breakdown. Instead we need to adapt to the hothouse world that lies ahead and to start taking action to try to stop a bleak situation deteriorating even further, McGuire says. Certainly, as it stands, Britain – although relatively well placed to counter the worst effects of the coming climate breakdown – faces major headaches. Heatwaves will become more frequent, get hotter and last longer. Huge numbers of modern, tiny, poorly insulated UK homes will become heat traps, responsible for thousands of deaths every summer by 2050.

We build the wrong homes

“Despite repeated warnings, hundreds of thousands of these inappropriate homes continue to be built every year,” adds McGuire.

As to the reason for the world’s tragically tardy response, McGuire blames a “conspiracy of ignorance, inertia, poor governance, and obfuscation and lies by climate change deniers that has ensured that we have sleepwalked to within less than half a degree of the dangerous 1.5C climate change guardrail. Soon, barring some sort of miracle, we will crash through it.”

The future is forbidding from this perspective, though McGuire stresses that if carbon emissions can be cut substantially in the near future, and if we start to adapt to a much hotter world today, a truly calamitous and unsustainable future can be avoided. The days ahead will be grimmer, but not disastrous. We may not be able to give climate breakdown the slip but we can head off further instalments that would appear as a climate cataclysm bad enough to threaten the very survival of human civilisation.

A call to arms

“This is a call to arms,” he says. “So if you feel the need to glue yourself to a motorway or blockade an oil refinery, do it. Drive an electric car or, even better, use public transport, walk or cycle. Switch to a green energy tariff; eat less meat. Stop flying; lobby your elected representatives at both local and national level; and use your vote wisely to put in power a government that walks the talk on the climate emergency.”

NOTE: Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide by Bill McGuire is published by Icon Books, £9.99, William (Bill) MacGuire William J. McGuire (born 1954) is a volcanologist and Emeritus Professor of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at University College London. His main interests include volcano instability and lateral collapse, the nature and impact of global geophysical events and the effect of climate change on geological hazards.He studied at UCL and Luton College of Higher Education, now the University of Bedfordshire and has a PhD in Geology from University College London (1980). He began lecturing in Geology at the West London Institute of Higher Education in the 1980s, former home of well known TV geologist Iain Stewart. He was then appointed Reader at Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education (now the University of Gloucestershire), and made it into the university sector in the 1990s when he was appointed Professor of Geohazards and Director of the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre at University College London. The centre is funded by the insurance industry. He relinquished the Directorship in 2011. He was a member of the UK Government’s Natural Hazard Working Group, established by Prime Minister Tony Blair following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In 2010 he was member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), to address problems following the eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull. He contributed to the IPCC summary report on extreme weather and disasters (2011). McGuire lives in a geologically inactive area, Brassington in the Peak District with his wife and two sons.

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‘ESSAYS 2’ On Sale Now

In answer to readers enquiries:

The new collection of published essays – many new, previously published now much extended – is out now, 370 pages of thoughts on Scotland, Scots, English colonials, and the like. Same price as before despite being a much larger book – £20 Hardback and £9.99 Kindle.

Purchase from Amazon or a signed copy from me at garwarscot@hotmail.com plus £5 p&p.

The final book in the trilogy is planned for December’s festive season.

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As Deep as a Puddle

Liz Truss at the Tory party leadership election hustings, Conference Centre, Leeds. Photo: Peter Powell

Now that it appears likely the new Thatcher, Liz Truss will be the next Prime Minister of England – it is impossible to call the incumbent of Number 10 ‘PM of the UK’ when they do not represent Scotland – so, it is worth knowing more about Truss because she will impose her will undoubtedly on ‘the Norf of Britain’.

As I pointed out a few times, the Tory party is not yet ready to elect a man with a skin colour darker than a caramel, the scent of days of empire still in their nostrils. Such men are employees, as Scots were during Victorian times. Truss is the only other choice, a woman who has gone out of her way to create mirror images of Thatcher in our mind.

The English elected Boorish Johnson a known liar and buffoon, and now a few Tory members will elect a deadhead with a rhino hide and an intellect as deep as a puddle and foist her on the nations of the UK. She is liable to lead us into another war because being uncontrollably vain, she must be seen as tough, as tough as Thatcher over the Falklands. Talk of ways to peace will not be countenanced.

The sadness in all this is how Scotland could have had its own voice if enough listened to the warnings of a British State that would seek revenge if we were weak and voted No to reinstating our independence in 2014. Everything foretold has come about. The article below reminds us of how much Scotland is not master of its future, and what is coming our way – again.

AMBITION GREATER THAN ABILITY

By Rajeev SyalEmine SinmazBen Quinn and Peter Walker

Liz Truss is tantalisingly close to acquiring the keys to No 10. But her constituency party members recall a meeting when the question of her entering parliament at all hung in the balance, after she was accused of failing to disclose an extramarital affair to activists. It was 2009 – 12 years before she would be elevated to her current role as foreign secretary – and she was on the verge of finally becoming an MP after being selected to stand in the safe seat of South West Norfolk.

Dozens of hardline, rural Tory activists, dubbed the “Turnip Taliban”, had called an urgent meeting, angry that an 18-month affair with the Conservative MP Mark Field had not been disclosed when she was endorsed as a candidate. Some wanted her to stand down because they believed she was being parachuted in by unwanted moderates under David Cameron’s leadership.

Roy Brame, a self-declared member of the Turnip Taliban, had gone to the packed meeting convinced she should not stand in the safe seat at the next general election. But instead, he recalls Truss winning over a sceptical audience with a characteristic mix of charm and a thick skin. He voted against her that evening, but Brame said he was impressed by her responses, telling reporters after the meeting: “We have just seen the new Thatcher.”

“People say that she’s not very good at presenting herself. But at that particular meeting, when well over 200 [people] were asking her some personal questions, and a lot about where she thought she wanted to go, she came over extremely well,” he said.

Truss survived the meeting – local websites claimed that the Turnips had been mashed – and won a vote supporting her as the candidate by 132 votes to 37. Thirteen years later, Truss has now held six ministerial jobs under three different prime ministers – and in 2016 became the first female lord chancellor. Crucially, she appears to have currently won over a majority of the 160,000 Tory party members who will choose the next prime minister in September.

The comparison with Thatcher is one that has been pushed hard by her team. From wearing a pussybow blouse, to driving tanks and being photographed wearing a fur hat in Moscow’s Red Square, they claim Truss is ready to shake up the Tory establishment just as her hero did.

She was raised by Labour-supporting parents, was a Liberal Democrat, and went to what she describes as a “woke” comprehensive school in the north of England. All qualities she has been keen to promote against the Wykehamist, internationalist credentials of Sunak.

Her critics – and she has many within her own party – say she lacks many of Thatcher’s skills. She fails to display intellectual gravitas, they say, relying instead upon cheap slogans, and struggles to make convincing speeches, another facet of her character that could be quickly exposed under the intense scrutiny of Downing Street.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, told the online magazine UnHerd in May that Truss was “as close to properly crackers as anybody I have met in parliament” and would be an “even worse” prime minister than Johnson.

Others doubt if Truss really believes anything she says, and relies upon a gut instinct to fulfil her own ambitions. Anna Soubry, the former MP who served as a minister alongside Truss, said many had questioned whether she had the skills necessary to lead the UK.

“She was the most ambitious person many people had encountered. I honestly believe she was given jobs – ministerial promotions – just to shut her up. Her ambition is, undoubtedly, considerably greater than her ability,” said Soubry.

Mary Elizabeth Truss was born in Oxford on 26 July 1975, the eldest of four siblings and the only girl. Her left-leaning father, John Kenneth Truss, was a professor of pure mathematics at the University of Leeds. Her mother, Priscilla Mary, was a nurse, teacher and prominent member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They lived in Paisley for some of Truss’s childhood, [from aged 4 to 6 – Ed] before moving to Leeds. Truss has sought to portray her former senior school, Roundhay – which sent her and many others to Oxford University – as repeatedly letting children down with “low expectations, poor educational standards and lack of opportunity”. Too much talent, she declared, “went to waste”. She even claimed it was within a “red wall” seat.

Her claim seems to have surprised former fellow pupils. The school is part of Leeds North East, a constituency that had voted Conservative for almost half a century until 1997. It was a rugby union-playing ex-grammar set in 22 acres of grounds in a well-to-do part of the city. Alumni include a university vice-chancellor, judges, neuroscientists, an award-winning playwright, four current or former parliamentarians and a former editor of the Sunday Telegraph.

Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, the Tory MP for Leeds North East when Truss was a pupil at Roundhay, said he knew the school well at that time and claimed Truss’s comments appear to be “patently untrue”.

He said: “I think she was suggesting she was the only person who went to any sort of university and all the others were poor, inner-city kids, which was certainly not the case for Roundhay … Politicians in this sort of situation should be very cautious about what they say because they have a knock-on effect to the staff and former pupils.”

Truss read PPE at Merton College, Oxford, and became a leading member of the Liberal Democrats. At the party conference at the age of 19, she called for the abolition of the monarchy. “We do not believe people are born to rule,” she said.

Fellow former Lib Dem members said the intervention angered the late leader Paddy Ashdown, who had been assured she would remit the motion and avoid a vote. But the vote took place, drawing unwanted publicity for the party leader. “Paddy was not forgiving of those responsible for hijacking the conference,” said Lord Rennard, then a senior party figure.

At one freshers’ week, Lib Dem members including Alan Renwick, a friend of Truss who is now an academic on constitutional affairs, were decorating a stall and Truss, then a believer in cannabis legalisation, had a particular vision of how it should look. “She wanted the whole stall to be covered with these posters saying: ‘Free the Weed’, so I was scurrying around after Liz, trying to take these down again and put up a variety of different messages rather than just having this one message all over the stall,” Renwick told BBC Radio 4. She was putting them up again just as quickly. Truss was an enthusiastic participant in Oxford’s Hayek society, which celebrated the work of the Austrian political philosopher best known for his defence of classical liberalism. The same group included other Lib Dems who went on to become Tories.

“She was incredibly difficult to work with,” recalled Neil Fawcett, now a Lib Dem councillor, who campaigned alongside her in the 90s. “On a personal level, I could never really work out what she actually believed because she always seemed to be playing to the gallery, rather than putting forward a genuine belief.”

Truss joined the Conservatives in 1996 when the party was being torn apart by factionalism under John Major’s leadership. The following year she met her future husband, Hugh O’Leary, an accountant, at Conservative party conference, and they married in 2000.

At 25, she made her first steps towards parliamentary politics, taking on the dispiriting task of carrying the Tory message into a northern seat in the Labour heartlands. In 2001, she contested Hemsworth, in West Yorkshire, and secured a 4% swing from Labour to Conservative, which brought the Labour majority down from nearly 24,000 to less than 16,000.

To improve her chances of securing a more winnable seat next time, she was assigned Field, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, as a mentor and soon after their relationship began. His marriage of 12 years ended in divorce, while hers survived.

After David Cameron became the Conservative leader, Truss was placed on the “A-list” of parliamentary candidates, and was tipped to be the next MP for the Tory seat of Bromley and Chislehurst, through a byelection after the death of the local MP. But after the Daily Mail broke the story of her relationship with Field, Truss was informed she would not be the candidate.

After finally winning over the executive of the South West Norfolk Conservative party in 2009, Truss was elected to parliament the following year with a 13,140 majority. Once in parliament, she founded the Free Enterprise Group of MPs, championing deregulation and lower taxes. She co-authored Britannia Unchained, a pamphlet that described the British as “among the worst idlers in the world”.

After a junior education role, Truss was appointed as environment secretary in 2014 for two years, during which she became a meme after a cringeworthy speech at Conservative party conference. “Britain imports two-thirds of its cheese,” she said cheerily, before quickly changing her expression to one of dark foreboding. “That. Is. A. Disgrace.”

Her supporters insist Truss really is one of the people – she does not enjoy public speaking and prefers a closed meeting or a party. Knowing that her staccato delivery is regularly mocked, she has attempted to take the sting out of the criticism by saying she knows she is not the most polished of performers.

During the EU referendum, she argued for remain, signing a cross-party declaration with Ed Miliband, Ed Davey and Caroline Lucas which described leave campaigners as “extreme and outdated”. After the referendum, she performed a 180-degree turn and is now one of the most vociferous supporters of leave.

Under Theresa May, Truss was appointed justice secretary, a job that quickly ran into trouble. She initially failed to defend the judiciary after they were branded “enemies of the people” by the Daily Mail because they ruled parliament had to be given a vote on triggering Brexit. Truss later issued a statement supporting the judges but this was seen as too little, too late. Her actions drew unprecedented criticism from Lord Thomas, the lord chief justice, who told MPs she had been “completely and absolutely wrong”.

She was demoted to become chief secretary to the Treasury, but she embraced the change. In fact she became increasingly mischievous, reprimanding the then environment secretary Michael Gove publicly in one speech. “Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much … eating too many doughnuts … or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves … I mean stoves,” she said. “I can see their point: there’s enough hot air and smoke at the environment department already.”

Her office has gained an unwanted reputation among cabinet colleagues for leaking stories. It was often assumed that the leaks came direct from Truss, but her friends have denied this.

After May’s resignation, Truss became one of the first cabinet ministers to support Johnson’s bid to lead the party. She was appointed international trade secretary and for two years signed trade deals across the world. As foreign secretary Truss has become increasingly active on social media, exhaustively documenting her jet-setting diplomatic trips around the world.

Her condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine – which saw Russian officials explicitly cite comments she made in a BBC interview as the reason for its decision to place the country’s military on high alert – has led to a rise in popularity within the Tories.

Her solution to the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol was to scrap large parts of that agreement. Critics said she risked a trade war with the EU and had damaged the UK’s reputation for adhering to international law.

Her supporters say that her creative thinking also meant that she secured the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a task that had eluded three previous foreign secretaries. She enlisted Oman as an intermediary and paid a historical debt to Tehran.

For many of the MPs who are backing Sunak, she is also the “Johnson continuity candidate”. They are fuming that she appears to have won over the party.

“If she wins, you will see pretty much the same groups of people – the same Crosby Textor [global consultants] types and the same donors. Liz is certainly very determined to get there, but the people won’t change that much and no one really knows what she might do if she gets there,” an MP said.

NOTE: This article first appeared in the Guardian newspaper.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 10 Comments

A Welshman v Fascism

‘If you can’t be seen, you’ve got to be heard’ … Steve Bray with fellow protestors, January 2020. Photo: Guy Bell

For five years the top-hatted maverick Welshman Steve Bray has kept TV viewer’s amused at his antics and impressed by his dedication protesting outside England’s the Houses of Parliament. His ability to manoeuvre himself and his fellow campaigners behind a politician during interview is legendary, so much so, that the irked television companies clubbed together to build a raised plaform from which to interview liars and charlatans. Bray being brighter than television reporters, simply got bigger poles for his placards to raise them to the dias height.

In time, he bought a microphone and loudspeaker. The guardians of democracy in the Gothic House of Horrors passed a bill – as easily as they could dissolve Scotland’s parliament – to outlaw ‘noisy’ protests. They then sent in a squad of police to remove his equipment. Bray is a peaceable protestor; the police now made agents of fascism. Let it settle in: in Scotland it is unlawful to protest outside our parliament building. We have no room to scoff at Westminster.

Here is an abridged interview with a man who was Joe Shmo until he realised the Tory party is taking England’s democracy down the road to Mussolini, but in England no train runs on time.

THIS IS FASCISM

Interview by Emine Saner

Cars beep their horns as they turn off Parliament Square, tourists stop to chat and a protester with long white hair stands up on the railings at the end of a traffic island, as if on the prow of a pirate ship heading for Westminster. In the shade on one side of the street is Steve Bray, also known as Stop Brexit Man, slightly pink-faced under his top hat, tapping an unlit cigarette on its packet. He is planning to get back to vaping, he says, “but let’s get these stressful days out of the way first”. Every so often, a passerby will stop to shake his hand.

In the five years Bray has been protesting here, the past few weeks have been among the most memorable. At the end of June, police seized two of his amplifiers, and today there is a group of police officers watching him. The new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act strengthens police powers to place conditions on protests – even one-person protests – to control noise levels; it also increases the “controlled” area around parliament. “I feel that was kind of aimed at me,” he says. “So last week, on the Tuesday, they warned me twice. I said: ‘Look, I’m a protester, we’re about sound and vision – I’m not altering how we protest. It’s up to you what you do.’ They gave me two warnings.”

The attack

In retaliation he put the Italian antifascist song Bella Ciao on, “and I went to the front [of the traffic island] with Gareth [he of the long white hair] to wave the flags. I could see them coming down to seize the stuff. I’m trying to wrap my leg around one amp; Gareth is holding on as well. We were doing everything we could to stop them taking the amps.” He says there were “at least 20 officers in the end”, and his microphone got broken. Is he worried about the prospect of prosecution? “Not in the slightest because what I’m doing is right, and what they’re doing is wrong.”

He describes the new powers as “fascist”: “People who feel so passionately that they have to protest, they’ve been put in that position by a government which is trying to shut them up; this is why I say it’s fascism. Our right to protest is fundamental and we’re all being attacked.” A few days after we speak, Bray posts a video on Twitter of a conversation with a police officer who says he has been ordered to stay with Bray all day. “This is not North Korea, this is not the Soviet Union: you are not following me around all day,” Bray tells him.

New-old equipment

On the day we speak, in early July, Bray has another amp, “an old one, which is on its way out, but I’ve been using it. Today the police are ‘advising’ me, not warning me. So every time I play it, they come over and ‘advise’ me. They’ve changed tack. I’m not going to push it too far today.” That morning – in the background of a Good Morning Britain broadcast – he had played Bye Bye Boris, a parody song: “I’ve played it so much it’s driving me nuts.” As government ministers start resigning one after the other, people turn up to join the protest – about 40 over the course of the day, Bray says, in addition to the usual four or five core members.

Money has poured into his crowdfunder – more than £180,000 was donated in the time since his amps were seized, he reports; the total now stands at about £230,000 – which pays for him to keep going. There is, he says, “a hell of a lot of support and it’s growing week on week”.

Hugh Grant

When we speak again a couple of days later, he has made it on to TV again, this time playing the Benny Hill theme tune in the background of media broadcasts; a clip of the Conservative MP Chris Philp being interviewed on Sky News, the music playing as he spoke, went viral. The actor Hugh Grant had tweeted Bray that morning to request it. “I thought, OK,” says Bray, who stood on the ramp to the underground car park by College Green. “I know where to make a noise where nobody can do anything about it. I could see somebody on the corner waiting to go [on TV]; I didn’t realise it was Chris Philp. I thought it was a presenter, but I saw when he started and I just went for it.” He laughs.

Bray has become an enduring presence on TV, moving in to shot, or shouting, during broadcast interviews. “We’re about getting the message out. I would always rather be silent and just stand behind with a placard. But my view is if you can’t be seen, you’ve got to be heard. In shutting me out, they are actually making it a bit worse for themselves – someone silent in the background, or someone shouting or playing what I like to call trolling songs?” Politicians have sworn at him and mocked him – his tactic of following and filming them, while insistently shouting questions, is clearly annoying and at times uncomfortable in its aggression – and he isn’t exactly popular with TV presenters and camera crews (nor, I suspect, with a large number of viewers who would rather listen to a broadcast without Bray disrupting it). “I do feel sorry for them,” he says. “They say: ‘This is our job. We set up here; we’ve only got a couple of minutes.’ But I say: this is for our futures; this is for all of us.”

The pride and the passion

It can be difficult to understand the intensity of feeling that leads to someone giving their life over to a protest like this, standing in a square day after day, shouting and berating politicians. Bray likes to say he had never been on a protest in his life until the Brexit protest. In the run-up to the referendum on the UK’s EU membership, he was living in Port Talbot in Wales. “I know how much money the European Union had put into Port Talbot, one of the most deprived areas of the United Kingdom, and I was shocked at people there: that the majority voted to leave.” He believed, he says, the leave campaigns were lying. “What they promised, I knew there was no way they could deliver it. Port Talbot, a poor community, were being cheated out of a better life: being told they were going to get a better life when in fact they were going to be far worse off. I’m not an economist but I knew from the get-go it was all lies. Here we are, and it’s actually worse than I expected.”

He started posting online, then realised he needed “to move offline because I wasn’t achieving anything. It was just arguments and trolls. It took up so much time and it achieved very little.” He says he volunteered to drive a float from a carnival in Germany – featuring a huge model of Theresa May with a gun in her mouth – around London and Norwich, and joined other anti-Brexit protesters.

The numbers joining him grew, and they were there Monday to Friday for the first year; they also went on marches and to party conferences. Bray and the group moved to the traffic island at the beginning of last year to get more attention, even if the noise, cars and people can be draining. He has also been attacked and spat at by members of the far right, had “cuts and grazes” and his trousers ripped. “I’m trying to watch all the time. You’ve got agitators, the police. I’m watching for the MPs, the cars.” They are there a few times a week, especially on days with key votes. How much of it is still about Brexit? “Brexit was the start of something far bigger,” he says.

“Our political system is very flawed. This government has shown how bad a system run on trust is. There is no integrity, no honour, no decency and no morals.” He would like to rejoin the EU, he says, “but we need to change [the political system] first”.

Bray, 53, was born in Cardiff, but his father was in the RAF and he spent his childhood moving around, living on military bases in Germany for many years, which he thinks created a feeling of rootlessness. It also drew him to the idea of the EU, one of whose countries he vaguely planned to retire to. “I don’t belong anywhere, but everywhere, if that makes sense.” Bray worked as an electrical engineer, and also became a rare coin dealer, a passion he’d had since he was six.

The sacrifice

He sold a few of his most valuable ones at the start of his protest, “which covered me into the first year, and then the crowdfunding was set up”. The money donated pays for a flat in London and “keeps me going at the moment”. For a couple of months in 2019, Bray’s team – known as Stand of Defiance European Movement, or Sodem – rented an Airbnb flat in a townhouse on the same street as the Conservative party headquarters, around the corner from parliament. “We would start at six in the morning and finish at midnight. They were hard weeks but they were worth their weight in gold.”

The protest has changed his life, given him a sense of purpose. “I’ve never met so many people in all my life. It’s given me an understanding of people, whatever their views. It’s brought me out of my shell. In a way, it’s a better life than the life I had, because I now have goals and things I want to achieve.” He is “a little bit more outgoing” than he was, he says. “I’m a bit more tolerant. I do try to put the shoe on the other foot and see it from the other angle, whereas before I never would.”

Fairness not fame

He never expected to be in the public eye, he says, and there are downsides: he is regularly attacked online by people claiming he uses a fake name, and making other allegations about him. “I never really wanted it, but now it’s happened I want to use that 15 minutes of fame to do some good.” In the 2019 general election, Bray stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Cynon Valley, a Labour safe seat he knew he couldn’t win (he got 949 votes). “I didn’t actually want to be an MP,” he says. “I don’t want to be in that den of iniquity – that’s not my cup of tea.”

“I’m happy to fight for people’s rights, but in a way I know best.” He can’t see a time that he won’t be protesting. “I think this has probably changed my life for ever. I think there’s so much wrong with this country. The mess will never be undone, but you have to start somewhere.”

NOTE: Emine Sayer is a feature writer for the Guardian and others newspapers. She apologises for her ‘unpronounceable name, somewhere between Eminem and Beyonce’.

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Posted in General | 6 Comments

Zip It!

The English Parliament’s apoplectic Speaker doing his night club bouncer number

SHUT UP OR GET OUT

By Neale Hanvey

When I entered front line politics in 2012 as an SNP councillor, I was clear that my guiding ambition was to play a full part in the restoration of independence to Scotland. Over the past 10 years that commitment has only strengthened as the need for independence has grown ever more urgent. From oil and gas, to wind, tidal, wave and hydro Scotland’s vast energy resources keeps the UK powered and Her Majesty’s Treasury pumped full of cash.

Make no mistake, Scotland IS the broad shoulders of the UK.

Our reward for that vast contribution of energy, food, drink and water? To be fleeced of those resources, charged for transmitting our energy, denied access to associated revenue and berated, and ridiculed in the “mother of all parliaments”.

As Kenny McAskill MP made to leave the chamber after his rebuke from the speaker, I began to deliver my assessment of the current impasse on Scotland’s constitutional future.

The moment was chosen for maximum political exposure. The most dishonest and disreputable Prime Minister in UK history was about to begin his swan song and we were determined that Scotland would be heard and our mandate for independence would not be ignored.

For my point of order, I addressed Boris Johnson directly: “Mr. Speaker, that charlatan has no mandate, no right, and no authority to dismiss the voice of the people of Scotland”, I started, going on to add “Someone who no longer commands the support of his own party, has no right to hold our nation hostage. Not him or his unelected successors. Scotland’s Claim of Right must be respected!”

For those who dismiss what we did, make no mistake our action that day amplified the cause of independence far beyond the Common’s chamber. Our intervention in parliament was no mere stunt, it has been reported across Europe and beyond to Mexico, China and many places in between.

As a consequence, the following Wednesday the ALBA party leadership held a very successful press conference with the Foreign Press Association, such is the interest in democracy denial for Scotland. Gaining interest and recognition of this is a vital component of building international support for Scottish independence

The cost-of-living calamity being endured in Scotland is a direct and unnecessary consequence of Westminster rule. It’s not Scotland that should fear independence -be in no doubt it is HM Treasury who fear the double whammy of losing Scotland’s revenue and having to pay an independent Scotland a fair rate for our energy surplus, our water, and our exceptional food and drink.

Scotland’s people need not suffer this iniquity, but we need to corral the justified anger into peaceful and persistent public demonstrations and build an unstoppable drive towards independence.

On Wednesday the 13th of July Scotland was given a clear ultimatum from the Speaker; “Shut up or get out”. Scotland won’t shut up, so now’s the time to get out.

NOTE: Neale Hanvey is ALBA MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and Leader of the party at Westminster. He stood down from the SNP after being smeared by them, joined the ALBA party dedicated to self-governance, and was elected again as an independant.

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Posted in Scottish Politics | 1 Comment

Oppressors Grab More Powers

Campainger Gina Miller and colleagues of her True and Fair Campaign

This site has a policy of reporting on all things Scots and Scottish. It includes publishing parallel accounts from non-Scots that illuminate the political problems Scotland endures or tries to throw off. Scotland is assailed by Westminster and Whitehall these last years by moves to withdraw hitherto guaranteed devolved powers, and take them back to a centralised London governance.

The EU has expressed anger over the backing given by MPs for legislation overriding post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland by launching a further four legal cases against the UK government. The claims concern past failures to implement the 2019 deal agreed with Boris Johnson but the EU has been spurred to act by the passage through parliament of a bill that would rip up current arrangements. The Northern Ireland protocol bill cleared the House of Commons at its third reading – the final stage in the Commons – by 267 votes to 195, with only endorsment of the Lords to go (as I write) in the autumn.

The four new legal cases – which cite a failure to enforce EU customs and VAT, and excise rules – come on top of three other cases already in motion that are heading to judgment by the European court of justice. The EU court has the power to impose multimillion-euro daily fines on the UK and its judgments could be the first step towards the bloc taking punitive action through mechanisms within the Brexit deals. Maroš Šefčovič, the EU’s Brexit commissioner, has not ruled out tariffs being imposed on British goods sold into the EU, describing the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol bill as “illegal”.

Activist Gina Miller has penned a few paragraphs on the Northern Ireland Protocol currently under attack, now causing anger in NI and counter-legal action by the European Union. The insidious process has echoes of Scotland’s situation where our powers are grossly stymied and withdrawn. And her article makes clear why the Tory party has become untrustworthy. There is no indictation the current candidates for leadership of the Tory party of England intend to do less that proceed with the Bill to the bitter end – Rule Britannia, and all that.

GRABBING POWERS

by Gina Miller

Deep within the Northern Ireland protocol bill, ministers are making a sinister grab for yet more unchecked powers. Boris Johnson’s term in office has been notable for repeated abuses of power and attempts to quash opposition – from proroguing parliament to clamping down on the right to demonstrate. But even though he is on his way out and the Conservative party is gripped by its leadership contest, his plans to erode our democracy are continuing below the radar.

The starkest example is the Northern Ireland protocol bill, proposed by the leadership hopeful Liz Truss, that is still making its way through parliament and currently in the committee stage. Much of the attention, and the condemnation, has rightly been on how it could break international law by invoking article 16 of the protocol. But, far less widely reported, there are sinister clauses in this bill that again amount to blatant power-grabbing domestically.

The bill would have the effect of giving parliament the ability to constrain the courts, and hand increasing powers to ministers. This bill accelerates the increasing dominance of the government over all other branches of the state – notably the courts and parliament.

Clause 22 in particular will convert every regulation-making power in the bill into a “Henry VIII” power, meaning that ministers can make any provision that could be made by an act of parliament, without parliament.

The fundamental doctrine of the separation of powers – which requires that the principal institutions of state, the executive, legislature and judiciary should be clearly divided in order to safeguard citizens’ liberties and guard against tyranny – is being systematically destroyed by this government.

As the political thinker Montesquieu said in 1748: “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty … there is no liberty if the power of judging is not separated from the legislative and executive … there would be an end to everything, if the same man or the same body … were to exercise those three powers.

Contrary to the charge that government lawyers are incompetent, what is quite remarkable is how the drafting of the protocol bill pushes what many constitutional lawyers and experts have long known but have never seen a government dare to do.

It’s another nail in the coffin of the naive “good chap” model of our government that few expected to be tested as it has over the past few years.

It is, however, a thin, skeleton bill, containing few details, and as Lord Judge famously said: “As for skeleton bills, I find it absolutely extraordinary that we ever pass them. We say to ourselves, ‘Let us give the minister powers before the minister has the slightest idea how he or she is going to exercise them.’” The bill also includes clauses that mean parliament can legislate freely to constrain the courts, and there is very little the courts can do about it – meaning that a successful legal challenge to the protocol bill, or the act that follows, is very unlikely in the UK courts.

But the bill goes further. It gives ministers eye-wateringly broad powers. For example, they will be able to come up with new regulations on the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Treasury will be granted powers to regulate customs issues. Sneaky new Henry VIII powers will be introduced, which will enable ministers to alter primary legislation without requiring parliament to vote in favour.

Clause 19 of the bill will empower a minister to take measures he or she considers appropriate in order to implement any post-protocol agreement reached with the EU – ending parliamentary scrutiny of international treaties.

So continues the route to what Lord Hailsham once called an elective dictatorship. An ideological plan by government ministers to manipulate a supine parliament into giving them ever more powers. Creating phoney wars in the media to distract attention while they fast-track laws that diminish our democracy. Brexit was supposed to be about protecting our parliamentary sovereignty: but this government of Brexiteers are eroding our sovereignty, our constitution and our ability to hold the government to account.

But I have another worry; could this bill mean the government can bring back a no-deal Brexit by the back door? If negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol break down, could ministers fundamentally alter the infrastructure of the EU withdrawal agreement, without parliament? The political and economic uncertainty faced by Northern Ireland and post-Brexit Britain are only exacerbated by this bill. The man who created this scenario may be on his way out, but we cannot afford to drop our guard: otherwise his poisonous legacy may endure for years.

NOTE

Gina Nadira Miller (née Singh; born 19 April 1965) is a Guyanese-British business owner and activist who initiated the 2016 R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union court case against the British government over its authority to implement Brexit without approval from Parliament. In September 2019 she successfully challenged the government’s prorogation of Parliament, formally supported in the legal case by the former prime minister Sir John Major and the shadow attorney general, Shami Chakrabarti. She founded the True and Fair Campaign in 2012, calling for an end to financial misconduct in the investment and pension industries.

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