IndyScotNews Midweek 6 Jan 2022

For the first review of the week in 2022 we have Denise Findlay co-host of #TheCauldron, Julia Pannell Communications Officer with isp.scot and Roddy MacLeod host of ‘Through a Scottish Prism’ and author of the #BarrheadBoy blog.

IndyScotNews Midweek Part 1 (15 Dec 2021)

A review of current news stories relating to Scotland and Scottish independence hosted by Peter Young with guests Peter Barclay @barclaypeter7 Michelle Ferns @michelleferns11 and Roddy MacLeod @Scotpol1314

The Tide of History

My wife and I were watching the north German drama ‘Der Usedom-Krimi’ recently. We suddenly recognised one of the seaside towns used as the location in the episode. We’d visited this town only a few weeks after the re-unification of East and West Germany on 3 October 1990.

Those momentous events of three decades ago were inspiring. They were events I had never expected to see in my lifetime. And when they occurred, they moved forward at a rapid, almost breathless pace. That experience has left me with the conviction that old established regimes can be swept away, no matter how bleak or hopeless things may look. This is something those of us who support Scotland’s historic cause must never forget.

Currently, many of us may feel that independence is further away than ever, but sometimes a series of seemingly unconnected events can cause a chain reaction – a reaction that is unstoppable.

I had travelled to the then East Germany only once before. That was back in the early 1980s as a curious tourist. In those days it was a boat train to Warnemünde, a northern district of smokey Rostock on the coast, then several hours cross-country by train to Berlin, and the infamous border.

October 1990: Crossing the Warnow estuary on board the Warnemünde – Hohe Düne ferry which saves a long drive through central Rostock

In October 1990, however, I was with my girlfriend and partner in curiosity. We had a real sense of anticipation. After all, we were about to enter a once forbidden land. Oddly enough, as the car ferry entered Rostock harbour I had a sudden deja vu with childhood Glasgow. It was caused by the air, heavy with a very distinctive but long forgotten smell of coal.

This was the second time East Germany reminded me of my native city. Back on my 1980s tour I’d taken a day trip to East Berlin. The short journey across the border was fascinating for a number of reasons. The ‘mirrors on wheels’ for sliding under the trains going in the opposite direction summed up the madness of it all.

Original 1982 DDR stamps in my old passport

The excursion from West to East was like passing between Kodachrome to Ilford HP5, a voyage from colour images to black and white. In many ways, it was similar to those trips from glitzy London home to Glasgow’s dereliction years before.

Wandering around East Berlin, in the pre-camera phone era with a Nikkormat SLR slung over my shoulder I must have stood out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, it occurred to me that we Glaswegians probably had more in common with our ‘enemies’ across the wall, and in run down capitals of the Warsaw Pact, than our allies in the sophisticated, up-market Western part of the city.

Decades later, in the October Baltic chill of 1990, we headed east. We followed the signposts to Stralsund. The gentle coastal geography was familiar to me, but almost everything else was stuck in a time warp. Houses, roads, shops, were all something out of a 1950s movie.

We stopped at one of the coastal watchtowers. It was abandoned. Tools of state oppression gone, windows smashed. We looked out from the top over the sea. Not long ago this was occupied day and night by Kalashnikov-wielding guards. The only escape from state control here was violent death. And yet, within a few short months the old order was gone. Swept away by the tide of history.

If there is one thing we Scots can learn from this, it is that cataclysmic change can happen suddenly. So, there is no need to despair. The current British state is on its last legs. Our most important task is to keep the pressure up. The dam will burst.

Deserted GDR coastal watchtower a few weeks after the GDR ceased to exist

An unforeseen circumstance has arisen, though. An unexpected, temporary hindrance is blocking our path – it’s the very vehicle we thought would transport us to freedom. The driver and crew have parked the bus. The engine is seized and the battery flat. There are no visible attempts being made to restart the vehicle. Vandals are making a right old mess of the bus that gleamed so brightly in 2014.

It’s slowly dawning on people in the Yes movement that many of those we trusted with our loyalty, allegiance, and votes, may be acting in bad faith. In fact, some of their deeds are so destructive and disruptive that they appear to be assisting the very state that opposes our cause.

It’s becoming easier by the day to identify those who are wilfully frustrating our nation’s march to independence. The dots are there to be joined, if you dare. But beware, some of those dots, when joined, create an image of the unthinkable. You may not like what you see. Denial may be the easier option for you, as it is for so many others.

In Der Usedom-Krimi (it’s on Channel 4, by the way) the coastal towns we saw in 1990 are completely transformed. Re-unification has not been easy. But despite a sense of ‘Ostalgie’ among some former East German citizens (the longing for certain aspects of the old GDR) it’s hard to imagine anyone wishing for a return of the Stasi state.

Heading towards Stralsund in the former GDR a few weeks after the official re-unification of Germany

Like German re-unification, Scottish independence will be a challenge. That’s mainly because we have a hostile neighbour. A neighbour that has grown used to plundering our resources, keeping the lion’s share of our national revenues, and dumping its weapons of mass destruction next to our most populous city.

That said, who would not welcome this challenge? EFTA membership would not be a problem for a nation like Scotland. With ports re-opened we can trade direct with Europe. In a relatively short space of time – within months, not years – Scotland’s national and international fortunes can change. Our youth will have a European future again, our national wealth retained in its entirety can be used for the benefit of our people – to end child poverty, raise pensions for the elderly, renew our infrastructure and invest in our huge natural resources. What is needed now are elected representatives who will act on the mandate of the people. After all, a simple majority of MPs is enough to revoke the Treaty of Union.

The next general election should be Scotland’s last as part of the British state. We need to prepare ourselves to back candidates who will support a plebiscite election. They can be from all parties and none, but the only candidate we should give our vote to is one who supports the manifesto for independence put forward by the Scottish Sovereignty Research Group. Any candidate unwilling to recognise the election as a plebiscite on independence should be abandoned. And any party leader denouncing an alternative, internationally recognised legal route to independence as a ‘wheeze’ or ‘wildcat’, well, let them be swept aside by the tide of history.

Independence has been in the hands of one party since 2015. But that party has failed to use its three majorities of Scottish MPs to exit the oppressive Union. It could still act. The SNP leader promised a national constitutional convention during her Great Wet-Blanket speech of 31/1/2020. She has never called this convention of Scotland’s elected representatives. Another promise broken.

The SNP with 56 of 59 Scottish MPs in 2015. A virtual mandate to end the Union. The very least we expected from the ’56 was that they would accept nothing less than complete fulfilment of British promises of more expansive powers and virtual home rule for Scotland. We thought we had sent lions to Westminster, but instead we mostly got servile cap-doffing representatives who quickly settled into the ‘comfy-slipper’ Westminster lifestyle and a pay grade far beyond their wildest dreams

This is the type of convention Roddy MacLeod wrote about in his 20 December blog on Barrhead Boy. The First Minister could call together Scotland’s elected representatives tomorrow and allow a simple majority to revoke the Treaty which our forebears enacted in 1707. This convention could be held virtually, but preferably in person. A football stadium would do nicely. Lots of space for social distancing. Hampden Park, known for its famous roar, fits the bill – only this time it would be the roar of the Scottish Lion Rampant.

Now is the time to prepare. Individual SNP MPs must decide whether or not to join candidates from the Alba Party and the Independence for Scotland Party in a coalition for freedom by committing to a plebiscite election. If they decide against, they should be abandoned at the ballot box. No more comfy slippers, no more luxury wages for troughers. We must never again send MPs to Westminster unless it’s to settle up, immediately – not settle down indefinitely.

Germany’s Baltic coast really is worth a visit. My then girlfriend and I have returned many times; later on with our children. Today there are memorials to those who died trying to escape an oppressive state. Many of those fleeing were lost at sea, often with their entire families. It’s worth stopping for a moment to consider the tragic fate of those souls whose search for freedom cost them their lives.

We can count ourselves lucky that all we need to do is to vote for freedom at the next GE. It’s time for us to leave the oppressive state behind. It’s time to vote for a freedom candidate.

‘Union no more in 2024!’

Letter from Denmark: The Dinner Party

The conversation turned to politics, as it does among dinner party guests following an election. The consensus among our Danish guests was that PM Mette Frederiksen’s deleted emails and poor memory had affected results in the council and regional vote. Cover up and omission are not a good look, and the fiercely independent Danish media focused on this extensively.

‘And what about Scotland?’ they asked. I was too embarrassed to mention in any great detail the farce of the Holyrood investigation into the Salmond affair: the FM’s 50 memory lapses, the lying witnesses including the FM’s own husband and partner in nepotism; the obfuscating civil servants, censored documents, the withheld evidence of conspiracy. And not least, the resulting political show trials and COPFS persecution of the party leadership’s ‘enemies’.

I answered more generally, and addressed the political climate. In passing I said that, unlike the case of Denmark’s Social Democrats, lots of evidence of a conspiracy to frame Alex Salmond, from within the SNP,  had been hidden from public view. I described the lack of media scrutiny, and how a number of those implicated were rewarded with promotions or contract extensions. In other words, the stuff of a national crisis on this side of the North Sea. A crisis, and a list of misdemeanours, that would bring down any Nordic government. Alas, not the ruling regime in Scotland. 

However, I told them straight out that the ‘trans’ issue dominated the ruling party’s politics. At that point there was puzzlement. “What’s that?” one asked. Not one of them had heard about it. “Oh, you mean transvestites?”

Well, sort of.

In the recent national and local elections the issue of trans rights did not feature. Basically, it doesn’t appear as a subject in the political debate. There is a 2% threshold for parties to achieve a mandate in Denmark. Yes, two percent. Quite a low bar. The result is broad representation and an electorate that knows how each individual vote can have influence at all levels. And yet, among the 29 parties standing in the recent local and regional elections, not one was a ‘trans party’. ‘Trans rights’ is simply a non-issue.

So we have to ask why Scotland’s ruling party is now swamped with teen TRA activists, many of whom are not ’trans’, and why the First Minister herself appears to believe they are the single-most discriminated-against group in society?

The party, that just 7 years ago was a threat to the British state, is now focused on a fringe issue that hardly registers in a sister nation just across the North Sea. Moreover, the party is no longer a threat to the British establishment – but it is now most certainly a threat to women and girls.

Looking at the disruption this group has caused within the SNP there is the sense that a certain amount of manipulation is going on. Picking fights with other party members, alienating women, and gerrymandering prominent trans activists into leading positions has a whiff of British state skulduggery about it. Scotland is being targeted at its most vulnerable point – its inclusiveness.

Back at the dinner table, the jury is out on whether or not PM Frederiksen will survive the deleted emails crisis. It’s certainly dented her reputation. Danes are broad-minded and liberal but they like their politicians to be straight with them. They also don’t like people getting ideas ‘above their station’. Presidential-ism is shunned. That’s probably why Covid briefings are conducted by the minister in charge, and the relevant experts. In fact, it would take a naive or excessively vain Danish politician to suggest that an election victory was secured because the public voted for them, personally.

On this last point, Scotland once again diverges from Denmark. In a recent interview with Laura Kuenssberg the First Minister suggested that May’s Holyrood election victory was about her, she herself, personally. “They re-elected me,” she said. Actually, they re-elected the SNP as the vehicle to independence, and the much maligned Alba Party promoted a vote for the SNP in the constituency, on that basis. 

Pressed on indyref2, we once again got the promises to begin preparations to begin preparations for a new vote. Sadly, this was more smoke and mirrors. The commitment to begin preparations has been ongoing since 2016. It sounds good in theory, but all we have after six mandates is a horse box in a field and an FM who is showing increasing signs of egomania. And people still wonder why a slew of new independence parties has emerged?

Spin doctors agogo, and centralised power are the main achievements of Nicola Sturgeon’s tenure, so far. With The National having morphed into a party fanzine the FM may think she’s secure. But things have a strange way of unravelling.

Campbell Martin recently recounted in an interview with #TweetStreetOcc how, at the very beginnings of the restored parliament, he was in discussion with other SNP MSPs. The topic of MI5 and Special Branch infiltration came up. The view back then was not so much a question of ‘if’ but of ‘how many’. He went on to say that a number of those in the party at the time now hold senior positions in the SNP. Make of that what you will. 

Away from Machiavellian politics, language and culture have been the focus of a number of interviews given by Professor Alf Baird. He emphasizes how language and culture are essential to our national identity. And as far as Scotland is concerned, he points out that both Gaelic and the native Scots language have been the targets of cultural and lilnguistic imperialism. So the audio version of Billy Kay’s ‘The Mother Tongue’, with Billy’s wonderful narration, is a welcome development. It’s one thing reading Scots but hearing it spoken is whit its a’ aboot.

On the subject of language, I was speaking on the phone to a customer in Sweden the other day. I spoke in Danish, as you do. We used some similar words, though many were different, but we understood each other perfectly. When we were done she said how lovely it was to hear Danish. 

It was a comment that underscored the fact that among the Scandinavian nations and even in the Swedish-speaking part of Finland it is possible to get by with one of the Scandinavian languages. Now here’s a thing: all of these languages have certain shared words and phrases, but no one in Sweden, Norway or Denmark would ever suggest that their language was inferior to the other, or that their language was somehow invalid or not ‘posh’ enough. How sad that our Scots tongue has been diminished by the centuries of linguistic imperialism.

Finally, on the cultural side, one of this year’s Christmas presents in Denmark is a subscription to ‘Dansk Filmskat’ – an online streaming service that gives you access to Danish films all the way back to the 1930s. In common with the other Nordic nations, Denmark had, and has still, a thriving film industry. The fact that they are produced in a minority language is not a problem. The market is there, as is the financial support. 

Imagine an online streaming service with hundreds of Scottish feature films dating back to the 1930s. We could hear oor ain mither tongue as it was spoken almost 100 years ago, and view the cultural changes in society over the decades. No wonder Danes call it ‘Danish Film Treasure’. Which begs the question, where is our national ‘Skotsk Filmskat’? It hardly exists.

Our culture has been suppressed and all but eradicated to the point where many think of it as inferior to that of our domineering and aggressive neighbour. Too many Scots can only see the themselves through the British prism supplied by London.

 

JFK and the Unspeakable

Interview with James Douglass laying out a version of John F. Kennedy’s assassination that is sickening, in every way outrageous, but not exactly unfamiliar. In JFK and the Unspeakable Douglass makes it the story a plot inside the national security apparatus and the Central Intelligence Agency to kill the president and stop his turn toward peace, toward ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union and exiting the war in Vietnam.

Source: https://radioopensource.org/

Passport

The train leaves at 7.26am from Copenhagen. Thanks to the Great Belt tunnel and bridge you now travel direct to Hamburg. There’s no need to disembark anymore, the ferries between Sjaelland and Fyn stopped sailing years ago.

The Danish IC train continues across the middle island, over another bridge to Jutland, and down through historic Schleswig-Holstein.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve crossed the border to Germany. Until the Great Belt connection opened, it was mostly via Gedser-Travemunde which, on arrival, gave you views of the DDR’s Baltic coast. Sinister watchtowers stretched as far as the eye could see. That was the land of Stasi informers, show trials, the smearing and demonisation of anyone who didn’t toe the party line.

However, the most popular maritime crossing to Germany is Rødby-Puttgarten. Rødby was once a ‘boat train’ port. These days, far cleaner hybrid ferries whisk you over in about 40min. But most passenger ferry routes will probably close within a decade. That’s because the latest transport infrastructure project is already underway.

Tunnel construction has begun on the southern Danish island of Lolland. An undersea connection that may, one day, become the backdrop to some Nordic crime drama, will emerge on the German island of Fehmarn. When it’s complete it will enable even faster rail transport between Scandinavia and central Europe. Night trains are already being revived as EU states co-operate on clean, fast city centre to city centre rail – green, sustainable transport.

After several decades, the prosperous independent country I arrived in has seen huge changes to its transport infrastructure. It’s testament to what a small indy nation can achieve when it retains all of its revenues.

Fehmarm road and tail tunnel

With England voting to leave the EU it seemed inevitable that we Scots would abandon the Treaty of Union. Who didn’t imagine back in 2016 we’d all be citizens of an indy Scotland in Europe by 2022? Alas, the vehicle to independence lost its way as Nicola lost her nerve.

So, having been recently granted Danish citizenship, I decided to apply for a Danish passport. I’m simply too ashamed and angry to be a subject of the ‘British’ state anymore.

When you reach a certain age, travelling 1st Class on the ‘Danske Statsbaner’ isn’t much more expensive. You’ll notice the seats are bigger and further apart. There’s complimentary coffee, tea, and biscuits. It’s ‘hygge på skinner’ as the Danes might say, ‘cosyness by rail’.

You need to have your passport on cross border trips even though no one ever wants to check it. All that No Borders propaganda by astroturfer Malcolm Offord during indyref, is actual reality on a trip between Denmark, Germany and France. To all intents and purposes, there are no borders for the European traveller. Ironic then, that voting No in 2014 has created nothing but barriers for we Scots to the rest of Europe. Still, Offord got his seat in the Lords for his services to the Union of Unequals.

Speaking of passports, a new agreement among the Nordic nations makes it far easier to hold dual citizenship. The new dual citizenship agreement is for the Nordics only. Although Germany has a Baltic coast, ferry connections to Scandinavia, and a land border with Denmark, it is not included and never asked to be. The issue is no doubt one of size. At 80 million plus, Germany just doesn’t fit with Nordic populations.

But imagine for a minute it had been Germany and not England that exited the EU. There may have been a stream of Germans crossing the northern borders before the deal was done. In countries of 5-6 million an influx of between 500,000 – 1,000,000 ‘incomers’, could create a huge change in population demographics.

In that hypothetical situation, should those incomers been granted full voting rights? ‘Of course not! That’s a preposterous idea,’ you may say. You might point out that dishing out franchise rights willy-nilly could lead to the country suddenly having a huge foreign minority with substantial political clout at the ballot box. Political parties based south of the border may even use money and influence to promote themselves throughout Denmark. That’s just not on, not here at least.

Hypothetical obviously, but were that unlikely scenario to occur would we accuse Danes of ethnic nationalism if they denied recent southern incomers voting rights? Would we wag a self-righteous finger in their direction, while shouting, ‘Why aren’t you Danes more civic?’ Or ask ‘Why don’t they just accept that if you live in Denmark you automatically become a Dane?’ We might even feel inclined to portray them as rabid, ethnic nationalists who are anti-German.

Of course, in the real world, most rational thinking Danes have an entirely normal attitude to their far larger southern neighbour. And the feeling is reciprocal. Both countries are popular holiday destinations and weekend getways for each other’s nationals. Old animosities have gone. The WWII occupation of Denmark by the Nazis is viewed as an aberration.

The simple fact is, a large country like Germany would fit no better in the Nordic Council than England would work in a British Federation. However, a future Celtic Council, modelled on its Nordic equivalent, could be a goer. Ireland, Scotland and Wales have much in common. Population size, Celtic heritage, and not least, centuries of being dominated by London.

In the decades that I’ve lived as an immigrant, I’ve never once voted in a national election or referendum because I’ve never been included in the electoral franchise for either. It’s never bothered me. I could vote on what affected me locally and in EU elections, so certainly not disenfranchised. Only on issues pertaining to the constitution and national government have I been excluded, until now. The simple reality is, I wasn’t born in this country. Yes, I now have full citizenship rights, but no matter how long I live here I will never be a Dane, it’s physically impossible. My roots are elsewhere, and my heart is still Scottish. To pretend otherwise would be disingenuous. We are who we are. Fortunately, Danes do not demand you deny your heritage or renounce your other citizenship in order to receive theirs.

The nonsense some Scots gush about incomers suddenly becoming Scottish by merely moving here appears to be based on a kind of national insecurity, a cultural cringe, or perhaps fear of asserting our own distinct Scottish identity.

For most people, it takes time to settle in another country, and the majority arrive for purely personal reasons. Integration is a longer process. Polling recent arrivals to gauge their attitude to indy seems rather distasteful and a tad exploitative. Incomers have little interest in our constitutional struggle. And why should they, it’s not their fight. In fact, many of our newly arrived cousins from England may be directly opposed to we Scots running our own country.

Of course, if you’ve lived the greater part of your life in another nation you may come to adopt that nation’s customs, language, identify with its heritage, and even with the national aspirations of its people. This is a beautiful experience that can enrich our lives. But it takes time. The next logical step would be to apply for citizenship.

One day that will be possible in Scotland. But this is far different from a student studying for six months, a second home owner, or a Brexit refugee who at heart still views Scotland as greater England and is opposed to ending the Union.

If there is to be a future indyref, the 2014 franchise must be re-considered to take into account the massive influx from our far more populous southern neighbour, post-Brexit.

In all the years I’ve lived as an immigrant, it never once occurred to me to demand full franchise rights of my hosts merely because I moved here. That would have, at best, been impolite – and at worst, entitled and arrogant on my part. I moved to their country, I had no right to demand anything of Danes at all. I’ve always found displays of British entitlement abroad toe-curling. Danes voted to reject the Euro and refused to ratify EU treaties that conflicted with the nation’s constitution. Who was I to tell them otherwise?

‘That’s all very well but we’re not independent,’ I can hear someone saying, stating the blindingly obvious. We may not have full autonomy, but we are still a nation. We never stopped being a nation. If we believe that anyone who lands in Scotland is to be automatically granted full voting rights, including on matters concerning our historic struggle for independence, we perhaps don’t believe we are a nation at all. 

It is also the height of folly to imagine all of the post-Brexit incomers moved here to support our cause. To be honest, if our future Yes vote franchise is to be determined on polling the attitudes of incomers, to see if they’ll vote for our national cause, we might as well pack it in. The plain truth is, many of our southern neighbours still view Scotland as they view Wales, and as they once viewed Ireland. It’s not their fault. They have been conditioned to think this way since birth. For many, Englishness is synonymous with Britishness. Scotland, to them, is no more than a glorified English region with people who speak funny. This attitude won’t change in the short term. 

In the absence of citizenship, full voting rights on constitutional issues should be based on long-term permanent residency – not a recent move or a transient stay.

When our nation finally gets around to issuing passports and granting citizenship we’ll presumably have our own criteria with reference to residency, knowledge of Scottish culture, and so on. In fact, we could even go as far as the Icelanders who insist that, as a new citizen, you take an Icelandic name. With its tiny population, Iceland tries to protect its culture and heritage. Of course, we Scots might not want to go down the road of insisting. But we could offer future new citizens the opportunity to adopt a Gaelic middle name on citizenship. Not coercion, just a choice. A way of connecting their future with our past. I imagine some new Scots might just adopt a Gaelic name with pride.

If you’re heading to Paris, the second and final change comes in Frankfurt. From there a French TGV whooshes you to the magnifcent Gare de l’Est arriving just before 9pm.

German IC train restaurant carriage

As mentioned, Malcolm Offord’s ‘No Borders’ propaganda is reality in a Europe of self-governing, independent states. Passports are rarely viewed on these trips. Only one country seems obsessed with closing borders, and it’s not Scotland.

In ‘The Scottish World’, author Billy Kay mentions Scottish nationality:

“In 1513, dual nationality was granted to Scots living in France and in 1558 this was reciprocated for the French living in Scotland. France was also a haven for Scots students, with a Collège des Écossais established in Paris in 1326 by Bishop Moray…”. You know, visiting my son in Paris feels like coming home, in more ways than one.

Gare de l’Est