Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Westminster Survival Guide

Have you ever considered a career at Westminster?

Not sure where to start?

Well worry no more because we have created the 'Westminster Survival Guide'.  Our informative, easy to understand guide will help you start your journey as an MP in just 7 simple steps!

Ability to read is optional.

Step 1 - Making friends
Westminster is all about making friends.  The best way to do this is to attend the same schools as everyone else.  Don't worry about being shy, you'll have plenty of opportunities to make lots of friends whilst being an MP.

Step 2 - Forget why you wanted to get into politics
Principles are horrible, icky things that just get in the way.  You don't want something as silly as representing your constituents to stop you from doing your job!

Step 3 - Know the difference between rivals and opponents
Westminster is a really great club and we don't want those who don't appreciate how special this place is to start trouble.  So when criticizing the other two parties, remember to discourage voters from any nasty alternatives.  Better 100 years of having the other side in than real change!
 Step 4 - Stand up for the big guy
This is just simple good manners.  Without the big guy, your party will go bankrupt (and your party time as an MP will come to an end).  Besides, the big guy can thank you later!

  Step 5 - War is a vote winner!
If your side is in office then war is your friend!  Everyone loves a good war, especially in the run up to an election.  Just remember to cheer for the war if you're in opposition (you don't want people to think you're soft on communism, terrorism, rogue states, weapons of mass destruction, journalism [delete as appropriate]).

 Step 6 - Protect the other House!
The House of Lords does really important work, like giving jobs to those who have made our lives better.  Those chaps are really great and what have they ever done to harm you?  (Apart from diverting tax payers money from other areas, but you shouldn't be paying too much tax anyway!)
Step 7 - Nuclear weapons make you important!
 There is no greater feeling than knowing you can kill millions of civilians with a push of a button!  So what if it costs a little money, it's worth it to know that people in Moscow are scared of you (well not you, you still need the Americans to approve any attack, but no-one will notice as long as you don't tell anyone).

You now know the basics of how to be an MP.  If in doubt just follow the party whip and you'll be A-OK.

Just as long as no-one votes for Independence, of course.
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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Will you march with Sign for Scotland?

Sign for Scotland will be attending the March and Rally for Scottish Independence due to take place in Edinburgh on Saturday, the 21st of September.  We’ll be there with business cards, volunteers and our very own unique flag!

If you see us (we’ll be the ones with the distinctive ‘Sign for Scotland’ hats and badges) then please come over and say hello.  We’d really like to meet as many of you as we can.  We'll be there to support the Yes Scotland movement and ensure that the Signing Community is represented.

The details for the March and Rally are on their website.  And here's a list of the different groups that will be taking part.

Picture from last year's march and rally
The organisers have great travel advice on their site if you want to make your own way there, and lists the various coaches and trains that are being put on to help ferry people from all over Scotland and beyond to Edinburgh on the day itself.  We've also confirmed with them that the same Signer from last year will be returning.
I attended the rally in 2012 and it was great fun.  The flags, the costumes and the atmosphere really added to the sense of occasion.  And this year’s event will be even bigger and better.

Some of the Sign for Scotland team
Whether you are going with friends, your local ‘Yes Scotland’ group, or as an individual, please look out for us as we take another step towards Scotland voting ‘Yes’!

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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

He Who Pays The Piper (Part 3 – Honours)

One of the main reasons for supporting independence is the lack of any prospect of meaningful reform within the UK.  Regardless of which side gets in, there are certain aspects of Westminster governance that simply will not change.  As this blog could conceivably become the longest on this site we’re going to split it into three bite sized parts: donations, outside interests and honours.

In theory, the system of offering honours to those who dedicate their lives to noble causes is one which has great potential.  The reality, however, is quite different:

“Millions of people live in the UK. Many rise above the odds to make a difference for the better. It must be about time that an independent authority decided who should receive honours. Each year the south of England, but in particular London, dominates the honours list. When it is littered with miscreants and former prisoners it has to be wrong. Either that or it becomes a joke. Surely the Queen does not want to become a laughing stock?” Tek Journalism UK (

"Fear will keep the Scotch in line," Moff Tarkin OBE, advisor to Better Together
How is the system supposed to work?
The honours system recognises people who have:
1 – Made achievements in public life
2 – Committed themselves to serving and helping Britain

How does it work?

This passage from is particularly eye-opening:
“Although widely popular in many quarters as a part of British "pomp and circumstance" and as a method of rewarding distinguished service, some aspects of the honours system are highly controversial.

In the past, the honours system has been abused for corrupt purposes. One Maundy Gregory, allegedly encouraged by David Lloyd George, openly sold honours in the 1920s - resulting in the convicted fraudster Sir Joseph Robinson receiving a peerage in 1922 in exchange for £30,000.

Naked corruption of this sort no longer exists, but it is nonetheless the case that donors to political parties are frequently rewarded with honours. Furthermore, the prime minister is able to use honours for leverage: many of the victims of Harold MacMillan's "night of the long knives" were mollified with peerages; more recently it was alleged in some quarters that Tony Blair convinced a number of ageing Labour MPs to retire in 2001 to make way for young New Labour high-fliers, by promising them peerages.” (
It’s painfully obvious that the UK honours system is out of date and horrendously corrupt.  It also causes tensions with other nations and is disrespectful to many people.  The issue has been raised by international news agencies, but the best article came from Benjamin Zephaniah, a famous and influential musician from Jamaica.  
“I woke up on the morning of November 13 wondering how the government could be overthrown and what could replace it, and then I noticed a letter from the prime minister's office. It said: "The prime minister has asked me to inform you, in strict confidence, that he has in mind, on the occasion of the forthcoming list of New Year's honours to submit your name to the Queen with a recommendation that Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to approve that you be appointed an officer of the Order of the British Empire."
Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word "empire"; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalised. It is because of this concept of empire that my British education led me to believe that the history of black people started with slavery and that we were born slaves, and should therefore be grateful that we were given freedom by our caring white masters. It is because of this idea of empire that black people like myself don't even know our true names or our true historical culture. I am not one of those who are obsessed with their roots, and I'm certainly not suffering from a crisis of identity; my obsession is about the future and the political rights of all people. Benjamin Zephaniah OBE - no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.” (
Disrespectful, hurtful, corrupt and with little prospect of change; the honours system is a great reflection of the true face of Westminster.  We saw in Parts 1 and 2 that Britain isn’t being run well.  With independence we can create a better system, and inspire change elsewhere.

"We need to look after our priorities," joint Tory, Labour and Liberal Statement
But we can’t criticise this corruption if we’re unwilling to take responsibility for ourselves.  We can either vote Yes, or encourage this kind of behaviour to continue.

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Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hail to the King, baby!

Bubbling in the background of the referendum debate has been the role that the current monarchy would have in an independent Scotland.  It shouldn’t be, as the only issue being debated is whether we make political decisions for ourselves or let Westminster make them for us, but the ‘no’ campaign is trying to convince royalists that the Queen will be stripped of all the power she doesn’t use and thus we should keep political (and monetary) power at Westminster.

Even if that was true (it’s not) it’s still a relatively minor price to pay compared to the massive gains we will enjoy following independence, but what will be the future role of the monarchy?

 Sorry, wrong king
The short answer to this is…largely the same, with a couple of exceptions.  On the day that independence is declared (the 31st of March 2016) the Queen (or whoever is on the throne at that time) will be head of state.  There is, at the moment, no mandate to change this.  She’ll be known as Elizabeth the 1st (or Elizabeth, Queen of Scots), and will continue doing the same things that she does at the moment.

There are just three exceptions to this.  The first are the actual powers she will have.  To understand the differences, we need to do a quick history lesson and compare Magna Carta (which broadly forms the principles of the constitution of England) and the Declaration of Arbroath (which fulfils the same role for Scotland).

Magna Carta was the first document forced onto a King of England by his subjects and ended the absolute power of the monarchy.  In simple terms, the Crown in Parliament is supreme (  Nothing can overrule decisions made in the House of Commons which the House of Lords and the Monarchy has assented to.

 "This is how the head of state is decided in a modern democray!" Sir Lion of Steak
The Declaration of Arbroath is slightly different.  It acknowledges that a monarch (and in our case its modern day interpretation, Parliament) has obligations to the people, and that it can be legitimately replaced if it fails.
“The Scots clergy had produced not only one of the most eloquent expressions of nationhood, but the first expression of the idea of a contractual monarchy.” (
The role of the monarchy (and even parliament) is treated differently.  In Scotland, we will be writing a new, modern constitution which takes the best aspects of Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath and the numerous other constitutions which have been created over the last few centuries, but the starting point will be that the people are sovereign, and that no individual or institution can override their will.

The second exception is the potential for change.  At the moment the people of Scotland don’t get any say.  Neither of the two parties who can be elected to govern at Westminster (Conservative and Labour) supports even a debate on the issue.  This cheapens the monarchy as they are in an unchallenged position of authority.

Recent photograph of William and Kate

An independent Scotland would be different, as there would be parties who can form the government who support a referendum.  This means that people will have a choice – if you don’t want the monarchy to change, then don’t vote for parties which advocate that position.  And even if those who support a republic gain 51% of the seats at Holyrood, they will still require a referendum, allowing a full and open debate.

The last exception is one which most royalists would enjoy: a coronation ceremony in Scotland.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you support a Monarchy or a Republic; Scottish Independence is about empowering the people of Scotland to decide what future we want to see.  And only voting ‘Yes’ will bring the power back.

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Back To The Future

The current leadership of the Labour Party in Scotland (Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Joanne Lamont) opposes Scottish Independence.  They are against universal benefits (Ed Miliband And Ed Balls Under Fire From Labour Left Over Cuts To Universal Benefits - Scottish Labour Plans To End Free Universal Benefits), support overseas military interventions (Ed Milibands Newfound Opposition To The Iraq War What His Voting Record Shows - Iraq War Wasn't About WMD Claims Lamont) and they want to work with the Conservatives and Liberals and nearly anyone else to resist Scottish Independence (Cameron and Miliband unite to oppose Scots independence - Labour's Lamont says Taylor donation was appropriate).

It is one or the other I'm afraid...

But this wasn’t always the case with Labour.  When the party was founded at the turn of the twentieth century its purpose was to represent the interests of working people.  Keir Hardie, their first MP, wanted to abolish hereditary power in the House of Lords (which, despite successive Labour Governments, still continues to this day), free education (which Tony Blair removed for University students in England and Wales, with Barnett Consequences for Scotland) and Home Rule for Scotland.

Ramsay MacDonald, Labour’s first Prime Minister, was the same.  He was one of very few politicians who spent time on the Western Front during the Great War, but suffered discrimination for his pacifist views.  A supporter of Scottish Home Rule, Mr MacDonald attempted to bring a degree of self-governance to other nations within the empire, including India (

When we consider the values and principles of these two people, as well as the Labour Party Manifesto of 1918, and compare them to the current leadership, it is difficult to find much in common.  Peace abroad, universal support for the people at home and the right of self determination of nations have all appeared to have been lost amongst the desire to attract voters in the South East of England.  Indeed, we don’t even need to go back as far as 1918 to see the difference.

Independence would give the Labour Party in Scotland a chance to return to its founding principles.  Scotland can lead by example, and provide an inspiration to groups and movements around the world.  Social justice, the rights of unions and a peaceful foreign policy are just a ‘Yes’ vote away, and the lurch to the right by those who have high jacked the party can be reversed.  What appears radical today, can become reality tomorrow.

There is an appetite for restoration.  ‘Labour for Independence’ wants fairness, equality and justice at the heart of Labour policies.  They want a living wage to replace the minimum version, with the aim of lifting thousands out of poverty.  They want our welfare system to be easy to understand, with means testing on disability allowances scrapped.  And they want Trident, the largest concentration of nuclear weapons in Western Europe, to be removed from Scotland and to inspire other states to work towards disarmament (

Dennis Canavan's Car Licence Plate (probably)

The Independent has noted that there’s ‘a hair’s-breadth between Labour and its Conservative and the Liberal Democrat opponents in several key areas’ since 'Red Ed' Miliband became leader.  That just isn’t right.  If we want a functioning democracy, if we want choice, if we want parties based on values and not valuations, then we need independence.

And it is the only way to bring the Scottish Labour Party back to the future.

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