Sunday, 30 March 2014

Not in the paper review - March

Welcome to the third of our monthly series looking back at the stories which the main stream media in Scotland didn't offer much attention to, and comparing them to those that hit the front pages.

No chance of a referendum?
No, not the referendum on Scottish Independence, but the 2017 vote being promised by Prime Minister David Cameron.

According to the Secretary of State 'for' Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, there is " question of there being a referendum [on EU membership]. There is no mechanism for the Conservatives to deliver a referendum in 2017. That is the hard political fact." Farmers Guardian, 18th of March 2014

We're really not sure where to start: do we highlight that Mr Carmichael is calling his own boss a liar and that we can't trust the false promises of a desperate UK Prime Minister, or focus on the utterly ridiculous notion that Westminster cannot host a referendum.

But the biggest question is where is the scrutiny from the media? Why, when EU membership is such an important subject in England prior to the upcoming European Elections, are so few of the media outlets reporting this claim? Why wasn't Mr Carmichael being chased by reporters for a response? Is it because this embarrasses the Westminster establishment which wants to be all scares to all people?
At least Mr Carmichael is confirming two very important facts: for the people of Scotland to get what we want, we need the powers of independence, and, of course, you can't trust anything that comes out of Westminster.
Other stories which didn't make it
Whilst another 'Standard' was making the headlines, Credit Rating Agency Standard and Poor were giving their assessment on the credit worthiness of an independent Scotland. Their conclusion:
The BBC, alongside the rest of the print media, didn't consider this to be very relevant, and offered minimal coverage. This lack of attention couldn't be because it directly contradicted Westminster MP Danny Alexander's claim in January that Scots would face a £5,200 hike in mortgages due to higher borrowing costs, could it?

There was a story which had everything a newsroom could possibly want: a radiation leak which was kept secret from the public. Unfortunately for the people of Scotland, this story embarrasses Westminster and thus won't feature prominently in the media.

Another nuclear story, this time in Plymouth when a torpedo was fired into a nuclear submarine dockyard.
"Workers watched in disbelief as the tube-shaped projectile flew through the air before blasting a hole in a security fence and slamming into a storage container." Telegraph, 14th of March 2014
At least this latest, but certainly not isolated, example of nuclear incompetancy wasn't kept secret from the people who live nearby.

Finally, the funding of the Scottish Parliament was cut in the budget. So of course, the main headline in on the BBC Scotland website was: Chancellor freezes duty of Scotch whisky. Sigh...

And finally, something that did partly manage to get into a few of the papers! Adverts for online website Wings over Scotland that featured on the Glasgow Subway system were pulled by SPT (or perhaps by advertising agency Primesite). At the time of writing no reason that doesn't fall apart at even basic scrutiny has been offered.

Glance over the BBC
The third largest party in Scotland held it's annual conference. It's guest speaker was the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, and it was given massive coverage on the BBC and other Main Stream Media outlets. However, throughout March, there were other large gatherings taking place. Radical Independence attracted a huge crowd to protest outside the Tory Party (Scotlandshire branch) conference and encouraged over 80 people to their second mass canvassing event in Drumchapel. For some reason, the BBC didn't want to offer the same degree of coverage to these.
The BBC did manage to cover town hall meetings accross Scotland although...
I asked people as they filed out the door if the [Yes] meeting had helped.
"No, not really," came the reply from one man. "It was good to hear other people's point of view, but it was basically a propaganda meeting. It would be good if the 'No' and the 'Yes' campaigns could get on the same platform and come to towns."
But what the reporter didn't explain was why the two campaigns aren't having more public debates:
"I don’t think that there is a gaping hole in the debate market that we need to fill. I don’t really see the need for us to have a specific debate organised by the campaigns when there are so many debates organised by third parties which both campaigns are participating in." Rob Shorthouse, no campaign director of communications in response to a proposed debate in Glasgow with Yes Scotland.
The impression given by the BBC was that there were many meetings being held by both sides, with Yes perhaps offering more, yet this is to massively undersell the chasm between the two camps. Wings over Scotland has provided numerous articles which show the number of Yes and no activists, as well as the reality of no campaign events.
Finally (for this month) we had the hard hitting and vitally important "Cows connected to web to boost milk" story featuring on the BBC Scotland News website. We know this was important because it was placed above "Scots constitution to be published". It even got it's own picture!

Got Impartiality? - note this was not the picture the BBC used
On an entirely separate note, we're sure that the news coverage offered the BBC has not, in any way, shape or form, been influenced by the fact that a 'Yes' vote is likely to cost the BBC £193 million every year.
Glance over the papers
Embarrassing headline of the month goes to the Mirror with: 'True Brit tennis ace Andy Murray has opposed Scottish independence without actually saying "Vote No".' It defies logic (at least logic in the conventional sense: the notion that someone going out of their way to not give an opinion means that they are actually giving an opinion by not giving an opinion for or against what they had been asked to give an opinion head hurts) in a way that few can hope to achieve. It even goes against what the paper has claimed in the past...
"All this "True Brit" stuff about Murray is true tosh. Come on! Murray is a true Scot and he is proud of it." Mirror newspaper, 30th of June 2008
'True Brit' or not 'true brit', I guess it depends on when you win Wimbledon!
The Press In-Action
This is a new section which looks at some of our favourite stories on-line which look at media bias in Scotland. If you know any good blogs that look at media bias, then please leave a comment and we'll check them out!
Munguin's Republic - In most countries, the press would brag about this...
Newsnet Scotland - Will the real No campaign please stand up?
BBC presenter Andrew Marr accused of breaking guidelines on referendum coverage
A week in the life of Reporting Scotland Fairness in February and The Dirty Dozen - The case against BBC Scotland
Wings over Scotland - Double Standards and What you didn't read this week
Business for Scotland - 11 good news stories for Yes

Also, happy mothers day! If you are a mum that supports independence (and let's face it, who doesn't like the idea of their kids growing up and leaving home one day!) then Mothers for Change is definitely worth a few moments of your time. They have great videos and features and seem a really friendly bunch.

Join us again for our next 'not in the paper' review in April!
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Sunday, 23 March 2014

And the answer is...

There are two things required for someone to complete the journey from ‘no’ to ‘Yes’: for their concerns about independence to be addressed, and for a positive vision of what we can achieve. Many of the other entries in this blog attempt to do the latter, but this one is focused on the concerns people have. It won’t specialise on a single topic like defence, pensions or the economy, but rather offers a more general, logical answer that resolves most issues.

The truth isn't scary, just take a peek.
And the answer is…every other nation copes.

How will we cope with debt? The same as every other nation. We've been a net contributor to the UK for a long time (even when we factor in accountancy tricks), meaning that we proportionately put more tax money in than we receive back, so we’re more likely to be in surplus and therefore able to actually reduce the debt (or invest more in capital projects and services, which should improve our economy over the long term). With Westminster at the helm, we are shouldering more than our share of the debt burden whilst paying for their vanity projects.

Not better, not worse, just different
How will we negotiate international treaties? The same as every other nation. Denmark was successful in gaining a rebate from the EU, and Lithuania (population 3 million) has twice as many representatives in the European Parliament than Scotland (solely because they are independent, whilst we are classed a mere region).

Sweden copes with their state pensions, with their citizens receiving up to £25,155 per year, and Finland copes with employment law, with workers entitled to 40 days paid holidays annually. We will be starting our journey with a greater GDP per head of population than Australia, Canada, Belgium and Germany, who don't appear to be looking for Westminster to run their countries. There is no reason why we can't make it (and every reason that we can).

"We reject your reality and substitute our own," better together statement (probably)
This blog has already looked at currencies, trade and what will happen to the Panda’s at Edinburgh Zoo, and we will be covering more topics before the end of the campaign. But the point of this entry was to act as a reminder that every nation manages to get by, and there is no reason why Scotland should be any different.  Even those in the ‘no’ campaign agree.

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

Which wars, Mr Cameron?

On Friday, the 14th of March, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech to the Scottish front of the Conservative Party.
He spoke of the people his government had given work to, proclaiming that 'more of our countrymen and women than ever before' have jobs, yet was silent on workfare and zero hour contracts.
He spoke of looking after our troops, yet said nothing of those who he had given P45s to.
He spoke of our oil and gas industry needing Westminster's 'broad shoulders', yet ignored the far superior management of North Sea resources by our near neighbour and friend Norway.

Yet there was one line, mixed within Mr Cameron's positive case for the union, which intrigued me the most:
"...[The UK is] A family forged through shared endeavour, through the fires of war..."
The first question I thought of was, which wars was David Cameron referring to. Below a list of possibilities:
The Mau Mau Uprising - 1952 to 1960

"Elkins reveals that the British detained not 80,000 Kikuyu, as the official histories maintain, but almost the entire population of one and a half million people, in camps and fortified villages. There, thousands were beaten to death or died from malnutrition, typhoid, tuberculosis and dysentery. In some camps almost all the children died.
The inmates were used as slave labour. Above the gates were edifying slogans, such as "Labour and freedom" and "He who helps himself will also be helped". Loudspeakers broadcast the national anthem and patriotic exhortations. People deemed to have disobeyed the rules were killed in front of the others. The survivors were forced to dig mass graves, which were quickly filled. Unless you have a strong stomach I advise you to skip the next paragraph." - Guardian Newspaper, 23rd of April 2012
Unfortunately we will never learn the full extent of what happened in Kenya after it was revealed that Westminster systematically destroyed records to prevent their crimes from being exposed. The fire of war was quickly followed by the shedding of evidence.

The First Opium War - 1839 to 1842

"British and Chinese merchants alike had long benefited from the lucrative opium trade through Canton, but by the late 1830s the social and financial costs of the trade had become too high for the Chinese government to bear. Trade deficits related to the growing production of tea in India and other British colonies, combined with reversal in the flow of silver into the country made the opium trade a less financially appealing option than it once was.

In addition, the social costs of the drug quickly came to outweigh any financial benefits the trade might offer. The transition from eating to smoking the drug around the turn of the 19th century transformed opium from primarily medicinal in its usage into an addiction epidemic that was becoming a serious drain on Chinese society; even the emperor’s own son died from overdose." [source]

The quantity of opium being sold in China had been building up at an alarming rate prior to the start of the First Opium War. This escalated dramatically following the signing of the 'unequal treaty', as the chart below shows. There had been attempts to prevent the sale of this poisonous drug however these proved to be unsuccessful, as the fire of war was lit once again.

"We have further learned that in London, the capital of your honorable rule, and in Scotland, Ireland, and other places, originally no opium has been produced. Only in several places of India under your control such as Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Patna, Benares, and Malwa has opium been planted from hill to hill, and ponds have been opened for its manufacture.

For months and years work is continued in order to accumulate the poison. The obnoxious odor ascends, irritating heaven and frightening the spirits. Indeed you, O King, can eradicate the opium plant in these places, hoe over the fields entirely, and sow in its stead the five grains [millet, barley, wheat, etc.]. Anyone who dares again attempt to plant and manufacture opium should be severely punished.
This will really be a great, benevolent government policy that will increase the common weal and get rid of evil. For this, Heaven must support you and the spirits must bring you good fortune, prolonging your old age and extending your descendants. All will depend on this act." Lin Tse-Hsu’s Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria, 1839
For balance, we'll show you the BBC's alternative view on this conflict:
"In June 1840 a fleet of British warships sailed into China's Pearl River Delta and unleashed a barrage of violence, overwhelming China's weak coastal defences and bringing the country to its knees.

This was the First Opium War in which thousands were killed in the name of free trade." BBC History
Another notable section from the BBC version is the line: "For the British the highlight of the deal was the acquisition of Hong Kong Island, which would be used as a hub to increase trade in opium with China."

That seems a very strange use of the term 'highlight' to me.

The Second Boar War - 1899 to 1902 

"Thousands of newcomers arrived at Bloemfontein camp. Thousands became sick. The marquee hospital tents were always full. The doctors worked day and night. We found pieces of blue stone vitriol in the sugar. Lots of people were poisoned. People died like rats. Carts came down the rows of tents to pick up the dead. There were funerals every day." A Boer Girl's Memories of the War
The Second Boar War started not long after the discovery of large gold reserves was made in The Republic of Transvaal. This was "potentially a political and economic threat to British supremacy in South Africa" [BBC History]. One of the most terrifying aspects of the war were the concentration camps.
"Eventually, there were a total of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps." Geni, Geneology Website.
"It is for their protection against the Kaffirs," said the British War Secretary, oblivious to the fact that Africans were being armed and encouraged by the English to attack a mutual enemy. Also ignoring the fact that 115,000 "black Boers" were sent to their own concentration camps, loyal servants who saw twelve thousand of their number die." A Boer Girl's Memories of the War

The sickness of the cruelty of these camps can only be matched in revulsion by the docile nature of the UK media:
"British propagandists alleged that Boer mothers were killing their children through their own stupidity and carelessness. When seven-year-old Lizzie van Zyl died of hunger at Bloemfontein, a report said her mother starved her."  A Boer Girl's Memories of the War
The Second Boer War ended after 2 years and 8 months of fighting. The Republic of Transvaal, and its gold resources, fell under Westminster control.

We've mentioned before our thoughts on Westminster's wars. We've tried to explain that a privileged few always profits from these conflicts, and that war is, has been, and always will be, a racket, yet we have a Prime Minister claiming that these same conflicts, and the 134 others we've taken part in since 1707, are a reason to maintain Westminster's power over Scotland.

Modern conflicts tend to consist of coalitions of nations working in conjunction with one another. Each member of these coalitions makes their own decision on whether or not to join based on a number of factors, including negative ones such as self-interest, corporate interests, political expediency, a warped sense of unjustified self-importance, and fanatical ideology, as well as more positive influences including morality, solidarity, and preventing genocide.
The decision facing us on the 18th of September is not what will influence our decisions regarding war, but whether we get to make a decision at all. Do we decide when we send our youth into harms way, or leave the thinking to whoever is elected at Westminster?
Who do we trust more...ourselves or a Westminster system that both lights and celebrates the fires of war?
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Sunday, 9 March 2014

Why pay for what you don't want?

On the TV and in newspapers we come across frightening terms such as deficits, national debt, inflation, deflation, stagflation and many more besides. Most of these relate to problems that our economy has and they have a single root cause: governments living beyond their means to deliver promises they can't keep.

"This is the only solution that we want you to know about," 'no' campaign statement (probably)
Westminster has been living beyond its means for many decades, as the ever increasing national debt proves. The UK government spends more money on interest payments than Defence, Law and Order, Housing and Environment, Transport or the Department for Industry, Agriculture and Employment.

Our media offer only two solutions: austerity (which is favoured by the coalition government in London) or capital investment (which is favoured by the Scottish Government in Holyrood and nominally by Labour). No other options are given any credence because they aren't available to the UK, but for us in Scotland there is an alternative...don't pay for what we don't want.

Don't pay for Trident's replacement, which will cost £100 billion.
Don't pay for the House of Lords, which costs over £77 million every year.
Don't pay for the London sewerage project, which costs £4,200 million
Don't pay for the Jubilee Line, which costs £3,500,000,000 (£3,500 million)
Don't pay for the new communications headquarters in Cheltenham, which costs £1,200,000,00
Don't pay for the London Crossrail Tunnel project, which costs £14,800,000,000
Don't pay for the Euston Station upgrade, which will cost £42,000,000,000
Nasty Scots putting pensions before privilege
We currently pay for military personnel to be deployed in over 80 countries around the world. We're contributing £4,771 million towards a high speed rail network that won't get within 300 miles of Scotland. And if you believe that we should pay this money because we're going to get some incidental benefit from this vast expenditure then shouldn't the UK government be part funding the railways in France?
There are other expenses too that we don't need to accept. Taking part in conflicts around the world isn't cheap. The war in Afghanistan, for example, has cost £37 billion in financial terms, despite hopes that not a single shot would be fired, and it certainly isn't alone in the long list of British military campaigns.

The above list alone equals approximately £3,916 for every single man, woman and child in Scotland, and we and our children only have to pay it because we're not independent. Is having Westminster in charge over our affairs worth nearly £4,000 to you and your family?
Why pay for what you don't want? Vote Yes in 2014 and let's live within our means by first cutting the junk that doesn't help us.
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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Vote to make your vote matter!

The majority of people who voted in the 2010 UK General Election did not receive the representation that they voted for. This is appalling. How can a country be a democracy if the majority of people who took part in the vote are ignored? How can we expect Westminster governments to not only reflect the people, but to represent their wishes?

The simple conclusion is that we can't. The First Past The Post system which the UK uses doesn't spread power, it concentrates it to a handful of constituencies. Instead of criticizing this faulty system, interest groups including the BBC celebrate it with interactive features.
Not everyone can have the candidate or party they want feature in their parliament, but this should be in the minority of cases, not the norm. Everyone should feel that their vote counts, regardless of where they live. The sum result of all this is that 'In Britain’s first past the post electoral system, some votes are worth 22 times more than others'.
So what is the alternative? In Scotland we have a more proportional system. Where the UK only represents 47% of the population, the Scottish Parliament reflects the wishes of 89%. 68.4% of voters in Argyll and Bute were ignored by Westminster in 2010. In the same area only 14.30% didn't receive representation at Holyrood.

This increase in relevance is why independent candidates and smaller parties are capable of winning representation in Scotland. They encourage positive voting as they seek of provide something that the others don't. In Westminster campaigns we are constantly told that we need to keep the other side (be it Labour or Tory) out. At Holyrood, the parties need to say what they would offer. This lessens the value of negative campaigning and can only improve our politics. It also means that no party is guaranteed to return to power (which unfortunately is the case at Westminster).
Independence ensures that our votes always matter. It offers us more choice and more control. It makes it difficult for special interest groups to dictate how our country is run by breaking the duopoly on power which has gripped Westminster. A Yes vote is a vote for a more democratic country, and offers an opportunity for anyone to get involved. We've seen so many fantastic new speakers emerge from the independence campaign, including Allan Grogan and Saffron Dickson, and these people have a chance to flourish if we have the powers of a normal nation.
1 Yes vote will make sure your vote always matters, don't let it go to waste!
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