David Cairns, Thatcher & Brown

August 4, 2008
Sent to the Herald: 18th July 2008. Not published.
Dear Sir,
The mock offence of David Cairns MP in response to the remarks by Cllr John Mason about Brown and Thatcher is laughable (news, 18 July). There is nothing shocking in what Cllr Mason said; Alex Salmond is on record some years ago stating that it would be difficult to place a cigarette paper between the policies of New Labour and the Conservatives in relation to their tax and economic policies. Looking today at the state of the economy and the penalisation of the poorest workers in society through the ten pence tax band abolition we can see the clear basis for such comments. 
To those of us who support Scottish independence we look not simply at the colour of rosette worn by whoever lives in 10 Downing Street but the principles (or lack of them) and the policies that they claim to represent. The political fraud perpetuated against the Scottish people over our natural resources for over three decades has been carried out by Tory and Labour administrations in London alike. On the constitution they fundamentally sing from the same hymn sheet, albeit in a disjointed manner. Both Tory and Labour pursue the privatisation of public services with a vengeance, both have colluded over imperialist war and both are for retaining Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Clyde.
In any case if Mr Cairns thinks that the people of Glasgow have forgotten who Gordon Brown had around to Downing Street last September for tea and scones then he is mistaken. 
Yours for Scotland,

GERS is not a prophesy

June 30, 2008

Sent to the Herald: 21st June 2008. Not published.

Dear Sir,
Once more we have been treated to the annual unedifying sight of the Labour, Liberal and Tory triumvirate of British unionism lining up to take swipes at Scotland (How oil would put Scotland in the black, 21 June). However, this year the Government Expenditure and Revenue in Scotland (GERS) report has ditched the farcical system said by Ian Lang, in his quest to fight constitutional change in the nineties, to be “needed” in order to “maintain the initiative and undermine the other parties”.
It could therefore easily have been anticipated that unionists would be spitting the dummy at the new-look GERS 2006-2007. What intrigues me though is that the likes of Ian Gray, Derek Brownlee and Tavish Scott are always claiming that Scotland is in some sort of structural deficit within the union. If we were even to believe their preposterous assertions for a moment then it becomes obvious that their approach is effectively tantamount to them celebrating their own political failure and that of the failure of union. In any case, GERS simply gives us an insight into our existing financial status within the constitutional constraints of the United Kingdom. It is not a prophesy about independence.
I note that the unionist obsession with the price of oil comes through in their comments. Little wonder they are obsessed with this issue: OPEC recently noted the potential for oil hitting 200 US dollars a barrel. Brown and Darling must be up and down between feelings of delight and despair at the very thought. It does not matter whether a country has oil or otherwise for it to exist as a fully functioning and successful sovereign independent state. Oil and other abundant resources would simply give Scotland a head-start.
This “youse cannae afford it” rubbish has to stop. What we need to start debating is how we use independence to deal with the abysmal living standards and low life expectancy of many Scots, how we raise educational attainment, how we interact with the world and help others in aiming for sustainability, fairness and social progress. In using their arguments Messrs Gray, Brownlee and Scott would do well to remember what happened in 1997 to the aforementioned Ian Lang and the other naysayers to change.
Yours for Scotland,

Referendum Rules OK?

May 30, 2008
Sent to the Herald: 27th May 2008.  Not Published
Dear Sir,
I see that John McCormick of the Electoral Commission is offering advice and assistance in relation to the independence referendum (Fairness warning on rules for referendum, 27 May). However, considering the track record of the Electoral Commission in relation to the May 2007 ballot papers fiasco and the investigation (sic) into Wendy Alexander’s expenses, would it be a good idea for the Scottish Government to take such “expert” advice from them on this matter? John McCormick raises an important point though, as we all know the potential resources available to Westminster, Whitehall, the Unionist press, the CBI, certain Unions, not to mention his former employers who openly act as “the glue which binds the United Kingdom together”, to quote a former BBC Director General.
Yours for Scotland,

Referendum Bill

May 16, 2008
Sent to the Herald:  14th May 2008.  Not published.
Dear Sir,
As if the shambolic budget backtracking at Westminster by Labour is not bad enough they are now in complete disarray over a referendum on Scottish independence (“Scottish Labour back to square one”, 14 May). I am seriously wondering if Labour policy in relation to Scotland is now decided, not in the traditional venue of London, but simply by Wendy Alexander in Edinburgh rolling a dice or flipping a coin. Perhaps their decision making is based upon which way the wind is blowing or the movement of the tides. 
According to your report, Duncan McNeill notes that the Labour Party has the “right to scrutinise any bills that come before this parliament”, Wendy Alexander’s spokesman (poor Mr Pia) states that “it will all be down to the wording and the timescale”, meanwhile Malcolm Chisholm states in the same report that scrutiny will be given to “the question, the voting system, the timetabling… of any bill.” Can I suggest that they have a look at the Draft Referendum (Scotland) Bill? The draft Bill is annexed to the National Conversation document and is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/a-national-conversation/White-Paper The draft Bill consists of only three sections and two schedules. Even for a Labour MSP it should not take them long to read.
The timescale was set down by the SNP before the elections a year ago – the aim was to hold the referendum in 2010. The draft ballot paper notes that we will be asked to agree/disagree that “the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state.” The proposed system of voting is to “put a cross (X) in the appropriate box” (this at least should make it easier for the likes of Douglas Alexander to understand). What exactly is it that the Labour Party wants to scrutinise about either the timing, the question or the vote itself? These calls for “scrutiny” cannot hid the fact that Labour, as unionists, really do not want the nation to have the opportunity to debate independence and then decide on the issue in a fairly run referendum asking a question that does not mention separatism, isolation or the threat of scabies for voting yes.
Yours for Scotland,

Ann McKechin & Auschwitz

May 6, 2008

Sent to the Herald:  2nd May 2008.  Not Published


People across Scotland agree that the Holocaust and the actvities of the Nazi Regime in Germany during the 1930s are among the most shocking and horrific events of the 20th Century.  It is right that the legacy of these are handled with extreme sensitivity, and that future generations do not forget the sufferings involved and learn lessons to prevent such events ever occurring again.

It is almost beyond belief, then, that Labour politicians desperately and increasingly try to cheapen this legacy by making ridiculous associations between the present Scottish Government and the Nazi Regime in 1930s Germany.  First Anne Moffat MP compares Alex Salmond to Adolf Hitler, then a North Lanarkshire Labour Councillor derides his SNP colleagues as ‘Nationalist Socialists’.

Now Ann McKechin continues these assertions by making it look as if the SNP Government is standing in the way of school pupils visiting Auschwitz.  She knows that the issue is more complicated:  the relevant funding has not yet been confirmed, and it is down to individual schools to organise such visits.  The Scottish Government minister, in a recent Parliamentary debate, applauded and encouraged these visits and the many other activities schools undertake to teach about, and commemorate the victims of, the Holocuast.  Her behaviour is not dissimilar to the right-wing commentators in the United States currently trying to link Barack Obama with Louis Farrakhan.

Condemnation of the events that took place in Auschwitz transcends party lines. Cheap point scoring on the issue does nothing to preserve the memory of those who suffered.  Ann McKechin should be ashamed of herself.

Yours sincerely

Post Office Hypocrisy

March 28, 2008

Sent to the Evening Times: 27th March 2008. Not Published


Tom Harris argument that people who buy stamps in supermarkets but oppose Post Office closures are hypocritical makes no sense (report, 26th March). Real hypocrisy is when MPs and Government Ministers vote for the programme which led to the closures in Parliament but then fight to save their local branches.

Post Offices are often the focus for a local community – so much more than places to pay bills or buy stamps. It was the Labour Party that took away the Post Office’s functions in these areas in the first place.

I am not surprised Tom Harris and his colleagues are upset – they have been caught out putting London loyalty ahead of Glasgow’s grievances, and now they will have to answer to voters at the next election.

Yours sincerely

Labour betrayal

March 28, 2008

Sent to the Herald: 20th March 2008. Not Published


Twice in one week the people of Glasgow have been betrayed by their elected representatives in the House of Commons. On Tuesday they voted to drop a bombshell on the city’s whisky industry by approving a 59p per bottle tax hike. On Wednesday, not one of our MPs spoke in the debate about Post Office closures, but those present happily walked through the Government lobby to oppose the motion calling for halt to Post Office
reform programme.

Our MPs must explain themselves to Glasgow residents – why do they campaign locally to save Post Offices but vote in favour of closing them?

Yours sincerely

Whisky Tax Increase

March 28, 2008

Sent to the Evening Times:  19th March 2008.  Not Published


It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, to see Glasgow’s Labour
MPs once more trail through the voting lobbies of the House of Commons in
favour of London policies which can only harm our city.  Alistair
Darling’s tax bombshell on the whisky industry – an extra 59p per bottle
since the budget – threatens the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of
Glaswegians whose jobs depend on the industry.

Glasgow has a large number of bottling plants, not to mention the nearby
distilleries and world-famous whisky bars and shops. This was not enough
to stop city MPs voting for the tax rise on Tuesday. Once again our MPs
prefer to act as ‘Alastair’s Darlings’ rather than Glasgow’s Champions.

Yours sincerely,

Outrageous Slurs

February 18, 2008
Sent to The Herald:  15th February 2008. Not Published. 

Dear Sir,

For many years outrageous slurs have been hurled at the democratic, internationalist and moderate left-of-centre party that now forms the Scottish Government. I have heard the SNP described during the last decade alone using terminology such as “neo-Nazis… Omagh bombers… wife beaters… oddballs, extremists and out and out racists” (all in one go, and in a press article as well!) “xenophobic” (this one is repeated most), “the toast of Belgrade” and subsequently “the toast of Baghdad”. Recent years have also seen media reports about a former SNP MSP and his father’s alleged past membership of a criminal organisation – the SS. Reference to Alex Salmond and Adolf Hitler has been made in a comparative manner by a New Labour MP on the floor of the House of Commons and I have also read in the press what I consider simply to be disgraceful attempts to smear the now deceased former SNP leader, Arthur Donaldson for his conscientious objection. When the SNP Government wrote to every treaty party on the planet requesting Scots observer status for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the countries that were singled out by New Labour in their attempt at a retort were Iran and Zimbabwe, as London claimed that the SNP was seeking support from “very despotic and dangerous individuals”.

Now a New Labour councillor in North Lanarkshire has used the term “Nationalist Socialists” at a council budget meeting to describe the SNP opposition council group (your report, 15th February). Perhaps those who are engaging in this muck throwing are adherents to the statement that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Then again, I would not like to accuse people of engaging in a propaganda strategy that was used by none other than chief Nazi propagandist and war criminal, Joseph Goebbels.

Yours for Scotland,

Olympic Funding

February 2, 2008

Sent to the Herald: 29th January 2008


Ann McKechin’s desperate attempt to paint the SNP as ‘opposed’ to the London Olympics suggests she is more concerened about her own record in blindly supporting a London line than the best way to invest in sports and exercise in Scotland.

The SNP does not object to the fact that the London Olympics are taking place, but rather to the exorbitant cost and the methods of funding massive construction projects in the East End of London that will have no tangible benefit to the rest of the UK.

Lottery funds in Scotland could have been used to train young athletes to compete in both the Olympic and Commonwealth games, but Scotland’s Labour MPs voted it away.

In Scotland we have a well-managed, competent Commonwealth Games project with most of the infrastructure already in place and the confident support of civil society.  In London, massive amounts of funding are being wasted on unnecessary construction and vast consultancy fees by a government in thrall with the private sector and out of touch with ordinary people.

A metaphor, perhaps, for much of what is happening in Scotland and Westminster today.

Yours, etc