Who is More Socialist?

 

I am delighted to be living in a time when politics has become sexy again. This applies to Scotland, where we have a clear goal, based on pure principles. Although the first independence referendum was lost, hope is high when half the population of Scotland harbour an increasingly strong desire for self-determination. What then are we to make of the shenanigans in Europe over which political bloc the SNP can join?

Yesterday, the SNP asked to join the Socialist Group in the European Parliament. So far, so ordinary. The vote was passed in favour of the SNP, by 32 votes to 29. This is where reality veers off into the bushes and heads for the home where the ludicrous people live. I am guessing that few of us knew that parties already within the bloc have the right of veto on new entrants.

Up stepped three Lords from the Labour Party’s Council of Europe delegation to veto the inclusion of the representatives of the people of Scotland. Let us pause to understand the full ramifications. Three of the unelected members of an institutionally corrupt level of the British democratic process (stop laughing at the back) decided that a party which refuses, as a point of principle, to nominate people to an intentionally undemocratic chamber, was less socialist then they were.

In 1973, the satirist Tom Lehrer said that satire died, the moment Henry Kissinger was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. What would Tom say at this moment? A party which is dedicated to increasing the freedom of five million people and taking back some of the wealth the people created was refused entry to a social democratic grouping by a party that is now so far removed from its founding principles that a giraffe would dislocate its neck trying to see where Labour were going.

In the coming election, I hope that people who still maintain a race memory of what the Labour Party was when I was a child, finally admit that the party of the people is now led by Nicola Sturgeon. The Palm has passed to a new generation and that generation has joined the SNP.

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Govan Heritage

On 7th August 1912, the Burgh of Govan was taken over by the City of Glasgow. Although it had been in existence in legend, since the sixth century, it had only been a burgh since 1864. Along with Partick and Pollokshaws, Govan disappeared into the gaping maw of the Dear Green Place.

Last Wednesday, I took a wander through a neighbourhood which surfaces in the consciousness of many non-Glaswegians, primarily as Sir Alex Ferguson’s birthplace. Yet, as one person pointed out to Sir John Ure Primrose, in the Burgh’s losing battle for independence, maybe Govan should have taken over Glasgow. Such was the concern then that the upstart Glasgow was getting ahead of itself.

In the intervening century, Govan has been submerged by the tsunami of the industrial history of the West of Scotland. It has been unfairly lumped with Glasgow, when it has stories of its own, in spades. The Ordnance Survey maps of the 1890s show Glasgow and Govan meeting in a thin ribbon of development along the Paisley Road. The area south of Cessnock Dock on the Govan Road is still fairly blank. Govan was clearly its own urban centre that did not need the embrace of its younger, but faster growing sibling.

Look northwest on the old maps and you see that Govan is thriving. The shipbuilding yards are spreading, Govan Old Church sits enjoying its second millennium and Water Row looks down on the Govan Ferry bringing thousands of workers to their business. The freight railway line runs through the streets until it is welcomed into the Fairfield Works. The silk factory is still there, waiting to be swallowed up by a later expansion of Fairfields. That much of this story is unknown to most people, is a problem that is being enthusiastically addressed.

Govanites are proud of their Burgh and have been making strenuous efforts to spread the word. I strongly recommend that you take a wee afternoon trip to improve your mind. Why don’t you start at the Underground Station, which is in the throes of an impressive redevelopment? Head west until you reach the church of St Constantine: the Old Parish Church, wherein lies some of the most impressive grave monuments in Britain. Volunteers, of a decidedly cheery and welcoming nature are there to help you with any questions, although there is more than enough information to be read by the independent visitor. Once you have had your fill of Celtic and Viking history, gird your loins for the 300 meter trot down the road to the Fairfield Heritage Centre, housed in the offices of the Fairfield Shipbuilding Yard.

There is clearly a secret production line somewhere in Harmony Row, churning out cheerful and welcoming Govanites in the still of the night. Yet again, you are looked after like a pet pig, by the volunteers who have dedicated their afternoons to explaining the history of shipbuilding in Govan. I finished my sojourn with a trip to admire the statues in Elder Park: in particular of John Elder himself, cuddling his compound engine. His engineering excellence gave Govan a maritime advantage, that the world took many decades to best.

My journey ended in the Elder Park Library: a fine building from the drawing board of John James Burnet. It was opened in 1903 by Andrew Carnegie even though it wasn’t a Carnegie Library. Yum Yums were the prize, as I returned to the Underground although, in my experience the No. 13 Cafe across from Greggs is definitely a place for the less time constrained flâneur.

http://www.fairfieldgovan.co.uk/heritage/

http://www.spt.co.uk/subway/modernisation/modernisation-at-govan/

http://www.thegovanstones.org.uk

http://www.clydewaterfront.com/clyde-heritage/govan/elder-park

http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/libraries/your-local-library/elder-park-library/Pages/home.aspx

PPI and the Sting in the New Labour Tail

The spectre of schools falling down, with the potential for killing children, is truly chilling. The media failing to report this in any manner that fulfils the solemn duty of the journalist is truly shameful.

The narrative is very straightforward. More than ten years ago, the Labour Party in Scotland were instrumental in pushing forward a new type of financing for public buildings. In essence, the Labour Party forced councils to proceed with infrastructure projects through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). This wacky version of voodoo economics has led us to our two pronged current crisis.

The first problem was identified early on: PFI kept project costs off the books whilst the projects were being built. Over the following decades the councils would be obliged to continue paying the contractors, with the bill being absurdly more expensive than if the councils had been allowed to finance the projects in their own way. So, we find that Fife Council built schools with the capital value of £103.9 million. Thanks to PFI, the schools will cost five £412 million over the next 20 years. It beggars belief that any sentient being could have thought that this was a wizard wheeze.

The second problem has surfaced with vengeance in the past week. Not to put too fine a point on it, it now seems that projects were completed with no obvious oversight during construction, leading us to the closure of Edinburgh’s dangerous PFI schools. Wings over Scotland has done its typically sterling job of collecting the media reports, which have failed to mention that the only fingerprints on this national disgrace come from the hands of the soon to be dead Labour Party.

This story is going to have a very long tail and that tail will have a sting like a scorpion who has been mainlining hydrochloric acid.

Read the WoS piece:

One day we’d like to be surprised

Are We a Democracy?

Human beings are curious things. They combine supreme intelligence with bovine stupidity. They can maintain mutually opposing views whilst appearing unconcerned or even embarrassed. It goes without saying that we live in a democracy, whilst some of the criteria for making such an assertion would tell us that we are totally wrong. Consider the three levels of governance at the top of the United Kingdom, to see what I mean.

In pole position in our much vaunted democracy is the Queen. Placed in a structurally bigoted appointment, she looks down on us and must secretly laugh at the absurdity of her position. As the richest Social Security scrounger of them all, the sole requirement for becoming the number one kiddie in the country, was be the child of a monarch. When daddy died, she had to promise to rule over us and be a good Protestant. It’s the second bit that really burns my bacon. If she were suddenly to become a papist she would be removed from her throne. So: two epic fails in our testing ground for democracy.

On the second, but still quite rarefied level, we have the upper house. Chosen by the Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the House of Lords is stuffed with hundreds of the unelected. They will never have to undergo the indignity of seeking the approval of the electorate. The 1911 Parliament Act stated its intention to ‘substitute for the House of Lords as it presently exists a second chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis’.

Of the third level, it is true that we get a chance to decide our democratic fate. Once every five years. For about 20 minutes. In this I include the walk to and from Bankhead Primary School to choose the Member of Parliament who will represent me for half a decade. So – my democratic contribution to the government of the United Kingdom is 10 seconds per decade.

Maybe we need to sit down and discuss democracy in the light of the constitutional requirements of the UK. Unfortunately, even though the Constitution is regularly mentioned on political programmes I am, as yet, unable to procure a copy of this vital, but rarely seen document. So, here we sit, with an invisible constitution which is alluded to whenever the status quo is challenged. We have two levels of government which are legally closed off to 99.99% of the population, yet we are apparently a democracy.

I call shenanigans.