Thursday, 25 April 2019

Our Culture of Violence (posted in 2005)


I’m writing about the tragic death of a young 20yr-old boy who lived behind us here in a northern suburb of Glasgow. He was violently and indiscriminately attacked in the centre of Glasgow by two youths.  A recent study from California cited Scotland as having the highest rates of Youth violence in the world. When it reaches so close to home, it shocks and horrifies us all. 

As I pick up the Evening Times I read of further attacks. Apparently the two Youths involved in the random attack, injured several others the same night. My son works as a junior doctor in Glasgow and those on call in the Infirmary talked of the numbers brought in injured that same night. It was a Friday night after an Old Firm clash. 

We live in a Culture of Violence, that starts in the home and spread out into the community at large. Add to this a cocktail of alcohol over-indulgence and ease of access to drugs, and you have a lethal combination, a powder keg just waiting to explode.  

 Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, recently suggested in the press that it was time for an Open Debate on this pressing subject.  Perhaps we need to look at other cosmopolitan areas such as New York, which used to have a high level of violence, and adopted a zero tolerance approach several years ago – which meant targeting young criminals and the smallest crimes, before it leads to the more serious ones.  My daughter was there this summer and found New York a safer city to walk around in than Glasgow. We also need to tackle the alcohol and drug abuse problems, through education and through stricter laws on selling alcohol to the very young.   

The introduction of laws banning physical violence in the home may help to raise awareness that violence towards others is not acceptable behaviour in our society. This also raises questions about our society’s attitude to violence generally, as a way of controlling others. There are other more successful ways of coping with problems and with young children. Another problem is the severe lack of male role models for many young boys growing up here, and the fact that Scotland has such a high rate of single parent families.

The second issue is attitudes to binge drinking. We glorify ‘being drunk’ and ‘binge drinking’ in Scotland – as if it is something to be proud of.  A whole generation is being caught up in a cheap triple alcoholic haze. Do we care? Well we should. We set the example by what we do and say. My view is it is the entire ‘Culture’ and attitudes here in Scotland that have to change, and not about a few experts telling the less fortunate to behave better. 

It is time we looked seriously at these and other alternative ways of behaving, before youth violence escalates even further on our streets.

Brexit Questions - Change is Coming

 As water leaks through the crumbling Westminster roofs, and its labyrinth of corridors, it has been found greatly wanting and completely unable to deal with modern challenges. The Brexit debates, like a dangerous football, have thrown everything up in the air – with no written constitution, or interactive democracy.  Other leaders are aghast at how out-of-touch and not fit for purpose Westminster is. 

Three years ago 2016 before all this Brexit happened, few really cared about whether the UK was in or out of the EU, and I never saw anyone marching on the streets over this EU question. It was simply an institution like Nato or the Commonwealth – that was an important and accepted part of our lives. (People are marching though against climate change: we may only have 10 years to save our planet!)

Britain has suffered severe upheavals and ups and downs - before the dark days of war, the strikes of the late 60s, the Thatcher years, the Iraq war during Blair. The 2008 crash crisis worldwide. It seemed that the EU offered some stability and also peace and prosperity, surely important issues? So why did those in England want to leave the EU, and blamed the EU even, with the rise of Ukip? What was going on? Is this merely an uprising of populist far right bigotry as some argue? Or something much deeper? Or why some English voters believe England is not a sovereign country that is simply operating in at trading union?

An embarrassment. Its extremely worrying the decay, incompetence  and inability to govern this whole process has highlighted. Many appear to forget the boom and bust we used to suffer in Britain before we joined the EU 40 years ago. It meant high interest rates, inflation and all kinds of suffering and uncertainty. That’s what will be in store for us again once we leave the stability provided by being in the EU. This is partly driven by the fact that Germany in particular, always aims for a stable economy based on solid manufacturing, rather than the uncertainty and debt -ridden roulette of the London financial markets. 

The UK has been led by a poor leader, who is unable to empathize or collaborate? Why are MPs pursuing an ill-thought out policy that will make us all poorer? Why was there no real planning or idea of what Brexit really meant? What was it really all about?  Restoring past glories? Keeping the UK union together, when the cracks only get wider? Restoring Britishness’ and Union jacks? I'm really worried about the Americanization here in the UK and the privatising of health care and more. Where will it all lead?

The British Tory ship steams ahead, with no destination, no captain, and no map. What are we Scots to do? Can Brit Nats and Scots Nats exist side by side? Should we scramble for life rafts – or accept this laughable chaos? Or instead take control of our own Scottish resources? For now we need to let the anchors rise and the dust settle – and why does Nicola have explain her every move, when other politicians explain nothing?  Why are our respected MPs snubbed as irrelevant? Its insulting to the Scots nation.

Scotland needs to protect its significant resources by emulating countries like Norway (which is in EFTA) and also sets regulations to protect its environment, industries and by promoting Norway’s own oil company (which prevents multi-nationals exploiting their wealth). There are many examples of small, indy nations that operate very successfully in a larger trading block. There are no examples of a country operating successfully in a trading block, and then deciding to leave these treaties with no plan over its future! All we know is Brexit means leaving present agreements, but not what it actually wants! What a mess.

Why I want independence
I believe a nation is best served making its own decisions, in its own best interests – and that those in a foreign nation are not best able to make decisions for us. To flourish, Scotland must break free of the chains of English colonization and be an independent European nation once again. 

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Democracy and Universal Suffrage

It appears that the small island nation of Iceland led the way
Iceland is generally held to be the oldest Parliament, starting in 930. The oldest continuous Parliament is the Tynwald (Isle of Man), which started in 979, although its roots go further back. In 1188 Spain held one of the first parliament followed by the Netherlands in 1581. 

In the UK the Union of Parliaments 1707, brought about a more modern parliament, which limited the power of the monarch. 
After the Union of the Parliaments in Britain – which dissolved both the Parliament of Scotland the Parliament of England under James Stuart (VI Scotland and I England) to create a parliament of Great Britain, which sat in London. The modern concept of parliamentary government emerged in the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707 - 1800 ) and in Sweden during the Age of Liberty (1718 - 1722). 

**Universal Suffrage
Suffrage – is the right to vote in public, political elections. 
Britain was not one of the first countries to offer votes for all men, and later all women.

France - 1792 suffrage for all men (in 1850 excluded criminals and homeless)
America  - 1856 Voting rights all white males, and suffrage women 1920
New Zealand  1893 – full suffrage and votes for omen. First self-governing country.
Finland - 1906 – suffrage all men and women (women could also stand for election) 

UK – 1918 – male suffrage, all men the vote
1928 – all women the vote. 

Voting Injustice
In 1969 UK closed a loophole where 7% got 2 votes!
Also in 1969 Northern Ireland  votes for Catholics after the civil rights movement. (under Harold Wilson)

In the US, some states exercise shared sovereignty to offer citizens the opportunity to write, propose, and vote on referendums. 
Referendums in the UK are rare. In the UK we have a passive, non interactive democracy.
and we have too large, impersonal council areas. 

Friday, 19 April 2019

Four Hundred Years of the Scottish Parliament

St Giles
The Scottish Parliament,sat for 400 years ( 1230 - 1707 ) influenced by the Reformation, Enlightenment and great scholars. It set many precedents that were eventually incorporated into the British parliament. It worked to reduce the power of the monarchy. The great scholar George Buchanan, who based his writings on the Scottish clan system and the father of democracy. He wrote that all political power resides in the people, and it must reside in the people: and that it is lawful and necessary to resist kings (or queens) or (we might say all rulers) if (or when) they become tyrants. There were many attempts to suppress his work and he foresaw where stupid Stewart vanity would lead.  

It bothers me that the British media portrays the British or English democracy as if it’s the oldest and best in the world. It is not. And while the contributions of the Scots are simply swept aside. Also Britain lagged behind other countries with universal suffrage (votes for all men) and crushed the Peoples Reform movement late 18thcentury, in Ireland and Scotland. 

The Scottish Parliament was begun in 1235 under Alexander II and had a political and judicial role. It sat for 400 years and incorporated The Three Estates – clergy, nobility, Burghs – who all sat together in a single chamber. Which contrasts to the divisions in the English parliament with its House of Commons and House of Lords. And the parliament travelled across the country. Later it sat in St Giles 1563 – 1639, and the nearby Parliament Hall 1639 – 1707.
The Declaration of Arbroath


The Declaration of Arbroath (1320) - Arbroath was the place that the Arbroath Declaration of Independencewas signed by lords, commons and the clergy of Scotland in 1320.  In it they had affirmed our right to be free to live our own lives in our own way.  Six years after Bannockburn.
There is a clip of Ian Hamilton, who led the students who stole back the Stone of Destiny 1951 from Westminster abbey, at the Arbroath visitors centre, speaking of his quest to awaken Scotland from its long slumber, his voice chokes as he speaks.. 

...for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

The Scottish Parliament determined the religious orthodoxy but at this time more power resided with the church and the monarchy. James Stewart V was Catholic.  
The Protestant Reformation happened in 1560, and Bishops were excluded after 1567 - abolished by the Covenanters1638 – 1651.
George Buchanan

Under James VI and I of England, (1603 Union of the Crowns) who was tutored by the highly respected scholar and the father of democracy George Buchannan. Buchanan was one of the most significant literary and political figures of the 16th century: poet, playwright, historian, humanist scholar, teacher to Mary Queen of Scots, and later to her son James Stewart VI of Scotland and I of England. He wrote one of the most important books in literature. A Dialogue on the Law of Kingship among the Scots, a critical edition and translation of George Buchanan's 'De Iure Regni apud Scotos Dialogus 

The Lord of the Articles was often appointed by the Crown, and parliament therefore became less independent. There was the War of the Three Kingdoms (not English civil war) and The Thirty years religious war in Europe, 17th century. 

Turbulent Times.  Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland in 1651, after Charles I was executed and he went as far north as Dunottar castle, looking for the Scottish crown. (which was hidden elsewhere) 
Ten years later in1661, saw Charles II restoration. He sent Commissioners to rule his northern kingdom. His brother Catholic James VII fled into exile 1689. This period is called the Glorious Revolution, but why is it glorious but other revolutions are only ordinary? And this led to divisions Northern Ireland begun under Henry VIII.

The Scottish Parliament nominated William of Orange and they disposed James Stewart VII under the Claim of Rights, and they offered the Crown to William and Mary, with limits to royal power. .

The Union of the Parliaments – was a Trading Treaty - but by 1801 England began colonising Scotland. 
After years, the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999, to Robert Burns song A Mans a Man for a That. Can we live up to these expectations and hopes?
The NEW Scottish Parliament 1999  to 2019 
'When on 25 march 1707 James Ogilvie, Earl of Seafield, Chancellor of Scotland, signed the Act of Union, ending Scotland's ancient independence, and merging the two parliaments of Scotland and England into the United Kingdom Parliament, he threw down the quill with these words: 'Now there's the end of an auld sang.'   

Ian Hamilton on taking back the Stone of Destiny. "It may be, it just may be, that on Christmas Day 1950 four young people wrote a new verse to that old song. Whatever we did, the song is still being sung."