Sunday, 28 September 2014

Happy Birthday, Girls

A very happy birthday to two special ladies in my life who both have their birthday on Sunday.

The lovely Marion, to whom I am getting married early in 2015, with my grandson Jack:

And daughter Michaela who is now a quarter of a century old. Pictured here with George Clooney her auld father and her baby son Max

Friday, 19 September 2014

Don't Complain

The majority of Scots voted No in the independence referendum yesterday. Which is the democratic choice of more than 2,000,000 people - just over 1,500,000 voted for independence. So, to those who voted no, I say I respect your choice. Just remember:

Don't criticise the UK government - you want to be governed by them

Don't complain when the austerity cuts still to come hit us

Don't complain when Scotland's block grant is cut and the Barnett forumla is scrapped

Don't complain about the nuclear weapons 25 miles from our largest city

Don't complain that your gas or electricity bill is so high

Don't complain when fracking begins in Scotland

Don't complain about zero hours contracts and the minimum wage

You got what you wanted when you voted No so enjoy the UK election next May and the prospect of a Conservative/UKIP coalition government.

Better together indeed. Remember 18 September 2014.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Do Our Country Proud, Scotland

Tomorrow, history could be made. Scotland's people go to the polls to vote on whether they wish independence for their country. A Yes vote will mean the end of the United Kingdom as we know it.

A few things stand out in my life as being truly memorable, days I will take with me to my grave. The birth of my two daughters in 1986 and 1989; the birth of my four grandchildren in 2005, 2007, 2010 and earlier this year. Getting engaged to the lovely Marion last year. Watching Hearts lift the Scottish Cup in 1998, 2006 and 2012. All days never to be forgotten.

I truly hope that 18 September 2014 will be another day to add to the above. I have waited all of my 52 years for the day Scotland will become an independent nation. Free of Westminster rule, of being governed by politicians we didn't vote for. I want my country to make its own decisions, to create a fairer society, to address poverty and social injustice. I want these decisions to be made from Edinburgh - not London where Scotland is out of sight, out of mind (except at election time when messrs Cameron, Miliband and Clegg click on to Google maps to find where Scotland is)

Tomorrow, Scotland gets its chance. A huge chance. A once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world we are not afraid to govern ourselves, that we are big enough and strong enough. The atmosphere this week in Scotland has been frenetic but wonderfully exciting. Imagine what it will be like on Friday morning if the result is a huge yes for independence.

Not many countries turn down the opportunity to become independent. Don't let us down, Scotland. Let's create history - for our children and our children's children. Let's do this. Vote Yes!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

No Matter, Mr Cameron - I'm Gonna Do it Anyway

Are you one of the millions of people who work for someone else? Work your fingers to the bone in order that someone else benefits from your hard work? Do you feel you never get the praise you deserve for your dedication and commitment, day in day out, year in, year out? It can be depressing, knowing there’s no real reward other than the salary at the end of the month – and even this is pegged to protect the profits of the company you work for. Sound familiar?

Do you ever dream of breaking away from the daily grind, the relentless pressure of working all the hours for someone who doesn’t really appreciate your efforts and for whom you’re just a small cog in a machine? Do you ever think about setting up your own business, working for yourself? Yes, it would be hard work and there may be a degree of uncertainty – but the same could be said for any walk of life. Imagine the rewards you would get knowing your hard work, dedication and courage would be benefiting you and your family and not some overlord who doesn’t really care about you and your welfare.

Now apply that to the country you live in. Its good, honest, hard-working citizens working hard in a struggle to make ends meet. But not really getting the benefits they really deserve. They are ruled by a government hundreds of miles away who don’t really care about their welfare, merely about the money being made which helps them remain in power. Imagine the benefits your country would get knowing its people’s hard work, dedication and courage was helping the country they live in – and not some other country whose government is so detached from the people who didn’t vote for them in the first place. A government which tells Scots we’re simply not good enough.

An opinion poll published last Sunday put the Yes Campaign marginally ahead in the referendum for Scottish independence – now less than a week away. This news put the cat among the pigeons at Westminster.  Britain’s Prime Minister and his propaganda machine swung into action. David Cameron immediately cancelled Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament to head for Scotland – as did his political foes Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. Ask yourself how many times do you see the leaders of the three main UK political parties in Scotland other than at election time?

The quite frankly ridiculous offer from Chancellor George Osbourne – or should that be chancer George Osbourne? – of further tax-raising powers for Scotland should the Scots vote No is effectively the so-called ‘Devo-Max’ dressed up. This was something the UK government didn’t want on the referendum ballot paper. Barely a week before the referendum itself – and after thousands of people have already submitted a postal vote – it’s being offered by an increasingly desperate UK government who are now in full-scale panic mode.

The Westminster machine told major retailers such as John Lewis and Asda  - and the Prime Minister was answering journalist’s questions in an Asda store this week - to announce the cost of their goods would increase in an independent Scotland while the government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland were told to announce they would be relocating from Scotland. In truth, costs will not rise and the RBS have now said there will be no job losses and no effect on operations in Scotland – they are merely changing their registered company address as part of a contingency plan. And it’s worth considering banks and other financial institutions have larger contingency plans in place - should the UK decide to leave the European Union following the referendum on this by the end of 2017.

Aided by his advisers and knowing that a yes vote would irreparably damage his political career – eight months away from a UK general election – a Prime Minister who co-ordinates scaremongering against the people he is responsible for, and manipulates markets for political gain should be ashamed. However, history tells us the Conservatives have no shame, particularly when it comes to Scotland.

This time next week we shall know the answer to the question should Scotland be an independent country. Last weekend, the opinion polls showed Yes 51%, No 49%. Midweek, following the scare stories pedalled by the Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of the Labour Party and former Deputy leader of the Labour Party – who all came to Scotland this week, panic-stricken – the polls showed Yes 47%, No 53%. However, if the Westminster elite thought it was job done then they reckoned without the guile of the Scottish people who have seen through the mistruths. As I type this, the latest poll, just five days before polling day, shows Yes 49%, No 51%.

What Scots need to seriously consider next Thursday is what kind of Scotland they want for their children and their children’s children. I have four grandchildren. I want them to grow up in a country that is one of the richest in the world and doesn’t see its wealth wasted on nuclear weapons (which will never be used), wars in which it should never be involved in and bailing out banks and financial institutions for their corporate greed.

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a country where its vast natural resources – not just oil – are used for the benefit of all the people of Scotland, people of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds and political views.

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a country where our nation’s wealth can protect our public services and welfare system – and put an end to foodbanks – and to make huge improvements to childcare and to the state pension for hard working people and those who have worked hard all their life and now deserve to retire without having to worry about how they’re going to pay their fuel bill.

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a country where the National Health Service will not be strangled by financial constraints but allowed to flourish, guaranteeing the right to free healthcare.

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a country where policies that affect every Scot are taken in Scotland and reflect Scotland’s priorities and values.

I have yearned for independence for Scotland for all of my 52 years. I passionately believe my country deserves better, much better than it gets under Westminster rule. I reached adulthood at the time Margaret Thatcher came to power and her Tory party policies almost – but not quite – destroyed the country I love.

Scotland has the opportunity of not only this lifetime but several lifetimes next week. Imagine this time next week waking up to find out the dream has become a reality. How invigorating, how exciting, how wonderful does that prospect feel?

That wonderful singer Labi Siffre had a brilliant song a few years back called Something Inside So Strong. The lyrics could have been written with Scotland in mind.

The higher you build your barriers the taller I become
The farther you take my rights away the faster I will run
You can deny me, you can decide to turn your face away
No matter 'cause there's

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
Though you're doing me wrong so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh, no, something inside so strong
there's something inside so strong

The more you refuse to hear my voice the louder I will sing
You hide behind walls of Jericho, your lies will come tumbling
Deny my place in time, you squander wealth that's mine
My light will shine so brightly, it will blind you 'cause there's

Something inside so strong
I know that I can make it
But you're doing me wrong so wrong
You thought that my pride was gone
Oh, no, something inside so strong
There’s something inside so strong

Brothers and sisters
When they insist we're just good not enough
When we know better
Just look 'em in the eyes and say

I'm gonna do it anyway

Don’t let this marvellous opportunity pass. There will be scare stories galore from Westminster in the days ahead. Stay strong, Scotland. Do what’s best for your country. Our country. Governed by the people of Scotland. I have always told my two lovely daughters to make the decisions they think is best for them in their lives – but don’t, whatever happens, have any regrets. If Scotland votes No then it will be too late not to have any regrets.

Despite the words of self-interest from David Cameron, Gordon Brown et al, the message Scots can send to Westminster on Thursday is ‘When you insist we’re just not good enough - I’m gonna do it anyway’

This is our moment, Scotland’s moment – don’t let it pass.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Saturday, 6 September 2014

12 Days Until the Independence Referendum and...

...a new poll by YouGov suggests the 'Yes Scotland' campaign has taken a lead ahead of Scottish independence referendum with 51% of the vote and the 'No' campaign at 49%

This excludes the 'don't knows' so it's important not to get too carried away. However, it's a significant shift in opinion, given the Better Together campaign has always been ahead in the polls, usually by some distance.

I know of two previously staunch 'No' people who have considered all the facts available to them and, in the last two weeks, have decided they will be voting Yes for independence for Scotland.

12 days and counting to what will hopefully be a historic day for Scotland.