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By Jason Michael
Years ago, close to the last time I would see him alive, I passed my grandfather in the Howard Park. He was sitting on a bench looking more reflective than I had ever seen or remembered him before. The Dundonald Road runs along the back of the Howard Park, and this is where our family GP’s clinic was – maybe still is. ‘Motto’ – as he was affectionately known – had obviously been to see the doctor and was now lost in thought on a bench. Perhaps I should have guessed it was serious, but I was a teenager and more preoccupied with the fear he might have noticed I wasn’t exactly where I ought to have been at the time – in school. The meaning of this encounter only became apparent about a year later when he passed away. My guess is that I ran into him when he had bigger fish to fry than a miscreant grandson. He had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer.
Like so many working-class men of his generation, Motto saw illness and any form of physical or mental weakness as a character flaw. Until he took desperately sick and was rushed into Crosshouse Hospital, no one in the family knew what was wrong with him. He hadn’t told a soul. When my mother and aunt asked the medical team for information, they discovered to their shock that the staff had been under instructions to say nothing. When they did find out, it was too late. Nothing could be done. He was dying, and we had days to prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
Sicknesses and diseases are not cured by ignoring them. Silence is one of the world’s most rubbish remedies. I’m reminded tonight of Motto’s last days because much the same has been happening inside the independence movement. Something rotten has been festering under the surface; known to some, unknown to many, and wilfully ignored by the rest. In essence, the cancer has been ignored and swept under the carpet in the vain hope that the darkness in which it was shrouded would make it all go away. Well, that hasn’t worked too well. In fact, things have only gotten worse, and tonight threatened to tear a significant section of the grassroots of the movement asunder. What I have discovered, as I have dug into this issue since October last year, is a classic form of what Upton Sinclair aptly described as the ‘besieged city’ syndrome – that one cannot challenge the government of a city under siege without becoming the fifth column of the besiegers.
Ever since I first questioned the organisers of All Under One Banner about suspect and reckless behaviour in the lead-up to the October 2018 AUOB march and rally in Edinburgh – namely the lie published by Mr Mandeep Singh and the harassment and intimidation of Historic Environment Scotland employees – I have been treated as your fifth columnist, a traitor. Members of the organisation and no small number of supporters of the organisation have taken it upon themselves to describe me as a British government plant, as someone simply out to cause discord and division, and as a liar. Frustrating as this has been, I don’t hold this against people. We are a city under siege. The Scottish independence movement functions within an intensely hostile political and media environment. Every voice in the media is against us. Add to this the paranoia that every critical voice must be an agent provocateur or an agent of the British state, and what you have is a besieged city syndrome – everyone must follow the leader like a drone.
Tonight, however, we have managed to lift the veil. Most of the suspicions I have had about the sickness within AUOB and most of the sources I have listened to have proven correct. There has been a profoundly diseased culture growing at the head of this organisation. Earlier tonight Neil MacKay, the current director of the AUOB, and Carol McNamara, chief administrator, came onto Scotland at 7 on Broadcasting Scotland with me to answer some fairly serious questions myself and others have had. Their candour was commendable. What they had to share was quite obviously difficult. They were awkward and stressed. As was I. Nothing of this was easy. Whether or not what they said was the truth remains an open question – there are two (possibly three or five) sides to this story. But what was made crystal clear was that from the very beginning we were right to be suspicious – we were right to ask questions. The interview laid bare that there have been ongoing issues with lies, financial irregularities, intimidation, extortion, physical violence, and drugs.
That, dear readers, is a sickness. Now, we can be like Motto, sit on the bench in the park and think to ourselves how best we can make this all go away by ignoring it, or we can make the braver decision – the more courageous decision, and ask ourselves if this is the shape we want the grassroots movement in and, if not, how we can make it better. Is AUOB worth saving? Honestly, I don’t know. No one can deny that this organisation has worked wonders. It has achieved so much in terms of mobilising people and making the independence cause visible and impossible for the British media in our country to ignore. We owe AUOB this much. We are also talking about an organising with many dedicated volunteer independentistas who have put their hearts and souls into the organisation who are perfectly innocent of any wrongdoing.
We need marches and rallies. At no point have I said otherwise. Even from the time of the Manny Singh “white lie” I made it clear that I was willing to involve myself in civil disobedience – and I still am. But as a form of radical activism, people cannot be duped into such action. They must engage in it fully informed and with their eyes wide open.
We don’t need an organisation – however successful – masquerading as a vehicle for pro-independence activism when in fact it is a cover for all sorts of criminality. If that is the case, then yes – this diseased limb has to be severed for the good of the independence cause. But this is not yet clear. This isn’t over. So much of the comment on social media around this interview has been about lancing the boil and moving on, but this is yet another platitude offered by people who want this back under the rug as soon as possible. It’s not going back under the rug. The rug ain’t big enough. We have begun a process of dialogue in good faith with the organisers of AUOB – and this is a process. There is no quick fix. What we have is a treatment plan, one that will hopefully bring us to a place where we have a highly successful and dedicated pro-independence engine for mobilising the grassroots. At this point, given the serious nature of the allegations and the state of the accusations going back and forth, no one can say how this will play out. I certainly can’t.
The bigger picture is what is important. Marches and rallies do not win independence. Votes will win independence, and the task of winning those votes depends heavily on the reputation of the Scottish National Party, the wider movement, and prominent pro-independence groups and organisations like AUOB. If we choose to ignore problems as toxic and corrosive as these, the disease will not die in the darkness. It will grow and it will spread. It will cause such a stink that onlookers – ordinary voters – will associate a Yes vote with the stench of corruption. It doesn’t matter how loyal we are to brands and to personalities, if the problems they create are noxious enough they will damage the cause and cost us our independence for God knows how long.
If you are reading this and getting impatient with the “infighting in the movement,” then consider this: What may look like infighting is people talking. It is not always destructive. Ugly it may be, but it is a necessary communication. It is dialogue – and that is exactly where making things better begins. Had it not been for this infighting we would still be none the wiser about what has really been happening at the top of AUOB and I would still be in MI5. The problem would only be getting worse. But now we have an opportunity to address this and work with those who are working for the good of the cause in AUOB to get things battle ready. Today we heard that Boris Johnson is to be the next British Prime Minister, we are heading into a catastrophic no-deal Brexit, and we really do have to be battle ready soon. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand. This is a serious and potentially fatal situation. But this unholy mess is far from hopeless.
Scotland at 7 – 23/07/2019
9 thoughts on “Lancing the Boil”
I only came to this issue late I. E. Last week.
But what I did find was openess and clarity and willingness to talk by Neil McKay.
I think we have a way forward and good people will step up to take on matters a d head up responsibility.
This I am sure of, as the movement will go on and give the action, even if civil disobedience to attain our goal.
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You say that independence will be won by votes. The anti-poll tax movement pushed and change happened. The East German people pushed and the wall came down, albeit probably with helping nudges from western intelligence agencies. So why could not a mass movement, much much bigger than AUOB, probably deriving from it, not push hard enough for independencento be unavoidable ?
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I have followed you for a long time and agreed with you most of the time. I feel your heart is in the right place. Our enemies will be rubbing their hands. More power to you and those who support you because we have very little time and it would be heart-breaking to lose the prize because of this. We need to be united in order to go forward. Scotland will never forgive those who thwart our freedom especially from within. I am an old lady and my dearest wish is to see Scotland free. Please make it happen for all our sakes.
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I commend you for your persistence on this investigation. However I disagree that Neil and Carol were ‘candid’. I think they are both lying through their teeth , pretty sure that Manny Singh is too btw. This a a grubby money making exercise for them , cash is being pocketed left , right and centre.
The large number of marches this year in multiple locations now looks like a business expansion more than anything. We have been duped , these people are unfit , and I won’t attend any more of their money grabbing events .
Reading of all this, I find myself thinking of Victor and Jack in Still Game. I wonder if the leaders of AUOB have the same kind of morality as Victor and Jack?
I’m working class, and have been blessed by having gone to University and graduated then gone on to do a post-graduate degree. So what I’m about to write is not dinging the working class. But the morality of Victor and Jack was the morality of the adults whom I knew when I was growing up. It’s a morality of “what I can get away with without being caught”. I wonder if this has been due to a lack of effective moral education in Primary and Secondary Schools?
I remember being told in school that some things were wrong, like lying, stealing, and swearing. There was, however, never any help given to work out how to practise non-lying, non-stealing and non-swearing. (Btw I think that while certain swear words bother me and others don’t, swearing’s in a different category from lying and stealing).
We are now living in a society in which lying has been OKed by a Court, in Scotland, so long as its a political lie, and in which a man notorious for lying has been chosen to be Prime Minister. So, at the highest levels of Scottish and English society, lying is approved so long as it gets one what one wants. So, I’m wondering what have been the moral influences on AUOB leaders. I don’t justify them, but I want to understand them.
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Another characteristic of the culture in which I grew up is that when a lie was proved to be a lie, and the truth exposed, the liar continued to lie and deny the truth. Do we see this in the AUOB debacle?
The way forward could be if both Mandeep AND Neil both resigned their positions.
I commend you for your openminded Journalism Jason. I do not think you could have been fairer in your dealings with the organisers of AUOB.
I too had issues with them going back to May 2018 when they together with a “chosen” supposedly local committee tried to organise a march in Dundee which was made clear from the outset would be carried out regardless of any constrictions imposed by Dundee council and without any public liability insurance. It was a mess from the start with the date being changed, together with the route.
On the day, it went well, as have all of the marches apart from some heavy-handed attempts to extract money from the vendors.
I honestly feel that AUOB has reached the end of their usefulness, and to be honest some of what they did was needed. The SNP have done absolutely nothing in this respect, but we can not have the independence movement immersed in allegations of theft and intimidation and possibly drug misuse.
These marches are really not that technically difficult to organise and if they are done in cooperation with the council and Police, can be completed without too much difficulty.
I feel that it would be good to see the local yes groups taking on the organisation of these marches and benefitting directly from any collections made on the day the proceeds going to campaigning material ( if we ever see a campaign)
I append below, two blogs I wrote at the time when AUOB were setting up arrangements to hold a march in Dundee last year.
So Neil has now resigned . We have a nest of vipers here folks . A bunch of gangsters AUOB are finished