Towering Symbol of a Burnt Out Britain

By Jason Michael

Austerity resulted in Grenfell. This is the same austerity that is every day being imposed on Scotland by a Westminster government that cares as little for us as it did for the former residents of Grenfell. We have a decision to make.

Apparently, according to the apologists for the great and the good of south Kensington and Chelsea, it is shameful to politicise the deaths of those who died in the Grenfell tower fire. It is all the more shameful, apparently, to “hijack” Grenfell for the purposes of discussing and understanding the questions around Scottish independence. Everything about this truly horrifying event is political. Many residents of the tower, many of whom have no doubt perished, were highlighting since 2013 the political nature of their social housing and their campaign for change. Ultimately they were the victims of British state indifference and class war.

British state indifference towards Scotland and the class war successive British governments have waged against us is what – at least for me – much of what the Scottish independence movement is all about. This class war, under the guise of austerity, was singularly responsible for the catastrophe of Grenfell tower. It led to this massive and still-growing number of fatalities. How many have died as a consequence of austerity across the United Kingdom? That number is still growing too. Of course Grenfell and Scottish independence are two very different things, but they are to a large extent the product of the same thing – British state violence.


Greed Kills!

Given what we know of what the Grenfell Action Group was campaigning for in the years prior to the fire, we have to ask – given where they placed the blame for their predicament – if, given the choice, they too would have considered voting for independence from Westminster. They knew without a shadow of a doubt that their very survival depended on a government that knowingly and wilfully put them in danger. Good and interested government was their only hope of survival, and that never came from Westminster. Just how is this different from the conditions in which we are forced to live in Scotland? Grenfell was fitted with toxic and flammable cladding. In Scotland we are made to live right next to the toxic and explosive nuclear weapons of Britain’s vanity project.

Grenfell is not Scotland, and we in Scotland mourn with the people of north Kensington who have suffered and lost so much. Yet the blackened husk of Grenfell tower is the perfect and harrowing symbol of life under a British administration that puts privilege and profit before the wellbeing of ordinary working class people. This political reality is felt as much in Scotland as it is by the people in the neighbourhood of what has become Britain’s worst peacetime disaster. When we ask if those people would have happily voted for their own independence we know that answer would have been yes. This is certainly the mood of the protestors seeking justice right now.

Westminster forces us in Scotland to live in the shadow of impending disaster – be that of a nuclear accident or a similar catastrophic event rooted in the programme of austerity. We have a government in Edinburgh that has worked small miracles in mitigating the effects of austerity in our country, but even it is held hostage by the budget constraints imposed by the London government. Sure, it can shift money from one place to another to protect the vulnerable, but that money – that ever diminishing pot – is always being taken from somewhere else. Over time the entire situation deteriorates. We too are warning that austerity will lead to something bad, but, unlike the people of Grenfell tower, we can change this. The symbol that that burnt out shell now is must be a warning to us that we cannot afford to do nothing about protecting Scotland from Westminster.


UK devastated by austerity

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Owen Jones: The Establishment’s Chav

By Jason Michael

Super socialist Owen Jones thinks he can teach us in Scotland how to suck eggs. Apparently we need him to tell us all about the joys of socialism and a more equal society under the divine gaze of comrade Corbyn.

We need thinkers and writers like Owen Jones. What he has to say is important, and many on the left – let’s be honest – would be stuck for words if it wasn’t for his contribution. Yet admitting that we are fans of his doesn’t mean that he is always right. In fact when it comes to Scotland Jones is almost always wrong, and he is always wrong when it comes to his rose tinted assessment of Scottish Labour. As he has decided to pipe up on this subject again on Twitter it is time that the Scottish left – the real Scottish left – gives him an education on Scotland and Scottish Labour.

When it comes to addressing London-centric English voices on Scotland I am of the opinion that the best response we can give is our indifference. Given that independence is merely the political realisation of the national and social independence we are already living, I lean towards the thinking that we simply are not ready for independence so long as we are caught in this loop of giving a damn what English politicians and politicos think or say about us. If we are independent then, no matter how close we are as family, friends, and neighbours, England is a foreign country, and these voices are foreign voices. Yet, as he is a socialist speaking to a deeply socialist Scotland, we can make some accommodation to Owen. We owe him that much.

His sense of compassion for the working class from which he comes is welcome and sorely needed – especially in the austerity Britain created by Blair, Brown, Cameron, and May – and his trust in old Labour values; embodied now in England’s Corbynite revolution, as a vehicle for justice is refreshing. In Scotland we understand this, but we have completely rejected Labour – New Labour and Scottish Labour – and it is our reasons for this rejection Jones singularly fails to grasp. He doesn’t get our distaste for Labour precisely because he is not Scottish and thus he wholly lacks any real and meaningful insight into Scotland’s political experience.

Scottish Labour is not the British Labour Party he holds so dear. It is a completely different political animal, and one we have seen for what it is – a neoliberal, imperialist, and neo-Thatcherite party of Scotland’s old guard establishment. In terms he may understand better: The Scottish Labour Party is or was the principal force of unionist political reaction in our country. Labour, as Jones always appears to miss, is not a one-size-fits-all political label. Had any leader of the British Labour Party said in reference to Brussels, for example, that the English were “not genetically programmed… to make political decisions,” there would be uproar south of the border – and rightly so. But this is exactly what unionism in Scottish Labour produced.

Labour in Scotland has run consistently against the grain of Scotland’s cherished sense of socialism and democracy. It has been one Labour government after another that has imposed the presence of nuclear weapons on us when we have overwhelmingly expressed our national desire that these nightmarish things be removed from our country. While his idol Jeremy Corbyn may express his want for Trident to be disbanded, it was still his party that voted for both its £205-plus billion renewal and its continued imposition on Scotland. There is a word for inserting things without consent and it is neither “socialism” nor “democracy.”

Scotland wants nothing to do with Britain’s warmongering and arms dealing; things the British Labour Party has always led the charge on. In the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum Scottish Labour installed Jim Murphy as leader – a man who was “fundilymundily” devoured by the Scottish electorate for his particular take on socialism and democracy.

Owen Jones wants the whole of London out on the streets demanding the end of Theresa May’s government’s dalliance with the sectarian DUP. This is admirable, and on this we can say that the entire Scottish independence movement is in agreement. We would all rather see the end of this insanity. No one wants the political representatives of the bigoted Orange Order in such a position of power at Westminster – well, everyone apart from the Conservative right and the Scottish Labour Party. That is something Owen would know if he had any real experience of Labour in the Scottish political context, but he doesn’t. Jones is blind to what Scottish Labour is.

It was socialism in Scotland and not some half-baked and propagandistic construct of “nationalism” that destroyed the Labour Party here. Scotland, as the record shows, is socialist to the core. An independent Scotland can be nothing but a more socially just wee country than its southern neighbour. That is Scotland. We have to think that Jones imagines that somehow the idea of independence made us all less socialist than we were before the IndyRef campaign. The reality is – as we all know – that the thought of independence made us more socialist than we have ever been. But by denying this Owen Jones is unwittingly supporting rightist reaction in our country. He has become the chav of the establishment.


Owen Jones meets Angus Robertson

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Democracy as Performed by the Unelected

By Jason Michael

Apparently nothing can happen in the parliament we elected until some old woman no one elected arrives and reads out a speech someone else wrote for her. If her grandson wants a republic then we should give him what he wants.

In the interests of transparency I might as well put my cards on the table and state right from the get-go that I am no monarchist. So if you are easily upset by some opinionated Scot taking a literary dump on the divine right of the family Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha – whether masquerading as Battenbergs or Windsors – you’d better click on something else now. Earlier today, in the aftermath of some of London’s most marginal residents being burnt alive in the name of grotesque social inequality, and before being whisked off to another glorious day at the races, Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha officially opened the English parliament.

We pay our taxes in Britain and Northern Ireland to ensure our government – correction: her government – can slash social welfare spending, cut essential services, and cripple the health service, while paying her almost £40m annually. For a sum over four times the amount it cost Kensington and Chelsea to clad Grenfell tower – a name she couldn’t even get right in her speech – in a pretty but toxic and flammable façade the least we would expect is that she could write her own speech, but no; that is all done for her by Number 10. Rather than being the final fail-safe of our now dangerously chaotic democratic institutions she is nothing but the astronomically expensive mouthpiece of slightly less-well-paid idiots. This monarchy of ours is the very definition of pointlessness.

Not to worry, Prince Harry assures us that no one in the royal family actually wants the crown when Britain’s longest serving monarch pops her clogs. Isn’t that a relief? It’s a £37.9m a year effortless job no one wants. Here, at least, I think Harry – or to give him his full name, Henry Charles Albert David Mountbatten-Windsor – is telling the truth. He wants the cash alright, but the crown brings with it the inconvenient intrusion of cameras. Who’d blame him; there are few fabulously wealthy guys who enjoy doing cocaine in Las Vegas hotels’ presidential suits with call girls fancy being in the limelight of the press. Our media voyeurism puts an end to the notion that blue blood equates to moral superiority. Not one of them wants that sort of exposure.


The fifth in line to the throne on his fifth line of coke.

Some will suggest that this repulsive institution is a sideshow, not an immediately pressing issue in our struggle for a better Scotland or Britain. My thinking is that this is a load of garbage. The monarchy – all that it is and all that it stands for – cuts right to the heart of what’s wrong with Britain. It is the very constitutional enshrinement of social hierarchy and privilege that makes poverty, foodbanks, and the criminality of social housing inevitable. We cannot have a fair society where such a disgusting class system – topped by a constitutionally useless old lady and her ne’er-do-well family of state-dependent wasters – is written into law. Any law built on this midden can only serve one purpose; theft – pure and simple. It’s time we started writing our own laws.


Breakdown of a Royal Fortune

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What Lessons Should Scotland Learn?

By Jason Michael

Grenfell tower has laid bare the complete and utter contempt the Westminster government has for London’s ordinary working people, the marginalised, and the vulnerable. If we think they care about Scotland we are delusional.

Grenfell tower is an inferno that, in the past days, has ripped right through the heart of every part of the United Kingdom. Later today the London Metropolitan Police will release adjusted figures relating to the number of people still missing, and – considering figures on the ground in the north Kensington estate have been ranging from anywhere between 150 to 538 – we must all be prepared to be horrified at the number. We can be under no illusions; in this case the word “missing” is a euphemism for dead. While we hope and pray that this amended figure is as low as possible, this catastrophic disaster must serve as a wakeup call to the people of Scotland.

During the 2014 Better Together campaign, in a desperate bid to stop Scotland electing to leave the United Kingdom, we were loved-bombed with the message that the people of England love us – that Britain and the British establishment loves us. Are we to believe that we in Scotland are loved more than the residents of Grenfell tower? We certainly do not wish to be loved the same as them. No matter the number revealed today Grenfell tower will stand for as long as it is now permitted as a blackened monument to the spiteful indifference of Britain towards its own marginalised people and families. We don’t want or need this love.


Theresa May enjoying a summer fête in her constituency as families in north Kensington search for survivors.

Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where you will find Kensington Palace – the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is home to the most expensive real estate in Britain. Conservative politicians and Russian oligarchs live side by side in this salubrious wonderland where a seven bedroom townhouse will set you back a modest £57,500,000. It is also home to the high-rises of north Kensington, where – for more than half a century – people have been forced to live in desperate circumstances and poverty; comparable only to conditions in parts of the Developing World.

Can we imagine what the view of a dilapidated high-rise does to the value of a sixty million pound house? People who live in such splendorous piles – some of the most powerful and influential people in Britain – do not enjoy the community of poor neighbours. They loathe and despise them. It was the want of the rich, and not the need of the residents of high-rises like Grenfell tower, that resulted in a regeneration project in which £8m was spent on making the tower more visually pleasing with a flammable cladding. It was this need to hide poverty rather than address its causes that led to the fire that has now killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people.

From the moment the fire was first reported and the scale of the disaster became known we have seen nothing but naked contempt from the Tory establishment for those who have died. Almost immediately, and while victims were still shouting for help, the borough council and its affiliated tenant management organisation were busy removing incriminating pages from their websites. The local Tory council leader appeared on television blaming the residents themselves for the substandard quality of the renovations and the lack of basic fire safety features. Then Theresa May appeared and didn’t bother speaking with a single local person.

It may seem cruel and judgmental of me, but we have all seen the right-wing responses on social media sneeringly commenting on the size of victims’ families and their reliance on the state. I have no doubt in my mind that there have been a few Champaign bottles popped in celebration that this “eyesore” is at last coming down. This is the fruit of power and greed. It is the result of the individualistic capitalism to which these people subscribe. It dehumanises people, the powerful and the powerless alike. This is modern Britain – a terminally sick nation-state where the wealthy see the poor as nothing other than means to their own ends.


Trinny and Susannah love-bombing Scotland

This is precisely how this British establishment system views Scotland, the north of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. We are only loved by it for what we are worth. Those parts and those elements of our populations that are of no value to this system are treated with violence contempt. Scotland’s poor and marginalised are worth as little to Theresa May as those poor people who were burnt to death in Grenfell tower. Even Scotland’s Conservative leader Ruth Davidson discovered only last week how little the London Conservatives valued her fringe sensitivities when they got in the way of the priorities of May’s need to hold on to power by calling on the bigots of the DUP.

Sadly, without something approaching a revolution, nothing will change for the people of north Kensington and poor and working class people all over England. We in Scotland, as sympathetic as we are to their plight, are powerless to protect them. But we can, however, act to protect ourselves. British imposed austerity kills. It has killed more people in the past few days than all the domestic terrorism of the past 17 years. Every day we delay in pressing ahead with our struggle for independence more people are dying unnecessarily. The single most important lesson that we in Scotland have to learn from what Grenfell tower has unmasked is that we must be an independent country.


Anger at the scene of the Grenfell Tower fire.

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Nation Deflation

By Jason Michael

It sort of feels like the independence movement needs a wee tonic right about now. There’s no mystery to this, we’re all in a bit of a slump. What we haven’t quite figured out is that we are the cure. We are the tonic Scotland needs.

It’s fair to say, and without any fear of contradiction, the general election has taken the puff out of our balloon. The map of the best wee country in the world went from all yellow to yellow with big chunks of blue, we lost some of the magical 56, and we feel like having a wee greit. No harm in that. But that’s politics. What is a touch more worrying is the level of defeatism around our campfires. We’re not defeated, and not by a long shot. Whatever we do, let’s not lose sight of that.

Other than half a million folk less than last time turning up to vote for the SNP, we won Theresa May’s stunt snap election. The real news is that she lost. In fact our win wasn’t even close; we hammered the yoons – again. Our 2015 stroke of luck was reversed and the political map has normalised. That is all. Yet the effect of the apparent electoral shift – which is just an illusion – has caused us to wobble, and it looks, if the navel-gazing on social media is anything to go by, as though our wee independence locomotive has stalled. That is worrying.

As I see it, we are presented with a number of options. We can get on with the task in hand, we can delay our next big push until all this Brexit chaos is out of the way, or we can pack up, lower our flags and go home. What’s it to be? Complacency is toxic, and, whatever we decide to do, we don’t have forever to make up our minds. Social and political movements run out of steam and wither away all the time. There is nothing so special about what we have here in Scotland that makes ours an exception. So it’s decision time.

There are a lot of voices saying at the moment that we should simmer down and wait for Brexit to get dealt with first, but I think deep down we all know this to be a cop out. What is really meant by that is: Let’s give this enough time for the energy in the movement to dissipate without it actually being anyone’s fault. I’m not entirely wrong. Brexit is never going to be out of the way. Brexit, left in the hands of these Conservative imbeciles and their knuckle-dragging loyalist chums from Northern Ireland is going to be an unmitigated disaster, a catastrophe of biblical proportions that will shape – or misshape – the future of these islands for generations to come.

Wasting time while these morons undo the graft of peacemakers and statesmen like chimpanzees in a delicatessen will only hand the shadowy people behind the British establishment enough time to regroup and fortify their positions. By the time we feel like getting back up, the freedom we have on the internet will already be a thing of the past, and – in case you haven’t noticed – the internet is the only real weapon we have against Britain’s media machine. It will be a turkey shoot.

Nope, we have to get on with it now. We have an ad hoc leadership in the personalities behind the likes of Common Space and what have you, but – as the good book says – put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man. I have no doubt these are excellent and committed people. I have every reason to believe they are. But they are people nonetheless. We need leadership and we have to find that leadership within ourselves. So there are no events or groups near you? Simple: Be the leader you need to be and get something going. You are part of a group that is dwindling? Then maybe it needs new life, new faces, and new ideas. It’s not all about you. Maybe you are the problem. Listen to what others are saying and be prepared to put the needs of the movement over your position.

Our independence movement is running on fumes because people are running on fumes. The movement, be that locally or nationally, is nothing but the aggregate of the activity of each of its members – each one of us. If you are reading this and it is speaking to you, if it is reminding you of what’s happening wherever you are, then pause for a second. Take a breath and commit yourself to do something. No one’s going to hold your hand for you. It won’t start moving until we start moving.


Lesson One: Leadership Starts with You

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