Monday, April 28, 2014
National socialism strong in Scotland
It's most unlikely that Alex Salmond would be as vicious as Hitler but his propaganda draws on the same basic emotions -- powerful ones. Dominic Lawson reports below
On the day I arrive in Glasgow, the referendum debate goes nuclear. Literally. The front page of the Scotsman newspaper screams ‘UK draws battle lines on nuclear weapons’.
This is its take on the fact that Westminster has issued its sternest warning yet about the Scottish National Party’s pledge to close the Trident missile base on the Clyde.
To add to the threat level, First Sea Admiral Lord Sir George Zambellas chooses the same day to warn that, with independence, ‘Scotland would no longer have access of right to the security contribution of one of the finest navies in the world’.
As I wander in to Vroni’s Bar in the centre of Glasgow, it’s hardly surprising that one of the regulars there is more than happy to give this visiting Englishman his considered view of the matter.
‘So, the First Sea Lord says that we would be defenceless without the Royal Navy? But we won’t need a Navy when we’re independent. The only people who might attack us are the English. And they are too stupid to do it by sea. They will come over Hadrian’s Wall — and we’ll be ready.’
Actually, I could imagine the speaker relishing such a fight. He has the build of a rugby prop forward and a generally intimidating presence. But this is no hooligan.
After a drink together, I discover he had been a civil servant in the Scottish Office before taking a job in financial services.
On learning he is in the world of business, I ask my pugnacious drinking companion how he feels about the warnings from the Westminster political parties — not to mention leading banks and insurance companies — of the damage that independence might do to Scotland’s prosperity.
‘I am for independence, whatever the price. Whatever the cost.’
‘Even if it meant living in wigwams?’ I suggest provocatively.
For a moment I thought I had gone too far — it probably isn’t wise for a Londoner in a Glasgow bar to suggest even in jest that the Scots on their own would be no better off than Red Indians.
But after giving me a brief look of incredulity, he replies steadily: ‘I would be for independence even if it meant we all had to live in wigwams.’
In fact, my remark had been particularly tactless.
My new friend goes on to explain exactly why he is so vehemently for Scottish independence.
‘My family were thrown out of their homes, thrown off their land, by the Anglo-Scottish aristocracy in the Highland clearances [in the early 19th century].
‘The Union with England might have been good for big landowners and the like; not so for my folk. But I don’t hate the English, not at all.’
I believed him — and not just because he didn’t give me a Glasgow kiss when I put Scots and Red Indians in the same sentence, and in my very English accent.
The truth is that there is a vituperative and even vicious side to the Scottish nationalists’ tactics in the referendum debate; but this nastiness is not directed at the English. Instead, it is aimed entirely at fellow Scots who dare to suggest this nation — and it is a nation — needs for its own sake to remain in union with the rest of the United Kingdom.
At times they are treated by the nationalists as if they are Quislings, traitors — which is deeply unpleasant for those who consider themselves only as being loyal to the British state they were born in.
The leader of the Better Together Campaign, former Chancellor Alistair Darling, has complained of how the nationalists are ‘monstering’ Scots who speak up for the Union.
A fellow Scots Labour MP — who doesn’t want to be named — says: ‘The sort of things we have been receiving and experiencing are vile and really frightening.
‘We have people walking into the constituency office shouting appalling abuse. My office manager has not been able to sleep all week because of the threats and abuse he has been receiving. When I walk down to the shops I pull up my hood because I am so worried about being recognised and attacked on the street. It has been terrifying.’
In Tennent’s Bar, the most traditional of pubs in Glasgow’s West End (with no fewer than 12 hand pumps dispensing different real ales), I gain an impression of the same phenomenon. My drinking companion on this occasion reveals himself to be a BBC Scotland executive.
He tells me of the ‘harassment from CyberNats’ who bombard the BBC with emails complaining about alleged anti-nationalist bias in this, that or the other programme.
‘It’s clearly co-ordinated,’ he says. ‘Hundreds of complainants each saying exactly the same thing. And they know how to work the system, how to escalate the complaint.’
Of course, this is nothing like the in-the-face harassment the Scottish Labour MP described. But when I ask the BBC executive if his producers and reporters are feeling intimidated by the ‘CyberNats’, he says: ‘Yes.’ Yet it is hardly surprising that Nationalists’ feelings should be running so high. This is a once in a lifetime — indeed, a once in over 300 years — opportunity to realise a dream of an independent and self-governing Scotland.
And for long-time SNP supporters, this is something to which they are committed in a way that matters far more than party allegiance or even basic concepts of Left and Right.
One of my drinking partners in Tennent’s described attending this month’s SNP conference, at which the party’s deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon declared: ‘After 80 years of campaigning, the last mile of our journey to independence is upon us.
‘It may well be the hardest mile of all … If need be we will carry each other over the finishing line. But friends, we will not fail.’
As he described it to me: ‘The atmosphere was more rally than party conference, at one and the same time intensely emotional, but somehow aggressive.
‘I got lots of angry looks when it was noticed I was not applauding and some of them began what I can only call hostile clapping in my direction. But I was just there to take notes.’
In the past fortnight the war between Nationalists and the Unionists has been fought over the women’s vote. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alec Salmond suddenly appointed two women to his cabinet, to counter five ‘pledges for women’ by Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran.
So, I decided to approach two friendly-looking women enjoying a late-afternoon tipple.
Where did they stand on the vote that could see them becoming part of a new country? The first, Shirley, explained she had been very worried about the prospect of independence, but that her friend, Alison, had been talking her round. At this, Alison beamed approvingly.
But what was Shirley’s anxiety? ‘I see it like a business. It’s about money. Would we go bankrupt on our own?
‘Now, because of what Alison has been telling me, I think we’d manage.
‘If the vote was to stay in the Union, I wouldn’t feel any less Scottish — I couldn’t feel more Scottish. But I’d still feel a bit scared the day after, if the vote went “Yes”.’
Alison was having none of that: ‘Let me ask you: is there any country that became independent and regretted it afterwards?’
This was said with compelling force, but then, as I discovered, Alison was a compelling character, brought up on the Easterhouse council estate, notorious as the poorest in the whole of the UK.
This was where the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith was so shocked by witnessing generations of families locked by welfare dependency into poverty, joblessness and drug addiction that he wept.
Alison, however, had been the only person in her school to go to university and is now a teacher — and whose job is to sort out the most difficult teenage boys, many of whom are gang members from the same blighted part of Glasgow where she had lived as a child.
Alison’s support for the SNP — and therefore independence — is conditioned by her experience.
‘The Labour government in Westminster introduced university fees. The SNP opposed them. I wouldn’t have gone to university if there had been fees. And the SNP opposes Trident. It is the nearest party we have to Socialism.’
So, how would Alison feel if the Scottish people voted in September’s referendum to stay part of the Union — a union that might well see a Conservative led-government after the 2015 General Election? ‘Suicidal!’ I then plucked up enough courage to reveal to Alison that my father had been a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher.
Instead of exploding, she then told me her ‘secret’: that her parents had been the only Conservative voters she knew of on the Easterhouse estate, and it was they who had urged her to go to university after her teachers had ridiculed her ambition.
It is one of the myths about Scotland that there are no Tories left in it. In the 2010 General Election, the Conservatives garnered 412,855 votes — not so far behind the SNP’s 491,386 supporters.
However, the vagaries of the first-past-the-post constituency system means that the Tories have a solitary seat at Westminster despite getting the support of 16.7 per cent of the Scottish electorate.
What those Scots who vote Conservative fear is that in an independent Scotland, they would be doomed to live under Socialism in perpetuity — exactly the outcome Alison was praying for.
Earlier, two businessmen in Vroni’s Bar had supplied me with their reason for voting ‘No’ to independence — even though one was from an Irish working-class family and said that all his relations in the Emerald Isle couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to ‘get rid of English rule’.
The first of them, a lawyer called Douglas, exclaimed that if the vote went ‘Yes’: ‘We’d have a Socialist republic of Scotland. It would be back to the Seventies.’
He added that he had ‘no problem with the Tories’.
Another drinker, though protesting ‘I’m a Socialist,’ was caustic about the litany of pledges by the SNP. ‘They talk as if an independent Scotland will be a socially just Xanadu — with free child care, free university education, free everything.
‘They are promising everything under the sun because they don’t give a toss what will happen after the vote. ‘This is the only vote they need to win. After that, it’s game over.’
Indeed, it is the sheer size of the stakes that have impelled the Better Together campaign to make a series of dire warnings, including a somewhat ill-judged one by the former Labour defence minister and Nato secretary general Lord Robertson that the effect of a nuclear-free, independent Scotland will be ‘cataclysmic’ for the West as a whole.
It may be that the Unionist campaign has been too negative. But there is one of its warnings which, on my soundings in Glasgow, does seem to have struck home: the insistence by all three Westminster parties that an independent Scotland can’t be part of a currency union with the rest of the UK.
That the currency issue is the Achilles heel of the Nationalists is made clear by the fact their leader Alex Salmond refuses even to mention what should be the proof of his confidence in the economic viability of an independent Scotland — its own currency.
So, I engaged in discussion at a bus stop on the way back to my hotel — and after spending a day matching Glaswegians drink for drink, I was grateful for something to lean on.
So, FOR what it is worth, my randomly chosen interlocutor was most exercised by the possibility of not being in currency union with the rest of the UK. Or as he put it less technically: ‘The real worry is our money. Will it be worth the same?’
Nor did he mind what ‘Youse’ — that is, the English — thought about the independence referendum: ‘I don’t see why youse have to say anything. If someone wants a divorce, it’s up to them to say why it would be better to end the marriage.’
Actually, though we English don’t have a say in this vote, we should be prepared to say what we think about the prospects of ending this remarkable Union, whose peoples fought as one to defeat the greatest threat to all within it: the Nazis.
And, as it happens, one of my drinking companions in Glasgow did ask what I would feel if Scotland voted for independence on September 18.
I replied I would never feel that Scotland was a foreign country — even if I needed a passport to cross the border. I added that while Scotland’s population is barely 8 per cent of the total on the mainland, it was so much bigger than that in the hold it has on our imaginations, our sense of what Britain means in all its cultural and historical richness.
I concluded by telling her that I would feel in some intangible way diminished if its people chose to revoke the Act of Union of 1707 — whose Article 1 had declared: ‘The two kingdoms of Scotland and England shall on 1st May and for ever after be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain.’
And I told her that my day in the bars of Glasgow had made me feel that all the more.
Le Pen hits front in France's EU elections: Far-right party predicted to humiliate Hollande's socialists at the polls
The National Front is leading opinion polls before France’s European elections next month.
The latest poll - a CSA survey for BFMTV and Nice Matin - puts their vote at 24 per cent.
This compares to 22 per cent for the UMP opposition and 20 per cent for President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party.
It follows a massive swing to the right in local elections which led to the entire Socialist government resigning earlier this month.
Mr Hollande spoke of a ‘moral crisis’ in France, and appointed a new administration. However, his left-wing policies are still failing.
Unemployment is spiralling above the 11 per cent mark, as other polls regularly show Mr Hollande’s personal approval rating at less than 20 per cent.
This makes him by far the most unpopular head of state in the history of modern France.
The National Front (FN) enjoyed unprecedented success in the April elections - taking control of 11 key constituencies, and up to 1200 municipal seats. Most of its gains were in areas of high unemployment and immigration, especially in the south of France and the depressed north.
‘No one can seriously deny this has been a huge victory for us,’ said FN leader Marine Le Pen, who believes they will do even better in May’s European elections.
Ms Le Pen is widely credited with having modernised the FN - moving it away from its racist and anti-Semitic roots. She won almost 18 percent of the national vote in the first round of presidential elections two years ago, and has worked hard to ‘detoxify’ other FN members.
Her infamous father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founded the FN and has a number of convictions for stirring up racial hatred. Mr Le Pen is now 85, and takes a back seat from the day to day running of the party.
Polls have regularly suggested that the FN could win up to a quarter of the popular vote in the European Parliament elections in May, but this is the first time that their vote has appeared higher than the two main governing parties in France.
The FN currently has three seats in the European parliament, compared to 11 in 1994.
Despite the FN’s widespread popular appeal, they have been viewed as a chance to protest against mainstream parties.
The FN currently only has two seats in the French National Assembly, compared to 35 in 1986.
British bank drops overdraft fee on Islamic accounts
Lloyds Bank has been accused of religious discrimination after offering free overdraft accounts to Muslims.
The bank sent customers a booklet this month explaining new charges. While many will have to pay up to £80 a month if they go into the red, Muslims were told they would escape the charges. The document said: “We are removing the monthly overdraft management fee of £6 from our Islamic Account, Islamic Student Account and Islamic Graduate Account. So, if you use an unplanned overdraft on these accounts, there won’t be any charges.”
One customer, Anita Milton, a nurse of New Eltham, south London, said: “I can’t believe that they’re thinking of offering one account for Muslims and making everyone else pay for the same service. Do I have to change my religion to get the best deal?"
Barclays, Co-op Bank and RBS said they do not offer alternative bank accounts to Muslim customers.
James Daley, of Fairer Finance, a consumer group, said: “The best thing would be for everyone to switch to the Islamic account to avoid these charges. But if everyone does that I doubt it will be financially viable for Lloyds.”
The Islamic account was set up by the High Street bank to attract Muslim customers by allowing them to keep faithful to their religion.
A Lloyds spokesman said Islamic accounts were intended for customers who cannot receive or pay interest under sharia, but were available to anyone, regardless of their faith.
“Our focus has always been on meeting the needs of UK businesses and personal customers. We offer a range of retail, business and investment products to meet the needs of our customers, available through all of our branches across the UK. The Islamic current account is for customers who cannot receive credit or debit interest due to their religious beliefs. All of our Islamic accounts comply with Islamic law and are available to anyone regardless of background or faith.
"These accounts are structured differently to our traditional accounts and do not offer credit interest or other features that are available on our other products. A comparison with the overdraft charging structure on other accounts is meaningless.”
Teenager who sexually assaulted 12 women aged between 17-48 walks free from court with referral order designed to help HIM
A teenager who sexually assaulted 12 women, including a 48-year-old, has walked free from court with a referral order aimed at rehabilitating him and addressing his behaviour.
The 14-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admitted 12 separate incidents when he appeared at Manchester Youth Court.
The assaults took place between August 20 and October 9, last year around the University of Manchester.
On August 28, an 18-year-old girl was sexually assaulted near to the university's Science Park.
Less than a month later, on September 21, three women, aged 21, 22 and 27, were sexually assaulted by the boy.
Then on October 5, he sexually assaulted five women, aged 17, 21, 32, 32, and 35.
The final assault took place on October 9, when the teenager attacked a 48-year-old.
Detective Chief Inspector Colin Larkin said: 'Thanks to the information provided by the victims and the witnesses who came forward, we were able to make a swift arrest.
'Following our press appeal, a further six women contacted us to say that they had also been assaulted.
'Although the victims were upset by what happened, each one of them have expressed a genuine wish the boy receives help and does not offend again.'
The teenager was sentenced by magistrates to a 12-month referral order.
According to Department of Justice guidelines, referral orders are suitable for first-time offenders under the age of 16, who plead guilty to their crimes.
The sentence involves the youth appearing before a volunteer youth offender panel, who will hold the teen account for his actions.
Youths are required to attend with their parents or guardians and may be required to make reparation or restitution to their victim based on the restorative justice approach.
Under the order the 14-year-old will be required to agree a contract with the panel, which can include repairing any damage caused or making financial recompense, as well as taking part in a programme of interventions and activities to address behaviour.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.