BitterSweet Election.

Inverclyde, you wee darling, what a journey, what a campaign,

I’ll be honest, I never seen that size of victory coming. If I’m being brutally honest, I never once dared let myself think that we could win the seat of Inverclyde in the first place. All throughout the campaign every single indicator that we were going to win I took with a huge pinch of salt. I got carried away during the referendum. I wasn’t going to allow complacency to be a factor in this campaign.

The Count

Rather than give you the tedious details of my time stood outside polling stations all day, I’ll jump straight to the count. As I headed into the Waterfront to start the counting procedure my phone was going mental with people contacting me about the ‘BBC exit poll’. 58 SEATS that’s what about 40 texts sent to me were saying.

F*ck what if Inverclyde is the one seat to stay Labour was my first thought – sorry Ronnie I did have faith, honest! That initial worry was soon put to rest when we started to empty the ballot boxes. As we tallied the votes from the top of Port Glasgow; the Belva; Inverkip; Larkfield; Braeside, it was clear we had won. I was bursting with excitement and it was only 11:15. Person after person was telling me to ‘keep the heid’ as my smile threatened to swallow my face. WE HAD DONE IT. I didn’t have a clue how many votes we would eventually win by, but every SNP counter I went to showed me their tally marks, and we were romping home to victory. What a contrast this counting experience was to the one 8 months prior.

From around 1 in the morning the rest of the night had taken on a carnival atmosphere as Labour politicians started to fall one by one, consumed by the SNP tsunami. As we were under strict orders to be magnanimous in victory, there was no gloating or winding up of our Labour friends.

Around 3 o’clock we took our seats as Ronnie Cowan was announced SNP MP for Inverclyde by an unbelievable majority of 11,063. Ronnie and the SNP had secured 25, 585 votes compared to Labour’s 13,522.

The Aftermath!

As I sit writing this post 6 days after the event, I should still be high as a kite with excitement. Yet for all the jubilation and expectations I have for the SNP group as a whole, and Ronnie Cowan as my local MP, one sobering reality cannot be escaped. The Conservative Party has a majority of seats at Westminster and we are consigned to 5 more years of Tory rule.

Since Friday morning I’ve heard numerous excuses from the Labour party as to why they lost this election. From the saying it was the SNP surge that scared English voters in closely contested seats down south to vote Tory, to blaming everyone from Natalie Bennett to Leanne Wood for offering alternatives to Labour’s ‘Tory-lite” policies. All analysis so far has been outward rather than inward. Worst of all, and the reason I am writing this blog – which considering the scale of Ronnie’s victory should be a happy blog – is the complete and utter tosh that somehow us who voted SNP are delighted with a Tory victory.

As my mother will probably read this I’ll not tell you how I really feel about the Conservative party, it’s enough for me to just say I really dislike them, not just as politicians but people as well. I think the only way to describe what the Tories have in store for the next 5 years is evil. So let me state, unequivocally, that I am not one bit in the slightest happy about a Tory victory, I am sick to my stomach thinking of the hardships that those disciples of Thatcher are going to impose on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. This idea that somehow we are happy with a Tory victory shows the complete ignorance Labour have towards people who vote SNP or campaign on behalf of the SNP.

The blame for this Tory majority lies squarely at the feet of Ed Miliband and the Labour party. At the 2010, General election Scotland returned 47 anti-Tory MPs, (that’s MPs who would vote against a Tory Queens Speech) last Thursday we returned 57- an increase of 12. The Scottish electorate has spoken and we have unanimously rejected the Tories. Yet here we stand with a Tory majority government for the next 5 years. There can be no blame attached to the voters in Scotland, we done our part we kicked out the Tories, it is Labour who have failed us, yet again.

Ed Miliband had numerous opportunities over this last 5 years to prove that the Labour Party should be the next government of the UK. And let’s be frank, the last 5 years have been a disaster for people who should be voting Labour in their droves. Wages are still lower than they were in 2008; there’s record numbers of people using foodbanks; more and more people are finding themselves in the increasingly normal situation of ‘in-work poverty’. The Tories may paint a picture of economic success over the last 5 years but the faces of the working class paint a very different picture. Yet they still managed to trounce Labour. Labour had no clear purpose, no clear identity and no clear vision that people could believe in. The voters who once voted Labour in England were now turning to UKIP, the Green party or worst of all not getting out to vote at all. That is the reason we have a Tory Government not 56 SNP MPs in Scotland.

Yet rather than apply some cold sober analysis to what the electorate have chosen, The Labour Party are arguing, quite unbelievably, that their defeat was down to English voters scared at the prospect of the SNP holding the balance of power. The SNP message of anti-austerity, anti-trident, anti-HouseOfLords, we are being told, terrified the electorate of England so much, that it voted Tory. Labour should really take a step back and consider the wider ramifications of that accusation. If that is true, then the United Kingdom is over once and for all. If the Labour Party is really telling us that our wish to reject austerity, nuclear weapons, the House of Lords and support something better than what they are offering, will then confine us to perpetual Tory rule, then the UK is truly on life support. Of course this election wasn’t about independence, Nicola Sturgeon made that point clear. This election was about the welfare of our citizens. Yet if Labour continue down this road of blame and continue to present the UK as a binary choice between them and the Tories, then independence will come. As last Thursday has shown, the Scottish electorate has overwhelmingly rejected both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party.

For what its worth I don’t believe for one second that the English electorate feared the SNP or chose the Tories because of Nicola Sturgeon. The fact of the matter is Ed Miliband and Labour weren’t good enough. Hamstrung by the failures of New Labour, Ed Miliband wasn’t radical enough to encourage the missing millions to vote, or strong enough to win over floating Lib-Dem and Green voters. Labour would do themselves a favour and the people of the UK a good deed, if they look inward, if they truly understand that the UK is crying out for a credible alternative to the Tories and Ed Miliband appealing to soft Tories stating “ill be your champion” or telling Scots that ‘We are not going to do a deal with the Scottish National Party. If it meant we would not be in government, then so be it,’ It becomes abundantly clear you’re not that alternative. So let me tell you Ed, the reason you were rejected was because you lacked the courage of your convictions not because ‘The Sun’ put Nicola Sturgeon on a wrecking ball to terrify English voters.

What Next?

Back to Inverclyde, something that is seemingly lost in this meltdown, is that we have a new MP. Forget party politics, forget numbers required to form majorities, a MPs job at its basic level, is to represent their constituents. I know Ronnie; I think I know him well. Ronnie is going to be an absolutely fantastic MP. You know, since I got interested in politics (when I discovered I was absolutely rubbish at football) one thing that has always annoyed me is people calling politicians liars, selfish, untrustworthy, etc., etc. Now of course I know some are, but I know Ronnie, and I know he isn’t. I’m genuinely not sure what Ronnie will be able to achieve over the next 5 years. What I do know though, is that he will work extremely hard, he wont abuse his position, and to the best of his ability he will try empower Inverclyde whilst standing up for what we believe in down in Westminster.

And as for the 56 SNP MPs as whole, well they hold an ACE card. They hold an advantage that Labour has never had. They believe in independence. They believe that we can do things better in Scotland, without the constraints of Westminster. Whilst the electoral math has deprived us of holding the balance of power, the 56 are still more powerful than the media are currently giving them credit for. The Tory party for all their faults still want Scotland to remain in the UK, and in that want lies the power of the 56 SNP MPs

And one last thing, if last Thursday I offered you 56 MPs to go down south and resist and oppose a Tory majority government. Who do you feel would stand up for Scotland more effectively, 56 Labour MPs, or 56 SNP MPs…

I think you’ve missed a button…

I was planning on keeping my big gub shut during this election period, mainly due to the fact Westminster elections are boring beyond belief, even for a political bore like me. Yet I can’t, I have to chip in with my two pence about the Scottish Labour party. Why is it every time they speak I feel as if the they think we are idiots or we button up the back?

Now it’s no lie that I detest New Labour, that’s nothing new to anyone who knows me, what’s new for me is Scottish New Labour facing the prospect of electoral annihilation in May. And it is in Labour’s response to this electoral hammering that has propelled me to write this piece. See, Labour could try to apply some critique or cold hearted evaluation to their woeful polling predictions, – with some commentators like Lord Ashcroft suggesting they could lose 36 of their 41 seats – instead they continue to treat us like idiots. Now I’ll be a little egotistical here and say I consider myself fairly intelligent, not a genius, but I certainly don’t button up the back. Yet, time and time again when I hear a New Labour spokesperson open their mouth I find myself reaching for my buttons. So allow me to offer my critique on why Scottish Labour find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Rather than start with the ‘BetterTogether’ campaign which seen New Labour stand shoulder to should with the Tories – a party which the great Labour politician Nye Bevan described as vermin – it is important we understand why the referendum came around in the first place. Labour haven’t seemed to grasp that the referendum wasn’t a result of SNP or Alex Salmond. The Scottish people, whilst always being patriotic, have never been overly nationalist in the sense of demanding independence. Quite the opposite could be argued, the Scots have always been proud of our place within Britain and further than that, our place within the struggles of the British labour movement. This seems to be completely lost on the Labour party today tho. Everyone who’s had a debate with a Labour supporter will be familiar with being called a ‘Nat’. But what Labour are ignoring in calling anyone who supports independence a ‘Nat’, is that us Scots have never truly been ‘Nats’. Scotland’s move towards becoming ‘Nats’ lies firmly at the feet of New Labour.

For me thinking back to when I was an 8 year old boy in 1997, I have two prominent memories. The second memory- which has nothing to do with this critique – is of my mother crying hysterically on the 1st of September as the television reported the news of Princess Diana’s death. The 1st of September also happens to be my young sisters birthday, which is why I remember that particular moment. Anyway back on track, my first memory of 1997 is of Tony Blair and New Labour winning the General Election. Everything about that election victory sticks out in my mind: the theme-tune, the excitement, the expectations, everyone proclaiming loudly ‘Labour is back’. You could almost taste the happiness on your tongue – Thatcher had been defeated and Labour were back. Now, of course as an 8year old boy I had no true understanding of what any of this actually meant. Yet when I think back to that image of Blair shaking everyone’s hand and ‘things can only get better’ blaring from the sound systems, I have a deep sense of melancholy.

Well what a false flag Blair and New Labour turned out to be. What many thought was the return of Labour was actually just a different version of Thatcherism – Labour never came back, Old Labour was gone, Nobody can put it better than Maggie herself when asked what was her greatest achievement, she answered: “Tony Blair and New Labour.” Her greatest achievement was also the greatest gift to the cause of independence.

When New Labour came to power the country – well Scotland at least – expected an ideological change. The vicious assaults on workers rights, the rampant privatization of public industries, the crippling inequalities of Tory society, the unashamedly neo-liberal assault on the working people of this Island, all of that and some was to be challenged by New Labour. Tony Blair and Co was expected to be the government that stood on the side of the working people. Whilst there was some worthy achievements the New Labour project of Tony Blair was a far cry from the Labour Government Scotland expected. As such the SNP stole a march on Labour and started to outflank Labour on its left, which would begin the movement towards the referendum.

The Scottish National Party, despite their name have never been Scotland’s national party. Labour were our party, they were our protest against the Tories, they were our shield down at Westminster, ultimately they were the party that represented you and I. Yet they were losing their grip on Scotland. The warning signs have been big, bright and unavoidable for years and subsequently ignored. Scotland and her voters have seen self-proclaimed “socialists’ embrace the New Labour project and have moved away in their droves, ultimately to the welcoming arms of the SNP.

Now lets fast-forward to the independence campaign, the campaign in which Labour stood so comfortably shoulder-to-shoulder with the Tories. Labour shout they have never been a party that supports independence, it was logical for them to campaign with unionist parties on this single issue. How can you disagree with that? Well, I disagree wholeheartedly and let me say why. Labour had all the political clout and electoral support to save the Union themselves, there was no need to dance down the aisle with a party they once viewed as vermin. Labour were the key reason the country voted NO, if Labour wanted a YES vote, there would have been a YES vote. So whilst Labour campaigned for a NO vote, their behaviour during the campaign that really leaves a sour taste in your mouth. I’m sure we can all agree it was shock, even despite Blair and the New Labour project, to watch how comfortable current Labour politicians were in campaigning alongside the Tories.

In no particular chronological order, I’ll give you some examples of distasteful behaviour that sticks out in my mind. We had the leader of Scottish Labour Johan Lamont stand outside Asda celebrating a potential price rise if we vote YES; we had UK Labour leader ‘RedEd’ Milliband promise to ban us from using the Pound if we dared defied Labour’s wishes and vote YES – he even went as far as to say this threat would be included in their GE manifesto for 2015; we had Labour decry every legitimate argument for independence as ‘Nationalist folly’. We seen Labour ignore the concerns of ordinary people struggling to get by in modern day Britain, by going around showing off fake currency with Alex Salmond’s face on it. We seen Labour ridicule anyone who attempted to suggest our beloved NHS was at threat from a privatization agenda of the Tories as ‘Nat scaremongering’; we heard Labour accuse YES leaning voters as people betraying their comrades in England; we watched as Labour bathed in the news that banks and big business were threatening to leave the country if us ‘Nats’ voted YES. I could go on and on giving certain examples that shocked me from a so-called ‘socialist party’ but there’s a wider point I’m trying to make. Labour rather than making a positive case for the Union, revelled in the potential failures of an independent Scotland.

Labour campaigning to save the Union as I’ve said wasn’t a surprise. Seeing Labour take pleasure in Scottish voters being held to ransom was a surprise. The argument for leaving the UK was ultimately not strong enough, I think most honest YES voters would accept that. What YES voters will struggle to accept is the unadulterated joy in which Labour carried out the wishes of big business and the financial elites. What we are struggling to accept, is how Labour could stand so easily by the side of Tories as the threatened Armageddon. Labour showed a complete disdain for the socio-economic circumstances that led to so many people actually choosing to break up Britain. Scots voters aren’t ‘Nats’, Scots had never embraced the lures of independence, not even during the heights of Thatcherism. The thing that Labour refuse to accept is that their ineptitude has done more for the SNP’s dream than any nationalist ever could.

The referendum is over, but Labour’s current campaign tactics show they have learned nothing. Now maybe it was a cruel twist of fate but the areas that voted YES in September are the areas that Labour are now dependent on in order to win the General Election. Unsurprisingly these areas are on course to become SNP heartlands, which is invoking the ire of the Scottish Labour party. “You’ll let in the Tories” they cry, “A vote for the SNP is a vote for David Cameron” they scream and blah, blah, blah. But you see the electorate here in Scotland is clever, and politically awakened like never before. So when we hear Jim Murphy tell us “The NHS is at risk of Tory cuts” we think back to his denial of such during the independence referendum. When we hear RedEd say Scotland can’t afford five more years of the Tories, we think back to Gordon Brown saying he’d rather a Tory/Ukip coalition than Scotland being independent. When we hear Labour complain of big business supporting the Tories for number 10, we think back to Johan Lamont’s cheeser outside Asda as business threatened YES voters. No matter how hard Labour try and hold us to ransom for this coming election, it will be contrasted with their behaviour and actions during the independence campaign. Every argument they used to diminish the case for YES will be held against their plea to vote for them in May.

Allow me one final point, which Labour refuse to accept or acknowledge. Every time Labour bring out a policy for this supposed incoming majority government of theirs, like banning zero hour contracts, or increasing the minimum wage to $8, or promising an energy price freeze, they ignore their Westminster record under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Any attempt at debating these policies with Labour is met with their standard response of, “what redistributive policies have the SNP got.” This emphasizes that Labour really do think we are daft. For every time Labour announce a new policy, voters aren’t comparing it to the SNP, we are comparing it to their 13 years in Westminster. Tony Blair promised to end zero hour contracts, it didn’t happen. Gordon Brown allowed the banks to bankrupt the country without prosecuting a single banker, Labour say they will abolish the House of Lords, yet they didn’t abolish the HoL during ’97-10. Today they don’t even take a principled stance and boycott the Lords as proof of their desire to see it consigned to history. Labour also overseen the gap between the rich and the poor to rise when they were last in office.  The SNP are the beneficiaries of Labour’s failings, not the root cause of them. These failings are what Labour need to grasp to show us they don’t think we button up the back.

When the next referendum comes around, or the next time Labour find themselves at odds with a large percentage of the working classes they supposedly ‘champion’ they have to listen. They’ve been told countless times, “I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me.” Until Labour acknowledge the true meaning of this, no threats of David Cameron coming to power, no insult of ‘Nat’, no half baked policy, no Smith Commison DevoMax delivering Lord, no Union supporting GERS figures, nothing will bring back those once loyal voters. Labour stopped being Labour and if they don’t start listening, they’ll stop being relevant.

Over to you Labour,

I said,

Over to you Labour…

Decisions, Decisions…

In Inverclyde the SNP have an opportunity to defeat New Labour in a Westminster election – for the first time ever. Genuinely win Inverclyde, not just contest Inverclyde, I mean to actually receive more votes than the New Labour party. Inverclyde is no longer a case of pinning a red rosette on a donkey. They wont be weighing the votes this coming May that’s for sure. So who is going to take on New Labour’s Iain McKenzie for the honour of representing the good people of Inverclyde? Well, that person is still to be decided by the 1200 odd members of the local SNP branches.

For me the choice is very simple; it has to be Ronnie Cowan. So here’s why I’m hoping that Ronnie is selected as the SNP candidate to contest Inverclyde. Now I know many of you will not particularly care who is selected, just as long as that candidate wins in May right? Well to you folk I say this. Inverclyde will not be an easy victory for the SNP. The referendum 49.9% YES vote doesn’t translate into 49.9% of the electorate voting SNP. New Labour are in severe danger of conceding Inverclyde let’s make no mistake about it. However for that to materialise, the SNP will have to have a strategic and well-organised effort on the ground. Ronnie has demonstrated amply over the last 2 years he has all the leadership and campaign skills to take this seat for the SNP.

Personally I worked very closely with Ronnie for the final 4 months of the referendum campaign. Ronnie, without a doubt worked harder than any other individual in Inverclyde for a YES victory. Ronnie has shown that politics for him isn’t about glamour; it isn’t about becoming a well kent face. Ronnie is driven by a desire to change; a heartfelt belief that Inverclyde and Scotland deserves better. Ronnie didn’t spend his energy during the referendum on Facebook stats or on Twitter feeds. Ronnie’s energy was spent on knocking doors; organising leaflet drops; on planning YES events and many more mundane activities essential to a healthy political campaign.

Did anyone ever come into the YES shop over the course of the final few months? Grab a wristband, a badge, some advice, maybe even a little literature? Well that shop was the brainchild of Ronnie. Without Ronnie’s drive and selflessness, there wouldn’t have been a YES Inverclyde shop. I know this because I manned the shop in Ronnie’s absence when he was at his full time job. And what a pain it was to be in the shop when Ronnie was at his job. My phone would go constantly, first thing in the morning; non-stop on his dinner break. And on his drive home from work he would pop in and ask about all the on-goings of the day’s activities. Now I’m not telling you this because I love a trip down memory lane. If you have a vote in this upcoming selection process, you have to think very carefully. Do you want to select a candidate who simply talks the talk, or one who walks the walk? Gaining more votes than New Labour in May will require all the skills and expertise Ronnie has gained and harnessed over the last two years as the leader of YES Inverclyde.

I had a conversation the other day with a SNP friend of mine and she said to me: “How come I don’t recognise Ronnie”? So I’ll tell you a little story from the campaign, I feel encapsulates why Ronnie should be selected as candidate down to a tee. It was a Friday afternoon in the YES shop. I was suited and booted, and rather excited as Nicola Sturgeon was coming to ‘officially’ open the YES shop. As you can imagine when she arrived the shop was stowed out with people. I even seen a few SNP councilors in the shop – and trust me that was a first. Naturally Nicola was mobbed with everyone wanting to chat or say hello and get the obligatory selfie. Yet I couldn’t see Ronnie anywhere. So I went looking for him. I found Ronnie standing under his umbrella at the pavement outside the shop. I walked up to him and before I could say anything, he said to me: “You know Gary, if we had that many people in the shop out canvassing with us, we’d win Inverclyde hands down.” That might not sound much, but it captures everything that makes Ronnie the ideal person to represent Inverclyde. There was no fanfare from Ronnie when Nicola arrived. There was no demand that he should be the one in the photo that’s going into the Greenock Telegraph. And that is why my friend doesn’t recognise Ronnie. Ronnie isn’t in this for an ego trip. He doesn’t value his face being plastered over the papers or demand his voice is the one that is heard loudest in the crowd. What Ronnie values, is what wins you elections: good honest hard work. Make no mistake about it no one will work harder than Ronnie if selected as candidate for the SNP. No one has had more doorstep conversations than Ronnie over the last two years. And most importantly, no one is better placed to take advantage of the YES boom the SNP are currently experiencing. Ronnie has shown how effective he can be leading a team of volunteers across party political boundaries. Imagine what he can achieve leading hundreds of dedicated SNP activists? The prize is Inverclyde!

Finally, if politics is to truly change, ensuring the right people are elected to office is paramount. Ronnie Cowan is an honest, down to earth grafter; if you want a politician to represent the people of Inverclyde, you will not get a better candidate than Ronnie Cowan. But don’t take my word for it, ask anyone who’s worked along side him, or even better – before you cast your vote – contact the man yourself.

Whoever you choose, I hope this has been helpful for you.

Onwards and Upwards

As we approach the New Year, I have one wish for my YES voting friends: please drop the 45 slogan, it’s time to move on. The 45 served a purpose in the aftermath of the Indy result. It gave us all on the losing side the required lift and it gave us the impetus to move forward. That purpose has now been served – lets bin the 45.

Who could have imagined the way events would transpire since the 19th of September. First you have David Cameron linking our future devolution to English-Votes-For-English-Laws (EVEL). EVEL conveniently hadn’t been raised once during the referendum campaign. Then you have the resignation of Johann Lamont, claiming Scottish Labour is governed like: “a branch office of London.” And subsequently referring to some of her Westminster based colleagues as ‘dinosaurs,’– cue Alanis Morissette in the background. And much to the delight and ridicule of the 45, New Labour replaced Lamont with pro-austerity, pro-Iraq, staunch Blairite Mr. Jim Murphy- more on his appointment shortly. Finally sandwiched in between Labour’s meltdown, we had the disappointment of the Smith Commission. Unionists will argue ‘vow delivered”, nationalists will argue ‘vow broken’. A tad predictable on both sides, the true judge will be the electorate in the coming elections. Now here is why I feel it is time to move on.

The 45 would make perfect sense if our movement were utterly dejected by the NO vote. It would make sense if we were void of ideas and vehicles to carry forward the campaign for independence. But we are not. The opinion polls since the 19th read like an obituary for the Scottish Labour party. Whilst pro-Indy groups like Women for Independence and Radical Independence continue to grow in numbers and influence. YES supporting parties now have a combined membership of well over 100,000 people. For the first time ever, there is now a daily newspaper – The National – dedicated to Scottish independence. Supplemented by a vibrant social media in the shape of Bella Caledonian, National Collective and many others. The independence movement in Scotland has never been bigger – not even on the 18th of September. Thus the 45 serves no purpose going into 2015.

Maybe it’s just me, but I do worry that the 45 has taken on an air of self-righteousness. If we are to truly move forward and build a majority for independence, a sober analysis of our campaign and its failures is essential. I lost count with the amount of people I met who said to me: “I’d love to vote YES but…” And it is the ‘Yes But’ voter who is most put off by the exclusive nature of the 45. During my time knocking on doors, I met many ‘I’m alright Jacks.’ Folk who were living the highlife, people who had it so well they were loath to change anything about their lives. Aside from those folk, the vast majority of people I spoke with were all too aware of the challenges facing most of society in Austerity Britain. The majority of voters I encountered detested the rise in foodbanks; the drop in wages, the increase in the cost of living and all other social concerns we at the YES side shared. Nonetheless our campaign failed to convince a majority of these people to vote YES. Furthermore, it is now these very same people who are beginning to feel silenced and ridiculed by the 45. Whether we like it or not, the accusation that the 45 is ignoring the majority of Scots is something that must be taken seriously. Let me be clear here: no one owns the saltire, nor does anyone own the right to be Scottish, or any other non-quantifiable idea of patriotism. Most importantly no one on either side of the debate has a monopoly on what’s in Scotland’s best interest. As such, behaving in a manner that dictates that your voice is the correct voice and all others are redundant is sheer stupidity. And a side note, any talk of ‘traitors’ or ‘treason’ is disgusting and likely to shrink the 45 not grow it. I’ll debate till I’m blue in the face with anyone who says Scotland shouldn’t be an independent nation, as I’m sure most of the 45 would do. But in doing so we must never lose sight of the fears and opinions of our fellow Scots. If we are all honest, we can point out where our campaign fell short. Our response to key issues such as; currency; pensions; job losses and EU membership just wasn’t good enough to convince the majority to vote YES.

Above all else though there is a minority in the 45 who are hell bent on lowering this debate to the gutter. Throughout the referendum anyone who supported the YES side and subsequently argued the case for independence, was deemed a ‘cybernat’ by the media and prominent Unionists. The nasty side to the ‘Cybernats’ was all too evident when J.K Rowling donated money to ‘Better Together’ or when Blair McDougall et al tried to engage in Twitter debates. We all know that anyone who threw around terms like ‘traitor’ or ‘scumbags’ or any other derogatory slur are not in anyway representative of YES supporters. We also know that for every ‘Cybernat’ there is an equally vile ‘Britnat’. You only have to look at the abuse Andy Murray received when he came out in favour of a YES vote. Yet the term ‘Britnat’ never took hold during the referendum debate. And that’s because the amount of abuse aimed at prominent YES campaigners didn’t get anywhere near the media coverage as that aimed at Unionists. Perhaps the most telling of this bias could be seen in the two cases of ‘The Egg’. Mr. Jim Murphy was hit over the shoulder with an egg when he was out campaigning in his: ‘100 days 100 towns,’ tour of Scotland. What was the media reaction to Jim being egged? It was non-stop coverage from every media outlet possible – and quite rightly so. However, here is where my gripe comes in. Another Jim was also the victim of an egg assault, although this assailant didn’t have the accuracy of the YES voter. Mr. Jim Sillars, when touring Scotland in his Margo Mobile, was subjected to eggs thrown at him and not only eggs. Jim Sillars received a vile handwritten note in Fife that read: “Thank Fu*k Margo the Mouth is dead”. What was the reaction to the abuse aimed at Mr. Jim Sillars? Did we hear nonstop reports about how ‘Britnats’ are getting out of control? Did we hear demands from newspapers to get Mr. Darling and co to call off the attack dogs? Of course we didn’t, the media had absolutely nothing to gain from reflecting the evil side of ‘Britnats’. It is said media who will report every vile manifestation of the 45.

Since the emergence of the 45, Mr. Jim Murphy has been appointed the leader of the branch office. My personal feelings – as a socialist – on his appointment is one of sheer delight. Anyone who wants to substantiate the claims of ‘Red Tory’ has ample ammunition to do so with Jim in charge. Regardless of how much he talks-the-talk, promises the world, or says he’s changed, he can never erase his voting record – he is the personification of a ‘Red Tory’. Therein, the lessons of the ‘cybernat’ must be learned. The personal abuse and vilification of Mr. Murphy has played perfectly into the hands of those who want to see Mr. Murphy do well. The 45 cannot, must not, reduce the debate on his politics to attacks on his person. Doing so plays right into those who would have us believe abuse and personal vilification are dominating the political sphere, when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Scotland has never been more alive, more energetic and more susceptible to honest debate about our future. We are all intelligent enough to have sophisticated, friendly debates about the direction in which our good country should go. In doing so I won’t stop calling Labour members ‘RedTories’, but there is no need for a degrading noun after that term. Educating those that you wish to share your views will always be far more effective than shouting or typing profanities at Iraqi Jim.
As we move into 2015 and the upcoming election, one challenge faces the 45 above all else. The 45 have been effective at holding rallies and dominating the social media world. Yet how productive can the 45 be when it comes to winning elections?

I’m not one for agreeing with Blair McDougall, but there is one particular interview he has given since the referendum that rings true when discussing the 45. With a reflection on the George Square celebrations he said:

“I was watching 10,000 people in George Square dancing and celebrating a week out from the vote! If I was the campaign manager I would been tearing my hair out. If they were ‘No’ voters I would have been down there saying ‘get out and knock doors”.

And from an unlikely source there is the best bit of advice anyone could give you for moving forward. A 45 rally, a 45 sticker, a 45 wristband, none that will win you elections.

So friends, lets drop the 45. We have doors to knock.

Time for a pint mate?

The debate rages this week thanks to the unlikely man of the people Mr. Jim Murphy. In his infinite wisdom Jim wants those attending football matches to be enjoying alcoholic drinks for the first time since 1980 when the current ban was introduced. I’ll leave aside any sinister analysis of Mr. Murphy’s motives so I can give this issue the due consideration it deserves. This debate is important as it has many people divided. Health services; charities; the police and so forth want the current ban kept in place. Yet, the big wigs that run football teams want the ban rescinded in efforts to halt sliding attendances.

So, should alcohol be brought back to football grounds in Scotland? In my opinion, yes it should, without any shadow of a doubt – a trial run at least.

Henceforth I’m going to state my reasoning for wanting alcohol sales brough back and address some issues I feel are being unfairly held against all football fans. Before I go any further, this article isn’t supporting Jim Murphy or attacking the SNP, none of that nonsense need apply here. As a football lover who grew up travelling the length and breadth of Scotland following Morton, I am merely giving my voice to a very heated debate.

Does Scotland have an issue with alcohol? Yes, we have a major issue with alcohol. One look at the NHS statistics will show you the price we pay – individually and collectively – for excessive alcohol consumption. Whatever category or statistical evidence you apply to alcohol related issues in Scotland; it will paint you the same picture. Now I’m not avoiding the issue, I fully accept and understand the costs to society for our chronic love of a pint and a wee dram. Where I have trouble with our alcohol related issues is in the draconian laws applied to football fans because of it.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, when attending football matches, you could take in cases of beer; bottles of tonic wine, basically whatever you wanted to drink, you could take into the stadium. Now growing up as a young boy, my old man would take me to Morton games. I loved it, absolutely loved it – Cowshed casual I was. I loved the long bus journeys the most. Away to Forar, 2 hours on a bus with my dad and his steamin’ mates, I’d happily do that every day and twice on a Sunday if I could. I’m sure you could imagine the amount of alcohol that was consumed on those trips. Even as a young boy I was aware of how excessive some of that drinking was. Yet the atmosphere on the bus was brilliant. The songs, the discussions, the jokes, the whole trip was something I cherished. When we arrived at some games, some of the bus wouldn’t go, instead they would opt out for the nearest pub to the stadium. Sometimes I’d even have a different dad take me through the parent and child gate – don’t tell my maw. So far it seems like I’m painting a good picture for the current ban. However, the point I am trying to get at is about consumption. Alcohol is widely available to fans, via many different outlets pre and post match. Personally I find it hard to imagine that allowing fans to drink in the 90 minutes of a football match, will add significantly to the problems society already faces from misuse. Just for clarity, I am not advocating a return to bring in your own carryout. A licensed outlet selling alcoholic drinks is what I want to see returned to the stadium.

Perhaps the strongest argument against having alcohol sold freely in football stadiums comes from women’s organisations. When the ban on alcohol sale was introduced in 1980, something rightly had to be done, there was a direct correlation between domestic abuse and football. Yet domestic abuse is a much wider social issue than simply an occurrence of football related drunkenness. My desire to see drink sold freely at football matches is not so we can return to 1980s style domestic abuse, or indeed reserve the gains made by society when dealing with this often taboo subject. I just find it hard to believe that domestic abuse is a direct consequence of football fans consuming alcohol over a 90-minute period. Again the hypocrisy stems from the availability of alcohol to all of society. I welcome the moves by the current Scottish Govt with their ‘Alcohol Minimum Pricing’. I welcomed the move to bring forward the Old Firm match to 12pm. My problem is this: I simply do not see how in today’s environment, allowing a fan to purchase alcohol in stadiums will result in an increase of domestic violence. There is indeed a strong argument that the football fan in Scotland is being vicitmised for societies wider failings. I accept that certain football fans have tarnished history when it comes to violence and abusing alcohol. Yet to trust rugby fans or ice hockey fans with alcohol but not football fans is simply backwards and quite frankly insulating to fans of our most popular sport. Is anyone seriously suggesting that alcohol abuse is the sole province of football fans? Much like the racism issue in English football, domestic abuse is highlighted by football, not caused by it. You would have to show me some pretty impressive studies before I believed bringing back alcohol sales in football grounds would result in an increase in domestic violence. I am in no way attempting to belittle domestic abuse or violence in any context what so ever, I just prefer to deal with it at its root cause than demonise a section of football fans.

I want to conclude by giving my final thoughts on the issue. The negative effects of alcohol are a problem we should all meet head on. We have come a very long way in my short lifetime in acknowledging and addressing our failings with the devil. Alcohol in football grounds was rightly banned in the 1980s. Yet it is not 1980 anymore, and whilst we must always heed the concerns and opinions of those opposed to the introduction, it is time to move on from the past. For alcohol to be sold in grounds – to everyone, not just the select financially able few – the right safeguards must be put in place. Stadiums could have designated drinking stands, which remove children. In England, at football grounds, you can only get a pint at halftime and not within view of the park. Those are just two examples but there are multiple criteria which we can apply to any future trials. Finally, whilst alcohol is freely available to those at rugby grounds; ice hockey venues, and general sporting events across the country, I feel it is grossly unfair to prohibit one set of sporting fans from enjoying the freedoms afforded to others.

It’s halftime, time for a pint mate?

86 More Doors

Ultimately it wasn’t to be; our dream had fallen short by a measly 86 votes – 86!!!!

Inverclyde with a whopping turnout of 87.4% voted as follows: a total of 27,243 votes were cast for Yes and a total of 27,329 votes were cast for No.

After hundreds of Facebook conversations, after hundreds of doorstep debates, after having one of the most exciting and exhausting periods of my life, here is my referendum recap; my highs and my lows.

I promise I wont cry.

Where to begin? When did I actually get involved with Yes Inverclyde? Well for those of you who don’t know me, I have been an avid supporter of independence for as long as I could articulate political arguments for it. I guess it was always inevitable that I would get involved in the biggest political campaign of my lifetime. I don’t count social media as campaigning, so my starting point within Yes Inverclyde would take me to a YES event in the Greenock Town Hall.

The star of the bill was the charismatic Tommy Sheridan. Alongside Tommy there was Ian McDougall from Business for Scotland and Deborah Waters from Labour for Independence (LFI). Being completely honest, the reason I went was to get in touch with prominent local campaigners, and have a go at the LFI representative. The event itself was thoroughly entertaining, if not enlightening, as it merely confirmed most of what I had researched for myself. Once the speakers were finished, the exciting part of the evening began, the public Q and A. I never one to shy away from public speaking, decided that the hall should bask in my pearls of wisdom. What followed from my big mouth-to the audience-via the microphone, is now referred to as my “spice girl” speech – aptly named because I claimed Blair and Brown to be Maggie Thatcher’s ‘spice girls’. True to form for me, I never planned what I was going to say before I got the microphone – we all have our faults. Poor Mrs. Watters was subjected to my anger, not only towards New Labour but at the failures of LFI for not attacking New Labour enough in public. I know, I know, it’s not the normal etiquette to attack one on the same side as you. Yet, the central point of my rant was this, Labour voters were the key to the ultimate success of this campaign, especially in Inverclyde. Without a mass conversion to the YES cause from Labour voters, we may as well not even bother with a referendum.

That meeting was my first true experience at a YES event in Inverclyde, and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed to go out and campaign – where campaigns are lost or won – on the doorsteps of Inverclyde.

Now friends, I don’t care how confident a person is, or how much faith you have in your argument, going to knock on a random person’s door is quite daunting – I had my fair share of “fuck offs,” screamed at me. Yet canvassing, as it is called, is the lifeblood of any political campaign. The more people you have knocking doors, the more your message is spread, and hence the more likely you are to be successful with your campaign. I’m not going to use this blog to moan or complain about the challenges we faced. All I will say is this, with the media the way it was, canvassing took on an even more important role than your standard party political campaign.

What currency are we going to use? How long will oil last? Will we be in the EU? What will happen to my pension? How can we afford it? Question after question was launched at the faithful canvassers of Yes Inverclyde. Now I won’t bore you with the tedious details of my answers to these questions. Instead I’ll share with you some of my highlights on the doorsteps of Inverclyde.

I was knocking doors up Braeside, with my trusty sidekick Geraldine, when we encountered one very unpleasant gentleman. For a bit of context you should know when we knock a door and no-one answers, we put a card through the door reading ‘sorry we missed you.’ with our contact details on the back of that card. So Geraldine and I followed this procedure when we had knocked on a typical wooden door one mild evening down Braeside. As we made our way to the next household, we heard an almighty roar coming from the door we had just knocked. So I about-turned and proceeded to do that awkward half-run half-walk, – the walk usually reserved for crossing roads -, right up to the previous door. Stupidly what awaited Geraldine and I wasn’t an eager YES voter excited to tell us how excited he was to be voting YES. Instead, we had the pleasure of facing a retired British Marine, who just happened to have a vast sum of money placed on a NO vote – I think about 5 grand he said. He then proceeded to rip our card and literature we placed through his door to pieces, in our faces, and tell us mainly myself, how stupid we are and why we are wasting our time trying to convince people to leave his beloved Union. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the mood for a heated debate with an ex-Marine, we wished him well and went on our not so merry way – I may or may not have done my own washing that night.

Another particularly favourite exchange of mine took place with with a random punter a couple of streets away from my home up the Port. It was the day after the first televised TV debate with Salmond and Darling. Needless to say for anyone who watched that debate, our spirits weren’t the highest. Alex didn’t deliver the performance we all knew he was capable of. The first door I go to knock that night turns out to be a staunch no voter. In fact, I didn’t even get in his garden, the guy shouted on me: “here mate, what side are you with, Yes or No?” So I put on my game face on (beautiful I know) and go to give him my chat. “Stop right there wee man, your boy Salmond took a beating last night, what currency we going to use eh.” He says in the most condescending tone I have ever come across. Now this exchange in itself isn’t story worthy. What makes this episode special is what follows the Sunday after the second TV debate between Salmond and Darling, which of course Alex destroyed Darling.

That Sunday we were all buzzing. The YES shop was jumpin, the polls were narrowing and momentum was well and truly on our side. We set an ambitious target to deliver 14,000 newspapers to the whole of Inverclyde. I volunteered to leaflet Devol, as it is my scheme, my area, my Sparta. As I set off to deliver my bundle of YES papers, a black car pulls up beside me, the window rolls down and a man says to me: “Don’t put a paper through my door.” Well, well, well, friends if it wasn’t the random punter himself. Of course I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I replied quick as a flash: “Your boy Darling took a beating last night, name three powers coming to Scotland?” I’ve always been an admirer of karma. Needless to say I delivered over 300 papers that day happy-as-Larry. More impressively we got our 14,000 papers through the letterboxes of Inverclyde.

I could literally give you dozens of canvassing stories but I’ll move onto what was undoubtedly the beating heart of the final two/three months of the Indy Campaign. The YES SHOP

The YES shop was priceless and without doubt my favourite part of the referendum. Not only was it effective as a place for us to meet and coordinate our campaign, it become a central point for the people that matter the most, the voters of Inverclyde. The sheer volume of car stickers; window posters; wristbands; leaflets; badges; etc, that went out to the public through that shop was amazing. Above all else though, it put us on the front foot for the first time in the campaign. If people had concerns the came to us instead of us going to them, something we struggled with on the doorsteps. And on a side note, if anyone is looking for career advice then trust me sell badges for election campaigns. If you’re brave enough make them for all sides of future debates.

Much like canvassing I could give you multiple stories from the YES shop. From our daily interactions with people from the Inverclyde center, to our heated debates with the BetterTogether spies, we have some fantastic memories and stories. We had our grand opening with Nicola Sturgeon; we had our fun day with bands and face painting; we had our day when we were overran by about 15 neds; we had our visits from ‘Strathclyde’s finest’; we had big Sandy from CND and Martin Compston drop by; we had ice bucket challenges; we had more fun than you should in politics. Yet one day sticks out more than most. That day was the 2nd of September.

What was special about that day? Well that day was the deadline day for registering to vote – a democratic version of deadline day for football transfers if you wish. I honestly don’t think for as long as I live I’ll ever forget that day. I went to the shop at around 10am as usual. Now us at the shop, we were good, we were pretty fluent when it came to customer service by this point. Still nothing could have prepared us for what was coming. For 12 whole hours we were non-stop, form after form after form was filled in our shop. If there was to be a day you would pick to bottle the hopes, aspirations, dreams and possibilities of the YES campaign, this was it. From 16year old first time voters, to OAP’s who hadn’t voted since the poll tax, the excitement was palpable. The sense of community in that shop is something that still makes me smile. There were people from all backgrounds, and all walks of life. Everyone was buzzing and alive with the excitement of the campaign. Now, I don’t intend to demean anyone on the NO side, however I genuinely do not think they would have experienced anything as moving or profound as what we experienced in our wee hub on the 2nd of Sept.

Are you still awake? Well done for not falling asleep, the end is nigh I promise. My recap wouldn’t be complete without addressing the moment YES Inverclyde heard the verdict read out aloud in the Waterfront.

The whole day of the 18th still feels like a blur, mainly due to my lack of sleep in the build up to it. The 18th started off in fantastic fashion for me. I got to Boglestone Community Centre at 6.55am. My friend’s father was already there, waiting in his kilt, to be the first person to vote YES on the day. I could have voted before him, but he had made an effort so I let him have it. Now here’s the good part, to keep me company from the NO side was a Tory councilor. Needless to say friends civilities lasted about 2 minutes before we had a heated argument. If I can offer another bit of advice friends, it would be this. If you are unsure on a course of action, or an idea you have, run it by a Tory. If they agree, do they complete opposite. And if they oppose it, you are on the right path. As for my disagreement with the Tory, I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the most important political day in our history. The rest of the day passed without major incident. Mainly it involved standing at polling stations and the occasional drive in the Ford van, giving out words of encouragement over the loudspeaker. All that was left was to attend the count and hear the verdict from the good people of Inverclyde.

And when that verdict was read out I literally felt sick to my stomach, not only because we had missed a YES in Inverclyde by a midges bawhair, but I knew across the country our valiant campaign hadn’t quite managed to make it across the finish line. Words will never be able to capture how I felt as the most amazing campaign in our lifetimes came to a close. I could get all sad and dramatic but honestly, I am just happy to have played a very, very small part in an historic event.
Now the dust has settled I feel nothing but pride and excitement for the future of Inverclyde and Scotland. I can confidently say from speaking to both YES and NO folk across Inverclyde, one thing is abundantly clear. No longer will politicians take our vote or our voice for granted. A microscope is well and truly judging every move our elected representatives make. And more importantly, we are the ones holding that microscope. You and I; our next door neighbours; our friends; our families, never again will Westminster or Holyrood forget that they work for us. Ultimately that is the common victory we can all share in, a future decided by the people for the people.

Finally, to everyone who made this period of my life so magical and to everyone I annoyed the hell out of, can I please say, Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

P.S. I’ll never stop campaigning for Scotland to be free of Westminster rule.

P.P.S I had to attend my best friends engagement party on the 19th. Needless to say, I wasn’t a barrel of laughs that night.

What to do when you leave school?

I remember as a young 15-16 year old boy having the dreaded “what to do when you leave school,” chat with my old man. I’m sure many can relate to this conversation with their parents – it’s a chat all good parents should endeavor to have. “When I was your age, you could leave school at 9am on Friday and by 9am on the following Monday, you had a trade in the yards,” said my old man. Well for those of you who read this and come from Inverclyde, you will be as familiar as I am with the fabled employment opportunities afford to one through the shipyards – before Maggie Thatcher had her wicked way with nationalized industries. Yet at the time of this conversation with my old man, I wasn’t aware of how truly remarkable Inverclyde was. I had never witnessed the end of the shipyard day when thousands of men downed tools, left the yards and brought traffic to a standstill. I was never aware of an age where apprenticeships were at the mercy of your choosing and your convenience. I grew up in post-industrial Inverclyde, the huge numbers of men employed in the yards no longer existed, nor did the huge number of women employed in the textile industries. The truly sad fact wasn’t that the shipyards were closed down, it was that nothing ever came to Inverclyde to replace all those lost jobs. Nothing has ever filled the vacuum of a lost generation.

One of my earliest memories of primary school, was drawing a stick figure onto one hand, a scribbled mess on my other and along with my group of friends singling loudly, as if all our Christmas’ had come at once:

“Wee Maggie Thatcher, throw her up and catch her,
Maggie Thatcher squash her now she’s dead,”

Looking back that is a vile song for a bunch of 9 and 10 year old children to be singing in a playground. Yet it was song that was obviously passed down to us through our external environment. It is, sadly, a song fitting the children of post-Maggie Thatcher Inverclyde.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, back to 15-16 year old me getting life/career advice from my dad. My old man was simply trying to install in me some critical thinking towards my career path once I left school. Unintentionally however, he lit a political activist fuse, which will burn with me to the grave. Naturally, I pressed my father for his accounts of why the shipyards were shut down. I enquired into how Inverclyde was then as to how it is now; I enquired into the loss of jobs; of friendships, of family security; of all the things imaginable going through my impressionable 16 year old mind. The conclusion drawn is what drives me still. There was no political appetite, no political capability, no political need to save the shipyards. The conclusion I drew still holds true to this day. That realization is that Scotland needs her own independent parliament – a parliament responsible and accountable to the people of Scotland.

Over the coming months, I am going to attempt to free my Facebook from my political rants, much to the pleasure of my political aphetic friends. So in advance, can I say bear with me as I struggle to get to grasps with the oxford grammar requirements of a good blog – I never paid enough attention in English at school. And if I am being honest, since the end of the referendum campaign I have badly needed an outlet for my thoughts. As such, I shall over the coming months try to give my thoughts and analysis of the politics of the day, mainly Inverclyde, almost always Scotland.

In truth, I am generally very nervous about starting a blog, it is something that I have always wanted to do, yet never had the confidence in my grammar or attention to detail to do so. As such, I imagine it will take me a while to get to the standard of the many other blogs who I admire, and whom I will undoubtedly compare myself with.

And finally you’re asking, “what did I do when I left School”? Well, I went to Glasgow Caledonian University to study history and politics of-course – and I’m very proud to say I graduated with a 2:1 BA Hons.