The Point
Last updated: 19 September 2017.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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Recent Articles

In Praise of Beethoven

Arthur C Clarke - A Very Modern Odyssey

Tackling Private Landlords

Investigating the Value Form

The Eternal Dark Heart of Empire

If You Build Them, They Will Come

Lives on the Line

- How the Gambling Industry Targets the Poor

 

Graeme McIver looks at the gambling industry in the UK and how it has targeted the poorest and most deprived areas of our towns and cities.

  

 

  

'In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win'

George Bernard Shaw

 

The Changing Face of Our High Street

The news that the credit ratings agency Moody’s has decided to downgrade Britain’s triple A credit rating will not have come as a surprise to anyone who cares to take more than a cursory glance at economic performance of the UK. As the ConDems swing the axe even deeper into living standards, the knock on effect on retail sales and High Street performance further highlights that the crisis in 21st century capitalism continues apace.

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Independence and the National Game

Here we go, here we go, here we go!

Sean Robertson examines the plethora of football fan groups for independence being set up, and the potential for building a Yes vote on the terraces

 

              

 

Scottish Football and its links to politics, have, in recent times, been presented as negative by the mainstream media and political parties, mainly due to the connections of the Old Firm to Irish culture and history.

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Corporate Tax Avoidance - Will the real scroungers please stand up?

Ana Dreyfuss-Quillon looks at the companies that don't pay tax...and what could be done about them.

 

Indignity heaped on pain may be the last tax pound straw that breaks the corporate camel’s back.

Widespread revulsion over revelations of the huge levels of tax avoidance in the UK over the last six months have forced Coalition Chancellor Gideon ‘George’ Osborne to rush to the media ramparts, fulminating with manufactured outrage, over the fact that multiple billions of pounds per annum are being lost to the exchequer by companies exploiting legal loopholes to avoid paying tax on their profits.

Osborne has said – and we must presume that he was blissfully unaware of this state of affairs until the story broke in the media (lol) – that it’s terrible his City chums are behaving like such rogues when ‘we are all in it together’, and he’ll jolly well sort it out by seeking ‘international agreement’.

This is a typical Tory tactic of kicking the ball into the long grass.

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Eco Socialism - a personal perspective

or

Why I am a member of the Green Left

 

 

Will Duckworth - Deputy Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales

Some Green Party members start from a belief that we need to save the planet from human activity but in truth the race will survive even with a 5 degree increase in global temperatures, melting of the ice caps and loss of huge areas of land mass under the rising seas.  It would mean the end of civilisation as we know it, the death of most of the human race, and a return to a pre-industrial society. 

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Sexual Abuse Time Bomb...still Ticking

 

Since the eruption of the Jimmy Saville case last year the Con/Dem government have been thankful for some brief respite from the glare of publicity alluding to direct links between organised sexual abuse of children and leading British politicians.

Now the scandal is threatening to blow up around Operation Fernbridge,  a police investigation into activities at the Elm Guesthouse in London during the 1980’s, where children from nearby local authority care homes were serially sexually abused.

The developing scandal  is related to Labour MP Tom Watson’s original allegations about the existence of a Tory sex abuse ring with links straight to number 10.

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To be Bold?

 Alex Salmond’s speech to the Jimmy Reid Foundation

 a personal view by Gary Fraser

 

                   

 

I was looking forward to hearing Alex Salmond’s inaugural address to the Jimmy Reid Foundation. I’m a supporter of the Foundation whose intellectual presence is much needed in Scottish politics. The subject of the lecture, ‘Addressing Alienation: the opportunity of independence’, sounded interesting, unconventional even, and an opportunity for the speaker to make an intellectual case for independence, a chance to demonstrate how an abstract political concept like independence can connect with people’s everyday lives and generally improve our psychological well being. But in all honesty I came away from his speech feeling disappointed.

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Radical Independence Conference

 Editorial


 Radical Independence Conference: the beginning of something new in Scottish politics?

 

This is an exciting time to be living in Scotland.

Something is happening and change is in the air, and we say this as a magazine not normally prone to hyperbole.

The Radical Independence Conference on Saturday 24th November may well turn out to be the most important gathering of the Scottish left in recent years. Since the debilitating split of the SSP in 2006 the Scottish left has been in the doldrums, but the RIC offers evidence that it is now at last emerging from the political swamp it’s been wading through these last few years. With even the normally cynical media estimating around 800-900 people in attendance, turnout at Saturday’s event was impressive. But high numbers were not the only thing of note. The event was well organised and the marketing slick and professional, something unusual for the left. There was a genuine coming together of diverse voices around a broad platform, and a palpable enthusiasm both to help win the independence referendum and to present a radical and progressive vision for an independent Scotland. This was a genuine ‘big tent’ – which may not have suited some – but the International Socialist Group, who initiated the RIC, should be congratulated for their role in putting this together.

It was also good to see more than just the ‘usual suspects’ in attendance. Many young people attended the event and it was encouraging to see fresh faces and a new generation coming through not tainted by the past.  Socialists of all major tendencies and types were there, alongside Greens, issue campaigners, trade unionists in number, and radicalised students. We were particularly pleased to see SNP activists in attendance, including some councillors.  The Point was reminded of the 300, 000 people who voted for the Socialists and the Greens in the 2003 Scottish Parliament elections.  That represents a potentially huge block of voters that could sway the outcome of the independence referendum in 2014.

The RIC demonstrates that the Scottish left has not gone away, and that if it steps up to the plate then it still has a serious role to play in Scottish politics. The question now is: where do we go from here?

The Point believes that the RIC should not stand outside of the Yes Scotland Campaign, or in counter position to it, but work in tandem with it while retaining its organisational independence and its socialist message of ‘another Scotland is possible’. We believe that was the ‘sense’ of Saturday’s gathering, and we welcome the statements of Yes Scotland and Alex Salmond noting the contribution of the RIC and its commitment to securing a Yes vote. It was heartening to see many RIC delegates lining up at the Yes Scotland stall to sign up to that campaign.  There is no contradiction in being part of both.

The YES Campaign is where we need to be, not simply standing on the sidelines yelling ‘no to cuts’ or counter-posing socialism in the abstract to independence.  We are all opposed to austerity.  We all support working people struggling internationally against it.  But the Scottish Government currently receives an ever reducing block grant from Westminster and has no borrowing powers.  The most direct route to protecting Scottish working class people from Coalition cuts and austerity for the rest of this decade and beyond is through independence. Independence opens up the possibility of serious economic and social change - because Scotland’s natural political gravity tends to the left.  To fail to understand this is simply…to fail.

In the past sections of the left have been too self obsessed with their own signature issues and sometimes lost sight of the bigger picture, speaking in a language few ordinary folk relate to.  Whilst the tragedy of Gaza, or the role of American imperialism in the world, or the nature of the Cuban state are critically important issues, they are not the primary concerns of most people in Scotland right now. Instead of talking at people we must engage with the broad sweep of humanity in Scotland, highlighting how independence can address their concerns and priorities. This means engaging with people on the issues that matter, including decent, long term jobs on proper wages, secure and affordable homes, cheaper energy bills, health and education that is world class and free at the point of need, a Scotland where our young people have a future and where all of our people feel safe and enabled in their communities. We need to be able to explain how public ownership, participatory democracy and a redistributive and progressive taxation system can help achieve these things and more, and why full independence for Scotland could help deliver them.

The independence debate can appear complex, yet the referendum will simplify matters. You either vote yes or you vote no. No in betweens; none of this business of yes, but only if we abolish capitalism, or increase corporation tax, or leave the EU the next day and abolish the monarchy the day after that. For most progressives and socialists who support both socialism and independence we have always known that they are a process more than an outcome.

The Scottish left needs to be part of that process.

The inaugural Radical Independence Conference was a massive step in a new direction. Of course, even a flock of swallows does not a summer make, but the road is open, and a whiff of political spring is in the air.

Once again we say thanks to all of those who helped organise what could – potentially - be a landmark day in the history of the Scottish left

Saying no to Blandland - an interview with Independent MSP John Finnie

In the week of the extremely successful first national conference of the Radical Independence movement, Point editor Steve Arnott interviewed independent MSP John Finnie about NATO, democracy, the Yes campaign and the prospects for re-alignment on the Scottish Left. John recently resigned from the SNP over its decision to support continued membership of NATO post-independence.

 

John, you were an active member of the SNP for a very long time, serving not only as an MSP, but previously as group leader of the SNP in Highland Council. It must have been a difficult decision for both yourself and Jean Urquhart to leave the party of government in the run up to the Scottish Independence referendum. Can you guide us through your thought processes at the time?

I first became aware of the proposal to try and change the Party’s opposition to NATO membership at a meeting with Angus Robertson, the Party's Westminster Leader, several months before our Annual Conference.

I subsequently wrote Angus detailing my concerns and indicating that were the policy to change I would find it challenging to remain in the Party.

The First Minister’s television interview in July during which he indicated his support for NATO membership was a significant point in the debate.  From that point on some who were uncomfortable with membership of NATO felt the need to ‘back the Leader’ so, from that point on, I used the social media, spoke at meetings and did radio and television interviews to encourage support to retain our long-standing opposition to NATO.

The Conference debate was about a ‘defence’ policy and not simply about NATO. It has been lauded as an example of ‘good old-fashioned conference debate’ and, whilst I understand that view, I thought it was a poor debate, dominated by the NATO issue.  Not many have noticed that, as a result of that vote, the SNP is now committed to spending a greater percentage of GDP, post-independence, on non-nuclear defence than the UK!

I joined the SNP as a 16 year old and leaving the Party was a decision taken after months of consideration and done in a manner to minimise any ill-feeling.  I could never support membership of a first-strike nuclear alliance and I will continue to fight for a socially just, peaceful, nuclear free Scottish republic.        

There has been some criticism of the SNP recently from others in the independence fight for being reactive to the unionist agenda and getting bogged down in answering detailed questions that would in fact be a matter for the first Scottish Government elected post-independence in 2016. Do you have any sympathy with that view and how do you see the independence referendum campaign proceeding from here?

Yes, I have a great deal of sympathy for the view that the SNP is 'fighting on the unionists' ground', constantly feeling the need to respond to the minutia of queries rather than rightly acknowledge the role the Scottish public can, and will, play post-independence.  I know the SNP don’t consider they have a monopoly of the independence agenda and it's in the interests of everyone interested in securing a 'Yes' vote to ensure that the 'Yes' campaign is as broad a coalition as there can be.

That broad coalition must articulate the many different independent Scotland’s there can be.  If the only model out there is the SNP one, then many seeking a more radical future will rightly feel left out.  Politics is about participation and priorities and the independence debate must excite folk and motivate greater participation than presently exists.

Direct democracy seems a very good way of taking major decisions about the future direction of a country. Do you think it would be a good idea to separate the independence debate from potential distractions about in or out of NATO, in or out of Europe, a monarchy or a republic, by simply promising the Scottish people a referendum on these issues post independence?

Whilst understanding what prompts such a question, I don't think it would be fair to seek to persuade people to vote for independence and not explain that, whilst that means control over matters such as welfare, foreign affairs and defence that we must postpone any debate about the head of state, the format of a constitution, continued membership of NATO and the EU until after independence.  We must say 'vote for independence, gain control of those important areas affecting your lives, AND make the 2016 election one where all the participants lay out how they see the future’.  As a republican, more of the same doesn't interest me and I would love a vibrant debate around what a constitution should look like.  For instance, the Mexican constitution forbids the country participating in wars of aggression and I'd like to see that included for starters.  


It's not the first time you've sacrificed influence for principle,arguably. As I recall when you were leader of the SNP group in Highland Council you took the group into opposition rather than be part of the ruling coalition's cost cutting and privatisation agenda. There are many on the left who think the current Scottish Government could be doing more to protect the public against Westminster Coalition austerity agenda. What's your view on that?

The reasons for leaving the Administration were many and complex with my personal aversion to privatisation well documented.  I have long been concerned about how vital public services have been auctioned off to the lowest bidder to make profit.  The growth of Arms Length Organisations across Scotland has to be halted and reversed.  In fairness, I think any Scottish Government would struggle to protect our valued public services from the scale of cuts imposed by Westminster.  Whilst in the Party, I spoke with Cabinet Secretaries about the possibility of doing something to help a group of public sector employees facing an attack on their pensions. Perhaps understandably they felt it would prove challenging to do that for one group but not another and that challenge was further compounded by Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury’s threat to remove from the Scottish budget a sum equivalent to any additional contributions the Scottish Government failed to deduct.  A further reason, if any were needed, for Scotland to take full control of its welfare and pensions systems.  

Do you think there could be useful and viable realignment of the left in Scotland if the independence referendum is won?

WHEN the referendum is won, realignment is certainly desirable and hopefully possible. Certainly, with independence secured, the raison d’être of the SNP will be gone and I would hope former colleagues would cause a major realignment within that Party, or join with like-minds to work for causes we hold dear.  I think political parties underestimate the public’s willingness to consider radical alternatives to the social injustice that pervades every part of British life.  The British state has always looked after its own; the bankers, the generals, the arms dealers, powerful countries, newspaper proprietors and private schools choosing inequality, privilege and war ahead of the social justice and peace most folk in Scotland want.

Given the predominantly unionist media, the Yes Scotland campaign will have to play a blinder if independence is to be won. How do you see that campaign developing, both locally and nationally? 

Certainly for the foreseeable future, supporters of independence can forget any support from the media.  In reality, I would settle for accurate reporting.  For instance, given the Scottish Government’s Government Expenditure Revenue Scotland  figures are accepted by HM Treasury, it should be readily accepted that the economic case for independence is made so the debate can move on.

Both locally and nationally, I would like to see greater attempts to ensure that everyone involved with the ‘Yes’ campaign seeks to engage in debate with supporters of the status quo and that could mean a welcome return to public meetings across the Highlands and Islands.  People want to understand their options and we must get unionists to explain what they see as the benefits of remaining in a state whose welfare reforms attack the most vulnerable, whose leaders are from an unrepresentative and out of touch elite, and whose proponents are the press who have broken the law and disregard common decency.  This campaign has to move from personalities to policies.  Celebrities and business leaders have their place, however, at the end of the day they only have one vote so, we must get out on the streets, knock at the doors and be available to answer the many queries our fellow citizens have as they struggle to deal with cuts imposed from an out of touch regime in London.

Finally, John, if you were asked to sum up the three most important things that can deliver self-government to the Scottish people, what would those be?

Raising the quality of the whole debate; Listening to people so that our responses and aspirations match their needs - and being bold; we won’t motivate the public by offering more of the same, an independent Blandland. The left must offer a radical alternative to bring about a fairer, environmentally-conscious and peaceful independent republic and I’m sure that working together we will achieve that.  

 

Other articles by Steve Arnott in The Point can be found here

Hillsborough - The Politics behind the Smears

Graeme McIver 

 

Whilst the life was being squeezed from supporters in pens 3 and 4, a lie was being born in the control room. A vicious, scandalous, despicable lie that haunted the families, survivors and people of Liverpool for 23 years.

 

 

Introduction

On Wednesday 12th September 2012, following a report by The Hillsborough Independent Panel, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered the following apology to the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the FA Cup Semi Final on April 15th 1989;

 “Mr Speaker, with the weight of the new evidence in this report, it is right for me today as prime minister to make a proper apology to the families of the 96 for all they have suffered over the past 23 years. Indeed, the new evidence that we are presented with today makes clear that these families have suffered a double injustice. The injustice of the appalling events – the failure of the state to protect their loved ones and the indefensible wait to get to the truth. And the injustice of the denigration of the deceased – that they were somehow at fault for their own deaths.

On behalf of the government – and indeed our country – I am profoundly sorry for this double injustice that has been left uncorrected for so long.”

 The long overdue apology had echoes of a previous statement Cameron had made to the house in June 2010 following the publication of the Saville Report into the Bloody Sunday murders of 14 innocent members of the public in Derry by the British Army;

“But what happened should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and the hurt of that day and with a lifetime of loss.

Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces and for that, on behalf of the government, indeed, on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.”

The events at Hillsborough and Bloody Sunday have more in common than the tragic loss of lives. In both cases, the deaths of the innocent and the pain of their families and friends were compounded by establishment cover ups. In both cases the reputation of the families of the dead, the communities of the Bogside and the Creggan, along side that of the city of Liverpool and its football supporters were collateral damage in a media war waged by the government and the forces of law and order. In both cases, despite proof that members of the police forces and army lied, no one has been brought to justice for these crimes. Additionally, in both cases, the inquiries and the apologies from the Prime Minister would not have been forthcoming had it not been for the tireless campaigning by families and communities doggedly refusing to give up their fight for justice in the face of overwhelming odds.

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Interview: A Hillsborough survivor speaks

Neil McDougall, 45, is a born and bred Liverpudlian now living in London and is the father of four children. He has been a Liverpool fan since the age of five and, aged 22, was at Hillsborough on April 15th, 1989 – the day on which 96 of Neil’s fellow Liverpool fans went to a football match and never returned home.

Neil spoke to The Point's Willie Duncan about his recollection of the events of that day, the aftermath of the smear campaign and cover up perpetrated the UK Government, South Yorkshire Police and the media, as well as his hopes for the future of the campaign for justice for the 96.

 

      Neil, what are your memories of the day of the disaster and at what point did you first become aware that there was a problem at Hillsborough?

“The strange thing is that my first worry was actually how packed the Nottingham Forest (Liverpool’s opponents that day) end was. I remember saying that I had never seen it so full before. Then, I began to realise how busy it must have been in our end of the stadium because, in the build up to kick-off, people were waving and shouting rather than singing. Then, of course, people started to climb over the fences or climbing up a tier in the stand and when some fans started running towards Bruce (Grobbelaar, Liverpool goalkeeper) to tell him what was going on, it became clear how serious the problem was.

The memories are, of course, focused on what happened but the build up to the match itself was nothing unusual. It was another semi-final, we were confident of victory and the weather was great. 

It was just another football game but, of course, the events of the day changed all of that.

I just remember watching on in horror and seeing fans on the pitch using advertising hoardings as emergency stretchers. When I looked out across the pitch, it was like a war zone. Bodies were laid out everywhere and they were being carried down to the far end of the stadium. There were people crying everywhere, walking about the pitch in a state of shock. It was such a horrible sight to see.

Whenever I recall the day and see the pitch, in my mind, I always think of a scene akin to something from World War I: The shell suits turn into army uniforms with tin helmets on, those advertising stretchers are real stretchers. People were running around in circles in sheer desperation doing their best to help those who were dying.  Every so often, you’d hear a small cheer as someone was brought back to life on the pitch, only to fade away again. It was like watching a war scene in a movie but it wasn’t a war: it was only a football match and those people should never have been killed. They should have been safe. Something went horribly wrong on that day.

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External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books