The Point
Last updated: 26 March 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

Energy Price Hike Scandal

Profiteering by the energy companies is no longer a moral issue it is quite literally an issue of life and death for the most vulnerable in society, currently facing the winter with the dread of people who've just been handed a death sentence.

This is the impact of one of the most despicable examples of the barbaric face of unfettered capitalism witnessed in many a year with the recent hike in energy prices. Men whose collective salaries as CEOs of the top energy companies are a moral outrage in themselves have revealed a callous disregard for the consequences of their actions.

While their Xmas, and that of their shareholders and families, will be a particularly joyous one this year, for millions it will be an exercise in survival. Not only that, these are individuals who can look forward to a very comfortable future, no doubt enhanced along the way with a knighthood here or an MBE or OBE there.

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The Corroboration Debate

From a legal perspective, Kevin Kane examines the current debate on the removal of the requirement for corroboration in Scots criminal law.

Introduction

A lot of attention in the media of late has centred on the contentious topic of corroboration in criminal trials - the trench warfare alive and well for all to see. On one side we have those who maintain that corroboration is the "cornerstone" of the judicial system in Scotland and those on the other who assert that corroboration is an "archaic" rule that ought to be abandoned. The dialogue from the main stream media has conjured up what one might consider a false dichotomy, between those with apparent vested interests within or connected to the legal profession and those of progressive wisdom who put the rights of victims first. This is a gross over-simplification. This piece will extrapolate on why that is the case and attempt to arm those on the left with a more nuanced take on corroboration – at which point, it is hoped that whatever opinions are upheld, these opinions will be built upon solid foundations - not media hyperbole.

All references and footnotes are numbered and appear at the end of the main body of the text.

Brief History of Corroboration in Scots Law

The corroborative ethos is enshrined in Scots criminal law (1) - indeed, its origins in legal philosophy can be traced all the way back to biblical scriptures:

"Who so killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses; but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die" (2)

Moreover, the earliest Institutional Writers affirmed Scots law of corroboration as sacrosanct (3). However, the bible and early institutional writings were not Scots lawyers only source of guidance; they would have been indoctrinated in matters of procedure by "Canon Law" (4) and their training influenced in a manner befitting of continental Europe at that time (5).

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Rosyth Dockyard: Independence and Labour Hypocrisy

 

Does Rosyth Dockyard Have a Future?... asks Jock Penman

 

An article in the Dundee Courier dated 27th Sept 2013 annoyed me somewhat as it proclaimed, "Yes vote 'risk' to Rosyth dockyard." Not very original, up to date, nor correct it quoted Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty as saying, "It is clear that, without Royal Navy contracts, West Fife industry faces a very bleak future." However, doubting Thomas had written on his blog, "It is clear that thousands of jobs at Rosyth are being put at risk by the SNP's independence agenda," on Nov. 14th 2011. So what is clear is that this is merely a continuation of the scaremongering of the No Campaign.

It is a petty point-scoring exercise designed to narrow the argument down to party bickering. Just because many of us support the fight for independence does not mean we are SNP members or even supporters. And the issue of independence is the most important for 300 years.

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Climate Change: The Debate is Over - Let the Action Begin

    Will Duckworth, Deputy Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales makes a clarion call for urgency in the wake of the fifth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

 

The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes sobering, if not frightening, reading.

I don't intend to say much about the report itself as numerous summaries have been prepared and published ad nauseam but I will restate two crucial findings of this definitive report:


1) Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.


2) Human influence on the climate system is clear.


In other words, climate change is happening and we are to blame.

The sole argument the ostrich brigade of climate change deniers have clung to is the statement that there is only a 98% certainty that climate change is due to human activity. Only 98 per cent.

To put that into context, if we knew there was only a 2% chance of surviving if we crossed a motorway, we would probably build a bridge.

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Pride, Not Prejudice

In the year the Scottish Government writes gay marriage into law with overwhelming support in the opinion polls, trade union activist, academic and LGBT campaigner Lynn Sheridan looks back to the battle over the Repeal of s28 (2a) in Scotland, reviews how far the struggle for LGBT equality has come, and what still needs to be done

 

While reading for the purpose of writing this article I felt as if I was on a trip down memory lane. For some of you reading this I imagine that it will raise many emotions and feelings of isolation, anger, fear but ultimately a feeling of solidarity.


The political history of the Lesbian &Gay (L & G) and subsequently Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has been one of oppression, discrimination, campaigning and fight backs.

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Indy Demo 2013 - 30, 000 attend

MASSIVE INDEPENDENCE DEMO ON CALTON HILL, EDINBURGH

Forget police or media 'estimates'.

 Or,  as we might more truthfully call them, lies.

As no' very easily bull-shitted veterans of many demos in Scotland , Editorial board members of The Point were there.  Some of us bothered to count the demo from start to finish.

Last year there were over 10, 000 in attendance – a decent sized demo. This year there were over 30, 000.

That’s to say that this year’s turnout was three times the size of the previous year.  Those numbers are comparable with the huge anti-poll tax demo of 1990, and only bettered in our life times  (in terms of turnout for a Scottish Rally) by the amazing mass anti-war demo of 2003 in Glasgow.

 Polis estimates are a joke - end of.

Check out these pics.

Forward to a YES vote in 2014.

Football and Politics

Too much politics in football? Or too little?
Conor Cheyne of Highland Socialist Alliance and The Green Brigade gives his view  
      Football is no place for Politics
                                          …or so we are told.   
We football fans have been getting told more and more in the past decade that politics and football should be kept apart. That the two are total different entities and mixing the two is just asking for something to blow. The thing is though, is that since its foundation, professional football has been heavily linked to politics and it always will be. In fact, the powers at be who are trying to tell us that the two shouldn't be mixed are doing so for political gain.
Saturday was the call for vast waves of working class men (and some women) to descend onto the terracing and for 90 minutes go through the emotions of a lifetime, letting out all the past weeks hardships and aches. A real release valve for thousands. This was a time when football was in its pure form. The Beautiful Game. What more could you ask for?
Fast forward 30 years down the line and football is far from what it once was. The game is controlled by money, in the form of multi-million pound TV deals with SKY, BT and ESPN. The men in charge of the game only care about how much they will be pocketing each year, not if something is going to be easier or cheaper for the supporters. “Enhancing The Match Day Experience” is a term which is thrown around by the majority of top clubs today. In this they talk about better hospitality in the stadium, having free WI-FI available, Higher Standard of Coffee. These things coupled with rising ticket prices are what has moved football away from being a working class sport. 
The working man (or woman) can no longer go and enjoy the football on a Saturday. If he wants to go watch a game, he will need to attend a 17:15 kick off on a Sunday night paying upwards of £45 for himself, let alone kids. If you use foul language at a football game now or let out too much emotion then you are seriously frowned upon and can be ejected from the stadium. The days of 40-80 thousand people inside a stadium, singing their club songs are near dead too. The better “match day experience” is ripping the life and soul out of football. As Roy Keane once so famously called them, “The Prawn Sandwich Brigade” who come along to the football, who to them it isn’t a great expense nor a fantastic occasion, just a simple day out, these are the people that the football elite are trying to lure in. They have the money. The working class lads cause too much trouble and make far too much noise.
My club, Celtic, are going through this exact thing at this moment. The Green Brigade are a group of Ultras…which is an idea adopted from European teams in which the teams go that extra mile in order to support the team with chanting, banners and displays. They are not hooligans or “Casuals” as the media may make out. Ultras across Europe usually also have a political stance as a group. 
The Green Brigade have a Anti-racism, Fascism, Sectarianism Policy with big support for Left-Wing and Republican politics. Ultra Groups in other European countries do not face the same persecution that the Green Brigade do. Like minded Ultra groups commonly form partnerships. For instance, St.Pauli Ultras in Germany and Standard Liege Ultras in Belgium among others have very close links with the Green Brigade due to them being Left-Wing groups. Many Left-Wing Ultra groups are part of the “Alerta Network” which is a group against Fascism. But, the Green Brigade also have links to other Ultras such as Athletico Bilbao in Spain as their politics are not only left-wing but they support Basque independence similar to that of The Green Brigade supporting the re-joining of  Northern Ireland and The Republic. 
There are also Far Right-Wing groups though. Lazio Ultras are among some of the most notorious with former Celtic and West Ham striker Paolo Di Canio giving them a what was widely perceived as a fascist salute after a game. The politics of these groups can vary from Moderate to Far Left and Right Wing with even one Ultras group known as “Stalinist Heritage” 
The Green Brigade made headline news across Britain with an Anti-Poppy banner which was widely criticised throughout the media and by Celtic Football Club without anyone actually reading the Groups official Statement as to why they did the protest. (That working class lads are being sent to fight in illegal wars for power and oil amongst other things). The group has recently been under attack by the club’s board. Now, they have been effectively dispersed on the basis that their jumping up and down has been deemed unsafe. 
Like many I believe that there is a hidden agenda. The club have been chasing the Green Brigade and looking to kick them out of Celtic Park for a long time over political singing. Whether or not you agree with the topics the group sing about, it is neither sectarian nor bigoted, it is political. Yet the same goes for any club in any country who preaches “Democracy” and “Freedom of Political Opinion”. As long as that opinion is not racist, sectarian etc. then there should be no problem.
This stems from the bill past last year by the SNP in which football fans are now being targeted and prosecuted for “Offensive Behaviour and Singing”. This whole bill is against football fans expressing their opinions. Something they could sing or should in a pub or in the street suddenly becomes illegal due to it being shouted in a football ground. On top of political opinions being subdued due to this, police are now picking up anyone who shouts anything which can be deemed “Offensive” which of course could be anything as something that one person will find a joke will be found offensive by another.
There have been cases, one in particular, of a 17 year old boy having his door booted down by Police Officers at 6am in the morning (while his sisters and parents were also in the house) and taken away, kept in police custody for 2 days for being caught on camera singing “The Roll of Honour”. – a song which doesn't glorify the Provisional IRA but commemorates the 1981 Hunger Strike in The Maze Prison. If this stamping down on political expression with an iron fist happened in the streets the Police and Government would be accused of stopping the freedom of speech yet it happens in a football ground and it is acceptable due to the fact the media have built up an image that anyone who does anything political in a football ground must be a Thug.
Going back to my original point on class, Football has long been a focal point for communities and the working class. To go and enjoy themselves, let off steam. Politics is part of life and particularly an important part of working class life. During football, political views have long been voiced and different opinions fought over. But, this is part of democracy. It is different or same political opinions meeting in a large place over something they all have in common. The drive to stop politics entering our football stadiums is another ploy by football clubs to attract more of a middle-class crowed but also by the Government who are still trying to make everyone believe that we will all be middle class in a few years. But, when politicians such as David Miliband and John Reid are board members at football clubs and others are becoming more involved with Football Associations for their own progress thenis this “No Politics in Football” really just another lie? I think so.
I ask, is there really no place in football for politics? Or is football really just becoming another pawn of politics?
 
 

Stop Royal Mail Privatisation

Tam Dewar is the CWU Area Delivery Rep for Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway. In this article for The Point, Tam argues that Government plans to privatise the Post Office will be met by a furious response from the public and his trade union. 
A Winter of Postal Discontent
The New Labour Project was based on the premise that the Class War was over, by the end of the Blair years it was clear that the working class had not been on the winning side. Nothing demonstrates that the class war continues than the current state of play within Royal Mail. Even at this stage proposals for the sell off are driving a dividing line between senior managers and ordinary staff. Senior managers plan a further plunder of the pension fund to reward potential investors with a quick return while hoarding another £90m into their own pension pots. Investors and Board members are assured of mega millions while the workforce are threatened with job losses, poorer pension provision, a loss of sick and annual leave pay and zero hour contracts.
In early September Westminster Hall will witness the biggest postal workers rally in a generation. Communication Workers Union reps from all over the UK will gather to listen and respond to this wretched Governments plans to break up and sell off Royal Mail. It could spark a national postal strike over the coming winter months.
For customers and postal workers the stakes are high. The end of a 400 year old universal service vital to business and domestic customers and a drive to the bottom in terms and conditions for postal workers. Judging by past privatisations the only winners will be the big banks advising on the sale who will bleed the public purse, senior executives who will pocket millions in bonuses and shares and private postal operators who will have a license to print money. 
Lets us be clear that Royal Mail is not a lame duck company in crisis surviving only on public subsidy. In cooperation with the workforce profits have increased by 60% in the last year to over £400m with automation leading to thousand of negotiated job losses. Government arguments that Royal Mail competes with heath and education for investment are mendacious. On the contrary the profits generated by Royal Mail are returned to the Treasury as sole shareholder and are available to protect public services. Privatisation will see these profits filtered into the pockets of the already rich.
The threat of privatisation is not new, Michael Heseltine tried in 1994 and was defeated by backbench Tory MP's, Peter Mandelson tried in 2008 and was defeated by backbench Labour MP's, hopefully this latest attempt will suffer the same fate. MP's did not oppose the sell off for altruistic reasons, they recognised the impact private ownership would have on small town and rural services throughout the UK. On this they were speaking for their local communities. We know from past privatisations that the consumer gets a worse service for higher prices whether it be rail travel or energy supplies. For the postal service it will mean fewer deliveries at higher stamp prices and an end to the one price goes anywhere service. 
As a lead in to privatisation the Blair Government established a regulator, now Ofcom, to oversee the demise of Royal Mail and the encouragement of private postal operators. They have done this through two main planks of policy, issuing licenses to allow competition on collection of mail and on a delivery service. This has allowed us a glimpse of how postal services will work under the private sector.
By law Royal Mail alone is bound to deliver a universal service obligation (USO) meaning that we are legally obligated to deliver to every address in the UK six days a week no matter the cost. Prior to The Postal Services Act 2006 we achieved this through cross subsidy, income from profitable bulk posting offset the costs of delivering to far flung places.  
Regular collections of mail are vital to small businesses and others who rely on the postal service yet profitable bulk posting has been creamed off by private operators who perform this work at the expense of Royal Mail. Now half of all letters traffic is collected in this way but is fed into the public pipeline and still has to be delivered by Royal Mail under the USO, even if this is at a loss. Termed 'Down Stream Access' mail this resulted in a financial crisis for the public postal service and has endangered the ability of Royal Mail to meet the USO. None of the savings were passed on to consumers, domestic and small business customers paid the price through a massive hike in stamp prices in 2012. Private operators have no obligation under the USO and under the latest proposals the USO is only guaranteed until 2015. The creaming off of profitable services must be stopped.
On Delivery it is anticipated that delivery rounds will be franchised to the lowest bidder. Areas outside the main cities will see a reduction in deliveries to perhaps three days a week. We know this from the experience of customers in West London where TNT have established a licensed private delivery service. Private postal workers on part time or casual 'zero hours' contracts at minimum wage levels have been accused of taking little care or responsibility for customers valuable mail as exposed by a recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme. It may be the case that outlying customers will be required to collect their mail to reduce costs. Services currently free of charge for the registered blind and for British Services Overseas will be abandoned. Under private ownership the bottom line is always profit.
So who will benefit from a sell off?. Well the big banks, legal and accountancy firms are already queueing up to handle the share issue. Royal Mail is being advised by Barclays, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs at a conservative estimate of £30m in fees. Accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper are currently working with the company to determine costs. Private equity firms are rubbing their hands at the big bucks on offer, in summary those responsible for the current economic crises can't wait to get their hands on the honey pot of property assets built with taxpayers money in key sites in all major towns and cities with a license to print money at the expense of the consumer and the service. Private equity firms look for a short term return on investment, best achieved by stripping assets, reducing services and scrapping terms, conditions and pensions for workers. We do not need a crystal ball when we can read past history.
The response from the CWU has been unequivocal, consistent and relentless. A joint political/industrial strategy has put the Government and Royal Mail Board on the backfoot. An insulting attempt to buy support through a £2000 share offer to workers has been laughed out of court by staff at all levels of the company. Small business, the Countryside Alliance and others have been drawn into a Save Our Royal Mail campaign http://saveourroyalmail.org/ which has focussed pressure on Liberal/Tory MP's. Political pressure has been put on the Labour leadership to oppose the sell off and commit to re nationalisation if the sale goes ahead. Alternatives to outdated models of private ownership have been drafted and are winning support amongst respected economists and academics.
If all this gentle persuasion fails the CWU is committed to using its industrial strength to it full extent. The union has a tradition of solidarity with other workers in respecting picket lines most notably during the Grunwick dispute. The TUC should recognise this and take the lead in calling a General Strike as the Tories proceed. It sticks in the gut of postal workers that all our efforts to make Royal Mail profitable while maintaining a public service is being jeopardised by free market dogma. All public opinion polls reveal that customers want Royal Mail to remain public. My union will not let this happen without a fight. If we don't hear some compromise from the Government it is likely that a ballot for industrial action will go ahead in September.
Tam Dewar
CWU Area Delivery Rep Ayrshire Dumfries and Galloway
(In a personal capacity)
 

Alex Salmond and The Great Flag Stooshie

Alex Salmond faced the wrath of the media and his political opponents for waving a saltire behind David Cameron at the conclusion of the Wimbledon final. The Point’s Graeme McIver argues that there are much worse examples of politicians wrapping themselves in the national flag that the media chooses to ignore. He believes that there is consensus and crass hypocrisy amongst some of the political class over the UK’s Armed Forces Day celebrations.

 

 A Scot being front page news across the world following the conclusion of the Wimbledon Championship - who could have predicted that? And who was that Scot I hear you ask? No, not the hero of the hour Andy Murray, but wee Moira Salmond, as the contents of her hand-bag and what her husband did with them suddenly became the centre of a major diplomatic incident.

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The Independence Debate

Is Scotland too conservative, (with a small c) to go it alone? The Point's Gary Fraser hopes he’s wrong but fears that the forces ranged against the campaign for Independence will win the day.

 

 

In all honesty I do not think that Scotland will become an independent nation in 2014. Due to a number of factors the odds appear to be heavily stacked against the YES Campaign. YES is up against not only a well organised and well-funded opposition but also a hostile media. Moreover, the polls suggest that the majority of Scots, including a majority of young people, do not support independence. Of course, polls can be wrong, and there is always room for error, but when every poll points in the same direction the signs are not good.

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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