The Point
Last updated: 19 June 2017.

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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.

Read more...

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.

Read more...

Organise to Beat the Bedroom Tax

Sean Robertson works in the Electricity Transmission sector as a construction worker and lives in the highlands with his wife and son. He has been fundamental in setting up a local Anti-Bedroom Tax group. In this article Sean looks at strategies and ideas for setting up local campaigns.

 

The Bedroom has the potential to unite the working class in a similar vein to earlier campaigns such as the poll tax. While the tax doesn’t affect everyone, as was the case with the poll tax campaign in the early nineties, the effects of the current policy could be worse as the government deliberately targets the most vulnerable members of society: the disabled, sick, single mothers and the poor, plunging these groups ever deeper into poverty.

Read more...

Scrap the Bedroom Tax… Fighting Back at a Grassroots Level

Karen Hendry is a single parent from Cumnock in East Ayrshire. Karen has never been aligned to any political organisation but angered at the injustice of the Con/Dems Bedroom Tax she first got angry, then got active in her home town and set up a local group fighting back against the tax. Known locally as, “the bedroom tax lassie”, Karen has recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in Social Policy and Sociology from the University of the West of Scotland.

Karen (on the left) with her daughter at a protest against the Bedroom Tax in George Square, Glasgow

 

When I first heard the murmurings of a housing benefit reduction my initial thoughts were “surely this is just one of these stupid ideas the government wheels out when they are bored”?

How wrong was I! A wee bit of research through government documents unearthed something that to me, was just wrong in every sense for a modern society.

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Trade Unions and Independence

Trade Unionist and activist Derek Durkin argues that the trade union movement needs to stop prevaricating over the independence question and that the STUC has a duty to lead a workers movement for independence.

As the battle commences for the heart and souls of the Scottish electorate in the run up to the most vital political question ever to be asked of any living person in our country, where does the trade union movement stand or, more importantly, where should it stand?

There have been various individual statements from leading trade unionists - in the main prevaricating over the independence question and in some instances condemning the notion as one which would split the working class of the UK who have for 200 years fought the good fight for socialism/social justice. As a lifelong trade unionist and socialist I don’t know whether it’s the prevarication or the outright opposition to independence that upsets me more.

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Shirley Gibb – Memories and Reflections of a Comrade and Friend

  

28th September 1943 – 19th May 2013

Readers of The Point will be saddened to hear of the recent passing of our dear friend and comrade Shirley Gibb. Our thoughts and best wishes are with Shirley’s family and her numerous friends. Shirley was one of the founding members of The Point and also our predecessor, the DGS. Instead of publishing an obituary that would be written by one person, we thought that it would be a nice idea to ask a few of the people who knew Shirley to share their thoughts and memories of this remarkable woman. The list below is by no means exhaustive. If you knew Shirley and want to leave a message or share a memory then please post in the comments section at the end of this tribute.

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The Boston Tea Party - UKIP and the End of Britain

 

Adrian Cruden

 

Erm....thanks, but no thanks?


The Boston Tea Party was in full swing last week.

In the area of Lincolnshire covered by the orginal town of Boston, the rightwing, populist United Kingdom Independence Party took five of the seven wards up for election. It was part of a major breakthrough for the party, which took 16 seats in all on the local county council to become the official opposition. Tonight, the BBC estimates its national vote share at 23%, eclipsing the junior coalition partner the Lib Dems and snapping at the heels of the Conservatives on 25%.

So who are UKIP?

Established over 20 years ago by anti-European Thatcherites who wanted to leave the European Union, it has an essentially elitist/populist rightwing agenda - anti-Europe, anti-immigration and anti-"benefits scrounger". It opposes controls on the banks and backs massive tax cuts for millionaires. It  supports a so called flat tax of around 31% of income (this would also incorporate national insurance) - meaning tax rises for the majority of people and substantial cuts for the elite. In foreign policy, it wants the same relationship with the EU as Switzerland and Norway enjoy - associates rather than members, seeking the benefit of multinational companies to the detriment of ordinary employees in the name of so-called competitiveness.

UKIP is headed by Tories - its leader, Nigel Farage is a former stockbroker and son of a stockbroker, and a former Conservative Party activist. Most of its leadership hails from the Thatcherite wing of the Tories. It is backed financially by big business and some very wealthy people, whom it backs in return. But it plays on a classic divide and rule agenda - struggling to pay your mortgage? Well, that's because of Asians/fake disabled people/slothful benefits scroungers, etc. Nothing to do with corrupt bankers or millionaire tax dodgers. The majority of its voters are former Conservatives, but it has also tapped into disillusioned former Labour supporters, playing to an anti-migrant agenda - in Lincoln, for example, against the eastern Europeans who have moved there to work in the agricultural sector. It offers divisive but powerful explanations for society's problems, playing on the fears of the vulnerable and by doing so reinforcing the hold of the elite.

Farage likes to portray himself as a blokey man-of-the-people, pint and fag in hand, although the velveteen jacket lapels and checked bonnet can't quite hide his hankerings for country squire status. And behind him are some fairly unpleasant characters. Never mind that in the last European Parliament, 
several of his MEPs ended up in trouble for fiddling their expenses, with one actually jailed, while more recently the sole female MEP left because of alleged bullying - one of his colleagues, Godfrey Bloom, who sits for Yorkshire, openly backed the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior by the French secret services, apparently forgetting that a photographer was killed as a result.

UKIP candidates and elected representatives have called for a range of bizarre, antiquated practices, including not employing women of child-bearing age and taxing bicycles. Additionally and very oddly, they are committed to subsidising nuclear power to almost the equivalent of what they claim withdrawal from the EU would save the taxpayer. Like their Italian and American counterparts of Berlusconi's Forza Italia and Palin's Tea Party, 
they portray themselves as anti-establishment when in fact they are both of the establishment and keener than ever to reinforce its hold over ordinary people.

But of course people often 
don't vote for policies - they vote instead for the narrative: and UKIP's narrative is straightforward - vote for us for a return to a mythical 1950s of white guys in pinstripe suits and bowler hats smoking in the pub on the way home from the office, polite kids, women in the kitchen, gays in the closet and a grateful Empire. They are the "Madmen" of British politics- for as long as politics remain British.

For there is a further consequence - even if the Farage name has Gaelic rather than Saxon origins, UKIP is not British. 
It has little presence and even less interest in Scotland. For United Kingdom, read England .The party, for example, plays up the myth popularised by the right-wing media that Scots benefit financially from the English taxpayer. Lord Monckton, the party's deputy leader, recently depicted the Scots as dependent on "subsidies from Britain", ignoring the fact that Scotland actually contributes a larger per centage of public revenue to the UK Treasury that its population share merits - 9.4% of tax revenue from 8.4% of the population.

UKIP's rise mirrors the rise in English people identifying as English rather than British - in the 2011 national census, only 29% of the population of England viewed themselves in any way as "British", and 
55% of UKIP supporters in one recent survey choose the option of "I am English, not British." or "More English than British." So the "UK" part of "UKIP" looks increasingly misleading, whatever Farage may claim to the contrary.

And so UKIP's successes today may further the view among a growing number of Scots that, faced with an increasingly neoliberal rightwing political consensus in England, it will bode well to leave an ever more fractious Union. This would free Scotland to preserve and develop a more egalitarian society independent of the somewhat harsher worldview that is emerging in English politics.

With UKIP working to repeat its showing in next year's European elections and Scotland voting in its independence referendum just a few weeks later, 2nd May 2013 could one day be looked back on not simply as the date of a surprising result in English local polls; it may also ultimately be seen as the day when the United Kingdom itself finally began to unravel.

And if you are reading this in Scotland, looking south at what is emerging between the rightwing Coalition Government, the continuation of neoliberal New Labour and the rise of the Faragists, why on earth not?

 

Back to the future or forward to the past - UKIP's ideal workplace?

 

First published at http://viridislumen.blogspot.co.uk/

 

External links:

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