Friday, 16 December 2016


As Bart Simpson once said, we all seem to have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Santa.

Personally, I don’t hold religious beliefs, but I respect those who do. Faith is a very powerful conviction, and those who believe in the birth of Christ, the son of God, clearly derive great benefit from their religion. For practising Christians the ‘season of goodwill’ is about celebrating a miracle and a core tenet of their beliefs.

However, in the 21st Century, Christmas has been almost entirely taken-over by capitalist commercialisation, the pursuit of profit and, on the part of the general public, a belief that happiness can be achieved through the giving and receiving of largely expensive presents.

Before anyone begins to think this article is a ‘bah humbug’ socialist denunciation of the ‘joy of Christmas’ in its various forms, let me state for the record that I enjoy the festive season. I succumb to the commercialisation, I love the feeling of togetherness when families and friends share gifts and, more importantly, time. I have even attended midnight Carol services in local churches, both Roman Catholic and Church of Scotland. Does that make me a hypocrite?

If I am, then there are a lot of us around.

Whatever our personal beliefs, Christmas offers an opportunity to reflect on our lives and to spend time with the people who matter most to us. Scots, in particular, have perfected the extension of the ‘feel good’ atmosphere of the festive season by carrying it through Hogmanay and into the New Year. But, of course, for some there is little respite from the struggle that life has become.

Parents who are unemployed will do whatever it takes to give their children a Christmas, which often involves spending money they don’t have. Loan sharks, including those who advertise on television, will be only too happy to offer the cash for presents. Come the cold light of January, however, the loan will have to be repaid, and for those already-struggling parents the depressing spiral into unaffordable and unrepayable debt becomes a reality. In an increasing number of households, the joy of Christmas doesn’t last long.

Some years ago I came across a video in the discount bin of the Woolworths store in Saltcoats. It was marked-down to £1.00, so was worth buying. The film was one I had seen many years before and it had made a big impact on me, so I parted with a pound and took home a copy of It’s A Wonderful Life.

Since then, the 1946 movie has become fashionable. It’s now cool to say It’s A Wonderful Life is one of your favourite films, but I wonder how many of the recently-acquired fans actually understand the message of the story.

On the face of it,
It’s A Wonderful Life is a feel-good Christmas story, with the added religious element of an angel (second-class) earning his wings through helping George Bailey, the story’s main character. However, there is a much deeper dimension to the film, one for which the director, Frank Capra, was denounced by Hollywood right-wingers and US government agencies as ‘a socialist’ and ‘communist sympathiser’.

It’s A Wonderful Life, while culminating in a happy ending set around Christmas-time, actually tells a story of how much each of us touches the lives of others. We may be individuals, but how we live our lives and the actions we take impact on our family members, our friends and our communities. In one of the film’s classic scenes, George Bailey decides it would have been better for everyone if he had never been born. On a blizzard-swept bridge, George decides to commit suicide by jumping into the icy river below. However, he is rescued by Clarence Odbody, who we later discover is an angel not yet ‘fully qualified’ and so without his wings.

Clarence then shows George how things would have been if he really had not been born. Every member of his family, his friends and people they in turn interacted with would have been affected, many adversely, if George had never existed. The message is that, often without even knowing it, we, as individuals, contribute to the greater good of our families, communities and society.

The other main storyline in It’s A Wonderful Life involves the triumph of the community-backed Building & Loan Company over the capitalist, profit-driven bank operated by the corrupt Mr Potter.

Behind the human story and the feel-good Christmas message lies a narrative about socialism versus capitalism, a story that has never been more relevant than today. The impact each of us makes on others, and the huge shared benefits of working together for the greater good, produce a better life and a fairer society when compared to the inequality and struggle of the majority that results from the capitalist system operated by the Mr Potters of the world.

Whatever your circumstances and beliefs, I hope you have a great Christmas – and if you get a chance over the festive season, watch It’s A Wonderful Life, preferably on Christmas Eve. Whether or not you endorse the film’s socialist message, you can’t fail to enjoy the feel-good Christmas mood it generates.

Happy Christmas!

Monday, 31 October 2016


'It Could Be You' - the slogan used by the National Lottery to encourage us into gambling, looking for a life-changing win that would see us financially secure for the rest of our lives.

However, the same slogan can apply at the other end of the financial scale. You may be doing okay at the moment. You have a job, a regular income, a nice home, a car. You're working, earning a living and looking after yourself and your family.

That's great, long may it continue. Today, though, work is becoming increasingly insecure. Pay-levels and workplace conditions have been eroded under successive Labour, Tory/Lib Dem and Tory Governments. Zero-hours contracts, with no guarantee of work or pay, are now extremely common. The UK is also one of the easiest places to sack workers, for any reason, including if the boss simply doesn't like someone's face.

How long do you think you'd be able to manage, financially, if the boss suddenly took a dislike to you and decided to 'let you go'?

In a shocking report, the much-respected housing charity, Shelter, has revealed that over one-in-three workers could not pay their mortgage for more than a month if they lost their jobs. Poor and poverty-level wages mean people are living from week-to-week, often day-to-day, and cannot afford to save.

A spokesperson for Shelter described the situation: “The depth of the financial pressure and insecurity felt by people across the country means that millions are living on the edge of a crisis, only secure in their homes for a matter of weeks.”

The charity's research shows that families with children are at most risk of losing their home.

In the insecure, low-wage economy of 21st Century Britain, 'It Could Be You'.

One of the main actions of the UK Conservative Government has been to divide and conquer the working class. The poor and unemployed are demonised as work-shy spongers, living the high-life on supposedly-generous state benefits. Hard-working 'strivers' are encouraged to look-down on the lazy 'skivers' next door. Tory MPs frequently trot out the line about the decent and deserving person going out to work, while the apparently indecent and undeserving unemployed person next door enjoys a cosy lie-in.

The reality is that the unemployed person is likely to have recently lost their job because of savage austerity measures introduced by the Tory Government or as a result of bosses seeking to maximise profits by laying-off workers. The reality is also that the 'decent and deserving worker' could easily join their neighbour on the dole without much, if any, warning.

In 21st Century Tory Britain, 'It Could Be You'.

Of course, were the worst to happen and you lost your job, you would be different from all those 'lazy skivers' already unemployed. Sorry to shatter that illusion, but you would be no different. In the eyes of the Tory Government in London – the government with just one MP in Scotland – you would instantly become just another of the idle unemployed, sponging off the state.

Don't expect different treatment. The people you were willing to accept as 'lazy skivers' were, in fact, previously in the exact same boat as you. They, too, worked but lost their jobs. You are now a 'lazy skiver', and your neighbours in employment will be told to look down on you.

Do you think you will be 'special', that you will be given help to get you back into employment? Think again. You will be bullied and pushed to accept any minimum-wage job within ninety-minutes travel time of where you live. That is any job you could do, not specifically one where your academic qualifications would be of benefit; not one where your experience and skills would generate for you a higher income; not one that would provide you with a long-term career path – any minimum-wage job. In fact, you could be 'sanctioned' if you don't apply for any job you could do, including positions advertised on the Government employment site that turn-out to be self-employed positions offering no guaranteed hours or wages.

A 'sanction' is a period of time – up to three years – where you would be denied any financial support while you attempt to rebuild your life. Sanctions actually mean instant destitution – no money to feed yourself and your children, no money to pay rent or utilities bills.

Look how quickly you went from doing okay in employment to being a social pariah. Look how quickly you moved from a decent 'striver' to a shameful 'skiver'.

In 21st Century Tory Britain, 'It Could Be You'.

Our enemies are not our neighbours who find themselves without a job. Our enemy is the uncaring Tory Government in London, which has created a situation where more-and-more people are living a precarious existence, fearful of losing their job and being plunged into desperate poverty.

The Conservative & Unionist Party is called the 'nasty' party for a very good reason. Its members are nasty people. They don't care about others; the only thing that matters is the rich should get richer. The poor are expendable.

Scotland has democratically rejected the Tories at every election over the past fifty-years, but for the majority of that time we have had Tory Governments imposed on us by voters in England. Currently, the Tories have one MP in Scotland, yet that party continues to force onto us its policies of austerity, while spending billions-of-pounds on nuclear missiles of mass destruction, which it intends to house in Scotland, against the wishes of Scots.

All of this can only happen while Scotland remains part of the British Union.

Remember, in 21st Century Tory Britain 'It Could Be You', but it doesn't have to be that way.

By retaking Scotland's status as a normal, independent nation, we retake all of the powers we need to radically transform our economy and society. We retake the ability to build a progressive country where the interests of the people come before the profits of multi-national corporations. We can restore hope and opportunity to everyone in Scotland.

As an independent country, free from malign Tory rule, Scotland can also be a beacon to rally our working-class neighbours in England. They, too, can overthrow the Tory/Labour/Lib Dem elite that governs in the interests of the rich.

Don't let it be you. Fight back, take control; build a better country, a better life for you and your family.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016


This morning, Sky News reported a claim by a Law professor from Durham University that argued the UK Government must vote on whether or not Britain should leave the European Union.

The professor stated that 'we' have “parliamentary sovereignty in the UK”, which, he said, means the recent referendum decision is not the final word on EU membership. The UK Parliament exercises sovereign (ultimate) power on behalf of the Sovereign (the Queen), which means that only the UK Parliament can take a decision – in or out – in terms of EU membership.

The professor's statement is wrong in one very important matter: parliamentary sovereignty exists only in England, not across the whole United Kingdom. This issue is crucial in relation to the decision taken by Scots to remain within the European Union.

In Scots law the people are the sovereign power, not the monarch. Dating back to the Declaration of Arbroath (The Letter of the Barons of Scotland to Pope John XXII) in 1320, it has been established that no monarch can ascend the throne of Scotland without “the expressed will and wishes of the people of Scotland”. The Declaration also makes clear that if a King did not act in accordance with the will of the Scottish people, then the 'sovereign power' – the people - would depose the monarch and elect another.

The Declaration of Arbroath, enshrining Scotland's right to exist as an independent nation – and the crucial clause confirming the people as the sovereign power – was accepted by Pope John XXII. In 1320 the Pope was essentially the United Nations, which means that Scotland is one of the oldest-recognised nations in the world.

The difference, then, between Scots law and English law is that, in Scotland, parliament is not sovereign. No parliament – Scottish or UK – needs to ratify a decision of the Scottish people. In fact, neither of those parliaments has the power or authority to overrule a decision of the Scottish people.

In June's EU Referendum, the people of Scotland overwhelmingly voted to remain within the European Union. According to Scots law, this is the end of the matter. The sovereign power in the land – the people – has spoken. Scots must not be dragged-out of the EU against their will.

Now, some British Unionists will no doubt argue that a position adopted in 1320 cannot be held as still determining Scots' legal status as the sovereign power, particularly as the Declaration of Arbroath was superseded by the Act of Union in 1707, which 'united' the parliaments of England and Scotland.

However, in April 1689, the Scots Parliament passed 'The Claim of Right', which reiterated the established rights of the Scots Parliament in relation to the Crown – the role of the monarch is to reign, parliament legislates and the people of Scotland are the supreme constitutional authority.

The Claim of Right was not affected, in any way, by the Act of Union of 1707, and therefore remains legally in force today. Both English and Scots law were specifically excluded from the Treaty of Union that established the British Parliament.

This position was reconfirmed in 1953, in the case of 'McCormick V The Lord Advocate', where Lord Cooper of Cardross, Lord President of the Court of Session, stated unequivocally: “The unlimited sovereignty of Parliament [the English legal position] has no counterpart in Scottish Constitutional Law.”

The ultimate legal power in Scotland is the people, and the people spoke last June when they decided by a significant majority to remain within the European Union.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


Donald Trump is a very stupid person.  He is not bright.  If he hadn’t inherited millions-of-dollars from his dad, the likelihood is he would, today, be struggling in a minimum-wage job.  His very limited intelligence would have offered little alternative.

The successes he’s had in business are down to him having his father’s money to hire intelligent and skilled people to do the work.  He has reaped the financial benefit of others’ labour.

There is also a long list of Trump business-failures, where workers and creditors went unpaid, while he washed his hands of responsibility by declaring his companies bankrupt.  Presumably these were the ventures where ‘Dimwit Donald’ thought he knew best and overruled the advice of staff.

Of course, Trump’s stupidity screams from him every time he opens his mouth on a public platform.  During his run for the presidency of the United States of America, one of his most ignorant and offensive ideas has been to ban all Muslims from entering the US “until we know what’s going on”.  The clear implication being that Mr Trump doesn’t “know what’s going on”, and believes barring entry to millions of followers of Islam would, in some way, stop whatever actually is going on.

Had Trump’s insane and unworkable ban on Muslims already been US policy, decent, hard-working people like Khizr and Ghazala Khan would not have been allowed to emigrate from their home country to the US and become American citizens.  It would also have meant that the Khan’s son, Humayun, would not have grown-up in the States and would not have answered his country’s call by joining the military and fighting in the ill-fated and illegal war in Iraq.

In 2004, Humayun, then aged 24, was killed when an improvised-explosive-device detonated under the vehicle in which he was travelling with fellow US soldiers.

Last week, Humayun’s mum and dad attended the Democratic National Convention, where Mr Khan publicly, and rightly, noted his son’s bravery and commitment, before questioning what “sacrifice” Donald Trump had ever made for the United States.

In response, Trump mocked Mrs Khan because she had not contributed from the convention stage: “She had nothing to say,” argued Trump, before suggesting that she might not have been allowed to speak because she is a Muslim.

The Republican presidential candidate also indicated he had “sacrificed a lot”, because he had built businesses, created thousands of jobs and “been successful”.

As previously stated, Donald Trump is a very stupid person.  He is also a coward.

Unlike Humayun Khan, Donald Trump did not serve his country – the United States of America. 

Trump was at college during the 1960s, while the Vietnam war raged and thousands of young Americans fought and died in the killing fields of Vietnam and Cambodia.  As a student – studying Real Estate – Trump received four deferments from military service to allow him to complete his course.

However, in 1968, as Trump completed his studies, the Viet Cong were inflicting extremely heavy casualties on American forces.  The US was desperate for more young men to join the fight.

Donald Trump, though, discovered he had a medical condition – bone spurs in his heels – which secured for him another deferment, meaning he could join his daddy’s real estate company rather than fighting for his country.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, ‘spurs’ are a growth of calcium that can develop on bones.  The condition causes pain in only half of those who suffer from the condition.  

Generally, doctors recommend a change of footwear for people who have bone spurs on their heels.  Dr John G Kennedy, a foot and ankle surgeon at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, advised, “If people wear the right shoes, most heel spurs will stop causing pain, even though the spurs themselves don’t go away.”

While attending college, Donald Trump played football, tennis, squash and golf, apparently without his heel spurs causing any problems. 

Last December, Trump’s longtime personal physician, Dr Harold N Bonstein, stated that, over forty-years, his patient had “no significant medical problems”.  Dr Bonstein made no mention of bone spurs.

When challenged this week by the New York Times about the bone spurs that exempted him from having to serve his country, Trump said they had been “temporary”, adding, “over a period of time, it healed up”.  He described visiting a doctor who gave him a letter, granting him exemption from military service, but Trump could not remember the doctor’s name.

Donald Trump – idiot and coward.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

End the insanity

We live in a capitalist society.  Capitalism is an economic system that allows a small elite-group to become extremely wealthy through the exploitation of the majority (that’s you and me).

Capitalist exploitation takes many forms – poverty-level wages; zero-hours contracts; slashing Social Security support to levels that leave families penniless for long periods; transferring the greater tax burden from the wealthy to the poor; forcing taxpayers to meet the multi-billion-pound cost of bailing-out bankrupt private banks; imposing taxation on people earning so little they can barely afford to feed themselves and their family; the most draconian anti-trade-union laws in the so-called developed world; legislation that makes it extremely easy for workers to be sacked.  All of which has the purpose of creating a cowed and desperate workforce for bosses to exploit.

Infamously, North Ayrshire Council, while controlled by the Labour Party, used its Economic Development website to ‘promote’ the local area’s “flexible workforce”, which the council pointed-out was paid, on average, at 12% below the UK figure.  North Ayrshire’s Labour councillors and senior council officials saw the low-pay of local people as a selling-point to attract businesses.  The message was, ‘Our workers are exploited, why don’t you come and join in?’

We already know that many companies - such as Vodafone, Starbucks and Amazon - have paid no tax to the UK Treasury in recent years, despite posting multi-million-pound profits.  It has now been revealed that five multi-national banks operating in the UK - JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Nomura, Morgan Stanley – paid no corporation tax last year.  The accounts of these banks show they, collectively, posted multi-billion-pound profits while paying no tax.

How long are we going to sit back and accept this situation?

The media – so-called ‘mainstream’ newspapers and broadcasters – are owned by capitalists: they tell us there is no alternative to capitalism.  Anyone pointing-out a genuine and workable alternative, such as socialism, is branded as being insane (how many times have you seen headlines referring disparagingly to the ‘loony’ left).

What is actually insane is allowing a situation to continue that impoverishes the majority of people while a small already-wealthy group gets even richer.

What is insane is a society where a handful of wealthy individuals controls the media, resulting in attempts to indoctrinate the general population with incessant stories depicting as spongers and workshy skivers those unfortunate enough to be without work.  If we believed UK newspapers, the collapse of the capitalist system was caused by lazy workers, the unemployed and foreign migrants, rather than the corrupt and criminal action of spivs and speculators in the City of London’s banks and financial institutions.

To change this insane situation, we must start putting the needs and interests of people before the profits of multi-national corporations.

We need to start electing politicians who will challenge the capitalist elite, who will introduce a fair taxation system – forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share – and who will use the revenue raised to create a society that delivers hope and opportunity for everyone.

Poverty, austerity, inadequate wages, zero-hours contracts, benefit sanctions, slashed spending on public services do not happen by chance, they are not the result of an evil spell cast by bad pixies.  All of these things happen because people elect politicians who choose to introduce such measures as policies.  Those politicians are capitalists: they work in the interests of the wealthy elite – that is why companies and banks are not breaking UK law when they pay no tax.  However, should you decline to pay your income tax, HM Revenue & Customs will immediately pursue you, through the courts if necessary, to force payment.

How long are we going to accept this unfair situation?

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party (SNP) is not a socialist party, but it, at least, sits on the centre-left of the political spectrum, a moderate social-democratic party that rejects the worst excesses of the capitalist system.

What was striking about political positioning during the 2014 Independence Referendum was that progressive parties tended to support independence for Scotland, while those who argued that we must remain controlled by and from London were overwhelmingly right-wing and profoundly pro-capitalist.

The Conservative & Unionist Party has just one MP in Scotland, but because of a 10-percent majority in the referendum, we remain a member of the British Union and this party – rejected at the ballot-box by the people of Scotland - forms ‘our’ government and is imposing on us poverty-creating austerity, while facilitating a system that allows multi-national corporations to exploit our workers and to pay no tax while racking-up multi-billion-pound profits.

It is entirely undemocratic for a party with just one MP to be forming the government, particularly when the people of Scotland elected 56 SNP MPs from a total of 59.  Of course, that only happens because Scotland within the British Union accepts that the people of England will choose which party governs our country.

How long are we going to accept this unfair and undemocratic situation?

Things won’t change, they won’t get better or fairer if we simply shrug our shoulders and moan.  Change requires action.

Scotland did not vote for the Tories: Scotland did not vote for increased austerity and public spending-cuts: Scotland did not vote for a capitalist taxation system that allows multi-national corporations and banks to pay no tax on multi-billion-pound profits.  Scotland did not vote for the continued exploitation of our people by a remote, uncaring, wealthy elite.

So, on the brink of a new year…what are we going to do about it?

If we want change, we can have it, we can make it happen.  No government or wealthy elite is stronger than the collective power of the people…but we, the people, need to be prepared to fight back, literally if that is what is required, to end the injustice of the British capitalist system.

We need to end the insanity of a political and economic system that works against our interests.