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Showing posts from May, 2012

Cashing in on Rangers

Socialists are always fascinated by the ins and outs of high finance  and how the capitalist class and their lackeys take advantage of the system. The Scotsman columnist has an interesting take on insolvent Rangers.

 “Charles Green has 20 investors?”
“Er, no, it’s five or six.”
“But he said he had 20.”
“He seems to have lost 14 or 15 of them since he said it.”
“They’re gone already before we even knew who they were?”
“That’s if they were ever there in the first place.”
“At least his backers are offering HMRC some money…”
“Which the club has to pay them back, with interest.”
“And they’re throwing Ticketus a few quid…”
“And they want that back, too. Apparently 8 per cent on top, thanks very much.”
“Duff and Phelps said his was the best deal for creditors…”
“The best deal for Charles Green more like. And for Duff and Phelps, of course. They’re getting every penny of their multi-million pound fee, which is about 91p in the pound more than the people whose corner they were supposed …

The cause of the causes

Life expectancy in Scotland is markedly lower compared to other European nations and the UK as a whole. But what are the reasons for this higher mortality? Higher mortality in Scotland is often attributed to higher rates of deprivation, smoking, alcohol consumption and poor diet. However such explanations are not sufficient to understand why Scotland is so very different compared to other areas.

In synthesising the evidence a group of researchers identified candidate hypotheses. The results showed that between 1950 and 1980 Scotland started to diverge from elsewhere in Europe and this may be linked to higher deprivation associated with particular industrial employment patterns, housing and urban environments, particular community and family dynamics, and negative health behaviour cultures.

The authors suggest that from 1980 onwards the higher mortality can be best explained by considering the political direction taken by the government of the day, and the consequent hopelessness and com…

Engels on Edinburgh and Glasgow

Edinburgh

Dr. Alison describes a similar state of things in Edinburgh, whose superb situation, which has won it the title of the modern Athens, and whose brilliant aristocratic quarter in the New Town, contrast strongly with the foul wretchedness of the poor in the Old Town. Alison asserts that this extensive quarter is as filthy and horrible as the worst districts of Dublin, while the Mendicity Association would have as great a proportion of needy persons to assist in Edinburgh as in the Irish capital. He asserts, indeed, that the poor in Scotland, especially in Edinburgh and Glasgow, are worse off than in any other region of the three kingdoms, and that the poorest are not Irish, but Scotch. The preacher of the Old Church of Edinburgh, Dr. Lee, testified in 1836, before the Commission of Religious Instruction, that:

"I have never seen such a concentration of misery as in this parish," where the people are without furniture, without everything. "I frequently see the same…

Faslane Futility

There has been a tradition of anti-nuclear protest in Scotland since the early 1960s when the US Navy established a base for their submarines at Dunoon on the Holy Loch. The Scottish National Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Green Party all oppose the deployment of nuclear weapons. It is not unusual for members of these Scottish political parties, and indeed some from the Labour Party, to attend rallies outside Faslane. Both George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan have been arrested in demonstrations.

 The Faslane peace camp began 30 years ago. It was set-up as a Scottish version of Greenham Common. After all those years the camp is still there - and so are the warheads.

 Eric Thompson was commodore of the naval base in the mid-90s says: "Our original security concerns were Russian special forces, for which we had a barbed wire fence. Then we started worrying about the IRA, so we had a double-barbed wire fence but it was actually the peace camp and political em…

wasteful Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland found that of the estimated 372,026 tonnes of waste to be disposed per annum of across the three sectors over a quarter of it could be widely recycled and more than half was potentially recyclable.

The Scottish health and social care sector send more than 30,000 tonnes of paper waste to landfill.  Including newspapers, magazines, and unused A4-type paper, over 80% of this is potentially recyclable;

Scottish educational establishments of all kinds send over 120 tonnes of unused paper to landfill each year

The Scottish wholesale and retail sector throws nearly £30million of whole or unused food straight in their general waste bin

Food for thought

The recent federal budget was presented as a reasonably benign affair but careful scrutiny reveals a massive move towards getting government out of all kinds of public services. Apart from the thousands of public service job cuts, the budget ended the National Council of Welfare that advises the government on poverty (ignore it and it will go away!); closed the National Aboriginal Health Centre; trimmed funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by $115 million; scrapped the National Roundtable on the environment; cut funding to Transport Canada that regulates airline safety; cut foreign aid and over 1 000 positions from the Canadian Border Services Agency; eliminated over 2 000 professionals
and scientists who protect the safety of Canadians in the food, product testing, and environmental fields. It is a sly and cynical piece of underhand work, and the only way to deal with it is to eliminate capitalism altogether, and soon.

Recent headlines in the business sections of the ne…

The Scottish Taleban - The Covenanters

Over 18,000 and possibly as many as 30,000 Presbyterian Covenanters gave their lives for their beliefs during the seventeenth century.

Were the Covenanters essentially Protestant theocrats? Or were the Covenanters really democrats challenging an absolutist regime?  Presbyterian beliefs meant an opposition to the King`s claim of supremacy in church matters, although they acknowledged his supremacy in civil matters. Yet to safeguard their religious rights  required a clerical  influence on the civil government. Covenanters stood up to the powers of the Crown but never, at any point in time, challenged the Crown's right to rule. The best known events of the Covenanters tend to be the National Covenant (1638), the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) and the horrors of "The Killing Time" (1684-5).

Religion and politics have been interwoven throughout Scottish history. There was the Calvinist Reformation where John Knox was able to bend much of Scotland to his will and contro…

The Tartan Rebels

An American-based academic has registered a protest plaid which he hopes will be adopted by members of the Occupy Movement and persuade the more fashion-conscious activists and eco-warriors to wear tartan as they head to the barricades.

 Dr Giles Jackson
has revealed the gold-flecked tartan, which represents the unequal distribution of wealth, will be the first in a range of radical designs. His Liberation Kilt Co , whose slogan is “Dress to protest!” has also registered tartans which can be worn by the anti-nuclear movement, supporters of political dissidents and climate change activists. The Virginia-based business school professor insists he was inspired by Scotland’s long-standing tradition of championing the underdog and supporting progressive causes. He said: “I’m tapping into a long and glorious tradition. Long before tartan became the garb of royal subjects it was a badge of dissent.” Jackson hopes his Liberty Square tartan will prove popular with the anti-corporate Occupy mov…

Food for thought

Thomas Walkom writes in the Toronto Star that there has always been a tacit agreement in Canada that Canadians would welcome new immigrants as long as the government didn't use them to drive down wages. This is very shaky reasoning considering that Marx showed 150 years ago that the reserve army, including immigrants, is there to do just that, drive down wages. Walkom reports that even that agreement has been abandoned by the Harper government. Ottawa will now allow employers to pay temporary foreign workers less. Just who qualifies as a temporary worker is cause for stretching a point. By 2011, there were over 300 000 temporary foreign workers in Canada. What the government is saying, according to Walkom, is that if Canadians don't want to see jobs going to foreign workers they should quit whining and accept lower wages. Right!

While austerity measures and economic downturns may save money for the owning class, they are decidedly unhealthy for the working class. All over Euro…

The Red Union

"We will support the officials just so long as they rightly represent the workers, but we will act independently immediately they misrepresent them" - Clyde Workers' Committee

The United Mineworkers of Scotland - The Red Union


The United Mineworkers of Scotland (UMS), functioned for some six years in the few areas in which the Communist Party had a credible industrial presence. None the less, the UMS never recruited more than 4000 members and this had  fallen to 2000 by 1932, of which 65% were in Fife. Once again, as so often in Scottish labour history, religion had an influence. The UMS was strong in the pits with a history of more militancy but also with a higher level of Irish workers. Protestant Harthill was weak in Communist Party membership, whereas Catholic Blantyre support for CPGB ran high. Abe Moffat, the UMS leader, recalled that during a strike in the Shotts coalfield in 1930 that Catholic miners didn't want to offend the local priest by marching in front …

An independent Scotland built upon inequality

The vote yes campaign for independence has been launched.

Nationalism divides society into more and more separate entities, create more divisions, more fears and suspicions and when the globe is totally criss-crossed with walls, fences, and border posts that we allow ourselves to become so paranoid, afraid and suspicious of each other. Officialdom drum “patriotism” into people’s heads. Ill-considered rhetoric, regurgitated mantras built on lies, fears and hatred need overturning without hesitation. Nationalistic slogans are uttered by right and left.

Revolutionary socialists have discarded the flag and the school history books with the details of so many deeds of butchery within its pages. That its workers should be patriotic is vital to each national ruling class and this, fertilised by official lies, is exploited by all governments. This appeal to workers to a fake identity with their own exploiters in the name of  “national” unity is utterly poisonous to the real interests of the …

Room with a view - £7 million

Scotland’s most expensive flat, yours for £7m. The penthouse is priced at offers of more than £6.3m or a fixed price of £7.3m to take it off the market immediately – smashing the previous record for a Scottish apartment, thought to be Whittingehame House in East Lothian, priced at £2.5m which sold in 2010. Selling prices in Edinburgh for whole houses have nudged £5m, while rural estates can go for far more.

It is no surprise that the newly-refurbished Hamilton Grand in St Andrews is the most expensive apartments in Scotland. The former hotel towers looks across the Royal and Ancient Golf Club and therefore has a legitimate claim to “the best view in golf”. It was bought in 2009 by US billionaire Herb Kohler’s company, which is creating 26 apartments, with prices starting from £2.2m and ranging in size from 1,133 to 2,780 square feet. Owners will share a roof garden with sweeping vistas over the golf course and coast, and the penthouse will have its own private terrace along two sides …

The Swindled Scots Again

A previous post concerned the Darien Scheme. Not many Scots however know of Gregor Macgregor, Prince of Poyais, Poyais being not far up the Central American coast from Darien. Gregor MacGregor was born in Glengyle in Stirlingshire and claimed direct descent from Rob Roy. He was a soldier and mercenary who fought in the South American wars of independence. 

Upon his return in 1820 to Britain, he claimed to be cacique ["prince"] of Poyais, a Central American country that MacGregor promoted to investors and colonists. Poyais, was an independent nation on the Bay of Honduras. He claimed that a native chief King George Frederic Augustus the First had given him the territory of Poyais, 12,500 sq. mile of fertile land with untapped resources. Gregor presented himself as His Serene Highness Gregor I, Prince of Poyais and his beautiful wife as the Princess of Poyais. No-one questioned their bona fides; instead they were welcomed into the ranks of the elite and were the toast of socie…

Darien - Ships of fools?

In 1632 Scotland lost Nova Scotia – her only colony – as a result of the English war against France. England’s Dutch wars subsequently compromised valuable trading privileges upon which Scottish merchants had previously relied. Scottish overseas trading activity was further hampered by the Navigation Act, which cut Scottish ships out of international trade by forbidding the import of goods into England or her colonies unless carried in English ships or ships from the goods’ country of origin. Beginning in 1651, the goal of the Act was to force colonial development into lines favourable to England, and stop direct colonial trade with the Netherlands, France, Scotland and Spain. This law was enacted despite the Union of Crowns, and effectively meant that Scots merchants were boycotted for trade in England and all her colonies. To make matters worse two powerful English trading companies – the East India Company and the Royal African Company – claimed monopolies on the rich trades with t…

Poor as a church mouse!

In a hard-hitting speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, businessman Professor Charles Munn said that, as a society, “we have made a mess of our economy and in the process have done a lot of damage...We are party to growing inequality, rising poverty, rising homelessness,” he said. “The rich are doing ok. The poor are getting poorer. “And it’s not just the poor that are getting poorer, pretty much everybody else is suffering as a result of the economic crisis.”

Rev Ian Galloway, departing convener of the influential Church and Society Council, attacked the UK government’s deficit reduction strategy, saying “If austerity means we all have to tighten our belts – and maybe especially those who can most afford it – then so be it. But what is really happening is that the most vulnerable are being punished out of all proportion.” He said that while austerity had a “stiff upper lip quality about it”, the reality was “somewhat different”. “Food banks, places for desperate …

James Maxton - Wasted Years

"In the interests of economy they condemned hundreds of children to death and I call it murder." - James Maxton

James Maxton appeared to be Keir Hardie's natural successor. Maxton is remembered as one of the leading figures of the Red Clydeside era. His parents were both schoolteachers and he was educated at Hutchesons' Grammar School before going on to study at the University of Glasgow. He, too, was a teacher.

 In 1904 Maxton joined the Barrhead branch of the Independent Labour Party. From 1906 to 1910, he was active in the teachers' unions. When the First World War broke out Maxton was an opponent and became a conscientious objector, refusing conscription into the military, and instead given work on barges. During this time he was involved in organising strikes in the shipyards. Maxton's arrest followed his speech at a demonstration on Glasgow Green to protest against the implementation of the Munitions Act and the deportation of the Clyde Workers' Com…