Sunday, September 7, 2014

Turning tides

When I started this blog, the referendum had 200 days to go. Now there are only 11 - how did that happen? I had hoped to fill this space full of snippets and stories of how the campaign impacted on my life during this time. Little did I know just how that would unfold.  Just days after setting up Hebridean Women for Independence with some fantastic island women, my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer, already spread to the spine. Immediately we were plunged into another world - surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy - our personal future is very uncertain indeed.

One of the first things we did, once we got over the initial shock, was to apply for a postal vote - and since John was re-admitted to hospital this weekend, that was a good plan. Indeed, we have already cast our votes - both Yes, you wont be surprised to read. But isn't our story a cautionary one - playing out the fears spread by the Better Together campaign? The future is uncertain - we just don't know what will's safer not to take the chance - what if...(insert scare story of choice). Of course it isn't. For us it is an even bigger reason that Scotland should become an independent country. No-one knows what the future holds, even day to day, never mind years from now. I read a pertinent quote about democracy recently, which said 'if you want utter certainty, go and live in a dictatorship'  What we can do, on 18th September, is to take control of the means to make the choices that work for us in Scotland - and if we don't like the outcomes - then at least we can do something concrete about it, unlike now.

I see a lot of tourists around here, when I am out and about. I love to watch them falling in love with the place - admiring, wondering, enjoying. I speak to many of them, and am often told how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful area. I know. But lately I have been noticing how many older couples there are. It is a good time for them to have a wee last minute break here, while the weather is still quite nice, and the weans have all gone back to school. They are, invariably, fit and healthy looking, prosperous, middle class, enjoying an active retirement. I have met lovely folk in their 60s, 70s and even 80s taking in the views and enjoying walks on the beaches. They say that they envy me with all this on my doorstep. It's meant as a compliment, and that's how I take it.

But, right now, I wonder what use it is, living in this beautiful part of the country, when I am likely to be a widow by the age of 55. Picturesque Scotland has the highest premature death rate in this "glorious union", and so it follows that Scottish women are more likely to be widowed early. It makes me so angry that this has been allowed to happen. My husband has lung cancer, although he is a non-smoker. However much you try to rationalise it though - there is no escaping that stigma. Lung cancer is a disease of poverty. It is symptomatic of a marginalised society. However much you think you have moved on -bettered yourself - it catches up with you in the end.
I don't want this to be happening - to me or to anyone else. It makes me so sad to think that generations of Scottish wives have widowed too early - that grandchildren have missed their grandfathers, and that elderly mothers have seen their sons put in the grave, because of poverty and inequality. I am angry that I will be wandering these beautiful beaches on my own...

As the Referendum campaign has gone on, during the last few years, I have become more and more angry at just how unequal our society is, how easy it is to make scapegoats out of those at the bottom of the social pile. But I have been heartened too, at how many people have also realised this and are voting for social justice, and the opportunity to change these inequalities for everyone. I sense a real turning of the tide, here in Scotland and I pray that it strengthens and sweeps away that mindset that has kept us 'in our place' for so long. With a Yes vote, we can begin to usher in those real and radical changes that we so desperately need. Feel the strength of those waves - we have the power to harness that energy on 18th September. I hope we do - for all our sakes - Vote Yes x

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lies and more lies

I like a bit of debunking....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Hebridean Women for Independence

So - after my silent appearance on Channel $ news a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a twitter friend who works in Stornoway, and we set up a meeting of local women interested in starting up a Yes campaign group. About a dozen of us turned up, and we had a great discussion. So - please welcome Hebridean Women for Independence to the debate.  This is a very exciting development and we are already planning our first stall - 23rd May at 7 pm in the town hall foyer.
We have a Facebook page that, in less than two weeks already has 623 likes, and is very active - clearly there is a  real need for information. Do check it out - here - and we are also on Twitter @HebWFI.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Snow Day

Channel 4 News came to Lewis last week. Acclaimed anchorman, Jon Snow said he wanted to get to the heart of what we, in this remote part of the country, really think of the Independence Referendum. He tweeted to the good folk of the Island to come along to Stornoway's inner pier and have a yarn about the issues. So, we duly pitched up, suitably attired, and indeed we had quite a laugh, as we waited under the gazebo in the pouring rain. My husband asked him how he would vote, if he lived in Scotland, and he said he would probably be very minded to vote yes. Then he passionately told us how much he would miss us if we went, and how diminished Britain would be without us, and did we have any idea what it was like to be English?

"It's alright" we said "We aren't going to float off - we'll still be friends and neighbours"
"Yes" said the bold Jon " But look at the neighbours we have now - the French!"

We wondered later if he was parodying the Prime Minister's speech at Mount Olympus, but having seen his film, I'm not so sure. It was rather a bizarre moment. I do think he was joking, really...

Then we were moved down to the broadcast location, where it became apparent that we had had our yarn, and that those who were to give their views had already been selected and "wired" up. You can watch the interview here I thought it was predictable and shallow, to be honest. The usual, pound, queen, Europe, all came up, as well as a rather aggressive accusation about "smoke and mirrors" (sigh).

Interestingly, the No voters interviewed were women, and their reasons for voting that way were based on fear. I know this is a big decision, and that we need to take our time to get as much information as we can. It's hard to find that, though, when there seems to be such a paucity of argument from the No campaign, and a reluctance to really engage in the debate. Later I asked one of the interviewees why they thought that independent Scotland would not be able to get into Europe and they looked 'astonished' and said "because they just wouldn't!" In fact they seemed offended that I had dared ask the question. It seems to me that the pro-union campaign has been a bit like that - offended that we are even considering making our own decisions. Jon Snow has since written about his two weeks in Scotland, saying how he found the quality of the No campaign's arguments to be very poor indeed, so I am guessing he did see through the real smoke and mirrors!

A lot has been said about the 'Women's Vote' in this referendum, and how we seem to be risk averse - more prone to vote No. The news media have picked up on this, and seem to go out of their way to reinforce that stereotype. I think it is wrong to lump women into some kind of homogeneous group of negative worriers. Anxious reporters constantly ask "What do women want?" Well, the answer is that women have many different views, hopes and concerns about this vote, depending on their background and circumstances. Each woman will have her own answer to that question. I can't speak for other women in Scotland, but I can tell you what this one would like.

I want:

::   To take this amazing opportunity to build a fairer and more sustainable country - one where
     equality for women is a reality, and not just a soundbite.    .

::   To have the assurance that we, in Scotland, can have the kind of government we vote for.

::   To begin work on eradicating poverty and hunger.
    (There was no mention on the news programme that we were almost in sight of the local
     foodbank. That one child in every four is hungry, and that people have to turn to foodbanks 
     to survive is an absolute disgrace. I want to see an end to them, yet the Child Poverty Action 
     Group say that the UK government's austerity programme will just make matters worse for 
     Scottish children.)   
::   To live in a country free from nuclear weapons 

::   To keep Scotland's NHS safe from the privatisation already happening in the rest of the UK

::   To be part of an outward looking progressive society.

::   To live in a country that puts its citizens first.

I could go on - there is so much to be excited about as we draw closer to the big day. There is a real buzz about the possibility that there will be a Yes vote. People are talking about it more and more - online, face to face and in public. Its happening, despite the lack of interest from the mainstream media, and the patronising attitudes of commentators who don't think we ordinary folk have the intellect to engage with the debate. We do - we are - just watch us grow. Vote yes. xx

Saturday, April 26, 2014

For the Undecided

"I have been looking at both views on Independence and have asked myself how we got here. The simple answer is that the SNP have an overall majority in the Scottish government and in their manifesto they promised a vote for Independence. A deeper question is why did the SNP manage to gain a landslide victory and half way into their second term remain by far the most popular party in Scotland.

The Scottish people have always been a left of centre nation politically. In a relatively short time in power the SNP Government have protected what is important to the majority of the people of this country. Free care for the elderly, university tuition, free eye tests and prescriptions and a freeze on council tax. They have, with a limited budget attempted to mitigate the worst of the austerity measures like the bedroom tax. They are opposed to the privatization of the Scottish NHS & Postal service. These are the policies that the majority of the Scottish people believe in, not just the 30% or so hard core Scottish Nationalists.

The Scottish people have witnessed successive UK governments move further to the right to appease the voters of Middle England. These parties tell the RUK electorate that these policies cost too much, but we in Scotland have them, and have, through decisions taken by the Scottish Government and for the Scottish people, managed to maintain them. This has been achieved without full fiscal control of Scotland’s financial contribution to the exchequer and within the budget allocated through the Barnet formula. 

Scottish people fear that the progress achieved will be unravelled by continued austerity and by right wing governments that we did not vote for.

This referendum we have two options on the ballot. Should Scotland be an independent Country; YES or NO.?
A frightening proposition for many and one that could have been avoided. Herein, lies the true paradox and the greatest lie presented by Better Together. All Unionist parties appeal to you to “Remain in the UK, as equal partners and continue with a union that has served us well for 300 years”. THEY, not the Scottish Nationalists had the power to deliver exactly this but failed.

Had DEVO MAX been offered on the ballot then I believe that this would have been an easy choice for the majority of the

Scottish electorate. Equal Nations, with full fiscal control over their financial resources and a shared policy on both Defence and Foreign affairs. Our finances, controlled by a Scottish Government to preserve Scottish services and promote the values that we hold most dear. A United Kingdom of equals, left to pursue their particular National values and aspirations as pertinent to them but still within the union. 

Unfortunately, for many, this option was not offered. From what began as an SNP promise with limited appeal has grown into the YES campaign. This campaign is not about the SNP, but has become a growing movement that has appeal across all sections of Scottish society. Comprising of people who wish to protect what has already been achieved by the Scottish Government and to build a society based on the needs of the vast majority of the peoples of this country. Westminster had a chance to provide the option that the majority of Scots would have accepted. They have offered nothing new and have gambled on a NO vote to preserve their power base in this unequal 
relationship. If, as David Cameron has stated, he would fight tooth and nail to preserve the Union then why has he not acceded to the wishes of the majority of Scots? 

This is about so much more than British or Scottish Nationalism. We have moved on. Devo Max is NOT on offer. You have to take a side. With a YES vote you have a chance to enshrine the values of the majority of the Scottish people into a written constitution. Whatever Scottish political party may be in power at any future date will be bound by this constitution, your constitution. A constitution that the majority of the peoples of Scotland voted for.

Alternatively, you have to accept that if you vote NO that the UK government does not consider Scotland an equal partner, only as a region of the UK. They have already proved this by their actions to date. Westminster, at the stroke of a pen can undue all of the good work accomplished by the Scottish government. Your aspirations, your values, what you believe in can be undone overnight against the will of the majority of the people of Scotland. Is this democracy? Is it acceptable to you that you are perceived not as a country but as a subject of a region of the UK?

Ask yourself what are the things that you hold most dear. Then ask yourself what is the best way to protect what this is. This is what you are voting for. 

I am confident that come September 18th that your vote will be YES."

This comment was made by Garry Burgess on a Facebook Group I am a member of. For me, it encapsulates so eloquently the whole Independence debate so far. If you are undecided, or even a No voter, please take a moment to read it. I am sorry about the font size, but I can't work out how to enlarge it and make it readable. xx

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


There is such a wealth of great writing out there right now. Everyday I am finding so many articles and blog posts which really hit the mark. Here is one I read today, which I found particularly inspiring.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


We got back from holiday last night, and I've got such a lot I want to write about - thoughts and observations from our visit to Europe. It will take me a few days to get there, so in the meantime I want to share this wonderful piece I read this morning.