In a big country dreams stay with you


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Bella is edited by Mike Small.

Bella is named after  a character in Alasdair Gray’s Poor Things (1992). Like Bella we are looking for a publication and a movement that is innocent, vigorous and insatiably curious. Bella is aligned to no one and sees herself as the bastard child of parent publications too good for this world, from Calgacus to Red Herring, from Harpies & Quines to the Black Dwarf.

Poor Things is a remarkable book. Presented as the memoir of Dr Archibald McCandless, it describes his life and that of a colleague – Godwin Baxter. A monstrous proto-Frankenstein, Baxter performs surgical marvels, his greatest achievement being the (re) creation of life: he brings to life a drowned woman by transplanting the brain of the foetus she is carrying. The full-grown woman with the infant’s mind, is Bella.Earlier this year Alex Bell of All Media Scotland asked:

“Where is there a newspaper that champions independence as favoured, we are told by pollsters, by a majority of Scots? There is none. Never has been. It never ceases to amaze me that not one newspaper in Scotland supports the policy of independence supported by half of the six parties in Holyrood. That is not only anti-democratic, it is a disgrace to journalism and an affront to free speech.”

What’s at stake? Never mind sovereignty, or cultural identity, breaking with imperialism and the long overdue peace dividend is on offer. The Labour Party has moved fundamentally in the intervening twenty one years between Gordon Brown describing Trident as: “…unacceptably expensive, economically wasteful, and militarily unsound” as he did in 1984 – and David Cairns this week foaming at the mouth over a Scottish Government extending its sovereignty to effect a more peaceful world by refusing Son of Trident:

“Salmond prefers posturing on the world stage to delivering on bread-and-butter issues…instead he seeks to cavort across the world stage with his discredited looney left policies.”

Commenting on the anti-Trident summit in Glasgow, Labour’s éminence gris Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, spurted: “The SNP’s summit today is a ridiculous waste of time and taxpayers’ money. This is a reserved issue over which they have no control”. I suppose you could call good food for schoolchildren, or cancelling prescription charges, bread and butter issues, but then to develop these policies and deride the Treasury’s financial settlement, “makes us look like stupid, whingeing Jocks”, according to former Scottish Labour minister Sam Galbraith.Let’s not pretend this is anything other than an ethical choice about what kind of society we want to create and what kind of signals we want to project around the world.

As we know from bitter experience – and are constantly being told about Iran – it’s impossible to separate the new nuclear programme from the military programme. Instead, the new Brown government has already allocated £10 million for the fiscal years 2006-2008 on preparatory work for “future deterrent” capabilities. The annual cost of nuclear weapons in recent years has been between £1 billion and £2 billion. Therefore, it will cost between £50 billion and £100 billion to keep the Trident system from 2007 until 2055. It’s an odd direction for the famously fiscally prudent Iron Chancellor to go in. He’s a man who, according to Jonathan Freedland, when he looks for a way into any international problem, heads for the door marked “economics”.

Let’s take a look through that door. Researchers have calculated costs and translated them into alternative options. Assuming replacement cost to be at the “minimum of £25 billion” the pro-rata share of that paid by the Scottish taxpayer will be £2.125 billion – money could be spent in Scotland to pay for a combined package of: 10 new secondary schools, 5 new hospitals, 30 new community sports centre, 100 new dentists, 100 new doctors, 200 new teachers, hosting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, dualling the A96 from Aberdeen to Inverness or the A9 from Inverness to Perth. Is that all? Setting aside the highly dubious value of our road-building programme or the stupidity of our Commonwealth Games bid, the lesson’s clear. This is a vast sum of money for an immoral and illegal weapons system.

Answering the question of “Can a small country make a contribution to addressing the major problems of our world?” Isobel Lindsay writes: “Smallness is not a bar to effectiveness. Switzerland, as home to the International Committee of the Red Cross, has made such a contribution during the last century. Sweden/Norway have the international Nobel prizes. The Netherlands is a centre for international justice.”
The truth is that post-Blair we have been handed Brown’s Britain, patented slogan: ‘Better yesterday’.
As Tom Nairn put it:
Brown was not of course elected, parachuted from On High, or installed by an indignant mob: over many years he materialized in fits and starts, glimpsed intermittently like a ghost from times past, brooding but saying almost nothing. Then suddenly the spirit was there, seated all too comfortably in the Anglo-Brit living room, account-books and Britannic sermons to hand. The armchair’s previous occupant had left for Jerusalem. Such is death in life.”

Bella proves there is life after death.

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