Crop Circles, Bigfoot and the Death of Scottish Labour


By Mike Small

Douglas Alexander is the head of Labour’s election strategy. He’s worried about where people get their news from.

Speaking at a Labourlist event in central London, Douglas Alexander yesterday betrayed an extraordinary degree of self-denial in his analysis of the political change of the past few years. Blaming ‘conspiracy theory’ online rumours and Facebook for Labour’s demise, Alexanders private fantasy world was made public:

“We are used to a politics where we share facts and have divergent opinions. We are confronting increasingly a politics where people’s social media feeds can be an echo chamber for at best their own opinions and at worst their own prejudices. That’s a tough challenge for all democratic politicians.”

He’s right, it is.

It’s a fantastic insight into the worldview of a career politician.

His argument is this: people being able to create their own content, people being active in exchanging information, people being able to express their opinion and engage with others about politics, creating an analysis and making sense of the world. This is a bad thing for democracy.

Apart from the sublime beauty of this madness, you are left wondering, does Labour not exist in the same world as the rest of us? Does Douglas and his team not have access to Facebook? Have they lost their password?

Why can’t Douglas, Miliband and the comrades utilise these media tools to create their own narrative about a fairer society, about Scotland’s future? About why we should be part of Britain? Where’s

His comments show not just a complete misunderstanding of the nature of social media but a party bereft of vision, policy and fresh thinking. He’s like an old man complaining about not being able to work the video controls.

It’s an entirely negative view of communication tools which could be used to reinforce messages of hope in times of austerity, ideas for the future when people are clinging to the past and feelings of solidarity when so many are feeling alienated. But no, it’s just something that creates prejudice. Douglas is fond of quoting the Austrian thinker Ivan Illich. In Silence is a Commons (1982) Illich wrote:

“The machine-like behaviour of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable. Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.”

Illich – who’s a brilliant thinker – was wrong. The problem for Douglas is that people are demanding to be able to govern themselves. That’s what he is finding intolerable. Political messages handed down from above just doesn’t work any more. People need to not just agree with you but believe in you as well.

New media forms have been a central tool to the democratic revival that we’ve just witnessed, a huge uprising of political participation and engagement of people who had previously been excluded from the political process. Young people getting the vote for the very first time and participating in extraordinary numbers. Alexander forgot he’s supposed to celebrate that.

This is analysis, not prejudice.

It’s an outburst that lacks history and politics. Labour lost in 2007, then again in 2011. These were losses under his watch. They are about people rejecting Labour’s political message and what it stands for. The contributing factors that he fails to take responsibility are variously: the long shadow of the debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan and the turning against the Blairite agenda; the embracing of a privatisation economic agenda, the development of language about a ‘something for nothing culture’; all overseen by catastrophically hapless leadership from Iain Gray to his sister Wendy, to Johann Lamont and now under Jim Murphy. Nothing to do with Facebook.

Yesterday he said: “Among the 45 per cent of those who voted yes there’s a great sense of grief and grief sometimes presents itself with anger. The nation made a judgment not to leave the UK. Some of them blame the BBC, some people blame the Scottish Labour Party. My strong sense is Scotland doesn’t want a Conservative government.”

As is frequently pointed out in comments on these pages, and as was hinted at by Peter Arnott earlier in the week, the pro-indy movement needs to re-examine its own arguments and how it relates to the No voters of yesterday and tomorrow. But that’s true of the other side too. Portraying the Yes voters – a large proportion of those who left his own party to do so – as deranged conspiracy theorists rattling about their own wee mad prejudices – isn’t going to do that. If that’s really the best analysis that the head of Labour’s election strategy can bring to the table then they are in more trouble than they realise. It’s an astonishing misreading of not just Scottish political culture but of democracy and media. He is betraying a sadness at his own disempowerment ‘We are used to a politics where we share facts…’

It was the chemtrails all along.

Comments (72)

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  1. Douglas Alexander’s remarks are strangely reminiscent of the anguished bewilderment of the Kirk, which has never really understood how it came to lose its central place of authority in Scottish society. He is a true son of the manse.

    1. Gordon walker says:

      Having a go at conspiracy theorists is one thing but the real,conspiracy is the Labour Party and its key people who have spun and pontificated had international coupes and deserted the very basics of socialism. However Bigfoot is popular, crop circles and Aliens are valid theories., the brass neck of Alexander is the real problem like other pontificators on Question time who turn out to be ego maniacs and short of cash and friends I support the power of conspiracy to get to some sort of truth!

  2. heathermclean19 says:

    “Apart from the sublime beauty of this madness, you are left wondering, does Labour not exist in the same world as the rest of us? Does Douglas and his team not have access to Facebook? Have they lost their password?”
    No – they have no lost their password, they have lost their soul , their integrity, their honesty and their conscience!
    Labour can blame whatever they like – the problem is that they blame everyone and everything but themselves! Labour need to take RESPONSIBILITY for their own failings, then maybe people would respect them more.
    They have lied, cheated and treated the Scottish people like dirt – that’s why people are turning away from them in droves! They need to face the truth and take full responsibility for their actions instead of blaming everyone else. Douglas Alexander is deluded if he blames social media for Labour’s failings. It’s time for him and his party to face up to their responsibilities and listen to what the people want instead of dictating what they’re going to get!
    Maybe if he logged into Facebook etc, he would find out!

  3. Monty says:

    Hapless is the word that best describes Douglas and the wider Labour party. I do think he has a slight point about conspiracy theories and Scottish politics though. Both sides in the referendum debate supped long and hard from the big cup of conspiracy theories and some are supping still. Hopefully one day we will get the Big book of Scottish political conspiracy theories perhaps modelled along the lines of Hampden Babylon,

  4. Golfnut says:

    ” we are used to politics where we share facts”
    Facts are a rarity in Westminster politics, that’s the problem, we the electorate now recognise that what we have pushed down our throats
    is more often than nought, lies, misdirection, obfuscation, deceit and propaganda.
    His problem is that more and more people recognize this, and seek , share and discuss, with the help Bella, Wings etc, the truth.
    Dougie and co have been found out, and they don’t like it.

    1. bjsalba says:

      Good thing I read your comment before adding mine. You said it all and probably better than I would have done.

    2. maxi kerr says:

      Yeah, facts like the m’crone report back in the day when it would have been so beneficial to the Scottish people to know the truth.

    3. Exactly what I was thinking. The “facts” handed down by the BBC/MSM during the independence campaign were skewed in such a way that I finally lost my faith in both the Labour Party, and the old media.

      It’s the access the electorate have to alternative sources of information that he regrets.

      It’s the knowledge that controlling the news outlets to tell “The Big Lie” (currently, the largest party forms the government) is no longer sufficient that he regrets.

  5. Doug Daniel says:

    He said that “facts are not common” and “people have their own facts”. What he means is it’s becoming harder and harder for Labour (and politicians in general) to dictate what the “facts” are, and as a result, it’s harder to control the stupid voters who have the temerity to actually do their own research and vote accordingly.

    This isn’t what’s supposed to happen! This isn’t the gig he signed up for when he decided to embark on a political career! “WHY WON’T THEY JUST DO WHAT THEY’RE TOLD??? DON’T THEY KNOW I’M DOUGLAS ALEXANDER AND I HAVE A VERY, VERY BIG BRAIN????”

  6. tom donald says:

    Illich was discussing “the programmed environment”, something much more akin to the bbc/labour/tory/murdoch world of an official news narrative, than the fabulous free for all that’s happening on the ‘net. So I think Illich was right about the reaction, wrong in thinking electronics would program people. TV maybe, computers, no.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Thanks Tom

      1. Drew Campbell says:

        Illich was writing in 1982, long before the internet and social media. The electronic technology he referred to must have been TV and radio, buttressed by the daily printed press and on that basis his analysis sounds pretty accurate to me.

        I was highly active in the 80s via CND, Anti-Apartheid, my trade union and the Labour Party and found the BBC and all the daily newspapers – including the Record and The Guardian – lukewarm at best and hostile at worst. I had direct experience of this: On one particular occasion I was interviewed about a strike in which I played a leading role, talking to journalists from the Record, The Guardian, The Glasgow Herald, STV and BBC. I came away thinking I’d handled it all pretty well as I knew my brief inside out and gave clear, concise answers. That evening I watched myself on STV and BBC news bulletins and my jaw gaped in horror. Not because of the usual embarrassment of hearing my own voice and all that but because of the way they’d been edited.

        BBC’s item was intorduced in the studio then cut to a journalist talking over pictures of pickets clowning about in front of camera – and they looked like neandrathal idiots. It was a wholly unfair representation but they’d got the footage by joshing with the folk who were standing about bored. The reasons for the strike were summarised in a very curt tone, then the visuals segued to brief soundbite of a very cold, windblown me referring to the Thatcher government’s policy of privatisation and saying: “We will not back down.” The management side were then given a longer segment, interviewed in a pleasant office and dismissing the very idea this was anything to do with the Government. The Director interviewed sounded very urbane and reasonable; he simply couldn’t understand why we were taking this “highly political action”. The following week the management of this public sector organisation obtained an interim interdict against our picketing whilst taking me, my fellow strike organisers and our three trade unions to court on the grounds we had organised a “political protest” and not a legitimate “industrial dispute”. My interview was cited as evidence of this. We asked for the BBC to hand over the full unedited footage to demonstrate I’d been asked a question referring to in a wider context but they claimed it had been scrubbed. Nor did the reporter retain notes, apparently.

        Coverage on STV was equally poor – the reporter actually overdubbed an entirely different question to the one he’d asked me, referencing violent picketing! – while the next day’s papers were at best equivocal or outright condemnatory in their editorialising. Each and every one gave the last word to the management in similar vein to above.

        Strangely, once the court case got going our side was taken up by the Financial Times, who pointed out some extremely dodgy goings-on at senior management level of our employers including concealment of major losses and strongly suggested they were abusing the 1982 Employment Act in pursuing us through the court. The FT also made clear that if we lost the rights of public sector employees to take any kind of action could be severely curtailed.

        We asked local MP George Robertson for support; he wanted nothing to do with it. We asked our local Labour council for support and were ignored. The STUC got us a meeting with Donald Dewar who, it must be said, grasped the implications and was very, very good in raising the matter and actually engineered a meeting with the minister involved (who then said it was nothing to do with him).

        Fortunately we won the case on a welter of other evidence that a) this was a public sector organisation being privatised, and b) our terms & conditions of employment were being fundamentally altered with no consultation or compensation. It was a small but important case; if we’d lost the unions would’ve been liable for millions and we’d all have been sacked.

        And, for the record, after 25 weeks out on strike, we secured all our previous terms and conditions and, ultimately, a reversal of the decision to privatise.

        I realise I went off topic a little there, but the point is this: we were all put under pressure by our families and loved ones who read the press and believed we couldn’t possibly win. People became demoralised, believing the jobs and maybe homes were at risk. Some had marital breakdowns and the whole dispute was lengthened by months. Our trade unions wanted us to settle so the court action would be withdrawn; our General Secretary cited press coverage as evidence we couldn’t win and berated me for my “foolhardy interview”. But it wasn’t foolhardy, I was stitched up, but more to the point it was part of a far larger complicity by the media against the working class. TV and radio, do not have the same sway as they did back in the 80s but perhaps still sufficient to set the agenda and manufacture consensus and narratives for or against certain issues – immigrants are bad, benefit scroungers are leeches, Ed’s a loser, the Royals are lovely, the SNP are all evil CyberNats, the Scots are all chippy subsidy junkies.

        Fighting for the freedom of the internet is essential to our continued development as a politically engaged and thinking electorate. Surveillance and censorship must be resisted – otherwise Illich will become correct once more.

  7. bringiton says:

    The Westminster elite consider themselves to be the “managers” of democracy who frame what is allowed and what isn’t.
    The referendum opened up political discussion on the internet,possibly for the first time on a large scale within the British Isles and the “dynosaurs” that the former British Labour branch manager referred to are having difficulty coming to terms with the new reality.
    Things that were only discussed,at secret meetings behind closed doors in London, are now out in the open for all to see.
    We are going to need a new breed of politician who can engage with voters in an open and transparent manner because,if they can’t,then they will go the way of the dinosaurs.
    This,of course,means that governance is going to have to be more accountable and perform in the way expected by voters who are engaged (something the elite have been claiming they wanted for some time….ha ha ha).
    Well now they have what they wished for.
    Thanks Mike.

  8. Golfnut says:

    Sorry Mike,
    As usual from you, an excellent piece.

  9. albawoman says:

    The opportunity to research, share information and discuss political issues via social media is for me, a form of liberation.

    1. Ian says:

      Good point exactly, how i feel.Where would we be without social media the establishment and traditional media would continue to feed us the same lies and spin as they have been doing for god knows how long.We have an outlet where we can find the facts and most of us know we can do a lot better than the likes of Douglas Alexander.

    2. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Nailed it Albawoman! Who needs these self righteous Alexander types anyway. He and his like do not really give much. They are takers.

  10. Claire watt says:

    It’s been 6 months since the referendum. Such was the arrogance in the belief that yes voters would crawl back under their rock, the unionist parties haven’t given any credit to the political awakening that many had and the very real sense of injustice among us.

    They are realising that as the clock ticks on, momentum is building, facts are out there and they are incredulous that the electorate are…1) engaged 2) nobody’s fools and 3) not being put back in a box.

    Cue last minute desperate measures from Westminster…..recognise that from anywhere.

    I hope beyond belief that people won’t buy their lies and that SNP have a strong team lined up to refute all the fabricated mud that will be slung their way.

  11. Clootie says:

    Douglas is grieving for days long gone when Labour (Scottish Branch) sent a media briefing to the Daily Retard who were then quoted by the BBC which enabled Scottish Labour to quote as an independent trustworthy source. In short Labour manipulated the news.

    The recent example of Murphy and Co claiming the biggest Party forms the government went unchallenged by the MSM until various blogs and social media sites started quoting experts on the convention. These sites also reproduced clips of Brown, Alexander, Murphy in 2010 all claiming the right to stay in goverment when they were 50 seats behind the Tories.

    Labour confuse spin with fact. The MSM have also lost all credibility by manipulating the news instead of reporting it. The Newspapers such as the Sun and the Mail now produce one headline in England and another in Scotland.

    Thank God for the Internet!

    1. maxi kerr says:

      And Thank god we as a collective have wised up.

  12. John Page says:

    Great stuff again , Mike
    I am not sure if I buy the “son the manse” bewilderment stuff mentioned above……..this guy has happily progressed in a world dominated by the Campbells and McTernans and McBrides… vile and cynical as they come.
    John Page

    1. Logiemink says:

      one minute into this CWU vid proves your point and also exposes the farcical relationship between the TUC and Labour.

  13. James Morton says:

    I feel like I have said all I have to say about Scottish labour’s all consuming distemper. How many ways can you say dysfunctional, disconnected from reality, no longer speaking to its core? How many times can you say it, before you feel you are trapped in your own echo chamber.

    If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. The party is cartoonishly inept. It is the Streisand effect write large. You get the sense that at some level, they know how swivel eyed & dishonest they are. Like pigs playing in mud.that they positively revel in it. There is something so fantastically childish about them, yet at the same time rooted in the past.

    I wonder if this is how the Liberal party behaved in Scotland, when it lost power to the young “turks” that were the Scottish Unionists and The labour party. Who knows. All I know is that change is coming. Poor old Scottish labour is fighting against it but can’t comprehend it. Which is why it is constantly trying to frame the debate using the arguments it used in the 70s. The irony is that it can’t even win on its own terms in England – Cameron and the UK MSM forced Miliband to close the door on him being PM – and what little is left of its Scottish branch will waste its waning years blaming Scotland and the SNP.

  14. Peter Arnott says:

    What I enjoyed most about wee Dougie’s whining was the idea that all that bum sucking turns out to have been for nothing. The world is changing, one mouse click at a time

  15. johnmcgurk66 says:

    I just love this piece it turns out that their is still a lot of intelligent people in Scotland quite capable of make up their own minds . And gone are the days when labour could put up a (CHIMPANZEE ) with a red rosette
    and the people would vote for it . What the referendum done was give people the confidence to realize,
    that they have the power to shake the whole system up . And they have also found out that (MP’S) are supposed to be working for the little not multinationals..

  16. MBC says:

    I don’t think the Yes camp needs to re-examine its arguments, but it might need to re-think its strategy.

    If the indyref proved anything to me, it was how hard and dirty the Unionists were prepared to fight to keep us in the Union. Sweet reason there wasn’t. Professor Stiglitiz may have reasoned that on economic grounds it would be best for everyone if, initially at least, we remained in a currency union, sharing the £. This would have involved some concessions on both sides but confer advantages to both economies which outweighed the concessions.

    What the good professor and Nobel Prize winner didn’t reckon on, was that politics and economics are not necessarily good bedfellows. Sharing the currency would have required political will. It would have required goodwill. Political will is not necessarily subject to economic reasoning or goodwill. It is about power, for power’s sake, and at any cost. Just look at the insane proposal to spend £100 billion on renewing Trident. This makes no sense economically. It will not even defend the country. But it will enable UK politicians to posture and strutt about on the world stage as representatives of a supposed global power. And all the personal entrees that such a privileged position brings them and their cronies. The country will not be better off, but the political elite will be enhanced. It really is as shallow and as craven as that.

    Having seen this, I’m afraid I cannot agree with Peter that it is time to co-operate with the No side. If the No side simply consisted of our fellow citizens, and not their elected representatives under FPTP, then that would be a different matter, and that is possibly what Peter was tilting at.

    Personally, I made my peace with No voters some time ago. It came from reflecting on the mendacious nature of the campaign, and the conflicting pressures people were put under. It also came from reflecting on my observations on the day outside a polling station in my leafy part of Edinburgh, which voted 61% No. Despite there being a No contingent, as well as us Yessers outside the polling station, few were willing to acknowledge either of us. Their faces were tripping them. They had that look of grim determination on them of somebody being forced to conduct an unpleasant duty. Like having to put down the family pet. Enthusiasm for the UK there was not. It was simply a pragmatic decision taken without joy. They were not willing to take the risk of the uncertainties about the currency. I also detected a frisson anger underneath the surface, anger that they were being forced to make such a decision.

    Was that anger at the SNP for having engineered the indyref? Possibly.

    But it might equally well have been anger at the Unionists for being as obstructive as they possibly could over the currency issue, when reason and fair play dictated compromise. For George Osborne saying on February 13th (the day before St Valentine’s) that it was England’s £ and there would be no currency union. That short five minute bullying speech did more to undermine the Union than any amount of Yes campaigning. Ironic that it secured a No majority.

    But to read that 55% No vote as an enthusiastic endorsement of the UK and continuation of its gross inequality and lack of democracy would be a severe misreading of the popular mind.

    1. Barraload says:

      the pro-indy movement needs to re-examine its own arguments and how it relates to the No voters of yesterday and tomorrow. But that’s true of the other side too.

      I was speed reading comments, excited by the possibility that someone would try to answer this and was disappointed, but not surprised, to see the usual anti Labour rant that so dominates this site. Same old same old. Do you never get tired of this?

      Then I read this the opening sentence of this comment and heard the distinct slam of minds closing

      I don’t think the Yes camp needs to re-examine its arguments, Bang. Mind shut

      But I’m willing to try again to see if someone, anyone on this site can help me to understand how a country without it’s own currency works? Spare me the politics and just explain it

      How would we borrow on debt markets to fund welfare spending other than by building up massive reserves of sterling?

      How would we do this other than high taxes?

      How do we do that when oil is volatile. Higher taxes on income or capital ?

      Why was the corporation tax tease offered?

      How would someone who works in England for an English company but lives in Scotland be taxed?

      How would ending Trident affect our membership of NATO and relationship with the US?

      Would we be in our out the EU or have to reapply for membership?

      Honest answers would be appreciated and less of the “you’re just trying to frighten people” diatribe. What is truly frightening is the zealots who’d go for independence without knowing answers to some of the above

      Do you want to take the debate forward with NO voters or do you just enjoy slagging them off?

      1. MBC says:

        You get your own currency. And you can’t stop us using sterling meanwhile. We’ve been through that argument a million times. If they want to cut their noses off to spite their faces, hell mend them.

        End of.

      2. Drew Campbell says:

        Can I suggest we begin by looking at the Scottish Greens’ manifesto for independence?

      3. tartanfever says:

        You mention minds being shut yet over the two years of referendum questions and the numerous responses from not only the SNP and the Yes campaign, but international economists, the Bank of England, Alistair Darling even (!) and you didn’t pick up on anyone of those answers ?

        Sorry, whose mind was shut ?

      4. David Agnew says:

        that depends on how you want to take the debate forward with Yes voters, doesn’t it?

        I’ll play just this once.

        Currency – Plan B was always going to be sterlingisation but the notion of No currency union, no way no how, flew in the face of history and frankly seemed to done out of spite, not economic sense. So many countries have launched their own currency and frankly have not had to put up with the nonsense the yes campaign did. But the vehemence of the rejection of the currency union and the denial that there had even been one for over 300 years of union, did catch out the yes camp and it had no real answers. So yes we failed on that one – but even you must admit rather than crush the yes camp, which they expected it to, it just bred resentment at the messenger. It does make me wonder what on earth possessed the no camp to play such a reckless and divisive move. That you got Osborne to make the speech? whisky tango foxtrot union man!

        Borrowing to fund welfare spending. Welfare spending is paid for through National insurance. It is nearly always under spent but incredibly this underspend is not kept in the pot – providing a wealth fund that would take care of it. Its simply re-purposed. Not necessarily on the benefits system. I think it revealing that you think an Independent Scotland would all be on some sort of welfare and could be why it is second on your list of unanswerable questions. You must have believed Ruth Davidson’s speech about 9/10 Scots being a burden on the UK. Shame on you.

        All countries borrow money, most of the sensible ones would have prudent controls in place. The ones who all suffered during the banking collapse were the ones with lax or light touch regulations in place. Hell the UK under darling and Osborne rose from 800 billion to 1.5 trillion. And Darling had the brass balls to claim that being shit at his job was a good reason for continued union. Whattaguy!

        The tax system for English working in Scotland is something that could be thrashed out, but I imagine a system much like the one used for foreign workers now would be highly effective.

        Trident affecting NATO membership. It wouldn’t. Simply put there are only 6 countries armed with nuclear weapons in NATO. Norway a founding member has none. Denmark unilaterally disarmed in the 90s. As for allowing access to nuclear armed vessels. Only 5 of the six allow this. The one that opted out is the USA. As for the US it has already declared its concern over our obsession of leasing their missiles and thinks its high time we gave them up and repaired out conventional military. The US is increasingly of the opinion that we are not a credible ally. The fact that we are now leasing AWACs from them this year because the UK sold all its Nimrods, is a case in point.
        As for Scotland’s relationship with the US. Frankly the US would not bat an eyelid at it. I am under no illusions about who puts more stock in the “special relationship” between the US and the UK.
        As for Scotland joining Nato. Hell they are ready to admit Finland into Nato. No nukes – spends less on defense that an Independent Scotland would and won’t allow foreign military bases on its soil. The only bar to Scottish membership would be public opinion imho.

        EU membership. That would have to be thrashed out. If its in its not a problem if its out we would reapply.

        Oil. Why do no voters assume that it is the only thing of value Scotland has? Oil prices are volatile – really? gosh shucks never knew that. Wait a minute? Volatile? dear god man, how is the UK going to cope with the collapse in oil prices? It after gets the lions share of the oil wealth after all. (i should rent money as it was privatised by thatcher)

        The assumption you make in all your arguments are the same ones I kept seeing from 2011 to 2014. That basically you assume that there is no answer to be had. If you can’t get credible answers from forum posters it seems, the real economic and political case has failed. Which frankly is dumb as these forums are not were policy is made, now is it? These answers would be hammered out as they are always done. By statesmen involved in politics.

        Now as for your opening statement. Honestly you came barging in with a closed mind to begin with.

        You can’t sell the union to me anymore than I can sell Independence to you. Thats why you chose the questions you did. You think there is no answer for any of them. But there are answers to these questions, but getting answers you don’t like or didn’t expect is not the same as not being answered.

        But I have to at least make one token question of your position and its this.

        If Scotland is such a burden. If it has, as Osborne claimed, contributed nothing to the success of sterling. If England would stop buying our produce, and resources. If Europe would spurn us and no other nation talk to us. Why on earth did they fight so hard to keep such a useless nation of scroungers in their Union? Instead of asking what does the union benefit Scotland, what does it benefit England? Because if you have not been paying attention – Labours botched handling of the no votes small win in 2014 is making our English cousins ask this very question.

        In the end I think we will have to agree to disagree. But I would say this. Back in 2011 Independence was the furthest thing from my mind. I tolerated the union because I had no say as to whether it should cease or continue. Having failed to make a case for it continue expect to present it to me a sort of national welfare voucher, just angered me. I also think at some stage you will reach a point in a debate when you realise that you have no common ground with someone who holds another viewpoint. All you can do is leave the room politely and close the door. I hope by now you are beginning to realise that many in this forum and across Scotland have already left the room. We may not have won the vote at this point in time, but frankly the topic of another referendum is moot as reactionary forces in Westminster may well end the union for us. Now that would be ironic wouldn’t it.

      5. scrum5 says:

        OK, Barraload, here is an honest and non-technical attempt at addressing your points, with as open a mind as I can.

        Your first comment asks “how a country without its own currency works”. The question assumes that Scotland does not have its own currency, because it “belongs” to someone else, and as noted in a previous post, George Osborne’s declaration that it “belonged” to England or rUK was designed to create these very doubts. The pound sterling is a fully tradeable currency and any country may choose to use it with or without permission from the Chancellor. For a country to adopt the pound (or any other such currency, such as $US) it is important to adopt economic policies that will maintain the value of the currency used at par. That does not mean adopting the same policies as the “home” country, but it does impose restrictions. The White Paper proposed entering a currency union with rUK, which would have required greater restrictions than simply adopting the currency, but was a valid option that demanded goodwill and co-operation on both sides. This was clearly not forthcoming and my guess would be that a future strategy for independence will simply adopt the pound for an interim period while another currency was established.

        Any country’s ability to borrow depends on its ability to pay back the loan, and the terms offered reflect that, and also the past record of repaying loans. Much was made again that an independent Scotland would be offered less favourable terms that UK currently enjoys, although the ratings agencies were not unanimous. Much was also made of the volatility of the oil price, but if you ask yourself the simple question, would you rather we didn’t have any oil, and I think you will answer in the negative. A pertinent question that was never addressed by the No side was how would rUK fare in the money markets without the oil reserves sitting behind it.

        Taxation or fiscal policy is the way that countries generate the money to pay for public services, including welfare spending and promoting economic growth and this includes taxes on income, savings, property, VAT, and duties on fuel, drink and other sources. As noted, money raised should over time pay for current spending, and also to pay back previous borrowings. The White Paper proposed establishing an Oil Fund which would be built up when the price was high, as it has been until the recent fall. All the giggling about the current low oil price ignores the fact that it is the tax receipts for UK that are affected, putting more pressure on the UK fiscal deficit and National Debt now heading for $1.5tr. Norway’s Oil Fund was only established in 1990 and is now the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, currently valued at $860bn. Nobody laughs at that.

        Nobody ever said that Independence would be easy, as it does mean making grown up choices and taking responsibility, but Independence gives a country the option of how to raise money and what to spend it on. The real argument for me is that an Independent Scotland would make different choices in each of these areas than any of the current “main” parties, and would seek to reduce the appalling levels of inequality of opportunity, health and wealth in what we like to imagine a civilised country.

        You ask about membership of NATO and the EU, and our relationship with US, and once again the question arises because of the claim by Unionists that an Independent Scotland would be excluded from both of these organisations. The contrary view is that Scotland occupies such a strategic position that NATO would be very keen that we remain members, notwithstanding opposition to Trident replacement. In truth, the US would prefer that UK increases its spending on conventional weapons and equipment, as our ability to respond internationally is now severely compromised through cuts in defence spending. Similarly, we are all citizens of the European Union and there is no mechanism to remove that status, indeed any country wishing to leave (UK after a referendum?) would face long and difficult negotiations to do so. It is simply not credible that we would be instantly outside the EU on achieving Independence.

        I don’t know if I have answered your questions, although I have tried, but in many cases there are no “answers”, only options and opinions on either side, and it is for you to decide what you believe to be the answers that make most sense to you. I’m sure there are zealots on both sides, but there are also many who care and think deeply about the future of our country.

  17. Stan Free says:

    Wholly indicative of The Labour Party in general and the Scottish branch office in particular. They have nothing positive to say for themselves, all they can do is make negative statements about others. Nationally it’s “The Tories”, in Scotland it’s The SNP. Now, it seems, it’s us, you, me, and anyone else with an internet connection and a level of engagement.
    Poor Labour party, (Scottish Branch). If only they were dealing with a better class of voters……..

    1. Barraload says:

      OK, let’s move this on

      the points re trident are thought provoking and I could be persuaded on this one

      leave out the the rhetoric about “crushing people” and “breeding resentment” and “Scotland on welfare” and “wholly indicative of Labour party” blah blah as they are just playing to your gallery. I’t no doubt a form of self righteous fun for the converted but won’t be enough to persuade others i.e the ones you need to persuade.

      So we move to the substantive issues on which I hasten to admit I am no expert but I want someone to take the time to explain some matters to me – if you want my vote. Do you?

      If you want to borrow money on international markets as I understand it, you need either (a) a central bank as lender of last resort that’ll provide liquidity in the system if all else fails or (b) massive reserves of currency as collateral.

      I ACCEPT Scotland can use sterling or any other currency you want to use like Dollars or Panama’s currency. Alastair Darling and many others agreed with this and for some bizarre reason got howled down for it. But if you don’t have a lender of last resort to stand behind the currency, and why would the Bank of England or any other bank agree to that risk for a separate independent country, then you need reserves.


      Reduce state spending?

      Higher taxes?

      You just can;t sweep it away as it really matters to the security of the country economy and those ho pay the taxes need to know what a future state is going to expect of them.

      The response on tax is a version of the flaky “don;t worry something will sort itself out.” Not good enough I’m afraid.

      The social contract with any state is an emotional bond but also an agreement about tax and spending. On the former the YES Camp have many acolytes but on the latter they resorted to a “shoot the messenger” approach and told us everything would be fine and if we didn’t believe it we were scaremongering. These are not persuasive arguments so stop banging on with the old arguments and just answer the questions.

      1. david agnew says:

        we are answering your questions. We have spent 4 years answering these and other questions. Our fingers are sore from typing out the answers, our voices hoarse from telling you the answers. But you get the answer, then look around for another question to ask and demand “answers”.

        For instance – an answer to finance.

        My understanding of national reserves, are underspends kept in central banks to cover liabilities. Scotland already has a sum of money in the B of E to the tune of 3bil +/- I am not sure of the exact amount. So we already have a cash reserve, held as it were in a “foreign” exchange. The SNP are already building up this reserve with an additional 1/2 bil, pretty remarkable given regular cuts to barnett. It could so easily have been much larger, but Scottish labour returned a yearly underspend in secret to westminster. As for no central bank. We would of course have to establish one. If you think thats impossible I would urge you to read the history of New Zealand as one example, but frankly there are many more out there. In fact Scotland could so easily follow that new zealand model. In the mean time prudent spending controls would have to be put in place.

        As for “breeding resentment” – “Scotland on welfare” blah blah blah. “playing to the gallery” blah blah blah, lets move on shall we. This negativity about Scottish “learned helplessness” was the meat of the entire no campaign. Guess what? It did breed resentment, it did generate anger. You know its perfectly alright to be a no voter and get angry about how you and everyone else in Scotland are regularly portrayed by the media. It’s ok to express concern when this is repeated by politicians. Its ok to defend Scotland from these & other attacks and not feel you were inadvertently supporting the yes camp. I could respect your position more if you at least showed as much contempt for those who repeat this nonsense as you do for those who are actually offended by it. Trying to pretend it doesn’t exist or it doesn’t matter or worse, somehow not relevant to the debate is not a position a No voter should make when talking about Union, best of both worlds. Your silence on it, breeds even more resentment as many will think you actually agree with the position. But in the spirit of debate, lets move on by all means.

        We have been polite and answered your questions and your follow up questions. Please do us the courtesy of answering some of ours. I will also ask my last questions again. though I will reframe them slightly.

        If the principal argument for union being in Scotlands best interests, is its dependency on the UK. And as it has been said by Osborne, Scotland has contributed nothing to the success of the UKs currency. What possible benefit is there in England continuing with the Union?

        In short, what do you think we the Scots bring to the UK, that made you think a No vote benefits both sides?

      2. DR says:

        Does who want your vote, Barraload? Vote for who you like! By the time the next opportunity to vote to become an utterly normal economy operating utterly standard practices with above average resources comes around, you’ll either have educated yourself, or you won’t. I’m guessing not, or you wouldn’t be confused *now* about these very well-covered issues. International parallels: they exist. It’s fairly apparent that you are only mystified by the fact that you aren’t unquestioned authority: ‘but why do people interpret facts in different ways?’ is a deeply daft question (the answer being very obvious) which has nothing to do with politics, or Scotland. In the meantime, I do suggest you try and have a go at keeping up with which issues are actually current. Comments relevant to the topic at hand, for example, are generally better received than yet another chorus of ‘I’m a special snowflake, seek my vote’. The fact that *you* don’t find an argument persuasive is not an objection to the argument (only politeness makes anyone pretend it so, even during campaigns). And the fact that you don’t know this militates strongly against the proposition that you can even theoretically be ‘persuaded’, rendering the attempt doubly pointless.

  18. lastchancetoshine says:

    Translation : we can no longer lie and misrepresent, having our word taken as fact without people pointing it out and (gasp) discussing it.

    The Gennie is out of the bottle, there will be frantic efforts to get it back in, no doubt under the guise of security measures.

    “Why can’t Douglas, Miliband and the comrades utilise these media tools to create their own narrative about a fairer society,”?

    Because the facts will have to actually be facts rather than what first pops into their heads as a plausible sounding argument. That’s a whole new skillset that old school politicins don’t posess.

    1. Barraload says:

      Explain the bit about how Scotland has already built up reserves as I may have misunderstood that.

      I didn’t have any thoughts about “learned helplessness” etc etc. This is a theme that folk on here like to kindle and ignite whenever possible but it isn’t one that I was raising. Why do you react to it so much?

      If we could stop the name calling of Unionists and debate issues then this site would become more interesting for those who are not nationalists, but maybe the site is only meant for those of that opinion and it is not interested in a broader discussion

  19. dickybeau says:

    Labour did themselves in by not allowing dissent of the Vite No line. Labour for Indy were vilified and there was no tolerance of the possibility that labour voters might vote Yes. Their language about Yes voters and Labour’s exploitation of the ‘abuse in plain sight’ in the press as well as Jim ‘nani’ Murphy (goes down poleaxed at the brush of an egg) behaviour has given Labour voters nowhere to go. Given that the West of Scotland is their core vote area they must have been really cocky about the outcome to be so cavalier. Twitter destroyed their credibility with traditional Labour voters like me because they can’t explain pre and post referendum positions on health. They can’t understand that I am not a fascist or that I don’t want to be associated with the EDL/SDL/BNP type nationalism but seem keen to label me that way just the same. I can’t think how they will ever win me back. If wee Dougie doesn’t understand that then it’s time they just rolled over. It feels a wee bit like I imagine Eastern Europe must have been like when the communist parties fell in the Glasnost period. Can we cast Dougie as Honecker?

  20. smiling vulture says:

    Wee Dougie knew 99.9% of MSM were NO referendum.Thats why Devo +(home rule) was taken off ballot paper.Lets Kill off independence(SNP) stone dead,only 24% of Scots only really want it diatribe.

    smith commision sucks?watch Jim trash it,glasgow leaders uni debate last week,you couldn’t make it up.

    45% is a killer blow, baseline,westminster elections

    I hope SNP put a Federal Union referendum 1st year of 2016 manifesto

    Until the referendum I didn’t know about Lallands Peat Worrier,Wings,Bella Caledonia,Wee Dug,Derek Bateman, as many others

  21. Ali says:

    Looking forward to him being ousted, along with Danny Alexander, Magrit Curran, and Jim Murphy not finding a seat for his bony, lying arse.

  22. JBS says:

    “Stay off the internet, get back in yer box, shut up, read the Daily Record, vote Labour.”

    Not gonna happen…

  23. MBC says:

    I don’t know what facts Douglas Alexander is referring to, but many of the undisputed facts already in the mainstream public domain are horrifying enough. Here, by George Monbiot, one of the few mainstream journos to ‘get’ the indyref, is a damning catalogue of the failures of political parties to hold the powerfully corrupt to account:

  24. dcanmore says:

    Labour are fast becoming irrelevant, they are stuck in a maze of their own construction and are frightened to turn in any direction. They remind me of the Liberals at the end of Great War, taken over by a pro-war power hungry mob that abandoned the party’s principles and eventually destroyed the party in a few short years. Labour have problems they simply won’t face up to in a fast changing environment they increasingly don’t understand.

  25. manofmoray says:

    “It’s a fantastic insight into the worldview of a career politician.”

    Absolutely. It’s frankly astonishing. And very arrogant. Facts are something that Labour / Establishment politicians / BBC possess. Other people have “opinions”. The game is up Douglas A.

  26. I agree with all that;s been said. He’s always been smug but this shows he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. Spread this article far and wide , especially Paisley, and show him the door.
    I read somehere else that Labour are losing because people are talking and discussing things together. How very 21st century!

  27. muttley79 says:

    Douglas Alexander gives the game away by mentioning the changing nature of political communications, by naming Facebook he really means all the forms of social media and newer online forums and blogs. Alexander does not like them because he and Labour can no longer control the message, and views from them like they could the MSM, TV etc. As has been mentioned above Alexander wants to return to the days of everyone getting their political news through the BBC, Daily Record etc, which are overwhelmingly unionist in sentiment and sympathy. So really this is all about information control.

  28. Johnny come lately says:

    For some strange reason slab remind me of a film in which Bet Davis starred called “Whatever happened to baby Jane”

  29. dcanmore says:

    Labour are trapped in a maze of their own construction, they have no idea where to turn, hiding from the challenges they need to face within their own party while stuck in a cloud of history pining for those halcyon days where they only needed the electorate to turn up when called for.

  30. Edulis says:

    Douglas reminds me of the last days of the Ceausescu regime when Nicolae stood on the balcony of his ridiculous palace together with his wife and expected adulation and got boos. He couldn’t understand what was happening. He expected his every word would be lapped up and life would go on as before. The people had had enough and suddenly realised that his power was a chimera and they were more powerful than him.

    Wee Dougie hasn’t caught up with the fact that his constituents have seen through all his eloquent verbage, his expenses gravy train, his access to privilege his shoo-in to the retirement home in the chamber next door. In other words he has lost the trust of the people who put their trust in him. No doubt he will swallow his pride and end up on the list for the Scottish Parliament.

  31. Barraload says:

    Edifying stuff

  32. Clarinda says:

    Such a precise and accurate evisceration of the self-serving arrogance of Labour’s expectation for automatic entitlement to a seat at the trough.

    The political enlightenment that has invigorated the Scottish electorate has not just exposed unionist ideological deficits but produced a momentum that will not be subservient to spin, lies or propaganda from any party. Being held to account in such a open manner thanks to social media etc. has been remarkable in this continuous form – almost increasing since last September – and may have shocked many now realising they are dealing with a much more political savvy electorate. It is excellent to see so many young people taking such a genuine interest – I’m just regretful that I can’t live another 60 years to see what potential this will bring about.

  33. Rob says:

    It’s only natural for politicians like Douglas Alexander to hate social media – it is particularly difficult for them to falsify, often perilous to negotiate and nigh-on impossible to control. It plays a crucial part in shaping the public’s perception of his party, for better or for worse, and it isn’t going away.

    What a nightmare social media must be for spin doctors like McTernan, who already have to form strategies to deal with errant ministers’ dodgy tweets, high profile deviations from the party line, or backbench scandals in-the-making; what a distraction all this fact-checking must be from the already-strenuous pursuit of governance!

    It’s not difficult to imagine our political leaders lamenting a ‘simpler time’ when their every public statement wasn’t available online to be chewed over by the watchful likes of Bella and Wings, and yet here is Douglas Alexander to bring that lament to life.

    You reap what you sow, Dougie et al. – May 7th is going to be very interesting.

  34. Mikeyboy says:

    @Barraload – This is a collection of facts mostly from government sources about the case for Scottish independence and it addresses most, if not all of the points you raise. It was written before the referendum and is oriented towards that event, but the underlying facts and arguments have not changed.

  35. Malcolm McMillan says:

    Alexander has never been tested!

    I remember his by-election in 1997 – (“McMaster & Graham” debacle – well worth looking into, you can see the rot as far back as then and the collusion of the Scottish media with labour) -. Debacle is used here as a euphemism, this was wretched behaviour beyond belief, labour being the only combatants involved!

    The SNP were on the ground everywhere, labour nowhere – why? labour knew they could take people for granted!

    Alexander has known this at every election – up to now that this was the case. Now that the winds of change are upon us, rather than face up to a changed world and roll up his sleeves, he’s blaming everyone else, including his bosses the voters!

    His status as a thinker has been invented by friendly, mallable journalists and snowballed, compounded by his premature appointments by Blair. For me he typifies what is wrong about the labour party, career politicians with no life or working experience and a party with no reason to be or policies based on deeply held longstanding beliefs. He and his pals election to power is what the election is about (to them), not what can they do for the people or their country, etc.

    As a thinker, I’d place him on par with Jackie Bailey, Iain Gray or Margaret Curran.

    Time to move aside Douglas, you have absolutely nothing to offer the people of Scotland other than the dead hand of labour!

    Malcolm McMillan

  36. Dr Benway says:

    Funny how ratface Alexander’s outburst comes almost at the same time as Cameron and May’s proposal to extend the range of illegal “extremism” to include anyone making comments online or elsewhere which go strongly against government policy, presumably either red or blue tory policy.

  37. lastchancetoshine says:

    Probably the same reason you then felt it worthwhile wasting your energy commenting.

  38. Darien says:

    “His status as a thinker has been invented ”

    Just like other Labour ‘heavyweights’ – Broon comes to mind. Nothing but spivs and pr men the lot of them – so glaringly obvious, though not to all. Glad most Scots have seen through them. Its taken a while though, for the penny to drop. But the corner has been turned, and there is no going back. Labour are preparing for oblivion in Scotland, as are the LibDems, all following the Tories into the cesspit of political history.

  39. Annette says:

    “Why can’t Douglas, Miliband and the comrades utilise these media tools to create their own narrative about a fairer society, about Scotland’s future? ”
    Here’s why:
    1) They don’t believe in such a narrative. They only believe in their divine right to hold seats in Westminster.
    2) People on the internet argue their case. Many argue extremely well. Labour’s only argument is, and has been for a while: Vote for us, we’re merely the second worst party. This is not exactly inspiring, especially at a time when people increasingly realise that there are a few GOOD parties they can vote for.
    3) Nobody protects you on the internet, not from your smarter, better-informed opponent and not from your own folly. And nobody shuts up or excludes your opponents.
    4) Habitual liars have it hard on the internet, because they expose themselves in front of a certain group of people with a lot of time on their hands. These people will fact check and keep records. Murphy, Curran et al can delete their lies all they like – there will be folk out there who have the screen caps.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I know

  40. Ewan Kane says:

    I love these inventive little anecdotes, purporting to be from real people, that politicians come out with. It seems Doogie has someone from the Sunday Post writing his script for him. Jings, crivvens, help ma boab.

  41. barakabe says:

    ‘We are used to a politics where we share facts…’ What are facts but compromises? A fact merely marks the point where we have agreed to let investigation cease- that in a nutshell sums up the central conceit of the myopic Dougie. Is it me or does he look like a distraught possibly constipated Grover ( yes i know he’s not col enough to be grover)- but nevertheless an intellectual diddy like him reading a true radical like Illich is hard to believe.

  42. Dave McEwan Hill says:

    Smiling Vulture at 11.28
    I sincerely hope the SNP does nothing of the sort. Talk about providing more impediments to independence!
    A Federal Union is impossible with England eight times the size of all the rest of the UK put together. The chance of England allowing any parity of power or anything like it to any of the other small parts of the UK is absurd. It can only happen if Scotland for instance becomes a region like the West Country or Yorkshire. There is absolutely no appetite for a federal UK in England and it wont happen. Of course we could argue about it for years which would suit our opponents admirably.
    What can happen is a confederal union. This is when already INDEPENDENT countries decide freely to share a number of mutually sensible functions as is the case with the Nordic union in which countries and communities of very different size operate together freely in a number of ways. A British Confederal Union would sensibly include the Republic of Ireland but lots of Scots might find joining the Nordic Union more to their liking

  43. Mealer says:

    The Labour Party is a staunchly unionist and London based party.They can’t really expect people who believe in independence to vote for them.I don’t think the nine out of twenty who voted Yes are much interested in anything Mr Alexander has to say anymore.

  44. One thing I don’t see mentioned is the fact that the likes of BBC etc controlled the experts we got to hear also, they rolled out the same ilk, singing the song they have been told to sing. The host lobbing questions to invite the pre agreed answers and misinformation if not out right lies. For experts to get a say online, without the need for media was a star bursting through the mist. The likes of Danny Alexander and Jim Murphy etc could not control. 2014 will be seen as the start of a education like never before…The lies and spin can be easily checked, the experts who they roll out, we have our own to give a balanced view. I hope the English electorate wake up soon.

  45. gustavo says:

    The debate around independence has been fantastic, and it is wrong for Mr Alexander to ignore the vitality of those looking for new and fresh thinking. However, that he is wrong in this doesn’t mean that there is no substance to what he says. Looking at social media, it is very obvious how little trust there is in mainstream politicians, and a consequent demonisation of their behaviour and motives. This is demonisation of often decent people, who have given many hours, days, weeks and years of their lives in imperfect but humane service to their country. It is a demonisation which is in fact narcissistic, as many of thise who I see criticising and carping have not the slightest idea how the country is genuinely governed, or the courage and intelligence to participate face to face themselves. Labour do indeed need to pause for self reflection if they are truly to represent the people.However, so too do many in the independence movement. Too much fantasy helps none of us. Publish that if you dare.

    1. Malcolm McMillan says:

      Alexander is wrong to ignore, but that does not mean there is no substance to what he says – Strikes me as complete arrogance and contempt for those he seeks to represents

      Trust in mainstream politicians is diminishing this has led to their demonising – It’s their behaviour, e,g sleaze, Iraq and tory / labour BT that has led them to this juncture, a mess of their making, that many can not excuse!

      Demonising of decent people – There are decent people in westminster, but they are in the minority (John McDonnell or Jeremy Corbyn), it is now flooded with career politicians who do not dare face down the whips and pass meekly through the voting lobbies dictated by their parties.

      Those who criticise politicians are ignorant and cowardly – this is where you have failed to grasp the underlying meaning of of the piece. in the past labour mps disappeared off to London, out of sight out of mind, basically they could sit on their arse for four years, bevy in the bars and ask the odd question. The information age has open their world up for scrutiny, its shone a light on their failings and they don’t like it. labour’s strategy has been to lie, blame and crocodile tears.

      Labour need to pause if they are to truly … – The point being people have found out labour never has truly represented them for the past 25 years and never will do until they change. Yes the YES camp need to reflect, but they have the lesson learned of labour don’t abandon your principals or your core voters and strike out at everyone else!

      In light of labour’s welfare shadow Rachel Reeves comments – “labour do not want to be seen as the party of the welfare state, nor do labour wish to be seen as the party who represent people on benefits or who are out of work” – you are on thin ground defending labour!

      I’ll leave you an apt poem for labour in 2015 regards their changing view of welfare, poverty and inequality – I am sure you will recognise it!

      “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Socialist.
      Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
      Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
      Because I was not a Jew.
      Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

      Martin Niemöller

    2. rabthecab says:

      So this “narcissistic demonisation” only comes from those in the independence movement? The amount of trolling aimed at me, for having the temerity to support Independence when I live in London, would suggest otherwise.

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