Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dear Teresa

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a06_2u_o7_address-business-letters-district-officials-800x800

Dear Teresa

I wrote to you recently about the “go home” immigrant poster campaign which has been piloted in London boroughs. To date you have not given me the courtesy of a reply.

In my letter I asked you not to bring this xenophobic campaign to Scotland. I asked this because of the impact that this might have on our excellent community relations and the anxiety it may cause to some of our minority communities.

Unfortunately, it now looks like that you have chosen to ignore this request and instead decided to bring this inflammatory and insensitive campaign to Scotland. The UKBA office in Glasgow now displays posters and materials asking its clients to seek help “to go home” and offering to buy tickets to take these illegal immigrants home. Clients in this office have found these materials offensive and agencies and local politicians have raised their concerns about the appropriateness of this unsettling ‘go home’ message.

These posters, of course, have very little to do with the UK’s appalling record of dealing with illegal immigration, but everything to do with the rise of UKIP in the polls in England. The appalling race to the bottom with UKIP on immigration rhetoric is now being played out in the offices of the UKBA, and in front of the members of the public seeking help and informed advice.

Can you please reconsider siting these posters in Scotland? Our sense of community values feels violated by these crude and useless materials. The general view that is that they just do not fit here and we do not want them.

I hope you properly consider this and can assure me that all these materials will be removed.

Yours as always.

Pete Wishart MP

Advertisements

A COUNTRY OF OUR OWN

2685970092There’s just one year to go to the referendum and now is the time to up the passion and shout out about what we are hoping to achieve.

What we want is a country of our own. One run by Scots, for Scots and always in our interest. A nation with a Government we always vote for delivering the priorities we always choose.

We will run an independent Scotland better because we care more about Scotland. We, of course, care more about Scotland than the Westminster Tories and with independence we will never again have a Tory Government without our democratic consent. No more picking on our vulnerable and imposing years of austerity against our wishes. No more bedroom tax or Labour’s illegal wars and no more of Labour/Tory weapons of mass destruction defiling our beautiful country.

We know what independence is not about. We will keep the pound, the monarchy and retain our bilateral relationships. We will ease pretty seamlessly into our new independent status and the day after we secure our country for ourselves, our lives will be pretty much the same as the day before.

What will change is that all of this will be ours. Our nation will belong to us for the first time in over 300 years and nothing can be more exciting and transformative than that. We can change what we want and if things aren’t working, we can do things differently. It’s all in our own hands – with independence we are the masters of our own destiny. As the UK pulls in the direction of an alien and anti-Scottish UKIP agenda, we will make our own course, reflecting our own sense of community and our own values.

More than that, we will regain our national self respect and dignity. Scotland can stand tall in the world knowing that we are responsible for ourselves with no one else to blame for any mistakes we may make. We will be joining the world as an equal partner and we have a massive contribution to make. We are the Scotland that invented so much of the modern world and we will be an independent Scotland that has so much more to offer the world as a new independent and equal partner.

Our relationship with the rest of the UK will be improved. Our 300 years of British partnership is an important and crucial part of our Scots story and that will continue to inform us as we write our own new chapter. We will enjoy our British partnership as an equal partner and we will bring a new energy to that relationship.

This is our only chance. We may never again get this opportunity again. Let’s raise the passion. Let’s get excited. Let’s talk about the huge opportunities. A country of our own. The people of Scotland responsible for ourselves.

BRITISHNESS IN AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND.

ImageThought I would put this up. 

It’s my piece from almost exactly two years ago and it kick started a debate about what Britishness would mean in an independent Scotland. 

Unionists make much of the idea that we would have to choose between being either Scottish or British in the referendum when this is almost as impossible as it is nonsense. Not only are we ‘British’ in that we share a land mass called ‘Great Britain’ we also share 300 years of ‘British’ history and cultural ties that will continue to be shared, appreciated and enjoyed following Scotland’s independence. What independence will give us is the best of both worlds. We will have the political control required to create a dynamic economy whilst continuing to enjoy and enhance our great social relationships across these isles.

I have always been interested in the debate about Britishness (and what it means) and in the 2,000s, as we increasingly moved towards independence, it did seem that all vestiges of Britishness would go. Back then, when we examined Britishness only a tiny 3% of Scots described themselves as more British than Scottish

Our British inheritance, though, is an important part of our Scottish story and there must be an ongoing place for Britishness in Scotland. With our shared history and cultural ties Britishness will surely still have a place in a Scotland heading towards independence.

I believe that there is an inherent shared Britishness that can be defined from a Scottish perspective beyond the usual tired definitions and symbols. I also think that these ties, and this ‘British’ cultural relationship, could even be enhanced by independence. 

So here’s the piece. Think it almost stands the test of time.

Probably one of the most passionate debates we’re going to have in the run up to the referendum will be around the whole idea of identity and Britishness.  Like many proud nationalists I have struggled with the idea of being British and have never described myself as such.  But what will happen to the whole concept as Scotland moves towards independence and can the idea make a comeback and even become respectable in nationalist circles?

Firstly, I suppose Britishness is as much about geography as it is about identity and history.  Coming from Perth in the northern part of the island of Greater Britain I am as much British as someone from Stockholm is Scandinavian.

It’s when we try and add the other bits that we start to get into the difficulties.  If Britishness is to work as a cultural idea a shared story as well as a shared geography has to be constructed.  And that’s the hard part.  No one has ever come up with a convincing definition of Britishness, because there probably isn’t one.  And the concept has to be almost constantly rewritten – remember Gordon Brown’s clumsy and excruciating attempt and Michael Portillo’s recent nonsense about “anti-fanaticism”?  Cultural Britishness is then a rather curious construct that can be almost anything, and usually is, hence the mom and apple pie attributes usually associated with Britishness when people are asked to define it.

But there is absolutely no doubt that people indeed do feel and identify themselves as British, even in Scotland.  For me Britishness is so much more than the usual confused descriptions.  For me cultural Britishness isn’t one thing but is the sum of the 300 years journey that we have enjoyed and endured on this island.  It is what we have achieved and secured together in this partnership.  It is about the great historic cultural achievements from the industrial revolution to our great rock and pop bands.  It is about pride in our victories in the wars we fought together and the collective sense of shame in our historic crimes of colonialism and slavery.  Britishness is in fact the social union, and being British belongs as much to me as a proud Scottish nationalist and Scottish patriot as it does to anyone from England.

Our gripe then isn’t with cultural Britishness, the social union, but with the current political arrangements within the United Kingdom.  As civic nationalists we want the powers to grow our economy and make our own specific international contribution. We want to complete the powers of our Parliament and take responsibility for our own affairs.  We have no issues with the past and our British inheritance is a crucial part of our own Scottish story.

Britishness will exist in Scotland long after we become independent.  In fact I think that it could well be enhanced with independence.  With independence we will get the opportunity to define a new Britishness, one based on equality and mutual respect.  Britishness will still be all about our shared history and culture but it can also be about the new positive relationship we will seek to build.

I would also be happy to see any number of shared institutions being called British and it could and should be the brand name of our new enhanced and equal 21st century partnership.  Who knows maybe independence can give Britishness a new lease of life.

So there you go, that’s me, British and proud of it in an independent Scotland.

S’cuse me mate. Got a spare million quid…?

house_of_lords_1248028c

As an MP, I attend the ‘Houses’ of Parliament. My particular House, is of course the ‘House’ of Commons. Down the corridor equidistant from Central Lobby resides the ‘House’ of Lords, the other part of your legislature in the UK. We MPs refer to it as ‘the other place’ and a more otherworldly place you are unlikely to observe.

This week, this bloated House was given another 30 members at the cost of £1.26 million, taking its membership up to 785. The Chinese National People’s Congress is now the only legislature in the world that has more members. Like the People’s Congress it is similarly unelected, though the People’s Congress can at least claim it might be representative of some sort of constituency.

And who are these people who inhabit this gold encrusted, red cushioned preserve? Well, they are people appointed by your Prime Minister as nominated from lists drawn up by party leaders. That means that there are a liberal sprinkling of former MPs seeking a cosy retirement, there are some local worthies and party apparatchiks but crucially, and most importantly, there are many, many millionaires who have given significant donations to the UK political parties. This week’s list, for example, contributed some £1.5million to the UK parties. There you will find major Labour donor Sir William Haughy.  He will be voting on important amendments on laws that will affect you with Sir Anthony Bamford and Howard Leigh, both Tory donors and Tory supporters. This is a place of elitism and privilege and it has more millionaires per square inch than the Chelsea changing room.

The only qualification for amending, for voting on and shaping the legislature of your country these people possess seems to be the ability to put large amount of money into the coffers of the Labour and Conservative parties. No one has voted for them and they cannot be put out of office by you – a constituent and elector.

This is serious. This large unelected, crony stuffed, donor filled preserve decides the laws of the land. It is reckoned that by the end of this Parliament there may be 1000 Lords and if the rate of new appointments goes on it is possible that there may even be 2000 by the end of the next Parliament. This compares with 650 MPs who take the bother to stand for election and people vote for.

Every attempt at reforming the House of Lords has failed, usually by Conservatives who have a peculiar aversion to second chamber elections. There is no prospect of Lords Reform as we go forward, save one. An independent Scottish Parliament, decided by the Scottish people designed to serve the people who live and work here.

There we will observe the principle of democracy by securing a Parliament elected by the Scottish people.

This is Pete’s column for the Blairgowrie Advertiser