Scotland after GE2015: Referendum or Revolution?

The weekend after the referendum in September, a public meeting was held at Dundee’s Bonar Hall asking: what next for the Yes movement? Before an audience of several hundred, one local activist suggested that this could be the “early days of the Scottish Revolution.” As a statement it seemed both too excessive and yet simultaneously appropriate, satisfying the desire of the audience to ignore the recent defeat and, at the same time, satisfying the need to recognise the sheer radical nature of the forces which had been unleashed by the referendum. Whilst I didn’t immediately become a proselytiser for the Scottish Revolution, the comment stuck in my head and occasionally came to mind during the election, as I watched crowds of passionate independence supporters swarm round Nicola Sturgeon (as Channel 4’s Alex Thomson observed, these were simply unprecedented scenes in a modern British political context).

Then, the election result. After the initial rush of joy at the sweep of seats falling to the SNP and the subsequent bitter aftertaste of realising the Tories had won a majority, hashtags such as #IndyRefBy2018 starting appearing in my Twitter timeline. It seems obvious now that there will be a strong expectation among activists and the wider public that the SNP should include a commitment to hold another independence referendum in its 2016 Holyrood manifesto. Equally, it seems obvious that there will be many inside the SNP (and especially those close to its leadership), along with some influential voices from the wider Yes movement, who will argue that we don’t want to lose another referendum and that it is better to postpone the option until at least 2020, if not some time after.

There are some people who have been demanding an immediate second referendum ever since 19th September 2014. I intend no offence when I start by noting how these people are often looked down upon by others as being politically less-experienced individuals who have little to no hesitation in putting the Saltire at the centre of their politics, who think the result of the first referendum was a fix and who therefore demand a re-run. In the weeks after the referendum, when some people were posting videos online purporting to show meddling with ballot papers and the like, there was some embarrassment felt by those who think of themselves as more experienced and “serious” campaigners. For some activists I know of, they felt these conspiracy theories made the Scottish independence movement look politically immature and full of people whose internal drive for independence as an absolute end-in-itself has clouded their judgement to point that they are totally unable – to the point of childish stupidity – to even conceive of failure.

'Free Scotland' painted on cottage wallWhatever the merits of the conspiracy theories, I believe that the type of “inexperienced” (and I’ll shortly be addressing the question of what exactly is “political experience”) independence campaigner I have so far described has a virtue to bring to our movement that is now – especially after the election – going to be absolutely critical: impatience. To demand a second independence referendum – without waiting for “the guarantee” of a few opinion polls showing more than 50% pro-indy support – is to be stubbornly impatient. Yes, impatience may appear childish and immature – but this is because, if we think about it, childhood is the period of our lives when we are taught the supposed virtue of forms of deferral which uphold and maintain authoritarian, bureaucratic and patriarchal structures of power. “Eat your greens and you’ll get pudding later.” “If you do your chores instead of watching TV, you’ll get an extra couple of quid in your pocket money.” “Study hard at school and you won’t end up in a dead-end job like your mother and father” (thus ignoring how the failure to provide high quality standards of living is a result of the exercise of class power and political decision-making, rather than the failure of individuals to “study hard”).

With an SNP landslide amidst a Conservative overall majority at Westminster, many are now calling for the rise of a direct action social movement to challenge the legitimacy of austerity in Scotland. A substantial part of anti-austerity politics is all about challenging those very same authoritarian, bureaucratic and patriarchal structures of deferral, the blueprints for which are laid down during childhood. To become impatient for change, to become oblivious to the supposedly objective barriers in the way, to refuse to wait even upon the supposed good guidance of comradely others, is a return to the early proto-revolutionary resistances of childhood.

It is the idea of being willing to receive the supposed good guidance of comradely others which now brings me to the question of “political experience”. Jonathon Shafi is correct when he writes in the aftermath of the election: “a resistance dominated solely by a hyper-centralised SNP will run up against the need for Sturgeon to win moderate sections of Scotland over to secure another majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2016, something still difficult to achieve for the nationalists in the PR system.” One of the possible ways in which Sturgeon and the SNP might try and win over those moderate sections of Scotland in 2016 will be to keep a second referendum out of the SNP manifesto. Thus, the SNP (and some of their high-profile and influential supporters like Pat Kane, who argues for holding back on another referendum until at least 2020) will try to moderate the impatience of the grassroots by asserting their “political experience”, which is quite simply about their need to win over those moderate sections of Scotland that Shafi mentions.

Who are these “moderate sections” of Scotland? Essentially, they are the affluent middle classes who profit, either directly or indirectly, from the giant economic structure of deferral that we call “financial capitalism”. The “deferral” here is a question of the creation of debtors i.e. those who, like naughty children, have consumed first without paying up-front and must now agree to work as hard as slaves in order to pay back the deferred costs. Upon this unsteady base of debtor-creation sits an entire empire of asset-wealth, most of which exists only on paper and in the algorithms of property websites which offer reassurance to the affluent middle classes about how much their homes are worth. Beware activists who claim to be “politically experienced” enough to know that there is no point in calling a second referendum too soon – they are either personally invested themselves in the structure of deferral at the heart of financial capitalism, or they are hoping not to alienate the “moderate sections” who are invested in such deferral, believing that bringing those classes onboard is essential to winning independence. This would be “independence-lite” i.e. independence with the same model of economic injustice (of which deferral is a critical part) at its heart. I don’t believe that’s what most people in our movement are fighting for.

My final word to those who are – like me – impatient for independence is that, thus far, we have made a second referendum the object of our impatience. But let us as a movement reflect on how radical our impatience, regardless of its object, truly is. Impatience is key to a successful anti-austerity politics. Impatience is revolutionary by encouraging us to resist the structure of deferral which says we must work ourselves to the death in order to enjoy. If, as part of our anti-austerity politics, we test our impatience to its limit we might discover that we gain our independence without even needing another referendum. We might even end up with a sequence of events that others will later decide to call the Scottish Revolution.

Labours Caledonian Collieshangie

London Labours Scottish branch are a façade of a political party with a right wing Blairite branch manager masquerading as the ghost of Labours past. It’s an unavoidable fact that they do not and indeed cannot dictate their own policy.  They are at the mercy of their National Executive in London. This illusion they have worked so hard to protect over many decades, has eventually been exposed to the nation as a fraud. They now face a deserved electoral annihilation in Scotland as well as complete and total humiliation, as the SNP surge ahead in every age group, class and gender. Following Thursdays results, when the dust should be settling around a government being formed, instead May 8th looks like a gathering storm of Labours own making due to their declaration of not dealing with the SNP and their mantra of the ‘largest party’ forming the government.  Labours Caledonian collieshangie is set to go UK wide.

At last, Scots understand what Labour in Scotland represents, namely a bunch of Scots careerists who do not want Scots governing Scots.  These pro-self, anti-scots have left citizens feeling abandoned and divorced from government, provoking typical reactions of “I voted for Labour for 20 years. I now want them wiped off the political map. “  When Johann Lamont said they were being treated just like a branch office, she was absolutely correct, but this is because they are a branch office, furthermore one that tells voters what to think to suit their own Anglo-centric policies.

Johann’s petulant frustration hints at Scottish Labour Parliamentarians bizarrely falling for their own con trick and convincing themselves their augmented reality actually exists.  This is reminiscent of the English voter fallacy where they believe preferential treatment is awarded to greedy Scots who gain a net surplus from the Exchequer.  Of course, with repetition, fallacy becomes perceived in the voter mindset, with truth becoming a corrupted and adulterated irrelevance, despite the estimated £150 Billion excess contributed by Scotland since 1980.

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Indeed, it was a revelation of note when Johann Lamont’s former spin-doctor Paul Sinclair divulged that a senior party member said “You did a remarkable job over the last three years in persuading the press that the Scottish Labour party actually exists.” It is a quote worth reading again and thinking about what it betrays.  Paul, who said the current incarnation of Labour in Scotland suffered from an ‘intellectual deficit’ went on to say:  “the real damage is that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats saw first hand that the ‘Labour machine’ didn’t exist.”

Now that Labour have abandoned social democracy to the SNP and have no legitimate claim in that domain, if they cannot determine a convincing and radical purpose other than merely being opposed to the SNP, then the omnishambles that represents their perilous state of disorder, will become a full on implosion. In all probability, Labour has already transitioned from being a party beyond reproach in Scotland, to one that is beyond repair. They are clearly too disconnected from even the parts of Scottish society considered previously as impregnable Labour bastions, to effectively fulfill the role of intermediary between vital institutions and the people.

Robin McAlpine of the Common Weal commented “It is a function of the British establishment…it has now got to a point where it is the biggest barrier to social change in Scotland”. Robin is right, regardless of whether your X landed in the YES or NO box in September, few would claim Labour are a party worthy of a ‘socialist’ tag.  As First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pointed out “Once upon a time Labour was the party of progress in Scotland – now they just stand in the way of progress. For too long now Labour has sought position and prestige at Westminster instead of the best interests of Scotland”.  Indeed Nicola, the pivotal referendum role Labour played with their fellow conniving Tories and the contemptible way they portrayed the Scots electorate to the world, remains raw.

Labour campaigned hard with the Tories during the referendum, to keep Westminster Tories making decisions to the detriment of Scotland. The blame lies at their door for the missed opportunity to get rid of the Tories once and for all last September. However, there are no significant ideological differences between the two parties. Labour for some time has been conservative with the truth, now they are just conservative and without blush or conscience, after misleading the electorate using Tory funds and with a new toot on an old horn, they proclaim they want ‘rid of the Tories’.  There are 80 Scottish Labour parliamentarians, which equates to 160 faces, each saying different things north and south of the border.

That reinvention is required if there is to be an 11th hour reprieve for Labours past transgressions, is not lost on Gordon Brown, who even lies about his first name which is actually James, and who arrogantly declared “I am resetting Scottish politics today”. Well Gordon, a ‘leaky ship needs muckle pumping’ and a politically engaged and educated electorate are unlikely to cast aside their aspirations for a party who literally fear democracy, especially given the mass realisation that the Scottish Labour ‘accountancy unit’ who are not even capable of counting their own members, do not have Scotland’s best interests anywhere near their political agenda.  Indeed, no unionist party possibly could.

Reinvention would of course suit the dyke-louper Jim Murphy, having temporarily shed his Blairite beliefs for a diametrically opposed off-the-shelf ‘man of the people’ set, considered more amenable to his preferred target demographic of the gullible, vulnerable and politically illiterate.  While bedecked in a Scotland football top and swigging Irn Bru, he tells us ‘a vote for SNP is a vote for the Tories’ but empty vessels make the most noise and it’s now 7 branch leaders in only 15 years; Dewar, McLeish, McConnell, Alexander, Gray and Lamont. Now Murphy, a person not a fit and proper to be involved in the consensual and progressive style of politics Scotland desperately needs.  After Lamont, Labour needed a leader who could put an end to factionalism and austerity, but what they’ve got was a right-winger wrecking the little that remains of their traditions and one who dangerously repeats ‘the largest party always forms the government’.  This is a position they are about to reverse on Friday as they attempt to do the polar opposite and numbers permitting, form a minority government only allowable by SNP backing.

There is a growing democratic deficit and prevailing lack of accountability as Scots, over-ready for a new style of politics, rapidly lose confidence in the Westminster capacity to uphold public interest and realise Westminster’s wants will always trump Scotland’s needs. The sense of utter betrayal and revulsion that educated Scots have towards Labour, is akin to that lifelong revulsion which Scots who suffered from Thatcher in the 80’s still feel towards the Tories. The days of Labour pulling the wool over our eyes and sharing their lies are being consigned to history.

The clambering for power on Friday will be exacerbated by backtracking confusion caused by an inept Labour and their deal or no deal shenanigans. However, the whole mess will just elucidate that Scotland is no more than a cog in a plutocratic greed machine required to generate the power they crave.

Indyref2 and the Waterboarding of Nicola Sturgeon

In one sense, the way in which Nicola Sturgeon is repeatedly asked about another independence referendum is not so different from the way in which politicians of all stripes are repeatedly asked the same question over and over again (“will you do a deal with the SNP, Mr Miliband?”, “is your party racist, Mr Farage?”, “why did you break your pledge on tuition fees, Mr Clegg?”, “are you going to cut child benefit, Mr Cameron?”). But, in another sense, this insistence on the question of a second referendum is starting to become a kind of discursive waterboarding: whereas those other questions are asked of the unionist leaders as a way of making them squirm a little, I can’t help escape the feeling that Sturgeon is repeatedly asked the #indyref2 question in order to drown and suffocate her.

1000Whereas the unionist leaders are asked repetitive questions about individual policies or about the character of the party they represent, Sturgeon is being forced to answer for the Yes movement even whilst it is impossible for her to do so. Prior to last year’s referendum, the SNP were essentially the caretakers of the independence question and, in that sense, it was reasonable for them to make statements such as saying things like the referendum would be the “opportunity of a lifetime” (even if this doesn’t actually imply that a voter should expect only one referendum in their lifetime); but in the post-indyref world, the SNP are no longer the exclusive caretakers of the question. Forces have been unleashed which extend far beyond the SNP. Instead of a caretaker role, the SNP is much more like Freud’s carefully controlled “ego” which entertains an ambivalent relationship with the pressure it feels from the more unruly set of drives that Freud called “the Id” (i.e. the wider Yes movement). Bombarded with questions about another independence referendum, Sturgeon, as the SNP’s internal “ego”, is suffocated between these questions and the impossibility of answering on behalf of a movement which extends far beyond her party.

Of course, the policies offered by most political parties take a form which is remarkably similar to the commodity. Sections of the electorate (the elderly, home-owners, first-time buyers et cetera) are targeted in much the same way that companies target particular demographic groups with advertising and branding. Independence is not at all like this. We desire independence in the same way that we desire fresh air, clean water and beautiful sunsets. Unlike so many other political desires, it is impossible to give it a commodified form. And this resistance to the commodity form is, I believe, one reason why independence has thrown up such a progressive character i.e. a willingness to explore heterodox political ideas and put into question the dominant economic and political discourse which places the commodity and “the market” at the heart of everything i.e. neo-liberalism.

If we can marginalise Labour and the other unionist parties at the 2016 Holyrood elections, we may be lucky enough to end up with a so-called “rainbow” parliament of pro-independence parties willing to engage in honest debate with each other, finally burying the tribalism that is being brought to head with Scottish Labour’s looming “extinction event” this Thursday. If it happens, that will be yet another breath of fresh air in our new and exciting political discourse, on the long journey to independence. May the hellish waterboarding finally end…

Scottish Surf Team International Adventures

On the 15th of February 2015, the Scottish Surf Team – who had declared independence only one year prior – were welcomed into the International Surfing Association family of nations along with our Finnish brothers and sisters. Securing this status has been a remarkable achievement involving a massive amount of hard work and has not only allowed the team to compete under the Saltire and stand for the national anthem but they have also secured the status of the national team for our future generations.

The team are confident of a strong performance at the ISA World Games in Nicaragua where they compete this summer. We caught up with Team Captain and Scottish Surfing Federation Secretary Mark Boyd who gave us the latest on team developments and info on how we can all give our fullest support to our brand new independent Scottish Surf Team. The World games take place between the 31st of May and the 7th of June with the opening ceremony taking place on Wednesday the 29th of May when the team will don their kilts to the delight of all in the crowd we’re sure. Staunch of Edinburgh have once again provided the official uniform which includes a very smart polo neck.

We believe as IndependenceLive.net that it is incumbent upon all of us as aspirational, independently minded Scots to support and sustain our surf team who will be looking at costs in and around £16,000 Scottish pounds to represent the best of Scottish and the crowdfunder link gives you yet more information about the adventure as well as the opportunity to purchase proper officially branded products.

The team is as follows:
Mark Boyd Captain – (Thurso)
Shoana Blackadder – (Thurso)
Megan McKay – (MacDuff)
Scotty Main – (Thurso)
Ali Matheson – (Carrbridge)
Allyn Harper – (Sandend)

crowdfunder.co.uk/scotland-surfing-team-2015

https://vimeo.com/125330471

No al #TTIP #18A Madrid

On Saturday the 18th of April 2015, several thousand people took to the streets of Madrid in protest against TTIP. Reportedly over 200 organisations were represented in the 10,000 strong crowd and the situation was mirrored in 75 cities all over the world which included protest against CETA and TISA. The hashtag #18A marked the second global day of action since October the 11th last year.

Almudena Grandes, a writer for the Spanish broadsheet ‘El Pais’ addressed the rally in Puerto del Sol saying, “Today we have taken the streets to express our rejection of this new form of oppression. This treaty is merely way for multinationals to buy up our liberties. Increasingly world citizens rights are being eroded in the interests of big business”. She emphasised the work, health, environmental and social consequences of this secretive trade agreement being drawn up by Eurocrats and corporate lawyers.

“Based on a TTIP clause, companies may sue states if they think their interests have been harmed. All we want is a dignified and meaningful life. Across the world we send our solidarity.”

“TTIP is not a treaty, it is a coup,” concluded Rafeal Mayor, Civic Relations Secretary for Podemos.

Despite concerns over the newly passed ‘Ley Mordaza’ laws which restrict heavily the rights of people to openly protest, the march and rally passed off very peacfully with only a standard and passive police presence. Given the local elections coming up in May it could be that unrest in the streets is something to be avoided if the standing PP administration is to have any chance of holding onto their grip of the Comunidad.

Varios trade unions and political parties were in attendance on Saturday including the Anarchist CGT, The Communist Party, The Green Party, Friends of the Earth and various groups associated with 15M.

Ecologistas en Acción led the crowd with their catchy TTIP Rap which cleverly explains the key issues with this somewhat complicated and media unfriendly trade deal.

Are Nationalists more aggressive than everyone else on Twitter?

The BBC’s James Cook has been on the receiving end of some aggressive Twitter feedback after his interview with Nicola Sturgeon on Saturday. The Huffington Post has coverage here of what was said to whom by whom. According to the Huffington, the worst comment Cook received was being told that he was the “scum of the Earth” – not exactly a death threat, but still an unacceptably aggressive comment to direct towards a journalist which should be condemned (as it has been by many nationalists, including Sturgeon herself). In an off-the-shelf “cybernat” piece, Fraser Nelson claims that:

The SNP leadership are, in my experience, refreshingly open-minded, good-humoured and intelligent. But the problem with nationalisms as a creed is that it attracts, as its followers, an angry mob – in the SNP’s case, a digital lynch mob. I suspect we’ll hear a lot more from them before this campaign is out.

I’ve already covered some of the background to this issue in earlier post on what I describe as the need for the “renationalisation of aggression” i.e. the deflection of the individual aggression of the neoliberal subject who is programmed to be aspirational and personally ambitious onto the project of a renationalised aggression in which the working class comes together politically in order to pursue organised agitation against capitalism. This, I argue, is closely tied to nationalist politics because, in post-feudal Western Europe, the individualised aggression of social mobility was a key factor in the formation of the large nation states such as Britain, France and Germany, as these states formed around one national language (“English”, “French” and so on) which became a necessary passport to social mobility. As social mobility enters a period of decline which many people expect is going to continue without any radical change to reverse that trend, people in some parts of the world are now turning to nationalism in order to purse that radical change.

Not to, therefore, excuse any one individual act of aggression on social media, but if we want to understand why, in particular, supporters of nationalism might be more often aggressive in their conduct than others, then we should try to undertake a genealogy of the historical forces which might be shaping and influencing that aggression i.e. we should place political aggression in its historical context, in order to understand it better. Incidentally, I have no idea if it is true that nationalists are more aggressive on social media – obviously, it would be something worth doing research on. But what I think would be valuable would be a way of putting the ball back in the court of commentators such as Nelson, who write vaguely about nationalism attracting “angry mobs”. Well, if that’s potentially true, then let’s look at the mechanics of it. How does nationalism attract angry mobs? Why are these people angry? Why do these individuals channel their aggression into a mob rather than pursuing their own isolated acts of aggression? I have suggested one possible reason, outlined above. But I suspect that the people – i.e. unionists – who are quick to complain about nationalist aggression do not want to pursue their complaints to this level of depth, which is precisely why we must (whilst bearing in mind that, as yet, there is no firm evidence either way about whether nationalists are more aggressive than other politically-engaged individuals).

p01s4rzfReturning to Cook, what I find interesting about the episode is the implicit class politics of emotional labour we can unearth via some further reflection upon it. When I worked in a call centre, people (i.e. customers) told me I was the scum of the Earth (or something related to said scum) pretty much every single day. Sociologists call this “emotional labour” i.e. the part of the job which drains us emotionally or demands a particular emotional response as part of our role that is at odds with how we really feel. My sympathy is with Cook because what he experienced this weekend is similar to what I used to experience, daily, in my working life. Perhaps, now that the public can have direct contact with journalists through social media (and now that journalists must seek to increase their follower count in the same way that salespeople must increase their sales figures), journalism is becoming more “customer-focussed” (a terrifying thought for anyone, such as myself, who wants journalism to be about public service in the broader sense). And, then, as a consequence of this customer-led approach, some people think they have a right to approach journalists directly and complain about their service in the same manner that they might complain about a hair in their soup at a restaurant.

But this is precisely to get the heart of the matter which, for me, is the class politics of consumer society. We think it normal to expect that call centre workers will endure a certain level of abuse from customers before cutting them off. A few people may think about questioning the type of society we live in when they hear about the levels of stress caused by working in a call centre, but most people just seem to accept that is how it must be. For better or worse, we are supposedly stuck with consumer society in which some people (i.e. low-paid people) are expected to endure personal abuse as part of their job.

Cook, however, due to the specific nature of his role, was able to ask his Twitter followers: “is this the country we want, folks?” Of course, there followed many messages about the need for civil debate and cool heads et cetera. But to propose greater politeness on the part of individuals is to misunderstand the problem. I don’t just want people to be outraged when journalists receive direct messages of abuse at work. I want a society which maintains such an intolerance of abuse, that anyone working in any service environment (call centre, restaurant, cinema, whatever) can expect never to receive it (and can respond in any way they see fit, without questions then being raised over their fitness for the job). In this sense, the outrage would be class-blind in a way that I don’t think it is at the moment. This would only happen if the working class had enough strength to radically change how production (including production in service environments) is organised. In fact, I don’t believe the question “is this the country we want?” can be posed as anything other than a question about how production is organised (only the “bad” sort of nationalists think of national character in terms of culture). This change in standards for workers is not going to be achieved through a campaign for greater politeness. It is going to require radical change, nationalist or otherwise.

Welcome to Fascist Spain

The perspective of a Scottish EFL teacher in post dictatorship Spain.

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Recently a video emerged on YouTube of a municipal band raising right hand salutes whilst singing ‘Cara al Sol’, a fascist song who’s very lyrics can be attributed to Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of the Falange.  The singing takes place outside of a church in Cordoba and is led by the priest, demonstrating the deep seated and institutionalised nature of fascism in Spain.  My reaction was – being me –to call out this abomination for what it was and I posted the video to an EFL facebook page saying “Welcome to Fascist Spain”.

The reaction was however, not what you might expect.  No one seemed to be concerned about what they had just seen, if they even bothered to view the video at all.  All of the responses were against me for somehow insulting the Spanish by calling them fascists.  At the early stage of the discussion I intervened to explain that Spain has never really moved on from the dictatorship era and that one only needs to scratch the surface to find the kind of insular and ethnically nationalist attitudes and beliefs which are closely linked to property ownership and authority.  At this point I was accused of not knowing anything about Spain, being ungrateful to our Spanish hosts and having something wrong with me that I could even think such a thing.

So it would seem that we have differing perspectives on the world around us.  I am a Scottish graduate from a working class background who has been reasonably politically aware for most my life.  I demonstrated in George Square as a child against the sale of VX nerve gas to Saddam Hussein to subdue any Kurdish unrest and I have been quite active in the Scottish independence movement, particularly since 2006.  I’m not a luvvie and I seek truth regardless of its convenience.

For around three years I lived in the picturesque pueblo of San Lorenzo de El Escorial which is just short of an hour outside of Madrid and is home to the palatial monastery complex of Philip II and very close to Valle de los Caidos where socialist slaves were forced to labour in the sun to create a memorial complex of enormous proportions including a 500ft crucifix and cavernous basilica for the burial of Franco and Jose Antonio.  Life could be very good in the pueblo and the experience of Spanish ways I would say was far more authentic than that what I now experience here in the city.

I got to know many good people and a great many more on top such is the culture of having house parties and drinking in large groups much larger that we normally do back home.  Through all this interaction I think a reasonably accurate picture of social attitudes was painted for me.  Although I had read up on my Spanish history and in particular Paul Preston’s recent publication I was being told that it wasn’t my business and it was to be left alone.  Actually my people and many others from around the world came here and fought against fascism and the genocidal forces of Franco.

One of the most common things said of Franco is that he built all the reservoirs.  That he modernised Spain which was a rural and agrarian society before the war and that people don’t always realise that.  That you can’t have an opinion because no one really knows what happened and if the reds had won then we would all be living in a gulag now.   History for the Spanish is not often respected as an interpretive discipline and is usually regarded as a narrative delivered down from authority.   Catalans are often referred to as Polish.  “Los Polakos, let them go and take their horrible, disgusting language with them” was something I heard more than once and when I suggested that someone might be offended by this kind of racism I was told that it wasn’t racism because the Catalans are Spanish.  I happen to be of Polish heritage myself.  It’s not entirely like that all the time of course but there is a feeling that you can’t really talk about it and of course I found myself associating more with those on the left who had a more relaxed attitude to the whole thing but one thing that we could all agree on was that Spain is a fascist state continuing.  I even found a set of keys by the roadside and when I picked them up they had a ‘Division Azul’ keyring which looked like it may even have been from the 1940s.  The Blue Division was a unit of Spanish soldiers sent to assist the German Nazis from 1941 – 1943.  Remember that the next time someone tries to tell you Spain were neutral during WWII.

blue division

When I started out teaching I just couldn’t seem to avoid getting those pesky kids classes but until I had established myself, I had to get on with it.  The first thing I noticed apart from the general lack of discipline was that there was a very casual and disturbing attitude toward racism in the classroom.  Within the first week a colleague had begun to fall out with the academy over a child referring  to football legend Ronaldinho as a black monkey.  The parents were not to be told.  Later as I was taking a class of teenagers one girl drew swastikas all over her books whilst I was talking to her.  This time her parents were told and the whole family were down at the school claiming that I had invented the whole thing and should be sacked immediately.  They even bought new books to show that she had never done such a thing.  In another class a Catalan boy was persistently bullied and insulted for refusing to denounce his nationality.  I was not allowed to intervene and it wasn’t long before I decided never to teach children again.  In the world of business English which I teach now it can be just as bad.  I had a racist nun for many months, two engineers in their 40s who would pull skin beside their eyes back and speak in a mock Chinese, many blasé references to the Catalans and indeed several rather insulting remarks about Scotland and how laughable it was that we could even think about becoming independent.

Recently a disaster happened when a flight bound for Dusseldorf from Barcelona crashed in the French Alps killing all 144 people on board.  A national tragedy for Spain you would have thought but apart from the PM making some brief statements and the FM of Catalunya being berated for speaking in his own people’s language it was not considered a Spanish tragedy.  For the whole week I waited for someone, anyone to just mention what should have been the main talking point of the week but it wasn’t raised once and that’s with me speaking to around 40 different people.  What did happen though was that Twitter became awash with racist comments of the most disgusting kind referring in some cases to Catalans as less than human and with a venomous want to dig the knife into the most tender of wounds as the Catalans mourned the loss of several dozen of their people.

spain-mocking-tweets

So just how modern and liberal is Spain today?  Well recently a bill has been passed which will make it an arrestable and finable offense – amongst other things –  to take photographs of the police, to gather in groups of more than 3 and using words which could be considered an affront to national dignity.  What is more, these new offenses are defined as ‘administrative infractions’ meaning that they can be dealt with directly by the police who can impose fines on the spot which can only be contested in administrative courts which charge for their services.  From all of this, lists of dissenting people are being compiled.  These new gagging laws which are designed to frighten the people from taking part in any kind of protest against the state are key to properly transforming Spain from the illusion of liberal democracy to the reality of an authoritarian police state.

Conclusion:  Spain was always a fascist state continuing and is now virtually back in the same state as it was in the 1970s and is being driven quickly backwards towards the 1930s.

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I Want a Zero Hours Contract with a Basic Income

Labour say that if they win the election they intend to force employers to give workers who are struggling on zero hour contracts the right to demand contracted hours in order to provide their household finances with a more secure income flow. This is important to those of us in Scotland because, firstly, SNP MPs at Westminster are likely to want to support the move and, secondly, it’s a policy which makes Labour appear as if it’s at least looking leftwards, even if it’s not exactly planning to really set off in that direction just yet.

What I want to present here, however, is the radical left-wing case for zero hours contracts in combination with the basic income guarantee offered at the current election by both the Scottish Greens and the Green Party down south. Seeing as part of the argument involves the claim that our economy needs less human labour and more investment in labour-saving technology, I may as well quote from something I published during the referendum:

[My radical vision for Scottish independence would aim to re-articulate] elements of the neoliberal framework in a way which works primarily with people’s subjective desires (rather than prioritising, in an ideological way, their perceived material needs), but only when those desires go distinctly against the grain of capitalism. Let us take a very concrete example: the dreaded zero-hours contract. Of course, the problem with employers keeping workers tied into exclusive contracts with no guaranteed working hours is not that people want to be working all week; the problem is that the wealth and profits created by increased industrial efficiencies are used as tools of social domination when those same efficiencies of production could, instead, become a socialised wealth of reduced working hours for all. Obviously, we have a system of production which does not permit those who actually do the work to appropriate the profits they produce in their own interests. So where does subjective desire enter into this and how could desire be used to rearticulate the zero-hours contract in a radical, post-capitalist subjective formation? Zero-hours contracts – even with the insecurity of income they imply – manage to feed a desire many workers have in the morning to simply not go to work, and it is these subjective desires which could be used to rearticulate leftist politics along more autonomist lines (basic income for all rather than guaranteed work for all, workers cooperatives rather than state nationalised industry et cetera). For me, this is the lesson of 1968: the students, the Situationists and so on didn’t want what the Old Left offered (a job for life, class solidarity as struggle rather than desire and so on); by ignoring these aspects, they left the field open for neoliberalism to offer something which did respond to these subjective forces – albeit in a way which was ultimately to serve one class against another.

So, for me, the zero hours contract offers an opportunity for the left, in its struggle against neoliberalism, to use capitalism’s own weight against itself – but only in combination with a commitment to a universal basic income (UBI). For those who have never heard of UBI, the idea is that the government pays an amount of money to all citizens, unconditionally, absolutely no strings attached (of course, for higher earners, the money is clawed back through income tax). For many economists, it is considered one of the key ideas for solving the problems of income inequality, low growth, stagnant wages and potentially widespread redundancy caused by an anticipated gear-change in the amount of automation in the economy.

At the moment, the government gives a huge amount of money to workers in the form of tax credits, free childcare and other benefits. These benefits are paid on condition that the individuals receiving them are either working or are looking for work and they are paid because employers no longer pay their workers a living wage. What would be the effect of the government starting to hand out these tax credits and the like with no strings attached? The biggest impact is that it would immediately strengthen the hand of the working class whose members, having a degree of economic independence, would be able to negotiate better terms with employers.

Independence Live recently broadcast a public meeting, held by the Scottish Socialist Party, at which the topic of zero hours contracts and the living wage campaign were central. But what occurs to me is that, in the British Isles, the labour movement at this present moment is extremely weak in terms of its organisation. To resurrect a true “workers’ movement” today would take an enormous amount of time and energy. In and of itself, of course, the sheer size of a task is certainly no reason to avoid pursuing a particular strategy – nobody said ending capitalism would be easy. But given that the government is borrowing huge sums of money in order to supplement the poverty wages of employers, surely it would be more efficient to focus on political power – rather than industrial organising – to simply change the conditions under which governments hand out tax credits etc. (I should mention that the Scottish Socialist Party also support a basic income, although it wasn’t mentioned at the meeting they held.)

jlzf1Let us look more closely at the way in which the conditions attached to Universal Credit (the replacement for tax credits) would end up working in relation to Labour’s proposal that, after 12 weeks of regular hours, workers on zero hours contracts will have the right to demand that their employer gives them a contract with guaranteed hours. A part of Universal Credit is something called “in-work conditionality” which requires not just unemployed people to undertake steps to find work in return for their unemployment benefit, but also requires people who receive Universal Credit because they are in low-paid work to take steps to find either more hours or better paid work. It’s not unreasonable to assume that, if a Labour government brought in their proposed new law, it would quickly become part of Universal Credit’s “conditionality regime” (as it is called), as workers who have been on zero hour contracts for 12 weeks will be instructed to exercise their powers under the new legislation to get off the zero hour contract. Labour may be promoting this policy as a way of appearing to look leftwards, but it may turn out that they were actually looking rightwards as usual.

From the perspective I’ve just outlined, then, the Conservatives’ insistence on retaining the flexibility of the existing state-of-affairs might actually be more appealing to some workers (especially, perhaps, young workers with few financial commitments such as children), as they might prefer the idea of getting regular days off, away from the work regime, in return for having to complete a few application forms just for the purposes of demonstrating to their JobCentre advisor that they are looking for other work elsewhere. The Tories claim that surveys show most workers who are on zero hours contracts “like” such precarious employment – but whereas the Tories say this is because workers like the alleged flexibility, could it not be as simple to say that people like doing less work and that, in combination with the tax credits paid by the government, they are given an alibi for doing so? As I explained in the quoted passage, above, this a question of a politics of desire rather than a politics of demand.

There is, as I hoped to have shown here, a whole other way of looking at this question of zero hour contracts, but only if we do so in conjunction with the idea of a universal basic income. In fact, if I could legislate in this way (which I obviously cannot), I would make it a “rule” of progressive politics that whoever wants to be progressive and speak out about zero hour contracts, he or she should also be required to mention the basic income. Otherwise, we risk ending up where Labour is on the issue i.e. claiming to stand up for the economic interests of workers, whilst aiming later to crush the desire of those individuals who don’t want to work full-time hours (or even work at all, for that matter).

I spot the potential for a new politics of honesty, here. A new political movement in which people do not feel ashamed to say that they would like to work for only a few hours each week. A movement which, with confidence, will state plainly that if employers (who are already reaping the rewards of labour-saving devices and products such as self-service checkouts and open source software) will not pay the living wage, then the movement will not waste much time and energy pursuing a long and bitter struggle in the workplace but, rather, will vote in a government which will just hand out the money unconditionally. A great strength of this politics of honesty would be its openness about existing desire: something which we would talk about which would be real, relevant, credible and radical. We are told all the time that radical politics is neither real nor relevant nor credible. Radical politics, we are told, is irredeemably utopian and irrelevant. But this would not be the case at all for a movement which took the risk of starting with an honest conversation about work and people’s true feelings about it. This would be a movement with its origins in the positive, inspiring and consciousness-expanding Yes movement. It would be one more step along the path of our ongoing political liberation.

“It’s Crazy NOT to Question News Events”

For many, this is the beginning of the end for the lies and cover ups about what happened that day. For many the official narrative is simply that, a narrative, managed carefully and disseminated through corporate media and into the consciousness of the majority of the western World and beyond. For many more, it is just a conspiracy theory side note. More tinfoil hatted dope heads and eccentric professors crying “It was all done with muslamic ray guns” and vying for attention.

New Investigation of the Collapse of WTC7

The question I would ask of everyone is this:

How sure can you be of what you think you know when it was the corporate media that fed you that message in the first place?

People generally imagine the majority of their knowledge and hold that they know enough and that it is not their responsibility to constantly review their understandings. They may well be presented with what would seem to be overwhelming evidence to the contrary but the motive of mind is to preserve the current position as there are many consequent understandings based on it.

Adam Curtis: The Power of Nightmares
Adam Curtis: No Al Qaeda Ever Existed, from The Power of Nightmares

We call this cognitive dissonance and it is the biggest and most powerful weapon of state.
What happened on September the 11th 2001, which ever way you look at it, was mass murder. Despite a growing body of evidence against the official narrative it has been slow but relatively steady progress toward having people – experts and ordinary people – start from the beginning again and arrive at a revised understanding. For many including 2,340 architects and engineers, that 3 buildings in NYC were brought down under a controlled demolition. For others, that what they see just doesn’t sit comfortably with them. Then there are those who conclude that the events of 9/11 were staged and in such spectacular fashion that they would hypnotise the masses to the degree that they would be kept from making it the distance themselves to arrive at the truth.

“But the media wouldn’t get away with lies as big as these”, people say.

“If you tell a lie big enough and often enough it becomes the truth”, said another.

Annie Machon: false flag operations
9/11 Actor Admits it was all Staged

Spectacles and events have been stage managed for many years to create emotionally charged propaganda that works to engineer the consent of the masses for the difficult changes to their civil liberties that are to come and the pre-planned military campaigns that will take the lives of our sons and daughters and theirs.

Naomi Wolf: it’s crazy NOT to question news events

For over a decade the corporate media including the BBC have done a sterling job in denying a fair hearing of the 9/11 evidence. Evidence which is a massive work in itself to compile but time has passed, wars have been waged and hundreds of thousands of lives have been ruined whilst the biggest corporations have consolidated their positions within the global economic empire. We have sent our own people to fight in these wars. To kill and be killed. For whom and for what? Please, I ask you once again to ask yourself that very same question:

How sure can you be of what you think you know when it was the corporate media that fed you that message in the first place?

Here, iron your tinfoil hat. This guy apparently came out as the messiah in 2007.

David Shayler, Reluctant Messiah

It is however, a great critique of the deliberate lies propagated by the BBC regarding the events of 9/11. It is true to say that none of us really know what happened that day but we have the right to know that the official story is a fallacy.




Adam Curtis: No Al Qaeda Ever Existed, from The Power of Nightmares
Bill O’Reilly Lied About Involvement in the Falklands War
Director David Lynch Questions 9/11
Science and Critical Thinking: The Baloney Detection Kit

Nicola Sturgeon’s Address to SNP Conference Sat, 28/03/2015 – 15:21

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Full Speech

Conference,

We meet here today in this great city of Glasgow.

It is highly appropriate that we do so – and for many different reasons.

First – and not least – there’s the fact that I live here.

And surely one of the perks of leadership must be that I can get you to come to me!

Then, of course, there’s the fact that this city – Scotland’s biggest city – voted Yes.

Where better to re-commit our Party and our movement to the values that define us.

The values that have excited the imagination of so many across our country.

The values of fairness, prosperity and opportunity for all.

The restless desire to make Scotland the nation we know it can be.

A prosperous country where everyone gets the chance to fulfil their potential.

A fair society where no-one gets left behind.

A confident nation, working with our friends and family across these islands.

An independent country – equal to the very best.

Friends,

That vision lit up this nation last year.

Let us rededicate ourselves to it here, today, in the wonderful Yes city of Glasgow.

Of course, there is one other reason that we meet here in Glasgow.

A rather more practical one.

This city is now one of the few places in Scotland with venues big enough to accommodate all of our new members.

Delegates,

Last year, we set ourselves the ambitious target of reaching 100,000 members by the General Election.

Well, with 40 days to go, I can tell you that we have not just reached that target.

We have surpassed it.

I can tell you, today, that membership of the Scottish National Party now stands at 102, 143.

Delegates,

These are indeed special times for our Party.

But that is only because these are special times for our country.

Six months ago, people across this nation – Yes voters and No voters – discovered what it felt like to be in charge.

To hold the future of our country in our hands.

We didn’t choose independence – this time.

But – make no mistake – September 18 2014 was a moment of liberation for this nation of ours.

It was the moment when this simple truth became clear to all of us.

We need not be powerless in the face of remote Westminster decisions.

We can make Westminster sit up and take notice and, friends, that is exactly what we intend to do.

And let us understand this.

Our voice – as a country – will be louder if it is united.

That’s why my message today reaches far beyond the ranks of our Party.

It goes to every home, community and workplace across our land.

To Yes voters and to No voters.

To those who have always voted SNP in Westminster elections and to those who have never done so before.

On May 7th, let us put the normal divisions of politics to one side.

Let us come together on that day as one country.

Let us seize this historic moment to shift the balance of power from the corridors of Westminster to the streets and communities of Scotland.

Let us – this time – vote SNP and make this nation’s voice heard like never before.

Friends,

Be in no doubt, the only way for Scotland to shake up the Westminster establishment is to vote SNP.

The Westminster parties won’t do it.

They are the establishment.

Just look at their reaction to the polls.

Just a few short months ago, we had Labour, Tory and Lib Dem politicians falling over themselves to tell us that our voice really mattered.

That Scotland was a valued member of the family of nations.

Remember the slogan: Scotland shouldn’t leave the UK, we should lead the UK.

But now, when it looks as if the people of Scotland might actually take them at their word, and vote for a Party that will make Scotland’s voice heard, these same politicians throw their hands up in horror.

How dare we seek to influence the Westminster system they begged us to stay part of.

Well, friends, I don’t know about you – but I think any democratic, progressive party that frightens the life out of the Westminster establishment is good news for ordinary people in Scotland and right across these islands.

Because here’s the thing. When these politicians – outrageously – describe the prospect of the SNP winning a general election in Scotland as some kind of threat to democracy, what they mean is that we pose a threat to their vested interests.

We pose a threat to the notion of democracy that has them turn up for election once every five years and take Scotland for granted the rest of the time.

We challenge a parliamentary system that has more members in the unelected House of Lords than in the elected House of Commons.

What a democratic outrage that is.

And we rail against a cosy consensus that hits the poor with the bedroom tax and benefit sanctions, while turning a blind eye to the tax avoidance of the super-rich.

So, yes, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, if you are worried that a strong SNP is a threat to all that is deeply undemocratic and unfair about the Westminster notion of democracy, then all I can say to you is this –

You had better believe we are.

But to ordinary people across these islands who feel just as let down by that out of touch Westminster system as we do, I have a very different message.

It is a message of friendship and solidarity.

I won’t pretend that the SNP doesn’t still want Scotland to be independent.

I think I can safely say that we do still want Scotland to be independent!

But at this General Election – with the power of the big parties weaker than ever before – I say this to people of progressive opinion all across the UK.

As long as Scotland remains part of the Westminster system, we will be your allies in seeking to shake up and reform that outdated and discredited system once and for all.

Westminster needs to change. To be more responsive to the needs and demands of ordinary people, wherever they are in the UK.

So to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, I make this promise.

The SNP stands ready to work with you in making that positive change for all of us.

We bring to that task vast experience of government – of successful, effective and stable government.

It was as a minority government that we restored free education, abolished prescription charges and froze the council tax.

So we can – and we will – use that experience in a minority led House of Commons to get good things done there too.

We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity.

Responsible deficit reduction, yes.

But cuts that tear at the very fabric of our society, penalise the poor, threaten our public services and stifle economic growth, let me make it crystal clear – those will not be in our name.

We will demand an NHS in public hands.

A fair wage for all

Pensions that protect our older people.

And a decent welfare system that helps people into work.

And let me also promise this –

At a time when in-work poverty is on the rise and people are being forced to use food banks, when public services are under strain and conventional defence forces are being cut to the bone, we will stand firm and unwavering against a single brass penny – let alone £100 billion – being spent on the obscene status symbol that is a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons.

Friends,

Ours will also be a voice for democratic reform.

We’ll push for a fair voting system to be back on the agenda.

And as Labour, the Tories and Lib Dems prepare for another five years of empty rhetoric on reform of the House of Lords, we will take a more straightforward view.

The House of Lords has no place in a democratic society.

Delegates,

The House of Lords – which, remember, was voted for by no one – recently tried to stop 16 and 17 year olds getting the vote in Scotland.

Its members are paid £300 a day for just showing up. And it’s totally tax free.

That’s got to stop.

Friends,

People with no democratic mandate should not be writing the laws of the land.

It is now time to abolish the House of Lords.

Friends,

A strong, powerful SNP team – standing up for Scotland and working for progressive change across these islands.

That is the prize that now lies within our grasp.

But, listen when I say this – it will not fall into our laps.

I can’t deny that recent opinion polls have made for pleasant reading.

In fact, I think one or two of them might have given me altitude sickness.

But, friends, we know from long and sometimes bitter experience that polls don’t win elections.

Good ideas and hard work win elections.

So we will take nothing for granted.

We must work harder over these next 40 days than we have ever done before.

No let up, no resting on our laurels, no slowing down to savour the polls.

Let me make this clear. Hard graft, humility and a daily determination to earn the trust of the people of Scotland – these will be the hallmarks of our campaign.

Because no matter what the polls say, we do have a mountain to climb.

We have 6 MPs.

In most of the other 53 seats in Scotland, we face hefty majorities.

The biggest number of MPs we have ever had at Westminster is 11.

So the next time you read the polls, remember this – any seat we manage to win beyond 11 will be record breaking for the SNP.

But just as we will take nothing for granted, nor will we set any limit on our ambition.

The more seats we win for the SNP, the louder Scotland’s voice is going to be.

It is that simple.

So my message to all of you is this.

No constituency is off limits for the SNP in this election.

We will fight for every vote and every seat.

Let’s get out there and turn these poll predictions into reality.

Let’s win this election – not for the SNP, but for Scotland.

Friends.

The Westminster parties will pull out all the stops to halt the SNP surge.

We saw in the referendum that there is no fear and no smear they will not stoop to.

Mind you, their tactics so far in this election seem more comical than scary.

Just listening to them – in their blind panic – can make you dizzy.

The Tories say that if you vote SNP, you get Labour.

And Labour says that if you vote SNP, you’ll get the Tories.

They can’t both be right!

But they are both wrong.

So for the avoidance of doubt, let me spell out exactly what will happen in this election.

If you vote SNP on May 7th, what you will get is the SNP.

No one else. Just the SNP – the only party that stands up for Scotland, first, last and always.

You won’t be letting the Tories in the front door.

Let me said it loud and let me make it clear – the SNP will never put the Tories into government.

Not now. Not ever.

And you won’t be letting the Tories in the back door either.

You see, as long as there are more anti-Tory MPs – Labour or SNP – than there are Tory MPs in the House of Commons, we can keep them out of government.

I know Labour can’t admit this. After all, the ‘vote Labour to keep out the Tories’ line – however detached from reality it might be – is the last remaining plank of their desperate and failing campaign.

But it is a matter of simple arithmetic.

If there are more anti-Tory than Tory MPs after the election, the only way the Tories get back into power is if Labour lets them back in.

So in the interests of total clarity, let me make this promise today.

If there is a hung Parliament, SNP MPs will vote to stop a Tory Government even getting off the ground.

I call on Labour, today, to match that pledge – to make clear that if Labour and the SNP combined have more seats than the Tories, they will join forces with us in a vote of confidence to lock David Cameron out of Downing Street.

If Labour fails to make that commitment, the only conclusion people will draw is that Labour would rather have the Tories back in power than work with the SNP.

And that will be the final nail in the political coffin of Scottish Labour.

It really will be time to lock the doors of the branch office once and for all.

Friends,

A vote for the SNP is a vote to keep the Tories out.

But it’s more than that.

It’s also a vote to make sure that the Tories are replaced with a better alternative.

We know, from long experience, that a Labour government – left to its own devices – simply cannot be trusted to deliver the change that Scotland needs and wants.

And that is a fact.

The last Labour government was elected on a wave of hope and optimism, but it ended up imposing tuition fees, privatising the NHS, presiding over a growing gap between rich and poor and taking us into an illegal war in Iraq.

So, the message couldn’t be clearer.

If you want a Labour government to have backbone and guts, you need to elect SNP MPs to provide it for them.

If you want the vow of more power for our Parliament to be delivered in full, then you need SNP MPs to go to Westminster to redeem that promise.

And if you want a Labour government that won’t just be a carbon copy of the Tories, but will instead deliver the real change Scotland needs, then you must elect SNP MPs to force Labour’s hand and keep them honest.

Friends,

One of the most urgent reasons to vote SNP in this election is the threat of even deeper austerity.

The contrast between the SNP and the Westminster parties couldn’t be more stark.

Last week, George Osborne’s budget laid bare the deep cuts planned for the next Parliament – £12 billion for Scotland alone.

We have set out a clear alternative to that.

Modest real terms spending increases in each year of the next parliament – instead of cuts – would see the deficit and debt fall as a share of national income.

It is fiscally responsible.

But it would also free up billions of pounds to invest in infrastructure and skills, public services and protecting the vulnerable.

Labour has set its face against it.

But just last week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that they could adopt our policy and still meet their fiscal targets.

So I challenge Labour today to join us in opposing austerity – not in words, but in their spending plans.

And if they won’t, I serve notice now that we will use our influence in the House of Commons to force them to abandon the needless pain of Tory cuts.

Friends,

We will use our clout in other ways to make life better for people across our country.

Fair work is at very the heart of our Government’s agenda.

We will take whatever action we can to eradicate working practices that have no place in a decent, modern economy.

And top of that list will be the zero hours contracts that demean and exploit far too many people across our country.

Friends,

The basic principle of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is also fundamental to our sense of society.

But in Scotland today nearly half of all adults and more than half of all children who live in poverty are in households where at least one person is working.

One of the ambitions I set for my first year as First Minister was to get at least 150 companies signed up as Living Wage employers.

I am proud to tell you that after just four months, and thanks to the enthusiasm of Scotland’s employers and the hard work of the Poverty Alliance, we have already delivered that target.

So today I can announce that we will go further.

Today I am setting a new target

Within the next 12 months, we aim to have – not 150 – but 500 companies signed up and paying the Living Wage to all of their workers.

Conference,

I am determined that we will make Scotland a Living Wage nation.

Of course, we could do more to lift people out of poverty if Labour and the Tories hadn’t combined to stop powers over the minimum wage and key decisions on welfare being devolved to our Parliament .

But with a powerful team of SNP MP’s we can demand that these powers do come to Scotland.

And in the meantime, we can vote for them to be used in a way that will lift people out of poverty.

Delegates,

I can announce today that in the next Westminster Parliament, the SNP will back an increase in the minimum wage of £2 an hour – taking it to £8.70 by 2020.

Friends,

Securing fair work is just one part of making Scotland a fairer, more equal society.

A good standard of living depends not just on being paid a decent wage – but also on having access to good quality public services, free at the point of need and accessible to all.

There is no service closer to our hearts than the National Health Service.

I am proud of our Scottish NHS.

The staff who work in our hospitals, communities and health centres do an amazing job – and they do it in often very difficult circumstances.

Today, on behalf of all us, I thank them from the bottom of my heart for all that they do.

And I promise that my Government – for as long as we are in office – will continue to protect the budget of our National Health Service.

Earlier this week, David Cameron was booed when he was asked about the NHS.

And no wonder.

Before the last election, he ruled out top-down reorganisation of the NHS in England, but as soon as he was in office he broke that promise.

He claims repeatedly that the Tories have no plans to extend privatisation but he has legislated to allow the private sector to use up to 49% of hospital beds.

And he says that TTIP – the proposed new trade treaty between the U.S. and the E.U. – poses no threat to our health service, but he refuses to put it beyond doubt.

Well, let me make our position on that clear.

No ifs, no buts – there must be an explicit protection for the NHS on the face of the TTIP agreement.

Friends,

Make no mistake – the continued privatisation of the NHS in England threatens the budget of the Scottish Government.

So I give this commitment today:

SNP MPs – in order to protect Scotland’s budget – will vote at Westminster to halt the tide of NHS privatisation in England.

We will use our voices and our votes to keep the NHS – north and south of the border – firmly in public hands.

Delegates,

Just as good quality healthcare is essential to a decent society, so too is education.

The truth is, without the free education I was so lucky to have, I wouldn’t be standing here as First Minister today.

For me, keeping education free is personal.

And I give you this absolute guarantee: as long as I am your First Minister there will be no tuition fees in Scotland.

But I want to do more than just keep education free.

I want to make sure that many more young people from ordinary and disadvantaged backgrounds get the opportunity to take advantage of free education.

That’s why I’ve set up a £100m Scottish Attainment Fund.

I want to make sure that a child born today in one of our most deprived communities, by the time he or she leaves school, has the same chance of going to university as a child from a wealthier background.

So today I am announcing further support to help young people stay in education.

When the Tories abolished the Educational Maintenance Allowance in England, we retained it in Scotland.

That allowance provides £30 a week to pupils from the least well-off families.

For many of these young people, it makes the vital difference between them being able to continue in education and being forced to leave to find employment.

Currently, Educational Maintenance Allowances help 35,000 young people stay in education.

Today, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will extend that scheme so that it benefits even more young people.

Firstly, we will raise the eligibility threshold to make payments available to an additional 10,000 school pupils.

And, second, we will extend the scheme to part time college students, helping another 12,000 young people stay on in education.

That means that from next year, a total of 57,000 16 to 19 years old will be entitled to receive an Educational Maintenance Allowance.

Friends,

That is real help for the young people who need it most to stay in education and fulfil their potential.

Delegates,

Education is my personal passion and securing the best possible opportunities for all of our young people will drive the decisions I make as First Minister.

It is also what drives my ambition for young women.

As the first woman to hold the office of First Minister, I am determined that – unlike that other woman leader we once knew – I will use my time in this job to improve the lives of women across our country.

For me that means challenging discrimination and championing women’s achievements.

It also means leading by example.

You know, I despair that, today, in 2015, there are only three gender-balanced Cabinets in the whole of the developed world.

But I am really proud that mine is of one of them.

There are many things that still stand in the way of gender equality.

Systemic and institutional barriers that we need to remove – the pay gap, occupational segregation, a lack of affordable childcare and, sometimes, just outdated attitudes.

But for too many women, it is the violence and abuse they suffer in their own homes.

Domestic abuse is a crime that affects 1 in 6 women in our country.

Earlier this week, in a speech to Scottish Women’s Aid, I announced plans to strengthen the law against domestic abuse. Subject to consultation, we will introduce legislation this year.

But changing the law is not enough. We need to do more.

That is why I am announcing today new funding of £20 million over the next three years to step up our work to tackle violence against women.

We will invest that money to speed up the court process, give more support to victims, and expand schemes to help offenders change their behaviour.

Delegates,

Addressing the scourge of domestic violence is essential if we are ever to achieve true gender equality in this country.

And let me make it clear – I am determined to lead a government that will do just that.

Friends,

I began this speech by reflecting on the aspirations that shone through the referendum campaign.

On our shared ambition to become a fairer society, a more confident nation and a more prosperous country.

Those objectives continue to light up our political discourse in Scotland.

They are the aims that, each and every day, will guide our actions as your government.

And they are the aims that – with the support of the Scottish people – we will carry to the very heart of Westminster.

To the people of Scotland, I make this promise.

SNP MPs will not go to Westminster to settle down.

SNP MPs will go to Westminster for one reason and one reason only – to do a good job for you and to win a better deal for Scotland.

We will work every day to protect Scotland’s interests and to make your voice heard.

We will seek to use whatever influence you give us to call a halt to ever deeper austerity, to protect our NHS and to say loudly and clearly that the precious resources of our country should be invested in the future of our children, not in nuclear bombs.

We will use our influence to win for our Scottish Parliament the full financial and social powers that it needs to grow our economy and create more jobs.

And we will work in a spirit of friendship and co-operation with others who share our ideals – we will work with everyone, wherever they may be in the UK, who wants to see greater fairness and prosperity at the heart of their communities too.

Over the next few weeks, there will continue to be talk of the deals that might be done after the election.

But from now until May 7th there is only one deal I am interested in.

There is only one deal this Party will seek to do – and that is with you, the people of Scotland.

If you place your trust in us to be your advocates at Westminster, we will fight Scotland’s corner with passion, principle and conviction.

We will stand up for Scotland’s interests, without fear or favour.

We will represent you – to the best of our abilities – no matter your politics, your point of view and regardless of how you voted in the referendum last year.

That is the deal we offer.

It is what you will get if you vote SNP.

It is my pledge and my guarantee to each and every one of you.

So, today, with humility but also with determination, I ask for your support on May 7th so that, together, we can make Scotland’s voice heard.