George Collins will be reviewing the claims of economic recovery since 2008 and how ordinary people feel disconnected from such claims, Neil Scott will be talking radical music, Mhairi Hunter will be giving her view on smacking, safe consumption of drugs, and OBFA, Red Raiph tells us about the brilliant work of Beanies_Masato.
Sandra Webster will be give her personal perspective on the devestating effect of the closure of the children’s hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire and the impact that will have on children with special needs, Catriona Stevenson will be talking about Scottish Outdoor Access and land reform, Gerry Mulvenna will be talking about the Catalonia letter writing campaign, and a representative from The Anti-Repression forum will be speaking about their forum in Edinburgh.
If Veronika were younger she’d be a New Scot. She was born in Vienna, but her Austrian parents soon moved her to Scotland ‘for a year’ …and never went home. That was back in the 60s.
Veronika trained as an archaeologist and a teacher but became a campaigner. She has been active for peace, social and environmental justice, for her entire adult life. Her activism takes the form of big activities – like organising demos and small personal ones like picking up two pieces of rubbish whenever she goes to beach.
Veronika has formed a political party as a campaigning tool, She also stood for parliament herself on several occasions (both parliaments, actually, Westminster and Holyrood) for the Scottish Green party. She volunteered and later did paid work in breastfeeding promotion, including writng and delivering a programme for teaching 3-18 year olds about breastfeeding. She has volunteered on all levels and recently worked of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND). She volunteers for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau
Veronika loves knitting, but not knitting patterns, and the sea.
This story originally appeared in The University of Glasgow’s Creative Writing Showcase, issue 26
Gunter Hollinger had many regrets in his life. He had never married nor had children, he had seen little of the world apart from his corner of it.
Now nearing the end of his life he also regretted the time in the camp. Every night when he closed his eyes his dreams were full of the faces of those he had encountered on their arrival at the camp. These were the lucky few who lived to die another day still in shock, half
hoping that their mothers, wives and children had been taken to the Kinder camp.
That first day, after they had been shaved and deloused and stripped of their humanity, they would offer him their arm and he would record the number by which they would now be known. Gunter was proud he was one of the lowest numbers – 000047. The last one he
tattooed was 865879. Between these numbers only 200 survived to tell of the atrocities.
Gunter, as one of the survivors, had been a witness at many trials where the guards and Kapos had been brought to justice for their crimes. There was never any doubt that Gunter was a victim too but he always felt responsible. He could have been more gentle, been kinder, not cooperated.
It only seemed fitting that after the war he would continue to tattoo. He opened a parlour in a local town. Some of his first client were the ex camp inhabitants. They fell into two groups. Some, like Gunter, did not flinch from letting others seeing their tattoo as it
served as an external mark of the collective guilt of a society. Others wanted to forget the past and for them Gunter gently covered the numbers with faces of loved ones, or flowers. He looked at each person and gently reflected their soul into the tattoo, trying his best to cover over his own guilt and that of the other tattooists.
Some people who did what he did called themselves ‘tattoo artists’ but to his clients and himself he was always ‘the tattooist’.
Although Gunter never regarded himself as an artist, his reputation grew. Now in his fifties he was the owner of a very successful business. People came from all round the country for one of his special designs. He had a gift for looking into their minds and removing from it the
perfect image that would suit only them. No matter how successful he became though, he could never forget the little room in Treblinka where he had first honed his craft.
One day a man came into his shop. A decade older than himself perhaps. He looked at the drawing books while Gunter finished the tattoo of his last customer. Gunter thought he didn’t look like one of the clients from the camps but he had the look of a survivor about him. He didn’t seem to be comfortable in his own skin, as if like them he carried an invisible load on his shoulders. When Gunter was finished he asked the man to sit down.
‘Please Sir, take a seat, can I get you a coffee?’
The man looked at Gunter and shook his head.
‘No thank you, I have had so many cups of coffee today. I have been so nervous you know?’
Gunter smiled. ‘Don’t worry Sir. I have tattooed so many people.’ He pointed to his head. ‘And each of them is stored right in here. I have not had one complaint yet.’
‘I like your work,’ the man replied. ‘But I have a special project for you.’
‘All my work is special Sir. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back, and in thirty years I have never had to make a refund.’
The man shuffled uncomfortably in the chair.
‘I have a secret,’ he said. ‘Something I regret in my youth. It was youthful high spirits – you know how the young are – but I want it covered over before I go to meet my Maker,
which will be very soon.’
He rolled up his shirt sleeve and showed Gunter a very old Waffen SS blood group tattoo in Gothic script just above his right elbow. B to show his blood group, in case he required a transfusion. Gunter sucked in his breath and tried not to react. Such Gothic blood tattoos were very rare and among the oldest of the Nazi tattoos he knew of. This meant the man was not just a recruit but a volunteer to the Waffen SS as early as 1937. Well before the
rest of the country had jumped onto the Hitler bandwagon.
Gunter was aware of his less rare tattoo and was glad it was cold and he wore a long shirt and coat today.
‘I have never seen one before Sir, how unusual. What would you like me to do?’
‘I want it covered over,’ the man replied. ‘I do not want to go to my grave with this. Can you help me?’
Gunter worried if this was some sort of trap. Did others know about him, was he being threatened? He refused to be frightened of such an old man and took control of the situation.
‘Of course Sir, but it will hurt, being where it is, and will take some time. Do you have a design in mind?’
‘I’ll leave that to you. Just do it quickly so I can leave it behind. I know you are the best so please do this for me.’
Gunter prepared the needles, trying not to tremble. He had waited years for this opportunity to put right the past. This old man was his ticket to karma.
‘My gift is to cover up Sir, never fear. That mark will be obliterated and covered with my art.’
The man was flustered. ‘Yes, yes, I am in a hurry, just get on with it.’
In that instant Gunter knew exactly what he was going to do.
He sprayed the alcohol onto the man’s arm. Felt him shiver with its cool touch. Then he poised with the needles above him. This was going to be his masterpiece.
Being directly on the bone, the needles caused the man severe pain. He held it in, as Gunter knew he would.
Gunter enjoyed feeling his pain, causing it. He had not been gentle with his first tattooed ones and now he could inflict a little on the man. Usually he talked and
chatted while he worked, but an almost supernatural force took over him and he had no desire to make small talk with a man such as this. Nothing in common but a brand on their skin they had both had to accept.
At last he was finished. He looked at his work and was proud of it. The man looked nervously down.
‘You have finished at last, may I have a look?’
‘Of course Sir, let me get a mirror.’
The man looked in the mirror at the image Gunter had created of his soul. A man in a Nazi uniform, wearing a pair of jackboots, stood on top of a pyramid of small crushed, bleeding bodies.
‘I have covered over your brand to your satisfaction?’
The man looked at Gunter and smiled.
‘I have at most a week to live. I hope when I go to meet my Maker he will be satisfied with your work. How much do I owe you?’
‘For this there is no charge Sir, for now we are equals.’ Gunter smiled. ‘Good Day to you Sir.’
Gunter turned his back, and when he looked round the man had left the shop.
Pacesetting performance poet pilots postpunk pioneers. Members:
Performance poet, visual artist, guitarist with riot grrrl group Fistymuffs
Guitarist with Scars, first-wave punk and postpunk originators
Guitarist with Heavy Drapes, Twisted Nerve
Bassist with Boots For Dancing, Gin Goblins
Guitarist with Matt Vinyl & Decorators, Edinburgh’s first punk band Influences: Voicex are inspired by pop, postpunk, riot grrrl, disco, poetry, anime and the list goes on… History: Voicex started with two guitarists jamming together for a few weeks last summer. The tunes got more structure and suddenly Coco joined the party on bass. Suky was spotted MC’ing at a Girls Rock School benefit, and two weeks later she was in. An appeal on Twitter for a likeminded drummer led to old friends Colin and Paul reuniting, completing the Voicex lineup. “Never” was the first song we wrote, recorded and released in December. Sound: Voicex’s sound updates the postpunk vision for 2018. It ranges from skeletal keyboard-led poetry to pulsing full-on rock. Guitars clash and grind. The bass bounces around the upper register. The drums stop and start. And the unique Suky sings and declaims in a haze of poetry and dramatic pop. The lyrics speak of lost love, hedonism, late nights and early mornings, adventures inside the wardrobe.
The result is confident, upbeat punk pop with attitude and discord. Viva Voicex!
Recently the Scotland in Union organisation hit the headlines with a major information leak to independence bloggers such as Wings Scotland and Bellacaledonia and even the unionist These Islands got a little press coverage when a member of its advisory council, Professor Nigel Biggar, got into a row about his defence of the British Empire but More United forms the third leg of the unionist triumvirate and even though it has proved to be the most dangerous so far, not many people know what it did and what it does.
More United is a brainchild of Lord (Paddy) Ashdown. Its stated aim seems laudable enough, it’s there to create a new model of politics, making it less extreme, less tribal and giving the electorate more power to make an impact and although it’s not explicitly unionist a quick glance at its “Team” shows strong unionist make up to its management.
The original More United company was formed by Austin Rathe, Paddy Ashdown, Maurice Biriotti and Elizabeth (Bess) Mayhew on the 18th of June 2016 and the current directors are Austin Rathe, Paddy Ashdown, Maurice Biriotti, Corinne Sawers and Dan Snow.
On the More United website information on the “The Team” page is split into two sections.
The first section is simply called “The Team” and comprises, Bess Mayhew, Austin Rathe, Corinne Sawers, Maurice Biriotti and Paddy Ashdown.
The second section are the “Convenors” (and it has some cross-over with the aforementioned Team).
Anne-Marie Imafidon, Social Tech Entrepreneur
Clare Gerada, Medical Practitioner
Dan Snow, Broadcaster
Gia Milinovich, Writer and Presenter
Janet Smith, Former High Court Judge
Jeremy Bliss, Lawyer and Entrepreneur
Jonathon Porritt, Environmentalist and Green Party Member
Josh Babarinde, Social Entrepreneur and Youth Worker
Luke Pritchard, Entertainer
Maajid Nawaz, Author, Activist and Columnist
Martha Lane Fox, Entrepreneur
Maurice Biriotti, Businessman and Academic
Paddy Ashdown, Politician
Rumi Verjee, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Simon Schama, Writer, Broadcaster and Professor
Sunny Hundal, Columnist and Lecturer
There are some interesting snippets of information about those Team members and Convenors which can be found on the web.
Corinne Sawers’ father Sir Robert John Sawers used to run MI6.
There are three members of the House of Lords in there, Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, Lord Verjee and Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho.
There’s a strong Lib-Dem influence. Paddy Ashdown of course, the ex-leader of the Lib-Dems and a Lib-Dem Lord. Bess Mayhew and Austin Rathe are both ex-Lib-Dem staffers, Clare Gerada is a Lib-Dem, Josh Babarinde used to work as a parliamentary assistant for Lib-Dem MP Stephen Lloyd, Maajid Nawaz was the Lib-Dem candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in 2015 and Rumi Verjee is a Lib-Dem Lord.
Team members and convenors who came out against Scottish independence are Clare Gerada, Martha Lane Fox and Jonathon Porritt on twitter, Paddy Ashdown on Question Time, Simon Schama as a signatory to the “Let’s Stay Together” open letter and Sunny Hundal on his blog and of course, last but not least Dan Snow who was heavily involved in the Electoral Commission registered “Let’s stay together” campaign and the Trafalgar Square rally.
If Scotland in Union, These Islands and More United form the three legs of a unionist triumvirate in Scotland then Dan Snow forms the apex of the three which links them all together. He’s an enthusiastic promoter of Scotland in Union, appearing at dinners and doing videos for them, he’s on the Advisory Council for These Islands and he’s a director and convenor of More United.
So what does More United actually do? Very simply, it fundraises and uses the cash to support candidates in a General Election who support its values.
The problem for the SNP, quite apart from the unionist Dan Snow as a director, is that one of More United’s values is:
“Openness: we welcome immigration, but understand it must work for everyone, and believe in bringing down international barriers, not raising them.”,
which makes it very difficult for them to endorse an SNP candidate even if by some odd stroke of fate they wanted to. The unionist make up of the More United team includes Dan Snow, Paddy Ashdown and Simon Schama so it’s probably no accident that “bringing down international barriers, not raising them” was written into their values. Whatever happens in the rest of the UK, in Scotland More United will be a unionist organisation which will always support candidates against the SNP.
The following twitter exchange is instructive:
Replying to @MoreUnitedUK
Why are we attempting to deseat SNP mps?
10:10 PM – 5 May 2017
More United @MoreUnitedUK
Replying to @minkpill
Hey! MU is firmly supportive of maintaining the union of England and Scotland (and the rest of the UK!)
10:59 AM – 8 May 2017
So what did More United do in Scotland in the 2017 General Election? In 2017 More United supported and endorsed six candidates in Scotland of whom the majority were not surprisingly Lib-Dems and where their nearest opponent in each case was an SNP candidate. They were:
Alistair Carmichael (LD) Orkney and Shetland against Miriam Brett (SNP)
Christine Jardine (LD) Edinburgh West against Toni Giugliano (SNP)
Jamie Stone (LD) Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross against Paul Monaghan (SNP)
Ian Murray (Lab) Edinburgh South against Jim Eadie (SNP)
Jo Swinson (LD) East Dunbartonshire against John Nicolson (SNP)
Elizabeth Riches (LD) North East Fife against Stephen Gethins (SNP)
From Electoral Commission data More United donated:
£5,000 to Christine Jardine in Edinburgh West
£3,000 to Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire
£5,000 to Elizabeth Riches in North East and Central Fife
£2,000 to Jamie Stone in Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross.
Although this last one is an odd one. He received his money a month after the election on 07/07/2017. Every other More United donation was before the poll.
So in Scotland they pumped a direct cash injection of £13,000 into three target Lib-Dem constituency campaigns before the election and £2,000 into a Lib-Dem seat after the election and of the six candidates they supported, five got elected and Elizabeth Riches just got pipped at the post by two votes by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins in North East Fife.
Support was not just limited to cash. Support can include formal endorsement, donations and voluntary support. Each supported constituency had a More United page and the call for support for each candidate on the the last day of the campaign is still up if you Google for it.
From the More United annual report:
“As well as donations, 1000 MU supporters around the UK were mobilised to volunteer around the country. Collectively they gave 3,000 hours over 5 weeks – the equivalent of a year and a half’s full time work.”
Now to be fair to More United they were not the sole donors to these constituencies. From the Electoral Commission data, only six Lib-Dem constituencies got direct donations between the announcement of the General Election on 18th of April 2017 and the poll on the 8th of June 2017 and the total figures are below. (It’s seven if you count Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross who got a donation from More United after the election.)
Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire got £35,000
Christine Jardine in Edinburgh West got £24,000
Elizabeth Riches who tried for North East and Central Fife got £20,000
Alistair Carmichael in Orkney & Shetland got £12,000
John Waddell in Aberdeenshire West got £5,000 (A single donation from Balmoral Comtec Limited based in Aberdeen.)
Martin Veart in Edinburgh North East and Leith got £2,000 (From a North East and Leith Lib-Dem donor)
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) got £2,000 from More United but not until a month after the election.
From the figures it’s easy to see the four target Lib-Dem seats where a lot of money was directed in from the outside to support the campaign. They must have been gutted not to get North East and Central Fife and it’s certainly clear why Jo Swinson had money to burn on undelivered leaflets.
More United were not the only donors or the only reason that the four Lib-Dem MPs and and Ian Murray got into Parliament but they certainly were significant donors of cash and organised help for campaign work in the target constituencies.
Scotland in Union is there to provide funding to the Unionist side in the next referendum, These Islands is there to give a veneer of academic respectability to their arguments and More United is committed to fighting against the SNP in elections.
As a unionist organisation More United is much more dangerous than Scotland in Union in elections because even though Scotland in Union spent £73,818.21 in Scotland in the 2017 General Election they spent it on their own literature and events while More United donated directly to four of their five Lib-Dem candidates and endorsed and organised help for Carmichael and Murray.
More United claim to have raised over £500,000 before the last General Election and from Electoral Commission data they donated £159,800 in the 2017 General Election to various candidates across the UK. Because they spent more than £250,000 their spending figures are not up on the Electoral Commission site yet and when that information goes live it will be interesting to see what they spent their money on and if there’s a way to find out what portion was spent in Scotland.
More United have their sights on Scottish Parliamentary elections,
“As we grow and raise more, we may begin to support candidates in other types of election, such as Scottish and Welsh or mayoral elections. “
And with over 94,000 supporters, including 14,000 paying members they have ambition:
“We aim to make More United the biggest source of people, money and power in British politics. If we do, the extreme forces that have taken over our democracy won’t stand a chance.”
When it comes to elections forget Scotland in Union, the real unionist danger comes from More United.
Martin MacDonald was brought up near the village of Plockton in the Highlands and now lives not far from there in Kyle of Lochalsh.
After gaining an electronics degree in the University of Edinburgh he started work in the BUTEC torpedo testing range near Kyle eventually becoming a Trials Technical Advisor and the Computer Systems Manger at the Range Terminal Building just north of Applecross, travelling up every day from Kyle. This allowed him to truthfully answer the “Daily Journey to Work” question on the 1991 census form as “Bicycle and helicopter”. He’s still in IT but in the much more mundane world of education.
He once played regularly in the second team for his local shinty team Kinlochshiel and still has the battered teeth of these pre-gumshield days. In the early 90’s he once organised a shinty/hurling trip to Ireland and the team drew a match, lost a match, someone got drunk and gave away every caman the team had and three men got left at Dublin airport. It was rated a very successful trip. He still tries to keep fit by walking and cycling.
Martin is a keen photographer but usually just pictures of what he sees wandering round Kyle when walking the dog. A big sci-fi fan he doesn’t read a huge amount these days and it’s mostly hard sci-fi although one of his old favourites is, “Out of the Mouth of the Dragon”, by Mark S. Geston, a post-apocalyptic novel, which crosses between hard sci-fi and fantasy.
Martin has always been interested in politics, is a member of the SNP and believes in Scottish independence.
The roll-out of the Tory government’s flagship policy is woefully behind schedule. However by this time next year all of Scotland and the UK will be covered, with individuals and their families in work age benefits having to apply. It is the responsibility of the left to not only support all who are affected by this cruel regime, but offer an alternative and help organise a campaign against it.
It was Frank Fields and New Labour who first mooted the concept of Universal Credit. A single payment instead of having to claim for different benefits. This was over six years ago. After the tories came to power Ian Duncan Smith announced this as their flagship policy “To make work pay”. Individuals and families would receive a single monthly payment, one per household as working families did. Even at this early stage the third sector and charities warned of the dangers of paying housing benefit directly, instead of to landlords, and concerns for the children and frequently partner who would no longer receive any payment, not even child benefit. It has long been accepted that child benefit should be paid to the main family carer of children and provides a very basic safety net of regular income. Like the remainder and premise of a decent welfare state this is likely to be demolished as we move towards the Americanization of state benefits.
“Work must pay” according to the Tories and if this means single parents having to travel long distances and be unable to care for school age children, so be it. In the areas where Universal Credit has been trialled there have been reports of individuals and their families facing extreme poverty. This is an online system and without access to a computer people face a harsh sanction system. Although a free of charge phone line will be up and running in January after a public outcry, many report trying to stand in a free Wi-Fi area to speak to a human on the helpline which can take hours.
It is the most vulnerable in our society who face cuts in local services as well as these at a national level. Duncan-Smith at the beginning said families with a disabled person would not be affected but this has been conveniently forgotten and never announced. People with disabilities and unpaid carers will face the firing squad that is Universal Credit. So will people who receive housing benefit, both in and not in work. This will include social landlords. Councils and Housing Associations have made public their dismay that in the many areas piloting Universal credit, many tenants have gone into arrears so their income from rent is being reduced. Private Landlords who prop up a system with insufficient social housing have threatened to not take on or evict tenants on Universal Credit.
Like many of the binary policies of the Tories, Universal Credit is more than just a payment; it is propaganda promoting the concept of the “feckless poor”. If an emergency happens and no other help is available, people may use their Universal Credit payment and face arrears in housing. What will happen to during the assessment process when a new claim is made or during the sanction regime. Those on Universal Credit may find themselves facing the fear of losing their home. A roof over our heads is a very basic need.
We on the Left have known about the impact of Universal Credit for years. Nowadays the murmurs of “down with this” are increasing even Tory MPs and Frank Fields seeing what are happening to real people, not just statistics on a piece of paper, alarming. We all know by now that anyone currently moving to Universal Credit will not receive a payment until after Christmas. Some people have waited much longer and face having to apply again if there is a change in income.
Many of us work in our local communities helping fill out forms, applications as statutory services are overwhelmed. It is time to form a resistance not little Dutch boy style try and plug gaps. Like the poll tax this should lead to a campaign by all on the left. We need to provide education in order to be effective in supporting those affected. This is not an intellectual argument, but will be a devastating blow in local communities and to our neighbours and friends. A Citizen’s Income and a decent minimum wage are essential to our message but what about those who do not have the benefit of a union at their backs? Big questions we have to think about with compassion.
This is also a battle of rhetoric and we have to hold both Holyrood and Westminster governments accountable, not just blame each other. Fine speeches are good but action is essential now. By this time next year Universal Credit will be rolled out over all of Scotland and the UK. It is now time for action and time to do what we do best stand with those affected and that means the majority of us.