What does Pride mean to me? Amber Poppitt

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Amber Poppitt

History has been far from generous to the LGBTQIA+ community. Bullying, hatred, societal prejudice, oppression and laws criminalising our existence has generated an unnecessary amount of torment throughout the centuries. Although numerous acts have been introduced in recent years to try protect LGBTQIA+ people from the systematic injustices inflicted upon us, it wasn’t all that long ago when such acts were pretty much non-existent. During the mid-20th century, homosexuality was still classed as illegal under varying sodomy laws. In many countries, this resulted in police raids on bars that were known to serve gay and transgender people.

America was one of those many countries where homosexuality was banned by law, meaning similar raids were habitually conducted across their many states. On June 28th 1969, however, one raid at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, didn’t go quite as planned. Instead of allowing the police to carry out their usual incursions, the 200 Stonewall attendees decided enough was enough and resisted. Authorities responded by attempting to arrest everyone inside the pub, however before backup had time to arrive, groups of protesters had formed outside.

In practice the riots carried on for the following five days, however their overall impact lasted far longer than anyone at the time imagined. The actions of June 28th 1969 resulted in a catalyst that helped to reshape the ways in which LGBTQIA+ people were treated by society at large, a moment which can be seen as the start of a liberation for queer people across the globe.

As the years passed, change started to take shape. More and more public figures came out, countries across the world lifted their laws punishing people for same-sex relations, and acts are introduced to protect those who are at risk due to their gender identity or sexuality. From Stonewall to the legalisation of same-sex marriage taking place across the globe in the present decade, fight for liberation still continues today.

Many of these changes were made possible thanks the protests, resistance and marches which stemmed from that very night back in 1969. Demonstrations similar to those held outside the Stonewall Inn continued year-after-year, continuously pushing for change.

Today we refer to these sorts of demonstrations as Pride events, and they are just as important today as they were half a century ago. Such movements not only take place all across the globe, but speak to all of those who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community from ever walk of life. Whether you’re asexual, bisexual, non-binary, pansexual, transgender, agender, bigender, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender variant, androgynous, aromantic, androsexual, bicurious, demiromantic, demisexual, polyamorous or any other member of this wonderfully variant community; Pride is the moment in which non-heteronormative folk can come together and continue the march for liberation which begun during the midpoint of the 20th century.

Due to the sheer scope and variety of the LGBTQIA+ community, however, Pride has a variety of meanings for many. Each individual will have their own interpretation of what Pride means to them based on their backgrounds, experiences and worldviews. So, based upon my own experiences as a trans woman raised in 90s Britain, what does Pride personally mean to me?

Firstly, from my point of view, Pride is a way to look back on the achievements made over the years. It’s a time to celebrate the decriminalisation of homosexuality; establishment of countless gay liberation fronts; repeals made toward those who ‘committed’ the victimless crime of loving another; openly gay & trans candidates running for office; liberating trans people so they’re free transition legally, socially & physically; the introduction of laws protecting LGBTQIA+ people within workplaces; and the countless other steps made toward equality. Over the years an endless amount of individuals have worked endlessly, risked all they have and faced a tirade of struggle in a bid to make the world a better place for the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride celebrations are a means of expressing our gratitude to such folk, thanking them for helping to make the world a more bearable place than it once was. There’s far more work to be done of course, however Pride is a point where we can look back and say thank you to those who’ve got us to where we are today.

Another way in which I look at Pride is by seeing it as an exercise in standing up to the mistreatment and hate still present within our societies today. Bullies, bigots and hateful fools love to hit out at those whom they believe they have power over. For far too long, those very cowards have felt emboldened to make the lives of those unlike them hell. They’ve hindered rights, laughed at the existence of others, beaten, murdered and claimed superiority all because they grew up in a society that made them believe they were superior. Pride is our way of saying no more; a defence mechanism designed to push back against the struggles we continuously face. Pride is our way of telling the hateful members of our society that we are strong, resilient and here to stay. Each and every march is our way of pushing back against the self-assumed dominance held by those who hate us.

Furthermore, Pride can in many ways be seen as a bond that assists in bringing the diverse and multifaceted members of the LGBTQIA+ community together. As already mentioned, there’s a vast amount of sexualities and identities existing beyond the walls of heteronormativity. Considering how large this community is, divisions do at times occur. No single person or experience is the same, meaning it can at times appear as if we’re striving for different goals. Truth is, we’re working toward the same universal outcome; we want a world free from bullying, mockery, violence, shame, misunderstanding, dehumanisation and hatred. The liberation to love who we love and be ourselves without scorn is something we can all rally behind as a collective. Pride is the time where we can all finally come together, embrace the power of working in numbers and stand up as one. By coming together we create an unbreakable unity; a collective working to change the foundations of our societies for the better.

Finally, Pride is an exercise in flexing our visibility; a way of reminding the world that we are more than an idea or stereotype. Over the centuries, LGBTQIA+ folk have been habitually erased from the history books. This is a practise that’s still carried out by many in this day and age. When we’re not being mocked or misrepresented by callous stereotypes, our lives are trivialised and rendered false. Bigots tell us our gender identities are delusions, that our desire to love more than one gender is nothing more than greed, that our love toward someone of the same gender is the by-product of mental illnesses, or our sexualities/genders are contemporary fads uncommon within the human experience. Despite their assumptions, we all exist, we’ve always exited and we shall continue to exist until the end of time. Pride month is the moment each in which we remind the world that we are valid, that our identities are real, that we bleed like everyone else and that we deserve rights just as much as every other human living on this planet.

As already mentioned, Pride can be subjective based on whoever you ask. But that’s its beauty. It allows a vast community of people to come together, recognise the universal struggles each one faces and provides a platform where we can all push for change. To me Pride is a way to look back and thank the liberators of yesterday, celebrate the diversity of the queer community, tower above the bigots and articulate our authenticity to the world. Whether others agree with this is beside the point. No matter how you look at it, just remember that Pride is a movement that will allow progression to continue, no matter how dark the world may feel at times.

Happy Pride Month everyone.

 

You can read more from Amber on her Writing page and she also contributes to our Podcast

World Refugee Day

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Debora Kayembe, Human Rights campaigner and Director of Full Options

 

It’s summer, most countries in the world expect migration movement to increase. Human migration is the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location. The movement is often over long distances and from one country to another, but internal migration is also possible; indeed, this is the dominant form globally. A person who moves from their home to another place because of natural disaster or civil disturbance may be described as a refugee or, especially within the same country, a displaced person. A person seeking refuge from political, religious or other forms of persecution is usually described as an asylum seeker.
Since the Arab spring widely considered as the Arab revolution which was a revolutionary wave of both violent and non-violent demonstrations, protests, riots, coups, foreign interventions, and civil wars in North Africa and the Middle East that began on 18 December 2010 in Tunisia with the Tunisian Revolution. The world has witness an expected and unprecedented massive movement of refugees to Europe that result to a reception crisis; thousands of refugees cross the sea and attempt to settle in the most appropriate place that they taught suitable for them.

Once arrived the host country; it is not always a welcoming sight; a lot it expected from the new comer as well the from refugee perspectives; it is the time to rest, recover and make choices. Some likely manage to make it to the place of their choice, some do not and the most unfortunates end up in detention centre or being deported back to their home land depending on countries and immigration refugee policies.

When integration in the host countries comes to the mind of a refugee, the challenges are immeasurable. It requires great mental and/or physical effort and is a major test of a person’s ability. It is also important for members of the host society to recognize that it is the right of a person to have or to do something in order to strive to move forward.

Integration is, after all, defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio economic and cultural life. Each and every country holds its own policies on refugees and asylum seekers in order to allow them to settle. We can divide these in two parts: the socio economic integration and the cultural integration. There is also a third part and that is the responsibility that both the host country and the refugees (that includes asylum seekers) take for ensuring that the policies work.

A new life in a host country places a lot of expectations on refugees and little thought is often given to how much or how well the refugee understands the society in which s/he has joined and been called up to integrate. Are there any ways that the host country can help the refugee to overcome the challenges that they will certainly face? Have ways of teaching the new way of living been provided to minimize additional tensions on the life of the refugee? While each country has its own systems, they all have some things in common, namely, they are discriminatory, non-equal, and segregationist. People are led to believe that the world is working towards less racist policies at local levels, but in the context of the refugee (and asylum seeker) experience this is not the case.

We also need to think about the ignorance and naiveté that can be part of the refugee’s way of seeing the world after going through tremendous trauma, and their expectation that the world will look upon them with compassion.

Challenges are not only felt by the newcomers and it is important to consider that those attempting to welcome them can face significant challenges too including offer refugees the opportunity to participate in a dialogue and to be open-minded about how refugees might be perceived.
Fundamentally, there is a need for an open and inclusive local/national society that offers refugees the opportunity to be introduced to a new culture through non-judgmental inclusion. Being a refugee in host countries is like finding refuge in your neighbor’s home.

Your neighbor will give you a bed and will probably provide food for you in the earliest days on your arrival, but will soon expect you to make a contribution to their home as long as you stay. I do not think the neighbor will be pleased to see you stealing or destroying his property for no reason. But it is also true that, the refugee will be much settled if his host offers him in equal measure and all the necessary help that he need in order to be become self-sufficient.

I will not finish to write this article without mentioning the immigration detention Centre; around 30,000 people are held under Immigration Act powers every year, for a range of reasons. In 2017, 27,331 people entered detention. Some are asylums seekers who have had their claim refused. Others are asylum seekers who have a claim in process, and are being held while that decision is made (under what is known as the Detained Fast Track). In the Scotland we have a detention centre called Dungavel, I always call for the closure of that centre because of the persistent and continuous violations of Human rights that happens in that centre ; It is also true that immigration matters are not part of the devolved powers to the Scottish government ; but the welfare of the individuals in Dungavel it’s very much a Scottish responsibility ; I am calling upon to the Scottish parliament to conduct an investigation into the conditions of detainees in that centre .

You can find out more about Full Options on their Facebook page or on twitter

 

 

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Real Carers Week

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Sandra Webster

I am privileged to belong to a group of passionate writers who are called Ungagged. I love them because they share voices that deserve to be heard and often are not. At the end of Carers Week, am proud to be writing for them.

Once a year we carers get patted on the back and told what a fantastic job we do. I think there will come a time when we all realise the love and compassion carers have, make the world a better place. We do what we do at the expense of our own health, there are no health and safety measures put in place. In a past life I was a paid carer a career, fantastic colleagues. I worked in places with great practice. I had time off and paid holidays. My work then could not prepare me for the reality of being an unpaid carer. We care round the clock often 24/7 when our caring role is over many of us have PTSD and are expected to find work quickly. We have much to offer our skills include advocacy, form filling, managing our time effectively. Most employers will look at our “work history” and not regard this as real work. However we do what we do with love in our hearts.

This week has been a rollercoaster for me but is just a typical one. I have read so many stories on social media. Some of us have been tweeting #RealCarersWeek. We live in the shadows and keep the dark times to ourselves; posting pictures about happy times masks how difficult our lives actually are. The stories I have read this week have made me cry and smile and make me realise I am not alone. I rarely get out. I saw a dear friend who is also a carer this week and got to a gig!! I thought I would not get but I have not had a night out on my own for over a year and we made it. It refreshed my batteries but I felt so guilty going. I know many folk will get that.

Carers contribute more than the NHS budget in unpaid care. What would happen if we downed tools but w won’t of course. The Adam Smith foundation presented a paper this week which said women should expect to be unpaid carers. That is the crux of the matter it is mostly seen as “women’s work” though I know more and more men who are carers. Assumptions are made as well as cuts to essential services. I believe in people being seen and part of their community but this is used as an excuse to making cuts to essential services. Such services are crucial and I am all for volunteers and charities but they should not provide essential centres. Language about community care are used as an excuse to make cuts.

So another Carers Week is almost at the end for us though #RealCarersLives continue 52 weeks a year seven days a week. We have to battle and advocate for support for our loved ones forgetting ourselves. Am glad that so many people have shared their stories on #RealCarersWeek this year. It is up to a 1000. I live in hope things will get better this week but in reality doubt it. Am proud on behalf of Ungagged to wish all who care the best, always at your back. Come and share the microphone that is Ungagged and let others hear your story it is an important one. Love and strength to you all. xx

 

You can read more of Sandra’s Ungagged writing here or listen to her on our podcast

A long week in politics

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Mhairi Hunter

A long week in politics

It can be difficult sometimes to gauge what will provoke a reaction in politics. It’s been commented on that Brexit doesn’t seem to have had as big a political impact in Scotland as was forecast. The events of the past few days suggests that may be changing.

I suspect many Scottish people – indeed many British people – still haven’t fully recovered from those crazy weeks after the Leave vote when the UK didn’t really have a government and no-one knew what the hell was going on. True, the UK now has a government of sorts but it’s still the case that no-one knows what the hell is going on, least of all that government.

In Scotland bemused despair at the antics of a UK leadership which is patently unable to agree a workable form of Brexit is deepened by the fact that the overwhelming majority voted to remain in the EU. At least down south a small majority voted to leave, even if many of them did so in the false expectation that the Leave side had a plan. For most Scots, though, the idea of leaving the EU was – and is – self-evidently bonkers. And everything that has followed on from that disastrous Leave vote has continued to be bonkers.

Small wonder political commentators have struggled to analyse Scottish public opinion. Basically, the average Scot wishes the EU referendum had never happened and that they could wake up – Pam Ewing style – and realise it was all just a bad dream. Especially that surreal bit tacked on at the end about Donald Trump being elected President and meeting Nigel Farage in a golden lift.

This kind of political environment has made it challenging, to say the least, for the SNP. One of the key problems around the Brexit debate has been that it’s all so damned legal. A debate about the (as yet theoretical) repatriation of powers from Brussels was never going to set the heather on fire, was it? Except that it did.

OK, when the Scottish Parliament declined consent for the EU Withdrawal Bill it didn’t set the heather on fire. It didn’t even really set twitter on fire, a medium far more flammable than heather. But when the UK Government over-rode that lack of consent with calculated contempt and SNP MPs walked out of parliament after they were denied a serious debate – woosh! Up the heather went.

Not only has the SNP gained thousands of new members but reports have been coming in from across the nation of “real people” being overheard discussing the issue and supporting the SNP’s position. What exactly is going on?

It is not, in my view, an endorsement of the SNP walking out of Westminster for good. Far from it. Rather, I think it’s a recognition of the hard work SNP elected members have been putting in to defend Scottish interests and a shared annoyance at the contemptuous response.

Like them or loathe them, I think most people would have to admit SNP parliamentarians have put in a hell of a shift on Brexit.

From the very first days following the Leave vote Scottish Government ministers – supported by the SNP’s elected members at all levels – have worked diligently and seriously to protect and support EU citizens, to make the case for the UK remaining in the single market and customs union, to argue the positive case for freedom of movement and to argue for a fair and consensual approach on the repatriation of powers, one which protects the devolution settlement.

On the whole they have received widespread if occasionally grudging support for their efforts and, I suggest, earned a degree of respect even from those who are not their natural allies. The cross-party support for the emergency Continuity Bill demonstrates this.

Labour argues that devolution is “their” project and that therefore the SNP’s effort to protect the devolution settlement is opportunistic and essentially bogus. But the SNP has done a good job working to protect devolution, as well as working to argue for the least terrible form of Brexit at a UK level – work that Labour should have been doing, but hasn’t been. I think people recognise that.
That’s why the casual contempt from the UK Government and Tory MPs at Westminster has actually shocked people. It’s almost as shocking as the lack of concern shown by Brexiteers for the impact of their pet project on the Good Friday Agreement. The whole debate has shown up what narrow nationalism really means. A complete lack of care and thought for the distinct interests of the devolved nations of the UK by a group of politicians who appear more clown-like by the day.
This is now having a political impact in Scotland. Surprising people are contemplating independence and, if not exactly embracing the idea, wondering if it might not be the least worst option.
It’s absolutely vital in my view to understand the political dynamics of this. Yes, the MPs walkout was a dramatic moment. But it only had an impact because of the months and years of hard work that preceded it.

There’s a clear lesson here I believe for the independence campaign. If we work hard, if we make our case in a serious and evidence-based way people will listen to us. They won’t necessarily agree with everything we say but they will respect us for working to earn their trust and they will give us a fair hearing.

The same, of course, is true of those who believe in the Union – but they are hampered by that very cause which ties them to a Westminster system of government which has been exposed over the past few days as being antiquated, inept and downright farcical, requiring MPs to scurry in and out of lobbies like mice in a maze and devoting nineteen minutes exactly to overturning the serious political work of decades, with backbench Tory MPs who haven’t had a serious political thought in years braying like donkeys as they did so.

This does not have to be our future. Bemused despair does not have to be our response to this boorach. The impact of Brexit can lead us in a completely different direction and I think something really changed this week to make more people understand this. We still have a mountain to climb but the way forward is, I believe, a bit clearer and more people are coming to join us on the journey. We should welcome them with open arms.

 

You can read more of Mhairi’s writing here or listen to her and other contributors on our podcast

What does Pride mean to me? -Brian Finlay

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Brian Finlay

Everyone’s opinion of Pride is different. Pride events have increased in size and the number of events being held in large cities tends to have a mainstream festival feel. I find that small town Prides, such as Kirkcaldy, who are holding their second Pride this year, try to have the local community at their heart by including local bands and such like. I have felt, in recent years, that rainbow capitalism has replaced the organic and inclusive resistance movement that was set up to protest the injustices of both inequality and persecution of the LGBTIQ+ community in the larger city Prides.

Rainbow capitalism is the targeting of marketing at the explicit inclusion of LGBTIQ+ community to produce profit. This manifests through tailored products and services being offered to boost economic activity for corporations and marketing campaigns. That said, some of the core messages of Pride still exist and these events continue to inspire and mobilise LGBTIQ+ activists to tackle contemporary issues. These include the ongoing fight for LGBTIQ+ inclusive education in schools, spearheaded by the TIE Campaign, and issues surrounding sexual health and the stigmatisation attached to them.

What Pride means to me has changed over the years. I saw it initially as a weekend to meet up with friends, family and loved ones to see a variety of acts from drag queens to mainstream popstars. It was a piss up where you could feel relaxed in an LGBTIQ+ inclusive environment; much more public and open than that of a bar. To an extent, I feel this is what most peoples’ attraction is to Pride is but after becoming more politicised in recent years I’ve started to view it in a more critical light. I feel large city Prides have become just another summer festival which aims to push boundaries of its size and capacity whilst focusing on the status of the artists performing. This year in Glasgow the event will take place in Kelvingrove Park with an after-party concert with the camp pop sensation Steps. A ticket will cost you £45 for a two day ticket, to the other acts and activities, and the entrance fee to the after-party concert. This all seems ‘fair’ for seeing such a popular act but is that really inclusive at that price? Albeit it tickets for the weekend, without access to the after-party is £15. The Pride website homepage is littered with ‘pro-LGBTIQ+’ corporations such as RBS and AXA insurance with very little about the core issues Pride should be raising. The focus has shifted far too much towards rainbow capitalism rather than the issues impacting on LGBTIQ+ people here in Scotland, the wider UK and overseas.

Well, so what? There is nothing wrong with this casual capitalism creeping into community events, it reflects the shift in mainstream society, more is the pity, but we should be remembering what Pride is about and the struggles that the LGBTIQ+ community face and have faced.

On the 28th of May 1988, little more than 30 years ago, Lark in the Park took place in Edinburgh to protest Section 28 which had come into effect a few days before it by Margaret Thatcher’s Government. This prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in the classroom, or other public buildings, and silenced any discussion of LGBTIQ+ issues or its existence for nearly 13 years; which was during my time in the education system. As a gay man, I find it sad that LGBTIQ+ inclusion was not encouraged or promoted during my time at school as it could have enhanced my experience of the Scottish education system and could have made me feel confident expressing my true self. I was lucky to have an open minded and caring family that always taught me it was ok to be ‘who I really was’ but that experience is not echoed in every LGBTIQ+ individual. If a young person has questions or concerns around LGBTIQ+ issues should, and should always have had, access to support; not have their community silenced under a right wing Tory Government. It was as little as 17 years ago the repeal of the Clause 28 campaign was successful in installing change in Scotland. This meant the younger generation have had the ability to seek out support and not have LGBTIQ+ issues silenced or forced underground in civic life; all because of Pride and public demonstrations.

The Lark in the Park was pivotal in raising awareness of this nasty policy and lead to prominent LGBTIQ+ speakers publicly coming out, literally in some cases, to express their disgust and opposition to Thatcher’s obsession of control and ‘tradition’. This meeting of like-minded people and political activists present to show solidarity and displaying willingness to resist oppression and inequality faced by a minority group in society, from the mainstream media and their own Government. That is what Pride should be. Politics should be front and centre. We should all be standing side by side with the trans community who are experiencing dreadful levels of suicide attempts and ongoing low levels of mental well-being. On average, according to Stonewall, 48% of young trans people have attempted suicide. What is causing these people to feel so low and isolated that they want to end their lives?

Moreover, we should be remembering and highlighting what is happening abroad where homosexuality is illegal in some Commonwealth countries and beyond. We should also be remembering that in Chechnya gay men are being hunted down by the authorities and facing persecution. These are the important issues; amongst many others.

What Pride means to me is the increased commercialisation of a community event that was originally intended to express discontent and show an appetite for equality. In large city events, we see mainstream festivals that are sponsored by big business and are obsessed with securing the best and biggest acts to attract more numbers. However, alternative Pride events are organised in venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh, which tend to reflect the true nature of what Pride once was, with no or very little fee for entry. Try and seek them out if you can; if not do enjoy the party. Whilst doing so, always try and reflect on the injustices facing the LGBTIQ+ community globally and take political action where you can.

Happy Pride to one and all!
Brian Finlay

 

You can read more of Brian’s writing here

Union of Equals?

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Maggie Chapman

Union of Equals?

The last couple of days have been quite extraordinary. We have seen changes made to Scotland’s devolution settlement without Scottish MPs being heard, nevermind the Scottish Parliament giving its consent. We witnessed a Conservative MP suggest that suicide was the choice open to Scottish MPs who thought this was perhaps not the way democracy should work. And we’ve seen an SNP MP barred from the Chamber for trying to use the Parliament’s own standing orders to get a debate on the division of powers between Holyrood and Westminster, leading to the whole SNP group walking out of PMQs.

Was the walk out a stunt? Yes. Was it the right thing to do? Yes.

Political stunts most certainly have their place in campaigning, in politics, in the theatre that is the oppositional nature of Westminster. It is quite clear to me that there is no other way the SNP MPs could have protested the series of events that would show up the UK Government for what it is: self-important, shambolic and completely uninterested in the wishes of either the Scottish parliament or the Scottish people.

Westminster is a farce. It has been for some time, but yesterday’s events show just how broken it, and therefore how broken British democracy, is. True debate, where everyone respects each other, listens to each other, learns from each other, is just not possible. There does not seem to be any real respect for individual or groups of MPs. And there is certainly little respect for the citizens that parliament is supposed to represent.

Without respect for democracy, the UK is well and truly broken. Theresa May talked of a Union of Equals. Well, she and her government wouldn’t recognise equality if they bumped into it in the streets. Probably because they have no idea what actually goes on in the streets of the UK. They certainly do not understand, or seem to care about, the streets of Scotland that I call home.
You can read more of Maggie’s writing here.

Maggie Chapman

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Maggie Chapman

Maggie Chapman was born and brought up in the sunshine in Zimbabwe. Her musician Dad and housewife Mum encouraged her to spread her wings and explore the unknown. So she came to Scotland in 1998.

 

She studied zoology and environmental management, her fieldwork taking her all over Scotland. However, she became frustrated that most humans were not viewed as legitimate parts of many environments. And so she moved into the critical social sciences and spent nearly 9 years lecturing in human geography and environmental philosophy at Edinburgh Napier University.

 

At the same time, Maggie was elected to Edinburgh City Council as one of Scotland’s first Green councillors. She served the people of Leith Walk ward for 8 years during which time she pioneered participatory budgeting and including people in decision-making. She was the first Scottish politician to call for the payment of the Living Wage, and has been an active anti-austerity campaigner.

 

Elected as female co-convener of the Scottish Greens in 2013, Maggie played a key role in widening the Party’s appeal through her work in Green Yes and the Radical Independence Campaign. She stood as lead candidate in the 2014 European Elections, and was top of the North East regional list for the 2016 Holyrood Elections. She argued for the devolution of employment law and abortion legislation as a member of the Smith Commission.

 

A passionate believer in and activist for equality, Maggie now works to promote inclusion and awareness of people with vision impairments, heading up the work of SCOVI, the umbrella body for vision impairment in Scotland. As Rector of the University of Aberdeen, she also works to improve understanding of intersectionality, supporting trans-inclusion in feminism and mentoring women and young people.

 

Maggie inherited her father’s love of and talent for music and she plays a wide range of instruments. She can often be found with her fiddle, a pint of Guinness and a dram in the Hebrides Bar on a Monday evening. When not politicking, making music or drinking whisky, she loves spending time in the hills. And she is chief slave to two rather beautiful ginger cats!


You can follow Maggie on twitter and Facebook.

Disorderly Democracy

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Disorderly Democracy

Constitutional Chaos following Brexit Power Grab

Image by Red Raiph

By Debra Torrance and Derek Stewart Macpherson

Debra:

What the heck happened in the House of Commons?

Today, Wednesday 13th of June at Prime Ministers Question there was “unprecedented chaos as a SNP member of the house was ejected by the speaker, and the rest of the party walked out” – BBC News.

But what actually happened? What’s going on?

So after receiving a text, since I’m currently bed ridden with MS issues and nerve pain, unable to do any walking, a message saying SNP MPs walked out of Westminster.

Hmm? What? I immediately sat up and opened twitter and my messenger. Yup. On the face of it, they did. All of the Scottish National Party Members of Parliament who were there for PMQs got up and walked out after Ian Blackford, the SNP at Westminster group leader, requested to move to a vote on a private sitting.

The speaker of the house John Bercow, seemed flustered and gesticulated with his aides in front of him over rules and passed papers between them. He demanded Ian Blackford sit down and said he preferred the vote to be held after the session, to which the SNP MP requested “I beg to move”.

I am not all that familiar with parliamentary language, but that sounded pretty official. Ian Blackford is a knowledgable guy and extremely professional. Bercow ejected Blackford and the SNP MPs stood up and followed their leader.

Some commentators have suggested this was a pre-planned stunt, but for me Joanna Cherry’s actions suggest it wasn’t, she scooped up her belongings and walked out with a wave, the exact same way I’ve witnessed many women do when they have had enough.

To me this was a principled action by professional people who have committed years to their work in Westminster, followed archaic and seemly endlessly bureaucratic legislation and traditions to serve their constituents in Scotland.

And Scotland is what this is really all about, the EU Withdrawal Bill debate so far has been a farce. Scottish Parliament, Holyrood has devolved powers enshrined in its very existence. Powers which the Tory party are trying to steal back through Brexit.

Video by Sarah Mackie

Now if you disagree with this, that’s all very well, but how are we meant to have a democratic debate on the matter if no Scottish MP gets the opportunity to speak about it in the chamber? If sessions are allowed to be filibustered and timed out by nonsensical votes, what other options do representatives have?

Is the walk out a stunt? Did the SNP speak about such actions? Yes it is as much a stunt as mocking an opponent when you get an opportunity to speak at a debate in the chamber. Was there chat about the possibility of a walk out among SNP politicians? I dunno, probably, but I don’t think that means it was pre-planned. Watching it over again, it looks so spontaneous. It felt impromptu.

How were the SNP meant to know Bercow would act in that way? They followed the rules and evoked powers entitled to them as members of Westminster Parliament.

To me the whole thing just highlights the democratic deficit of this institution and the entire governance of the supposed United Kingdom. I’m proud of the SNP MPs walking out, they used their feet when I can’t. Thank you!

 

Derek:

“Today, Wednesday 13th of June at Prime Ministers Question there was “unprecedented chaos as a SNP member of the house was ejected by the speaker, and the rest of the party walked out” – BBC News

Well, it’s hardly unprecedented, it’s the sort of thing that happens from time to time in Westminster system parliaments all over the world. And I’m still not sure that’s even what happened. Did the Speaker intend to eject the member, or merely to sit him down? Well, apparently later he clarified that he had been expelled. However many people believe in the BBC clip he can be heard to say, “Well we’ll have to have the vote then.”

How he intended to have a vote the mover of which he had just ejected is unclear. A case of premature ejection it would appear. It sounds as if he realised he’d got it wrong just as the SNP members were following their colleague out.* It adds to the sense that Bercow’s grip is not what it once was, that he’s stressed and making mis-steps.
*
The procedural motion Ian Blackford moved was one of those parliamentary delaying and disruption tactics that are often used when a government is trying to ram something through, which is what’s happening at the moment with the EU Withdrawal bill. They had to overrule the House of Lords on no less than 15 amendments, which left no time to debate the Scottish concerns and the fact that Holyrood has refused consent.

So was it a stunt? The reason for the ‘chaos’ is that there is a very real constitutional crisis here, and it’s one entirely of the government’s own making. The Scotland Act of 1998 is very clear – anything that’s not specifically reserved to Westminster is devolved to Holyrood. Including each and every power being repatriated from Brussels. But the government doesn’t want to give Scotland some of those powers. There are 158 of them. The government wants to retain 24 including some really quite important to Scotland economically such as agriculture, fisheries, food labelling and public procurement.

Why do they want to do that? Presumably so they can use some of those things as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations. And why is it such a problem? Because it undermines the devolution settlement, and because it puts the parliaments on a constitutional collision course. They have passed (or will shortly in Westminster’s case) conflicting Brexit bills, and the courts will have to resolve their constitutional competence over the various matters at issue.

This is a pretty big gamble by the May government, and it’s one that a hell of a lot of smart legal money thinks they might well lose. Not only that, but the potential precedents the case could set may have ramifications for years to come, on subjects as yet unimagined. It might even touch on the great question. The ultimate question. The question of life, the universe and everything! Well no, not quite, but nearly. The question of sovereignty, that of not only the Scottish parliament but of the Scottish people. And of a fascinating little constitutional law bomb set many years ago, by that indefatigable champion of Scottish independence Winnie Ewing.

Way back, on the first day the shiny new Scottish Parliament at Holyrood was due to sit, somebody had to declare it open before it could even elect a Presiding Officer, so the task fell to the oldest member of the House, Winnie Ewing MSP. She said,

“I want to start with the words that I have always wanted either to say or to hear someone else say – the Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25, 1707, is hereby reconvened.”

Those were carefully chosen words. That particular parliament has had a lot of bad press, some of it from me, but whatever else it might have been there’s one important thing we know that it was – sovereign.

But despite the obvious weight and moment of these matters, the government did not see fit to allow MPs a chance to debate them, in its haste to ram through its ramshackle legislation. What the SNP members are trying to do is demonstrate how serious this is. How constitutionally significant. A lot of people have exhausted their attention spans when it comes to Brexit. They just want it to be over. I understand that, but this really does matter. The high-handed actions of this omnishambles of a government threaten to undermine the very constitutional foundations of the Union. And it might not end the way they expect.

 

 

You can read more of Debra’s writing here, Derek’s writing here, and listen to them both on our Podcast

Rip It Up And Start Again

Reading Time: 1 minute

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

On this episode of Ungagged, themed around the idea of “rip it up and start again” and  introduced by Victoria Pearson, we’ll be hearing from Thomas Morris  with his piece “I am asexual, hear me roar,” we’ll have a round up of only the important public celebrations from Red Raiph, and we will hear Steve McAuliffe‘s Angel Wings.

Catriona Stevenson will be talking about Bannockburn, George Collins will be taking a more positive look at his specialist subject; the American manufacturing industry, Nelly Neal will be talking about our theme in relation to Ofsted, Debra Torrance will talk about ripping it up and starting again in relation to the UK, Derek Stewart Macpherson will be saying “Rip it up Donald” and Chuck Hamilton will assert that “the only away to improve capitalism is to set it on fire and burn that motherfucker to the ground.”

Along with our fab contributors we’ll have music from Thee Faction,The Babel Fish Project, Husky Tones, The Exiles, Robb Johnson, Girobabies, The Hurriers, Emma Flowers and Cascadia Fault Line.

Pulled together, kicking and screaming, by Neil AndersonNeil Scott and Victoria Pearson

Remember we love to hear from you so get yourself Ungagged on our Facebook page, or on Twitter, or check out the latest news, views and opinion right here on on our website.

 

 

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