Friday, June 25, 2021

Swing against the unionist parties in Murdostoun by-election

I've lived in North Lanarkshire all my life (or rather in places that the Tories creatively reimagined as North Lanarkshire as part of their botched mid-90s gerrymandering effort), but I must admit I didn't have a clue where Murdostoun ward is until I looked it up for the purposes of this blogpost.  It's unusual in that it's a central belt ward in which an independent candidate topped the poll in the last two rounds of local elections.  That pattern continued in yesterday's by-election, and the winning candidate had exactly the same name as before - because he's the son of the late Councillor Robert McKendrick, whose untimely death caused the vacancy.

Murdostoun by-election result (24th June 2021):

Independent - McKendrick: 41.3% (n/a)
SNP: 24.3% (-3.3)
Labour: 16.9% (-6.8)
Independent - Arthur: 8.0% (+5.6)
Conservatives: 7.2% (-5.7)
Greens: 1.7% (n/a)
Independence for Scotland: 0.4% (n/a)
Reform UK: 0.2% (n/a)

I haven't given a percentage change for Mr McKendrick because he's technically a new candidate, but he increased his father's vote share from four years ago by a whopping 13.7%.

A few people on Twitter are suggesting this is a terrible result for the SNP, but I think that's a bit of a stretch - there were clearly unusual local and personal factors in play.  The SNP's vote dropped by less than their two main party political rivals, ie. Labour and the Tories - or to put it another way, there was a net swing from Labour to SNP and from Tory to SNP.  So it's not too bad an outcome, really.  The SNP candidate was Julia Stachurska, who is a New Scot (I presume she's from Poland if her surname is any guide), so even in defeat, that sends out a strong message about the ongoing electoral rights of EU citizens in Scotland.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first time Independence for Scotland have actually stood in an election, because of course they withdrew their planned candidates from the Holyrood election last month and backed Alba instead.  I must say I can't really understand why they're continuing in existence, given that they're in total agreement with Alba on their main policy preoccupations (ie. greater urgency on independence and women's sex-based rights).  I wonder if this result will give them pause for thought, because it's markedly worse than Alba's supposedly 'disastrous' result a few weeks ago.  It does answer one question I had, though - I thought the 'Ronseal' name of Independence for Scotland might in itself attract a few votes, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

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You can catch up with the latest episode of the Scot Goes Popcast HERE.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Will identity politics zealotry on both sides scupper the SNP-Green deal?

First of all, thanks for all the kind words about the podcast with Maggie McNeill the other day.  It turned out to be extremely timely, because as you may have seen in the Scotsman today, the SNP's plans to introduce the Nordic model on prostitution law may end up scuppering the proposed deal between the SNP and the Greens on a programme for government. 155 members of the Green party have written an open letter to Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, citing the Nordic model as one of the main reasons for not pushing ahead with a deal.  If you'd like to learn more about why there is such strong opposition to the Nordic model, you can catch up with the podcast HERE.

But it won't surprise you to hear that the other main objection to a deal raised in the letter is the SNP's supposed "transphobia".  It's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry about this, because whatever position you take on the trans debate, it's beyond all credible dispute that the SNP leadership have come down decisively on the side of trans activism. To still accuse them of transphobia, even after Nicola Sturgeon's notorious "hostage video", even after the treatment of Joanna Cherry, smacks of zealotry and extremism. What more are they supposed to do?  Are they supposed to expel or hound out of the party every single SNP member that holds gender critical views?  Incredibly, it appears the answer is yes.  Dare I say it, some Green members seem to be liberally partaking of the parfum d'obsession.

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Over the last 24 hours or so, I've taken a complete break from moderating comments on this blog - I haven't even read the comments that have come through to my inbox, so apologies if you're innocently caught up in this and are still waiting for your comment to be approved.  I've once again reached saturation point with the whole thing, this time because one of our long-term regular commenters has been having a bit of a meltdown on the basis that not all of his comments have been approved quickly enough for his liking.  The nadir was reached a few days ago when he attempted to post an epic rant that literally accused me of being Stuart Campbell (!).  He also sent me a long email a week or two back that was chummy in tone, but that basically tried to dictate to me what my moderation policy should be - and that just ain't on.  Anyone is welcome to post comments here (well, apart from two or three specific individuals who I've told are not welcome), but whether comments are approved or not is entirely at my discretion.  That's a feature, not a bug.  

I probably would have responded to the email eventually, but finding the time became a bit tricky because the same person continued to attempt to post multiple War and Peace length diatribes every day, and I had to wade through those and decide what to do about them.  To give you a general rule of thumb about the sort of comments that are at risk of not getting through, obviously I have to be careful about anything that may cause legal problems or that contains extreme swearing.  But there's a broader category of comments that waste my time in some way or another, because the only way I can realistically publish them is if I take the time to reply.  For example, personal attacks on me, attempts to troll me, or determined attempts to call into question the factual basis of the blogpost that is being commented on.  It's one thing if stuff like that appears elsewhere on the internet, but if I allow it to appear here without any rebuttal, that can be taken (wrongly) as tacit acceptance on my part that the comments are valid.  So a lot depends on whether I have the time to reply at any given moment, and if I don't, it's not unusual for me to keep a comment in the moderation queue in the hope that I'll have time later on.  But obviously if the comment contains paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of trolling or attacks, there's a much greater likelihood that I'll never have enough time.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.  I recently wrote a blogpost that pointed out that the SNP had asked voters to use the 2017 Westminster general election to give them a "triple lock" mandate for an independence referendum. The commenter in question posted a long comment - which I reluctantly approved - that falsely claimed that the SNP manifesto did not mention anything about a triple lock mandate, and that he would not have voted SNP if it had.  I politely told him to read the manifesto again - and he responded with another epic comment insisting that he had checked the manifesto and that the words weren't there.  He supplied lengthy quotes as supposed 'proof'.

Here's the thing, though: I actually went to the SNP's manifesto launch for the 2017 election in Perth.  Everyone who attended was given a free copy of the manifesto, and I clearly remember reading the triple lock section while I was actually sitting there.  I didn't have time to set the commenter straight by searching for the manifesto and trawling through it to find the relevant passage, but nevertheless I knew for a fact that he was misleading people.  Was I really supposed to approve, without rebuttal,  a comment that a) was factually inaccurate and b) would have falsely left me looking either deluded or like a liar?  For the record, here's what the 2017 manifesto actually said - 

"Last year’s Holyrood election delivered the democratic mandate for an independence referendum. The recent vote of Scotland’s national Parliament has underlined that mandate. If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in this election, that would complete a triple lock..."

However, by far the biggest problem in recent days has been the sustained attempt to propagandise away the legitimate concerns about the £600,000 that was donated to the SNP's "ring-fenced indyref fund" and that mostly appears to have been spent on other things.  A recurring theme has been "if the police decide to take no action, that means the allegations are baseless and those who have made them must apologise".  My tolerance for that kind of nonsense is practically zero at this stage.  Not all breaches of trust reach the threshold for criminality - indeed the vast majority don't.  What the police do or don't do is essentially irrelevant to the question of whether members' trust has been betrayed in this case.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Scot Goes Popcast with guest Maggie McNeill, speaking about her opposition to the Nordic Model on prostitution law

A few months back there was yet another Holyrood consultation about the idea of introducing the Nordic model on prostitution law - but this one was a bit different from the previous efforts, because it was initiated by the government itself.  Two or three years ago, the SNP changed its policy on prostitution, which it now regards as a form of 'gendered violence against women' that can be tackled by 'challenging men's demand for paid sex' - in other words by criminalising the clients of sex workers and by (theoretically) decriminalising sex workers themselves.  That's the Nordic Model in a nutshell, although for presentational reasons it's instead being referred to as a new 'Scottish Model'.  However, the dynamic may have changed again very recently due to the subtle realignment in Scottish politics - some of the people who were probably most enthusiastic about a change in the law have defected to Alba because of the trans issue, while the ascendancy of people like Rhiannon Spear, and the SNP's nascent alliance with the Greens, should ensure that the case against the Nordic Model at least gets some sort of hearing.  The Greens, as I understand it, favour full decriminalisation of prostitution.

Sex workers themselves tend to be viscerally opposed to the Nordic Model, so to find out why, I spoke to Maggie McNeill for the latest episode of the Scot Goes Popcast.  Maggie has several decades of experience as a sex worker and now writes a popular blog called The Honest Courtesan, in which she has discussed the flaws of the Nordic Model at considerable length.  In the podcast she explains...

* That the Nordic Model deprives women of agency and is thus incompatible with feminism.

* That the Nordic Model has its origins in racist impulses.

* That she cannot relate to the idea that she has experienced "violence against women" by being a sex worker.

* That the supposed "decriminalisation" of selling sex as part of the Nordic Model does not in fact protect women from prosecution in practice.

* That she does not believe the world would be a better place if prostitution is eradicated, even if that were possible.

* That the only practical way of reducing the number of women involved in sex work is not by criminalising their clients, but instead by tackling poverty, and specifically by introducing a Universal Basic Income.

* That Scotland should take the opposite route from the Nordic Model by instead embracing the New Zealand Model of full decriminalisation.

You can listen to the podcast via the embedded player below, via the direct link to the Soundcloud file HERE, or on either Stitcher or Spotify.