Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

Whenever Labour, the Conservatives, the LibDems, or the SNP, talk about how the important things are to let big companies pay less tax and to crack down on benefit fraud, we can be quite sure they are telling a story which is aimed at getting tabloid support:

Tax evasion currently costs this country £25bn a year; tax avoidance – that is, large companies and wealthy individuals who “take advantage” of the system – cost us £70bn a year. In addition to this, £26bn is going uncollected, adding up to a staggering £121bn in total – or, to put it in context, three-quarters of the annual deficit. To put it in yet more context, the amount lost to disability fraud is estimated at £1bn – and this figure should be considered in the context of benefit underpayment, which consistently saves more than the fraud costs. This does not of course excuse fraud, but it does make a mockery of the coalition’s claims that abuse of the system is costing money that they will save by being “efficient” – another euphemism.

All of these parties at Westminster and Holyrood seem to think they can tell us what should matter to us.

I am undecided about how I’ll vote in 2014, and free for nothing, I’ll tell both Labour and the SNP how they could convince me to vote their way.

Tell me you’re going to build enough council houses that everyone who needs to rent one can have one. And keep building them so that as the stock diminishes by Right To Buy, it increases by new builds. You know this will save money – Housing Benefit has effectively become a subsidy for people who can afford to buy a place for the purpose of renting it out. Nice little earner for them. You know this will increase employment, decrease homelessness, improve quality of life hugely, even improve educational scores – children don’t tend to do well in school when they’re living in a bed-and-breakfast.

Faith alone won't build council houses

Getting brownfield sites to build council homes will mean changing land laws to allow inner city sites which are sitting unused to be claimed for this purpose by the state. Building housing estates where people can get to work will mean improving public transport, cracking down on high fares – re-nationalising the railways. Improving Scotland’s democratic deficit at least at the local government level.

Let’s hear this from the SNP and from Labour. Never mind those silly campaigns: let’s see the parties competing in Holyrood and Westminister to promote their visions of independent Scotland vs. devolved-within-the-UK Scotland. That would be a real campaign, with actual consequences, committing UK Labour/Scottish Labour to real opposition to the Tories, committing the SNP to a really progressive Scotland.

Liam Byrne, Iain Duncan Smith’s Shadow, has openly said that Labour has no plans to turn that around if they win in 2015 – because “savings have got to be made” – and because Byrne and others in New Labour don’t see any votes there, given that the 2011 Social Attitudes Survey found that social contempt for the unemployed has increased:

54 per cent of those surveyed felt that unemployment benefits were too high, compared with 35 per cent in 1983 – another era of dole queues. If the question had been, “Could you live on £67.50 a week?” – the actual value of Jobseekers Allowance for those aged 25 or above – it’s a safe bet the results would have been rather different. Nearly two-thirds believed that one factor for child poverty was parents who “don’t want to work”. Scroungers and work-shy freeloaders: these are Britain’s poor as far as millions are concerned.

If you’re New Labour, your reaction to that is not “How can we turn these attitudes around?” but “how can we get those millions who hold welfare recipients in contempt to vote for us?”

Welfare reforms developed by Iain Duncan Smith are supposed to be the policy manifestation of a moral epiphany that the former leader had on a visit to a Glasgow housing estate in 2002. Even when senior Labour figures belittle Duncan Smith’s efforts to rescue people from a life on benefits, they accept that his motives are sincere.

Iain Duncan Smith himself on Cait Reilly, the woman who rejected Iain Duncan Smith’s “welfare reform” because she wanted to get paid for working for Poundland:

“What a snooty so-and-so. She seemed to say she shouldn’t stack shelves because she’s intelligent. The way she sneered — as if she was too good for it,” he says.

“…It’s a human right for the taxpayer to know you’re doing something productive instead of wafting around looking for the job you want while someone else pays for it.”

Iain Duncan Smith
I’ve no doubt that’s sincere. I just question the Labour politicians who think telling people who want to get paid work they’re “snooty” is an effort to rescue anyone from a life on benefits.

As Owen Jones asks: Whatever happened to the Labour Party?:

Labour could bring down welfare spending without cuts that destroy lives: £21bn of taxpayers’ money is wasted on housing benefit, lining the pockets of landlords charging extortionate rents. The money could be used to build modern council housing, creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and bringing down the 5 million-strong social-housing waiting list. A living wage could reduce the billions spent on tax credits. And rather than focusing on benefit fraud – worth £1.2bn a year, or less than 1 per cent of welfare spending – Labour could launch a clampdown on the £25bn lost through tax avoidance by the rich.

Nye Bevan - NHS If Scottish Labour supporters of Better Together honestly want to convince me, undecided, that the UK is “Better Together”, they need to convince UK Labour to stop veering off to the right. (And I know I’m not the only Scot who feels the same way.) Universal benefits, an end to workfare, removal of Trident, building council houses to end homelessness – all of these are things that could affect my vote in autumn 2014, me and a host of others, so why is Scottish Labour wasting their time slagging off the SNP? Labour berating the SNP isn’t convincing: Labour making policy like Bevan and Beveridge, that could be.

George Monbiot notes how right-wing lobbying groups that call themselves “think tanks” have been shaping the public narrative for many years and still do so today:

Echoing the narrative developed by the neoliberal thinktanks, they blame welfare payments and the mindset of the poor for the UK’s appalling record on social mobility, suggest the need for much greater cuts and hint that the answer is the comprehensive demolition of the welfare system. It is subtler than No Turning Back. There are fewer of the direct demands and terrifying plans: these movements have learned something in the past 30 years.

It is hard to think how their manifesto could have been better tailored to corporate interests. As if to reinforce the point, the cover carries a quote from Sir Terry Leahy, until recently the chief executive of Tesco: “The path is clear. We have to be brave enough to take it.”

Once more the press has taken up the call. In the approach to publication, the Telegraph commissioned a series of articles called Britain Unleashed, promoting the same dreary agenda of less tax for the rich, less help for the poor and less regulation for business. Another article in the same paper, published a fortnight ago by its head of personal finance Ian Cowie, proposes that there be no representation without taxation. People who don’t pay enough income tax shouldn’t be allowed to vote.

Nor is this the Conservative Party’s only problem: there’s also the Tory Chairman, Grant Shapps/Michael Green: he said

his job is to win the election for the Conservatives alone, so he would say “no, no, no” to anyone advising the party to campaign on a coalition platform with the Liberal Democrats.

“The day of the reshuffle I went to see the Prime Minister in Downing Street, and today I can reveal precisely what he said. ‘Grant, you’ve got one task as chairman, get out there and kick-start our campaign, rally the troops, take the fight to Labour and help us win in 2015,” he said. [Yes, punctuation in the Telegraph story leaves it uncertain where David Cameron's quote ends and Grant Shapps begins.]

The only problem with that is, Grant Shapps (who now admits to using the pseudonym “Michael Green” but claims it was “only a joke” and he has nothing to do with Green’s business now) is a liability – Shapps may be good at social media marketing, but he’s the Tory equivalent of a chugger.

Grant Shapps and Michael Green

Jeremy Hunt when he was Minister for Culture Jeremy Hunt, the Health Minister for England, came out in favour of restricting women’s rights to access abortion. This is an absolute disgrace.

But then on Sunday Alex Neil, the Scottish Government’s Health Secretary, admitted in the Scotland on Sunday that as far as women are concerned, he isn’t to be trusted to support healthcare. Just as David Cameron did in response to Jeremy Hunt’s comments, Alex Neil said:

that the dramatic cut backed by Hunt was unrealistic but he added the legislation should be reviewed in the event of abortion law being transferred from Westminster to Holyrood as a result of independence.

“I do think there is a case to be had for a reduction from 24 weeks, but I don’t know if 12 weeks is realistic, frankly,” Neil said.

“But I do think there is now a case, given the state of medical science and the fact that babies do survive from an much earlier stage in the pregnancy.

“I do think there is a case for looking to bring down the number of weeks, but that is a personal opinion.”

There is no case to be made for a reduction from 24 weeks: it’s the last reasonable compromise. There’s a good case to be made for expanding the limit to 28 weeks or removing a limit altogether. The Health Secretary trying to cover himself by handwaving “personal opinion” is a nonsense: Alex Neil isn’t fit to be Health Secretary if he thinks he can express such anti-women, anti-healthcare views in public. He should either retract or resign, since if Alex Salmond continues to keep him as Health Secretary, it’s a clear indication that to Salmond, Alex Neil’s views aren’t objectionable.

(In 2008, one of the dismal crowd of MPs voting for reduction to 12 weeks was one of the SNP’s handful of Westminster MPs, Angus MacNeil. Only the SDLP and DUP have proportionally a worse record.)

When the story broke, the response from SNP supporters was, for the most part, distressing. Instead of walling out Alex Neil and making clear that they wanted nothing more to do with him, they closed the party gates and presented a united front of denial (“The Scotland on Sunday is misleading!” – possibly, but neither Alex Neil nor the SNP is claiming he was misquoted, so I doubt it) – (“This has nothing to do with indyref!” – Ahem, we’re the voters you want to convince, we’ll decide what has to do with indyref) (“This doesn’t matter! It’s only his ‘personal views’” – May not matter to the speaker, but you’re not the decider of what matters…)

Alex Neil

Oddly enough, my first stumble across the story was in James Kelly’s blog instructing me that what Alex Neil thought about abortion didn’t matter and shouldn’t affect my views on independence and I must be “thick” if I thought it should.

Other SNP defenders suggested that it didn’t matter what Alex Neil thought because as Health Secretary he didn’t really have anything to do with abortion. Or that it didn’t matter that Alex Neil was only as bad as David Cameron because Jeremy Hunt was much worse. None of these are good defenses, because none of them deal with the real problem – the SNP has appointed a man who holds anti-choice views on abortion to be Health Secretary: instead they create a huge problem, which is that with every defence of Alex Neil, the SNP is building itself up to be the anti-choice party in Scotland, the party not to be trusted on human rights.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” the Great and Powerful Oz says. The Tories would like us not to pay attention to Jeremy Hunt’s views on abortion and homeopathy and the privatisation of the NHS and all the rest: Labour would like us not to pay attention to Liam Byrne calling for more welfare cuts, despite the human cost of those already accomplished: and the SNP would rather we didn’t look at Alex Neil and treated his position as Health Secretary as purely ceremonial, not as if his personal views could have any effect on healthcare provision and access.

The Shoogly Peg refuted Alex Neil’s claims which, like Jeremy Hunt, he says are based on unspecified “evidence”, and then she went on to say:

I am sick of this, and I am shaken. I believe that women ought to be equally represented in all arguments and discussions about our society. I am fed up with “women’s issues” being defined only as those which relate to family, children and housework. But remarks like Hunt’s and Neil’s force us back to basic rights relating to our bodies and our reproductive choices. Arguments which I thought we had won re-emerge, and while we’re fighting these battles all over again, the sphere of issues in which women have a legitimate interest is once again narrowed to babies, birth and bodies.

And I am shaken, because it never crossed my mind that this is what independence might mean. I have become complacent in looking pityingly southwards as their politicians privatise the NHS and play with education, safe in the knowledge that it will not happen here. I have said before that while I am not yet entirely convinced about independence, I am strongly inclined in that direction. That may not now be the case. If the establishment of a new Scotland means that the right-wingers and the more extreme religious groups will have the chance to attack women’s rights on the basis of non-existent medical evidence, then it is not worth the risk.

LoveAndGarbage tweeted in response:

I am not convinced that there is the political will (certainly among those that are elected) for (small “l”) liberal policies. It is why I find laughable the assertions of some that independence will create a progressive beacon. This is not reflected in the social attitudes surveys among the population as a whole, and is certainly not reflected in those that are elected. For me, Neil’s position this morning (and the casual way in which he appeared to suggest that women could travel to circumvent the policy he wishes to impose (okay if you can pay to travel…)) is another example.

They’re both right, but more important for the purpose of this blogpost is: Why didn’t it occur to the vast majority of the SNP supporters, even those who say they disagree with Alex Neil, to actually step up and say that Alex Neil should cease to be Health Secretary? Why the head-in-the-sand attitude that the SNP, and the campaign for independence, can get over an anti-choice Health Secretary just by instructing people not to think about him?

What does this say about the SNP plans for an independent Scotland, if something as basic as human rights for women can be dismissed by them as trivial next to party loyalty to a Minister who’s gone wrong?

Party leaders, loyalists, and partisans who partake in Wizard of Oz campaigning “I am Oz, the Great and Terrible, do not look at the man behind the curtain” should bear in mind:

That’s true in 2014 as in 2015.

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39 Comments

Filed under Equality, Scottish Politics, Women

39 responses to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

  1. Why didn’t it occur to the vast majority of the SNP supporters, even those who say they disagree with Alex Neil, to actually step up and say that Alex Neil should cease to be Health Secretary?

    Because abortion isn’t a devolved issue? I suspect that’s most people’s thinking anyway. Jeremy Hunt’s comments are worrying because not only is he the minister whose remit abortion falls under, but he’s also part of a government that now has a proven track record of pushing through unpopular legislation for purely Tory ideological purposes. In contrast, even once abortion laws ARE under Holyrood control, I can’t see the SNP suddenly deciding to mess about with the laws willy-nilly – especially with Nicola Sturgeon around.

    If Alex Neil was in control of abortion law in Scotland just now, then yes, I would want him to step own. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t expect Alex Neil to be Health Secretary after 2016.

    One thing I will say is that I really don’t think health is a good portfolio to give to people who are committed Christians, as I believe Hunt to be and which I suspect Neil is. There are just too many health-related issues where a person’s views can be shaped by what their church has told them to think. Then again, I would quite like to see religious influence removed from politics completely… The number of religious people in the SNP is the one thing that I don’t like about the party, incidentally.

    • Because abortion isn’t a devolved issue? I suspect that’s most people’s thinking anyway. Jeremy Hunt’s comments are worrying because not only is he the minister whose remit abortion falls under, but he’s also part of a government that now has a proven track record of pushing through unpopular legislation for purely Tory ideological purposes. In contrast, even once abortion laws ARE under Holyrood control, I can’t see the SNP suddenly deciding to mess about with the laws willy-nilly – especially with Nicola Sturgeon around.

      I’d’ve liked to think so, but unfortunately, the SNP show no sign of sacking Alex Neil, so it appears that I was wrong: the SNP are proved unreliable on abortion.

      If Alex Neil was in control of abortion law in Scotland just now, then yes, I would want him to step own. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t expect Alex Neil to be Health Secretary after 2016.

      If he’s Health Secretary in 2013, that’ll be enough. He has to go.

      One thing I will say is that I really don’t think health is a good portfolio to give to people who are committed Christians, as I believe Hunt to be and which I suspect Neil is. There are just too many health-related issues where a person’s views can be shaped by what their church has told them to think. Then again, I would quite like to see religious influence removed from politics completely… The number of religious people in the SNP is the one thing that I don’t like about the party, incidentally.

      Many committed Christians are not misogynistic bigots. The problem with Alex Neil’s views is not that he’s a Christian, it’s that he displays contempt of women and indifference to women’s health and wellbeing. If the SNP is at all interested in looking like a progressive party, they need to fire him, and fast.

      • Many committed Christians are not misogynistic bigots. The problem with Alex Neil’s views is not that he’s a Christian, it’s that he displays contempt of women and indifference to women’s health and wellbeing.

        Really? So you can tell from what he said that he disagrees with abortion limits because he hates women, rather than because he believes in the “sanctity of life” or whatever mumbo jumbo religious types come out with?

        I’ve always assumed there were two sides to the abortion debate: pro-choice look at it from the woman’s perspective and see it as defining whether or not a woman has the right to choose what she does with her body; whereas pro-lifers look at it from the perspective of the unborn baby, seeing abortion as being tantamount to murder. Pro-lifers tend to be overly religious types, hence why it’s such a big issue in the US. It’s government’s job to find the right balance between the two (and personally I find this and equal marriage to be two perfect examples of why religious leaders should be completely ignored.)

        By labelling Neil a misogynist, you’re saying he’s taking another angle – he wants to reduce abortion limits because he hates women. Nothing to do with thinking life begins at conception, he just hates women. Well sorry, but that does your argument no favours. Call for him to apologise/retract by all means. Call for him to resign if you really feel that strongly about it. But calling him a misogynist seems like a complete over-reaction, which then makes it difficult to take your call for him to be given his jotters completely seriously.

        Would it not be better to find out why he thinks like this, rather than labelling him an evil man-hater just like that? Could we not perhaps use this – and the number of MSPs who will end up voting against equal marriage – to look at the corrosive influence backwards-looking religious teachings have on society?

        And above all, shouldn’t his suitability as health minister depend more on his ability to run the health service, rather than his views on an issue he has no control over anyway, an issue which – rightly or wrongly – is generally seen as a morality issue rather than a party-line issue?

        • Really? So you can tell from what he said that he disagrees with abortion limits because he hates women, rather than because he believes in the “sanctity of life” or whatever mumbo jumbo religious types come out with?

          Yeah. It’s kind of like gay marriage – opponents may come out with religious justifications, but in the end, it all comes down to either ignorance (and a person who started out ignorant may become a supporter) or homophobia.

          Likewise: either the Health Secretary is just gobsmackingly ignorant of the reasons why girls and women need abortions after 16 weeks, or he knows and he likes the idea of making them suffer through it. If he’s ignorant, he should learn better and retract or resign: if he knows how desperately abortions after 16 weeks are needed, he’s a misogynist and should be sacked.

          Could we not perhaps use this – and the number of MSPs who will end up voting against equal marriage – to look at the corrosive influence backwards-looking religious teachings have on society?

          Why should we divert attention from the current problem – Alex Neil’s ignorance or bigotry and the SNP’s continued support for him in that position – to mess around with antagonising many people who aren’t that ignorant or that bigoted?

          And above all, shouldn’t his suitability as health minister depend more on his ability to run the health service

          Of course. That’s my point. What Alex Neil said, whether out of ignorance or bigotry, makes him unfit to run any health service that includes women of reproductive age.

          , an issue which – rightly or wrongly – is generally seen as a morality issue rather than a party-line issue?

          Indeed. Unfortunately, it’s turned out that SNPers mostly regard it as a party-line issue and support Alex Neil. As it’s a morality issue, I expect SNPers to whom women’s human rights and healthcare are important to step up and call for Alex Neil to retract or resign. Turns out there are damned few of those.

          • Yeah. It’s kind of like gay marriage – opponents may come out with religious justifications, but in the end, it all comes down to either ignorance (and a person who started out ignorant may become a supporter) or homophobia.

            It’s fun to throw around labels and it makes a debate easier to win because you then force your opponent to spend their time defending themselves rather than their position. It’s not particularly helpful in finding out why they think the way they do, though, and thereby hopefully changing their mind.

            My parents are against gay marriage. They’re against it because they’ve spent their whole lives being indoctrinated by religious garbage, and the very idea of two men or two women marrying attacks one of the fundamental pillars of their belief system. Now, whether that makes them ignorant or homophobic is a matter of debate, but to ignore the role that religion has played in bringing them to that position is folly.

            It’s particularly unhelpful since religion is something that tends to be enforced on people, especially folk of their (or Neil’s) age. So in effect, you’re writing people off because their parents brought them up to believe made up nonsense.

            (That’s not to say that some of the people who use religious justifications for their ignorance in “moral” issues AREN’T just bigots – but certainly not all of them.)

            Indeed. Unfortunately, it’s turned out that SNPers mostly regard it as a party-line issue and support Alex Neil. As it’s a morality issue, I expect SNPers to whom women’s human rights and healthcare are important to step up and call for Alex Neil to retract or resign. Turns out there are damned few of those.

            Or perhaps people just don’t see it in as black-and-white terms as you do? I’m assuming you’re familiar with the phenomenon that women are twice as likely to support reductions in abortion time limits than men? What you’re saying is that any female SNPer who doesn’t find his comments abhorrent doesn’t care about women’s rights. In fact, it may simply be that they agree with him that it’s something that should be looked at again.

            You say in the article that there’s no justification for reducing the limit, but there IS justification for increasing it to 28 weeks or removing it altogether. Well, that in itself is an admission that there’s a valid debate around where the limit should be. Why is it therefore okay for someone to think 28 or 24 weeks is fine, but someone thinking 20 weeks is the right limit is either ignorant or a bigot?

          • I’m assuming you’re familiar with the phenomenon that women are twice as likely to support reductions in abortion time limits than men?

            Not a single woman who needed an abortion in late pregnancy was ever heard to argue “But it was great that it was illegal in my jurisdiction, it meant I had to travel hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from my own healthcare provider, from my family and my friends, alone, desperate, in pain, losing a wanted pregnancy, at far greater trouble and expense than if that support had been legally available where I lived.”

            Nor, I’ve noticed, does anyone who’s spoken to or heard from women in that position ever argue like that.

            Only misogynists, and people who have paid attention to misogynistic propaganda about late-term pregnancies.

            What you’re saying is that any [] SNPer who doesn’t find his comments abhorrent doesn’t care about women’s rights

            Fixed that for you. Yes, I am.

            The SNP is notorious as being (set aside the Tories) the worst party in Scotland for women’s rights. The reaction to Alex Neil is just one more big example.

            You say in the article that there’s no justification for reducing the limit, but there IS justification for increasing it to 28 weeks or removing it altogether. Well, that in itself is an admission that there’s a valid debate around where the limit should be. Why is it therefore okay for someone to think 28 or 24 weeks is fine, but someone thinking 20 weeks is the right limit is either ignorant or a bigot?

            Because the standard prenatal scan for major foetal abnormalities, which will form the basis on which a woman can make a decision if she will terminate or continue her pregnancy, takes place at 20 weeks. The scan happens then because that’s the point at which a skilled scan operator can be reasonably sure of detecting all major feotal abnormalities. These abnormalities can be life-threatening to the foetus only, or – in some cases – can also be life-threatening to the pregnant woman.

            So anyone who thinks that reducing the abortion limit to 20 weeks is fine is either (a) ignorant of the medical facts in the preceding paragraph, or (b) a bigot who knows about the 20 week scan and thinks it right to force women to carry fetuses with major abnormalities until the fetus dies inside her, at risk of her life, and has to be removed: or several other really horrific medical probabilities.

            Now, I think it should be 28 weeks because I think a woman deserves time to make her mind up, to talk things through with her family and her friends, to figure out her own reaction to the news about her foetus and to decide what she’s going to do. But I accept that 24 weeks allows at least a week (usually) to make a decision – though often less, because late-term abortions are complex and the NHS usually wants a decision about that as soon as possible to keep them safely inside the legal window.

          • “What you’re saying is that any [] SNPer who doesn’t find his comments abhorrent doesn’t care about women’s rights”

            Fixed that for you. Yes, I am.

            Well no, because you said “I expect SNPers to whom women’s human rights and healthcare are important to step up and call for Alex Neil to retract or resign”, so either you’re saying the SNP membership is exclusively male (which it isn’t), or you’re saying that women who haven’t spoken out against Alex Neil are against women’s rights. The only other possible logical conclusion to your statement is that EVERY female SNP supporter has spoken out against Alex Neil, but this is demonstrably untrue.

            Not every female SNP supporter agrees with you on this issue, and therefore not every female SNP supporter has spoken out against him. This may be an uncomfortable fact for you in your bid to paint Alex Neil and all who agree with him as misogynists, but I’m afraid it’s the truth.

            Incidentally, what evidence do you have that Alex Neil thinks women should be forced to carry a foetus with major abnormalities past whatever limit would be imposed (he’s not actually given a number)? There are countries in Europe with much lower abortion limits, yet exceptions are made in the case of a baby developing abnormalities. When Neil talks of there being a case for bringing it down (IF and only IF there was a general consensus for it), he’s obviously looking around Europe and noticing that the UK limit is far longer than even countries like Sweden, who we would normally look upon as being the beacons of progressive opinion, especially when it comes to women’s rights.

            Again, this comes down to the fact that you don’t know the reasoning behind his thinking – but you’ve felt free to label him a misogynist anyway.

      • Incidentally, what evidence do you have that Alex Neil thinks women should be forced to carry a foetus with major abnormalities past whatever limit would be imposed

        Because he said so in the Scotland on Sunday, and thus far, he hasn’t retracted it.

        Several other European countries have abortion on demand up to 13-15 weeks and then allow abortion as in the UK – that is, if two doctors agree. Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium.

        The UK allows abortion if two doctors agree up to 24 weeks, and thereafter bans it. Alex Neil said, quite explicitly, he wanted to move the ban downwards.

        Now, he may have spoken out of pure ignorance. In which case, he’s had time enough to have that explained to him and to retract it. But that’s the choice, right now: he was and is ignorant, and he’s not interested in having his ignorance about women/pregnancy remedied, so he’s unfit to be Health Secretary: or he’s an anti-women bigot who wants to make women suffer, just like the Health Ministers in England and Northern Ireland, in which case – just like them – he’s unfit to be Health Secretary. It’s not looking good for the SNP either way.

        Again, this comes down to the fact that you don’t know the reasoning behind his thinking – but you’ve felt free to label him a misogynist anyway.

        And you don’t either – all you know is that he might be just that ignorant, or he might be a bigot. But rather than defend the SNP against having appointed an unfit Health Secretary, you would sooner defend Alex Neil as Health Secretary.

        Why? What’s so terribly special about Alex Neil that you long to have him as Health Secretary even though he ruins the image of the SNP as any kind of progressive party?

        • I’m not bothered about Alex Neil to be perfectly honest, I think there are better politicians in the SNP and I get the feeling he is where he is partly to try and keep him out of trouble (which clearly hasn’t worked…) more than skill. All I was really trying to do (originally at least) was suggest why there is a lack of condemnation from SNP members, although I did also say I am not a fan of people of religious faith being put in charge of health in general – too many “moral” issues for my liking.

          All I’m defending against now is the idea that you can label someone a misogynist because they hold a particular view about abortion (one which, it is becoming increasingly clear from what people are saying on various other blogs, is not only pretty common, but is also in no way restricted to middle-aged men like Neil). You’re right, I don’t know that he isn’t a misogynist any more than you know he is – but then I’m not the one making accusations against him. I simply don’t see how you can call someone a misogynist on this one piece of info alone – without any knowledge of why they think it – when it is a view held by more women in society than men.

          As for the original article providing proof that Neil thinks women should be forced to carry foetuses with major abnormalities regardless of the limit, he simply doesn’t say anything of the sort. He doesn’t specifically set out that he thinks a lower rule should only apply in certain circumstances, but he’s not ruling it out either – all in all, he’s not really specific at all. He states no actual limit, and is essentially saying he thinks it should be looked at to make sure the limit is still applicable. Considering the limit has already been dropped since abortion was first made legal, it doesn’t seem totally unreasonable to suggest that we should make sure the limit is still suitable today. Personally I don’t see why it should be lowered, but I don’t see that as a reason to call for his head, and I don’t see anything wrong with having a debate about it (especially as it could just as easily lead to BETTER abortion laws).

          • All I was really trying to do (originally at least) was suggest why there is a lack of condemnation from SNP members

            But that lack of condemnation (with a handful of honourable exceptions) is itself disturbing.

            All I’m defending against now is the idea that you can label someone a misogynist because they hold a particular view about abortion

            As I’ve noted in the updated post, it is possible that someone could just be speaking out of ignorance. There is plenty of misinformation floating around. But in Alex Neil’s case, as Health Secretary, there is no more excuse for his thinking “I don’t need to know or understand about women’s healthcare needs in pregnancy” than there is if he does understand and has consciously decided to be a misogynist.

            (one which, it is becoming increasingly clear from what people are saying on various other blogs, is not only pretty common, but is also in no way restricted to middle-aged men like Neil).

            Absolutely, and that’s very sad; ignorance is distressing, willed ignorance is annoying, and outright bigotry is, well, outrageous. All of these things lead to people arguing that abortion should be banned at 20 weeks: ignorance should be relieved, and bigotry should be attacked.

            You’re right, I don’t know that he isn’t a misogynist any more than you know he is – but then I’m not the one making accusations against him.

            Is there any other explanation for the Health Secretary’s attitude about forced-pregnancy after 20 weeks than misogynistic bigotry, indifference, or ignorance? Is there any excuse for the Health Secretary for Scotland being indifferent to or ignorant of the healthcare needs of half the population?

            I simply don’t see how you can call someone a misogynist on this one piece of info alone – without any knowledge of why they think it – when it is a view held by more women in society than men.

            In societies where female genital mutilation is practiced, it is usually done to little girls with the consent of their mothers and by older women. In Chinese culture where footbinding was practiced, it was done to little girls by their mothers. The idea that monstrous cruelty to women – and forced pregnancy is an act of monstrous cruelty, especially in the circumstances proposed by Alex Neil – can’t be described as “misogynistic” because women are prepared to do it to other women? Isn’t FGM misogynistic? Footbinding? Are you prepared to say that a mother who takes her daughters to be mutiliated is somehow not participating in an act of misogyny because she’s a woman?

            As for the original article providing proof that Neil thinks women should be forced to carry foetuses with major abnormalities regardless of the limit, he simply doesn’t say anything of the sort.

            You’re asserting he’s innocent of intention because he’s ignorant of NHS procedures in pregnancy? Or you just don’t believe me about NHS pre-natal care and foetal development? You don’t have to: go look it up for yourself.

            He doesn’t specifically set out that he thinks a lower rule should only apply in certain circumstances, but he’s not ruling it out either – all in all, he’s not really specific at all. He states no actual limit, and is essentially saying he thinks it should be looked at to make sure the limit is still applicable.

            Goodness. So, you’re claiming that the journalist just made up Alex Neil saying he thought the limit should be lowered? Do you wonder why Alex Neil hasn’t said “I never said that”?

            Considering the limit has already been dropped since abortion was first made legal, it doesn’t seem totally unreasonable to suggest that we should make sure the limit is still suitable today.

            The limit was dropped because the prolife lobby had changed the frame on abortion from a woman’s right to health and wellbeing to a foetal development.

            Even if we accept the frame of foetal development, human foetal development has not changed at any time in the past fifty thousand years, give or take. Why does it sound “reasonable” to you to suggest that we just “make sure” that yeah, 24 weeks is still a hard limit on foetal development, exactly as it has been for fifty thousand years?

            and I don’t see anything wrong with having a debate about it (especially as it could just as easily lead to BETTER abortion laws).

            The SNP’s approval of Alex Neil as an ignorant/bigoted Health Secretary does not give the slightest indication that we could trust an SNP government to bring about better abortion laws. Rather the reverse.

    • My parents are against gay marriage. They’re against it because they’ve spent their whole lives being indoctrinated by religious garbage, and the very idea of two men or two women marrying attacks one of the fundamental pillars of their belief system.

      Except it isn’t.

      Christianity does not hold as a pillar of its belief system that two men or two women can’t get married.

      Your parents are against it not because they’re Christians, but because they’ve been listening to homophobic propaganda. (I really don’t presume to judge if they are themselves homophobes: I don’t know them.)

      So in effect, you’re writing people off because their parents brought them up to believe made up nonsense.

      Both your parents, and Alex Neil, are well old enough to make their own decisions about what their parents taught them. “Oh it’s not my fault, it’s how I was brought up” works as an excuse only for children/teenagers and (maybe) technically-adults-but-still-living-with-their-parents-and-dependent-on-them.

      (That’s not to say that some of the people who use religious justifications for their ignorance in “moral” issues AREN’T just bigots – but certainly not all of them.)

      Nope, some of them are just ignorant. I know plenty of Christians who started out not seeing what was wrong with what homophobic/prolife bigots had taught them, and then had an eye-opener and changed their minds once they had better information. They were still Christians: they proved they weren’t bigots.

      I’m an atheist, and a firm believer that it’s not what religion you believe in, or whether you have a religion at all (there are plenty of sexist, homophobic atheists about) but how you let your faith inform your views and your actions.

      • Well no, I mean that it’s a fundamental pillar of THEIR belief system, not necessarily Christianity itself.They were brought up to believe that homosexuality is “wrong” (just as Alex Neil may have been brought up to think life begins at conception and whatever). And yes, this is because they listened to homophobic propaganda – which is precisely my point, because this was what they were taught in the kirk, by ministers and by their parents.

        But anyway, I think you underestimate the effect things that you learned when you were young have on the rest of your life. I can’t even remember when I realised Christianity to be the sham that it is because it was so long ago, but there are still things about it that I just can’t “unlearn” (which is why I will never let any kids of mine have their heads filled with such nonsense in the first place.) This is especially difficult when you’re a pensioner, as my parents now are, where most of your worldviews are pretty much set in stone. It’s very difficult for older people to change their views, which they’ve held for 50-60 years.

        But this is besides the point I was making. I worked with a guy of about 21 recently, and he would read a bible at lunchtime. When the issue of equal marriage was raised, he spoke about it as if it was obviously a ridiculous concept (“teachers will be made to teach this at school!!!”) Again, he’s getting this from homophobic comments other people have made, but those people are Christians – his church or his parents. in fact, the only people I know who have a problem with equal marriage are religiously active (and a handful of people who are just genuinely threatened by people who are different to them), and as a result I was able to predict the ones that would be against it.

        That doesn’t mean EVERY Christian is like this – but there’s certainly enough of a connection for me to feel wary of casually throwing around labels when people are clearly getting their info from a place they’ve been brought up to think is the fountain of all knowledge and truth in life.

        I don’t know why I’m even bothering here – I don’t even agree with Alex Neil…

        • They were brought up to believe that homosexuality is “wrong” (just as Alex Neil may have been brought up to think life begins at conception and whatever). And yes, this is because they listened to homophobic propaganda – which is precisely my point, because this was what they were taught in the kirk, by ministers and by their parents.

          I’m sure they were. But unless they’re really homophobes (and I’m making no judgement as to whether they are) they have the capacity to change. Many people do, no matter what they were taught in the kirk or anywhere else, when they meet lesbian and gay people and realise that what they were taught was wrong.

          But this is besides the point I was making. I worked with a guy of about 21 recently, and he would read a bible at lunchtime. When the issue of equal marriage was raised, he spoke about it as if it was obviously a ridiculous concept (“teachers will be made to teach this at school!!!”) Again, he’s getting this from homophobic comments other people have made, but those people are Christians – his church or his parents. in fact, the only people I know who have a problem with equal marriage are religiously active (and a handful of people who are just genuinely threatened by people who are different to them), and as a result I was able to predict the ones that would be against it.

          Yes, there’s a confluence of homophobic opposition with right-wing Christianity. This has a lot to do with US influence in right-wing politics (blog due to write on that one) rather than religious belief.

          There’s also a confluence of support for equal marriage with liberal religion. (Which is my background.) I come from a religious background so liberal that I can’t even tell you exactly when I stopped believing in it… sometime between ten and twenty.

  2. “Oddly enough, my first stumble across the story was in James Kelly’s blog instructing me that what Alex Neil thought about abortion didn’t matter and shouldn’t affect my views on independence and I must be “thick” if I thought it should.”

    Actually, I didn’t say that, and I suspect you know I didn’t say that. I said that Labour must think that women are thick, based on a suggestion from one of their activists that practically every woman would now desert the pro-independence cause simply because of what Alex Neil said.

    “Other SNP defenders suggested that it didn’t matter what Alex Neil thought because as Health Secretary he didn’t really have anything to do with abortion.”

    He doesn’t. It’s a fact. Abortion law is wholly reserved to Westminster, and if it was ever transferred to Holyrood it would continue to be decided by a free vote. This is the point you’re missing – the Scotland on Sunday article was indeed misleading, but not because Neil was misquoted. It was their interpretation that “the government is signalling a change” that was misleading – or, to put it more bluntly, a lie. By definition, a free vote means that the government will not be taking a collective view on this at all, let alone signalling a change.

    In one very limited sense you’re right – Alex Neil’s personal view DOES matter, but only because he has one vote out of 129. That’s it.

    • . I said that Labour must think that women are thick, based on a suggestion from one of their activists that practically every woman would now desert the pro-independence cause simply because of what Alex Neil said.

      Yes. And the follow-on from that is that any woman who does reject independence because its adherents are all rallying round to support Alex Neil, must be thick.

      Thanks so much.

      It was their interpretation that “the government is signalling a change” that was misleading – or, to put it more bluntly, a lie. By definition, a free vote means that the government will not be taking a collective view on this at all, let alone signalling a change.

      Yep. The SNP had the option of avoiding this implication by promptly sacking Alex Neil as Health Secretary. They opted not to.

      • “And the follow-on from that is that any woman who does reject independence because its adherents are all rallying round to support Alex Neil, must be thick.”

        Nope. This slipperiness isn’t doing your argument any favours. First of all I wasn’t talking about women who reject independence for the reason you suggest (“its adherents are rallying round”), and neither was the activist I responded to. He was suggesting that women would reject independence simply because they didn’t like Alex Neil’s personal views, and yes, if he really believes that, he must think women are pretty stupid.

        I certainly wouldn’t describe someone as stupid or thick because they turn against independence on the grounds that they don’t like the SNP’s support for Alex Neil, but I do think such a reaction is demonstrably irrational. The SNP is not independence, and independence is not the SNP. There will be an election to decide which party or parties governs an independent Scotland. If you have an issue with the SNP, vote for another party in that election.

        A second aspect to the reason why that activist must think women are stupid is that he evidently perceives them as herd-like, with entirely uniform views. He believes diversity of opinion and individuality of thought on the subject of abortion is a male preserve. That’s what I was getting at (as made abundantly clear in point 1 of my blogpost), so it just doesn’t make sense to claim that it’s a ‘follow-on’ from what I said that any individual woman must be thick if she reacts in a certain way.

        “Why didn’t it occur to the vast majority of the SNP supporters, even those who say they disagree with Alex Neil, to actually step up and say that Alex Neil should cease to be Health Secretary?”

        Well, I can’t speak for other SNP supporters, but I’ll tell you why it didn’t occur to me. I not only think that Alex Neil is a fit and proper person to be Health Secretary, I think it would be utterly outrageous if he was sacked for simply expressing a perfectly legitimate and mainstream view that is also held by a significant proportion of the public, and indeed is held by more women than men -

        “Polls consistently show the opposite – that women are more likely than men to support a reduction on the abortion limit. In the 2011 YouGov poll 28% of men supported a reduction, 46% of women did. In the 2012 YouGov poll 24% of men supported a reduction, 49% of women did. In the Angus Reid poll 35% of men supported a reduction in the limit, 59% of women did. In the ICM poll 45% of men supported a reduction to 20 weeks, 59% of women did.”

        http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/6253

        Is it really “anti-women” to express support for the political views of millions of women?

        • He was suggesting that women would reject independence simply because they didn’t like Alex Neil’s personal views, and yes, if he really believes that, he must think women are pretty stupid.

          Alex Neil is anti-choice: he’s been appointed Health Secretary: the SNP supporters are rallying round to defend having a Health Secretary with anti-choice views: this turns me off independence because I don’t want to live in a country run by people like that.

          And your reaction is to say you think I’m pretty stupid. You’re still not being convincing.

          Why defend Alex Neil and attack his opposition?

          • “Alex Neil is anti-choice”

            He isn’t. That simply isn’t true, and won’t become true no matter how many times you repeat it. He favours a small reduction in the time limit on abortion. If simply being in favour of ANY time limit on abortion is “anti-choice”, then practically the entire population of this country is anti-choice.

            “this turns me off independence because I don’t want to live in a country run by people like that.”

            And thus you prefer to live in a country run by people like Jeremy Hunt who, er, wants to cut the time limit on abortion much further than Alex Neil does. Yup, that makes perfect sense.

            “And your reaction is to say you think I’m pretty stupid.”

            The one and only thing I think is stupid is your determination to convince yourself that I’ve called you stupid, in spite of repeated explanations that I’ve done no such thing.

            “Why defend Alex Neil and attack his opposition?”

            Probably because I think he’s a principled man who has expressed an entirely appropriate personal view on a subject that is not covered by collective cabinet responsibility. I’ve “attacked his opposition” because they appear to be intolerant zealots who think there ought to be no place in public life for someone with the “wrong” views on a matter of conscience.

            I’m not sure how much clearer I can make this.

          • He isn’t.
            That simply isn’t true, and won’t become true no matter how many times you repeat it.

            He favours reducing the time limit on abortion to ensure that by the time a woman has the standard 20-week pre-natal scan and discovers that there is a significant problem with the fetus/her pregnancy, she won’t be legally allowed to decide to have an abortion. That’s a standard anti-choice POV, and it makes Alex Neil unfit to be Health Secretary.

            And thus you prefer to live in a country

            …which has maintained a woman’s right to choose abortion up to 24 weeks, for forty-five years.

            I loathe the current Conservative shower of bastards. But I think that voting to end the Union because I loathe the government of 2010-2015 would be short-sighted and petty.

            If the SNP can offer a clearer, better vision of an independent Scotland, I’ll consider voting for that. But supporting Alex Neil is exactly how not to do that.

            Probably because I think he’s a principled man who has expressed an entirely appropriate personal view on a subject that is not covered by collective cabinet responsibility

            So, you think anti-choice bigotry is “Principled”, and it’s “entirely appropriate” for a Health Secretary to say he thinks women shouldn’t get to have full access to the healthcare they need? Sweet.

        • Is it really “anti-women” to express support for the political views of millions of women?

          I know of no woman who expresses the belief that it was a good thing that when she needed a late-term abortion, it was illegal in her jurisdiction and she had to travel hundreds (or even thousands) of miles at her own expense, away from her entire support network.

          I know of a lot of ignorant people – both men and women – who haven’t given a thought to what happens to a woman who needs a late-term abortion in a jurisdiction where she isn’t allowed it.

          • “I know of no woman who expresses the belief that it was a good thing that when she needed a late-term abortion”

            But perhaps you know of a woman who would be grateful if she found out that she was saved from being subject to a late-term abortion when she was an unborn child. That’s the problem with this issue – it’s about a messy conflict of rights, no matter how much people on the extremes of the argument insist that it’s black and white.

          • But perhaps you know of a woman who would be grateful if she found out that she was saved from being subject to a late-term abortion when she was an unborn child.

            I don’t know of anyone who declares proudly “Yeah, my mum never wanted me, but the law forced her to give birth to me against her will!”

            I think most people, when they think about it, would rather assume that they were wanted children, not be grateful to the courts that forced their mother to give birth to them under threat of prosecution and jail.

            That’s the problem with this issue – it’s about a messy conflict of rights, no matter how much people on the extremes of the argument insist that it’s black and white.

            Not at all. There is no conflict of rights. There are people who want to remove a woman’s basic human rights, and they’re in the wrong. No woman wants to be forced through pregnancy against her better judgement and against her will – not even if she’s happy to have other women forced to do this.

          • “I think most people, when they think about it, would rather assume that they were wanted children”

            So do I, but I also think most people, when they think about it, would rather be alive than dead. There are some people from troubled backgrounds who literally wish they had never been born, but I strongly suspect they’re in the minority.

            “Not at all. There is no conflict of rights.”

            That comment isn’t exactly dispelling the impression of zealotry. If we don’t care about the welfare and rights of the unborn child at all, why do we have the 24-week limit?

          • So do I, but I also think most people, when they think about it, would rather be alive than dead.

            Yes. Which is why we have to have laws that support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. Otherwise, women die. So most women, when they think about it in an informed way, would rather live in a prochoice country than one that makes their life, health, and wellbeing of less value than their use as an incubator for a foetus.

            There are some people from troubled backgrounds who literally wish they had never been born, but I strongly suspect they’re in the minority.

            So, how many people have you met who say they really, really wish they could be sure their mother never wanted them? Cause those are the people who’d want laws banning abortion.

            If we don’t care about the welfare and rights of the unborn child at all, why do we have the 24-week limit?

            Wrong question. In the UK, we prove we care about the welfare and rights of the foetus by providing free pre-natal care to all pregnant women. We prove we want to prevent abortions by providing free contraception to all women, and we’re at least trying to also prove this by providing sound sex education to schoolkids about encouraging them to use contraception unless they intend to conceive.

            You don’t prove anything by making abortion illegal exept that you don’t think women are smart, capable, and caring enough to decide for themselves when they need to have an abortion.

  3. Dr Alan McCowan

    It is, of course, ridiculous to treat abortion as a political issue when no party has a stance on it and all votes are free votes. But if you’re daft enough to insist on doing so in the context of independence, here are the sides you’re choosing between:

    INDEPENDENCE: Health Secretary Alex Neil
    UNION: Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

    Any woman – or anyone at all – who therefore turned against independence and towards the Union because of what Alex Neil said would by definition have to be pretty stupid. It’s not just cutting your nose off to spite your face, but also gouging both of your eyes out and smashing yourself in the teeth with a hammer.

    • Thanks for clarifying that, Alan. You are an excellent advocate for voting No in 2014 just because I don’t want to be part of a country that could be run by men like you.

      • Dr Alan McCowan

        So your argument IS that you want to cut off your nose to spite your face? Okay. I assume it doesn’t bother you at all that I’m not an SNP supporter and that I’m actually in favour of unrestricted abortion on demand, so long as you can have your fit of irrational pique?

        It would be interesting to have you address Mr Kelly’s substantive point about WOMEN’S opinions, though, rather than just conducting a (male) witch-hunt.

        • I assume it doesn’t bother you at all that I’m not an SNP supporter and that I’m actually in favour of unrestricted abortion on demand

          Your first comment on my blog was nasty, spiteful, and used violent language. Your second is nasty, spiteful, and says opposition to anti-choice is “irrational pique” and opposition to Alex Neil is a “witch-hunt”.

          Now, if you actually are “in favour of unrestricted abortion on demand”, join the call to have Alex Neil either retract or resign.

          • Dr Alan McCowan

            If you’re going to assert that my using the words “ludicrous” and “daft” is “nasty and spiteful”, and describe the centuries-old saying “cut your nose off to spite your face” as “violent language”, clearly I do need to apologise – for wasting everyone’s time by attempting to reason with a madwoman. I shall trouble your evidently barking-mad blog no longer, and leave you to the tender mercies of Jeremy Hunt. You and he are cut from the same cloth, and richly deserve each other.

          • If you’re going to assert that my using the words

            “gouging both of your eyes out and smashing yourself in the teeth with a hammer”

            as “violent language”, clearly I do need to apologise – for wasting everyone’s time by attempting to reason with a madwoman.

            Thanks – a misogynist who can’t win an argument always goes for describing the woman as “mad”. Nice one.

  4. Erchie

    I would be interested to know where this equivalence you draw on attacking people with benefit is between the Unionist Tory, LibDem, Labour and the SNP is.

    Because I can’t remember seeing such an attack. I remember an SNP motioN AGAINST cutting tax breaks to the reich, and I remember the SNP putting formward motions defending those on benefits, and trying to get Welfare devolved.

    Personally I have found both my SNP MSP and my Labour MP helpful in this regard, despite the horrific party stance of the Labour Party.

    As to Alex Neil. It is his opinion and he was not speaking “ex-Cathedra”. I disagree with the lowering of the limit but at the moment the SNP position is that, should any move be made to change abortion laws come forward, then it would go to an Independent Comission to examine evidence and submissions.

    So this idea that the current position is “unsafe” is scaremongering

    • As to Alex Neil. It is his opinion and he was not speaking “ex-Cathedra”.

      No excuse. He should retract or resign.

      • Erchie

        If he had said it should be extended to 26 weeks would he have to “retract or resign”?

        If he had been a woman would she have to “retract or resign”?

        Is 24 weeks accorded some Holy Writ so that not only may it not be altered it may not even be discussed?

        Does a woman’s right to choose preclude any man ever having the freedom to express an opinion on the matter?

        • If he had said it should be extended to 26 weeks would he have to “retract or resign”?

          Not as far as I’m concerned! The Scottish government might have a different view.

          If he had been a woman would she have to “retract or resign”?

          Yes.

          Is 24 weeks accorded some Holy Writ so that not only may it not be altered it may not even be discussed?

          24 weeks is a practical compromise. Medical and scientific fact: it’s impossible to revise downwards without removing a woman’s right to decide for herself if something’s gone wrong her pregnancy. Unfortunately, prolifers treat “24 weeks” as a bargaining chip. My current thinking is, if a limit of 24 weeks isn’t accepted as a realistic compromise by prolifers, we shouldn’t accept it either, and push for no limits: women get to decide in consultation with their medical advisors at any point.

          Does a woman’s right to choose preclude any man ever having the freedom to express an opinion on the matter?

          When a man gets pregnant, he should have exactly the same right to decide to terminate or continue his pregnancy as a woman does in that situation. Otherwise, men’s role is to be supportive, not controlling or abusive.

          • Erchie

            You are contradicting yourself. You say 24 weeks is a “practical compromise”, and in that you are correct. The trouble is that medicine advances. It may be that after looking at the situation the time limit remains as it is, but to say that it must be that forever goes against your own statement.

            I didn’t ask if a man should or should not get to decide, but whether they could express an opinion. I have been involved in this decision once. I had an opinion, but the actual choice was not, could not be mine. But I had an opinion.There is a difference.

            Fucking heart-breaking but there you go

        • You are contradicting yourself.

          Doubt it.

          You say 24 weeks is a “practical compromise”, and in that you are correct. The trouble is that medicine advances.

          The humanity of women, and the reality of foetal development, however, remains the same.

          It may be that after looking at the situation the time limit remains as it is, but to say that it must be that forever goes against your own statement.

          If you think of a woman as a choiceless incubator for the foetus, then obviously the limit on abortion will be on foetal development. If you think of a woman as a human being with a right – an obligation – to make her own choices based on the facts available to her at the time, then foetal development is entirely irrelevant as a basis of law.

          Pick a side.

          I didn’t ask if a man should or should not get to decide, but whether they could express an opinion.

          The silliness of that question if taken literally generally means a man who wants to decide for a woman, or – as with Alex Neil – for every woman in Scotland.

          I have been involved in this decision once. I had an opinion, but the actual choice was not, could not be mine. But I had an opinion.There is a difference.

          Indeed. Now why are you supporting Alex Neil, again?

          • Erchie

            Because I don’t have a sexist, misandric set of values that counts a man’s opinon as valueless.

            And have no doubt, you are contradicting yourself.

          • Because I don’t have a sexist, misandric set of values that counts a man’s opinon as valueless.

            You know, it takes a real MRA to think like that. Thanks for outing yourself.

            And have no doubt, you are contradicting yourself.

            No, dear, I am not. Now run along: the grown-ups are talking.

  5. Pingback: Scotland, 18 Sept 2014: Yes Or No, We Are Not Happy. - The Backbencher

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