Category Archives: Equality

How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?

Abortion Rights ScotlandScotland is a pro-choice country.

About four-fifths of the population of Scotland would agree – this crosses gender-lines, voting-intention, religious belief, class/wealth, or locale – that abortion in Scotland should remain freely available on the NHS.

Only a minority think that pregnant patients who need access to abortion should have that access decreased. That minority can be loud and can be unkind – the ones who think it’s a good idea picketing clinics to hand anti-abortion leaflets to patients are particularly cruel – but they are, everywhere, only a minority.

Abortion Act 1967 - Happy 51st BirthdayOn 28th April this year in Edinburgh we held our annual celebration of the day the 1967 Abortion Act became law. (On the other side of the road are the sad people who think abortion in the UK should have remained illegal and dangerous.)

We asked people who stopped by our stall to have cake and sign our open letter:

“We stand with the people of Ireland who will be voting to repeal the Eighth Amendment on 25th May 2018: for healthcare in pregnancy to be freely and fully available for all patients. Abortion denial is lethal.”

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Filed under Healthcare, Human Rights, Scottish Culture, Women

Feminist has a T

I am cisgender.

Cisgender is a word retroformatted from transgender, which in turn was coined in 1965 from two Latin words. Cisgender is first recorded in print in 1994.

Cisgender means that you still identify as the gender by which you were identified when you were born. Suppose that you were identified as a girl when you were born: then if you identify as a woman today, you are cisgender: if you identify as a man today, you are transgender.
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Ireland and Brexit

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Barnier and Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Davis attend a meeting in BrusselsThe UK’s Brexit negotiation team has been so fecklessly incompetent that their EU-27 counterparts thought this was a pretence and must be a trap.

The July photograph of the British team (on the right) sitting at the negotiation table without any briefing papers in front of them, while the EU team (on the left) all have a stack of paperwork, looks emblematic of the UK government’s lack of preparation. (According to British diplomats, David Davis’s papers were still in his bag at the time the photo was taken.)

The recent confirmation that the UK government will be paying the EU fifty billion or so, pretty much what the EU initially said the UK would have to pay to finalise the UK’s liabilities before Brexit, had Brexiteers Iain Duncan Smith and Nigel Farage squealing loudly that this was too much, that Theresa May and David Davis should have taken a harder line and refused to pay anything.

But with regard to the fifty billion bill, the only difference between a competent team of Brexit negotiators and the current crowd, is that a competent team would have realised last year that the UK had no choice about discharging our liabilities to the EU if the Brexit date was set before the end of the 2014-2020 budget period: would have taken that into consideration when deciding just when to invoke Article 50: and would have come to the table in Brussels prepared to dicker over exact amounts, not wasting time arguing that nothing at all should be paid. As far as we can tell, Theresa May and David Davis did none of these things.

Of course, a competent Prime Minister with a solid if small majority, wouldn’t have called a General Election after invoking Article 50, thus wasting three months of negotiation time – and losing her majority to be dependent on the DUP.

As a reminder: after June 2017, the Tories have 315 seats and are the largest single party: because Sinn Féin (7 seats) don’t sit in the Commons, and the Speaker doesn’t vote, an effective majority for the government is 322 and a formal majority is 325: the DUP have 10 seats. If all MPs of all other parties vote together, they muster 311 votes. So the DUP, the unionist and Brexiteer party in Northern Ireland, literally hold the balance of power in Parliament.

The issue about paying the EU billions to discharge the UK’s budget liabilities wasn’t even worth arguing about: the UK’s only leverage was to refuse to pay it and suffer hard Brexit, which would be catastrophic for the UK but only moderately damaging for EU-27.

Hugh Orde, former Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, on the Irish Border and BrexitThough some news reports described the problem of the Irish border as “unexpected”, the Irish border and the end of the Good Friday Agreement, was always going to be hugely difficult, and with the DUP in a confidence-and-supply arrangement to prop up the Tories, has probably become unresolvable by the current government.

I had initially here written a few hundred words summarising the history of Ireland in relationship to Britain, but Waterford Whispers points out that the UK public would most likely only believe it if it was written on the side of a bus. That’s probably true.

So, while it’s tempting to outline how the government of Confederate Ireland (1642-1649) was bloodily smashed by Oliver Cromwell and estates owned by Irish Catholics were then confiscated and redistributed to Protestant incomers, how the Penal Laws, enacted by the Protestant-dominated Parliament of Ireland that resulted from the land confiscations, ensured that Irish Catholics should become poor, be uneducated, banned from public office, and denied the right to serve in the army (a potential career path for even the poorest/most uneducated of men), and how “Irish jokes” which portray Irish people as stupid and ignorant, arise from the need of the English and the Irish Protestants to believe that it was okay to keep Irish Catholics poor and uneducated because they were naturally stupid: how after the Parliaments of Ireland and Britain were merged in 1801, while people in Ireland were starving during the Great Famine (1845-1852) in Westminster MPs debated on whether it would be right to provide food to the starving. But that would make this a very long blog post.

Even dealing with the 20th century only, there is the rebellion put down in 1916, two wars immediately after WWI ended and Sinn Féin won the general election in Ireland by a landslide and proclaimed the Irish Declaration of Independence in January 1919: the treaty accepted by the majority of the Dáil for the Partition of Ireland: and the formation of the Irish Free State, later the Republic of Ireland, and the separation of the six counties of Northern Ireland, which in 1922 and thereafter is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although the Troubles are dated in British history as beginning 5th October 1968, the cause was systematic gerrymandering for decades to ensure that Catholics in Northern Ireland were cooped ip in slums so that in local authority areas where Catholics were numerically in the majority, Protestants had a majority on the local government councils.

Thank you for your attention: let us move on to the present day.
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Filed under Brexit, Economics, EU referendum, European politics, Human Rights, Poverty, Religion

An avalanche of steel snowflakes

This is the speech Susan Rae, the Scottish Green Party’s candidate for the Leith Walk ward in the May 2017 council elections, gave at the WMV Sister Women’s March in Edinburgh on Saturday 20th January. Reprinted here by permission.

Susan Rae at the Womens MarchHello and welcome to Edinburgh.

This is my first speaking event this year and I could not be prouder to be with you. I send solidarity from my fellow Scottish Green candidate Claire Miller who cannot be here today.

We’ve gathered here today in circumstances that in all honesty not a single woman out here, whether they are young, fresh and fiery, like Leah, or those like me who are not only pre-Google, but pre-proper feminism would have considered possible a year ago.

But we are here together – all of us – because the only way to stand up to a man who considers using his awesome sheer male money fuelled power of his voice to silence us; whose only consistent traits are inconsistency and pure misogyny is not compliance. You want to silence our voice?

Well. No.

We will not be silenced.

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A week makes

EU Referendum Results Map

EU Referendum Results Map

A week ago, the exit polls made it look like the UK electorate had instigated the worst political crisis in the UK outside wartime.

By Friday, the counted votes had removed all doubt.

By a majority of less than 4% across the UK, the electorate had voted to leave the EU.

There are a lot of unpleasant realities to digest with that vote.

The worst and most immediate reality: the racists who voted to Leave, because they thought they had got a promise that by voting Leave the government would make the foreigners go, now believe they’ve won. They believe, according to reports speeding in from all over the UK, that they’re now empowered to tell anyone who looks foreign, whether or not they are, to “go home”. The British word for racism is immigrant.

I saw Lauren report this on her Facebook timeline on Friday morning:

In Edinburgh, Lauren Stonebanks, 36, was on a bus on Monday when she says a woman shouted: “‘Get your passport, you’re fucking going home.’” She believes she was targeted because she is mixed race. “As I got off the bus, the woman started making threatening gestures, like punching gestures. It made me feel absolutely terrified.”

Many of the racists who voted to Leave have real problems, often, and real causes for anger. They’ve been told they can blame their problems on the EU and the freedom all EU citizens have to travel across the EU. The problems are real: lack of work, sanctions on benefits, housing shortages, strain on NHS and other public services. None of them are caused by immigration: immigrants are a net benefit to the UK even considered only in financial terms. The official government Vote Remain campaign could hardly say bluntly “Your problems are not caused by EU regulation or immigrants, they’re caused by our austerity policies, our lawless sanctioning of your benefits, our refusal to build new homes, our cuts and creeping privatisation of the NHS. Vote for the EU: their funding is keeping you alive.”
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Filed under EU referendum, Poverty, Racism

Beware the March of IDS

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith has resigned. The cuts to disability benefits which he approved are to be reversed++.

After 2138 days in office, after being directly implicated in more than 80 suicides, after more than 2380 people had died though Iain Duncan Smith’s system found them “fit for work”, while children go hungry and cold because of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefit sanctions on lone parents, after a jump in the death rate for the elderly and infirm unprecedented since World War II, Iain Duncan Smith has finally resigned – claiming at length that he did so because the new disability cuts brought in by Wednesday’s budget were “indefensible”.
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Abortion and human rights at Holyrood

Vigil for Savita HalappanavarYesterday, in anticipation of abortion law being devolved to Holyrood, a familiar coalition launched.

They’re SPUC Scotland and CARE Scotland; also three religious bodies, the Catholic Church in Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Muslim Council; and two purely anti-choice groups: the Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline (ARCH), Cardinal Winning’s Pro-life initiative.

Anyone who followed the campaign to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in Scotland will know what the organisations in this coalition are about. (SPUC and CARE on same-sex marriage.)

John Deighan, who campaigned against same-sex marriage as the Parliamentary Officer for the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, became the chief executive of SPUC Scotland in April 2015. The Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, also a vicious campaigner against same-sex marriage, said then:

“John has provided dedicated and energetic service to the church in Scotland for sixteen years and we wish him well in his new role. His ability to skilfully analyse political development and track legislative changes has been immensely helpful to the Bishops’ Conference. The links between the church and the SPUC in Scotland are already strong, but they will be strengthened and renewed as a result of John’s appointment.”

Many, if not most, Catholics, Muslims, and Presbyterians fully support a woman’s right to make her own decisions about terminating or continuing her pregnancy: just as many Catholics, Muslims, and Presbyterians supported the right of same-sex couples to legally wed and receive the same rights, responsibilities, and benefits as mixed-sex couples. That the leadership of these religious bodies sees fit to campaign against human rights in Scotland, shouldn’t smear all the adherents of these religions as against human rights.
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