Kelly Given: Feminist solidarity is the answer to cowards like Harvey Weinstein

Although I imagine liberating, this week has been undoubtedly painful for so many women across the world as Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behaviour has brought a host of incredibly important issues to the surface.

From the very moment the news of Weinstein broke, thousands were taking to social media in desperate search of a reason that these women were attacked. What was she wearing? Why didn’t she come forward before now? Where is her proof? – I’ve seen it all.

Of course, the notion that they were attacked because this powerful businessman is plainly a disgusting sexual predator couldn’t dare be considered. The absence of questions surrounding Weinstein’s behaviour was mind-numbingly apparent amongst the flurry of victim blaming. It’s almost as if society has been conditioned to automatically favour men or something.

As inspiring and as heart-warming as #MeToo is, it highlights a massive problem. The fact that so many women have been forced to rely on numbers in order to feel comfortable enough to speak out about their experiences of sexual assault and harassment is a burden society will carry on its shoulders until it changes its norms and attitudes and creates a consistently positive, safe space for women to speak. The sexualisation of women has become so normalised that the very fact they are more than just sexual organs with breasts on legs has become a lost notion.

Many deny the need for Feminism but you only need to take one look at the response to Harvey Weinstein to be assured that this is not the case. We need it now more than ever. This faux sense of equality that we are being fed is beyond the realms of insincerity. Equality of the sexes has a long way to go and our society knows it.

The way woman are perceived is not accidental. The systematic sexism that women face on a daily basis is a direct result of social conditioning. Take film as but one singular example of many. From the “Hot Mom” in your favourite teenage flick to the classic damsel in distress trope, the film industry alone has taught us for a long time that women are sexy and helpless and men are powerful. Always the Bond girl never the Bond. This kind of message is precisely the reason we are up against such a problem in the real world. After all, why are women complaining about being pinned down by a successful man and forced to receive oral sex? Women are supposed to fulfil male sexual urges, no?

Absolutely fucking not.

Let’s focus on the biggest problem of them all. The male ego. The “crisis in masculinity” as Emma Thompson put it. Dangerous narratives around sexual relationships occur far too often within the male community, particularly at an adolescent age. These narratives are built on a sense of entitlement to the female body. Positive sexual relations and consent is something we must endeavour to teach boys from the minute they are able to read and absorb information. If we can teach society to disregard women, we can teach it to treat them as equals in all forms. Including in a sexual context.

The victims of Weinstein’s over-inflated, sexually aggravated persona were young and largely powerless against a man like him. This wasn’t an accident. This week, the strength of those women that were so badly wronged, created something incredibly beautiful.

They created a space for women to release, for women to unite and to support each other. I don’t look at that man or any man like him and see power. I see weakness. I see cowardice. I see power in the women that stood united against them. The women that stopped him and others from ever assaulting another. Regardless of status, he and his fellow predators have this week been defeated by the world’s most formidable force – the female population.

– Kelly Given, YSI National Equalities Officer



Kelly Given: The Tories should stop playing political football with mental health

Yesterday we were treated to yet more politically motivated NHS bashing from the now somewhat irrelevant Gordon Brown. Today is just another day for the NHS bashers of the world. This time the culprit is the ever so slightly more right wing Annie Wells MSP. The subject of the moment seems to be mental health provision in Scotland’s NHS, something I happen to be particularly familiar with.

I find it incredibly disconcerting that political opponents would choose to exploit such a subject solely for political gain. The argument is that the Scottish Government are failing in their duties to not only provide the appropriate support for patients but also in capping a number of patients they should treat with anti-depressants. Annie Wells MSP made her stance clear in an interview in her capacity as Mental Health Spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives – “The nationalists were very clear that reducing the prescription of these drugs would be one of their priorities, but the opposite has happened.”

The Conservatives would do well to remember that benefit sanctions are one of the leading causes of mental illness amongst adults in the UK. The Tory government’s agenda is partly responsible for mental illness and should they reconsider this ill-judged approach to social security, fewer people would be suffering mentally. Annie Wells should know that the SNP will not bury mental health issues under the rug, our primary aim is to give help to everyone who needs it.

Perhaps the prescription of anti-depressant medications ARE on the up, but I suspect the actual reason behind that draws no correlations with the political agenda Ms. Wells aims to promote. For reference, it should be noted that anti-depressants are not always prescribed to treat depression and in fact have a multitude of other uses from MS to Sciatica and this should be taken in to account. However, the most obvious rebuttal for Ms. Wells’ poorly formulated argument is this – should it not be considered that a rise in anti-depressant prescriptions could well have stemmed from an increase in mental illness sufferers seeking help for their condition? It is a commonly known fact that mental illness goes undiagnosed more often than not due to the societal stigma attached to it and this is undoubtedly the biggest barrier we face as we tackle the impact that mental illness has on our society. If so, I very much welcome this development and believe it’s absolutely a step in the right direction. We should be wholeheartedly encouraging those who suffer silently to come forward.

Antidepressants save lives. They saved mine and they will save many others after me who find themselves in a similar position. Considering the suicide rate in Scotland rose by 8% from 2015-2016 and is the biggest killer of young men in the UK, perhaps an increase in anti-depressant medication is precisely what is required to prevent disaster?

The reality is, there are more of us suffering than we realise and as mental illness becomes less of a taboo subject, the domino effect occurs and more sufferers will seek help. It’s not a bad thing. The more people that seek help, the more the suicide epidemic will be brought to heel.

Annie Wells MSP, I would much rather anti-depressant prescription numbers were up than suicide numbers. Right now, let’s focus on saving lives rather than political gain.



Recently, 40 charges of battery, ill-treatment and actual bodily harm were brought against 17 armed forces instructors after claims made by six 17 year old recruits weeks after a training exercise at Kirkcudbright in Scotland. It is claimed that they punched and kicked recruits, used their boots to push their heads under water and smeared cow and sheep dung over their faces and into their mouths.

It is incidents like this which proves that the armed forces is not a safe place psychologically or physically for under-18 recruits and that no amount of regulations and oversight can counter that.

Unfortunately, incidents like these are not uncommon in the armed forces.

In 2001 and 2002, two 17 year old recruits died of gunshot wounds to their heads at the Deepcut Army Barracks.

In 2007, a 14 year old girl was drowned after being thrown from a speedboat during an army training exercise. Her parents said she was murdered”.

In 2008, a BBC documentary ‘Undercover Soldier’ exposed the abuse of young recruits at the Army’s biggest training base in Catterick where recruits were beaten, battered and urinated on.

In 2012, three army instructors were sacked for bullying and humiliating recruits aged 15 to 17 by whipping them, forcing them to walk across rocks in their bare knees and pouring water over them.

In 2013, an 18 year old who joined two days after his 16th birthday, was stripped, tied up and had sniper tape applied to his genitialia because he didn’t want to go out drinking.

The armed forces is not synonymous with safety. In fact, danger immediately comes to mind. The Army has said that recruits aged under 18 are twice as likely as adult recruits to be injured during training, because their bodies are physically unprepared for the harsh training.

Abuse and humiliation helps break down the individualism of the soldier to ensure that he, and increasingly she, follows their orders. Despite the numerous regulations and oversight that is put in place, due to the nature of the armed forces, it is near impossible to make such an environment ‘safe’ from deliberate and accidental acts of abuse.

The examples of abuse are numerous. Some abusers are discharged and some charged in court and some may go to prison. But the fact is the damage is done. These incidents were allowed to happen because punishment and toxic masculinity are inherent in armed forces training and culture. It cannot be made safe and so long as under-18s are allowed to join, we will be sacrificing their physical and mental welfare and violating international human rights so that the Ministry of Defence can target “academically disengaged” young men to make up for the shortfall in 18+ infantry recruits.

I’m all for votes at 16 and I’m all for allowing 16 year olds to decide their own career. But it is not helpful or logical to take an ideological stance on these issues – it must involve evidence-based reasoning. We cannot equate voting – participating in civic processes – to the dangers of the armed forces and cannot therefore liken the armed forces to a typical career path. Even the Police recruit at 18. We would not allow a 16 year old to buy Call of Duty, but we would hand them a loaded rifle and teach them how to carry out a suicidal bayonet charge.

Even if we could regulate the armed forces to prevent abuse, which is a mammoth challenge, we would still be teaching young people in their formative years how to kill and be killed. 16 and 17 are psychologically formative years. Their minds are easier to mould. Rigorous and harsh training will undoubtedly affect them for years to come.

Instead, we should continue to champion human rights, especially those of young people, and make their development and welfare a top priority. We have to make sure that the abuse these young people suffered never happens again. Not one more young person will be humiliated, punished, beaten or killed.

This case may finally clear the ideological and patriotic fog surrounding the armed forces and hopefully lead the UK to joining the rest of the world in raising its recruitment age to 18.

My fear, is that these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

Rory Steel

SNP Youth National Vice Convener


COMMENT: Daniel McBride on Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

So yesterday (26th July 2017) Donald Trump, President of the United States, tweeted the following, in 3 separate tweets:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow… transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming… victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.

The U.S. Government will no longer allow transgender individuals to serve their country in the military, a calling that many Americans hold in high esteem. The U.S. Government and military will no longer extend this honour to certain people based solely on how they identify themselves. Just 12 months before today, the Pentagon had the ban lifted on transgender individuals serving in the American Military, a milestone which every forward-thinking, progressive society should follow in all aspects of everybody’s lives.

Just 12 months before, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said of lifting the ban; it’s “the right thing to do for our people and for the force. We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.”

You might think it is inappropriate for a foreign entity to comment on such an issue occurring in America. That didn’t stop Barrack Obama interfering on Scotland’s Independence Referendum at the behest of David Cameron.

At the moment, according to a RAND study, there is currently about 2,500 out of 1.3 million military service members who are transgender, as well as about 1,500 out of approximately 825,000 reserve troops.

The U.S. Government is perfectly willing to prevent the military from benefiting from the talents, skills and knowledge of these perfectly able-bodied individuals; whose performance has nothing to do with their identity.

I therefore condemn the U.S. President’s move to prevent transgender individuals serving their country, not only because it returns us to the world where these people are treated like second-class citizens but also because it sends completely the wrong message. It is like we have taken 1 step forward in the pursuit of equality but then Donald Trump has forced society 2 steps backwards. I am sure everyone in the YSI stands with transgender individuals across the world, including in America where I am sure these individuals will be starting to feel persecuted once again.

-Daniel McBride, YSI Treasurer.


Despite the continued failures of the UK Government, why is Independence still not on the table for so many socialist Scots?

The last few months have been quite the spectacular whirlwind as far as British politics goes. Nothing but utter chaos has ensued since the minute Theresa May arrogantly marched out of Number 10 and announced the most unnecessary election of modern times. From an expected Tory majority to the unprecedented return of the decimated Labour party to a cozy coalition with arguably the most right wing, bigoted party in the United Kingdom. Opinion polls across the entire country were soaring and subsequently dovetailing as each hour ticked by and I suspect the final result would’ve got you a few quid at the bookies.

The Queen’s Speech finally took place after being delayed partly due to the need for it to be written on goat skin parchment that of course takes a week to dry; and news broke of defeated wannabe MP Ian Duncan being royally shipped into the unelected House of Lords. I think I’ve well and truly reached the breaking point. My colleagues and I across the political spectrum have spent the last 8 weeks pounding the streets of Scotland, leaving no door un-knocked, no leaflet undelivered and no voter neglected. All in the name of certainty before the Brexit negotiations began. Yet here we are, election done and dusted, with a hung parliament, a ridiculed Prime Minister in denial, an unelected Tory representing Scotland at the Brexit negotiations and even less certainty than we already had the pleasure of before the election was called. It truly beggars belief.

As I attempt to be light-hearted about what this utter shambles of a Government means for our country, I can’t help but fear the unknown. Theresa May’s increasingly desperate grip on power has reduced the Conservative party to enter into a deal with the DUP, a move that sacrifices our modern way of life. Amongst the most archaic of the Democratic Unionist Party’s policies is the criminalisation of abortion, even when the child was conceived through rape and the belief that homosexuality is unnatural. Has Britain learned nothing from the trials and tribulations of the past? As right wing-ism is on the rise globally, we need an effective antidote to this kind of rhetoric – not another apologist for it.

While Theresa May Mexican waves her way across Europe and gleefully describes the DUP as not only “allies” but also “friends” – more people per year are dying from her parties policies than lung Cancer. We have children, in one of the richest nations in the world, going to school on an empty stomach. Disabled people unable to leave their house due to their motability vehicles being confiscated. People with severe mental health disorders being deemed “fit for work” and having their benefits confiscated. Now on top of what was already a shambolic attempt at leadership, in a last ditch attempt to cling on to power, the PM is entering into a deal with a party that doesn’t believe in the rights of women or LGBT citizens.

As an avid believer in Scottish Independence, the continued failures of the UK Government only reaffirms my belief in the cause. However, what troubles me is that despite these policies, despite the need for food banks in a first world country in 2017, despite the consistent ignorance towards Scotland – so many Scots are still adverse to the idea of Scotland being independently governed. From my experience, independence doesn’t appeal to the majority for a multitude of reasons but is specifically due to a lack of understanding about what it would actually mean for us to be independent. I have genuinely heard horror stories about Scotland physically breaking away from the UK, as if the moment we declare ourselves as Independent, we’re going to break off and float away into the sea. It’s absurd. It is so drastically important that as we move towards Independence, we properly address these concerns and become more radical in our approach if we are ever to succeed.

Scotland is crying out for a leftist, socialist movement. We just witnessed a massive surge, particularly in young voters, towards Jeremy Corbyn for that very reason. Although his title as king socialist is rather questionable gathering his manifesto approved the renewal of trident nuclear weaponry when foodbank use across Britain is at an all-time high. The appetite for socialism in the face of a hard right, hell-bent on austerity Conservative alternative is enormously apparent. This is why I find myself confused. Independence is all about freedom and socialism and collectivism. What I became a part of in the run up to 2014 was a beautiful movement of people who wanted better. Not only for themselves, but for each other. I witnessed a movement that stood up for the rights of women, the disabled and ethnic minorities. A movement that stood up for the abolition of the obscenity that is nuclear weaponry, a fairer welfare system, the future of our children and so much more. What I experienced throughout my months of campaigning was pure, raw passion for change and most importantly, hope. Yet, while Scotland craves a shift towards collectivism, this opportunity for real social change was rejected by the very people that disagree entirely with the UK Governments god awful policies and long for change.

One of the biggest issues our movement now faces is the growing opinion that the Labour party are somehow going to save Scotland from this great big Conservative disaster. As a party that claims to be the height of socialism and a friend to the working class, we have literally witnessed their Scottish leader encouraging her voters to VOTE TORY to “beat the SNP”. They are a party so blinded by their hatred of the SNP that the people they are supposed to represent often come second on the agenda. A party that is so desperately split between Corbynism and Blairism that they don’t know left from right, this isn’t a party that can protect Scotland from the Conservative agenda. In fact, if Labour would hang up the boxing gloves and get on board with Independence, they’d see their popularity soar when it came to the first parliamentary election in an Independent Scotland.

As a movement, before we plough into Indyef2 we need to address these hurdles properly. We need to ensure that before we put this back on the table, we have listened to the 55% and have answered their questions thoroughly, effectively and most importantly, positively. I know how impatience might want to get the better of us, but Independence IS coming. Our generation will deliver it, but timing is imperative.

-Kelly Given, YSI Equalities Officer



SNP not Corbyn

We have a problem here in the party, and the sooner we start talking about it the better. We are slowly failing to make an argument as to why people should vote for us and not Labour.

The kind of haphazard argument we constructed in the last weeks of the campaign, an argument that probably made some voters’ heads explode, was “if you want MPs that will actually support Corbyn – the leader of the Labour Party – don’t vote Labour, vote SNP.” We essentially tried to argue that we are the real Labour party north of the Border, which is an insane argument to make because we’re not. Labour is Labour, the SNP is the SNP, and that is the end of things on that front. It was a general election campaign. We were not running against Kezia Dugdale. We were running against Jeremy Corbyn.

And the truth is, it’s not Scottish Labour we need to distinguish ourselves from. It’s Corbyn’s Labour. We need to think of an argument why voters should vote for the party of Nicola Sturgeon, not the party of Jeremy Corbyn. Otherwise, we will essentially bury our chances in further general elections and, even more, in the very independence debate.

In all likelihood, especially given the scale of the disaster a Tory+DUP-negotiated Brexit will be, after the next general election, the UK will have a Labour government, one of the most left-wing Labour governments since the seventies. We cannot rely on the argument that independence is the shortest way to end Tory rule anymore. The window for that argument may just about be missed forever in just four short years. Tops. And the argument that Scotland is more left-wing than the UK as a whole has always rung feeble when you dug deeper. What will we do with that argument when the UK actually has a left-wing government? Accuse them of not being left-wing enough, even when we agree with them on nearly everything?

We have only one choice: it is to remind the country and the electorate that Scotland’s politics is not just distinct by being on average significantly to the left of Middle England, but also distinct by virtue of there being unique national interests Scotland possesses that the rest of the UK simply does not have. No matter how left-wing the UK Labour Party becomes, they will never, by virtue of being a unionist party that runs for office in the entire UK, understand the intricacies of Scottish interests simply because their very DNA refuses it. They will not understand the need for land reform in the Highlands. The more esoteric successes or failures of the Barnett formula. How EVEL in practice locks Scottish MPs out of decisions that affect them. How we need not managed immigration, but more immigration. The Europhilia in Edinburgh, the utter and complete rejection of Brexit this nation as a whole demands. Labour already object to membership of the Single Market and of the free movement area, positions overwhelmingly supported across the Scottish political spectrum. This alone should cause outrage in the heart of anyone who believes Scotland may have interests distinct from those of the UK at large. And yet even if Labour were to understand these things, they would never stand up for our interests in them, because Labour is simply responsible for the entire UK, not just Scotland, by virtue of running in elections in the entire UK.

In the fifties, the Attlee government was far to the left of anything Corbyn proposes – and yet, by virtue of being a centralising party whose understanding of socialism was based not in decentralised democracy, but in a single powerful government based in London, was frequently at odds with the interests of Scotland. They even opposed devolution. A belief that being left-wing is always and unequivocally equivalent to standing up for Scotland is simply not true, as there are many ways to make left-wing policy. Some of them are quite centralising and unhelpful to Scotland. And I say this as a sworn left-winger and a socialist.

There has been much talk that we need to, as a party, go left to counter Labour surges up here. I agree. I think the party needs to be a lot bolder and a lot more radical. I also, however, think that we need to stop being afraid of criticising Corbyn for fear of looking right-wing. Corbyn is an English politician. He may be our ally in the fight against the Tories, but in four years, when he is, in all likelihood, in Downing Street, he will be our opponent in the fight for independence. We need to prepare our arguments and revise them for that.

We need to make an argument for independence that applies regardless of who’s in power. That independence is not just about left and right, but also valuable and intrinsic in its own right, that no condition within the Union can be actually better than the alternative we propose.

The party itself needs to go left, to propose a radical and liberating vision of independence, and to go back to our pre-2014 ways, provide inspiration and confidence and regain public trust. And at the same time, we need to argue that independence itself, and the defence of Scotland’s interests, are virtues in their own right. When the dust after the GE settles, we need to get back for fighting for those interests. We need to put the second indyref on the backburner, probably for a good long while – but in the meantime, we need to aggressively and relentlessly critique both the Tories and Labour in their failure to stand up for Scotland, a failure that is still ongoing. We need to work for our constituents and the residents of this country as hard as we did until fairly recently, fight for more devolution, and continue making a stand against hard Brexit.

Finally, we can never again allow the debate surrounding independence to be defined by “what the English are like” – it is electoral suicide to chalk independence down to what England votes for. That way we’re essentially saying we wouldn’t want independence if England’s centre ground wasn’t to the right of Scotland’s. Which is absurd. At the end of the day, our key belief must be what it always was: that Scotland’s future is better off in Scotland’s hands. Everything else is circumstantial.


Despite the SNP winning most seats in Scotland, it was a disappointing night for supporters with big names losing their seats.

Smaller factors include that the SNP always performs worse in UK elections; that Labour and Tory take most of the media air time due to their UK-wide appeal; the SNP has been the largest party in Scotland for ten years now which makes it difficult to retain support; that we couldn’t repeat the perfect storm of 2015; and that the party machinery has been running on fumes for a while now.

However, the biggest factor has been that the SNP isn’t doing enough. We aren’t doing enough on our message. On policy. On organisation.

Activists may be tired, but it’s the party’s job to inspire them to get out and campaign. This campaign has been lacking in narrative making it difficult to inspire activists and voters alike.

The Tories’ key message was: strong and stable leadership for Brexit. Labour: for the many not the few with a radical manifesto. The SNP: stronger for Scotland. What that means is Scotref, membership of the EU and social democracy. Not only do these cut along three separate lines of class politics, independence and EU membership limiting the appeal you can have to the electorate, it doesn’t help that our narrative wasn’t particularly clear or inspiring.

There were many policies included in the Labour manifesto that were either already Scottish Government policy or in the SNP manifesto e.g. free tuition and a living wage. These weren’t communicated properly. Literature was unfocussed, vague and empty while Labour put it to the forefront.

 But there were also policies that weren’t in the SNP manifesto like nationalising energy provisions and workers’ right to own. More radical policies swayed some to opt for Labour. This saw Labour gain seats in their ex-central-belt-heartlands and brought them extremely close to taking those they didn’t.

The election has pointed to a realignment for the SNP heartlands from the North East to the central belt. The SNP has become Scotland’s party of social justice which appeals more to urbanised areas than rural ones. The Tories’ victories in wealthier rural areas is a continuation of their hardline unionism and right wing politics.

The SNP can never repeat 2015. We can’t pretend that we can continue to be all things to all people in hope of taking so many seats. In doing so, we sell out our vision for an independent Scotland in favour of a centre-left stance in an increasingly polarised political landscape.

Angus Robertson’s claim during the Depute Leader contest that we have to appeal to rural views has not worked. We need a manifesto that is going to represent members and not pander for votes in areas now unwinnable.

It wasn’t so much Corbyn that benefited Labour, it was the ideals he represented – just like independence. As a party, we need to focus again on what our purpose is. Why we want independence. Why we joined the party. What our Scotland looks like. And for decades, it has been rooted in radical social change and bold actions.

SLAB will try to spin this as a win for unionism without accepting the fact that it was Corbyn and his radical policies that inspired pro-indy supporters and, according Ashcroft polling, 12% of those who voted SNP in 2015 to vote for Labour this time.

While many who voted Labour, indeed some of their candidates, back independence, Scotref has to be on the backburner for now. As does the party’s romance with the EU which is damaging support in what is supposed to be the core voter base. Any canvasser can tell you that voters are being deterred.

 We have the unusual luxury of having time to rest and for introspection. Members and officials should be turning our attention to policy and our organisational structures to create a real grassroots movement that will appeal to the masses that will allow us to potentially bounce back.

Members must have a bigger say on decisions and policy and we have to see radical action from the Scottish Government with the powers we have while making a core part of our Westminster campaign to bring greater powers to Scotland. There is a mandate for this and can only benefit the case for independence as it has done in the past.

This has been the wakeup call the party has needed and what many have been calling for for years. Will we hit snooze or wake up and smell the socialism?

Rory Steel

SNP Youth Vice Convener and SNP Socialists Convene