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.

ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE

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

Election 2017: Some Afterthoughts

Well, who saw that coming? Maybe Prof. John Curtice, but that’s not the point.

After the dust is settling on the Conservative disaster that was the General Election, I have a few thoughts on the challenging situation they, and by extension, we, find ourselves in.

Let’s firstly go to the rather horrendous thought of a Conservative-DUP coalition, whether formal, or informal, and some of the implications for Northern Ireland, before turning to the political difficulties.

Northern Ireland has for most of this year been without a Legislative Assembly or Executive. Power-sharing talks collapsed in January, 5 months ago, and since then there has been no agreement between the Republican Sinn Fein Party and the Unionist DUP, as per the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Now, as talks go on, the role of the UK Government is to serve as an impartial, neutral mediator to facilitate talks. If the Conservatives form a Government with the support of the DUP, however informal, then their role as neutral arbiters is… well, non-existent really. I do not mean to insinuate what the people of Northern Ireland might do in response to this given the polarisation in their politics, but it can’t be good for the situation, any which way you look at it. For an expert analysis of this situation, I suggest you read Siobhan Fenton of the Independent, or follow her on Twitter for running commentary (@SiobhanFenton). Northern Ireland is a country that needs governing, and this move will condemn it to direct rule, the implications of which are equally troubling.

The political implications of a Tory-DUP coalition, notwithstanding the Northern Irish situations, are also ominous. Firstly, there are many Conservatives who would plainly be opposed, such as Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve, and Nicky Morgan, the latter of which gave an interview condemning the DUP stance on LTBTQ+ rights. This spells trouble for an already fragile majority, and an even more fragile Prime Minister. Not to mention the fact Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative Leader, took to Twitter yesterday to have a subtle dig at the DUP-Tory alliance. The Scottish Conservative votes are ones May cannot afford to alienate; if they were to rebel, May would possess only 305 seats, so even with DUP support, she is well short of a majority. Not to mention the fact many moderate Conservative voters would be repulsed at the idea of the DUP in power. Consequently, a deal with the DUP could be the undoing of May and her party.

Having said this, she simply cannot afford to Govern without them. Without a majority, she won’t be able to do much of what she promised, which will annoy her party even more than they already are. If she fails in her legislative agenda due to not having a majority, she goes, and then we’re left with Boris as PM. Even so, without a majority, it wouldn’t matter who led the Conservatives, they can’t hold onto power without support, bottom line.

Essentially what I’m saying is that with or without the DUP, Theresa May and the Conservatives are in an unwinnable situation, they cannot govern either way. Let’s be honest, who else will go into coalition with them? The fragile nature of this Parliament means it is unlikely to last 5 years. With Brexit negotiations fast approaching that bodes ill for the nation. If the Conservatives truly care about making this a better Britain, the only right and sensible options they posses are to call yet another election now, or to step aside, and let the other side have a go for now, and work together on Brexit, calling another election after negotiations conclude. We simply cannot go on like this.

Even if the Tories cling stubbornly to power, May is finished as their leader. She gambled thinking she would win a landslide, and lost her majority in the end. It is as if your mother gave you a row for not paying attention then proceeded to walk into a lamppost; there’s a delicious note of schadenfreude about it.

On a final and positive note, Labour have surged in England and Wales, a Survation Poll taken on the 10th of June putting Labour 6 points ahead of the Tories on 45 points, while SNP support remains steady in Scotland, if somewhat deflated from the high of 2015. Theoretically, if there were another election soon, a progressive coalition is not beyond reach. I for one am deprived of hope in our present political circumstance, and maybe, just maybe, a progressive coalition is exactly what we all need right now, to give all us a little hope.

I hope that you have managed to reset your sleeping pattern and recover after Thursday, you might be needing the energy again soon!

Ross Wilson

LLB Student

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Making Sense of the General Election

Once again the indomitable John Curtice and his exit poll teams hit the nail on the head. Leaving members from all the major parties doubting the exit polls findings until the results started flooding in. The people of the UK had once again defied expectations and denied the conservatives the majority which had been predicted by the majority of polls and pundits. Those fed up with Theresa May’s robotic repetition of ‘Strong and Stable’ instead of anything approaching coherent policies decided to send a strong message and deprive her of the one thing she had called for in this election, a majority.

Those fed up with Theresa May’s robotic repetition of ‘Strong and Stable’ instead of anything approaching coherent policies decided to send a strong message and deprive her of the one thing she had called for in this election, a majority. In England, this took the form of a huge surge for Labour across the country and Scotland was not immune to this with Labour seeing results, unlike anything they’ve seen since the independence referendum. A result that was achieved through a Corbyn bounce in support in spite of the hard-core unionism of Scottish Labour, despite what many of their terribly unsuccessful ‘leading light’s would have folk believe. Even with this bounce, Scottish Labour came a sad third place again behind the Tories. Likely in no small part to their relentless singing of the Tory ‘no surrender to another referendum’ hymn sheet.

The SNP had another historic night – not quite managing to reach the heady heights of 2015 when they took 95% of the seats in Scotland – winning a comfortable majority of seats in Scotland and showing once again that the people of Scotland trust them to represent the country in Westminster. Of course, big names like Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson will be missed (for however long they are out of the game) but this doesn’t come close to detracting from what is the parties 2nd best performance in its history, quite an improvement from the 6 seats they had heading in to the General Election in 2015. This election is historic but shouldn’t be confused for something it isn’t, namely a referendum on having an independence referendum (which would have been won by the SNP). What this election is is a vote of no confidence in Theresa May and her ideological Hard Brexit obsession and all good

This election is historic but shouldn’t be confused for something it isn’t, namely a referendum on having an independence referendum (which would have been won by the SNP). What this election is is a vote of no confidence in Theresa May and her ideological Hard Brexit obsession and all good democratics across these islands should commit themselves to fighting against it and for a different progressive vision. @alexkerr3 SNP Youth Glasgow Convener

@alexkerr3 SNP Youth Glasgow Convener

SNP Youth Glasgow Convener

The best result of the general election for pro-Europeans? A hung parliament.

For pro-Europeans, or for soft Eurosceptics who do not desire complete economic collapse, the general election can be said to be marked by two surprises. One is the relative irrelevance of Brexit as a topic to the election debate – while it does constantly come up as an argument along the lines of “who do you trust to conduct negotiations with the EU more?”, it also appears to have hardly if at all affected voting patterns aside from the UKIP meltdown.

Another is, of course, the way the two main parties’ policies on Europe both seem to ignore existing reality. On the one hand, you have the Tory “have our cake and eat it” delusion, which is based on threatening Europe until the EU concedes giving in on its most basic principle, which is that the Four Freedoms are inalienable and if you want access to the EU Single Market, you have to accept EU freedom of movement and a customs union. On the other hand, you have Labour’s policy – or rather, a wonky and confusing absence thereof – which simultaneously contains a pledge to end freedom of movement, a pledge to protect the rights of EU nationals, and only a single reference to the Single Market and Labour’s policy on it at all, which sounds as follows: “We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union.” The key word in this pledge, of course, is “retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union” – by including that important word, Labour does implicitly admit the impossibility of negotiating complete, EFTA-style access to the Single Market, without accepting freedom of movement – which they already reject.

A finer eye might note that this basically means that neither Labour nor the Tories commit to single market membership. Both primary parties of British politics have functionally ruled out making Britain a member of EFTA or something along those lines. Basically, people in the UK get a choice between a hard Brexit perpetrated by people who will also ruin the UK’s relationship with Europe, and a hard Brexit perpetrated by those who will be slightly politer and cooperative about it and won’t insult Jean-Claude Juncker on the way out.

That is, that would be the choice if we lived in a two-party system. But, and as difficult as this is for some Labour and Tory supporters both to accept, we don’t.

The current prediction is that if the Tories do lose, what they will lose to is not a Labour victory outright, but a hung parliament. And in fact, in that eventuality lies our primary hope. Actual commitments to Single Market membership, with continued participation in everything that comes as a side effect of it, have been made by all the real third parties in this election: the SNP, the Greens (both the separate Scottish and English & Welsh parties), Plaid Cymru, and the Lib Dems. If there is a strong raft of MPs elected from these third parties, in particular the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru (as the Lib Dems have functionally ruled out supporting Corbyn’s government) these parties can hedge their support of a Labour government on an explicit pledge to seek Single Market membership in an EFTA-style arrangement. Labour would not refuse, as to do so would be to functionally rule out being in power and, seeing as the SNP, Greens and PC will never back a Tory government – both for their vast disagreements and because such a decision would be political suicide for them of a grand scale – functionally prevent the formation of any government, forcing Parliament to dissolve itself again and call a second election. This, in turn, Labour would be hard-pressed to avoid as with the current level of voter fatigue a second election would almost definitely mean Labour losses and a Tory return to power.

If we want a UK that does not leave the European Single Market, if we want reasonable policy on Brexit, the only thing we can do is vote SNP, Green or Plaid Cymru in any seat that these parties either currently hold or have a viable chance of winning – that is, anywhere in Scotland in the case of the SNP, and anywhere where the other two parties come first or second outside of Scotland. In any seat in England or Wales where such a vote would let the Tories in by the back door, that is certainly foolish, and feel free to vote Labour in those. But if Europe is your primary concern, we need a hung parliament, not a majority for either of the two main parties, as alone neither of them has a working strategy for Brexit remotely within the pale of realism. We need a strong pro-European contingent to be Labour’s conscience.