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I grew up in the middle of the Cold War, cut off from half of Europe due to the Soviet Union controlling a host of countries, against their will, but a direct result of World War 2. The World lived on edge and came close several times to the brink of nuclear disaster as the “superpowers” flexed their muscles.

The contrast between living in the West or East was massive , nowhere more so than in East Berlin, a city I visited in Communist times visiting the sector controlled by the Soviets back in the early 1980’s. The contrast between the bright lights of prosperity in West Berlin with the dramatically poorer East Germany was obvious to all.

Later in my life I had the opportunity to travel to many previously Soviet republics and in the Baltic’s I became involved in building and running several businesses and building relationships with those whose lives had changed extensively with the collapse of Communism and the emergence of their own Independent Government’s.

Many of these people have now become long term friends and they speak openly of the genuine fear and trepidation that accompanied their delight in regaining their own nation’s Independence. Many had a few very hard years following Independence as Russia closed down the various state enterprises in their countries, stripping out the equipment and returning it to Russia in many cases. It took them a few years to start replacing those jobs with new enterprises. Nearly thirty years on the transformation is complete and they are now firmly part of the new Europe, members of the EU and working with other nations to build a free and prosperous Europe.

How sad that Scotland is moving rapidly in the opposite direction, our controlling and unwanted Union resulting in us leaving the EU, cutting us off from our partner nations and even more reliant on London and Westminster than before. You have to ask how this could happen when Scotland voted so overwhelmingly to remain in the EU? It seems to me that there is growing evidence the Scottish people are ahead of our Scottish Government in the direction they want Scotland to follow. That is the one strand of comfort I can take from the current depressing political situation in Scotland.

I think we are on the wrong road. It gives me no pleasure saying so. It is a huge mistake to have one person, no matter how competent, holding down the dual roles of First Minister and also leader of the Party that advocates Independence. Particularly when she has voluntarily placed herself outside politics for the duration of the Covid crisis. That measure has created a political void that the Tories have been all to happy to fill as they progress their giant power grab largely unchallenged. She could be our best player but that means nothing if she is not on the pitch when it matters. Responses of “Ah but look at the polls” are irrelevant as this period sees no election but between now and Christmas our Parliament and economy is going to lose a big range of powers while our export based economy suffers a body blow. Remember this is a Parliament with completely inadequate powers to start with.

As bad, having spent the last four years promising that we would not allow Scotland to be dragged out the single market against our wishes, our First Minister has volunteered to put herself on the sidelines as that happens, without as much as a whimper from our side in protest. It looks tactically inept, because it is tactically inept. This Presidential style does not work when the President is busy doing something else. Where is the back up? God knows we have elected enough of them?

We are also stoking up future problems at an alarming rate. The Hate Crime Legislation is doing a sterling job unifying the whole of Scotland…..against the Scottish Government. Organisations as diverse as the Free Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orange Order are joined by the Law Society, the Association of Editors and literally hundreds of others in opposing this move. No wonder, it is potentially the biggest attack on freedom of speech in my lifetime. It is a measure that would be welcomed in Stalin’s time and threatens a potential McStasi team of informers and enforcers across the land.

I accept that my life experience probably makes me more sensitive to risks to our freedoms than most but equally I firmly believe the price of enjoying freedoms in our life is eternal vigilance and we need to be very aware of creeping legislation that can be so easily misused. Just think what a unionist administration could do with this as an easy example. Anti English anyone?

You would think a Party that had already suffered the humiliation of a coterie of senior members having their evidence thrown out conclusively by a jury of their peers would be reluctant to encourage legislation that would make it easier for organised malicious groups to make allegations about others. This is very dangerous legislation and must be defeated.

I have friends who as children had to be coached not to repeat any conversations they heard in their homes to anyone, friends, teachers, relatives, anyone. I have no wish to see this type of society here in Scotland. I don’t want to hear hate speech either but Scots Laws already provide methods to prosecute those extremists. . We have no need of the badly written, ill thought out legislation that will result in worsening race relations, increased sectarianism etc., while threatening free speech. Education and good example is the way to solve these problems, not poor dangerous legislation.

It is a recipe book for malicious prosecution. How easy for half a dozen conspirators to cook up allegations against any individual secure in the knowledge that their target will be crippled financially funding their defence while those who make the allegations do so free of cost with the state picking up their costs through this legislation? Does that sound fair to you?

I am concerned also that we have in our society today an unacceptable intolerance to alternative views, indeed I have regularly been the victim of it as those who oppose my views prefer smear and cheap insults rather than sensible discussion on the issues. Of course I fully understand people can sometimes finds my articles controversial but when I see SNP supporters calling for censorship and blocking (other than through individual choice) then we are on a very slippery slope towards a very restrictive society where freedom of speech, our greatest freedom, has been extinguished. I have no wish to live in such a society, independent or not. That is not my Scotland, nor will it ever be.

I despair how SNP members can’t stop issues like GRA and the Hate Crime Legislation. Ordinary members have no say, no power in their own Party. It has been seized from them by a dictatorial leadership who are in no mood to listen to the ordinary membership on currency, on a reserve bank, on GRA or the Hate Crime Legislation. They think they can ignore all this and everyone will continue to support them as the sole avenue towards Independence. They may be right in the short term but they are doing enormous damage to the goodwill and trust amongst their own members. Having spent the last “ring fenced” appeal I think they will find fundraising for May’s election a lot more difficult that it should have been. In the longer term, this is not clever politics and a big cost will eventually be paid. When it happens it will have been today’s leadership that will have damaged Independence. Nobody else.

I am, as always


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