Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Low Education Expectations Scotland: are we teaching the joy of learning?

The most important issue facing a nation and its future is education standards and expectations. For many decades and for far too long, Scotland’s schools and teachers have been trained to teach to the ‘lower average’ – rather than the ‘higher average’. This matters greatly for all pupils attainments.  

I am a former primary teachers and my three grown up children went through the State system in the 90s and 00s. They all did well and went on to university because of our parental input and high expectations. As parents we encouraged reading, number, music, art and being inquisitive and enjoying learning new skills for their own sake. Learning new skills and being challenged  is one of the greatest joys in life! Personal development through art, music and sport is also crucial.

What we discovered at school though was a general ‘low expectations’ by teachers (although not all) and to attain good grades they didn’t really have to work hard until second year university! Teachers in Scotland have been taught to teach to ability groups for decades now, but is this best for every subject? These educational theories were pursued under Labour and the Tories – not the SNP!

The more successful Nordic methods teach children in mixed ability groups and after high quality early years education have ‘high expectations’ for all children. This is also similar to Montessori methods and mentoring by the able and older pupils. Weren’t the old fashioned class lessons mixed ability!

Most of education happens at home of course and well before a child is five. So my suggestions are – Parenting classes, investment in quality early years education and increasing teachers expectations so they teach to the higher average with a focus on personal development. . 

Headteacher Jane Lunnon says,
“I worked incredibly hard, moving up to head of English and deputy head. Anthony Seldon was one of the great professional privileges of my life – incredibly difficult as well. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly , but he showed me that if you have high expectations, people do miraculous thing!”

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Progressive socialism

Michael Fry in his article (National July 2017) is quite right to look for growth and investment, while it’s also important to identify the levers for that growth – infrastructure, R & D, apprenticeships, education, entrepreneurship, decent childcare, housing, roads, etc.
It is also important we look at how to protect Scottish businesses. His article neglects to mention that significantly Scotland is not able to protect indigenous business from hostile take overs, as other countries are able to do. Our whisky industry was taken over by illegal scam on share prices. Independence would bring an end to Scotland being treated as a branch economy, which is always first to suffer in any downturn.
Yes entrepreneurship and hard work are essential – but even the successful will value a higher quality of life for all, with good healthcare, education, roads and less crime. A successful economy depends on more than economic growth and if we neglect young people to zero hours contracts, little prospects or a burdened welfare, we cannot expect a healthy sustainable country.
I view progressive socialism as one with high moral standards and family structures too, because otherwise it is socialism on rocky foundations. All this requires better team work. Equality does not mean we will be all the same and diversity is the key. A Co-operative team culture is central. It begins at school with mixed ability groups and with natural mentoring by more able pupils. The reality is that a 'co-operative culture' is more successful in many ways and more so than the failed project of 80s Reaganomics capitalism with its survival of the fittest. Those days of empire, of a ‘them and us’ culture are gone, I hope! 
We don’t have to look far over the water to the Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland – who are all successful small countries with strong economic growth, alongside decent social care. That is welfare is not looked on as a ‘way of life’ but as a ‘short term safety net.’ This is about urgently devolving decision to the local level. Why should a few make important decisions? Grenfell Disaster – the TMO was organising 10,000 flats with total disorganisation and mismanagement.
Scotland has to decide now, which model of country we want to emulate – a small successful adaptable country in a larger trading block OR a low-regulated, low-wage capitalist economy with a tiny rich elite and the dire consequences of an appalling level of child poverty and the neglect of our most vulnerable.
Independence is a state of being, belief and need for autonomy.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Dark Money, War and Brexit

Dark money funded a 4 page glossy wrap around on the Metro, two days before the Brexit vote. I read yesterday that this money came from the DUP even though the Metro is not circulated in Northern Ireland, and even stranger came from a mysterious company called the ‘Constitutional Research Council’ headed by a Scottish Try activist and by a Saudi Prince Naawaf (who was a Saudi Minister). This company filed no accounts and has since been closed.

Also, some Billionaire funded Farage and the Trump campaigns. What exactly is going on?

And WHY do the DUP alone not have to declare where their funding comes from? During IndyRef 2 money was also channelled through the DUP to fund the unionist campaigns.

We might well ask - Who Funded Brexit?
Brexit means no single market/ or customs union.
That’s the most likely outcome.

I fear for the language coming from the Tories. After the terrorist attacks in England, May says “I will stop at nothing’ to deal with terrorism. Anyone watching the ‘Handmaiden Tale’ or ‘House of Cards,’ might worry about this kind of language!  

She would curb our human rights or advance any kind of conflict – the language is so confrontational. May is brittle, confrontational, cold, authoritarian and lacks any empathy.

The Tories pursue a foreign policy that cosies up to and sells arms to corrupt foreign powers. They are the second biggest seller of arms in the world. Does this makes us all safe? They bomb innocents in Syria – but hey that’s okay as it’s Britain and we don’t mean to kill?!

Their language of Brexit has been often have been hate-filled,   and racist and condones divisiveness.

The language by those who support Scottish freedom is about a more inclusive, tolerant, diverse, outward looking and open Scotland. May and her outriders have no concept whatsoever over what Scottish I is about. Al they care about is loosing the last parts of their precious empire.

It is primarily about better governance and de-centralising.
To win these campaigns, any party needs simply, emotional slogans that capture peoples attention. It ‘s like selling Cocoa Cola! ‘Take Back Control, ‘Divisive Referendums’ etc. How many actually take the time to read complex arguments anyway – they don’t’ resonant or control the conversation. Nicola’s strength is her honesty, genuineness and
So read Bob Dylan’s Masters of War!

Anyone who supports democracy today should be seriously asking themselves – WHY do the DUP not have to declare their funding and why have they deliberately harmed the Peace process in Northern Ireland?

Scotland economy will suffer more than the rest of the UK.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Orange Vote

I read Ian MacWhirter’s article, Sunday Herald 7th May, The Tide is Turning Resolutely Blue for Davidson’s Detoxified Tories, I respect MacWhriter a great deal for his political analysis, but I don’t agree with his statement when he writes,” some Nationalists muttered about the return of the ‘Orange vote’ in Glasgow and Western central Scotland, though the day when the Tories were simply the Protestant / Loyalist party are surely long gone.”

During Indyref 2104 I was shocked by the behaviour of some in the Orange Order who used aggression and intimidation. At the Polling station gate on 18th September, in my middle class area, I experienced an uncomfortable time where a couple of big bully Orange men shouted at voters on their way into the polling stations - which is illegal – and who were asking them how they were going to vote! When the SNP men left us two women for a short time, I felt intimated as they edged closer and called out to us with strange questions. Then on the 19th, some drunken Orange men descended on George Square and knocked over 16 year old girl Yes supporters to the ground, in what was the only reported violence of the overall energising and most powerful democratic experienced of my lifetime.

It was all pretty evident that the Orange sectarian movement, who cling to William of Orange and the 300 year old Battle of the Boyne, and march more in Glasgow than in Northern Ireland, continue to fight for a Protestant Britain!  Even while the church does not rule our country anymore! That’s why Scotland kept the Kirk at the Union 1707. Is this an equal partnership union or a take over union?  

While Yes activists were labelled ‘nasty cybernats’ by the yoons media this was far from my own experience of those I meet in the yes movement – from SNP activists, indy journalists, writers and musicians, I found them to be informed and open-minded educated Scots. 

The wider Yes movement includes respected academics such as Tom Devine, Alan Riach, Alan Bissett, Lesley Riddoch, Liz Lochhead, artist Alasdair Gray and the musicians Dougie MacLean, Karine Polwart along with many others.   

It may be hard for many to understand that a national party in Scotland is inclusive, outward-looking, creative and progressively social democratic.  It is on the opposite spectrum from the far right of Ukip or French National Front. What we are fighting for is in fact ‘against’ far right extremism and the hard forces against democracy of the English Tory party. We are fighting for the freedom to regain our country and our democracy!  

Now PM Theresa May has labelled those educated Scots fighting for Scottish freedom and democracy as ‘extremists’. This is not my experience at all.

Time for a Written Constitution on Our European Values

On Terrorism – Perhaps, as in America, children should pledge allegiance to our country’s values at school and become more integrated into our values.

The difference in America though is that there is strict division between state and religion. Religion is a private matter. There is a Written Constitution that the government is “by the People, for the People.” And there are checks and balances to power. People are asking for more’ collective’ decision making – its clear her style is similar to Blair’s dictatorship style.

When children in America pledge to the American flag, its not to a small minded racial thing (as the Union Jack is), its similar as to the Europeans ideals of fair mindedness, equality, democracy.
Meanwhile Tory government sells arms to corrupt government – who maims and kills women and children.

In these unstable times, more then ever, we need a written constitution. For centuries Britain has been a part of European traditions – we must not now deny this. 

I pledge allegiance to the flag,

It seems to be ALL about personalities in our TV age, and not about polices at all. Who would have thought that Scotland voting Tory would help to keep the Tories in power!! 

Were people in Scotland really voting for a corrupt, undemocratic austerity and foolish Brexit Tory government with incompetent leaders? Or simply against any IndyRef2? The message is they love the Union more than any other issues. They feel British before they feel Scots and support British/ English values before Scottish ones. Voting for the union has saved Theresa May! There is more that united us to Europe, than divides us.

They are pledging allegiance to these values of freedom.

Will Westminster Grant EU Citizens Residency here?

Why won’t the UK government in Westminster give the EU nationals who live and work and study unconditional right to stay?? I am so angry about it I can hardly write about it. It is so cruel to treat people’s lives as pawns in some kind of game. They have to fill in an 85 page document to be granted Residency here – one Polish lady who teaches here and is married, found she didn’t have medical insurance to meet the guidelines. It seems every pool hole is put in front of them. People who feel fearful will start to feel angry – what kind of inhuman way is this to treat people?

They say this is a farce – but they are causing enormous stress and upset.

I’ve lived 10 years over seas in America, and I would have hated to have this kind of uncertainty hanging over me.  My son has an American girlfriend who is also studying at Aberdeen university – they hope to apply for a partner Visa again – and I know the stress that this causes them. It used to be that students were allowed some time to find a job here – now they are deported before they can even graduate. Its cruel and unkind.

What will happen then if Spain or Germany ask British residents there to leave? It’s a mess, no doubt of it.  I feel ashamed of this uncaring UK government.

 *ALSO It is worth watching ‘The Forgotten children’ STV

The UK government refused to take in children feeling wars and stranded in Europe.

88,000 children are stranded in Europe. The Tory government agreed to take 3,000 – and have now refused. The innocent are left stranded in France. France and Germany have taken in large numbers. May worked to reduce immigration numbers at the Home office from 100,000 – but made no difference.

Before WW2, Britain took in 10,000 Jewish children. What is wrong with us? And why is the UK making money selling arms to this war torn countries.

What has Changed since the 2014 IndyRef?

- Firstly – We were sold promises of greater devolution, which many bought into, that has not been delivered.  They told us Scotland would be the most devolved country and we would be a partnership of equals! Scotland is not the most devolved country - both the devolved nations of Quebec and Catalonia raise their own taxes and have control of their own Immigration. While Scotland's 'most devolved' Parliament has NO control of Immigration and only about 30% control of taxes!
- Secondly -There has been a surge in SNP membership and SNP MPs.

- Thirdly - There has been the disastrous Brexit vote, which will mean serious losses to our universities, our health services, research, business, sciences, culture and creative arts.  Both EU and international students have stopped applying to come here and many professional EU citizens are leaving. Brexit was hate filled, anti-immigration of EU or International students and workers coming here. The Scottish independence by contrast was not anti immigration or anti those from other countries coming here to add to our economy.  It is about our sovereignty.
Scotland has thrived precisely because of being outward-looking and valuing diversity.  We are surrounded by water and we have always had our bridge of Boats to Europe.

- Fourthly - The Labour party is in disarray and not able to provide an effective opposition party at Westminster, which means Scotland is at the mercy of a Tory government we did not vote for – more Tory austerity, cuts, rising consumer debt, dependence on a disastrous Banking system of failures, lack of investment in infrastructure or R & D and a failing NHS. May’s answers are Grammar schools and privatising the NHS.  And to make the UK the 51st State and be hand in hand with an unstable President Trump.

Fifthly - We now have strong support for Scottish Independence from Europe and elsewhere. This is very important and means Scotland is not an isolated country up against the might of a UK establishment. 

- Sixthly  - There has been the election of Donald Trump, which sent a serious de- stabilising, unpredictable force into the white house  (I can hardly bare to watch the news!) There are dangerous forces abroad in our world and both Putin and Trump want a weaker Europe.

- And Seventhly – and most serious of all – There is the obvious total incompetence of Westminster’s failings for us and they don’t appear to know what they are doing! We have the blundering Davis and Boris and May – who is a say one thing do another person.  Whitehall has reduced numbers and skills, so how can they develop domestic policy and at the same time pursue this foolish Brexit? They work to reduce immigration with no effect. Immigrants add to the economy and most come here for work or study reasons. Europe will not give UK a great deal, which clearly means a cliff edge Brexit.

*We need now to choose to be in Europe OR aligned to America. In recent times we may have American movies here, but if we look back at Europe‘s great writers and artists – I believe we need Europe more than America. America is very divided and confused over its sense of direction – whereas Europe, in particularly the small nations, have a much clearer direction over how to build successful and healthy economies. 

What is the the right path for Scotland? Neither option is safe either! Whether you would prefer efta, or a full EU membership - these are all decisions for the Scottish people after Independence. Also there are many independent countries that have no oil at all!

Why is Scotland so special among all the other small countries (Wee Ginger Dug National 15th February)? So special we are unable to join Europe or with all our many resources we cannot be a successful small country like Denmark, Iceland or Finland?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Scottish Independence Convention (SIC)

The Scottish Independence Convention (SIC)

The SIC Is an umbrella organisation for Pro Independence political parties and the wider Yes movement
And operates outside political boundaries to promote Independence..

Conveners  - Elaine C Smith, Pat Kane
Vice Convenors – Lesley Riddoch, Richard Walker.

Don’t look to politicians for answers – look to the great Scottish writers and  artists of today.

Artists who write to free Scotland are – Alan Riach, Pat Kane, Liz Lochhead, Irvine Welsh, Lesley Riddoch, Iain MacWhirter, Kevin MrKenna, Ian Bell, Dougie MacLean, Karine Polwart, Dick Gaughan. Alan Bisset,
And in history – Robert Burns,

And for the dominance of London are – journalist Andrew O’Neill, Neil Oliver, writer JK Rowling.

In my view it is no contest! The artists who write and sing for a Free Scotland win hands down!