Wednesday, 15 June 2011

CiF Watch Threaten Scottish Councillor

Threat to SSP Councillor from Pro-Zionist Website

Creepy pro-zionist web page, “CiF Watch” (Website HERE and twitter account @CiFWatch) has issued a threat to Councillor Jim Bollan after he endorsed West Dunbartonshire Council’s boycott of Israeli goods.

The West Dunbartonshire boycott reads, This Council condemns the massacre of 9 peace activists by the Government of Israel, and the continuing blockade of Gaza. Council notes these brave people were trying to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza which has been blockaded since 2007 by the IDF. This Council therefore re-affirms its current boycott of all Israeli goods. Council also agrees to write to all Scottish Local Authorities, Westminster and Holyrood Governments calling on them to implement an immediate boycott of all Israeli goods.
Motion by Councillor Jim Bollan – Boycott of Israeli Goods

US based CiF Watch have posted an article by contributor, Aussie Dave, who has said “Jim Bollan: you are going down.” (see HERE )

The site, was purportedly set up to counter Guardian articles about Israeli Human Rights infringements in the occupied territories and Gaza (see Amnesty International concerns about Israel HERE  and HERE ), but seems to have been set up to threaten anyone with a contrary view to Zionist propaganda.

CiF Watch have refused, contrary to their own site rules that state, “Comments which are ad hominem, racist, contain threats of violence or other inappropriate material will be deleted,” to withdraw the article. In a Twitter conversation with a SSP Campsie member, CiF first denied there was a threat and then said the threat came from Jim. The person behind the Twitter account does not seem to have control, or understanding, of the posts on the CiF site.

The Twitter conversation can be found on the @sspcampsie twitter feed.

(Screen grabs of original article below)

SSP statement after the Israeli storming of the Peace Flotilla HERE
Podcast and video of Jim Bollan HERE and HERE

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Thousands of words have been written about the fall from grace of the shamed MSP Tommy Sheridan but a new book, Downfall, claims to be the definitive account of the sex, lies and smears that dragged Sheridan through the courts and into jail.

Here, ALAN McCOMBES - the author and Sheridan's former comrade in the Scottish Socialist Party - explains why, as the jailed MSP continues to proclaim his innocence, the extent of Sheridan's lies had to be laid bare once and for all.

It is a book never wanted to write and one that I wish I never had to write.

The story of Downfall is just too raw, too sordid, too dispiriting.

Much of Scotland was fascinated by the dramatic twists and turns of the Tommy Sheridan saga, from its first stirrings in a small office in the back streets of Glasgow to its sensational finale six years later in the High Court of Judiciary.

But for those involved - personally and emotionally - it was a sickening and destructive spectacle. Lifelong friendships were torn asunder. Some people suffered emotional and psychological trauma. Good people were vilified and demonised.

They included the likes of former Sunday Mail columnist, Rosie Kane, one of the warmest and most compassionate people I've ever known.

For years on end, she and her female colleagues were portrayed in the media as a cruel gaggle of stony-hearted witches who had destroyed one of Scotland's favourite sons.

Or people like Keith Baldassara, denounced by Tommy "a scab and a rat" for refusing to lie in court.

Keith had spent years up to his neck in human misery dealing with the MSPs casework on the ground, from dampness and debt to crime and anti-social behaviour

When Tommy received the plaudits and the 'Thank You' cards when the problems were solved, Keith never complained.

His loyalty was as deep as the Clyde, but he was not prepared to stand by while Tommy leapt over the edge, with the rest of his party chained to him.

Worst of all, the most successful left wing socialist party in Europe was reduced almost to smoking ruins.

At its height 150,000 had voted for the SSP. Thousands had sacrificed their time, money and energy to build a movement that, for a time, gave a voice to the people that the mainstream parties had long abandoned – the poor, the sick, the elderly, lone parents, the low paid, unemployed, council tenants.

So Downfall was no pleasure to write but a story that had to be told as a warning and an explanation of that betrayal in all its gory and complex detail.

This book might not have been necessary if Tommy Sheridan had been brave enough, even at the eleventh hour, to put up his hands and take responsibility for his own actions.

Instead, aided and abetted by a noisy little band of supporters, he continues to claim he is the victim of a monstrous frame-up.

That does a grave disservice to those who have suffered from real miscarriages of justice.

And it leaves a chill cloud still lingering over those who have been falsely accused of perjury, forgery and perverting the course of justice as part of a fanatical anti-Tommy plot.

If this book can do anything, I hope it can deconstruct the Sheridan fantasy by offering a blow-by-blow, insider's account of exactly what happened behind the scenes over these sad, sorry years.

This is the truth.The rest is a lie.

Some people have accused me of cashing in. They are wrong. This book wasn't written for money - authors are paid just eight per cent of a book's cover price.

Even if Downfall were to be a best-seller in Scotland, I could have spent the last two years more lucratively pouring pints in a bar.

Nor was I motivated by revenge. If anything, Downfall challenges the idea that Tommy Sheridan alone can be held responsible for the pain and destruction of the past six years.

Many people in politics, the legal system and the celebrity showbiz circuit cheered him along every step on his road to destruction.

In many cases, their complicity was based on ignorance of the facts. But without encouragement Tommy would have been isolated and incapable of inflicting damage on such a scale.

I know many people will be uncomfortable with this book because it challenges their own role in these events but I make no apologies for
naming names.

I have always believed in redemption. But before there can be reconciliation, there must first come truth.

Downfall will, I hope, set the record staright once and forall.

Perhaps then, we can move on.

Sunday Mail 12 June 2011

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Scottish Education- A Socialist Response to Curriculum for Excellence

On the Eve of the EIS Conference, SFST member, Allan Armstrong analyses the CfE

The combination of the over 40% rejection of the latest EIS/COSLA/SEED pay and conditions deal, with the publication of the decisions of the the McCormac Review, means that socialist teachers are now presented with a real opportunity to advance a far-reaching alternative. Otherwise, if the SEED/COSLA and Moray Place get their way, teachers only face increased demoralisation and depression as greater and greater burdens are placed upon our shoulders, only to meet fewer and fewer of our students’ real educational needs.

Perhaps, the employers’ greatest victory, stemming from the 2001 McCrone Agreement, was the EIS giving up any critical assessment of ongoing governments’ educational counter-reforms. In the late 60’s and 70’s, many classroom teachers were avid participants in educational debate. Publishers, including Penguin, issued regular Education Specials. In these the latest ideas - some decidedly whacky, some divorced from any classroom experience, but many very stimulating - were read and debated by teachers, especially socialist teachers, many of whom entered education after ‘68’.

In secondary education, as recently as the 1990’s, there were vibrant subject organisations, such as the Association of Media Education (Scotland), in which classroom teachers eagerly participated, discussed and debated the latest developments and practice, without any thought of advancing their careers beyond the classroom. These organisations weren’t insular and also sought out the most stimulating external speakers.

However, the SED and SEED completely failed to build on all this classroom teachers’ knowledge and experience, whilst the EIS leadership never took radical educational reform seriously - it was too associated with precisely those who contested them on pay and conditions.
Reforming Scottish education took a different course. ‘Experts’ were drawn from the senior promoted staff in the universities and colleges of education, aided by selected promoted teachers. They were prepared to accept the latest top-down changes in return for their own rapid career enhancement. Initially, there were consultation exercises, like that conducted around Higher Still. However, when classroom teachers challenged these top-down initiatives, they were just ignored. Higher Still was launched to a great fanfare, and crashed spectacularly in the first year of the new examinations in 2000.

Primary teachers offered similar warnings over National Testing. This would result in young school students being trained to pass through the requisite hoops (the national tests), at the cost of gaining the more rounded knowledge that could advance their education. Eventually, even the HMI’s (now employed solely to promote the latest government initiatives, and to cow and police teachers into doing so) cottoned on to what classroom teachers had long being saying. They eventually realised that the National Testing they had been pushing down primary teachers’ throats would have to go.

Therefore. the SEED came up with a new catch-all educational counter-reform to cover schooling from 3-18 - the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). A key feature of CfE has been the total non-involvement of class teachers in its formulation or development. The SEED decided to avoid the challenges from classroom practioners they had faced over their earlier reforms. Furthermore, another key aspect of CfE has been to make the actual nature of the changes as vague as possible. This means the SEED can continually change the goalposts, revealing new changes as they see fit, knowing that classroom teachers have been disarmed in advance, since they have never had any input into the process.

Following earlier precedents, CfE produced its own round of jargon (what was once essential knowledge for would-be careerists is now just as important for those trying to get a permanent contract). However, every classroom teacher realises that the four ‘capacities’ are a burdensome add-on extra, which do not help actual educational practice. Does anybody know one person in school, charged with promoting ‘responsible citiizens’ throughout the curriculum, who took the opportunity of all the brouhaha surrounding the recent royal wedding to promote discussion in school on what being a citizen actually means - as opposed to being a docile subject? For the authorities and school management ‘capacities’ are just another addition to their armoury of control - monitoring and measuring our compliance by ticking boxes and through regular teacher appraisal.

As local education offices and schools develop an ever-extended and privileged hierarchy of managerial posts, these people, far divorced from classroom realities, have to produce longer and longer paper trails to provide evidence to their immediate superiors, that they are in control of things. Since there is continuous downward managerial pressure, every effort is made to ensure, at each subordinate level, that the requirements demanded are met on paper. However, as the paperwork is passed up the managerial hierarchy, it reflects less and less of the reality in the classroom.

Our new managerial stalinists face similar problems to their now departed predecessors in the old USSR. At present, most teachers remain committed enough to the job that they try to deflect all the top-down imposed crap, the better to get on with the real job of teaching. However, if the McCormac Review were to be ‘successfully’ imposed, schools would likely become dysfunctional workplaces, where “they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work”. And school students confronted with more and more meaningless school work, and fewer and fewer decent job prospects, would be even more disaffected - a recipe for failure.

Most teachers would recognise the need for some administrative jobs to enhance our work in the classroom (e.g. curriculum development, pastoral care, dealing with necessary agencies). However, the reality underlying many of the new promoted posts is that they create work that detracts from the job of teaching. The more elaborate and dictatorial the managerial hierarchies weighing down upon teachers, the less teachers have meaningful control, and the less effective is the education we provide.

So what can teachers do? Developing meaningful education for our students means asserting teacher control over classroom education. Nobody has more interests in providing effective learning than teachers, since we soon know to our cost whenever we are unable to do this. The massively increased managerial pressures resulting from the McCormac Review, coupled to the worsened conditions and the pay freeze, have educational failure and breakdown written all over them. Furthermore, Scottish Labour*, the SNP and the Tories all have plans to protect the more privileged, especially from the middle class, from the consequences of their planned educational, social and economic measures. They want to develop a hierarchy of state funded private schools (which can set their own curriculum, pay and conditions) leaving behind a growing number of sink schools.

And central of all their plans is CfE. Here is the Wikipedia assessment of how teachers currently view CfE:-

“Many within the Scottish teaching profession, including the teacher's union EIS and it's members, believe that the Curriculum for Excellence is too vague, in particular with regards to its 'outcomes and experiences'. There exists a fear that this vague factor will result in teachers not knowing what is expected of them in the classroom. This has been further exacerbated by the confusion over assessment. As the implementation of the CfE continues, then assessment guidelines will be published. This includes assessment on literacy and numeracy from all subjects within Secondary Schools. The time required to complete such expectations risk taking time away from teaching subject content.”

And here is the official EIS response:-

‘EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith said the union, together with most teachers, supported the aims of the Curriculum for Excellence.

But he added they had "a number of concerns about how the process of implementation is progressing"’.


This reflects the fact that the EIS leadership, under McCrone, gave up the right to meaningfully criticise the nature of government educational policy. They can only confine themselves to negotiating the terms of its implementation (and thy have been lousy at doing that too!) This helps to explain why so much of the Scottish Educational Journal is indistinguishable from any SEED or Local Authority material promoting the latest government ‘education’ initiative. Moray Place has just become an additional personnel management service for our bosses.

On those occasions, Moray Place has been forced into taking action, it as been of a token nature, designed to let off steam. At the same time, as Moray Place was organising for teachers to attend the TUC’s display of trade union ‘unity’ against the cuts on March 26th, it was, at the same time, planning to be the first union to break that unity, with its latest sell-out. Putting demands on Moray Place is not sufficient. Socialists must argue the case now for independent action, which can not be recuperated and sold out by union officials. It may take a little time yet before we can make the sort of breakthrough achieved in 1975, with mass independent (unofficial) action, but the ground should be prepared. Scottish Rank & File Teachers were formed in1972, two years before this major breakthrough.

Therefore it is the gap between what teachers already clearly understand (see Wikipedia entry) and what Ronnie Smith and Moray Place oppose, that socialist teachers should address.

As a far from comprehensive starter, I suggest that the socialist teachers could initiate discussion around the following points:-

a) oppose the CfE on educational grounds
b) promote class teacher-controlled educational organisations (like the original AMES) to develop a meaningful curriculum and promote good educational material (pressing for resources and time from the SEED and Local Authorities - probably much cheaper than the current top- down, over-promoted and wasteful system, e.g. never ending costly glossy brochures, which just lie in cupboards, or are taken out before interviews, after their first in-service day airing!)
c) argue for democratising schools, with the scope and nature of necessary non-classroom work under class teacher control. Department (secondary) or Years Group (primary) organisers to be elected by the class teachers concerned (this would cut down unnecessary bureaucracy work to a mimimum) and to be subject to re- election.
d) reform the EIS, so all officials are directly elected, subject to regular re- election, recruited from amongst classroom teachers, and receive the average pay of classroom teachers (the impending replacement of the truly dire Ronnie Smith provides an opportunity to raise this issue).

Yes, this may seem like a ‘return to 1968’, however, I think it is such radical l thinking that is now required in the face of the ongoing economic, social and educational crisis we now face. Tahrir Square in Cairo may have seemed quite far away. However, when young students, workers and unemployed in Spain are joining daily protests in public squares, maybe ‘the spirit of 2011’ will once more take off across the world where ‘the spirit of 68’ left off. I still remember occupying Moray Place in 1974, as part of the movement which turned Scottish education upside down at the time. Bob Dylan may be 70, but perhaps ‘The Times They Are A’Changing’ again!

Allan Armstrong, 30.5.11

Monday, 6 June 2011

The Deepbone Roundabout- keep Swinson away.

Letter to Bearsden Milngavie Herald

It is really good to see the construction of the new roundabout at the Duntocher Road / Baljaffray Road intersection. This will undoubtedly save lives and stop the risk taking of motorists pulling out on to the Duntocher Road.

When I saw this was given the go ahead I was reminded of the locally filmed “Burnistoun” comedy series and the single issue politician who was successfully elected to get rid of the traffic lights on the Deep bone Roundabout (see below for video ) and was also reminded of the single issue politician who represents our constituency in Westminster, and through a hung Parliament has become an apologist for the Tories, Jo Swinson.

Swinson was elected on the single issue that she was not the Labour Party, nor was she a member of the Tory party. How wrong we were.

I look around East Dunbartonshire and see the changes electing such a careerist politician to Westminster has imposed upon us. Her unfaltering support for the ConDem Tory led government and deep, rapid cuts aimed at working people have led to a huge proportion of our young people without hope of work after training as teaching assistants, teachers, nurses, doctors etc. Her proudest moment seems to have been the support for a policy that does not, thank goodness, even effect East Dunbartonshire and Scotland, ie. the imposition of huge fees to young people wanting to participate and add to our economy through educating themselves at Universities in England.

In her current position as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Vince Cable, she has now foisted the blame for the UK’s stagnant economy on to workers who are trying to defend their ever decreasing income and in fact their jobs, rather than on the banks and the billionaires who caused the economic crisis in the first place. Cable and Swinson and the rest of the ConDems have, regardless of their empty rhetoric , failed completely in taking on the banks and their bonus culture and the structural aspects of capitalism that will lead to further crisis, and further disaster for working people, in the future. Instead, the workers and their children growing up in East Dunbartonshire are bearing the brunt of the cuts – Swinson, Cable, Clegg and Cameron have turned socialism on its head and instead of the people they represent gaining through the profits of these institutions, the people of East Dunbartonshire, Scotland and the UK have had the DEPT shared out, whilst the bankers enjoy their bonuses and the oil and gas profiteers steal our resources (and charge us the highest prices in Europe for what is produced in our country).

Swinson, with her £60k+ salary and expenses is so far removed from the struggles of ordinary people in East Dunbartonshire, one can imagine her muttering under her breath the thatcherite nonsense, "There is no such thing as society," adding, "only workers who will pay for the neo-capitalist destruction of our economy."

Unfortunately, Swinson has another four years to be an apologist for a Tory led Government that is draining Scotland and East Dunbartonshire of its resources and young people (who undoubtedly will leave our shores to find work in countries that value the skills they have learned).

A single issue politician or a politician without a single issue?
I believe the time to start fighting for a local candidate who sees far beyond the £60k+ pay packet and huge expenses Swinson can claim, is now. I propose those of us in East Dunbartonshire who share a vision of a better world for our children and not more of the same, should come together and find a candidate we can support that will oust the Liberal Democrats from East Dunbartonshire AND ensure the Tories get the message that their extreme capitalism is not welcome here. A candidate who will fight for East Dunbartonshire and for an independent Scotland and a candidate who will not be seduced by the money and self aggrandizement the title of MP has brought to Jo. A candidate who will work for us on an average workers wage.

Oh, and I hope when this new Roundabout is opened, Swinson is not asked to cut the ribbon. The Burnistoun writers and performers have added much more to the Bearsden/ Milngavie/ East Dunbartonshire economy than Swinson has by far. Ask them.

Neil Scott
SSP Organiser,