Wednesday, 25 June 2014



 1. Paul McLauglin, Miscarriages of Justice Organisation

The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO) was formed as a result of what happened to the Birmingham Six. We are a support organisation to help those who have been wrongly accused and convicted of crimes they did not commit. At any one time MOJO has been used by 65-80 people. We provide legal support and try to ensure after-care for people who have had their convictions quashed. There is only so much MOJO can do without proper funding.

The Scottish government provides us with some financial support, but at nothing like the levels we need. The UK government accepts there is a problem and they have a duty of care. But it does nothing about it. There is no financial backing at this level from the UK Government.

When you are released after wrongful conviction, you are given a travel warrant and £40. That is it. You are sent home with no support.

The official UK state position is – ‘the least said the better’. There is no real investigation into the Crown or Police when a miscarriage of justice occurs. There is a little more openness in Scotland, because of MOJO’s relationship with the government here.

People who have been wrongly convicted face a terrible choice. If someone maintains their innocence, then they get no parole or home release. Contesting a miscarriage of justice can result in the person being imprisoned for longer than if they served the sentence they have been given.

One person we are working with currently was eventually released after being falsely convicted of attempted rape, and sentenced to 7 years. He served 17 years, an extra 10 years because he protested his innocence. He had made several earlier appeals, which failed. His calls to review his conviction were ignored are after that as fishing expeditions.

MOJO goes into prison to give support to lifers and other prisoners who are maintaining their innocence. For the Scottish Prison Office (SPO) the issue is control. They see MOJO as helping them in this, and providing a safety valve. However, MOJO does not want to give the SPO an easy ride. MOJO wants justice.

There is a Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission, which has statutory responsibility for examining cases of miscarriage of justice.

One of the biggest failings is the UK Government takes no responsibility for the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered by those who have had their convictions quashed. This has a major effect on the Innocent person after they are released. It has been shown in the only study done by Adrian Grounds that the PTSD suffered by innocent prisoners takes a more acute form, the longer someone has been imprisoned.

Speaking personally, I think that Scottish independence could provide a situation where the limited support currently received in Scotland, compared to England, could be extended. However, this has to be qualified with an emphasis on the need to have transparency within the Judiciary, the Crown and Procurator Fiscals Service (COPFS) and the Police with an need for independent oversight put in place to ensure that the causes of miscarriages of justice are examined in order to put in place solutions to prevent further miscarriages of justice. This does not appear to happen currently.

The present government has further centralised Police powers with the setting up of a Scottish unitary Police Force. We need to ensure more scrutiny of the Police with independent over sight similar to the Independent Review Service/Tribunals Service, which is made up of people from all walks of life adjudicating in civil cases. This means we need to continue campaigning and putting pressure on MSPs and councillors.

At present the Police Force is increasingly being armed, but this is not being admitted publicly. So we have an undeclared armed Police Force. This is a major concern and can only reduce public confidence in the Police.

There have been many more miscarriages of justice since the Birmingham Six in 1974. But only one policeman has been convicted for their role in these, Inspector Richard Munro held back information in a murder trial which could have exonerated two of our clients. 5 years earlier than then were. The usual grounds for failing to follow-up such cases are “maintaining police integrity”. Or that to pursue Officers is not in the public interest.

There is no independent oversight of the Crown, judiciary or police force. There are no public explanations or transparency.

No criminal justice system is flawless. There will always be miscarriages of justice. The problem is the failure to address these. We use the National Lottery slogan when it comes to miscarriages of justice, bear in mind “It Really Could Be You” Remember that people from all backgrounds have suffered from miscarriages of justice.

 2. Paddy Hill, Birmingham Six

Before 1974 the IRA planted bombs in the Midlands and other parts of England and warnings were given. There was no loss of life or injuries. I can even remember people coming to see a bomb going off at the Rotunda in Birmingham.

Then suddenly a coach was bombed. The IRA later claimed that this was a coach with soldiers being sent to Northern Ireland. It was in fact a coach with the wives and families of soldiers returning from holiday in Germany. The Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham bombings were all ‘no warnings’ bombings.

The British media went into overdrive. The atmosphere was created that led to my false conviction for the Birmingham bombing.

I was 16 and a half years in prison. I was never arrested. I initially talked to the police of my own free volition, in order to be dismissed from their enquiries. British intelligence knew that I wasn’t involved in Republicanism. I had 3 brothers in the British Army. The third of these was just then about to serve in Ireland. My father was in the British Army for 30 years.

However, I had been at school with IRA member, James McDaid. This was in Ardoyne, a nationalist area in North Belfast, surrounded by Protestant areas. It was known as the ‘Murder Mile’. It was a close community, where people knew each other, and could have acquaintances, friends and family who were involved in the IRA, although the majority were not.

When the official statements about the number of bombs used at Birmingham – 6, 8 and 12 – were shown to be contradictory, the state prosecutor said that the people being interrogated were highly trained in counter-terrorism techniques. Yet, the person providing this information was interrogated only from 9.00 am to 10.05 am! It was also stated that the bombs were planted outside the pub, when they were planted inside.

My first involvement was when in going back to Belfast by ferry from Morecambe, I saw a line of desks, each with 2 cops behind it. I had a record of trouble with the police. I had been involved in the violence that comes from football (I was a Celtic supporter) and alcohol in a city, which still had houses with notices, ‘No Paddies, No Wogs, No Dogs’. This sort of violence was endemic to the situation.

I did not resist questioning. Indeed I had a friendly conversation with Detective Constable Willoughby from Morecombe, about football.

However, the next stage was very different. Myself and my five co-defendants faced police officers, Brand and Bennett. These two said that, we know you didn’t do the bombing, but we have to keep the public off our backs. So you have a choice. You are going to make a confession – you can do it the hard way or the easy way. When, there was some opposition to making a false confession, the police resorted to burning us with cigarettes.

When we were put in prison, the prison officers paid people to stab us, crushed glass was put in our food and they pissed in our tea. I spent over 8 years of my sentence in solitary confinement. I saw nobody but immediate family and close friends.

Despite constantly expressing my innocence, I spent 10 years in prison before the first break. It was actually the local Tory MP, Sir Arnold Farr, whose constituency covered Gartree Prison, in Market Harbourough, who first listened to me. This resulted my first appeal in 1987. There were 22 Crown witnesses. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane rejected any evidence which questioned the police.

It was only in 1991, after another investigation, that the role of Doctor Skuse, the forensic ‘expert’ was exposed. He had a history of making claims based on his own specialist forensic techniques that were found to be completely bogus. He was a fantasist. It was also found that the police had fabricated their notes.

However, I have found myself in a worse situation since I was released. I had learned how to cope inside jail. I had internalised the responses need to deal with the situation there 24/7. I was not prepared for what would happen to me outside the jail.

One year later I ‘hit the floor’. The doctors said I was suffering from depression. Well I could see that. My body and brain had accustomed itself to thinking that tension was normal. I faced any challenge, just as I would have in prison.

However, there was no treatment for this. Those who have been involved in other situations like the sinking of the Marchioness, or the Lockerbie bombings, were immediately given counselling.

On release I was given £46 and my papers. Sometime later I received £50,000, upped to £100,000 in compensation, pending a final financial settlement of £964,000.  From this were deducted several costs, including for ‘bed and breakfast’ whilst in prison!

Before this, though, I bought a flat in Muswell Hill, and spent most of the rest of the money on campaigning, buying a car and touring the length and breadth of these islands, and to the USA, to wherever anyone would listen. Whilst doing this I accumulated debts of £30,000, but could not claim welfare benefits.

I had grown unaccustomed to living outside prison. Even shopping was difficult. I still cannot sleep for more than one to one and a half hours. At night, I get up and go out for a drive in the car, or take the dog for a walk. Two and a half years after coming out of prison I was finally diagnosed with PTSD – the highest level, worse than that which affects some soldiers in war zones.

The psychologist in Edinburgh said they had no treatment for somebody so highly traumatised. In July 2010, I was sent to the Capio Nightingale Hospital, in Marylebone, London, which deals with trauma victims. However, they were unable to deal with somebody who had been in long-term imprisonment. Indeed, it seemed to me to reproduce the conditions I had found in prison – being put in rooms, told to wait and being told what to do. I reacted accordingly, and threatened one of the staff. I was put out, without any arrangements being made, or any regard to what would then happen to me.

What clearly needs to be developed here in Scotland, where I now live in Ayrshire, is a proper Trauma Centre, where every case could be dealt with. There are people like Paul Miller, Dr, Gordon Turnbull and Adrian Groves, who could do this. Indeed, helping with this could well be the job for me – I have the experience! 


Sarah-Beattie-Smith, Green Party co-convenor, 12.5.14

This year is about all of us deciding what kind of Scotland we want to live in, what kind of Scotland we want to build and the message we want to send to the rest of the world. In that respect, I think there's a clear and important connection between the European election and the referendum.
Don't get me wrong, I know European elections don't always ignite the flames of passion in most people - not even in hardened campaigners like all of you. But this one is important, and I'll tell you why.

Every European election has a story - in 2009 it was the elections scandal, in 2004 it was Kilroy. In 2014 it's UKIP, whether we like it or not. The whole UK media is intent on giving Farage and his fruitcakes as much airtime as they want. This is a UKIP election. So of course the story here, if we allow them in, is that Scotland's not that different - we elect racists and homophobes just like England so what's all this independence nonsense we keep banging on about? We can't afford that. Not now, not ever, and especially not when we're trying to build a new nation.

This year we have the chance to elect not only Scotland's first Green MEP, but a woman who shares our beliefs and who will fight for a just and welcoming Scotland.
And I think the campaign we're running fits really well with a lot of what RIC is campaigning on this year. We have three main pillars to our campaign -

a just economy where public services are in public hands and where we attack poverty, not the poor;

a welcoming Scotland which is grateful for the people who come to Scotland and choose to make it their home and doesn't blame them for the troubles caused by elites;

and for a nation of peace which rejects Cold War relics like NATO, stands against the militarisation of Europe and gets rid of trident - not just by shifting it somewhere else but by disarming it for good.

Who wins sends a message about what kind of country we want. By electing Maggie Chapman as our MEP, we are choosing a just economy, where we attack poverty, not the poor, and defend our public services from the relentless drive to privatise. We are choosing a welcoming Scotland, where people who want to be part of building our nation are treated as comrades, not criminals. We are choosing a nation of peace, not the NATO nuclear alliance.

All of that is the starkest possible contrast with the vile rhetoric peddled by UKIP..
We stand a real chance, for the first time, of electing a socialist, feminist, pro-immigration, pro-independence candidate who stands for everything that this campaign believes. We have a chance to set the tone for the whole summer and beyond. Let me be clear - if there's no change at this election, then we're sending a signal that we don't really need change as a nation.

So I  hope you'll vote Green next Thursday. And if I can make a cheeky plea, I hope you'll keep helping us to get out the vote and reach even more people.



John asked who the Green Euro-candidates were and what type of election it was?

Sarah replied, that they were Maggie Chapman, Edinburgh councilor, Chas Booth, Grace Murray, Green worker in European parliament, Alistair Whitelaw, Glasgow and Ann Thomas, Highlands.

Mike came in and said that there were 6 Scottish Euro-seats ( a reduction of 1 after boundary changes) and that they were elected o the basis of proportional representation, after voters had given their single vote to the party of their choice.

Bob said that as a socialist he agreed that Maggie should be given a tactical vote in the Euro-election.

Irene said she was quite keen on Europe. When she had been in Brussels she had first heard of the debate over fracking, which she found informative.

Andy asked what the Greens had organised in the run-up to the election on May 24th. He also asked how Scottish independence would effect Scotland;s position in the EU.

Mike said that people could help in canvassing on Sunday, 18th May, meeting at Haymarket at 2.00  pm, and again on Tuesday, 20th May, meeting at the Tron pub at 6.00 pm. There was also a Facebook event organised.

He said that Denmark, which currently has approximately the same population as Scotland has 13 seats in the Euro-parliament compared to Scotland’s 6. However, he was critical of the EU set-up, which was dominated by appointed Commissioners from each of the member countries, He thought that there should be elected Commissioners. Mike also thought that unlike the Tories  at present, representatives from an independent Scotland would be likely to support the proposed Robin Hood Tax on international financial transactions, and not block the proposed limits on bankers’ bonuses.

Donny said that he also supported Maggie Chapman. However, he had a more critical attitude towards the EU. The EU leaders had been responsible for imposing horrific austerity measures on Ireland, Greece, Italy and Spain. The City of London opposed the EU because it doesn’t like the prospect of greater financial regulation, whilst the CBI wants to overthrow the limited social and other rights that still exist under the EU. But both the EU and UK want to impose austerity on workers.

Allan thought it was important to discuss the way that RIC operated with regard to participating political parties, RIC is a wider movement that includes people from an anti-party, non-party, anarchist and movementist backgrounds. It would not be appropriate for Edinburgh RIC to give specific backing to Green or to other parties. However, it was perfectly in order for RIC to host discussions like today’s. Edinburgh RIC had a particularly good record of encouraging wider political debate.

He said that RIC members participating in the EU-election campaign should be aware that there was another group, claiming to be socialist, which was putting forward candidates – No2EU. However, he argued that they were not mounting an internationalist campaign. Allan, as an SSP member, had participated in the 2009 Euro-election campaign. The SSP was part of the internationals European Anti-Capitalist Alliance and brought a French car worker across as part of its campaign. No2EU, however, is a purely British national campaign, and comes across as UKIP-Lite for the working class. Allan said that he would be supporting Maggie Chapman in the Euro-election.

Mike said that No2EU had also come under attack when it stood its own candidates against well-placed Green candidates in Lancashire in the 2009 Euro-elections. This had helped the BNP win a North West England seat.

He argued that the EU had a positive element of pan-Europeanism and socialists should not be arguing for pulling out of the EU. There was also an inconsistency between those Tory Right and UKIP supporters in Scotland, that wanted independence for Europe but not for Scotland.

Bob said that if you are staying in then you must have a strategy to democratise the EU. Its structures were eve more undemocratic than Westminster. It was important to wrest powers from the bureaucracy. To do this we needed more international links.

Iain said that we would have to discuss Europe more fully after the election,

Sarah agreed with the principle of an elected Commissioner. UKIP are having some impact in Scotland, as she discovered when canvassing. They are attracting an anti-system protest vote.

Talat said that the pan-nationalism of the EU looked very different form a Third World perspective. It is the pan-nationalism of a European elite. The EU represented a continuation of European imperialism with regard to much of Africa. The EU had imposed structural adjustment programs upon the Third World, which preceded its current austerity programme in Greece. Racism is growing in Europe in response to the economic crisis and far right and fascist parties are rising on that basis.

She also argued that we should oppose the No2EU approach as well as Fortress Europe with its immigration controls and anti-refugee policies.

Andy asked what the Green policy was with regard to refugees and asylum seekers, and particularly with regard to Dungavel detention centre.

Sarah said the Greens are against the vilification of refugees and asylum seekers, and certainly support the losing down of Dungavel. The UK is the main enemy when it comes to its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and also its restrictions on overseas students.

Mike said that the Greens were ultimately for a world with no borders.  When he had suggested automatic citizenship for migrants after 5 years at  a Scottish Green conference, he had been opposed by someone wanting to lower that to 2 years, which gave some indication of the nature of the debate amongst the Greens.

Vincent argued with a strong note of caution. He said that in his experience in working class Muirhouse and Pilton, racism was not confined to Scottish-born residents, where it did have quite an impact. He found that Poles, in particular, expressed racist views, particularly towards Africans.

Sarah said this was an understandable response when you were treated badly with regard to jobs, housing, schools and health care, and felt powerless. You take it out on others.

Talat said that this is what the scapegoating of others tries to do. People of one particular group start to blame others, rather than focusing on the real cause of their problems. This is the language, not only of UKIP and the Tories, but increasingly of Labour too. Farage and UKOP are currently calling the shots, which is why they need to be opposed.

Sean said there were contradictory feelings involved. He had been canvassing Niddrie Mains Road, and came to a house with a mixed partnership. The Scottish husband supported a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, whilst his Indian partner supported a ‘No’ vote. He thought it was necessary to look to other countries to see how they approached the migration issue.

Sarah said that one particular prejudice was directed against migrants begging in the streets. It was not widely appreciated that asylum seekers tare not allowed to work.

Andy said that it was important that we could relate to people who are low paid, and are experiencing benefit cuts. Not all socialists were able to do this well.

Amie was encouraged by the fact that RIC was developing as a grass roots campaign.

Vince provided the example of he North Edinburgh Fights Back as a vibrant local working class campaign.

Pat said that in her experience she often found people who were quite rightly angry, but hit out at the wrong targets. It is possible to turn around such attitudes through argument. She said that pointing to people who make the real decisions affecting people’s lives, they could be won over.

She also said that although the official platform adopted by UKIP is not specifically racist, but UKIP attracts racists and fascists. She argued that it was important to give help to Maggie and the Greens’ campaign. A UKIP MEP in Scotland would represent a setback for the independence movement.

Donny said that UKIP is a racist party, which draws most of its support form the middle class. It is also gaining from the massive exposure it is getting in the media. A vote for independence is a vote against the British state.

Iain though that the best recent analysis of UKIP was an article in New Statesman  Welcome to Militant England by Rafael Behr (


General Discussion (following from previous RIC branch meeting on the 12.5.14 and election on 22.5.14)

Pat said there had been a move to the Right across Europe. This reflects a failure of the Left. However, in Greece the socialist Syriza had emerged as the top party. In Britain although right wing UKIP had topped the poll, the fascist BNP had lost both its MSPs.

Iain said that UKIP in Scotland had been massively helped by all the publicity it received from the BBC. UKIP had also repeated a couple of simple messages – anti-immigration, anti-EU.

Pete said there had been a division between the results in those countries in northern Europe which had not been at the receiving end of the Troika imposed austerity measures and those in the south which had. In northern Europe there had been a move to the Right, whilst in southern Europe – Greece, Spain, Ireland and Italy - there had been a move to the Left.

Pete also said that we were just at the beginning of a long struggle which began back in 2007-8. This would take longer to have an impact in Scotland. From his canvassing experience for the Greens, the EU election was of little interest to people in Scotland until the last two weeks of the election.

The SNP leadership had reacted to the rise of UKIP by claiming only by voting SNP could you keep out UKIP. This had an effect on the Green vote.

Allan said that you had to look at the impact of UKIP from an all-UK perspective. The emergence of right populist and neo-fascist parties reflects a growing concern about the future of the UK state, in a period of on-going economic and social crisis. The Right, however, understand this better than the Left. Only the BNP, Britain First the Conservatives and UKIP pursue an all-UK strategy. In the Euro-elections in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, UKIP emerged as the largest pro-unionist party amongst these all-UK forces. This will push Better Together even further Right.

Although UKIP is predominantly a right wing English nationalist party, it has been able to extend its influence into Scotland, England and Wales by championing all the worst aspects of British nationalism – generalised British chauvinist anti-immigration and anti-European sentiment; homophobia and misogyny amongst considerable sections of the population; Orangeism, loyalism and anti-Irish racism in Northern Ireland and Scotland; and anti-Welsh language sentiment in Wales. Much of this draws its sustenance from the very nature of the UK state, with its unionist and anti-democratic set-up. This state perpetuates the rule of the British ruling class, especially the City of London with its ability to impose austerity and bloated arms expenditure through all the mainstream parties. The imperial and unionist nature of the UK encourages war mongering, racism, chauvinism and national divide-and-rule politics. Having an established religion, represented in the House of Lords gives official encouragement to wider reactionary attitudes to women and gays.

The Greens have tried to counter this with some limited effect. It was good to see Maggie Chapman and the Greens beating UKIP in Edinburgh*, especially after being prominent in the anti-Farage demo.

Those socialists behind No2EU/Yes to Democracy had only stood in British constituencies (not the whole of the UK, and certainly not elsewhere in the EU), hardly an expression of internationalism. Furthermore, they gave the impression that there was something worthwhile to defend in ‘British democracy’, ignoring the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the UK state. To counter this insularity, RIC should see its campaign for Scottish independence as part of a wider all-islands ‘internationalism from below’ campaign, bringing in England, Wales and the whole of Ireland.

(* The Greens also beat UKIP in Glasgow, Stirling, Orkney and Shetland.)

Gary said that Maggie Chapman had run an exemplary campaign for the Greens in Edinburgh. He would like to publicly give thanks to Maggie for this.

Sean said the right wing media dominated. UKIP got four times more coverage than the SNP. The Greens were ignored. We must develop our own ways of promoting our message to counter this.

Iain said that people have still not come to terms with the degree the Right wing establishment now controls the BBC.

The independence campaign had had some effect on voter participation in the EU elections. It had only increased by 1% in England, but by 5% in Scotland. Although the Tories had also increased their vote, the SNP had held its position, despite being the incumbent Scottish government for 7 years.

Mike said there had been a lot of complacency. Quite a lot of people had thought that UKIP was a south of the border phenomenon and would not be able to win a seat in Scotland.  Labour’s response is constantly to appease UKIP. They could well take up UKIP’s call for an EU referendum, which would only play into UKIP’s hands.

Anne said that a lot of people vote UKIP because they felt excluded from politics. All the mainstream parties appeared the same. In contrast, Farage is a populist who can speak to the people.

Pete said that there is no great pro- or anti-Euro feeling in Scotland. He had been to a European hustings in Glasgow. Only 7 people turned up. The next night 250 people attended an independence meeting.

RIC must be involved in a grassroots campaign. We face a series of fights, and not just over independence.

UKIP’s new Scottish MEP, David Cockburn, is an idiot. He said he would abolish all the EU regulations. When asked which he would start with, he couldn’t name one! It should be relatively easy to expose his politics.

Stuart said that the significance of the UKIP vote in Scotland is overstated. However, after all the Better Together talk about independence threatening EU membership, it is clear that the main threat lies at UK level if there is a ‘No’ vote. The ugly face of nationalism is British nationalism. There is now a threat of a Tory/UKIP pact.

Luke said that the EU election was a passing event. Many more people were interested and involved in the Scottish independence campaign. We had to concentrate on this.

Annie said there was an obvious contradiction between UKIP calling for British independence, whilst denying independence for Scotland.

Mike said that UKIP are just one in a long list of unionist parries that needed to be countered.

Iain said that Johann Lamont had called for a union of progressives to counter the nationalism of the SNP and UKIP. Presumably that would be the ‘progressive’ Tory party and their Lib-Dem allies!


Jim Slaven from the James Connolly Society (JCS) and Queralt Badia from Popular Unity Candidates (CUP), Catalunya, introduced the discussion on ‘The Impact of the Scottish independence referendum in Ireland and Catalunya’

Jim Slaven (JCS)
The 1916 Society was initially formed by republicans in Tyrone. They drew together people who could clearly see that Sinn Fein had departed from the republican path, and who understood the armed struggle had run its course. They see the issue facing the Irish people s one of democracy denied. The UK and the 26 counties states are an obstacle to the exercise of genuine self-determination in Ireland.

The 1916 Society is not another party to add to the alphabet soup of Irish republican organisations already existing. In its attempt to bring about Irish self-determination the 1916 Society recognises that it must relate to people’s day-to-day struggles. It campaigns for an all-Ireland referendum as a people’s initiative, not a demand on the existing states.

The1916 Society is organises across Ireland and has branches in Scotland, USA and Australia. It has a horizontal leadership. Office bearers can only remain in place for 3 years.

The UK state will only recognise a Border poll, conducted in the Six Counties. Partition was designed to ensure that unionists could prevent Irish unity.

When you factor in the Scottish referendum, constitutional nationalists in the Six Counties (the SDLP and now Sinn Fein) observe this process from the side-lines. In contrast, republicans support the break-up of the UK state, and want a ‘Yes’ vote.

The SNP leadership though are an obstacle to winning the support of the Irish-Scottish community. They support the monarchy, empire and Scottish regiments with their appalling record in Ireland.

There is a danger that the SNP government is merely contributing to the reconfiguration of the UK state. The recent referendum conceding more powers to Wales; a limited break from the UK promoted by the SNP government, and a possible Border poll after that, could just represent a new stage of control beyond the current ‘Devolution-all-round’ arrangements.

The 1916 Societies have written to all parties and organisations campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote. None have yet replied, including RIC. We see beyond the September 18th referendum whether there is a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ vote. The 1916 Societies view things strategically not just tactically. This is why we to connect with the people on the ground in our campaign for ‘One Ireland, One Vote’.

Queralt Badia (CUP)
Queralt began by apologising for her limited English.

The referendum for Catalan independence was agreed by 4 parties, Convergencia i Unio (centre right ), Republican Left of Catalunya (centre left), the Initiative of Catalan Grees (which includes Spanish federalists and Catalan independists) and Popular Unity Candidates (left).
The agreed date is November 9th, 2014. There will be two questions: "Do you want Catalonia to become a State?" If so, "Do you want this Catalan State to be independent?”
However, the Spanish government rejects this as being against the Spanish constitution. This contrasts with the situation in Scotland, where the Scottish independence referendum is recognised as constitutional and is being conducted with the agreement of the UK and Scottish governments.

The situation in Catalunya is confused. Will the somewhat less than decisive Catalan government stand up to Spanish pressure? (The government includes a conservative party that is very ambivalent about its attitude towards Catalan self-determination.) Who will recognise a vote for Catalan independence after November 9th - will the EU or wider international community?

The Popular Unity Candidates have built up a Catalunya-wider (including French Catalunya) political campaign to build up support for self-determination. CUP is community based, working in local struggles. It has only recently decided to participate in the Generalitat elections. CUP has been fighting against the home evictions, which have followed from the severe economic crisis in Spain. It has been defending migrant worker who are under attack. It has been championing language rights.

CUP doesn’t see independence as the end, but the beginning of a struggle for social improvement and radical democracy.


The meeting then divided into groups of two or three to decide on the questions people wanted answered. The following questions were raised:-

1.      Does the 1916 Society see the referendum being conducted simultaneously, or separately in the North and South?
2.      Is there not a three-fold decision to be made involving the UK, Irish and Stormont governments?
3.      Surely, the British state is not going to recognise a citizen’s referendum?
4.      What is the Irish-Scottish community’s attitude towards Scottish independence?
5.      What do republicans think about Martin McGuinness’s decision to attend a dinner with the queen?
6.      Some people have said that changing demographics will undermine unionist domination in the North. Is ‘making love not war’ the best way to proceed?!
7.      How does the struggle in Catalunya relate to that in Euskadi.
8.      What is the relationship of Valencia and the `Balearic Islands to Catalunya.
9.      What would the knock-on effect be of a successful Catalan referendum?
10.  How does the anti-capitalist Left relate to the struggle for Catalan independence?

Jim replied that the 1916 Society’s campaign is not based on the immediate realistic possibility of success. The Society has a longer-term strategy based on republican principles. The campaign will have to relate to the struggles of people on the ground, north and south of the border. The legacy of a divided Ireland is a sectarian statelet in the north, and a ‘gombeen republic’ in the south, where corruption is rife. He said he wanted to reiterate that the campaign was not targeted at the existing state structures, but represented a citizens’ initiative. This is designed to prefigure alternative radical state structures. These would be linked to meeting people’s needs, hence the emphasis on being involved in people’s struggles now. Republican should connect with anti-austerity, pro-abortion and gay rights campaigners.

A considerable proportion of the Irish –Scottish community is still wedded to the  Labour Party. Since the SNP took office, there has even been a step back from the very limited initiative undertaken by the previous Labour/Lib-Dem Holyrood government to target sectarianism. The SNP is not interested in opposing the Orange Order. It has promoted greater centralisation of the Scottish police force and the Criminal Justice Bill which falls most heavily upon Scottish Irish community. People returning over the Irish Sea have been detained first by the police, and then questioned by MI5. Certainly, the Labour Party’s earlier record with regard to the Irish-Scottish community left much to be desired, but their current attacks on the SNP are based on some realities on the ground.

With regard to leaving it to demographic change in the Six Counties, republicans are opposed to the politics of the sectarian head count. Even the UK state is seeing that it is necessary to move away from its pushing of a specific British identity. State bodies, including schools, now promote a Northern Ireland identity. They hope to build this up as separate from being Irish.

As for Martin McGuiness and Sinn Fein. They have abandoned any republican principles and become constitutional nationalists accepting the UK state in practice. Once you do this, then kowtowing to the Crown follows quite easily. Apologists claim that this promotes greater mutual British/Irish understanding. James Connolly would have recognised these politics. In his days they were called Redmondism, precisely the pro-British politics that republicans had to make a break from in 1916.

Queralt replied that there is some cooperation between the Left in Catalunya and Euskadi. Indeed, the CUP seeks wider cooperation. Jonathan Shafi spoke for RIC at a CUP conference held in Barcelona the previous weekend.

Valencian Coutry and the Balearic Islands are part of historic Catalan nation (or Catalan counties), but not part of current Spanish-state recognised Catalunya (the administrative region).

It is difficult to anticipate what will happen after November 9th. Indeed, if the Spanish state exerts enough pressure, the Generalitat could retreat from conducting the referendum. Some are looking to the 2016 elections instead.

If Catalunya becomes independent this will likely have its first knock-on effect in Euskadi, possibly followed by Valencia. The situation in Galicia is different and the radical forces are weaker there.

The CUP works with anti-capitalists, but not all of these people support Catalan independence. The Greens are split between independistas and federalists.


Allan asked for Jim’s opinion of the setting up Ireland for a Yes (IfY). It appeared to have all the hallmarks of that other SNP front, Trade Unionists for Yes. TUfY raised not one single demand that could benefit trade unionists, such as opposition to the anti-trade union laws. It seemed to be a deliberate counter to Trade Unionists for Independence, which had a platform of demands relevant to, and a real base amongst trade unionists. IfY had nothing to say about the Offensive Behaviour Act.

Jim replied that it was ironic that the SNP had formed IfY, because the SNP government had refused to recognise the Irish-Scottish community, and was actively involved in targeting that community through the Offensive Behaviour Act. They had given no reply to the letter they had received from the JCS. The SNP is pro-monarchist, pro-NATO and pro-Scottish regiments. The JCS campaigned for Scottish independence on a specifically republican basis, looking also for wider support in Ireland, England and Wales.

Kevin argued that the Edinburgh RIC branch should take a vote to support the 1916 Society. Alice, Allan, Bob and Linda all supported this principle, but thought that a motion to this effect should be circulated to RIC supporters before the next meeting. The proposal could then be taken to the next RIC National Forum on May 17th. This was agreed.


Anne Miller of the Citizens Income Trust, 31.3.14 

Historical perspective

         After the Second World War there was a consensus towards a fairer society, with a welfare state, free secondary education and a National Health Service.
         This consensus lasted until 1979.
         What has happened since?

Note about market economies

         Many benefits for all, but
         Market economies do not redistribute from rich to poor.
         Even the Neoclassical economists model of the perfect competition market, at its best, assumes that there is an equal distribution of the assets among many small agents to begin with.
         Then it will merely maintain the status quo distribution.
         Markets need regulating to prevent a repeat of the excesses witnessed in recent years.

Why the state should redistribute from rich to poor

         State should counter-act the natural tendency of the market.
         State should look after the welfare of all of its citizens, not just its wealthy ones. 
         State should help all to flourish, - better work-life balance, etc.
         Equality has been better for everyone (Wilkinson & Pickett, The Spirit Level, 2009).
         Poor people have a lower propensity to save, and buy fewer imports, therefore national demand will increase after redistribution.
         Redistribution is likely to regenerate local economies and thus the national one, and leave it less at the mercy of the global economy.

         Most people in this country think that we have a democratic government.
         But the real purpose of the government is to make marginal changes in favour of the wealthy.
         How have UK governments been complicit in this betrayal of the people?


         Opted out of clauses for Social Protection for workers in Maastricht Treaty, (1992), - in favour of flexible labour market to promote growth.
         The purpose of growth is to protect the rich from having to share their income or wealth.
         Since 1979, practically all the gains in household income [in the UK] have gone to the top 40% of households. (, c. 2007).
         In a recession, suddenly we all are in this together, and the poorest must shoulder the burden:   ie. benefits and public services are cut.
         Ratchet effect of growth - recession - growth etc - leads to widening inequality.

Monetary Policy

         Relaxation of financial regulations:
         Big Bang deregulation of Stock Market and privatisation of London Stock Exchange, 1986
         Transferred weakened regulatory powers from Bank of England to the under-funded Financial Services Authority (1997)
         Required lower deposits by banks with BoE
            Encouraged/relied on Financial Sector for contribution to UK economy (10%)
         Glass-Steagall Act (1933) repealed in USA by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act 1999, (retail and investment banks had been separated - to enable savings in retail banks to be protected) - reckless lending - sub-prime property market
         UK copied USA and relaxed this separation.
         Govts engagement in 2 wars in 2001 & 2003 meant that it borrowed heavily & could not reduce the public debt in the boom years, as was normal practice.


         Government encouraged inflationary property price boom - capital gains realised and spent on consumption - fuelled economic demand.
         Housing boom siphons wealth out of pockets of 1st time buyers into pockets of current home-owners - if realised.
         Govt should have controlled buyers deposits and size of mortgages relative to incomes (as in 1960s), and controlled housing market generally - ie. for homes, not as speculative investments.
         Housing bubble burst, (not in Germany, nor in Canada) --> bad debt and negative equity.
         Sold off council houses, but councils prevented from using the gains to renew the housing stock.
         Encouraged demutualisation of Building Societies, but resulting banks not properly regulated
         Pressure on rented properties put rents up.
         NB. Sold off nationalised industries and utilities, and reduced tax rates on the wealthy.
         Squandered north sea oil income, rather than invest in infra-structure


         Reckless lending, sub-prime mortgages, in USA.
         Sophisticated instruments for inter-bank lending.
         Reckless borrowing on international financial market.
         Credit Rating Agencies, eg. Standard & Poor, Moodys, and Fitch, etc. passed many toxic packages as AAA rating, - was major element in 2008 Crisis.
         Investment banks gambled with clients money
         Speculated with Sterling
         Bankers awarded themselves massive bonuses, performance-related pay, whether good or bad performance.
         Banks reserves would not cover their debts.
         Some banks were too big to fail.

         Government bailed out RBS, HBoS and Lloyds, by buying up a large proportion of their shares.
         Private profits, public debt.
         Austerity package, plus Quantitative Easing
         Swingeing cuts to benefits and to government expenditure on services.
         Neither Germany nor Canada suffered the property boom or bank crashes.
         Around 1980, both USA and Canada also reversed their postwar trends to greater equality, and became the most unequal in the west, followed by UK.
         Germany, France, Switzerland, India, Japan, Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden managed to maintain their post-war level of equality during this latter period.

Benefit Levels

         National Insurance benefits have not been maintained at initial levels, and have become lower than the Social Assistance (supposedly safety-net) levels.
         Benefit levels are less than Governments own poverty benchmarks.
         Government has changed from using RPI to lower Consumer Price Index to update benefits.
         Major reforms have been merely tinkering at the edges.
            Redistribution from nearly-poor to poorest, c. 1985

Marginal Deduction Rates
         When trying to earn their way out of poverty, claimants can face an MDR of nearly 96% (income tax 20%, NI 12%, plus aggregated benefit withdrawal rates).
         Universal Credit aims to reduce this to 65% for those whose incomes are below income tax threshold (personal allowance), and 76% for those above it.
         Higher-rate taxpayers with gross income of £41,450 and over, will face 40% tax and 2% NI, (2013-14).   
         Additional-rate taxpayers with gross income of £159,440 and over, have enjoyed a reduction to 45% tax and 2% NI.
         MTBs have inherent disincentives to work-for-pay.
         MDRS are highly regressive system, even with Universal Credit.

Tax Expenditures (Loopholes)

         Personal allowances, tax exemptions, and tax allowances are the tax loopholes that the government provides for wealthy people to avoid paying their fair share of income tax legally.
         The taxes that HMRC thus fail to collect are called Tax Expenditures, which reduce the tax base and lead to higher tax rates on those who cannot avoid them.
         Tax Expenditures often profit the beneficiary in proportion to his/her income, eg tax relief on private pension scheme contributions.
         The magnitude of this hidden subsidy to the rich is about the same as 30-40% of subsidy to poorest via Social Security.
         The UK is recognised by rich people as a tax haven.

Outcomes for People

         Gross inequality
         Jobs for unskilled people have been automated, or out-sourced overseas.
         Workers wages have not been protected by government, as on continent, and many workers are in low waged, part-time, temporary jobs, leading to insecurity and fear.
         Benefit levels have not kept up with inflation, let alone with the prosperity of the UK.
         MTBs contribute to MDRs that present a major disincentive to work, so claimants are labeled as idle scroungers.
         Housing boom removed home-ownership out of reach for many aspiring first-time buyers, and rents have increased.
         Occupational pensions are less prevalent, and private pensions dependent on stock market are less reliable.
         Low-waged, part-time, insecure jobs, (zero hours);
         Poverty - even in work
         Financial insecurity
         Fear of long-run unemployment
         Poverty - out-of-work
         Child poverty: I in 4 children still in poverty, many in working households
         Marriage break-up
         Lose family
         Increase in crime rate
         Increasing gap between rich and poor

Outcome for economy

         The UK governments have imposed a state of austerity on the poorer sections of society.
         They have been trying Quantitative Easing - ie printing money to try to get the economy going again.
         Banks are trying to increase their reserves, rather than lending.
         Small companies find it difficult to get loans to invest.
         Large companies are not confident enough to invest now, before they see signs of recovery, ie the economy is demand-deficient, rather than needing a boost to the supply side.

More reasons to change the UK’s social security system

         Complexity & duplication of frequent and lengthy form-filling;
         Joint applications for means-tested benefits;
         Mistrust and control of claimants;
         Double standards between benefits and income tax system;
         The Government spends a lot of money to keep people in poverty - providing lifejackets, not guard rails;
         Prevention of poverty is cheaper than cure;
         In 2012, £241,695m was spent on social protection (transfer payments);
         This was 15.47% of GDP.

What sort of society do we wish to be part of and help create

         Equality objectives
         Financial security objectives
         Protect financially-vulnerable adults and families with children
         Labour market objectives
         Administrative objectives
         Personal choice objectives


         A Citizens Income (CI) scheme, to replace most National Insurance benefits and Means-Tested Benefits.
         A CI scheme by itself will not necessarily redistribute income from rich to poor, men to women and geographically
         We would need a new restructured hypothecated income tax system combining both current income tax and national insurance systems, without tax loopholes - transparent, simpler.

Define a CI Scheme

         Eligibility is universal, based on citizenship; the CI is not means-tested on recipients own or anothers income or wealth;
         Tax/benefit unit is the individual man, woman and child;
         Unconditional - not dependent on any preconditions - work, volunteer, gender roles, & Non-selective (differences based on age?)
         Paid regularly and & automatically to recipient;
            Levels are Full or Partial or Child CIs

The definition of CI does not define the whole system

         One still has to decide:
         Who is entitled to it?
         How much will it be?
         How will it be financed
         Who should administer it?

The wider picture

         There is a whole set of other instruments with which it can be coupled fulfilling a variety of welfare objectives;
         There is no one optimum scheme
         For a given set of objectives and priorities, a CI scheme can be designed;
         A CI is not a panacea for all ills.
         But a CI is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a better society.

Arguments against CI

         Why give something for nothing?
         Poor are idle and dont deserve it.
         What if some people choose not to work?
         Why give it to rich people, who dont need it?
         Rich people will emigrate
         Powerful people will prevent it
         We cannot afford it

Can we afford it?

         Average (mean) income per head of man, woman and child in UK, 2012, was £18,174 pa, (£348 pw).
         Different aspects to COST:
         Tax rates, - depend on objectives of the scheme,            eg 32%, 40% or 50%
         Net transfers (sum of taxes paid by net taxpayers) - depends on degree of inequality to start with.
         Individual losers (and gainers)
         What about the public debt?

UK Debt/GNP ratio

         In 2010, the UKs net debt / GDP ratio was c. 54%.
         In the first half of the 19th century, it reached about 260%, and did not go below 120%
         Between 1925 and 1950, it increased to about 240%, and did not go below 110%.
         Between 1945 and 1995, it was reduced from a high of nearly 240% after WWII, to about 25%.
         Between 1945 and 2005, UK debt interest payments as a percentage of GDP reduced from 6% to just under 2% by 2000.
         UK is not broke.  The national debt is not high by historical or international standards, the cost of servicing the debt remains manageable, and Britain retains the flexibility of having its own central bank, (NEF and the Tax Justice network.)

Food Banks

When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.” Dom Hélder Câmara,, Brazilian Archbishop, liberal theologian and social activist

Yes, we can afford a Citizens Income scheme!


The meeting broke up into pairs to encourage mutual discussion. This was followed by  questions and contributions.

Andrew asked what the tax rate would be.

Annie replied that could be decided depending on how you wanted the citizen’s income distributed. Since the CI itself was a major distributive measure, she would prefer a flat rate income tax rate of 50%.

Lisa asked if there are any examples of CI in the world.

Annie replied that Alaska had an oil revenue based citizen’s income. Since 1976, Alaska has had a sovereign oil fund based on oil taxes. Every citizen gets between $1000-$3000 just before Christmas. Even Sarah Palin has not been able to abolish it!
In certain areas of India previous food and kerosene subsidies has been replaced by a direct cash payment. A scheme also exists in Namibia. In Iraq everyone gets $40 a month, although it is handed out to the head of household.

Stuart said there were three good arguments in favour of CI – trade unionist, feminist and citizen. From a trade unionist point of view, the absence of a guaranteed income means that workers cling on to badly paid jobs. A CI would force employers to pay better wages. From a feminist point of view, vital domestic work, such as child rearing and housework do not get economic recognition. The CI would help to remedy this. From a citizen’s point of view, a lot of the expenditure on healthcare is due to the depression and mental illness caused by poverty and insecurity.

Annie added that when the Canadian government introduced health benefits some years ago, they found that there were a lot of beneficial knock-on effects of universal healthcare.

Mike said there were two additional reasons to support a CI. There is the socialist argument that it weakens the employers’ ability to resort to the reserve army of labour to undercut waged and conditions, and it ensures that those who can pay, do pay. There is also the environmental argument about the use of the commons. A CI could be funded by private companies that make use of our land, air and water resources. There could be a combination of income and corporate taxation. Mike pointed out that only the Greens have CI as party policy.

Annie replied that certain green taxes could actually encourage people to pollute.

Ally said that some people argued that you needed an incentive to work. However, skilled jobs, which might provide an incentive, were increasingly being exported abroad. People will work if there are satisfying, high quality jobs available. There are plenty of opportunities to do this, if the economy is refocused on meeting human needs.

Annie said that the CI represented a whole new approach to society. It was not just a reform of social security. From late Victorian times up until the Second World War finance capital has dominated British society. Finance capital is not embedded in the economy and leads to very unequal income distribution. This was offset by the re-emphasis on the productive economy from the end of the Second World War to Thatcher. Now finance capital dominated once more, with very negative effects on the real economy. The CI could also help to regenerate local economies.

You had a situation at present where many necessary but less satisfying jobs were poorly paid, but other satisfying jobs were very well paid. CI might contribute to a lessening of the difference by raising the pay level of unsatisfying and lowering the pay level of satisfying jobs.

Eric said that a good entrepreneurial society needs to be backed by a good welfare state.

Steven said that over the last 30 years, because of increased individualism and selfishness, he had seen a marked increase in the ‘What can I get out of it society’ attitude. However, with the Scottish independence debate, a new more socially aware confidence had begun to emerge. However, there was still a substantial middle class, who remain somewhat better off than the rest of us, who will resist.

Annie replied with the ‘Overton Window’ about how ideas become accepted. They go through 6 stages – i) unacceptable, ii) radical, iii) reasonable, (iv) acceptable, (v) popular and then (vi) policy.

Annie said that a lot of the middle class was growing increasingly concerned about their children’s future in an increasingly insecure economy. Robin MacAlpine’s presentation of some of the Common Weal’s ideas to a very middle class audience at the Morningside Justice and Peace Centre had been very well received.

She concluded by saying the whole point of having an independent Scotland was to improve things for everybody, including ethnic Scots and incomers. She asked people to sign up to the CI campaign.

(Annie gave everyone present the following leaflets:-  Citizen’s Income – An Introduction, What Is A Citizen’s Income? The Citizen’s Income Trust. More information is available at