Notes From the Northern Colony

Greum Maol Stevenson, Scottish Writer and Activist

by Greum Maol Stevenson

It didn’t take the jury long to decide whether Alex Salmond was guilty of rape, attempted rape, and the other sex crimes he was on trial for at Edinburgh High Court. Deliberations began last Friday, and on Monday Salmond was acquitted of all 13 charges.

Since then, there has been talk of a conspiracy against Salmond. But, in all the news reports and opinion pieces, one thing has been glaringly absent: any mention of Craig Murray, and his being removed from the courtroom the day before the trial ended.

Murray is a former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, turned whistleblower and columnist. He is also a friend of Alex Salmond’s. While Murray is a fine journalist, he tends to embarrass himself when writing in defence of his friends. He covered Julian Assange’s recent extradition hearing, and his portrait of Assange was such cringe-inducing hagiography that anyone who had read Andrew O'Hagan's reporting on Assange’s incompetence, grandiosity and dishonesty would be inclined to question anything else Murray wrote.

It got worse when Murray wrote about Salmond’s trial. In his fervour to praise Salmond’s record as First Minister, and trash Nicola Sturgeon’s, he praised Huawei, and, without offering evidence, cast doubt on Russia’s poisoning a former spy and his daughter in the UK.

But he wrote respectfully about the judge, Lady Dorrian, and had to admit his friend was getting a fair trial.

And then, the day before the trial ended, police removed Murray from the courtroom and told him he was banned for the duration of the trial. The prosecution had asked the judge to remove him because of a “possible contempt of court.” No further explanation was given.

Murray wrote:

To be excluded from a public trial on the basis of something I have “possibly” done, when nobody will even specify what it is I have “possibly” done, seems to me a very strange proceeding. I can only assume that it is something I have written on this blog as there has been no incident or disturbance of any kind inside the courtroom. But if the judge is genuinely concerned that something I have written is so wrong as to necessitate my exclusion, you would expect there would be a real desire for the court to ask me to amend or remove that wrong thing. But as nobody will even tell me what that wrong thing might “possibly” be, it seems only reasonable to conclude that they are not genuinely concerned, in a legal sense, about something I have written.

It was clear from the start that someone wanted to keep Murray out of the courtroom. First, it was announced that only “accredited media” (i.e. corporate and state media) would be allowed in — no independent or “citizen” journalists. Even though Murray’s blog has a bigger readership than some newspapers, and he has been praised by such journalists as John Pilger and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, this criteria excluded him. When the prosecution had finished making its case and it was time for the defence to begin, the public gallery was opened, and Murray sat there.

Until the police came for him.

Sources say Murray was so depressed by his banning — and the threat of a charge of contempt of court, which can get you two years in prison — that, during the weekend Salmond spent waiting to find out his fate, he was so worried about Murray that he called him to see if he was all right.

When the verdicts came in, Murray was so happy he got too drunk to write about it in any depth. So… not an impartial reporter, and not pretending to be. But, whether you think he’s a truth-teller, a friend blinded by loyalty, or a conspiracy theorist, why has there been nothing about his banning in any mainstream media? Both The Herald and The National have given copious space to theories that there was an SNP conspiracy against Salmond, but Murray’s existence hasn’t been acknowledged.

It’s enough to make you wonder if there’s a conspiracy.

Also published on The Harbourmaster's Loug

#alexsalmond #craigmurray #snp #nicolasturgeon #alexsalmondconspiracy #scottishpolitics #alexsalmondtrial #scotland #greummaolstevenson

by Greum Maol Stevenson

A man in Glasgow's Wyndford housing scheme has coronavirus symptoms, but has been refused a test and told to self-isolate.

The man, who lives with his wife and two small children, said today, “My daughter had a hacking cough last week. On Monday I developed the same but thought nothing of it as there were no confirmed cases at that point so I assumed it was too early. On Wednesday I phoned the doctor about it and was told it can't be because there isn't community transmission. By the evening of yesterday the government admitted there must be at least 5000 infections, and six people in Shetland were being hospitalised for it, none of whom had any contact with people from affected countries.

“I'm extremely angry. My symptoms have matched the virus, but they are only testing people who present at hospital with breathing difficulties or have been to one of the worst hit countries. The advice is self-isolate for seven days. I've been doing that as best I can, but I can't properly self-isolate until they shut the schools. It's a joke. You can't carry on with a market economy and also expect everyone to just bunker down. I'm keeping my distance from everyone, avoiding crowds and using self-checkouts etc and washing hands and surfaces religiously. At the moment I don't know what else I can do as nobody is taking it seriously.”

His daughter, who would no longer be infectious, is back at school. His son now has a hacking cough, and stayed at home today. His wife has a temperature and symptoms of a cold.

Also published on The Harbourmaster's Loug

#coronavirus #glasgow #scotland #wyndford #greummaolstevenson

by Greum Maol Stevenson

While any help for people in hardship is a good thing, this BBC report on an “alternative giving scheme” in Glasgow reeks of classist arrogance.

The article asks, “Should we give money to street beggars?”

Note the “we,” which makes it clear that the article is not to be read by “street beggars,” but by those of “us” who can choose to give “them” money or not. At least the BBC is being honest about who it represents.

It then says:

Big Change, the group behind the Manchester scheme on which the Glasgow initiative is based, believe it is a more effective way to help homeless people. It says while giving money to people begging on the street seems supportive, it doesn't help individuals get away from sleeping rough. It also fails to address the complicated range of reasons which made them homeless.”

Note the assumption that any person who feels they have to beg for money is sleeping rough.

Has a person begging ever asked you, “Can you help me get away from sleeping rough, and can you address the complicated range of reasons which made me homeless?” If so, you're not being obscenely arrogant in taking the attitude of Big Change. If not, you have no right to interfere in their life. Give them the money they've asked for, or don't.

As for the common refrain, “What if they spend it on alcohol or drugs?” That's their business. You don't get to decide what they want, or need, or do. Giving some money to a person begging doesn't buy you authority over them. Try showing them the respect you'd show someone with as much money as you. Try treating them like people, rather than as problems to be fixed.

#glasgow #poverty #homelessness #begging #roughsleeping #bbc #classism #snobbery #bourgeoisarrogance #streetchangeglasgow #greummaolstevenson

by Greum Maol Stevenson

I am a British citizen, though I now resent that status. I was born and grew up in Glasgow, travelled widely, and once again live in Glasgow. But the government of the country that colonises Scotland refused to allow me to marry in my own country.

Bree, my wife, is American. We've been a committed couple for 11 years, living together in America for most of that time. In 2017, she visited me in Glasgow three times, a few weeks at a time, amounting to slightly less than six months of that year. American citizens are allowed to spend six months of a calendar year in the U.K. without a visa.

In March 2018, Bree came for her first visit of the year. Border Force detained her at Glasgow airport, searched her luggage, read her journal, looked at her phone, kept her in a room all day, and accused her of living here part-time. When they called me (the person refused to tell me his name) and I confirmed she was my partner, they told me they considered the frequency of her visits to be an “abuse” of the regulations, but didn’t explain how. That was a Wednesday; late in the afternoon, they told her she would have to leave on Saturday, and they kept her passport. We had two days and one evening together before she had to leave.

In the next few months, we talked by video or text every day, and considered moving to another country to be together, as I was unwilling to live in the US, and Bree said she considered home to be wherever I was. The harshness of our separation was made worse when I experienced a serious illness that required hospitalisation. When I recovered, we decided she would apply for a visa to be allowed to come to Glasgow and marry me.

I went to the Glasgow registry office to book the wedding for August 22, 2019. No problem.

Bree applied for a fiancee visa, and showed copies of the wedding paperwork. On June 23, her visa application was denied on the grounds that she had not shown proof that she intended to leave, or that I could financially support her during the time she would be here — even though there was no request for my financial details on the application form, and they did not contact me at all, and Bree had shown that she had £29,000 in savings. Her savings alone, or my salary alone (£24,000 a year) would have been more than enough for us to live on for the six months the fiancee visa would cover.

They further stated that they were suspicious because she had previously listed her occupation as “photographer” and was now listing it as “clergy.” The reason for the change is simple: Bree, like me, is a Zen Buddhist monk, and for more than a year had been ministering to homeless people in Seattle full-time, so had not been working as a photographer.

The government of my country let me arrange my wedding, and the government of another country forced me to call it off.

Bree and I emailed a registry office in Reykjavik, Iceland, and were told we were welcome to get married there. When we met up there at the end of August 2019, it had been a year and five months, a cruel separation that now made us determined not to be separated again. After ten blissful days in Iceland, as we prepared to fly to Glasgow together, we decided that if Border Force didn’t let her in, we’d go back to Iceland together.

Lying awake on our last night in Reykjavik, it struck me that we were among the most fortunate of those abused by the Home Office; we own devices that let us stay in contact every day, we both speak English as a first language, neither of us has a boss, and the work we do can be done from anywhere that has an Internet connection. Even though it would be tough financially, we could probably survive in a country even as expensive as Iceland. But if a couple as privileged as us could be denied a life in my country, how much worse it must be for those with fewer resources.

You can imagine how apprehensive we were as the plane landed at Glasgow airport. At customs, when I showed my passport to the machine, the barrier opened. When Bree showed it her passport, a message appeared on the screen telling her to seek assistance.

I stood waiting on the other side for perhaps a half-hour, until a man in a uniform approached, asked me if I was me, and asked to see our marriage certificate. I was relieved that he was as friendly as the one we’d dealt with in 2018 had been belligerent, but it was an interrogation nonetheless. He kept repeating that Bree couldn’t legally live with me in Scotland, and asking what our plans were — and I told him, truthfully, that we didn’t yet know where we were going to live. I suspect it helped that, to be on the safe side, Bree had booked only a short visit to Scotland, and was able to show a return ticket to America for three weeks hence. The guy let her in.

She’s been here longer than three weeks, because we quickly hired an immigration lawyer, and the preparation for her application for a visa that will let her stay here with me involves in-person meetings. She’s here legally — the allowed six months runs out on March 7. And she'll have to leave by then, because when she applies for her visa, she’ll have to make the application in America. She’s not allowed to be in the UK when she applies. Why? Because.

And this is the most reprehensible thing about the Home Office’s policies: they’re not just ruthless, they’re cruel. Ruthlessness is at least rational, as it involves hurting people in order to gain something. But the Home Office is causing harm with nothing to gain. How does it benefit from forcing Bree to go back to America for the eight weeks her visa application will take? What damage did they think she had done in 2017 by coming here, breathing air, occupying physical space and spending money?

And note that I say “they,” not “we.” Because it's England, not Scotland, that's stopping me from being with my wife for another indefinite period.

Patrick Grady, the MP for Glasgow North, agrees. “Scotland needs an immigration policy suited to our specific circumstances and needs,” he told me last year. “We need people to want to come to work, live and study here and to contribute to our society.

“Time and time again we are seeing people being denied entry or leave to remain in the UK because of the Home Office’s strict and arbitrary immigration rules.

“It’s clear the UK Government’s hostile environment approach is failing Scotland, which is why the SNP continues to call for the devolution of immigration powers so that we can create an immigration policy that benefits our economy and society, and one that treats people with dignity and respect.”

So, as we prepare for Bree to leave in just over two weeks, I feel as Scottish as I always have, but no more British than she is.

#scottishindependence #snp #patrickgradymp #englishcolonisation #homeoffice #immigration #borderforce #hostileenvironment #scotland #scottishpolitics #ukvisa #greummaolstevenson

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