Category Archives: UK

Ched Evans rape case: so much wrong with petition against convicted footballer

Ched Evans playing for Sheffield United in 2010, before his conviction for rape

Convicted rapist Ched Evans may well appear in Sheffield United colours again soon

FOOTBALLER CHED EVANS currently stands convicted of rape.  He’s served two and a half years of his five-year prison sentence and he’s just been released. Although Evans has an upcoming case review and maintains his own innocence, he’s guilty until proven otherwise.

But really, Ched Evans’ guilt is immaterial to the discussions currently dominating the mainstream media. We’ve made this rape case all about us.

There are 150,000 people who have signed a well-publicised petition to ban him from ever playing football again; meanwhile the UK’s shadow sports minister, Clive Efford, has openly called for Evans not to be employed in the game again.

If your children are mindlessly imitating the actions of footballers without any intervention, you’re a bad parent

If those pressures don’t expedite the justice process, nothing ever will – yet people still feel that a fast-tracked case review somehow constitutes special treatment for the former Sheffield United frontman.

Were Evans’ conviction to be overturned, the damage might already be done by these campaigns against him (damage which, as it stands, he has done to himself). If his conviction is upheld, all the better for more prompt closure.

Fluid principles

The baleful reactions roused by Evans’ case have illuminated a more general problem, though, of people carelessly taking for granted some of the stoutest pillars of our society; principles and laws long fought for and hard-won.

Forget the case review, the law says that someone has served their time – and that’s that. Punishment served. Superficially at least we like to say that we aren’t run by mob-rule in this society. But if you’re going to pick and choose when to apply your principles, you’ll have hollowed them out by the time you really come to need them. We have to have some faith that, in the long-term, laws are better than us just making things up on the hoof.

And yes, it is very easy for me to sit here and say all this – but if it were me or one of my family or friends who was the victim here, I would still have to lump it. Because principles are not applied merely to the extent that my emotional capacity will allow. They’re tougher than that, and they’re supposed to be.  If we still have a problem, we need to take it up with our justice system – not Ched Evans.

Ban everyone. Everywhere.

You could be forgiven for thinking, after following this news story, that football was the only high-paying profession in the world. You’d think that they are the only people who are sculpted into false idols by a melodramatic media; the only ones beamed into our homes day and night; the only faces our children see and imitate; the only public figures who acquire demigod status through the incomprehensibly feverish loyalty of those who champion them.

Many think that it is perverse to allow a convicted rapist like Ched Evans to return to earning a relatively large wage. Yet people in countless professions beyond football earn unthinkably high sums of money; they can do equally terrible things. Even more so than footballers, we promote these people’s names and faces as role models.

So, I look forward to a similar petition the next time anyone finishes serving their time for a rape charge. He won’t be allowed back to work either, I can safely presume?  Because the punishment is never complete.

Ched Evas in his days at Manchester City, where he graduated through the youth academy

Ched Evans was an academy graduate at Man City

Nouveau-riche wankers

Depressingly, this episode has seen numerous people plunge enthusiastically into classism – classism that has been woven into the psyche of all of us. Footballers are, in the popular estimation, wankers.

They’re nouveau-riche wankers, too – and we’ve somehow, unquestioningly, adopted that disdain handed down to us from on high. We’re all ready to get the knives out in the same way as for the much-maligned and caricatured ‘chav’.

Why do we target the footballer for especially venomous denigration, who in most cases is neither qualified nor equipped to earn much more than buttons once he’s the wrong side of 35? All your other high-flyer professionals would have little trouble finding a new source of income even if a million of us picketed their preferred place of work.

Clive Efford says that a rape conviction would restrict the work of many other professionals, but not all.  And picking on footballers is easy, arbitrary witch-hunting.  Life is far from simple or rewarding for many footballers and the sport still takes barely rudimentary care of its players – a topic that could fill a whole tome in itself.

Parents: stop outsourcing

Ched Evans is hardly the first footballer who, having committed a serious offence, has been chided for being a poor role model to ‘the children’ – on top of everything else.

A sizeable minority of parents – the ones who are the scourge of junior football matches up and down the country – need to concentrate first on their own example to their children, rather than ranting, raving, behaving ridiculously and expecting footballers – strangers – to assume responsibility.

And we need to be crystal clear: if your children are mindlessly, slavishly following and imitating the actions of footballers – through several years of indoctrination, without any intervention – you’re a bad parent.

This piece isn’t intended to be contrarian for the sake of it, nor to dismiss or belittle the several-year ordeal of Evans’ victim, which will never truly be ‘over’ now.  But we set several damaging precedents for the process of justice in the UK if we overreach as far as we have with Ched Evans.

And if you really are feeling vindictive, surely you’ll want to throw Evans to the football fans on a weekly basis.  The reception he’ll get every time he steps on a football pitch from now until he retires will ensure he’s never allowed to move on, nor fade quietly into anonymity.

Words: Sean Gibson

Images: Lead (Jon Candy); inset (Mattythewhite)

Supporters trusts to play bigger role in UK football, say Labour Party

Hull City fans take part in their  City Til We Die protest against owner, Assem Allam, last season - when the latter wanted to rebrand the club Hull Tigers

Hull City fans take part in their City Til We Die protest last season

THE UK’S LABOUR Party plans to overhaul the way the nation’s football clubs are run, with greater power to clubs’ supporters, should it win the general election next May.

Fans would be empowered to remove up to a quarter of the directors on their club’s board, and would have the right to buy up to 10 per cent of their club’s shares during any takeover or change in ownership.

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister – who more recently has spoken publicly on the Ched Evans rape case –  said in a statement: “We have reached a tipping point in the way football is run.

“Too often fans are treated like an afterthought as ticket prices are hiked up, grounds relocated and clubs burdened with debt or the threat of bankruptcy.”

Borussia Dortmund fans on the famous Südtribüne (South Bank) terrace at Westfalenstadion

Borussia Dortmund fans on their famous ‘South Bank’ terrace – the largest terrace in European football

As English fans find it increasingly fashionable to say in such cases: ‘It’s not like this in Germany’.

Debt and insolvency

The announcement has been made against the backdrop of the ceaseless and rapid rise in costs for British football fans, particularly since the beginning of the Sky Sports and Premier League era in 1992.

The BBC’s latest Price of Football study published on Wednesday shows that the average cost of attending a football league game has risen at more than twice the rate of the cost of living since 2011 (13%).

Supporters are not only feeling priced out but helpless and ignored, as clubs like Portsmouth, Leeds United and Birmingham City have been steered into debt and insolvency in the past decade by poor decision-making at boardroom level.

Meanwhile Coventry City fans had to watch their club’s home games 30 miles away in Northampton for the whole of last season, as the club’s owners and the local council engaged in financial trench warfare.

And while Cardiff City – the Bluebirds – now play in red home kit to satisfy an owner and his overseas marketing ideals, fans of Hull City waged a season-long war with their owner last year in order to prevent being rebranded as ‘Hull Tigers’.

Price of football: the figures and context

4.4% versus 1.2% – the year-on-year ticket price rise is more than treble the rate of inflation

£3 billion – price at which the Premier League sold its TV rights for the years 2013-2016.

£4.50 – the most expensive pie in all English football, at Kidderminster Harriers of the English fifth tier.

Clive Efford, MP for Eltham and the Labour Party's shadow sports minister

Clive Efford MP, Labour’s shadow sports minister

Formal relationship

The new measures would allow for fans of each club to found and run an officially sanctioned supporters’ trust that could then take advantage of the rights outlined by Labour.

Supporter-controlled football clubs are not a novel phenomenon, though, with Portsmouth, Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers and AFC Wimbledon currently all fan-owned and playing their football in England’s League 2.  There is also the famous case of community-owned FC United of Manchester, founded as a breakaway club in 2005 by disillusioned Manchester United fans after the Red Devils were taken over by Malcolm Glazer, an American businessman.

“Giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities towns and communities.” – John Cruddas MP, Labour

Supporters Direct, an organisation set up to help fans to initiate their own supporters’ trusts, welcomed Labour’s plans.  In a statement, they said: “This signals the establishment of the formal relationship between supporters’ trusts and their clubs, which we have sought for many years.

“No-one in football denies the special social and community nature of football clubs, yet there has always been a resistance to measures that would actually increase the role of those fans in their clubs.”

The ‘how’ of supporters trusts

So how would a supporters trust work under these new measures?  Governance standards would be maintained by an umbrella body with which all supporters trusts would be affiliated, with trusts compelled to adhere to its own constitution and elect a board on a one-member-one-vote basis.  Moreover the reforms have already been verified as compatible with European law by the Labour’s legal advisers.

And for anyone wanting to know how the financial cogs are going to turn in these proposals, the party’s official release on the planned shake-up does go into some detail.  Any buyer “acquiring control of the club (defined at a 30 per cent level) would be required to offer the Supporters Trust up to ten per cent of the shares they were buying in that transaction at the average price paid by the buyer for relevant securities in the year preceding the change of control.”  That offer would then have to remain open for 240 days.

Also noted in the report is that supporters trusts would have the right to “appoint and remove up to a quarter and not less than two of a football club’s directors.”

Jon Cruddas MP, head of the Labour Party’s policy review, said in his statement: “Football is more than business, football clubs are part of people’s identity and sense of belonging.

“Giving football fans a voice is part of our plan to change our country by devolving power to our cities towns and communities.”

Words: Sean Gibson

Photos: Jon Candy (lead); wolf4max (inset [i]); IFAW Tails for Whales (inset [ii]).

We’ve had enough – Ched Evans’ petition means standing against rape

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ONE OF PANDEIA’S  senior editors and co-founders Sean Gibson published
this piece yesterday commenting on the petition against convicted rapist Ched Evans’ return to football. His concerns are not entirely convincing.

Ched Evans was a Sheffield United footballer until one day he was found guilty of raping a girl. He was sentences to five years and was recently released from jail after serving half his sentence.

He is back with his girlfriend, Natasha Massey, daughter of a millionaire businessman, and he has expressed his wish to return to football, his apologies to his girlfriend, but no apology whatsoever to his victim.

Ched Evans has always proclaimed himself innocent. The case is quite complex, here you can find a detailed description of the claims and of how the jury reached its verdict, for those who want more context. The jury’s decision was based on the idea that the 19 year old with whom Evans had intercourse was too intoxicated to be able to fully express consent – and the absence of consent implies rape. Evans’ refusal to admit guilt, or even a simple sign of remorse, is a sign of him not having recognised or understood the nature of his crime.

This is ultimately what worries those people, more than 150 thousands of them, who signed the petition against Evans’ return to Sheffield United. It is not a case of mob-rule, or a matter of a parents outsourcing their responsibilities, but a community’s expression of concern over the reinstatement of an unrepentant rapist to a position of prestige within their community.

What infuriates people is not so much that footballers, or athletes in general, are “nouveau-riche wankers” but that these “nouveau-rich wankers” get away with things unlike a normal citizen. It’s the idea that anyone with enough money and fans can rape a 19 year old, serve only half of his sentence, and then go back to his privileged life as if nothing happened.

Rape, like sexual violence and abuse, is a vicious crime that the victim can never fully put behind. The trauma of the abuse suffered is a scar that may only eventually heal with time and therapy, at a great emotional cost. The 19 year old of the case in question has to live the rest of her life with the consequences of what happened.

The identity of the young woman was supposed to remain secret due to laws protecting the identity of rape claimants, but Evans’ fans revealed her identity on Twitter following the jury’s unanimous verdict. She was given a new identity, but her cover had been blown up another two times. Adopting a new identity means having to start a completely new life, in a new location, with a new job, without ever been able to talk about what is happening to anyone but your close family.

She is paying a high price for what happened. Evans might have been in jail for two years and a half, but she’ll live like a fugitive for the rest of her life. What kind of message does this send to other people who may get harassed, abused or raped by famous, powerful people? Sure, you can go ahead and press charges, but be aware that your life is going to be turned upside down and you may have to end up living under a false identity to protect yourself by angry Twitter mobs.

The alternative, to go on with your life and try putting this behind you, seems a lot more attractive. Only the idea of doing justice and potentially preventing the further perpetration of a crime can motivate a victim in going forward and pressing charges.

There is just so much that the justice system can do to right the wrongs the victims suffer. There is a lot that we, as a society, as a community, can do to help and support those who are undertaking the difficult path to justice. One of them is to stand up together against those who are in a position privileged enough to ignore the consequences of their actions. That we are finally taking the rape victims’ side is something to commend instead of condemn.

 

Written by: Sofia Lotto Persio

Photo: screenshot of the petition from change.org

BBC gets off the fence with on-air Gaza appeal

THE WORLD RENOWNED pillar of impartiality, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), today took a radical step in their decision to broadcast an on-air appeal for donations to help the thousands affected by the conflict in Gaza.

An appeal on BBC Radio One – a station dedicated primarily to pop and chart music – went out this morning, interupting the regularly scheduled programming to discuss the severity of the crisis (which has left almost two thousand civilian fatalities in Palestine, 400 of which are children) and call for donations from Radio One listeners to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umberella organization consisting of 13 UK aid charities with the aim of dealing with international crises.

Read by popular Radio One DJ Scott Mills, the statement – according to the BBC website – was tailored specifically with the organizations requirement for impartiality in mind, rather than using a widely distributed message from DEC themselves. In what was a highly emotive segment, Mills outlined the severity and extent of the current crisis, which has forced half a million civilians in Gaza to flee their homes following heavy Israeli air strikes and rocket fire, and many of whom now live in unsafe, unhygienic and inhumane conditions as the offensive attacks continue.

The latter half of the appeal outlined the great help donations would bring in the form of aid to an area of conflict with already heinously overstretched medical and humanitarian resources. The broadcasts were also carried out on other stations and channels, including BBC Radio Four and television station BBC One.

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The broadcasts came after careful consideration from the corporation that it was inkeeping with their ‘charter obligation of due impartiality’. It was for these reasons that the BBC chose not to broadcast a similar appeal for Gaza in 2009, an inaction that sparked over 40,000 complaints. Speaking on the decision to appeal today, The BBC have outlined that:

“The disaster must be on such a scale and of such urgency as to call for swift international humanitarian assistance; the DEC agencies must be in a position to provide effective and swift humanitarian assistance at a scale to justify a national appeal; and, there has to be reasonable grounds for concluding that a public appeal would be successful”.

With this in mind, the decision of the organization was that this criteria in the case of Gaza has unequivocally been met, stating:

“The humanitarian need in Gaza has been widely acknowledged, including by the Israeli government, and the DEC has given assurances that aid can reach those who need it.”

This decision has been mirrored in other large broadcasting organizations, including Sky Television – who similarly declined to broadcast the DEC appeal in 2009. In light of the DEC’s campaign, the British Government have agreed to match public donations of up to two million pounds towards aid in Palestine.

The extent of the problems in Gaza are becoming increasingly apparent, and urgent, as evidenced with these formerly unheard of moves from large and impartial organizations such as the BBC – something which should not be taken lightly by their several million listeners across the UK and worldwide.

The disaster facing Palestinians is on a scale of such severity, and such urgency, that impartiality from media giants like the BBC can temporarily be put aside. The offensive attacks on Gaza and its civilians is relentless. The aid currently provided to help is not even close to enough.

If you would like to donate towards aid for the Gaza crisis through the DEC, and find out more on how your money can help, please click here.

Written by Rachel Barr
Photo Credit: United Nations Photo, slipstream JC

Facebook: Consumerism or community?

Kris Olin

Facebook recently announced a significant change to its advertising policy which means that soon they will be able to track users’ browsing habits outside of Facebook. This activity will be monitored through the use of the ‘like’ buttons now found almost universally on websites across the web.

Importantly, even if users do not click on a ‘like’ icon, that site will still record a visit if they are still logged into Facebook. The most obvious issue from this change regards the egregious infringements of privacy- as well as tracking and analysing activity within Facebook, users’ online history will be collated and processed by powerful computers scattered across the world.

This news was announced with a surprising indifference across the UK media. Perhaps the recent revelations of mass surveillance of the population by British and American government intelligence agencies de-sensitised people to the concept of their private lives being systematically spied on and analysed in distant, anonymous data centres.

The small level of public anger over this change has mainly been directed at privacy issues. These are important, but I think what is equally concerning is the desired end result: more extensive targeted-advertising. This may seem like a rather niche issue; targeted advertising from user tracking is already used by Facebook – mainly based on what users’ “likes” are – and other online giants such as Google and Twitter. But it is not a trivial matter; firstly its widespread use of course does not justify its prevalence. And more importantly, it illustrates how Facebook is providing a service which is increasingly an uncomfortable blend of public and corporate life.

Facebook makes most of its revenue by acting as a marketing platform for companies- they get to share this platform with over a billion users from around the world. For many of these people Facebook acts a significant extension of their social lives. It is indeed a great way to share photos and links, or plan gatherings and parties. But, there is a cost to using the service, which is the exposure to incessant adverts trying to sell you products or services that you have never needed.

Facebook has never been a public good but in many ways it is treated like one. The general complacency about the nature of the service has helped to normalise the notion that at all times our lives should be peppered with commercial messages.

Advertising is nothing new, but never before have corporations had this level of intimacy with consumers’ private lives. Television –the most important distributor of commercials  in recent decades –is of course saturated with consumerism but which mainly accompanies video entertainment. With social media, consumerism is now being mixed with our social lives in unprecedented ways. For example the Facebook ‘news feed’ contains advertisements that are integrated among the endless personal information uploaded by a multitude of friends. And now, the personal browsing history of Facebook users will be mercilessly exploited to provide tailored adverts- the online lives of those hundreds of millions who use it will be almost totally commercialised.

This is great news for online businesses but bad news for the integrity of our personal lives, as they become increasingly dominated by consumerism- a dangerous ideology that has helped cause the environmental emergency we’re in and desecrates cultures into mere shopping preferences.

Words by Andrew Knowles

Picture credit: Kris Olin

Campaigning and comedy collide for Scottish Independence

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POLITICAL APATHY CAN be attributed to many things. A lack of trust in politicians; a disillusioned, disenfranchised electorate; a breakdown between government and citizen.

That, and politics can be really fucking boring.

Regardless of the side you’re on, you have to hand it to the impending independence referendum in Scotland: the subject does spice up a normally bland dish of abstract policy, nonsensical political jargon and stressed, peaky looking politicians who (particularly in Scotland) are about as well known and relevant to the general public as the minor members of Blazin’ Squad.

That said, even the most patriotic or politicized  within the debate can’t help but stifle a wee yawn when it comes to the inane semantics of the subject at hand. As massive a decision as this is, those taking it most seriously can admit (even just to themselves) that they don’t exactly relish the thought of flicking through a 670 page ‘mission statement’ that still only covers half of the debate. They’ll do it, of course, but lets not pretend to enjoy it.

(“Oh yeah, the Referendum White Paper? I’d love to read it. Just send it to my fax” But you don’t have a fax machine Rachel, it’s 2014. “…Send it to my fax.”)

It is with this in mind that the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) organized some light comedic relief for its canvassers, for Yes voters and for those still undecided, in the fundraiser with The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh: “Stand Up for Independence”.

Attending the show last night, the question for me was: can comedy and campaigning go well together? If so, is it actually funny?

 

Chatting before the show begins, event organizer Stuart Rodger is more focused on the well being of the canvassers than the quality of the acts, or even the funds raised. He described how he hoped the show will be a bit of a ‘morale boost’ for RIC campaigners this far along on the road to September 18th. Working fiercely in spreading the message of the group through the wider population can be exhausting and often a little disheartening, and so the show was organized predominantly as a way to blow off some steam and laugh “at both sides of the debate”. Whatever the motive, he’s clearly succeeded in attracting a crowd: the room is packed out, with many squashed together at the back – standing for the night.

The lights dim and the show begins. All the acts, I’ve been informed, are pro-independence and are doing the gig for free in support of RIC. Jay Lafferty warms the already slightly rowdy audience up with light banter in preparation for the first act, Andrew Learmonth. His act doesn’t focus too heavily on the topic of independence, bar some choice gags thrown in to the delight of the very clearly politicized crowd. Eleanor Morton follows with some musical comedy, but again seems to get louder laughs when she makes political points. A pattern begins to emerge. By the time Vladimir McTavish & Keir McAllister begin their double act, which really has a primary focus on the independence referendum, and headliner  David Kay takes the stage, the theory’s cemented. The atmosphere is good, the room is responsive, but the crowd of RIC campaigners don’t take much of a night off from politics. The most political (and, lets be honest, pro-independence, naturally) gags get the loudest laughs. The evening seems to be half stand up performance, half rally.

And that’s exactly the intention of pairing comedy and campaigning, I’m told. RIC – this internationalist, left wing  team of volunteers – aims to utilise independence not as an end in and of itself, but as a means to a more progressive end. At the heart of their campaign lay ideas of equality and social justice and this is what makes comedy such an important vehicle for discussion. Central to their campaign lies the belief that existing power structures need to be challenged. That, Rodger passionately claims, is what’s so brilliant about comedy as a medium: it’s subversive. It has the ability to undermine uneven political power; something which is at the heart of what RIC aims to challenge.

More than that, comedy and creativity are something which lie at the heart of Scottish culture in a more general sense. Exploring politics this way, Rodger explains, helps engage huge segments of society (young people in particular) in a way which traditional methods of campaigning cannot. This is something that can be seen not only in the acts featured that night, but in their work as artists and activists outwith the confines of the comedy club (see the video, below): mirroring other similar movements in Scotland today, such as creative campaigners “National Collective”.

Comedy and RIC political campaigning are part and parcel of the same thing: influencing and engaging an increasingly apathetic electorate. Last night may have been about lightening the mood, but at the heart of all of this is something all involved take extremely seriously: the future of their country.

Written by Rachel Barr

The 5 big issues on Scottish Independence, as debated by young BBCGen2014 voters

Martin:  “Better Together – reap all the benefits we haven’t taken away from you already. Here, have some more bedroom tax”
Max: “I’m going to tax your pie. So, the scores for this evening Rachel?”
Rachel: “I don’t even want to interrupt. If this whole article is just a slanging match between you two, I’ll be happy (#journalism). As you were…”

Max Merrill and Martin Close are both members of Generation 2014 – a group of 16 and 17 year old voters in Scotland that the BBC is following all year. Martin is passionately in favour of Scottish independence, while Max feels just as strongly about staying in the UK. They are NOT SHY about telling us what they think, as you’ll see below…

#1: the UK is sort of like a big ship…


unnamedMartin:“I think Scotland should be independent because the best people to make decisions about Scotland are the people who live and work here. With the powers independence will bring we can use our resources to build a better nation for everyone”

 

p01gny15Max: “I agree with Martin here (surprisingly) – that Scotland’s people are the best for the job. However, Scotland’s people are only the best when they get accurate, reliable and credible information to make a decision, so far this has not been given. The 300 year old Union truly gives us the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish Parliament having control over important things like education, roads and hospitals, but having the safety and security of the United Kingdom.”

 

unnamedMartin: “I’m sorry but what we need is a parliament with full powers which is fully accountable to the people of Scotland.The whole notion that because the UK is big then it is safe is not correct.You can have a big a ship as you want but if the captain is heading straight for the rocks then you are far better off in a smaller ship going in the right direction”

 

p01gny15 Max: Those are important issues I agree, however you cannot deny that, given all external factors of previous years, Westminster has not sent us to the dogs with these issues. My question to you Martin, is can a newly independent country cope with all these issues while introducing things like massive defence cuts and the most radical childcare policy since the Liberals of the early 20th century? Your small boat in the right direction is of course better, but a small boat led by a deluded captain over choppy seas is a recipe for disaster and I will stick with my big boat on the rough seas.”


unnamedMartin: “The UK tax system is dysfunctional. We have billions of pounds worth of business taxes being uncollected. And it’s one of the most complicated in the world, with over 11,000 pages of tax code. The cuts in benefits have forced thousands of people into poverty, with in-work poverty now more common than out of work poverty. Food banks are everywhere, that is not a successful handling of it by my standards”

p01gny15Max: So why do we need separation to achieve this? Scotland is set to gain more powers in 2016 (I think its 2016) and we do not know how great these powers may be! We have the potential to have the powers of an independent Scotland as part of the UK, which to me seems like a very good deal.


unnamedMartin: If the UK government was serious about giving new powers to the Scottish parliament then it would have outlined and have legalization passing the Commons and Lords by now. But we heard nothing about radical new powers for the Scottish parliament.

Next Page: #2 Who’s attacking Scotland?