:: Sunday, August 31, 2003 ::

Baghdad Burning

Baghdad Burning

So concerning the anxiety over terror and fundamentalism- I would like to quote the Carpenters- worry? “We’ve only just begun… we’ve only just begun…”

Riverbend, a new Iraqi blog by a female blogger. Meanwhile Salam Pax, of Where Is Raed blog debates her on the assasination of al-Hakim (and dozens of his supporters) and tells the story of his family being raided by US occupation troops.

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:: Saturday, August 30, 2003 ::

The Memory Hole > White House Alters Webpages About Iraq Combat

The Memory Hole > White House Alters Webpages About Iraq Combat

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:: Friday, August 29, 2003 ::

Michael Franti and Spearhead - Power to the Peaceful

Michael Franti and Spearhead, Liquid Rooms Edinburgh, 28.08.03

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Now this is more like it. "Cameras, Flash photography, videos...are all ok by us" Michael Franti told us. He also made us dance like fools. And did you know that fewer people are scared of death than are scared of speaking in public? To do something about this Michael asked who was scared of speaking in public and then got two of them on stage to sing with him. Very much at one with his audience Michael and his band are kind of like the Manu Chao whose lyrics you can understand. As someone once said "there's a lot of love in this room tonight". Stay human, y'all.

Michael Franti

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:: Thursday, August 28, 2003 ::

Rock Maoists

Prairie Fire

I am hoping to write something a little longer about the involvement of the US left, specifically the revolutionary left, with the punk scene. In the meantime here is a background primer on the pre-punk band Prairie Fire. If anyone out there has any of their stuff, I'd love to hear it.

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:: Wednesday, August 27, 2003 ::

The Left and Europe

The Left and Europe

Paul Anderson of the blog Gauche has been writing about the socialist left and the European elections. I corrected his mistaken beliefs that the European Anti-Capitalist Left was set up by Rifondazione Comunista of Italy. Also because the number of euro seats in Scotland is being reduced, winning a seat has become a harder task than previously, requiring us to increase our share of the vote by around 4%. This is certainly possible and we are optimistic, especially given the likelihood of a greater number of protest votes, but far from a foregone conclusion.

Paul Anderson writes:
"Point taken on the origins of the EACL, but the importance of Rifondazione - and the reason it's the moving force - is that it's got rather a lot of money and can (just about, or at least so it says) subsidise European Parliament campaigns across the continent for its comrades. In the UK, the SSP is gagging for a share of the cash; and the Socialist Workers' Party is also keen to cosy up to get RC support for the Socialist Alliance in England (click here), in which it plays a dominant (and sectarian) role. It's true that the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain (the Morning Star party) has rejected the SWP's advances for an electoral alliance (click here) despite the enthusiasm of its brightest spark, Andrew Murray, chair of the Stop the War Coalition, for a deal. But the Rifondazione shilling (lira? euro?) seems to be something to play for."

Perspective notes:
I think Paul has got this completely wrong. There will be additional funds available if the socialist left can form a 'European Party' which requires a minimum number of member groups with representation in national or regional parliaments - in fact you need to be represented in one quarter of EU states. This will make available funds from the European Parliament which can be used only for fighting the European elections. Rifondazione have links with both the EACL and the GUE (Group of the European Left), which includes the likes of the French Communist Party. It is possible that Rifondazione may take part in an EACL 'party' thus helping us qualify for party status. This is entirely different to Rifondazione dishing out cash to foreign parties. That is simply not happening. If it were to happen we would of course be obliged to declare it via the Electoral Commission. The process is described in this Sunday Herald article, although they wrongly write that the SSP would use funds to offset our debts, in fact we can only spend the money on campaigning in the European elections.
As to the English left, well the only part of the UK where the socialist left has representation is Scotland (although the Welsh are starting to get their act together). Thus the UK does have a qualifying party, maybe our English brethren will one day draw the obvious conclusions.

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:: Tuesday, August 26, 2003 ::

No Crowd Surfing 2

House of Hot Sauce: August 2003 Archives

This guy seemed to be at all the gigs at the liquid rooms I missed, and Interpol too. Avec pics.

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No Crowd Surfing

A round up of some of the 't on the fringe' collection of gigs masquerading as part of the festival. Manu Chao was part of this but the rest all took place in the Liquid Rooms, a sweaty dive with over-priced beer and over-anxious bouncers on Victoria Street.

The Ataris

Wednesday 20th August. Never heard the band before I went, turns out they are 'dawsons-creek punk'. Good musicians, but a short set and an audience largely made up of teenagers so green that they don't even know how to ask for an encore, bless 'em. I had to wear a special wristband to buy a beer as it was an under 18's gig. Sign of the devil, dude!

The Ataris


Saturday 23rd August. By contrast Grandaddy were superb. There was a brilliant atmosphere at this gig. The band were half cut and clearly enjoying themselves tremendously. They played a cracking set and had lots of great anecdotes about the festival they just played with Metallica. "We're ordinary people playing music to ordinary people", cool. Got a cool t-shirt too.

Grandaddy live in Edinburgh


Sunday 24th August. I was a bit wary of these much hyped pretty boys from New York. But their album is genuinely good, if wearing it's influences on it's sleeve. They played a good set, although they only have around an albums worth of material, so you would expect them to be pretty tight. And they weren't wankers, but actually seemed quite decent blokes. The only downer of the night was the security who, for the first time, were stopping people taking photos, "if you continue, I will have to ask you to leave" said a rather large bouncer, politely but firmly. No idea why, they didn't give a shit at any of the other gigs, a special request from Interpol?

Interpol live in Edinburgh

Interpol live in Edinburgh

More pics and video of Interpol and Grandaddy from my co-conspirators site

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:: Sunday, August 24, 2003 ::

From off the streets of Cleveland...Comes Harvey Pekar

Around 20 years ago I was in Edinburgh's late lamented "Science Fiction Book Shop" spending my paper round money, or whatever, on comics. I picked up a book called American Splendour by a guy called Harvey Pekar. To say it was unlike the various x-books etc I also bought, would be an understatement. The book was an autobiographical look at the life of a working class guy in Cleveland, USA. His job as a file clerk in a hospital, his obsessive record collecting, his ailments. Sometimes nothing much happened at all in the stories, it was like real life. There were no convenient 30 page stories with all plot threads wrapped up nicely at the end. There were no plots to speak of.

Over the years I picked up more of Harvey's stuff and watched his life as it happened. His collaborations with Robert Crumb, his marriage, his battle with cancer (in "Our Cancer Year"). He has recently done work based on interviews with black vietnam veterans.

Yesterday I finally got to meet Harvey as he spoke at a seminar at the Edinburgh Film Festival on, yep, comics and movies. He was speaking alongside his wife and co-collaborator Joyce Brabner (who is a veteran anti-war campaigner), his adopted daughter Danielle, artist Bryan Talbot (Tale of One Bad Rat/Luthor Arkwright) and writer Warren Ellis (Planetary/Transmetropolitan). Pictured below projected on the big screen.

Harvey Pekar at the Edinburgh Film Festival

Why the film festival? Well, American Splendour has been made into a movie. Not only that but it has won prizes at Cannes and Sundance and garnered rave reviews.

American Splendour Film website

The Grauniad described the film thusly:

"This is minimalist, deflective humour about working class life in a big American industrialised city and it works very well in much the same vein as the American Splendour magazines cartoons themselves."

And what is more Harvey and family have a blog detailing their work, the film's progress and Danielle's attempts to meet good looking young actors during their numerous promotional trips.

I particularly liked this description from Danielle of a promo at a comics convention:

"As our odd procession walked inside the convention center my jaw dropped: a place filled from top to bottom with geeks, geeks, and more geeks, and a few nerds scattered here and there."

Did I get Harvey to sign his book for me? Too right.

And Harvey has a great blog entry on underground comic artist Spain, whom he worked with:

"The underground cartoonists of the 60s and early 70s fought against the oppressor, but many of today’s comic book artists don’t seem to realize that there’s one around."

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:: Wednesday, August 20, 2003 ::

Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System, Edinburgh 19.08.03

A Little Bit of Barcelona Comes To Chesser

Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System, Corn Exchange Edinburgh, Tuesday 19th August.

Manu Chao

Manu Chao and the Radio Bemba Sound System brought their unique brand of latin-world-ska-punk to Edinburgh last night. Manu is massively popular in Southern Europe and Latin America, but is less well known in Britain and the rest of Northern Europe. That showed, with the composition of the audience in Edinburgh who seemed to be largely Spanish, which probably saved the gig from the typical Edinburgh audience lack of enthusiasm. No one was trying to look cool last night. They were too busy dancing. The band played over two hours in the sweltering heat of the Corn Exchange as a familiar smoky smell wafted over the audience.


Manu and the band combined fantastic tunes and great showmanship and uncompromising politics. Anti-war, anti-corporate globalisation but in favour freedom, opening the borders to refugees, legalising cannabis and for national self-determination.

Manu Chao

The band played most of the material from the albums Clandestino and Proxima Estación: Esperanza plus older material from Manu's previous band Manu Negra. Radio Bemba Sound System have also now been joined by Fermín Muguruza (pictured below, centre) from old-school Basque punk-ska band Kortatu. He gave us a fantastic rendition of their classic (if somewhat over-romantic) Sarri Sarri.

Radio Bemba Sound System

French Basque Manu left his record label Virgin last year and has spent his time since then playing small scale gigs around his new base in Barcelona. He has also stepped up his involvement in the anti-globalisation movement. Most recently he joined Jose Bove and 100, 000 others at the massive anti-WTO gathering at Larzac in France. The Larzac meeting was so successful that organisers had to take the unprecedented step of getting police to close the roads - there was simply no more room. Everything is looking good for the European Social Forum, to be held in Paris in November.

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:: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 ::

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out?


Perspective's New York correspondent writes:

My blisters, acquired walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn Thursday, have healed enough for me to be able to calmly read the post-mortems on the event.

As you may know, it appears the blackout was a product of deregulation. In the wild west market for energy it paid to increase generating capacity but not to maintain much less improve the transmission grid.

Today Bush officials are quoted as saying that the solution is to open the transmission grid to the market! Logical, by their standards.

This event was predicted by engineers and even utility industry insiders, and proposals to overhaul the grid technically were ignored. What's more, even aside from deregulation, the crazy-quilt regulatory system -- involving local, state and federal agencies, local, national and international companies -- leaves no-one clearly in charge.

All of which is an argument for a rationally-planned system, of course!

A couple international notes: Greg Palast points out how the IMF et al. have forced Third World countries to sell off their energy sectors to US and other investors, meaning it's more likely than ever that they'll suffer the same fiascos while getting cheated financially. Iraqis have had a good yuk at all this, being quoted as saying things like "you expect us to trust the US to rebuild OUR electrical system?!"

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:: Monday, August 18, 2003 ::

Edinburgh People's Festival

Picnic in the Park

picnic in the park - Post Tension

The final day of the Edinburgh People's Festival saw 250-300 local kids and families gathering in the Inch Park in the south of Edinburgh to hear a lineup of local bands at our Picnic in the Park (pictures here). My personal favourites were Post Tension (pictured above) and The Rains.

The festival has certainly exceeded the expectations of the organising committee of which I am a member. Most events have been packed out and have provoked a lot of debate.

Check out the EPF website for links to press articles. Today's Guardian has a good one.

Most of the debate has been pretty constructive with notable exceptions coming from some who would consider themselves on the left such as Lesley Hinds, of the Labour council who slagged off the EPF at a community arts exhibition opening, only to be reminded by one of the organisers of the opening that she had slashed their funding. We also had Claire Fox of libertarian whackos The Institute of Ideas (formerly known as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Living Marxism notoriety) who turned up at the 'Whose Culture is it Anyway' debate to say that people in housing schemes should just get the bus to the city centre, then she fucked off back to London. Institute of not-got-a-scoobie more like. Finally there is of course Mark Brown, theatre correspondent of Socialist Worker who took space in the List magazine to defend the fringe and slag off the EPF. Mark didn't turn up to a single EPF event, or speak to anyone organising it.

This was my reply to Mark, sent to the List, should be in this week:

"The Edinburgh People's Festival has certainly caused a stir. It has put the fringe bosses on the defensive and upset a few professional arts commentators. "The last thing people in Niddrie need is a play" was the opinion of one critic.

The defenders of the status quo were joined by Mark Brown in his List article 'Long live the fringe' (List 474). He writes "It smacks of a dangerous type of parochialism (which could so easily play into xenophobia) to imply some sort of conflict between working-class people in Edinburgh and visitors from overseas."

Of course the opposite is the case. The EPF seeks not to shut down the Fringe and the official festival, but to open them up. We want to open up the festival to allow the working class communities in Edinburgh to contribute and to enjoy what is on offer. What Mark doesn't seem to accept is that many people are alienated from the festival. They don't see the relevance of a culture that is happening to them, not by them or with them.

Ticket prices are just part of the story. The venues in working class areas remain empty. But Craigmillar folk packed out the Jack Kane Centre for the opening night of the EPF. They applauded not just the brilliant local performers but also artists from Chile and the US. It was an entertaining and empowering night.

Mark Brown says "there is an important debate to be had about working class engagement in the arts". Well we're not just debating Mark. We're doing something. What the hell are you doing?

Mark's recycled arguments for culture from above stand in stark contrast with the aims of the Edinburgh People's Festival to promote working class contribution to the arts. Culture from below.

Alister Black
Edinburgh People's Festival"

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:: Friday, August 15, 2003 ::

Frontline Issue Ten

Out now. With features on the Scottish elections, the debate on Scottish history provoked by Neil Davidson's book, youth crime, Iraq after the war, Science, Art, technology and international features on France, Brazil and Aceh.

Frontline 10

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The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman meets his Dad.

Fantastic story. At the Edinburgh Half Man Half Biscuit gig (reported below) the band met Dean Friedman, author of 'lucky stars' and inspiration for "the bastard son of Dean Freidman". This may just be the most important event of the century so far.

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:: Thursday, August 14, 2003 ::

Transcript of Stan Goff on CNN

: "Stan, I want to begin with you, take you back to the 2nd of July. This is what the president said in response to the continuing violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring 'em on.


HEMMER: Those last three words, 'bring 'em on,' offend you, Stan.

Tell us why.

STAN GOFF, MILITARY DAD: Well, this is a man that's sitting in a 72 degree press office in the White House inviting attacks on people who are now enduring 120 degree midday temperatures, daily attacks and family separation. That, I think, is just one of the most fundamentally offensive remarks that I've ever heard.

HEMMER: Your position is to pull out of Iraq, to leave that country, almost immediately, is my understanding. You're a former Army Ranger. Are you concerned about the message that would send to the rest of the world?

GOFF: I'm concerned about the message that we're sending to the rest of the world by being embroiled in this quagmire.

HEMMER: You think at this point it's already reached that, despite the fact that it's only been a hundred days since the end of combat?

GOFF: Yes, it's been a hundred days, but since the publicity stunt on the USS Abraham Lincoln, you know, we've been hearing almost weekly reports that we're turning the corner and the war is over and so forth. And as a veteran of the Vietnam conflict myself, this sounds a lot like the light at the end of the tunnel. It really has an eerie familiarity."

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Jay's Leftist and 'Progressive' Blogs Links

A new list of lefty blogs from a veteran of web activism.

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:: Wednesday, August 13, 2003 ::

Cheap Laughs

Sandy Nelson

Four events at the Edinburgh People's Festival so far. And four events sold out. Yesterday saw an event for pensioners near Easter Road with a performance of "Tea with Mrs Pankhurst" followed by a tea dance. Over sixty local pensioners turned out and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. And the evening brought our "cheap laughs" night at the Village Inn in Leith. John Scott, Benny Moohan and Sandy Nelson provided the laughs with Sandy giving the event photographer (me) a hard time. Quite right too.

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:: Tuesday, August 12, 2003 ::

The New Scots

The New Scots

It was the second night of the Edinburgh People's Festival last night. And it was three events for the price of one as we got jazz, a fantastic Indian meal and Herman Rodrigues giving his lecture 'The New Scots'. Herman has been photographing Scotlands immigrant communities, particularly those from the Indian subcontinent for decades. He gave a talk to some of his remarkable slides which explained the history of asian communities in Scotland, their diversity and how they have interacted with the Scots and with each other. Herman has become recognised as an important oral historian of Scotland's immigrant communities. He worked closely with the School of Scottish Studies (alongside Hamish Henderson, founder of the 1951 EPF) and his work can be found in archives throughout Britain.

Like the first night this event was packed out. It really was a fascinating talk. And the curry was great too.

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:: Monday, August 11, 2003 ::

Edinburgh People's Festival Opening Night

Tom Freeman, compere of the festival

You can see pictures of the opening night now.

Here is a review that I have submitted to a couple of publications.

Edinburgh People's Festival Opening Night
Jack Kane Centre, Craigmillar
Sunday 10th August 2003

Set the phasers to stun

The Jack Kane centre was packed for a highly successful opening night of the EPF 2003. Dozens of local residents joined musicians, activists and local MSP's Colin Fox and Susan Deacon to enjoy the nights entertainment. There were messages of support from Irvine Welsh, Paul Laverty and Hamish Henderson's widow. Additionally Tony Benn expressed his support for the event and kindly signed an EPF poster which was raffled. We were also delighted that the family of the late Jack Kane, a Labour councillor who was one of the founders of the original festival, were able to come along.

As the audience arrived there was a reception with free Indian food, two amazing exhibitions from photographer Jackie Morton and acclaimed artist Mark I'anson with classical string quartet Capriccio providing the music.

As the night kicked off Tom Freeman was in full star fleet regalia as he introduced the stars of the night. The brilliant Craigmillar Youth Theatre were first up with songs from 'Grease Ya Radge'. Yes, it was Grease Niddrie style bursting with enthusiasm and with some really fine voices. Don't miss their show which is on during the fringe. Local singer Carla Bernardi brought the audience to their feet with her superb vocals. The wealth of talent in the working class communities of Edinburgh was evident and these performances alone justified the work of the EPF.

There were laughs from comedians Benny Moohan and John Scott. John faced the particular challenge of delivering an "all ages" set (with no sweary words), and he nearly succeeded!

Roots music from around the world was well represented. 'Voces del Sur' a group of Scottish and Latin American performers gave us songs from Chile and Cuba...the Buena Vista Social Club came to the Jack Kane! US artist Lynne Samsill's 'bar band with vision' gave us bluesy sounds with some tremendous jazz drumming.

From Scotland we had Dave Anderson of Wildcat Theatre, making a return to the Jack Kane after a few years absence. Clova gave us protest songs for the 21st century. Tony Mitchell and Allan Johnstone showed us their superb guitar skills and Fozzie took us back to the original festival with songs from Ewan Macoll. John Grieg delivered a stunning short set of roots music, which was my personal favourite act of the night.

There was no shortage of cutting edge material either. John Johnstone's gritty song "Scotland Boo Hoo" was a stand out. Duncan Sloan's physical dance theatre was an exhilarating rush and there was challenging performance poetry from Nicky Melville.

The night ended with Gilly Hewitt leading the crowd in rousing versions of Burns' 'A Man's A Man' and Hamish Hendersons 'Freedom Come All Ye'.

This is the second year of the EPF. This year the event has been extended to a whole week. We will have a diverse range of attractions including comedy (with John Scott who has just won the Spike Milligan comedy award), rock bands, a night focusing on Scotland's asian community, a womens night, debates and even a tea dance.

Something for everyone. Warp factor five, set the coordinates for Wester Hailes.

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:: Saturday, August 09, 2003 ::

Fuckin' 'ell it's Half Man Half Biscuit

The geniuses behind the Trumpton Riots played a lively gig to a boisterous crowd at the liquid rooms, Edinburgh on Friday 8th August.

Half Man Half Biscuit

half man half biscuit crowd

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:: Tuesday, August 05, 2003 ::

Triumph of the Willing

Came across this interesting piece. Remember Bush landing on the aircraft carrier to declare the war over?

The stage was set. The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was positioned off San Diego to provide the best camera shots for TV coverage of the president’s arrival and speech. On deck were hundreds of officers in dress whites and sailors in blue dungarees, lined up like so many tin soldiers.

On the horizon two small S-3B Viking aircraft appear. They buzz the carrier in a double fly-by, and then come in for a wrenching 150 mph landing. Out steps George W. Bush, dressed up in a flight suit, helmet under his arm. The U.S. president swaggers across the flight deck. The uniformed audience cheers...

But wait a minute, haven’t you seen this somewhere before? Yes indeed, you may have – but not from Robert Duvall who directed the Reaganite action movie Top Gun (1986) starring Tom Cruise. The royalties for this production ought to go to Leni Riefenstahl, who staged the same entry for her propaganda film about the 1934 Nazi Parteitag (party congress) in Nuremberg, Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will), starring Adolf Hitler.

  Riefenstahl’s movie opens with Wagnerian music, and then mountains of clouds. As they disperse, a Junker 52 aircraft can be seen. At the Nuremberg airport tens of thousands of Nazis eagerly await the approach of Hitler’s plane. The airplane pulls up, two SS men rush out to secure it. The door opens and Nazi dignitaries file out, Goebbels and then Der Führer himself. The crowd chants, Sieg heil! over and over as the musical score builds to a crescendo.

You can bet your 52-card Saddam poker deck that whoever staged the spectacle aboard the USS Lincoln was brazenly copying Riefenstahl’s opening of Triumph of the Will. It’s only the most famous (or infamous) fascist propaganda film ever made. A biography of the director wrote of the "Führer’s famous approach from the skies," recalling the ancient Aryan deity Odin.

The Bush=Hitler equation is simplistic and wrong, but I think they have a point about the inspiration for the film. And a nice piece of writing from these ex-sparts.

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:: Monday, August 04, 2003 ::

Edinburgh People's Festival

The Edinburgh People's Festival was out at the Big Day, a community festival in Liberton, south Edinburgh. We got a lot of interest and contacts. We also unveiled our new banner which you can see at all the EPF events. Watch out for features in the List and the Herald next week.

Edinburgh People's Festival


The new TypePad blogging application looks pretty good. Lots of features including phone blogging and it's standards compliant - the big problem with blogger. I haven't tried it, but if it is user friendly (ie I can persuade non-techy people to use it) then it could have real potential.

Herald Poll

The SNP are in crisis. With Swinney under fire from central belt activists who, quite correctly, accuse him of moving to the right and causing the SNP to lose thousands of votes to the SSP at the May 1st elections. He now faces a leadership challenge. However today's Herald poll shows the SNP moving ahead of Labour. This shows the even worse situation that New Labour is in following the Iraq/Kelly crisis. Meanwhile the SSP were up two points with gains for the Greens and independents also. The old party system has been blown apart in Scotland. 22% of Scots would now cast their vote for radical parties like the SSP, Greens and SSCUP. Furthermore 49% of voters back parties who favour Scottish independence. The big story in my opinion is the increase in the radical vote in Scotland which is taking votes from the establishment parties like Labour and the SNP.

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