FOR many years, I refused to buy the poppy. It had become a symbol of the self-aggrandising far right to promote their hate-filled agenda. It had become a symbol for the British right-wing press to harass and badger people into a uniformity supporting illegal wars and unjustifiable conflict.

But this year I decided it was time to make a stand and reclaim this symbol for the real causes it was supposed to be promoting. Those of peace and conciliation against violence and war. Two world wars saw the needless waste of life of millions and the suffering of many generations. The poppy was intended to symbolise the hope that people would not have to witness such things again.

When I first learnt of the destruction wrought upon Europe and the industrial genocide practised by Hitler and his henchmen, I wondered why the Jewish families simply boarded trains, meekly accepting their fate, without turning on their captors. Why accept the awful treatment just to survive an extra few months in hellish conditions before being dispatched of in such an inhumane manner?

And why did European leaders appease the monster that was growing within the heart of Europe, allowing the attacks on democratic parties and the incarceration and eventually the murder of political opponents?

I wondered why the mass of people did not simply kill Hitler. In my youthful imaginings, I would have been the sniper that “took him out”. Of course, it was naive of me to think this. We see today how the British state alone can use all the tools at its disposal to bring a room full of our own politicians to a standing ovation at the decision to bomb and blow children to pieces in schools and hospitals in lands far from our “sceptred” shores.

It is hard to believe that the same mistakes could be made again and yet we see the rise of the fascist state in Spain.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s “grupo de secuaces” – group of followers – surround him as he issues statements and threats as they incarcerate democratically elected Catalan politicians. Once again, we see European leaders silent over the violent injustices meted out to Catalan voters, when heavily armed and organised thugs of the Spanish regime attacked defenceless citizens, children and pensioners alike.

What is the point of remembering the past if the lessons can not be applied to our present day lives? What is the point of remembering the sacrifices made by so many if we simply allow the whole thing to happen again without taking a stand?

I will protest against the resurgence of the fascists by wearing my poppy with the yellow stripes of the Catalan Senyera painted on. It will be a symbol of hope that the Catalan people will not suffer the brutal, murderous practices of those past dictators whose poisonous mindset caused so much pain and distress. This year I will not stand teary-eyed remembering the tormented ghosts of Flanders and so many other battlefields. No, this year I will demand that our politicians make themselves useful and bring this monster to heel.

If our politicians refuse to act then we must. We can not allow our modern day “bunch of donkeys” to lead us blindly into another pointless bloodbath just so that they can look on forlornly at yet another dismal Armistice Day.
Ian Greenhalgh

TWO scandals are shining the light where darkness would be preferred. There appears to be sex, power (May signals more sex harassment claims to emerge) and money (Trouble in Paradise, both The National, November 7) all wrapped up together, with various parts of the establishment, groups and structures coming apart.

When the country is still gripped by austerity, when some of us are about to launch a winter appeal for back-to-school clothing banks, and put a wee bit more into the local food banks, or our favourite charity, especially during the not-so-festive season for many, what does it say when the head of a rich, powerful family that receives grants from us, but pays only limited and “voluntary” income tax in return, is outed as having invested her monthly in offshore tax havens? Does it say “we” care about “our” “subjects”?

Or does it say the establishment thinks one ways, sticks together, and leaves us to survive as best we can.?

To add insult to injury, it’s Living Wage Week, with the rate raised to £8.75 in the rest of the UK, and £10.00+ in London. No matter the rise, I can’t see many recipients rushing offshore, do you?

The UK has committed billions over the years to Trident and repairing falling down Westminster. What wastage, what folly. Inequity stalks the land: Scotland has 8.3 per cent of the population, with 84 per cent of the population being in England. But we have been landed with 21 per cent of the “deficit”. Surely the time has come to remind ourselves that we can and will do it differently in an independent Scotland?

Ghandi said: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” So let’s learn new, necessary skills. Let’s start a listening dialogue, listening to personal experiences and what people want to see changed and have the conversation about how in an independent Scotland we can make those changes. Let’s tone down the “we’re right, you’re wrong” attitude. Let’s change our approach to winning over those vital voters and then, aye, we will.

That wasn’t Ghandi. I pinched that from Lesley Riddoch!
Selma Rahman