The Sun Has got His Hat On

What a day I’m having…I had my belly laugh at Johann presenting herself as stateswoman of the year (she’s been watching Borgen) and then Alistair Carmichael entered my territory by reminding us that the real choice is not between independence and devolution but between Scotland and Britain – which is your country?

And then one of my contributors, Grahamski, the Impaler of Nationalists, does the same thing by stating: “I put Scotland first and believe it is in our best interests to maintain political union with the rest of the UK.”

Exactly. And what does that union mean in practice? That Britain not Scotland runs our affairs from deciding our budget through the votes of an overwhelming majority of English MPs, telling us when we can go to war, representing us on the world stage and taking command of our natural resources. They can still remove our parliament whenever they choose and they’re now dictating to us which currency we can/can’t use. They’re threatening to take away our defence contracts if we don’t do as they say and make (more) shipworkers unemployed. We now have 4 per cent representation in the Palace of Westminster. We’ve even had to fight for control over airguns.

Britain retains all the power over us and is the nation state while Scotland is an administrative region within that state. If you vote for that continuing then, whether you care to spell it out or not, Britain is your country, Scotland your second choice. Only a country standing shoulder to shoulder as an equal with every other country on earth can truly be called a nation. That is the definition applied by every other country in the UN. Voting to keep your homeland a region of another in a straight choice is never putting your country first, it is acknowledging that you are second best and either unworthy or ill-equipped for full statehood. You can of course engage in self-justifying comfort statements about being better together but there is no escaping the reality – and that which will be seen by every other country after a No vote – that the Scots didn’t think their country was worth its own independence. They didn’t put Scotland first. They put their membership of the UK ahead of their own independence.

(This is quite a different question from Would Scotland be better off or Is it in our best interests.) But we’re not being asked those questions – important as they are. We are being asked for the first time in 300 years  if we want to be independent and run our own affairs or do we prefer to play a subsidiary role in Britain. Yes is for Scotland. No is for Britain. No amount of sophistry and bluster can hide the hard truth confronting every Scot in the voting booth.

(I got a great deal on my wine at Tesco Maryhill and now the sun’s come out…Happy New Year to you all)

From My Parallel Universe

Thank you, Johann for the biggest laugh on the last day of the year. Reading the end-of-year bromides from our political leaders, I was absent-mindedly sipping my tea when I came across this.

Johann Lamont urged Scots to conduct the debate respectfully, especially as the eyes of the world would be upon them. “Will they see a healthy and invigorating debate about how we best cooperate and engage with our neighbours and exercise power to make a difference?”

My eyes widened in amazement. “Or will they see a bad-tempered debate, mired in bitterness and grievance? Will they see a divided country that has turned in on itself?” Now I was spraying English Breakfast across the IKEA kitchen tops. Johann accusing others of grievance and negativity…just picture in your mind that glowering face at FMQs, those sidling eyes, the pointing finger and hear that doom-laden, threatening voice.

Did she really say that? Has she seriously looked back at her leadership  and thought it could be characterised as anything other than sour, negative and at times, insulting?

Oct 2012 Approves Salmond being called “barefaced liar” by Paul Martin.

April She refers to First Minister in chamber as “Wee Eck”.

Oct Labour leader Johann Lamont was twice asked to withdraw claims that the SNP Government was “dishonest”

Nov  “It would seem we have a fool here who has no plan B on the currency.”

More than half her questions have been about independence yet she says that is Salmond’s obsession. Remember her stunt of having elderly patients with a grievance in the chamber and blaming the First Minister personally for their treatment, not the highly paid hospital managers. Talk about cheap and manipulative.

Add in Johann’s notorious description of nationalism as a virus and the Soviet-style expunging of her “something-for-nothing” speech and…oh, you get the point. Perhaps most disturbing is the way she mirrors the very characteristic she accuses Salmond of…self-delusion and a failure to acknowledge wrongs. I can’t help thinking there is more to Johann than we ever see and if only she could adopt on a day-to-day basis the tone she strikes in her New Year message, we could have a thoughtful debate to be proud of. But how long will it last? Until the first FMQs of 2014 is my bet.

I didn’t think Salmond himself had much to say except a theme that will recur…that this is the chance for change, don’t miss it. Don’t wake up the day after and regret it.

But Alistair Carmichael was best of all. He said to take care to think this through and check all the facts before you vote and not to act on a hunch but to use your head. Hear, hear. He said there was confusion over EU membership – you’re in the Cabinet Alistair, get them to write to Barroso for formal legal advice. Also, can you tell us if we will still be members after a UK referendum on the EU? He said there was doubt about the currency. Give us a definitive statement, Alistair. Is Osborne saying No or is he saying Maybe? Please clarify. He also says there are doubts about the costs of independence. That is true but he could clarify the costs of Union? The Institute for Fiscal Studies – much respected – says there will be tax rises after the next British election. There are more cuts of £47 billion planned which cannot be sustained without rises. Can you tell us how much those rises will be?

Lastly Alistair has confirmed my thesis outlined in Generation X – that this is not just about independence and that voting No is a positive vote for the UK as your country of preference over Scotland. He says: “A No vote to remain part of the UK should not merely be viewed as a rejection of independence. It should be seen as a positive and historic endorsement of the UK that generations of Scots have helped to build and improve.” There it is…the definitive statement. Vote for the UK because it takes precedence over Scotland. Vote No and effectively declare that Scotland is the second of your choices. You put Britain first and Scotland second. You are a proud Scot whose allegiance is to Britain. Now we’re getting somewhere. (I knew Alistair would be good for the debate).

By this time next year, the phoney war will be over and the first steps to a new Scotland under way…what a Hogmanay it will be.

Et Une Autre Chose…

The intervention into British domestic politics by the President of the Council, Herman von Rompuy, to endorse Barroso the Commission President, in what is now the official stated view of the EU on Scottish membership, was a little surprising…not because Herman is anything other than a right wing centralist with no interest in democratising the institutions – he is against directly electing EU leaders – but because the Council had previously been publicly agnostic. It is after all the Council which is ultimately responsible for membership, and it is the Council legal advisers who will formulate the approach to be taken to Scotland and the rUK after a Yes vote.

So why would he join Barroso in the now infamous assertion – still without any legal foundation or description of the mechanics to be used – that ‘a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory’?

Could it be relevant that the member of his cabinet who advises on institutional matters is one Richard Corbett? If he sounds vaguely familiar to any of you Euro nerds, it’s because he is an active professional politician in the British Labour Party and was an MEP from 96 to 09. So he’s hardly a disinterested observer although, to be fair, a man can give up one career and transform himself into an independently-minded professional in another. However, in Corbett’s case it seems he is only stopping over in the Council offices until he gets back into active party politics. He’s been selected as second on the Yorkshire and Humberside Labour list for next year’s European elections so is more than likely to get elected. Since part of his job is liaising with national governments, including the UK, how likely do you think it is that he would resist the temptation to do a bit of behind-the-scenes campaigning on the UK’s behalf by suggesting that Herman speak out on the sticky business of  Scotland?

Combined with the private talks between the Spanish right wing and the Tories to agree a common front on Scotland and Catalonia, we now appear to have a British Labour politician inside the system helping to dictate European policy towards the same end.

I know, I know, conspiracies exist only in the minds of the gullible. But sometimes, if you smell a rat, it’s because there are rodents nearby. Or should that be rongeurs?

Incidentally, on my aside about David Martin referring, strictly accurately, to Scotland as a region…my point is that our country, Britain, was created by two separate nations who retain that identity and, even if Brussels finds it inconvenient, we regard ourselves as such, or we should. David clearly disagrees and follows the Brussels diktat. But can you imagine an English MEP standing up to declare that he represents “the region of England”? I doubt it. He’d have the Daily Mail on his case straight away. We should call ourselves what we like and let them interpret to suit themselves. I don’t think many eurocrats wouldn’t know what was meant by Scotland or England. To me, it’s about pride, something some politicians seem to have mislaid. 

Open Letter

David Martin MEP and Catherine Stihler MEP (both Lab)

Dear David and Catherine

Season’s greetings to you both and to your families. I do miss my trips to Europe paid for by the taxpayer. They may come round again for me when I’m appointed Scotland’s Ambassador to the EU in a couple of year’s time. (I have been told I’m ahead of both Alyn and Ian in the queue so it may be worth keeping in with me).

I see you have both been busy over the holiday period in keeping with your reputation as among the hardest working MEPs.

In particular, your ringing public endorsement of Jose Manuel Barroso’s assertions about the position of our nation after a Yes vote have been striking and in tone at least leave you open to the charge of relishing the idea of your country being excluded from membership in its own right, an oddly masochistic reaction I put down to confusing two different things – your desire to remain part of the British state by winning the referendum on the one hand and your constituents’ national interests on the other. As we are about to vote this year on our independence and, since continued EU membership is very much the desired outcome for many of us, can you address a few questions for clarity. In this I’m following the well-worn precedent of European Unionists in demanding answers of the Scottish government before we vote, not to mention the greater precedent of access to truthful information for all citizens in advance of a democratic vote. Here are my questions.

Can you point to the section in the treaties which can be applied to Scotland voting for independence and then subsequently, against its wishes, being expelled?

If you are seeking legal clarity on Scotland’s position, will you formally ask the British government to request it from the Commission who have promised to clarify officially but only to the Member State (UK)?

Do you agree with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that a “precise scenario” for clarification only applies after the referendum vote? (Letter to me from FCO 13/12/13. The ‘precise scenario’ referred to by the Commission can only be presented following negotiations on the terms of Scottish independence from the UK, which can themselves only follow a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum as there is currently no democratic mandate for undertaking such negotiations.

Will you vote for Scotland’s membership of the EU irrespective of how it eventually comes about? 

I appreciate it is in your political interest to have your constituents frightened into believing they will become stateless people – the Palestinians of Europe – stripped of their existing rights against their wishes after exercising their democratic right of freedom of expression but surely we are entering uncharted territory now in which the destiny of the Scots is at stake, not just another five years in or out of office. Therefore the ritual dance of claim and counter claim from our politicians – on all sides – should stop.

So, again, where in the treaties governing the European Union does it allow for existing EU citizens to have their country removed from membership, their citizenship revoked, their right to free movement withheld, their financial contribution retained, their subsidies stopped (retrospectively?), their visiting students repatriated before qualifying, their border re-introduced and closed to the single market, hundreds of EU-funded developments halted, and you as MEPs ejected from your elected position?

It seems that Barroso and Van Rompuy – and yourselves – are relying on Article 49 of the TEU which relates to new member states. Scotland won’t be a new state until the negotiations are completed and she will then be endorsed by London so are you saying Brussels will have no involvement of any kind in 18 months minimum of talks between London and Edinburgh and will immediately turn its back on the deal although it’s ratified by the rUK as a Member State?

Even if we adopt that viewpoint, although Article 49  manifestly envisages third countries applying to accede rather than existing ones splitting, my question is: How does Scotland get there? By what process based on which section of the treaties does Scotland cease to be a member? Who decides? Who votes? Is it your argument that the Commission members simply assert that Scotland is outside from a given date and do you as democrats – and as Scots – accept that without challenge? If so, what happened to your commitment to the rule of law and rights of the citizen and all those demands over the years for the institutions to be made more democratic and subject to the parliament? Or do we end up in the Court of Justice possibly under an Action for Annulment, thus:

If any EU country, the Council, the Commission or (under certain conditions) Parliament believes that a particular EU law is illegal, it may ask the Court to annul it. ‘Actions for annulment’ can also be used by private individuals who want the Court to cancel a particular law because it directly and adversely affects them as individuals. If the Court finds the law in question was not correctly adopted or is not correctly based on the Treaties, it may declare the law null and void.

I assure you, I will be the first individual raising such an action, should it ever be needed.

And, if it comes to this apparently unlawful exclusion, will you support it, even if the Scots, whom you both represent, have expressed their desire for independence and will you declare that your obligation is then to fall in behind the people who elect you and take up the fight for Scotland’s right to retain membership?

I would have thought that was self-evident but, David, I remember your enthusiasm for Scotland’s exclusion is quite boundless and you wanted to enshrine it in decisions of the parliament by producing an official report…. “Martin planned to write a report arguing that any new state would be automatically outside the European Union and would be forced to reapply for membership…”

Why are you so keen to ensure your own country is made a pariah? The trouble I have with this is that it doesn’t sound like a patriotic Scot bringing to bear his vast experience by using the treaties and historic precedent to warn of the implications of a vote. Rather it has all the marks of a zealot hungry to find any means, lawful or otherwise, of creating difficulty for his own people…not to mention the democratic rights of our fellow European citizens in Catalonia. When did your fealty to the British state overtake your socialist instincts for peoples’ rights, subsidiarity and internationalism?

How is it that you can champion over many years the rights of Palestinians to their own homeland run by themselves even when it brings you into direct opposition with the Israelis, yet you campaign from other side when your own people aspire to the ultimate expression of nationhood – independence? In principle, I don’t think the two are so very different and at the very least, Scots and Palestinians are entitled to hear the truth about their position from those who represent them rather than find those same representatives are in effect running a campaign against them. (How else do explain your position of insisting – and working to demonstrate – that Scotland will be outside the EU? And why have the Labour MEPs done nothing to seek an alternative view, a more creative approach which is already being preached by voices in other member states and briefed by the EU’s own lawyers?)

I notice too that in working to get the institutions to oppose Scotland’s membership, it is your custom to refer to the nation of Scotland as a “region of the EU”. I suppose that is the reality of our place in the UK but I know of no Scot, Unionist or Nationalist, who talks on an international stage of his or her country as a region. Does this provide us with a clear insight into your own personal view of the Scottish nation as less than other countries and unworthy of statehood?

I fear the politicking in this debate is obscuring the reality which is the inclusive impulse of the EU since inception, a principle I know you subscribe to which makes your insistence that the Scots must be denied an odd one.

The risks for those of you promulgating this stance is two-fold. One, the anger at the embarrassment this obstructionism to Scotland – and Catalonia – is causing to the reputation of the EU as a democratic alliance spills over and other countries openly challenge the institutional orthodoxy or, even more likely, an insider leaks the outline legal viewpoint which contradicts it. Second, the Yes campaign wins and the truth is revealed in real time as negotiations begin. In neither case do the Barroso adherents win, or deserve, anything but the contempt of the international community and, more pertinently, the scorn of the Scots. Not much of a legacy, is it?

Happy New Year


The Real Britain

What differentiates each side in the referendum debate is attitude towards Britain rather than Scotland. We say pretty similar things about Scotland and express the same feelings whether unionist or nationalist. It’s when we think about the meaning of Britain that we find the deepest divergence of opinion.

Most people seem to have a fairly benign attitude towards the concept of Britishness whatever petty grievances they harbour. I do not. I keep my deepest resentment for the British state, that nexus of institutions, people and mentality that entrenches inequality, salutes the class system, conspires in war and protects its own. It doesn’t seem to matter very much who is in power, the overall results are similar – politicians with a conventional, compliant, establishment-minded viewpoint who see themselves as the guardians of all knowledge and authority, something the population dispensed with sometime in the 1980’s.

When we needed a left-leaning government we got a repeat of two years of Tory spending policy, two international wars, complicity in torture, the harshest crackdown on civil rights in the post-war era and abuse of executive power. When Blair needed support to save face in the aftermath of Iraq war and the Gilligan affair he found it in a former Diplock judge in a classic establishment stitch-up. Perhaps the biggest lie in politics is the claim of Labour to be a radical party of the left. Their record in office – which contains notable advances on early learning, tax credits, minimum wage and devolution – shows them in reality to be wet Tories in awe of corporate muscle, American foreign policy and reckless capitalist economics while pushing away the unions and chasing the establishment rewards of titles and lobbyists’ hard cash.

We are in the process of uncovering some of the darker secrets of the Blair and Brown years, things we guessed at or speculated but have been unable to confirm but, as ever, it seems the establishment is working diligently to delay and diffuse on behalf of their Labour cohorts.

The Gibson Report is one such meek and self-serving operation which started out as an attempt to uncover the grisly truth about British involvement in torture and rendition and which will now be handled by the compliant Intelligence and Security Committee which spoon-fed the security chiefs ahead of their public appearance by informing them of the questions in advance.

Within weeks of the election David Cameron announced the inquiry to be led by Gibson. He repeatedly rejected suggestions at that time that the ISC should conduct the investigation, telling MPs: “I do not think for a moment that we should believe that the ISC should be doing this piece of work. For public confidence, and for independence from parliament, party and government, it is right to have a judge-led inquiry.” He added: “That is what we need to get to the bottom of the case. The fact that it is led by a judge will help ensure that we get it done properly.” That is the opposite of what has happened as the establishment realizes how damaging to it the torture issue is.

Typical of the duplicity of the British was their courting of Gaddafi and intense behind-the-scenes talks to release Megrahi while condemning the Scottish government for doing so. There is the co-operation between MI6 and Gaddafi’s intelligence agencies and the UK’s involvement in the rendition of two Libyan opposition leaders and their families to Tripoli in 2004 back into the hands of the regime who tortured them , and any role Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, played in authorising those operations. He has denied any wrongdoing, although MI6 is reported to have confronted him with documentary evidence that he personally authorised the agency’s involvement in the Libyan rendition operations…a Labour Cabinet minister. I smell more state collusion is the statement from the retiring head of the FBI Robert Muller that more arrests are expected over the Lockerbie bombing. Really? We were told as soon as anti Gaddafi forces took Benghazi three years ago that they would search the files and find the evidence that Libya brought down Pan Am 103. Since then, nothing. Speculation and visits by the Lord Advocate, but not a shred of evidence let alone a suspect. Odd, don’t you think, that if they wanted an arrest they had in their hands Moussa Koussa, Gaddafi’s security adviser who would surely have known the truth? But then, he was MI6’s link man in Tripoli with whom they exchanged Christmas greetings and rendition victims so they couldn’t put him on trial. If the UK conspired with the US over the war in Iraq, does that indicate it would also conspire over Lockerbie? Are they so close that they are indistinguishable or isn’t that exactly what has been proved by Edward Snowden revealing the mass collection of private data….

There have been allegations of MI6 and MI5 involvement in a series of other operations in Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco and Bangladesh, as well as Guantánamo Bay and Afghanistan, which have resulted in terrorism suspects suffering severe mistreatment. In some cases – the most notorious being that of the British resident Binyam Mohamed – the allegations have been found to be true, while in others the government has paid sums totalling several million pounds in order to settle compensation claims out of court…the British state at work.

Meanwhile, even as further and deeper benefits and budget cuts are announced with pride – at the same time as the government boasts of recovery – we find that British officials  “lost their nerve” in tackling tax avoidance by global corporations and have presided over a £35bn tax gap as they pursue easy prey such as small businesses and individuals, the easy meat.

In a report that highlighted how the Treasury is owed missing tax payments of £35bn, the public accounts committee added that HM Revenue and Customs has left the state with another multibillion pound shortfall by failing to gather £2.6bn of an expected windfall from Swiss banks. How easy is it to savage those with no voice but to bend the knee to the corporate kings who make their own rules and decide how much they will deign to pay in taxes…

To me this is the British state, no matter which party is in power, self-serving and contemptuous of the people it is supposed to serve.

PS When will we get the report of the Chilcott Committee four and a half years since it started?

Welcome to Wongaland

By the way, I enjoyed Brian Wilson in the Scotsman today. He really does provide an alternative viewpoint missing from elsewhere. I find it helps me to understand what Unionists see when they look at Scotland and why they work so hard against their own country becoming self-standing like everybody else. But when Brian tries to tie the Debt Monster tag round the SNP’s neck, even I sense we’re moving into propaganda territory. Rather than delve into the detail where the Unionists want to keep the debate, I’ll take the chicken way out and invite you to click here for the real cause of debt in Britain.

Happy counting…

Pick A Card

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m no economist. When I listen to the conflicting stream of drivel so many of them spout, I’m proud of that. However, I am a thinking voter and like to judge for myself in as far as I can with out a BSc. I’ve also learned to think of Paul Daniels whenever the British Treasury tries to tell me something. It’s amazing how they make things appear and disappear at will while wearing a fixed smile.

Today we’re told for example that the SNP plan of cutting corporation tax will take money out of the national account and will lead to tax increases or cuts to services. (Take your eyes off Debbie. She’s the distraction). That seems plausible enough…cut the tax rate and get less cash in. Our other glamorous assistant, Danny helps to convince us by saying the same methodology that led to this deduction was used by the Treasury, so it must be British copper-bottomed, fair and accurate.

But here’s where they pull the silk cloth away and, hey presto, what you thought was true isn’t.

It’s only two weeks ago that the Chief Magician Osborne pulled his magical stroke by declaring that he had put in place a quiet revolution by systematically cutting corporation tax to one of the lowest in the western world, from 28p to 23p, next to 21p and down to 20p over the next two years. But surely, you ask, the Treasury says to Scotland that cutting this tax rate will lead to budget cuts and loss of services, so why doesn’t that principle apply to London’s Magic Circle, too?

The answer is that it originally did. Analysis by HMRC only considered the direct effect on the public purse without taking into account the wider economic impact.

When they were factored in it was realized that the cut led to higher investment, economic growth and wage rises, according to the Chancellor. So he told HMRC to change its methodology to suit him. Asked why he ordered HMRC to change its methods at this time, Mr Osborne said he “wanted to begin a quiet revolution in how people think about these things” and they would apply the same principle in future to other measures like raising personal allowances and scrapping fuel duty rises. He calls it “dynamic modelling”.

It’s what the rest of us call “common sense”. There is a consequential effect which compensates for the cut. If you are a retailer, you cut the price in order to sell more. Simple.

So it’s sleight of hand for the same Treasury not to apply this so-called dynamic modeling to Scotland’s tax cutting plans while using it for their own. But that would be mature and intelligent and aid the debate and we can’t have that when the game is to lie, lie and lie again to keep Scotland in the British state. How I’d love us to pull a rabbit out of the hat next September.

Know Who Your Friends Are

I thought it was a spoof at first until I read it myself but the list of donors to Better Together should be published as an ironic joke book (The Bumper Book of Greasy Palms). Is it too late for Christmas?

Its mixture of Bertie Woosters and rapacious financiers and bankers, dodgy military types and corporate traitors should be available on my Kindle under Humour any day now. You only have to add in the Ian Taylor money linked to Vitol to complete the picture of a miniscule moneyed elite up to all sorts of dubious activities sanctimoniously bleating about the threat to our mighty country. The threat is surely to their money and status and that’s what this ragbag of grotesques are really worried about. This is vested-interest Britain doing what it does best, stuffing dirty fivers in an envelope to defeat the people. “Can you fix it for me, governor? Know what I mean?” Then drop a bundle in his Lucy Locket. Sorted.

I was one of those who prickled at suggestions after the Radical Scotland conference claim that the No’s were the rich Yes were the poor. On this evidence I’m wrong. No is funded by the wealthy, the greedy, the seedy and the undemocratic. I loved the statement from Donald Houston who more or less own Ardnamurchan, an iconic peninsula in our country’s history. It’s the location of Castle Tioram, symbol of windswept resistance, which was burned down deliberately by the Macdonalds in 1715 to prevent it falling again into British Hanovarian hands. Sadly Donald is made of softer stuff. “We have spent 300 years building up a Union between our countries that has achieved so much”, he says. You can almost hear his incomprehension.  It certainly has achieved much for him since he can afford to give £100,000 and half a million via his companies. The killer line though is: “I hope that other people in the same position as myself are also willing to contribute whatever they can.” I’m sure that Labour voters all over Scotland with their 50,000 acre estates and castle hotels, deer herds and distilleries will even now be calling their broker to sell some blue chip shares  in the morning and release some readies. “Maybe convert it into dollars at the preferential rate, Rupert. Now excuse me, I’ve a Food Bank to open with Johann.”

There’s is inevitably a stockbroker in there (with £200,000) as befits this squalid self-interested cartel of Brit-nats, and he’s a major Tory donor (over £1m, joining Ian Taylor as another one of Labour’s new social democratic friends). Apparently this individual ignored warnings about the activities of Nick Leeson while at Barings Bank where Leeson lost over £800m. Better Together should feel really comfortable in such typically Unionist company.

One of the big donors is Alan Savage of a recruitment company, adding £150,000 to his previous £100,000. (Is he getting nervous?) He already has plans to move his business out of the country if there’s a Yes vote. Now there’s the kind of patriotism that made Britain what it is today.  “If I don’t get my way, I’m leaving.” To be honest, Alan, while I feel for you employees, you’re exactly the kind of corporate cut-throat  we don’t want in our new country. Anybody so devoid of patriotism and care for his own people that he would ditch it to save a few quid, I don’t regard as a proper Scotsman let alone an individual with personal dignity. I think there will be new Scottish companies and others from elsewhere who will have the foresight and the business balls to back Scotland. You have given me yet another reason for voting Yes. I do truly hope you have wasted your money. (What does Labour make of the fact that all the big donors are Tory donors? Comfortable, Johann? What about the unions…happy with your new pals, comrades?)

Then there is the “private intelligence company” owner, a former solider who may or may not be involved in spying. Could you get a more pantomime bunch of self-serving nincompoops with more money than sense? Only if you were remaking the Wild Geese with cartoon business types and land owners bankrolling a dodgy enterprise in a foreign country with rich mineral assets led by ex military types without scruples. Oh, hang on…that really is it. This is a plot to land an expeditionary force and take over control of Scottish assets with an elite squad of cigar-chomping marines bursting into Holyrood and spraying them with lead.

Well, maybe not. But if you’d told me two years ago that our constitutional debate would involved Labour getting into bed with this motley crew of millionaires and military cowboys, I wouldn’t have believed it. Whoever wins next year, the battle honours of Scottish Labour, once the proud vanguard of the working Scot, will be hung for ever with the names of these carpetbaggers and charlatans to whom the working class are mere commodities.

PS Blair McDougall is going into psychosis mode believing his own propaganda. “Alex Salmond has shown he is willing to spend hundreds and thousands of pounds of taxpayers money on propaganda for his campaign”, he says. Who’s paying for the 30 reports of the British Government and parliamentary reports of every single Committee at Westminster and the Secretary of State’s department, I wonder?

It’s No Fair

Murdo Fraser wants to change the world. Or at least he wants to change the world’s statistics. Just as he wanted to change the name of his party, but didn’t want to change its essential nature, so Murdo is now re-interpreting the figures that show Nordic countries are more equal societies than Britain. If you’re reaction is: Norway  – fairer that Blighty, the country that gave the world fair play and stiff upper lip?! – stop reading now and find another website.

Try this one – – home of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development where governments share official information to find ways of doing things better. I tried matching Murdo’s assertions about the UK being a fairer country than Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark with the data held by the OECD and it’s like looking for information on how Scotland could be a better place to live on the Better Together website. The proof isn’t just missing, it is flatly contradicted.

For example I came across how the in-kind benefits from public services in all OECD countries impact on household income inequality based on the same Gini coefficients used by Murdo and factoring in education, health, social housing and care services. It shows that when the public services are added in, the first three least unequal nations are…Sweden, Norway and Denmark and the only large nation in the first 10 is France – all the others are smaller nations. The UK was at 18, behind those economic basket cases so beloved of Jim Murphy and other British state apologists, Ireland and Iceland.

Next there is the share of top incomes increases – covering the top 1 per cent of pre tax incomes showing the highest percentage rises for the top earners to be in the USA and the UK. Out of the 19 nations in this comparison, four of the last six nations – those with the lowest rises for the top one per cent – were Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

It goes on to warn that income inequality creates economic, social and political challenges by stifling upward social mobility (even your old leader Major agrees, Murdo) and intergenerational earnings mobility is low in countries with inequality in the UK, the US and Italy but much higher in Nordic countries where income is distributed more fairly. (That’s stopping people from getting on in life, Murdo, leaving the field for the privileged like Tories. Shouldn’t you be backing policies that  lead to a meritocracy?)

Government transfers – both in cash and kind – have an important role to play in guaranteeing that low-income households do not fall further back in income distribution – especially after a recession, according to the OECD. But that’s exactly what Tory policy is doing, impoverishing further those on low incomes and benefits. (Interested in taking advice from influential western economic thinkers, Murdo or happier treating them like Communist troublemakers?)

OECD says access to sustainable jobs is key. (I know this sounds like it’s lifted from Common Cause, but honest, it’s not). Recent trends towards higher rates of in-work poverty indicate that job inequality has become a concern for a growing number of workers. (That’ll be those Zero Hours Contracts and other employer fiddles which treat people like workhorses. Whose party best represents those employers?)

Then instead of low-paid, no rights jobs, the OECD recommends investing in human capital including training and formal education. It says access to tertiary education is important for improving the prospects and living standards of lower skilled people. (That indicates that free education, if it can be afforded is the right way to go, not charging students a mortgage just to learn).

Murdo is the latest right wing revisionist to traduce the success of Scandinavian people. Try the Institute of Public Affairs website for the latest “inequality equals happiness” mythology. Rather than closing his mind to the blatant success of Nordic society, wouldn’t he and Conservatives be better trying to develop a new narrative from their North Atlantic experience? The Right is making headway in some of these countries so it’s not a left wing nirvana. Why do British Tories insist on sticking themselves on the fringes of every idea?

Get on a flight to Norway, Murdo and smell the pine needles or drop in on Copenhagen and find that nearly everybody is just like you – well-heeled, well-educated and middle class living mostly stress-free lives, certainly compared to Food Bank Britain with low levels of child wellbeing.

There is no instant solution for Scotland’s problems to be found in Scandinavia or anywhere else but there are lessons to be absorbed and adopted to our own use and I think the overwhelming majority of Scots either know this or are gradually learning it. That leaves the doom-sayers like Murdo moaning and isolated while – yet again- the ground moves underneath them. What puzzles me is why anyone of any political colour would strive so hard to deny the advantages of greater equality and to undermine the evidence accepted by the rest of the world.

Sorry, Murdo but denying the growing tide of opinion may be a common and comfortable place for Conservatives to find themselves, it’s just that, as ever, the rest of us have moved on. Try to catch up. On second thoughts, forget the OECD website (too much data), try this instead:

Brussels Spouts

The anti-democrats in Brussels have been ramping up their offensive against self-determination in direct contradiction of their once-pervasive mantra of subsidiarity. Instead of trumpeting the policy of making decisions at the most appropriate level, both the Commission and the Council are now joined in a resistance to the small nations and regions demanding recognition and equal status with the big boys in the club of member states.

Manuel Barroso’s dismissive comments – and deliberate snub to the Scottish government – have been reiterated by Hermann von Rompuy, the president of the Council of Ministers, the body that will actually decide on Scotland’s membership. Previously there had been a background turf war between Commission and Council with the latter letting it be known that the Commission’s hardline was not a unanimous view within the institutions. So it seems now that the two key bodies are aligned behind the united front of the member states who feel threatened by democracy in their own countries, fearing an independence contagion which uses Scotland as a precedent.

This is a hardening of the opposition to democratic independence which makes it harder to convince voters about Scottish membership and will turn attitudes in Scotland against the EU itself. The reason I say this is that these opinions are statements only, not legal opinion. They are the statements of politicians which is what both men are. It means they are of course deeply relevant and cannot be dismissed. Further, they are the antithesis of the constitutional role of both institutions which have no place interfering in the domestic affairs of a member state, a position which Barroso continues to aver while at the same time making a political statement implying Scots would be thrown out of the EU on independence, thereby contradicting himself.

Barroso has been obliged to find a formulation that pleases the members and appears to relate to the treaties because there is a constant pressure across Europe to get clarity on what happens when a member state splits democratically. The irony here is that he could indeed request a legal scenario from the EU lawyers if he was interested in treating the issue with the respect it deserves. He is not and neither is the UK as member state. The combined weight of the EU institutions is now directed squarely on persuading the Scots – and down the line the Catalans – to turn against self determination and subsidiarity in a direct interference in political affairs of a member country.

But let’s look at the wording they have chosen to defend the status quo against the wishes of a democratically elected European government with a mandate in Edinburgh.  It is: “If a part of the territory of a member state ceases to be a part of that state because that territory becomes a new independent state, the treaties will no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply any more on its territory.”

Read the first phrase again. If a part of the territory…ceases to be a part of that state because that territory becomes a new independent state…then at the end…the treaties would from the day of its independence…”

That is exactly what won’t happen on September 19 next year the morning after the referendum. Scotland will not become independent overnight and therefore the above statement is meaningless to the referendum. Scotland will remain in the UK and in the EU. It will remain there for as long as it takes to agree a termination deal with London which will end with both capitals recognizing the other as representing the two new states. Throughout those disaggregation discussions, Brussels will be present, guiding, advising and maneuvering so that the deal complies with the treaties – and the interests of the institutions. They will after all have to make sure it is watertight and that it can be sold to the other 27 members. It is only after an agreement between Edinburgh and London that Scotland becomes independent and that agreement will have been conducted in the full knowledge of and in consultation with the European Commission. Will they turn round when the ink is dry and point Scots to the exit door? Part of the deal will be mutual support between Scotland and rUK in which each will back the other’s continued membership because it is in their joint interest to do so. (I also expect London to immediately endorse Scottish membership of the UN as a mark of ongoing partnership).

What the Barroso/Van Rompuy anti-democrats are saying really saying is: Please don’t vote for independence because it will make life tricky for us and our political masters in the big nations hate the idea of losing power as sparky and wealthy parts of their countries break away. We can’t control things if they do and we’ll struggle to adjust to a changing world. Everything is fine as it is. And if you don’t play our game, we’ll threaten you.

This is political interference in a member state’s affairs and do you find it interesting that it hasn’t brought a single complaint from the British government? This is the anti-European Tories, remember, playing to the Little Englander gallery who threaten to come out of the European Convention on Human rights, who objected to the rules of justice applied to Abu Qatada and who want to renegotiate the terms of membership because of EU “meddling” in Britain’s affairs. So why no warning to the eurocrats about Britain’s internal affairs?

Perhaps because they are part of an orchestrated campaign to deny the truth to the Scots before they vote. I asked the Foreign Office why they refused to ask Brussels for legal advice which the Commission has stated will be given if a request is made from London with a “precise scenario”. Here is the key part of the reply: “The ‘precise scenario’ referred to by the Commission can only be presented following negotiations on the terms of Scottish independence from the UK, which can themselves only follow a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum as there is currently no democratic mandate for undertaking such negotiations.  The legal position outlined above is in any case clear, and has been confirmed by the Commission.  The UK Government therefore has no plans to approach the Commission further on this issue.”

Note the new position – there can be no precise scenario until after the vote and after the discussions as well! So the Scots will not be informed of the official legal position in advance. I’m aware that Brussels has no reputation for democracy but to watch the connivance of our own government, the one that believes in a family of nations in the greatest Union in history, treat the democratic process with blatant contempt is telling Scots the true value of our relationship. In statement after statement, members of the Commission have said they will only answer questions on the legal process for Scotland if asked by London. None that I can find indicated this would only apply after a referendum vote. That is clearly absurd and is deliberate distortion by London to justify their untenable position in refusing to formally ask the question. The Foreign Office is relying on the Barroso statements – no surprise- and their own legal advice which did not come from EU lawyers who are the only ones in a position to give the advice. This is chicanery from the same people who accuse Salmond of being slippery. The so-called precise scenario is simply this… Scotland votes for independence in a legally watertight referendum and the British government recognizes the result. Scotland wants to remain a member of the EU. What happens next? Is it too much for the combined brains of London and Brussels? They give the impression they’re pretty clever at everything else.

You only have to start from a simple proposition – if the EU legal advice confirms Scotland will be ejected and must reapply from outside, why don’t the Unionists ask the question? It would stump the Yes campaign and move us into different, probably EFTA territory. But they won’t ask. Won’t ask because the legal advice will say no such thing. It will in fact say something very similar to this from Professor Dr Roland Vaubel, an adviser to Germany’s economics department: “The legal position taken by Barroso, (Viviene) Reding and van Rompuy has no basis in the European treaties. Nor is there a precedent in EU law. Nor does the UN Charter envisage dispositions with regard to secession… The treaties are also consistent with automatic succession of both the seceding state and the rump state.”

He went on to argue that the EU institutions had a vested interest in centralisation and were therefore biased against separatist movements while also hoping to gain concessions from an independent Scotland in negotiations. So we are being screwed by Brussels acting in concert with our own British government. Truly we are better together.

For further reading this is a link on the same subject by Angus Roxburgh.

and this is the full text of my letter from the Foreign Office. I particularly like the opening sentencewhich came as a surprise.

Dear Mr Bateman,

Thank you for your email.

The UK Government is not making plans to break up the United Kingdom.  In order to inform and support the debate on Scotland’s future, the Government is undertaking a programme of analysis on Scotland as part of the UK, and how it contributes to and benefits from being part of the United Kingdom. This work is known as the Scotland analysis programme, and it is examining how Scotland contributes to and benefits from being part of the UK, and how the rest of the UK benefits from its partnership with Scotland. The papers published so far are available to read online here:

The first paper in the series, Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, was published on 11 February 2013 and set out the legal and constitutional issues associated with establishing a new Scottish state, based on an independent legal opinion from two of the world’s leading international law experts, Professors James Crawford and Alan Boyle. The opinion states that in the event of Scottish independence the United Kingdom would continue as before, retaining the rights and obligations of the UK as it currently stands. Scotland would become a new, separate state, and this would have significant implications domestically and internationally, including a need to apply to and/or negotiate to become a member of whichever international organisations it wished to join, including the EU.

The President of the European Commission also stated in his written evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into “The Economic Implications for the United Kingdom of Scottish Independence” in December 2012:

The EU is founded on the Treaties which apply only to the Member States who have agreed and ratified them. If part of the territory of a Member State would cease to be part of that state because it were to become a new independent state, the Treaties would no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties would no longer apply on its territory.

The ‘precise scenario’ referred to by the Commission can only be presented following negotiations on the terms of Scottish independence from the UK, which can themselves only follow a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum as there is currently no democratic mandate for undertaking such negotiations.  The legal position outlined above is in any case clear, and has been confirmed by the Commission.  The UK Government therefore has no plans to approach the Commission further on this issue.

I hope you find this information helpful.