Dear Sir….

I’ve got a job at last! Blogging to end immediately…I’m hunting out my suit…Listen to this – BBC Scotland wants a public affairs adviser, someone with intimate knowledge of Scottish politics, who understands broadcasting and can advise senior management at PQ. It’s made for me…

They’re advertising for a good communicator – duh! – who can sort through a mass of information quickly and produce a coherent synopsis and tell the managers what to do to improve their image. Why did they bother to advertise? Must be able to talk with politicians (Johann will forgive me) and find out what’s happening in the corridors of power to tip off Kenny McQuarrie in advance. It’s made for me.

Of course I’ll miss this sharing my thoughts with all of you from the Maryhill Media Centre but it was only a stop-gap until I walked back into the Beeb as a rehabilitated big shot. And just before I go – can I say to you whining Nats out there that I have never detected the merest hint of bias in any of the BBC’s referendum coverage. Oh yes, I humoured you to keep you reading to get my numbers up but I knew they were doing their very best in there and anyway they know they’ll be on the winning side. So, farewell suckers. You know where you can stick your Yes stickers…

The job? Well it’s Adviser to BBC Scotland Public Policy and Corporate Affairs, answerable to one Ian Small, remember him? My good friend Ian is the man who wrote a perfectly reasonable letter of complaint to Dr Robertson* of some university nobody has ever heard of who dredged up the old chestnut of bias and had to be put in his place for impertinence. I think Ian and I could work very closely together in the interests of the BBC. I know he never reads this blog anyway. I know this because a colleague asked him if he’d seen my coverage of the bias affair and he shouted: ‘Don’t speak to me about that bloody blog’ and put his fingers in his ears.

The job is directly related to the referendum and independence, which is funny because that’s exactly what I said a few posts ago. I said they had misjudged it and needed strategy advice. I said it wasn’t business as usual as they claimed and pointed out they had no one in the team who was the voice or face of BBC Scotland who could represent them to the wider world. It must just be coincidence that they’ve reached the same conclusion now.

I was pleased but puzzled to read they want someone who can ‘build and establish trusted and effective working relationships with key parliamentary, government and corporate stakeholders’ as that’s what I said they weren’t doing. In fact I said it was a signal failing of the Director McQuarrie that he had no on-going personal relationship with his greatest ally in Scotland, the First Minister.

‘Must be able to deal with a wide range of people with tact and diplomacy’. (I’ll give Ian a wee lesson in letter-writing to innocent academics)

There’s a reference to dealing with complaints about referendum issues but to be honest I think the old method’s the best…Dear Sir/Madam, Fuck off, Yours sincerely.

I also suspect that since none of the high heid yins are remotely effective at answering questions that this appointee may find him/herself fronting up before MSPs to save senior execs the bother. To be fair, I was told that there was no initial plan on the media committee to investigate BBC Scotland until John Boothman gave evidence. He appeared so shifty, they thought he must be hiding something and there was unanimous cross-party support for a full inquiry.

Mind you, two hard facts emerge from reading this. First, it is Grade 10 in the BBC pay scale. Now that’s the top of the range for a programme-making journalist – as in an Editor – but it is below management, so anyone on the outside dealing with this person will know they have no real clout. It means they are officially not a decision-maker but mostly a messenger. The other people who know this are the BBC bosses themselves which means, if for example, bad news comes back from Holyrood about the quality of Radio Scotland, the Head of Radio, our chum jolly Jeff Zycinski will brush it aside and carry on regardless. Only an executive with authority cannot be ignored.

Secondly, my heart bleeds that £50,000 can be found for a corporate position, one that does management’s job for them, when the same people sacked 35 journalists, ridding the BBC of experience and quality at the very time in its history it was most needed.

If they wanted a human shield, why not save money by asking Brian Taylor, their best connected and most respected political staffer, to take on the role? This is a sign of crisis management. If such a person was envisaged why wait until six months before the vote? Why not two years ago when, as I say, all the planning should have been done. Dysfunctional? You bet. But how else would you want them to spend your money…making Scottish programmes?

(I’m trying to think where I left my suit…and where’s that application form?)

*Just been made up to full Professor at UWS. Now Professor John W Robertson, Convenor: CCI Research Ethics Committee, Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, School of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of the West of Scotland. week done him. Must be for services to broadcasting…

Chocs Away…!

The attack begins…

Wing Commander Guy Gibson, V.C., D.S.O., D.F.C: Hello, “M Mother” are you there?

Flight Lt. J.V. Hopgood, DFC: I’m here, Leader

Squadron Leader H.M. Young, DFC: Here, Leader.

Flight Lt. D.J.H. Maltby, DSO, DFC: Here, Leader.

Flight Lt. D.J. Shannon, DSO, DFC: Here, Leader

Squadron Leader H.E. Maudslay, DFC: Here, Leader.

Flying Officer L.G. Knight, DSO: Here, Leader.

Gibson: Hello, all Cooler aircraft. I’m going in to attack. Stand by to come in in your order when I tell you….

He points the nose down towards the dam wall. Cue music…


Isn’t it telling that the Coalition is calling the latest stage of its terror campaign The Dambusters after a Second World War murderous attack that flooded the Ruhr and killed over a thousand? Identifying a political campaign with the British war effort is one of those unthinking moments that provides an insight into how the British machine still regards itself. And, in passing, it confirms what people like me have been saying – that this is a political campaign in which the finance sector is participating, whatever Standard Life’s allegedly neutral words indicate.

After the Currency Denial comes the bouncing bombs of the financiers and bankers crashing into the credibility of the plan to free Scots from the control of the profiteering classes and create a more equal Scotland. Boom! Goes your currency…Crash! Goes your financial centre…Take that you blighters!

We call it the Dambusters after the movie but the operation was, even more appropriately, called Operation Chastise. Oh yes, that’s the Union game right there…teach them a lesson they won’t forget.

The history is also a metaphor because there were two unforeseen side effects. First, the largest group killed as the Mohne and the Eder poured millions of tons of water into the Ruhr Valley were on our side. They were nearly 800 Ukranian prisoners of war held in a camp just below the Eder Dam. They were collateral damage, just as those Scots will be after a No vote who are again left at the mercy of the Tory government, unprotected by their allies the Labour Party. Others to suffer will be Scots embittered at the closing of the ranks among the Unionist elite who finally realise that the partnership of the Union was a myth.

Secondly, the raid failed. It was initially seen as a success in that it hit key dams and released torrents of water and disrupted German engineering. The crews – those that made it, 50-odd men didn’t – came home, rightly, to heroes’ welcomes and, for Guy Gibson a Victoria Cross. But they failed to hit the third Sorpe dam which would have been devastating. Instead the water levels were back to normal in six weeks and war production resumed. So sometimes, what appears to be a success at first, turns out in time to be anything but.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Unionists are having a morale boost and on the BBC it is now a sly joke among presenters to drop in a final question to…well anybody, really. ‘What’s your take on independence?’ It is as if it is now safe to ask since the great cloud has been lifted and the powers to which the Unionists defer, the City, the Treasury and, bizarrely, Barroso, have hit back and stopped the movement in its tracks. (I liked the airline boss’s reply which didn’t follow the script by telling them passenger duty and landing fees would probably reduce so it would be good for business). That answer inadvertantly gave one small perspective on the wider question which hasn’t occurred to any BBC commentator I’ve seen or heard. They have no idea and no interest in SNP or the wider Yes policies and have minds closed to anything other than the conventional,  deferential rote of honouring establishment power. If you have a title, you get automatic respect from the national broadcaster, no matter what you actually say. I think only Scot Angus Roxburgh in the London media (Guardian) and hardly anyone in Scotland actually tackled the content and implication of what Barroso said and challenged his role in saying it, not even the accoladed Andy Marr. Instead of fawning, it is their duty to us, the licence-fee payers, to challenge and scrutinise and it is proving beyond them.

There is too the long-term close association between Scottish media and the financial sector. When I was in newspapers we went to virtually every company announcement by banks and insurers, were treated royally and in return their pronouncements were given prominence. At that time there was some justification as some of these outfits were historically successful and, while boring, a source of pride. Connections forged then have influenced many of the commentators you read today. Financial institutions could afford lavish largesse in the form of lunches in the boardroom, golf outings, sponsorship and match tickets, some of which still goes on today…buying loyalty or at the very least making it that little bit harder to write a strongly critical piece. One well-known Edinburgh-based financial journalist told me how reporters were made aware of a building society – I think it was Abbey National, now part of Santander – who quietly offered them low interest mortgages. In return, he said, nobody ever wrote a bad word about them.


Longer term, on the ground, does a millionaire financier warning of leaving really scare the mass of Scots? Will banks who ruined people’s lives and still receive life-changing sums every year provide the leadership for people stuck on poverty wages, eking out a living on two jobs, surviving in stressed-out families? Will these people look to the Labour party leaping with joy at such threats along with the City and the Tories and imagine they remain on their side?

It wasn’t the feeling at the Yes meeting in Gilmerton in Edinburgh that I chaired last night where there was an anger and a resentment at being put in their place, kept down and lectured by politicians who have abandoned what they regard as the core values of their lives. There were stories of friends and family fighting to retain much needed benefits and an openness to egalitarian ideas that, far from being impossible to put in place, simply require the political will to introduce once the power is returned into the hands of the Scots. There was also news which I won’t repeat in detail because it’s likely to feature in the weekend press, about canvassing returns from some our housing estates which suggest a rising tide of support for a transformative Yes. These are Scots untouched by Standard Life pension and insurance policies. Their war generation parents probably expected that when the war was over they would live in peace, the peace they  fought for. For too many thousands of our fellow Scots their daily life is a war and in six month’s, for the first time in their lives, they will hold the power in their hands from 7am to 10pm to change that world for ever.

Now, how does that Dambusters theme tune go?

Standard Procedure

Standard Life – Standard Procedure. What did you expect from a financial company – altruism? Presented with any change they can’t manage themselves, they panic. Oh yes, the do have to plan for eventualities, but they don’t need to make public announcements coordinated with a political campaign.

Notice how early warnings were issued to selected media including the BBC’s Robert Peston who worked hand-in-glove with Alistair Darling’s Treasury during the financial meltdown to get daily exclusives. He was on air this morning claiming special access – who would organise that? Is it significant that this “politically neutral” company was in recent weeks having its executive board undergo media training in case they faced interview?

And on Radio Four the thunderclap of doom was applied by James Naughtie from Edinburgh, transformed for the day from news presenter into Scotland correspondent, analysing the implications and calling Standard Life one of the Edinburgh “family”. The tone was set by the Today presenter whose opening question to him was: ‘So Jim, just how bad is this for the Yes campaign?’ That question tells you the BBC already had its narrative in place otherwise, as an impartial interviewer, she would have asked: ‘What’s the significance of this?’ It’s a subtle difference which gives the game away – London has made its mind up and is thrilled at having the nationalists on the run.

But are they right? For as Peston himself writes: ‘What brought this issue to a head for the company was the recent declaration by Chancellor George Osborne, Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls and the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, that they would all oppose formal monetary union with Scotland.’ Exactly. The contrived opposition to the logical course for the currency is the reason there is uncertainty yet it seems Standard Life is blaming instead the lack of a credible alternative. It seems no matter what Scotland does, it loses.

But there are unanswered questions here. This is NOT a declaration of departure, it is a statement outlining an alternative approach, presumably in response to shareholder requests for clarity caused originally by the independence campaign but deliberately fanned – undeniably so – by the British government refusing to negotiate in good faith as any administration should when  faced with a non-violent, constitutional democratic movement for change.

These questions of uncertainty are clearly the responsibility of the No side designed as a political response, not an economic response.

I see nothing in the words issued which indicates that this company has sought clarification from either side.

Have they asked the Scottish government for reassurance on currency or just read the papers?

Have they asked for private discussions on the tax regime?

How much will it cost to relocate, to make redundancies and find new premises?

How can it operate in 50 countries with dozens of currencies but not in Scotland?*

Have they read the White Paper, which has a long and detailed outline of the regulatory proposals?

Have they asked the British government why it has ruled out a currency union, consequently putting the company in this predicament? I

If they are concerned about EU membership, why haven’t they mentioned the UK IN/Out referendum, or doesn’t that concern them?

Have they asked the British to comply with the EU’s offer of legal clarification on membership?

Has Standard Life consulted its own staff? Or has it unsettled them by openly discussing leaving? Is this corporate responsibility, is it duty of care?

I think the answers are all negative. Yet they have gone ahead to form holding companies in England. That is the clearest indication that far from neutrality, Standard Life has adopted an active programme of anglicisation and set its face against independence. Interestingly, nobody on either side is saying otherwise. They have identified themselves as English first and Scottish second, because they are by definition happy with whatever London decides on regulation, interest rates or taxation as they haven’t raised any questions with them, yet we know there will be tax increases whoever wins the next general election and Europe is moving towards a unified regulatory system and we don’t know if London be in or out. Only they’ll have to think fast if there’s a Yes vote.

It does seem a pity since what they company is calling for, as in clarification on these issues, is exactly what the Scottish government has demanded but has not received.

And doesn’t it turn your stomach as a Scot that a company started here and which has traded on its Scottish roots can dismiss its origins and associations midway through a political campaign? Have they no inherent pride in their company’s background…no belief that the Scots will find a way of sorting out our constitutional issues…have they forgotten how Scots rallied to support their mutual status 14 years ago, including all parties of MSPs?

You can understand a company sitting down after a democratic vote and looking at their interests but when you are Scottish by definition, it is surely incumbent to treat your own country with more respect than this. But then we know how debased the idea of finance has become in Scotland when the same greedy types ran RBS and sold out Bank of Scotland to Halifax. And after the Crash, there can few, if any, who retain admiration of any kind for the incompetents and crooks and overreached themselves in search of more profit.

This has become the recent hallmark of Standard Life. You may remember that while Scots suffered austerity, the executives under David Nish, pocketed millions in pay and bonuses.


Nish saw his pay packet almost double, just months after the firm announced 490 job losses. He received a basic salary of £720,000, a bonus of  £1.05 million, pension contributions of £179,000 and a further ‘benefit’ of £17,000. Unite union official Paul Neilson said: ‘These pay levels are obscene.’

Pat Connolly, Chase De Vere, said payouts on endowment policies have again been cut and overall returns remain much lower than they were five or six years ago .

‘Standard Life remains an average, middle-of-the-road with-profits provider…existing investors should take this opportunity to review their policies.”

And they have form in this duplicitous handling of customers and their own millionaire salaries. In March 2007 the company announced it would cut 1000 jobs in an attempt to save an additional £100 million per year in costs and a month later it was highlighted in the company’s annual report that three of Standard Life’s top executives were awarded more than £5 million in pay. You can see who these people are really interest in and it isn’t the Scots.

They haven’t been scrupulous either in their activities. A few years ago they were fined for dodgy behaviour. The Financial Services Authority hit them with a £2.45 million fine over the Sterling Pension fund fiasco, in which a fund was advertised   as wholly invested in cash when in fact it was heavily invested in floating rate notes. Guess what? No one lost their job. ‘The FSA has identified that there were flaws in both our systems and controls however they have not identified any particular individuals. No heads are going to roll on the back of this fine from the FSA,’ they said. So, if we ever were dealing with moneymen on the side of the angels – and they did welcome devolution in in the 90’s – those days are long gone. Profit before patriotism is their motto.

We can expect more of this pro-Union outing. Weir Group will follow them I think. You know Weir, engineers and bribers of Saddam.


‘Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group admitted paying kickbacks to the dictator’s government a decade ago to secure lucrative business contracts. The High Court in Edinburgh heard this had contravened the Oil For Food programme aimed at helping Iraqis. Judge Lord Carloway also confiscated £13.9m of illegal profits from Weir.’ (I think it gives a little perspective when they lecture us about our democratic responsibilities). You could also remember that they can avoid tax – unlike you – by using offshore subsidiaries. From the Guardian: Lord Robertson, the former defence secretary and Nato secretary general, is a non-executive director of the Glasgow-based engineering firm Weir Group, which has subsidiaries in the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands. He is also deputy chairman of the board of the Russian oil company TNK-BP, registered in the British Virgin Islands. Not bad for a former GMB official, eh?

I liked the following quote from 2000 when financial companies were hinting they were unhappy about devolution. Happily Standard Life and Scottish Widows indicated they were relaxed and plain George Robertson MP said: “It’s a bombshell which blows apart the Tory campaign efforts in Scotland since it shows that Scottish business is not taken in by Treasury scaremongering.” Would he like to repeat that today?

I think what the Standard Life business does is confirm for the fearties that they were right to be concerned. They would have considered a Yes so long as nobody objected and waved them through but they haven’t the stomach for their own independence. They would always wilt and vote No. But the real prize here is that it confirms more surely than ever that No is corporate, moneyed and selfish. Its largest support is outside Scotland, it’s money comes from the millionaires, even it’s boss Alistair Darling fills his pockets with corporate dosh on top of his full-time MP’s salary.

This is diktat. It is a sharp reminder of how Britain is structured and how it works and why we must get out and rebuild our own country. Corporate entities like Standard Life don’t care about Scotland or the Scots as they have confirmed today. They care about profits and will go anywhere and do anything to get them. They epitomize everything the burgeoning new democracy movement stands against. Forget their threats, they are  another reason for voting Yes.

*One of those countries is Canada where the Standard Life head office is located in Montreal, Quebec, a place with a long history of separatists government and campaigning. It hasn’t bothered SL. Quebec even has different tax rates for personal, sales and corporate purposes and there isn’t a cheep of complaint from Standard Life who manage just fine.

Pensions: Britain’s Ponzi Scheme

What’s going to happen to your pension, the Unionists like to ask. It’s a very good question and they’ve managed to spin it relentlessly to frighten pensioners into thinking Scotland couldn’t afford to pay its way.



Like so much else in this debate, the case is built on a myth. It pre-supposes that Britain’s current arrangements are rock-solid and sustainable…carried aloft on David Cameron’s broad shoulders.

Reform Scotland’s report this week is the latest to demonstrate just how threadbare the Unionist case is and how reckless they have been with the wealth of the nation. There is a welter of evidence now that Britain’s pension provision is an elaborate Ponzi scheme heading for its day of denouement.

The truth is that there is no mammoth national pension pot earning interest through judicious investments in order to pay out to retired public sector workers and the general population of old age pensioners. As Reform says, ‘today’s national insurance contributions and employee contributions almost entirely pay for today’s pensioners. They are not going to a personal pot for the employee who’s paying them. Politicians have been engaged in a conspiracy of silence on this issue and they must now begin to be more open about the situation in which we find ourselves. People deserve to know where their money is going and what their future prospects are.’ Well, here’s a clue. The Intergenertional Foundation asked 50 economists what they thought would happen to British pensions.

Under the title Can the UK Afford to Pay off Pensions, it says that on top of its sovereign debt now reaching £1.3 trillion, the UK also has far greater liabilities to public sector retirees and general OAPs amounting to nearly £5 trillion (£1.2 for the state workers fund and £3.84 tr for OAPs). That is the ongoing cost of paying our non-private pensions which will have to be met by today’s and future generations.

Of the public sector pensions bill, it says, only 25 per cent (of the £1.2tr) is funded. So that the government has reserves amounting to only a quarter of the amount needed to service the pensions, leaving the rest, three-quarters to come from current revenue – tax receipts and National Insurance.

For the much larger amount needed to pay for the state pension – the £3.84 tr – there are no reserves at all…no savings, no investments accuring interest, nothing but taxes paid today by you and me which should be used for current spending. Pension costs should be met from historic savings built up over decades of National Insurance payments and government investments, including a fund using our own North Sea oil. During periods of plenty, when Thatcher had the oil and Brown had the housing boom, exceptional receipts should have been saved for the benefit of the nation. Instead Britain, now telling us they know best and have the clout to carry the economy that we don’t have, simply spent it, much of it on lowering taxes. They have left a generational burden on young people today and their children and their children’s children to pay for the benefits we get now. Meanwhile, as they get the bill for us, they will be unable to put enough away for themselves. Clever, eh?

‘It seems reasonable to ask whether this is feasible, especially in light of Britain’s worsening demographic outlook as the population ages’, says the Foundation in an uncomfortable reminder for Better Together of the reality of bankrupt Britain.


So the foundation asked the economists two questions. ‘According to the ONS, Britain currently has £1.2 trillion worth of public-sector pension liabilities, three-quarters of which are unfunded. 1 What do you think is the likelihood that these will all be paid in full?

In Britain the state pension is currently paid regardless of other income and assets. However, in some other countries (including Australia) it is means-tested. 2 Do you think means-testing of the state pension is likely to be introduced before 2040?

The answers were 36 of the 50 respondents (75%) said they thought that the UK’s public-sector pension liabilities would not be paid in full.

Almost half (46%) of the respondents said that they thought the basic state pension would have become means-tested by 2040.

Does that sound like a solid base to guarantee your pension? If you area pensioner Don’t Know worried about your income after independence, shouldn’t you think hard about what will happen without independence. Remember, the Unionists are promising another £25 billion of cuts to spending.

Here are some quotes from the economic experts.

The likelihood that these liabilities will be paid in full is as close to zero as statistics allow. In fact, the ONS data don’t really tell half the story. To illustrate, in order to finance existing- law pension, healthcare and long-term care commitments for the next 50 years, the government would need to have nearly 4.5 times the current value of GDP in the bank, earning interest that’s reinvested each year. This is simply to recognise the enormous funding that our demographic transition will require, and that the burden rises every year corrective actions are deferred. The only way the nation can restore some semblance of budgetary stability, and meet (restructured) obligations is via some combination of social programme reforms to limit the rise in costs, tax increases, and higher economic growth, derived from faster growth in productivity.’

Effective default through cutting benefits, means testing, higher tax, restricted eligibility etc is certain.

The next financial crisis will be a pension crisis

Lower proportions of current 20-year-olds supporting a larger number of pensioners means that unfunded benefits will have to be met through rises in taxes. This will not be tolerated by a generation that has already been disadvantaged by the generation above.

Using a more robust discount rate, these liabilities are far greater than £1.2 trillion. Despite the perceived strength of the covenant, there is a strong possibility that these will not be paid in full someway down the line.

There is a near zero risk of a UK sovereign debt default – say 5% to 10%. However, it is more likely that there will be a covert default engineered via high inflation, as in the 1970s. Current UK fiscal policy is not sustainable. Taxes are at their feasible limit, and spending commitments cannot be met.

Not quite the Better Together/George Osborne mantra, is it? Remember too that Gordon Brown slashed British private pensions by removing £5bn a year from our pension funds, now amounting to £100bn. According to Brewin Dolphin a 40 year old man planning to retire in 25 years making monthly contributions of £250 to add to his current £60,000 pension pot will eventually lose more than £120,000 on the final value. He’d have to work an extra two years into old age to make this up. Gordon is now Better Together’s pensions expert.

Meanwhile I’m not sure we could do much worse than the scandalously reckless and incompetent Whitehall regime that leaves us with one of the lowest pensions in Europe. Here’s is Business Scotland’s proposal – to collectivise into one “super fund” all the occupational pension schemes which have members who are employed in Scotland This includes private and public sector schemes as well as defined benefit and defined contributions schemes.

The fund will be the source of pension payments to Scotland’s citizens when they retire. Benefits will be based on earnings, so the scheme will be of a defined benefits character for all. The scheme will cover all citizens whether they are currently in a pension scheme or not.

The fund will be invested to support a fairer, greener and environmental sustainable economy

The fund will be managed by a National Board of Trustees whose responsibilities will be to protect the long-term viability and financial sustainability of the fund.

And since we can put off the day when retirement age has to go up, we can give an immediate rise to pensions on independence. This is based on evidence that Scots die younger than the UK average so are penalized by getting their pension later – a stark actuarial and demographic fact that caused mock amazement from Johann Lamont on STV – the woman whose party is responsible for those early deaths by representing areas like Calton for decades at every level of government without an anti poverty programme and who still believes the Union, bankrupt and mendacious in its pensions policy, is to the way to prosperity in old age. Over 60 per cent of Scots polled disagreed.

Lamont Wins!

If there’s been a worse “debate” anywhere, I missed it. Not since I lost my seven-year-old’s Furby have I heard so many irrational and angry meaningless words exchanged as we had in the STV debate with Sturgeon and Lamont. It wasn’t a debate at all. It didn’t even count as a stairheid rammy since nobody landed one meaningful point. I’m ashamed to say my mind drifted to old political corrs I’ve known who would have smiled and said: ‘See what you get when you put three women in a room and shout Politics!’

If you expect two people to argue you need to prepare for talking-over and therefore you start with an early yellow card and cut dead the interruptions. That didn’t happen. You can argue all you like about Johann not answering – and I do think her failure on Trident is a totally unnecessary own goal – or her lack of constituency knowledge on shipyards – unbelievable – the truth is that the people needed to watch this, the Undecideds, will have switched over after 10 minutes. The impression this left of our politics in general and our referendum in particular was a bit embarrassing and they should agree never to behave like Sauchiehall Street drunks again.


The net effect is that the Don’t Knows will have turned off both to the debate and the referendum and if there was voting tomorrow would decide to stay in bed. That is a definite win for NO. The fewer who vote, the better for them and I can’t remember a bigger turn-off since Jimmy Krankie wore a bikini in Aladdin

Outraged, Tunbridge Wells

If you have the stomach you might want to dip into the Daily Telegraph readers’ threads on Scottish issues to discover the cesspit of Scottophobia, defined by Tom Devine as: ‘the irrational aversion among the English establishment to Scots who, through the Union of 1707, achieved high political office.’ It has morphed into something deeper and uglier – a vicious, quasi-racist loathing for friends and neighbours by people convinced self-determination is designed to spite them.

From politics these English bigots jump seamlessly into sneering diatribes about poverty-stricken, useless Scots whose companies and institutions only exist courtesy of their Britain and will leave if the tartan hordes ever get control. Today there is a contribution from, presumably, a sane, educated Telegraph type claiming London has a superior IQ to Scotland and it is our collective lack of developed intelligence that blights our future. Wasn’t that the Boer’s argument against the blacks? Are we heading not into separate political systems but into apartheid?*

The slurry of unresearched accusation and demonic delight at the idea of a failed Scotland is clearly a psychological outlet for their hatred of us and, I suspect, a personal manifestation of what the UK Government is undergoing now – a crisis of confidence and identity. Without wishing to overplay the metaphor, there is something of the cornered rat at play here. The veneer of mutual respect is torn away as soon as they don’t get their way and in return for making them feel the fear, they fall upon us with teeth bared.

In this online underworld of acrimony can be found the seeds of resentment sown by the Unionists who never correct impressions that Scots are subsidised and therefore dependent, never stand up for their country in public and are blind to the crying need for Britain’s economic and democratic imbalances to be corrected. To English voters, there is only contempt for people who appear to win concessions unavailable to them. When do you hear any Unionist politicians explain how Scotland’s budget is set at Westminster, where there is an overwhelming majority of English MPs?

And does it help that a Cabinet minister, the Highland MP Danny Alexander starts talking about businesses leaving Scotland?  I find it irresponsible for someone tasked with defending the economy to deliberately undermine confidence by reckless and unsubstantiated remarks. He is in the Telegraph claiming that Alex Salmond had made a dramatic shift in policy when all Salmond said was that sterling was tradable. Such was Danny’s excitement at Phase Two of Currency Wars that, instead of waiting for Salmond to deliver a Plan B, he just blew off anyway saying that thousands of jobs were at risk, the banks would leave and business would follow…what an irresponsible, knuckle-dragging position for the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to take. Has Britain ever had such an inexperienced, unskilled, juvenile, student politician in the Treasury team? As for defending Scotland’s interests…that concept seems never to have occurred to him. This is a democratic process in which there are two sides, neither of which wishes to destroy the economy either of Scotland or Britain. It may require a degree of intelligence or, heaven help me, subtlety, but the UK really has to try for a higher standard of contribution. I have tired before to explain that there are nuanced ways of putting over a message while maintaining one’s integrity and the dignity of office, but I’m afraid Danny is falling well short on both.

Here’s his argument: ‘We’re able to have that scale of financial sector in Scotland because we’re part of the United Kingdom, because we have access to the Bank of England, the deep pockets fiscally of the UK Government as well, which helped to bail out RBS and Bank of Scotland.’ That means – we only have a financial sector because we’re in the UK. Scots themselves couldn’t have created this because they don’t have the nous. You may have read about 300-year-old banks and the first trustee savings banks and the Co-op and Adam Smith and Jardine and Matheson but Danny was off school that day. ‘I think it’s very hard to see how major financial institutions could keep their headquarters in an independent Scotland if there was no central bank and no lender of last resort.’ And even harder if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

The use of a currency board is a perfectly logical concept which uses its funds to maintain the level of the currency, as far as I can see. It works elsewhere without London’s financial genius which, as you’ll recall made such a spectacular success of the meltdown, aided by Gordon and Alistair’s regulatory system.

And the lender of last resort argument was disproved in Scotland’s case by the banking crash when the brass plaque was found to be all but meaningless. The bail-out money came from the central banks in the countries where the Scottish banks operated. That’s why London paid in £65bn to RBS and HBOS and would have done so if Scotland had been independent. However the US Federal Reserve made emergency loans available to RBS of £285bn and to HBOS of £115bn and bailed out Barclays with $550bn, because they were operating in the USA.

The same principle would apply to banks in an independent Scotland. Most of their trade would be abroad and that’s where the bail-out would take place.

Danny is heaping ammunition into the English bigots’ tray with this latest rant against any logical solution for his countrymen. They are the same ones who said it was wrong for a Scot to be Prime Minister, misunderstanding what their own country is meant to be about. The very fact that Brown as a Scot could be PM was confirmation that the Union worked but they are blinded by their prejudice. Which is what I have always believed about the Union. It is an artifice built on a myth. It only ever worked when everything suited the larger neighbor and now that they are being challenged any concept of “British fair play” and stiff upper lip has evaporated in a vapour of barely-concealed hatred.

One of the legacies of this referendum episode is that it has exposed once and for all that the Union was a con – it was a takeover as confirmed in the UK’s legal advice – and British meant English and if we go along with it we are demeaning Scotland. That’s what the English Scot-baiters expect of us, that we acquiesce and acknowledge their generosity and charity. Their ignorance about their own country, let alone Scotland, has been presented to the world and underlined by Cameron’s fear of debate. And the true nature of our “family of nations” is now out there, not just on the internet but buttressed by the state – Civil Service, ALL the main parties, big business and the media. That won’t go away after September’s vote, whichever way it turns out.

*2 hours ago 
The greatest threat to the future success of an independent Scotland
has nothing to do with oil, nor business’s exodus, nor Scotland’s other physical resources, which are indeed enviable. 
The greatest threat to Scotland’s success is the intellectual paucity of Scotland’s human capital.
It is not widely appreciated that as a consequence of so many 
intelligent Scots having, since the Union of the Crowns, left Scotland 
to make their lives elsewhere, the residual population presently has the
lowest average IQ in Europe outside of the ‘Boratland’ countries of the
former Soviet bloc and France.
The Scottish average IQ of 97 is well below the England and Wales 
average of 100.5 and about level with the IQ of citizens of the Republic
of Ireland; not a very high bar to jump.
As one would expect, London and the south-east of England scored top in the UK, with an average IQ of 102. 
Scotland – when differentiated from the rest of the UK – comes 
two-thirds down the table of European average intelligence, beating 
Russia by only one percentage point, but France by three. 
I’m not at all sure that anything can be done about this as the trend
looks set to accelerate in a post-Independence Day Scotland, which is a
sad thing indeed.




Taking the Mickey…and the Oil

I think I’ve got it now. The people who took £400 billion of our oil and didn’t save a penny over 40 years should be allowed to get away with it. And to make the case for carrying on, they show their commitment by coming to Scotland for the second time in a century and their PR man wears a helmet in a chopper – he’s a real rig roustabout, isn’t he?


I marvelled at the chutzpah of a political machine that trots out tired cliché after cliché in the Yes Minister fantasy that people are simple mugs who can be lured like dumb animals with sugar lumps before the snare goes round their neck. Posh Dave on a rig, cheques flying out of the book, new projects launched and “almost the entire Cabinet” (copyright BBC News) actually leaving London with a whole army of BBC big shots and travelling like other people do to a city at the other end of the country where other people really live and work – no really – and nearly speak the same language and pretending to be just like ordinary folk with reasonable concerns and honest intentions to do their best and not resenting being roused from SW1 one bit and so happy to be here in Aberdeen, God it’s cold…

This took me back to the nineties when Major was hanging on to power by Edwina’s knickers and twerps like Lord Glenarthur or Ian Lang (remember the dead) were actually paid to be government ministers. They would turn up at some muddy brownfield site in Lanarkshire wearing a Gieve’s pinstripe and City shoes to announce work on a factory given free to a Korean television tube/microwave maker. They would put on a yellow hard hat, climb aboard a digger and give a thumbs up for the cameras. God, it was boring for the reporters; embarrassing, if it were possible, for the policy-free, photo-op politicos and humiliating for the tax payer who subsidised the whole charade and was usually left with an empty plant and a hollowed-out wallet when the grants ran out and Doosan-Dingbat Industries moved to Ireland.

And here we are again, trapped in the same noblesse oblige Downton Abbey pretence that the British ruling elite gives a stuff about North Sea workers or the lives of the Scots beyond the credit line that extends all the way south. If Salmond said: ‘Tell you what, here’s a cheque for the next 10 years of oil revenues, now fuck off,’ Dave would grab it, whip off his hard hat, jump on the shuttle and be back in Notting Hill before Sam had read the Boden catalogue. (I know he lives in Number 10 at our expense but happily he rents out the Notting Hill place for £6000 a month).

If you chopper out to an oil rig for publicity purposes it might be appropriate to tell the people who do that every day why there shouldn’t be an inquiry – a public one – into 20 lives lost in four years from helicopter crashes. Or even give a government response to Total allowing the G4 well on their Elgin field to blow out.  That “event” was by all reports a very near miss – a spark away from disaster – according to the RMT union.

‘Over 8,000 cubic meters an hour of explosive gas escaped during and after the four hours it took to evacuate the installations by helicopter, and during this time and for a further five days that spark was actually very, very close in the form of a naked flame left burning in the flare stack.  Only the wind direction (luck) stopped Elgin going up – and with what consequences for oil workers’ lives if it had?… workers in the industry still don’t know why the well was allowed to blow out and why 238 lives were put in jeopardy.’

Still, that wasn’t the point of The Coalition offensive, was it? Saving lives is one thing but saving the economy is another.  It now seems to be official – that Scots are too thick to run their own oil industry. It needs the “broad shoulders and deep pockets” of the UK to do that. Or should that be “brass neck and bottomless pockets” of the UK…


If you look at Norway’s oil fund, the annual interest payments and dividends are around £14 billion profit on investment already made, which would still be there if the wells ran dry tomorrow. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that Britain’s revenues from North Sea oil this year will be less than half that.

How outrageous is that? Norway, smaller than Scotland, gets twice as much income from its investments alone with the capital untouched than the UK gets from oil production taxes. Meanwhile the Mighty UK has nothing, nada, not a bean, not a brass farthing, in savings from the years of the oil bonanza – all shoveled into the current account and spent while Britain builds up unpayable mountains of sovereign debt, borrows relentlessly and impoverishes its people – except the bankers.  Norway has a prudent rule (who was it that used that phrase?) that no more than 4 per cent of the fund’s capital is spent in any one year. That’s around £20 billion, which is more than the UK raises in capital gains tax, stamp duty and inheritance tax combined. This is a scandal on a monumental scale perpetrated by the people who lied to us about its worth. If Scots vote No out of fear, we must be very frightened people indeed because the callous way this natural bounty has been blown is a warning to everyone in Britain. I read the anti-Scottish hate as people in England sneer at our ambitions but surely they are the dimwits, being distracted by our campaign when their venom should be aimed at the people they constantly elect into power, people whose policies mean they are earning half of the GDP in Norway.

I know Alex Salmond would like an apology for the squandering of our natural asset but I’d be satisfied with a Thank You, Scotland for bankrolling Britain for the last 30 years. I can’t believe we are going to endorse them ripping us off a second time.

Estate(s) of the Nation

Getting poor people to register to vote to change their lives is now branded “hatred”. Have Unionists lost all decency or just a little perspective? I don’t care who goes into Easterhouse and the other sprawling estates outside Scotland’s cosy middle circle of professionals, well-paid pensioners, business types and commentators, so long as it works.

Who lives their lives content that thousands of our fellow citizens live such dreary unrewarding lives that they have no motivation to engage with society? The answer is the selfish, the uncaring and the undemocratic.

If the Unionists had bothered to go into these areas themselves to claim them for their politics, it might be different. But the unspoken pact of the elite is that some people are undeserving and beyond redemption and if they wont help themselves, what’s the point in us trying? It’s a shame, but what can you do?


Do what the RIC people are doing – get your hands dirty, engage, encourage and enlighten. To present it as anti-British is pythonesque. Who runs the country? Who holds all the powers? Who has the budgets? Who has directed money upwards for generations and made unemployed the former factory workers of Glasgow? Who closed the steel works? Who closed the shipyards – and who is still closing shipyards? British government after British government, of course. Labour and Tory, now squealing in complaint when they are found out. They decide we should have a low-wage, zero-hours contract economy while they run to Brussels in support of bankers bonuses.

And when Britain – as I always say, the British state – gets its just desserts in terms of blame, it is branded as hatred. I know what hatred is. It is knowingly consigning families to shrivelled lives with low-grade shops, poor health facilities and welfare dependency. That is hatred. How disingenuous of Labour to side with the Tories. Who represents Easterhouse, Springburn, Drumchapel in Westminster? What are the anti-poverty policies of Margaret Curran, Willie Bain and John Robertson? Vote for me, that’s their answer. Just as Michael Martin happily pulled on the silk stockings of the Speaker and snuggled into the grace-and-favour house instead of campaigning for one of the country’s poorest communities, Labour’s record in protecting the poor is abysmal.

I have my doubts about some of the views expressed by Radical Independence because I think it goes too far to engage ordinary voters. But which democrat can condemn the registration of voters and encouraging them to stand up for themselves against a system which writes them off? The answer for Better Together is to get out there and tell them about the Union, explain how inequality works, why some people are worth millions and they are worth nothing, why public schoolboys and millionaires are in the Cabinet and they are in the Jobcentre. The SNP and Yes should not be squeamish. This is where the campaign has to go next. The British elite has put on its tackity boots and so must we. Only our way is democratic, theirs is the opposite. They don’t want people to register, they want them to suffer and to do as they say. They tore up the Edinburgh Agreement, the pulled away our right to the currency. They obliterated our country in their legal advice. Is anybody in any doubt that the British state is now in full cry? The RIC message is that it is time to stand up and be counted, not by fighting but by voting. There is no reply to that, nothing they can do, just count the votes. And in the West of Scotland where sickened Labour voters are looking for answers, lies the most fruitful constituency of all – the people beyond the Better Together propaganda.

How sweet would it be if the people who decide this referendum for Yes and throw out the British mercenary elite were the poorest Scots of all?

Time To Grow Up

With one short phrase a blonde-haired legend from the 80’s said more than all the hysteria of the No side put together. Forget Bowie; it was Jackson Carlaw who made the ground-breaking remark that brings sanity and the Scottish national interest to the front of the debate.

When the Tory deputy promised to “man the barricades” to get Scotland the best deal he could from London after a Yes vote, he stepped out of the laager and dared to speak the truth about what will happen after September 18.

But he wasn’t letting any cat out of any bag on how the British government will behave, as the nationalists claimed. The West of Scotland MSP, however elevated in Scottish Tory ranks, will not be formulating policy for the British Treasury any time soon. What he was expressing was the democrat’s view – that this is a campaign we all fight to win and after the people have spoken we implement their wish. In the case of Scottish MSPs, all of them, that would be to wrest the best deal achievable for the Scots. If you believe, as he does, that means currency union and EU membership, then his shoulder will behind Bill Kid’s (fellow panellist on the Radio Scotland programme) and Alex Salmond’s.


That this rudimentary statement became news – and was predictably hijacked by sections of Yes claiming it meant more than it actually did – provides an insight into the conduct of the national debate so far. To me it is axiomatic that the politicians exist to serve the people so long as they find their demands within their conscience – otherwise they resign. Anybody actually questioned on this point in the No side will surely say Of course they will abide by the democratic decision. It’s just that the tone of their approach says the opposite, not helped by an honest declaration designed to clarify being turned against him. If, for once, a politician tells the truth, how helpful is it that his opponent jeers as if it’s a slip and his own side tut in despair? These reactions typify the Twitter age where grown men – no names – bitch and snarl in tweets like schoolgirls.

I think the Carlaw Doctrine is one of the most sensible interventions so far, at a stroke opening up a new vista in which all Scots come together in a common cause whatever the outcome. It shouldn’t be a revelation, but it is. It sounds almost statesman-like against the shrill relish of his own leader whenever an obstruction is placed in front of independence. Her delight is evident in her latest “massive tax bombshell” – that VAT will be levied on all goods and services by the EU. “It’s not just Scottish families that would be affected, but Scottish business too. Thousands of people in Scotland are employed across the construction sector in areas like shipbuilding and aircraft repair – areas which benefit enormously from VAT exemption and would be hit hard by such tax breaks being taken away under independence. No ifs, no buts – those are the rules for any new member.”

Actually there are If and Buts, the first being that it only applies to “new Members”, a category the treaties could not ascribe to Scots, even new Members negotiate their own exemptions and the principle that a Member shouldn’t suffer detriment through EU membership. She conveniently forgets David Cameron’s pre-election statement (before raising VAT to 20 per cent): “We have absolutely no plans to raise VAT.”

In May 2009, said that he would never raise a tax that “hits the poorest the hardest”.

He said: “You could try to put it on VAT, sales tax, but again if you look at the effect of sales tax, it’s very regressive, it hits the poorest the hardest. It does, I absolutely promise you. Any sales tax, anything that goes on purchases that you make in shops tends to . . . if you look at it, where VAT goes now it doesn’t go on food, obviously, but it goes very, very widely and VAT is a more regressive tax than income tax or council tax.” And then he put it up. Ifs and Buts, Ruth?

Apply the Carlaw Doctrine to the above and instead of hysteria which even at a human non-political level turns people off, you get instead: Has the first Minister considered how EU VAT rules will apply? Without exemptions the cost to families and businesses could be severe. Which exemptions does he propose retaining and has he, for example, spoken to the building industry? If not, will we have to step in to help him fight the European Commission on Scotland’s behalf to save the exemptions?

That way you get out two messages. One, you’ve flagged up a potential problem for Yes which fits your campaign and two, you’ve also informed the voter that whatever the outcome you stand ready to serve the country’s need. Isn’t it simple?

It also makes it harder for your opponent to criticise, since in a way, you’re standing with him, albeit with a different outlook. Maybe it’s too complicated, after all.

What has become complicated is the other fair-haired superstar in the debate, David Bowie who made a delicate intervention which I thought was sweet but said nothing…only that he was engaged with it, which I like. In fact, what’s not to like? To me this is a sign that our debate is reaching out way beyond Scotland and making all kinds of people think. It’s a lot better than being ignored. It also puts Bowie in the same category as Jimmy Krankie and I like that too having never understood what his music was about or who Captain Tom was. Bowie also managed to unleash yet more ill-informed metropolitan moaning from the Guardian stable. The Observer actually wrote a leader on it bemoaning the childish abuse Bowie had – apparently – received. (Does anyone ever see this abuse? Did anyone ever get sight of Susan Calman’s offensive epistles or did we take her word for it?) Frankly, if you enter the debate – and Bowie did, you take what’s coming. We all do. It’s part of the game so grow up. Which is why I was astonished at the Observer characterising this as indicative of our campaign which is like saying all football should be stopped because of 10 thugs on a terracing.

“The subsequent outpourings on Twitter were mostly negative, puerile and cumulatively underlined the message that, without a sharp reversal of course, the Scotland debate that ought to be an important platform for a modern, informed and progressive exchange of views on the meaning of national identity, the value (or otherwise) of the union, and the possible development of a more positive form of nationalism, will prove elusive.”

Really? Is that what you think in London? For years now we have been having erudite and intellectual debates in our country covering all those areas and more, we have think tanks, forums of academics, Nobel Laureates, and entire online community and two huge campaigns running, the Royal Society, the David Hume Society and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research have weighed in along with the Institute for Fiscal Studies and in case you don’t receive television down there, even Richard Madeley has given his Einstein opinion. There are public meetings all over our country. We are debating nuclear weapons and their worth, a new Nordic model for tax and welfare, how to live off renewables without nuclear to save the planet, how to end poverty, ditching the neo-liberal economic model, how nationalism fits with social reform, should education be free? We are having a debate in Scotland that you couldn’t begin to have in London where your only obsession is house price inflation and bankers’ bonuses. If anybody needs to grow up, it is you supremely cocky, ignorant M25 media luvvies who know nothing about the country you write about. This is more condescending drivel which inches us further away from those who claim to be the bright and conscientious and who increasingly display just how far apart we now are in Britain.

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things

I had fun with the Guardian’s G2 list of things England should apologise for until it went beyond 12 where it stopped being funny and then 20, when it made me wince, up to 50 where it was tiresome and ended, oddly, at 76. (1976 Scotland 2 England 1?) Sorry…just a reminder.

This is a go at bringing humour to a touchy subject which is a good thing and a change from the sense of bemusement – and inaccuracy – of so much London coverage. So Sorry for Calling You Jock, Sorry for Tory Governments, Sorry for thinking Flodden and Culloden were the same battle, all worked for me. But as I say, once you do the deep fried Mars Bar and Irn Bru and get to 74 – ‘Sorry for laughing at the prospects for your army in an independent Scotland. Of course you could always use it to invade the Faroe Islands if nothing else’, I was sensing it had morphed into derivative default mode…no longer laughing at out our shared prejudices but laughing at US. It doesn’t take long for our petty resentments to emerge in this kind of exercise, does it? We would never sink to pathetic stereotyping which only shows how ignorant we are too…would we? Oh yes, we would! Here’s my list. Feel free to add your own.


Sorry you still think you are a major power when the rest of the world hides its laughter. Being Washington’s poodle and buying their nukes doesn’t fool anyone, except you.

Sorry we don’t share your xenophobia. This must be related to the above as you love to think you are superior to the French, Romanians, Bulgarians, Africans, Irish, Welsh and Scots

Sorry you are one of three countries playing Test cricket. How did you get on in Australia?


Sorry you’re not a real nation but a hybrid claiming someone else’s identity (Britain) and when anyone does express Englishness it’s the EDL or Morris Dancers

Sorry we had to bail you out for the last 30 years when we have been net contributors to our shared economy and sorry you called us subsidy junkies when the opposite is true.

Sorry you didn’t save a single penny of our oil revenues to replace flood defences, build high-speed railways, secure our pensions or tide us over financial meltdown

Sorry not to laugh at Terry and June

Sorry to scoff at Eton and Harrow plonkers. We don’t understand why you like to be told what to do by public schoolboys. Is it something to do with matron?

Sorry to find your casual superiority grating – why is the FA not the English FA? Why is the RFU not the ERFU?

Sorry for providing most of your broadcasters and media types and for speaking your own language properly. It is not Lawrrr and Ordaah…a bird is not A bed and Boris is not the Meeeeah

Sorry for tearing down your goalposts and digging up your turf

Sorry for allowing your policies to kill men in our biggest city in their mid-fifties…still it keeps pension costs down

Sorry you don’t have any wild areas left and have to use our landscape for real outdoors activity, buying a cottage, owning an estate salmon fishing or stalking


Sorry you haven’t the stomach for wind turbines and rely on Scotland and Ireland to do your renewables and are surrendering your nuclear power to state-owned Chinese and French companies who will take your subsidies for 35 years

Sorry you can’t sing Auld Lang Syne properly

Sorry so many of your kings have been warmongers drunk on power and determined to crush other people and that they, like now, misunderstood us. Edward thought he’d stopped rebellion after sacking Berwick where he murdered half the population, raped the women and burned people alive but instead he incensed us  – and William Wallace – and it led to your slaughter at Stirling Brig. Sorry

Sorry for Jocky Wilson who proved that an unhealthy, overweight, mildly educated Scot can still beat you


Sorry you have no equivalent national instrument to bagpipes, no national dish, no world recognized design like tartan and no national dress (orange jumpsuits?)

Sorry for Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander. No, really….sorry. Some things are forgivable, like Susan Boyle but not that

Sorry for showing up your medieval parliament by making sure everyone is elected! AND by proportional voting. Isn’t it time to get over the gold-trimmed Ruritania stuff, kick out the bishops and turn the Lords into flats?

Sorry you have so many shaven-headed louts with pit bulls on crime-ridden estates and have created one of the least equal societies on earth

Sorry for thinking of you as stuck-up, effete, self-centred, unreliable tosspots when there is absolutely nothing in history to support such bigotry

Sorry I can’t keep up the vitriol. I just don’t dislike you enough, or at all. Why not come up and find out about us sometime