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?

Unknown

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?

Advertisements

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. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-26296632

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.

JacksonCsmall(1)

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. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/23/scottish-independence-proper-debate-david-bowie-twitter

“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 http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/19/scottish-independence-76-things-apologise 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?

1159864-18168153-640-360

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

images

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

Unknown

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

Feel the Fear

Frightened yet? You should be. They’re all piling in now – assertion upon allegation, horror upon hazard, claim upon calumny – from Brussels and London and even from the heart of our democracy at Holyrood where Danny Alexander opened his maths jotter and pointed to the page where the teacher had written Mortgages UP…

(This appeared to be a lick-the-pencil-tip exercise where you add suggestion to supposition – remember to carry the one – add it all up and add a nought…devised by a bank no-one’s heard of. Happily, it means we will all pay a nice round £5000 more for our mortgage, said Danny proudly, winking at the reporters – there’s your headline, boys. )

Danny-Alexander-005

The heat is being turned up, if you think Hermann von Rompuy qualifies as a heat source. Even an unrelated decision by a bank, which used to be Scottish, to base a division in London, is interpreted by the Telegraph propagandists as a snub to independence. Who’d want to base a bank in a small, independent, out-of-the-way country with funny habits…like Switzerland…or Monaco…or Hong Kong…Singapore…or Malta…or the Caymen and Bermuda…or…I give up. No, wait. I count 31 non-indigenous banks operating in Ireland – remember the basket-case economy that Jim Murphy laughed at in the Commons? GDP per head 2012: Ireland – Euros 35,700…UK- Euros 30,300 (source countryeconomy.com).  I make that one of Danny’s nice round 5000 numbers that makes a good headline. So here is one I made earlier.

IRISH €5000 A YEAR RICHER THAN BRITS AFTER SIX YEARS OF ECONOMIC FAILURE

It rather depends who and what you want to believe, does it not? Danny’s Treasury-written composition paper was based on how lenders would treat a country that failed to pay its debts. (Flaw alert incoming). Lenders – our altruistic, morally-minded “markets” are gentlemen to a fault, apart from the ones who are ladies and are regularly treated like Page Three slappers in City firms. Therefore they would view anyone with a bad credit history as a bad risk. But what if you didn’t default? What if you had no debts in the first place and someone else had publicly declared their intention to pay off those debts which they, not you, had incurred and to do so in all circumstances? If a lender sees a profit opportunity with low risk, sees a gleaming and industry-approved asset backing up the loan and a borrower with a low annual deficit, a net exporter, does he a) decide it isn’t fair that the borrower’s offer to help with someone else’s debt had been spurned and he should be punished for his audacity by being sent packing or b) give him the cash at a reasonable rate and watch how he performs?

If, on the other hand, another borrower appears with debt more than 100 per cent higher than income putting it 13th from the bottom of the world league table with the debt rising at £7000 a second, whose borrowing capacity is stretched to breaking point and buying in more products than it sells, shouldn’t it be liable for an interest risk surcharge, if it deserves any loan at all?

And, if you’re minded to believe the European Commission, (antidote pills are available), their estimate is that for the UK to come out of the EU, the cost would be £3000 each, proving that when it comes to scaring people, Westminster may have met its match.

But don’t think this kind of stuff doesn’t have an effect. In the Guardian today Martin  Kettle  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/19/alex-salmond-acting-spoilt-children turns what is a reasonable swipe at the SNP’s failure to quell doubts about currency into a rant ranging over the EU and pensions. His starting point has validity because, whatever the misgivings, a convincing alternative must find its way into the minds of the voters or a water-line leak will expand and lead to a flood. SNP protestations about synthetic politics from the Unionists are genuine and, as soon as an alternative emerges, will be revealed for what they are – a campaign gambit devoid of honesty. But there is no disguising the need for something definitive, otherwise the gambit wins. Kettle stretches the point beyond the reasonable, or even the logical, but the fact that he has given up on what little respect he had for the independence tactics, is a straw in the wind. He repeats the McTernan line about the SNP response. “It felt like a reputation destroying performance. For if anyone is guilty of bluff, bluster and bullying with which Salmond loudly charged his much better argued critics, it is Salmond himself. I’d be pretty confident that voters would see it that way too.”

Salmond can’t afford to let this caricature take hold because the trick of politics isn’t really what you say, it’s what people want to believe. If they’re minded to back independence, they will listen sympathetically to the case and if you tell them you have been obliged to seek an alternative because your opponent has acted unreasonably, they will understand. Don’t Knows who are weighing it up will appreciate the dilemma and perceive a pragmatic response – and will be much less sympathetic to a second round of attack from the opponents. In the course of the change, Salmond is seen as reasonable and accommodating in the face of intransigence and if he pulls off a clever trick with a neat solution, such as using the pound regardless, he wins again. But these decisions must be made within days, if not hours. The idea that there is no alternative takes hold quickly and an eventual reply looks grudging.

(This is where I diverge from Kettle whose lack of detailed understanding is betrayed by his unquestioning acceptance of the Barroso (latest) intervention. There simply are no independent observers who take this seriously and a journalist can’t complain when the SNP don’t either. Barrosos’s assertions are so far off the wall there is only one answer which is that he is taking us and the EU for fools. The same goes for Kettle’s belief that Gordon Brown has raised important questions on pensions. There IS clarity on pensions in the White Paper but there are remaining questions over the EU requirement on funding cross-border schemes but this is exactly where the civil service comes in – to engineer solutions, perhaps by negotiating a 10-year period over which full funding can be achieved. As this was raised initially by the Chartered Institute of Accountants, you’d think they would propose an answer – isn’t that what we pay them for? I’m afraid Kettle can’t get away with blaming the SNP for going for the man not the ball in the case of Brown. As I said yesterday he is responsible for destroying the pension value for millions of people, despite being warned of the consequences and if you don’t have a final salary scheme today, blame Gordon. Whatever the arguments over pensions, Brown has brass neck pretending to have a solution. Kettle may respect Brown, but he is in a minority).

Kettle uses a phrase that made me gape wide-eyed at the ipad. “I know a serious argument when I hear one, and Osborne and the others have been making serious arguments in the past few days. It is simply mischievous to pretend that they are not dealing with major issues which, if mishandled, could be seriously destructive to ordinary lives, communities and standards of living. Yet, faced with genuine intellectual and political challenges on big subjects, Salmond and his colleagues act like children who scream as loudly as possible in order to avoid listening to a message they do not want to hear.”

Destructive to ordinary lives? I was listening to the news on Radio Four at the time. Here are two stories run one after the other. One: “An increasing number of under-18s with mental health problems in England are being treated on adult psychiatric wards, it has emerged. And many children are having to travel hundreds of miles across the country to receive hospital treatment. Treating young people in such units should happen only in exceptional circumstances. The Department of Health had promised this would stop by 2010….‘Sometimes we have to make 50 to 100 phone calls around the country looking for a bed. They [young people] shouldn’t be shunted around into inappropriate facilities, however much the staff there try to help them,’ said Dr McClure.It may be the first time they’ve had a breakdown. They need to stay in touch with the people they know and love, and if they’re having to move 200 or 300 miles, it’s very difficult for the family to stay in touch.’ He said funding for mental health services had been cut, particularly for child and adolescent services in the community.”

A mother told of having her daughter dragged out of her arms and hearing her screaming out of a window: “Mummy, don’t leave me…”

Two: “Forty-three Christian leaders, including 27 Anglican bishops, have signed a letter urging David Cameron to ensure people get enough to eat. They argue that cutbacks and failures in the benefits system are forcing thousands of people to use food banks. The End Hunger Fast campaign called the situation “truly shocking”. It wants a national day of fasting on 4 April. But the government said it wanted to help people “stand on their own two feet” by cutting welfare dependency.

The letter comes after Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, warned last weekend that welfare reform was leaving people in “destitution” and labelled it a “disgrace”.

Those two routine items on the UK national news are what I call destructive to ordinary lives and if Martin Kettle imagines an independent Scottish society would permit those offences when money was available, he isn’t keeping up. It is exactly that kind of brutish, despicable, community-shredding blindness that we want to escape. People across Britain are recognizing that they don’t want to live in a society that has lost its heart and only counts money not blessings. What is the Guardian’s solution? Vote Labour? Back Ed Balls? Or is Kettle the one  putting his fingers in his ears and humming?

Our currency will be sorted out, and the debt, as will the EU, and we will keep our pensions. Britain and Scotland will never prosper by listening to Brown, Balls and Osborne. The truth is that, no matter how hard it is for southern commentators to take on board, Britain is finished. It may run on in London and the grab-it-all south east but even there insane house prices are killing communities, and everywhere else there is a powerful sense of abandonment and imprisonment in a Britain we don’t remember ever voting for. It may be at the other end of Britain but it is difficult not to feel real pain for the flooded people in the south west whose homes are ruined, who face uncertain futures and limits to insurance and whose flood defences were never rebuilt as they were promised. Three hundred of them were meant to be replaced but weren’t. This too is a symptom of a top-down, cynical political system to whom people are customers to be lured, hoodwinked and fleeced. This is from an item in Social Europe by Simon Wren-Lewis: “Cuts in flood prevention are a small part of austerity, but there are close parallels with the macroeconomic case… Just as some in government never believed in all this climate change stuff, others thought that this Keynesian idea that austerity might be a bad idea…was fanciful. (Some, like George Osborne, appear to have thought both.) When these mistakes became evident it was, with the floods, the Environment Agency’s fault, and also the last government, while with the recession it was all down to those Goddam Europeans, and of course the last government. Yet whereas the links between austerity and prolonged recessions may appear mysterious to many, the links between lack of flood prevention and flooding are all too obvious. And the real danger for the government is that perhaps others may begin to see these parallels.”

What is being called the SNP’s fit of pique is partly an expression of this deep frustration, that when you come up with promising solutions, perhaps a way out, a better way forward, the forces of authority and a complaint media work their hardest to destroy it. They are currently in full defence mode, backs pressed against the wall, realizing that they have gone for broke by legalizing the referendum and refusing a second question and are now in the hands of the Scots. As is their economic future. A decision to split would be a severe blow to hopes of closing the deficit, of shifting some of the mountainous debt, of keeping their borrowing costs low, avoiding an almighty nuclear weapons headache and diminishing them in the eyes of the world. And still the polls tighten. http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/8765-worries-for-no-campaign-as-currency-threat-halves-lead

The latest thistle in their pants is the game-changing warning that liabilities are equated with assets, a fine principle in law, and the reason they are now working overtime to suggest Scotland will suffer if it declines their invitation to load up the national credit card with their borrowings. I don’t see it. Salmond has offered to pay. They have in effect declined the offer. They are stuck with it, palms getting sweaty.

There is of course now no easy solution, they having painted themselves into an ever-reducing box. The offer should be to negotiate but they’ve thrown that one away. They can’t make soothing noises because they blew that one too. All that’s left is what they’re good at – threatening and warning…assuming you are intimidated by Danny. But a deal will be needed. London must acknowledge an agreed deal and Scotland’s negotiated departure before most of the world will accept us. So it may be that some share of debt is accepted even if they stick to the refusal to share sterling and we will begin our new relationship as we began it all those years ago, in resentful and grudging acceptance of our one-sided relationship with the grabby neighbor.

We Are On Our Own

It didn’t take Ed Balls long to prove me right. I wrote on Februay 14 that…“by pulling together and stating effectively that retention of the Union supersedes all policy differences is a seminal moment….when they conspire to create individual policy along with the Tories they are getting into bed with the people who are wrecking lives in Britain…why is saving the Union a greater crusade than saving the dignity of the unemployed? Why does the perfectly normal arrangement of a currency deal supersede zero hours contracts and welfare cuts for the disabled? For a socialist what is the motivation to bury all differences with the hard right in order to send a brutal message to the Scots – that we don’t co-operate, we dictate. We don’t negotiate – we assert?”

Today we find Ed claiming that his revulsion at the Liberals’ behaviour in government may preclude joining them in a future Coalition. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/feb/18/labour-lib-dems-ed-balls  He says: “I look at what the Liberal Democrats have done the last two or three years – these guys have not restrained the Tories. They have in many ways amplified and encouraged the Conservatives in thing they’ve done.” He goes on: “It’s one thing to break your promises in a manifesto to get into power, it’s another to do that on the backs of the poor and the most disadvantaged. That’s what they did and I don’t think people are going to forget that.”

So why is he standing shoulder to shoulder with them – and their Tory masters – when it comes to Scotland’s currency? If you loathe them both so much that you’d endanger your chances of running the government by refusing to stand with them in a coalition, what is it about Scotland and the pound that allows you to drop your inhibitions and join them on this single issue?

He says it himself – they’ve let down the poor and the disadvantaged which should be reason enough not to work with them on any domestic policy issue. (I’m excluding international threat where the natural tendency is to pull together in the national interest). Or is that precisely why the currency question transcends all others – because Labour really does regard Scotland as a nascent foreign country rather than an estranged family member? Could it be that when Balls is presented with the proposition that he join his sworn enemies in an alliance against Scotland, it immediately strikes him as appropriate because in the interests of Britain, they must stand together whatever their differences. Scotland is an aggressor, a national threat to be faced down. The poor? To Hell with them. The disabled? We’ll come to that later. Is there some kind of dog whistle at work here so that on this issue, only and alone, all differences between parties, including UKIP by the way, evaporate and Labour rushes, panting to join the British bulldogs? They did it over the second question, just as they did over Calman, and here again on currency. Instead of using their considerable power base in Scotland to strike a different note, a real Scottish Labour alternative, they fall into the arms of the very people they pretend to despise.

Johann Lamont said that sharing the pound would mean England “doing us favours” so she also doesn’t believe Scotland has a stake in the Bank of England and hasn’t helped to build sterling. She said England would be quite right to deny it to Scotland. Now there’s a proud Scottish leader to march behind. “What do we want…to be treated like serfs…Small, skint and stupid…Ed, Ed, Ed…” It seems we really are another country.

Why wouldn’t an enlightened left-leaning democrat wish to engage constructively with a left-of-centre movement of friends over the border that would be mandated by  majority in a legal referendum? And why wouldn’t a Scottish Unionist leader not want to keep the closest relationship they could after a break?

There are many possible answers including undying loyalty to the (London) leadership…an implacable hatred of the SNP…a lack of vision…cynical disregard for the Scots, her own history of opposition to devolution or plain political stupidity. I say this because whatever your role in the political game in Scotland, you are lost if you are seen not to stand up for the Scots. This is a loose phrase which is malleable in the hands of the beholder but everyone of us knows what it means to them. Salmond stands up for Scotland, even when he’s wrong. That is what the public think. So horizontal is Johann’s profile and so timid and ingratiating her contributions that people don’t know what to think of her which may be a good thing for her reputation. But I think she is wrong to meekly troop along behind Balls on this. The Scots are genuinely trying to make up their mind and, whatever their misgivings about the pound, are taken aback by the total resistance Westminster has engineered. To them it sounds unnecessary, premature and hostile and they’re looking for someone to give them perspective….someone to say: “I’m not so sure. We don’t need to be hasty. We’ll decide what’s in the best interests of the Scots if this ever happens.” In the absence of that voice, they turn to Salmond who says it for them.

The idea that Lamont might be irritated with Balls for joining the Tories, for ruling out the currency union, would strengthen her hand in public opinion. Yes, it means she would be asked to explain an internal difference but that’s the whole point – to make sure people know she’s on their side and is prepared to be against her own party to be so. That’s what Scottish leaders have to do. McConnell didn’t and was thrown out. Gray failed the test and was obliterated. Funny how they never learn.

Well done, Students of Glasgow!

edward-snowden

Snowden wins! Well done, Scotland. Thank you, Glasgow. You are brilliant, students of Glasgow. He is an international icon and now he is your rector. Another Mandela moment. We can be different. We can stand up and be counted. We are the good guys.

Will the politicians have the guts to salute the students of Glasgow? Let’s start a movement for Snowden and urge our government to offer him asylum. The SNP stood against America on Megrahi. Let’s lead again on justice and compassion for those who risk everything to tell us the truth. Liberals across the world will be applauding Scotland tonight.

You Have Been Warned *Update* See Below

The ToryLabourLibDem Troika, having delighted the Dependence Twitterati with their currency strike, have created a massive problem for themselves. They don’t consult, they combine to say No – against all reason – they resist well-argued Scottish logic. So, if this is how they treat the Scots in an area where we share an asset, who can trust them to deliver increased powers?

When Labour can abandon its position on protecting living standards in order to join with the Coalition cutters, what price their promise of more devolution? If jointly the Westminster parties can deny what is rightfully ours when it suits them, why would we believe any of them when they dangle Devo Max?

This display of resistance at a plan they dislike, shows what Scotland is up against when trying to prize more powers out of Westminster. They have set some precedent. There is no length they won’t go to in taking on the Scots and the scorn explicit in this week’s team snub of reasonable – and with the debt, generous offer – is a clue to what we can expect after a No vote. They have introduced a note of punishment for our impudence that should serve as a sharp reminder of how important it is, in their eyes, to stand up and be counted. They have made clear, as has Barroso, that it is only the nation state – a sovereign Scotland – that commands their respect. Remain a region and they’ll walk all over you.

There is now a distinct smell in the air that if they can act so brutally by closing off without negotiation a key area of mutual interest and in the process shred the Edinburgh Agreement, then they can throw extra powers into the dustbin after they win the referendum. Who will ever again listen respectfully to Osborne, Cameron, Balls, Miliband or…if they ever did…to Alexander when they implore us for our trust, that they will deliver more powers, or say the Union is a partnership when we know from their actions they treat us like their estate workers. I think this must be a constant strand of argument no matter which area of government is under discussion. They have proved we can’t trust them – any of them. And as we now know they won’t produce a joint policy on additional powers, their alternative offer is insultingly unconvincing.

We are being blocked from a sensible option by an obdurate and bellicose government in an all-party Unionist front. It shows precisely how they regard the Union and Britain – as theirs to do with as they wish and us as people of a lesser status. This is core to the debate and blows away all the technocratic stuff and puts centre stage the basic questions – are you prepared to be pushed around like this? Is this what the Union stands for? Do you agree Scotland is an inferior partner of the UK? Do they sound like reasonable people who will give you Devo Max? If they look down on a national region, doesn’t it show that we need sovereignty to defend ourselves? Is this the Britain you have been happy to be part of or is Scotland really your country, not Britain at all? Voting Yes begins to sound imperative.

And this takes me back to the Labour Yes voters I wrote about weeks ago. They are worried that if the vote for Yes is too low, Westminster will disregard the outcome and bin extra powers. The need for them to back Yes is more pressing today because it is clearer what is at stake.

Hands off Tim Reid! A BBC correspondent gets a call to Downing Street to be gifted a big story and he’s expected to do what? Demur? I’d love the conversation with the newsroom. “Yeah, they told me Osborne is joining forces with Balls and Alexander and will rule our currency union…so I said You’re not using me as a conduit for your political campaign, give it to somebody else, you chancers…”

What’s a reporter to do? It was, after all, true. It all came to pass and it was a global story. Reid got the credit for it although not from the News at Ten where the presenter introduced Nick Robinson with the words: “Nick, you broke this story…” And Nick said nothing!

So was the BBC manipulated? Of course. That’s how the lobby system works. Minister or aide whispers in journalist’s ear, journalist writes story or broadcasts it and the hare is off and running. The question is: Should the BBC have spent two days building it up before anything was said? Yes. How could they not? You can’t un-know something and you can’t credibly let every other outlet run with your story and not do so yourself.  The real issue here is surely how it was then dealt with because having ownership of a story and with so many hours to work on it rather demands intense scrutiny, in my mind. Instead of just bursting on you in the morning and forcing everyone to scurry around getting on air, in this case there was more than enough time ahead of the statement to do some serious investigative work on what was going on, on how voters would react, how currency works, experience elsewhere, impact on the UK. Maybe even Johan Lamont’s reaction – only joking.

I didn’t get much sense of depth in BBC Scotland’s coverage up to the announcement and I would like to hear an on-air statement pointing out that a request for interview was put in but rejected. STV were exactly right to make that point about the parachute policy of the UK government. It isn’t just that they don’t want to be caught out on camera not having acceptable answers, they don’t want to be caught on camera at all. A speech is one thing, but an intimate camera in the face capturing every squirm and reminding us of who is behind the Union campaign is not a good PR idea.

Consider too that the Scottish government has the same power over the media – pro Union or not. If they wanted to they can play the same game by summoning a journalist and offering an exclusive…” the Scottish Government will definitely not agree to pay part of Britain’s debt” could have been an example. Nobody would have refused to publish and, offered to the right outlet, it would have been spun positively.

This is a campaign. In that respect it is a game and time and gain one side gets the better of the other. Yes campaigners should be asking why.

The reaction has been grand sport both to the currency  issue and the latest Barroso outburst which have been linked by the media implying a coordinated effort, although I doubt that personally.  Laughably, Barroso was in the UK ahead of the European elections and trying to convince us to stay good Europeans…and not to listen to UKIP and Cameron…exactly what Scotland is trying to do!

I liked Angus Roxburgh in the Guardian  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/20/scotlands-eu-bombshell-bunkum-barroso  pinning the issue neatly and hitting a button most of the media just don’t reach.

‘Barroso was asked whether the commission could confirm the “view” (sic) expressed by his predecessor Romano Prodi in 2004, to the effect that “a newly independent region would become a third party with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of independence, not apply any more on its territory”. Yes, replied Barroso, he could confirm this because “the legal context has not changed since 2004 as the Lisbon treaty has not introduced any change in this respect”.

Alarm bells should have clamoured in the ears of everyone with the slightest knowledge of the EU. Of course the Lisbon treaty did not change the legal context regarding this issue – because the Lisbon treaty has nothing whatsoever to say on the matter! Lisbon deals with many important things (including how a member state might withdraw from the Union), but not the question of what happens with a region that secedes from an EU state. It’s like saying, your gas bill has not been affected by recent changes to the mobile phone network. True, but daft.

So why did he say it? In letter after letter to the commission I have pleaded with them to spell out to me what “legal context” Barroso was referring to. Which treaty article or EU law did he have in mind? No reply.

I asked whether Prodi’s “view” (the thing that Barroso confirmed) had any legal status, or was it really just his opinion. Again, an eloquent silence.

I asked them to confirm that in fact there is no provision in EU law to deal with the situation that will arise if part of a member state secedes. No reply.

I put it to them that in such a circumstance, the member state itself would have to renegotiate its membership terms (number of seats in the European parliament, votes in the council, contribution to the budget etc), and that during that period of negotiation it would surely be possible for the seceding territory (prior to its actual declaration of independence) simultaneously to negotiate its own terms of membership. No reply.

The commission, I was told, “will only be able to express its opinion on the legal consequences under EU law of a specific situation upon request from a member state detailing a precise scenario”.

Why? It is the European commission’s job to interpret EU law. That’s what it exists for, and it does it every day, without being prevailed upon by member states. And yet in this historic situation it refuses to clarify to the Scottish people what a vote for independence would actually mean. Instead, it uses weasel words patently designed to influence the vote.’ Precisely. Barroso, whether he is right or wrong, is playing politics and undermining the EU’s authority and, I suspect, it’s reputation in Scotland. (I too have written to Commission officials asking for answers to specific points but if they won’t answer Roxburgh’s, they won’t answer mine).

Pity the Guardian continued its anti-SNP tone with another leader  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/17/scotland-future-salmond-denial cavilling about Salmond’s seemingly hollow speech. Surely what is happening is that he is only speaking to us, the Scots, to hammer home the idea that we are being robbed of something that is rightfully ours and whatever we finally decide to do about currency, this has to remain upper most in our mind.

Salmond must ensure this lesson is learned but it is also important that he continues to open up the idea of a currency without monetary union. It simply isn’t sustainable to stay in denial and the Guardian view – that all else is hot air – will prevail until there is an alternative. That isn’t just following a Better Together narrative, it is key to convincing Scottish voters to have belief that there is a credible option that won’t harm them. It is twin-track – relentlessly blaming the UK for denial of rights in a vindictive and aggressive act while pointing to the next best option, adding the rider than actually, this has real attractions too. When Darling pops up frothing at the alternative the penny will drop with the voters – this man won’t accept any option. All he does is demand you pick a number and then he rubbishes it. That is credibility-grating in the yes of the voters. Salmond can take the morale high ground here and drive further the idea that London – the government, the parties and, in this case, even the Civil Service, are conspiring against us.

If you want some type of confirmation of this, I suggest you check out David Maddox in the Scotsman.  http://www.scotsman.com/news/david-maddox-no-really-means-no-over-currency-1-3309833

This makes extraordinary assertions including that London believes through its release of “government papers” it has won the heads of the Scots. All it has to do now is win their hearts…are you following this? ‘They believe the battle of the head is won. They also feel that they bend over backwards to keep Scotland happy so it will stay in the UK through devolution, a generous settlement in the Barnett Formula and a high representation in Westminster.’ Bend over backwards?! I have been accused of being subsidised when I’m a net contributor, I’ve had my oil money removed and not a penny saved, our farmers have just been robbed of their EU cash, my steel industry and pits were shut, my fiscal policy is shaped for the bankers, I didn’t have a pay rise for five years because they screwed up the economy, they’re threatening to take their money out of our renewables and I don’t want representation at Westminster…

I don’t want a Barnett formula either.  I want to raise all my own taxes and I don’t have a West Lothian Question because I don’t want a vote on their privatised health service or their parent-run free schools…

How could a Scottish political journalist write this as if it might be fact? Is he so removed from the realities of this country that he thinks only in Westminster-speak?

It gets worse. Read this: ‘Where they think they could lose is in the battle of the heart. This is why Prime Minister David Cameron made his appeal for the rest of the UK to love-bomb Scotland. But this analysis is leading to a conclusion, not publicly expressed, that if Scotland does leave, then it is because Scots simply do not like their neighbours – a view fuelled by SNP rhetoric.’

Get it? They have done everything they could to help the ingrates to the point where its only hatred of the English that can positively justify their continued complaints…

I can’t believe this quasi-racist English supremacist – and deeply inaccurate – garbage is published in Scotland. This briefing should have been used to pour scorn of a ruling elite deluding themselves. What if Salmond had made such self-serving claims? Would have been presented as an intelligent feature item or blasted in ridicule across the front?

And then, the poor soul offers us this: ‘Given this mood music in Westminster, if Scots do vote Yes, there is likely to be a ruthless assertion of national interest by the larger state. So saying “no” to sharing the pound is just the beginning. Tory Home Secretary Theresa May has talked about border posts, Tory Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond has questioned allowing Scotland into Nato, Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable has talked about moving Royal Bank of Scotland’s headquarters to London. If Scotland does not share the debt, there could be worse in the form of a total asset grab, potentially even including North Sea oil and gas which, courtesy of the Callaghan government, is in a fifth part of the UK – the continental shelf – and not formally part of Scotland.’

So the wave of threats will continue unabated, all reported in advance in a national newspaper which doesn’t question one word of it, either the accuracy (prevent us joining NATO, Border posts? RBS moving – now specifically denied?) and seemingly accepted by the editor as a fair piece of analysis. Taking all the oil?

Apart from the ludicrous assertion that idea implies in international law, are we to believe that the Scotsman itself has no problem with this, no sense of outrage, no booming editorial standing up for the rights of the Scots the paper was started all those years ago to serve? NO, is the answer because it’s leader column plays London’s game to the hilt. And even, in a profound irony in light of the Maddox article, manages to blame Salmond of making threats. ‘To threaten that in retaliation, Scotland will not take on any share of the UK debt built up while Scotland was a member of the Union is vacuous’.

Unbelievable. Actually un-Scottish is a better term. Can you imagine anywhere else on earth where a country is threatened this way including removal of its oil assets and its national newspaper doesn’t raise a murmur? It actually indicates clearly it agrees that it should be bullied. I write about national pride being part of this debate. Far from pride, some of our press hasn’t even got a backbone. There is talk in the steamie – and I’ve had two sources say it now – that the Scotsman is to cease publishing as a daily newspaper because it can’t afford to carry on. It might, runs the theory, publish weekly, on a Thursday. What a climb down that would be for what was one a venerated institution with an international reputation. When I worked there it meant something. You were proud to call yourself a Scotsman Reporter. It’s where I started 45 years ago and I owe them a lot but it only makes the pain harder to bear when I read it today. There was a greater sense of Scottishness and desire for self-determination in the paper in those days, and especially in the 1979 referendum, than they have today. Where are the Neal Achersons and the Chris Baurs of our age?

I add here a few lines from someone who is always worth listening to – the tax expert Richard Murphy at http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/  for a money man’s take on Barroso’s ramblings.

‘I am surprised that Jose Barroso of the EU has said that Scotland would have to re-apply for membership of the EU if it voted for independence but omitted what seems to me to be quite an important detail.

The detail he omitted seems to me to be that if he is right then surely the remaining part of the United Kingdom would also have to apply for membership as well?

I cannot quite see why it is assumed that if the United Kingdom split Scotland would be a new state but the remaining bit (surely, not then the United Kingdom, almost by definition) would carry on as before.

Making this assumption the EU appears to make very clear that it thinks that Scotland is not now a separate country, and yet it has some very clearly defined characteristics, such as a separate legal system that pre-existed its joining the UK that clearly indicate that it is. It also has a very obvious independent history. But the EU logic is that Scotland is simply a province and not a partner when the very name of the UK implies not.

And what I cannot quite accept is the EU logic that if the UK splits then England is the heir. This appears to me to have dubious foundation in logic that is worrying even if the Union survives and suggests that it will need to take a very different form if it does, that may actually be harder to manage.’

So it’s not all anti-Scottish out there even if our own press struggles to find its kilt.

**I quoted Angus Roxburgh earlier. These are quotes from his latest piece in the Guardian about Barroso’s interventions. The full version is at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/18/scottish-referendum-independent-scaremongering-eu

‘Now, it seems, if we dare to express this unique and much-loved identity of ours by voting for independence in September, we will be outcasts. Nobody would want us in the European Union or Nato, and what used to be known as a land of canny bankers wouldn’t be trusted with the British pound….In every instance, I find myself asking (and wondering why BBC interviewers do not ask): why are all these politicians suggesting that Scotland should be cast out when sheer self-interest and common sense would dictate the opposite? Why, Mr Barroso, would the EU expel a country that has been a member for 40 years, and which has already transposed all EU legislation into Scottish law, knowing that this would cause utter havoc – not just for Scotland, but for all the other member states? Why, Mr Osborne, would you refuse to share a currency when it would be in the interests of British business to do so?

There are seven months to go to the referendum. Let’s quit the scaremongering, and accept one thing: if the Scots democratically choose independence, then Brussels, London, and all global institutions will accept this and work to make it happen. Not for Scotland’s sake, but for their own. No one is going to throw us out.’ He is a seasoned international observer with intimate knowledge of the EU.

Here’s is another view, this time from Neil Walker, Regius Professor of Public Law and the Law of Nature and Nations at the University of Edinburgh. He is writing this in the Constitutional Law Association blog UK Constitutional Law Association comment+e6xwnpc33–9lqq4rzt40r4@comment.wordpress.com. (Well worth reading in full).

‘What is glaringly absent from the debate, both in the  knowing buck-passing of Barroso’s intervention and in the broader silence of the EU’s main movers and players on the Scottish question, is the articulation of any kind of public philosophy that would provide good reasons, rather than simply motivations of base political self interest, why an independent Scotland should or should not be welcomed with open arms. How, precisely, is the EU, still resolved by common commitment of the member states in the preamble to the Treaty on European Union ‘ to  continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity’, to justify the exclusion of an independent Scotland? Why should  a country of 5  million citizens, who  have also been EU citizens for 40 years and who have expressed no desire to leave the European Union, be treated less  generously than the 110 million new EU  citizens – over 20% of the EU’s total population – who have joined from Central and Eastern Europe since 2004? Why should Scottish citizens instead be placed in the same category of Kosovo, or any other potential candidate from beyond the Union’s distant borders?

Here, the Edinburgh Agreement reflects the preparedness of the UK’s flexible constitution to accommodate the prospect of independence. So for the EU to set its face against Scottish independence would be to dismiss the significance of the member state’s own recognition of the legitimacy of secession.

Not only is this less than we might expect from someone committed to the general interests of the Union, but it also allows the prejudices of national parties to be entered to the calculation without the embarrassment of a first person airing.

In a nutshell:  If any of the key players on the EU stage is opposed to Scottish membership then they should either show the courage of their convictions through a discourse of public justification linked to the interests of the Union as a whole  or, failing that,  they should at least be prepared to declare their intentions to act out of national self-interest. Barroso’ s intervention allows a significant oppositional note to be struck without either of these tests of public candour being met. The danger increases that our independence debate become hijacked to poorly specified and undefended external considerations. That surely is bad news for anyone interested in the referendum as a means to the long-term, widely accepted resolution of our national conversation.’

Does this make sense to you? Or are you convinced by the ill-informed hysteria of the anti-democracy Unionists? If we do vote Yes, there is going to be a period of intense revisionism in Scotland as those who played politics with the facts, Scotland’s future and their reputations feel the heat of public and professional scrutiny.

How do you come back from disastrous misleading positions like Barroso’s, or Darling’s or the Unionist politicians. I think the MEPs are particularly vulnerable here since their case is clearly anti-Scottish and simply not credible. Nobody in their right mind hitches their reputation to a right-wing maverick like Barroso as David Martin, Catherine Stihler and Struan Stevenson have.

I noticed a tweet today in which Professor Adam Tomkins, Britain’s most Unionist academic, recommended Brian Wilson’s latest self-justifying sneer at the SNP. Tomkins recommends Wilson on independence is like Campbell recommends Blair on Iraq war or Cameron recommends Ian Duncan Smith for impoverishing disabled, or Paul Sinclair recommends Johann Lamont for doing nothing.

And did you see the shameless Gordon Brown, the man utterly devoid of self-analysis, announcing that it is better for Scottish pensions to remain in the UK where “they will be safe”. Is this the former Chancellor who stole billions from our pensions?

Here’s a report from 2007. ‘Gordon Brown was warned explicitly that he would cause the death of the final salary pension scheme and cost companies and individuals billions of pounds when he took the knife to the pension system in his first Budget.

Confidential documents sent to the Chancellor before he axed the dividend tax credit in 1997 also warned that the worst-hit victims would be the poorest members of society.

The internal Treasury forecasts, released last night under the Freedom of Information Act, state that the changes would “cause a shortfall in existing assets of up to £75 billion” and that “employers would have to contribute about an extra £10 billion a year for the next 10 to 15 years to get pension scheme funding back on track”.

The abolition of the credit system has become notorious as the biggest and perhaps most damaging tax grab of Mr Brown’s chancellorship. It became known as the ultimate stealth tax since it only became clear in the following years how serious a dent it was to leave in pension funds.

Actuaries have claimed the move cost schemes £5 billion a year and plunged the pension system into crisis. They allege that Britain has gone from having one of the best pension systems in the world to one of the worst.

The papers released last night reveal that the Chancellor took his decision in the full knowledge that the costs to pension funds could be double £5 billion a year.

They also show that in 1997 “90 per cent of employees in occupational pension schemes have defined benefit” – schemes that pay out a portion of final salary. Now, less than half do, according to actuaries. The Treasury only published the papers last night after losing a lengthy battle to suppress them.’

Yes, you can trust Gordon with your pension. Interestingly Greg McClymont, another Brown acolyte, who was present today in Fife is Labour’s pension spokesman and doesn’t see the irony and poor Lindsay Roy, former heidie and lugubrious Labour MP, doesn’t seem to remember Gordon’s pension-killing either. Of course he was just a teacher then.

And wasn’t it Gordon who refused to restore the link between earnings and pensions, broken by the Tories?

Gordon Brown, Scotland’s biggest economic failure since Darien, still living his delusional life.