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Showing posts with label 2nd referendum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2nd referendum. Show all posts

Monday, 13 February 2012

Decisive, incisive Mundel? Afraid not - God help the Union!

This is the Scottish Tories - or rather, this is THE Scottish Tory - the only one at Westminster. Only the Borders could elect such a candidate. Only a desperate David Cameron could offer him a Scottish Office post.

Mundel, together with Michael Moore, Margaret Curran and Willie Bain constitute the Coalition for the Defence of the UK. Alex Salmond is terrified at the prospect ...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

UK Minus - Science and Religion, Obama – and Christmas …


The UK has been understandably reluctant to consider what it will call itself when Scotland leaves the union. I have suggested UK Minus, and some refer to it as rUK. Among the speculation in the Guardian letters today, we have the suggestion Former United Kingdom (as in Former Yugoslavia). This is fine until one considers the acronym thus derived, and although it might accurately describe the reaction of the British Establishment to Scotland’s independence, I feel that it is unlikely to be adopted.


The seasonal press and media are boke-inducing at this time of year, an orgy of triviality, religiosity and sentimentalism. I look around despairingly, hoping to find a street urchin to shove up a chimney or a downtrodden clerk to oppress, but such consolations are hard to find. Unfamiliar people pop up out of nowhere – the Guardian gives over its Face to faith column to  Denis Alexander, an eminent scientist, who is director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, based at St. Edmond’s College, Cambridge. A cursory glance at the site and its publications seems to show rather a lot about religion and not too much about science, but this is a superficial judgment. Denis Alexander is the author of a book called Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose? My answer is – well, yes, we do.

The article opens with another question -

“Given the fact of human evolution, here is a good question for Christmas: if we last shared a common ancestor with the chimps about 5-6 million years, and humans have been gradually emerging through a series hominid intermediates ever since, then why did Jesus die? The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent.”

The last universal ancestor was not a chimp, but the cenancestor, which was around some 3.7 billion years ago. Around 6 or 7 million year ago was the time of the latest common ancestor, but it’s  not for the likes of me to quibble with an eminent scientist – Millennium Man was foraging in Kenya about 6m years ago, and various others hopped about until Australopithecus around 3.6m years ago considerately left footprints on volcanic ash to help Denis Alexander with his Christmas message.

Denis Alexander rather disarmingly says that “The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent.” Well, yes, it is, Denis – to everyone but The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, who, Templeton Prize perhaps in mind, make a different connection. For the uninitiated, I quote Richard Dawkin’s description of the Templeton Prize – “"a very large sum of money given ... usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion."

The Templeton Foundation’s connection with right-wing causes and a certain kind of free market economics is well-documented. Its objectivity is, to put it mildly, fiercely disputed. The Templeton Prize - £1 million pounds – is enough to make any scientist consider carefully what he or she has to say about the link between science and religion. I am forced to say that, for that kind of dough, I might be persuaded to think again about my atheism and my ‘spirituality’.


I greeted the election of Barack Obama as a great event signalling a new dawn for America and for global politics. His initial attempts to reform healthcare in the US seemed to point towards a new liberalisation of America.

In fact, he has turned into the American equivalent of Nick Clegg – all shining idealism in opposition and pre-election campaigning, and sordid expediency and retreat from principle in power, with the difference that Obama has the reality of power, but has failed to used it.

Mehdi Hasan - Obama's abysmal record – is one of many commentators to document his bleak record in today’s Guardian, and there are many others.

Obama is about to endorse the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) permitting indefinite detention in military – not civil – custody of US citizens who are suspected of having terrorist connections. This pernicious act will also make such detention mandatory for foreign nationals who are ‘accused’ of having links with Al Quaida.

This makes Obama an even more illiberal president than George W. Bush. What the Obama presidency appears to show is that even a liberal, Democratic president is powerless in the face of the conspiracy of unelected power in the United States, an impotence mirrored by that of successive UK governments in the grip of a similar unelected Establishment. In the case of a good man like Obama, it is a tragedy: in the case of the Cameron/Clegg regime, it is a predictable Whitehall farce.

But despite all of this, I am of good cheer, capable of Scrooge-like regeneration, surrounded by those I love and respect, and looking forward to another year’s progress towards the independence of my little nation.

If Scotland must face global corruption and chaos, I want us to face it daien oor ain thing.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Scottish Labour in a kilt that disnae fit …

The latest offering in the cold chicken franchise known as What Labour Must Do! is served up today in The Scotsman by John McTernan, the doyen of the genre. I take my hat off to John for the ingenuity with which he has varied the title theme over his seemingly endless series of articles – today it’s Labour has to face up to its failings. article

Scottish Labour facing up to its failings must be like Dorian Gray facing up to his portrait in the attic, but are they quite ready to slash the portrait, running the risk of the horror of what they have become being made visible in their public face? Well, Murdo Fraser has shown the way, but Jim Murphy and Tom Harris don’t quite have the cojones for such a radical approach, and the less said about Iain Gray’s cojones the better.

But John is in nostalgic mood, invoking men of principle from Labour’s distant past, calling up the ghosts of Tom Johnston and Willie Ross. He calls them transformative figures, and Tom Johnston richly deserves such an appellation: the less said about Willie Ross, the better. But where else would John McTernan go but the distant past? For a Blairite such as he, the temptation to invoke his former boss and idol, Tony Blair, was overpowering, in spite of the fact that the disastrous transformation that Blair inflicted on the Labour Party, the UK and the people of Afghanistan and Iraq is now so notorious, especially since the BBC’s Question Time Special last week on Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terror.

But Blair slips in his symbolic abandonment of Clause 4 and nationalisation, and John’s new heroes of Labour, Jim Murphy and Sarah Boyack have given Scottish Labour “an equally powerful symbol”. It’s not entirely clear what this symbol is.

And so the symbols crash and the drums fail to roll – the saltire, Scottishness – everything but a tartan doll around the neck of whoever the new, transformative Leader is going to be – none of it will work.

But as John ruefully observes in his final sentence, Scottish Labour has nothing left to lose. They could maybe do volunteer work in a tartan-tack shop in the Royal Mile, with Iain Gray and John McTernan in ersatz Jacobite shirts with plastic thongs, and have stale haggis for lunch …

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The new Tories and the Centre Left – but what’s Left of Labour?

The Scotsman cheered me up briefly this morning – House prices in Lothians fall by up to 5.3%

I live in the Lothians, so why the glee? Ah, well I live in West Lothian, which has bucked the trend of the last three months and is up by 7.5%. I examine The Scotsman’s little coloured tabulation of stats, but – what’s this? It refers to Jun-Aug 2001. Have I lost a decade? On the upside, am I ten years younger? Alas, no – it’s a typo, one that shouldn’t occur in a reputable newspaper. But no harm done. Naughty Scotsman!


Twitter brought this to my attention The Way of All Tory Flesh by Alex Massie in The Spectator – well worth a read. A few quotes caught my eye -

“… the party has spent thirty years saying No to everything at a time when Scotland has been minded to say Yes.”

“But a modern and mature Unionism need not be afraid of nationalism. Nor must it continually pretend that independence is an impossible or lunatic dream.”

“It is hard to think of a successful right-of-centre party in Europe that is not in some way identified as the patriotic party. The Scottish Tories have lost the ability to make that claim or be identified with the national interest.”

“At present why should any young, ambitious right-of-centre would-be politician join the Tories? Why not join the SNP and work for centre-right policies from within the SNP's capacious tent?”

Another Massie, Alan Massie of The Scotsman, whose nostalgic Britishness and anti-independence articles usually have little to offer me, offers comments on The Wee Laird o’ Drumlean, Michael Forsyth, who opposes Murdo Fraser’s plans for the Scottish Tories, and Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG, QC, MP and Tory grandee - he of the strange, tortured accent, failed Scottish politician, a former Colonial Governor – sorry, Scottish Secretary of State – who supports the Murdo Plan.

“Tory former Secretaries of state are divided. Sir Malcolm Rifkind now (safely) MP for Kensington, is in the Fraser camp. Michael Forsyth, now (safely) in the Lords, is against him. Nothing surprising there. Lord Forsyth has always been a last ditcher, while Sir Malcolm has always been a Vicar of Bray : pro-devolution, anti-devolution, pro-devolution again.”

The decimated ranks of the Unionist Opposition in Holyrood today face a strong, confident SNP Government as it “unveils a record 16 bills”, to quote The Herald. Gone are the heady days of the SNP’s vulnerability, as a minority government, to the collective dead hand of Tories, Labour and LibDems as they blocked the SNP’s attempts to actually tackle the endemic problems of Scotland, e.g. minimum pricing for alcohol. Now they are reduced to squeaking plaintively, as Willie Rennie does on behalf of his massed ranks of five MSPs – “I hope that the SNP show today that they are the listening government that they make themselves out to be and make sure that the bulldozer is left in the garage.”

They are listening, Willie – to the people of Scotland who elected them, and to the voice of reason coming from the NHS, the Police, the nurses, the BMA – need I go on?

The CBI and various UK government spokesperson went on at length last week about the need to maintain ‘critical mass’, i.e. the Union, reflecting their blind panic at the prospect of losing Scottish revenues, taxes, a third of the UK landmass and 69% of the UK coastline. (I am indebted to Bruce Moglia of Kilmacolm in todays Herald Letters for reminding me of these crucial statistics.)

Critical mass is a term to describe the existence of sufficient momentum in a social system to make it self-sustaining and creates  growth.

It is also a term in physics, where it describes the smallest amount of fissile material necessary for a nuclear reaction, i.e. in a nuclear weapon of mass destruction such as the Trident weapons system, currently based in Scotland.

And be in no doubt, it is the loss of this critical mass when Scotland achieves its independence that bothers the UK and the military/industrial complex.


John McTernan continues his work at the seam of What the ****’s to be done about Scottish Labour?, a nice little earner for him. Today, he poses one of the great questions of the age -

Have we really reached the stage in Scottish politics where the Tories are more interesting than Labour?”

Yes, we have, John. Murdo Fraser has made a courageous decision to risk all on recognising the reality of the way things are in his native land, and try to provide a party that really speaks for 450,000 or so Scottish voters who hold centre-right values. The Centre Left now belongs to the SNP, and Labour is a discredited, failed centre right party that is has always been anathema to Scottish Tories, and is rapidly in the process of becoming anathema to the Scottish Left.

What is Scottish Labour for, John? What is Labour for? Keep on asking, John – there’s a good living in it, even if you are out in the cold politically.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The referendum question - more comments make Moore look increasingly isolated

The Scottish National Party said that Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was in an "ever more lonely place" over his personal position that two referendums on independence would be required, as University of Edinburgh and Constitution Unit academic Alan Trench said on BBC Radio Scotland this morning that this proposal was "very problematic" (having been a supporter of the idea), while former Lib Dem councillors who have defected to the SNP said that the Lib Dems have become "the Tories' face in Scotland".

And in the Scotsman newspaper today Professor Stephen Tierney, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University, said that: "But let's be clear, there is no constitutional requirement for a second referendum following negotiations."

Commenting on Alan Trench's remarks, SNP Campaign Director Angus Robertson MP said: "Michael Moore has blundered into this, and finds himself in an ever more lonely place, as Alan Trench - who has been an advocate of Mr Moore's idea - says that he is “unhappy with the implications of a two-referendum approach”, and that it is “politically very problematic”. “It is a daft idea without constitutional precedent, and very bad politics for the Lib Dems in Scotland."

South of Scotland SNP MSP, Chic Brodie, who was a member of the Liberals and LibDems for 36 years, a former member of their Scottish Executive, and stood aside for the SDP's Roy Jenkins to fight and win the Glasgow Hillhead by-election in 1983, said:

"The Lib Dems have gone from the party of federalism in Scotland to a ridiculous Tory notion called 'muscular unionism'. No wonder so many former Lib Dem supporters voted SNP in the election, and why elected Lib Dem members are now moving to the SNP.

"This is the latest example of a party which now has no principles. We've seen it with tuition fees, with VAT and with their support for Tory cuts. We saw it when they said they wanted to abolish the position of Scottish Secretary, then comfortably took up the role of the Tories' man in Scotland. Now we are seeing them abandon their support for maximum devolution."

A former LibDem councillor in Renfrewshire Cllr Marie McGurk, who joined the SNP in May and is now an SNP councillor, said:

"It was LibDem MPs from Scotland giving up on their principles and allying with the Tories in London that led me to join the SNP. They left me unable, in all conscience, to continue my membership of the party.

"The comments by Michael Moore just show I right I was. I am sure this latest example of abandoning liberal democratic principles will be the last straw for many other LibDem members."

Another former LibDem councillor from Renfrewshire who also defected to the SNP last month, Cllr Mike Dillon, said:

"Instead of supporting the Scottish Government to acquire the powers for the Scottish Parliament, which they previously supported, the LibDems at Westminster have just become spokespersons for David Cameron's Tory-led government. Sadly, the Lib Dems are now just the Tories' face in Scotland.

"Many LibDem members will now be questioning what has happened to the party under the likes of Michael Moore and Danny Alexander. They will be seriously questioning if they can continue with so many sell outs of long held principles just to be in office with the Tories at Westminster."

Cllr Glynis Sinclair, a former LibDem turned independent in the Highlands who joined the SNP last month, said:

"It is never easy to change to another political party but it became clear, even before the last Westminster election, that the Liberal Democrats were losing touch with ordinary people in the Highlands.

"Michael Moore's comments just show how they have gone from being the Highland party of Home Rule to one that bears more resemblance to the Tory Party which ignored Scotland's wishes in the 1980s and 1990s.

"I can see many remaining members of the LibDems asking just why their party cannot even stand up for their own policies on more powers for the Scottish Parliament."


1. On BBC Radio Good Morning Scotland today, Alan Trench said: "I have to say I find myself unhappy with the implications of a two-referendum approach. I think that while constitutionally it has a good deal to be said for it, politically it's very problematic."

2. [Michael] Moore said: "We will not be bringing forward a referendum ourselves, it's entirely a matter for the Scottish Government."

Press Association, 8th May 2011

3. Professor Matt Qvortrup has been described as the "world's leading expert on referendums".

Professor Qvortrup, in the Scotsman of 29th March 2007:

"There has been a great deal of debate and discussion in recent times over the question of the Scottish Parliament holding a referendum on independence. Like any other parliament, the Scottish Parliament would be quite entitled to do so if its members so desired.

"In the United Kingdom, all referendums are advisory, though if the Scottish people did vote for independence in a referendum that met normal democratic standards, Westminster would be obliged to recognise that result.

"There are no examples of two referendums being held before independence was granted."


Professor Stephen Tierney - comments in the Scotsman.

How Scotland will decide its future

referendum: the process of referring a political decision to the electorate for a direct decision by general vote

Well, that clears that up then. Not in Michael Moore’s mind it doesn’t, nor in the murky, expedient, panic-stricken, confused, unscrupulous depths of the unionist Establishment, for which Moore is the mouthpiece - as every Secretary of State for Scotland has always been - with the Telegraph is the house organ.

Before coming to the Scottish papers, it is useful to contrast the Telegraph with the Times on this ‘story’, since both papers considered Moore’s witterings to be worthy of the front page headline.

The Telegraph headline presents the issue authoritatively as a statement of fact - Scotland will need second poll to leave UK - supported by two equally confident sub-header bullet points - Moore: SNP referendum ‘advisory’ only and Commons to fix second ballot question.

This assertive tone continues in the Leader article - Westminster fights back -and quotes Moore as having Downing Street approval.

The bearded rumbler, Alan Cochrane, brings his basso profundo (profundo in pitch only, not in ideas or quality of analysis) to bear with - Moore’s tough talk finally puts paid to the bogus SNP ‘respect agenda’

The Times, which has a true, objective journalist as political editor, Angus Macleod, also leads with the story, but is more circumspect, and its headline reads Scots ‘will have to vote twice on independence’, recognising by the use of quotes that this is a briefing statement by one figurehead, the Scottish Secretary. It underlines this point in its sub-header - Scottish Secretary claims that two referendums must be held.

The detailed, balanced objective reporting that follows, typical of Angus Macleod’s entire approach to journalism, sets out the facts and the arguments, and explores in some detail the vital question of whether or not this is Government policy, quoting Downing Street’s apparent rebuttal of Alex Salmond’s claim that Moore did not speak for Cameron -

A No 10 spokesman said: “The constitution is one of the many areas the UK Government is responsible for in Scotland and the Secretary of State’s comments reflect that fact.”

Close examination of this statement shows that it  is a long way from explicit support for Moore’s briefing. It simply says that Moore had a right to comment on matters affecting Scotland. Had Cameron wished to offer support publically, he could have made a statement of support personally. My view is that they are cautiously flying kites. Lurking in the background is our old friend Vernon Bogdanor, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford, who chooses to paint terrifying - and entirely irrelevant - parallels with Ireland in the 1920s and the Czech/Slovak “divorce settlement” in 1993.

The Times and Angus Macleod also quote a balancing expert view from Professor Matt Qvortrup of Cranfield University, who believes one referendum is enough, and is on record as saying that no country in the world that has moved to independence has required more than one.

No such balancing views are presented by the Telegraph, who present this farrago of nonsense as legal and constitutional fact. Their Leader comment doesn’t even pretend to be  objective, cheerleading Moore on in his ‘fightback’, using highly coloured and emotive language. The bearded growler rampages across this territory in his commentary piece, with an attack on Alex Salmond in virtually every paragraph.

The Scotsman, which in many regards - in spite of its belated support for the SNP in the final stages of the election campaign - sometimes sounds like the Scottish Telegraph, unionism in a kilt, essentially mirrors the Telegraph approach to the Moore statement.

Its headline baldy states Two referendums needed for UK split, with the sub-header Salmond reacts with insults as Scots (sic) Secretary insists  independence vote.

The Colonial governor (with no mandate whatsoever) has spoken and, in spite of 'insults’ from ‘Salmond’ (not from the First Minister of Scotland, recently elected with a decisive mandate by the Scottish people) that’s that - there will be two referendums.

However, the Scotsman calms down a little inside on page  4, and presents a balanced report, with a welcome highlighted box entitled Double poll a radical change, which effectively demonstrates how ludicrously inappropriate a second referendum would be, totally without precedent.

The Herald doesn’t lead with the story, and just gives a wee front page lead-in  - Referendum row - to a substantial piece on page 7. It also gives a highlighted likely timetable for independence, with a date 0f 2019 for final achievement. This is may be realistic, but I find it depressingly long, and hope for a much shorter lead-in than this, since it reduces the likelihood of me seeing my country independent in my lifetime. I hope my impatience is matched by the impatience of the young Scots who want their freedom now and have watched other countries achieve it much more swiftly than this.

The other significant fact is that the UK government will attempt to bog the process down, and even frustrate it, with bureaucratic delays and nit-picking. They will try to turn Scotland’s independence into another Edinburgh trams project, where the lines are laid, the business of the capital disrupted, but due to unforeseen works below ground and the inability to resolve difference, the whole thing is shelved indefinitely.

The long journey to Scottish independence has been a slow, careful one with many setbacks, but characterised throughout by patient democratic process and rational argument, relying on the ballot box to achieve the ultimate goal.

With the exception of a few incidents in the 1950s during the EIIR pillar box rows, involving a few misguided youths and some very sinister agents provocateur and dubious special Branch involvement, (see Diomhair’s account of this period) the nationalist movement has been completely free of violence and direct action.

It must be kept that way, because the British Establishment has a long, contemptible record when it comes to trying to suppress the wishes of their subject peoples to be free, in India, in Rhodesia, in Kenya and of course in Ireland - a record that includes the use of agents provocateur to instigate acts of political violence that were then used to justify repressive force in response, and the suspension of democratic procedures and legal rights.

Two dangers exist in the present state of panic among the unionist establishment and their compliant media shills - one is that, in their confusion they overplay their hand in opposing independence, the other is that they are deliberately provocative. Both would have the same dangerous results - a growing resentment among those supporting Scottish independence, especially the young supporters, and a growing impatience with democratic processes.

The young live in a world where they see subject peoples seizing their freedom with great courage and personal sacrifice, often at the risk of their own lives. They believe, however, that they live in  a civilised, free democracy with a free press and media, where such radical measures are not necessary. But if they are regularly given evidence that they are mistaken in these beliefs, that their media are not as free as they thought, that their democratic rights and processes are being distorted and manipulated, that their democratically elected leaders are being treated with contempt, and that their legitimate aspirations are being suppressed, then they will find different routes to their goal.

Radical social and political change belongs to the young, not to the old. It also belongs to the activist, not to the silent majority, the Nixonian idea of a group in the body politic that will do anything for their beliefs except act on them. No revolution, velvet or otherwise, was accomplished by old men. However intellectually conceived, change is carried forward by the young.

The Middle East revolution caught the Western power brokers entirely by surprise. All their intelligence, all their analysis, all their careful realpolitik was turned upside down by events driven by the young, and they are now running behind the movement of history.

A great and legitimate expectancy has been created by the mandate given to the nationalists on May 6th 2011. It may well create a tide in the affairs of Scotland that will accelerate at a pace that takes both nationalist politicians and unionist politicians by surprise. I don’t think the young want to wait till 2019 for their freedom and I know that I don’t.

Unionists - don’t play with fire!  Nationalists - speed up your timetable and your game! History won’t wait and the young won’t wait …