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Showing posts with label David Cameron. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Cameron. Show all posts

Sunday, 3 May 2015

The Last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom–Ed or David?

Important message on the continuity of the State during a political hiatus made here. (The role of the State as opposed to the Government is not well understood by the electorate).

But the real insight into the mindset of the bewildered British Establishment comes from The Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield, distinguished historian, not a typical member of the British Establishment but assimilated effortlessly by it.

"Specifically, the northerly wind coming from Scotland .. we haven't really caught up with the way that that northerly wind is the weather maker ... It could produce a lot of resentment on the part of the English, who would feel that we are 80% of the country, we have 80% of the economic activity and we have this endless drizzle of complaint from north of the Cheviots."

Although Lord Hennessy puts these words in the mouths of the English electorate, he chose them. One gets the feeling he stopped just short of saying "north of Hadrian's Wall" and that his choice of words, "drizzle of complaint" etc. reflects his view and those of his class.

In response to Marr saying that either Ed Miliband or David Cameron could be the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he responds

"I find that very difficult to contemplate - but you could be right."

He's astonished that "this most stable of political societies - where you have the occasional domestic row, really -  where liberal capitalism jostled with social democracy as the basis of the electoral contest - would be so complicated that we'd even be contemplating the last Prime Minister of the UK. What have we done to ourselves?"

Lord Hennessy demonstrated by his utter insular bewilderment the dictum, often quoted by Sir Tom Devine, another distinguished historian, that a historian's province is the past, not the present or the future, and that his insular southern bubble view of this disunited kingdom is badly out of date, and has been for a very long time indeed.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

May the 8th 2015 – when the hard bargaining starts?

All the forecasts indicate a hung Parliament as a probability rather than a possibility. I offer my understanding of the mechanic and dynamics of this to those who perhaps have never examined the matter in any detail.

If you are already well-informed on such matters, pass on – what follows is not for you, you clued-up thing, you …

Conservatives           303
Labour                       257
Liberal Democrat       56
Democratic Unionist   8
Scottish National          6
Sinn Fein                       5
Independent                 3
Plaid Cymru                  3
Social Dem & Lab.        3
UKIP                               2
Alliance                           1
Green                              1
Respect                           1
Speaker                           1

Total no. of seats  650


After a general election, the leader of one of the parties has to demonstrate that he or she can command a majority of the votes in the House of Commons on major issues - e.g. the Budget, major legislation, decisions to commit the Armed Forces – in other words, impose the democratic will of the Government on dissenting voices in the House and govern the United Kingdom. This is a obviously a practical necessity and of course constitutional requirement, as the leader has to convince the Queen as Head of State.

If one political party has this capacity, its leader de facto becomes Prime Minister, subject to the Queen’s ratification, but if no single party has the requisite number of seats – even though one may have more seats than any other single party – then either

a deal has to be struck with another party or parties, or

the party with the majority of seats has to risk governing as a minority government, or

a hung Parliament effectively  exists and another general election has to be called.

This situation existed in the hectic days following the last general election in 2010, and a fascinating spectacle it was.

There have been many projections of just how the seats will play out after May 7th, and there will be many more, as poll after poll offers its forecasts, but for the purpose of illustration of the arithmetic, I’ll use a slightly dated, but useful projection of the BBC’s – the first Newsnight Index - for no better reason than that I already have a graphic for it – and it may well be as accurate as any other that comes up!

Newsnight Index projection GE2015

With 650 seats in the House, a simple majority requires the aspirant governing party or parties to be able to command 326 seats (half of 650 + 1)– but since Sinn Fein doesn’t take up its five seats, that becomes 323 (half of 645 +1).  Sinn Fein could of course put a green cat among the Brit pigeons at any time by deciding to turn up!

If we look at the Newsnight Index projection (it’s not the current one), Labour, on this projection, would be the party with most seats, but not enough to hit the magic 323. Ed Miliband could then choose to “do an Alex Salmond 2007” and elect to govern as a minority government – a high-wire act, with huge risks, which Alex was well-equipped to perform – requiring him to do ad hoc deals on every major vote with other parties or interest groups within and/or across parties. If he hadn’t the balls for this – or the Queen didn’t like it – he would then have three other options -

call for another general election, or

try to strike a confidence & supply deal with another party or parties – a kind of minority government with a pre-arranged support understanding, or

form a coalition government with one party or with more than one party - a Rainbow coalition

(Aficionados of the various Borgen series on BBC Four will understand all of this effortlessly, plus have an insight into the role of sex in government!)

Who will Ed’s likely partners in government be – if he chooses to have partners – and how would it play out on the above, or similar projections of a May  7th outcome?

To get to the magic 323, he needs 37 votes. For comfort – and to reassure Lizzie – he ideally needs more. The SNP can give him 33, Plaid two and Greens one. He definitely(?) won’t find his extra one from the Tories or UKIP, and thus is left to trawl among the LibDems, the Northern Ireland parties and the Others!

Perhaps George Galloway will see his way clear to support Ed, but probably at a price that would be unacceptable!

However it plays out, it seems inevitable, if present polling trends are accurate, that the SNP will be the key player.

But consider this possibility – the LibDem 26 plus 11 othersbut drawn from where?

I haven’t had so much fun since the 1945 General Election, where I campaigned for Labour and Attlee as a ten year-old. Now, that was fun …

N.B. The Speaker does not vote, except in deadheat votes, when the convention is that the speaker casts the tie-breaking vote in favor of the governing party.

Monday, 6 October 2014

2014AR and GE2015 – a countdown to UK chaos - unless 30+ YES MPs are returned to Westminster

Two unelected LibDem peers, overheads on the body politic, Baroness Kramer and Paddy Ashdown duck and weave, bluster and attempt to patronise in the face of Andrew Neil's simple question - "How will you pay for your pledges?" Their repertoire of question avoidance tactics can only be described as virtuosic,

These are the same kind of people as the Westminster legions who demanded to know - from 2011 - how the SNP was going to cost, in minute detail, the setting up of a new state after 18 months of negotiation with a hostile rUK Government, Europe and NATO in May 2016!

Yet less than seven months from a UK general election in 2015, they can say nothing - NOTHING - about how THEY will cost their extravagant fantasy policies.

Add to this an amnesiac Miliband, who 'forgot' to mention the deficit, and a distraught and confused Cameron. God help the Great Britain the Scottish NO voters unwisely preserved, in all its tottering incompetence and venality.

And there's the little matter of a war that will undoubtedly escalate in costs - death and destruction - and a referendum that will take us out of the EU.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Where are we at? 12 campaigning days left (incl. today!)

It has been some week – a politician – Jim Murphy - on the stump, shocked that - in Labour heartlands betrayed and devastated by Westminster Labour, Tory and Coalition Government’s - they don’t like him or what he stands for and show their distaste, and their  commitment to doing things differently, by turning out in force and heckling him.

And an egg was thrown – shock, horror! An egg thrown at a political event! Murphy makes himself utterly ridiculous by alleging  plots and intimidation.

One of his even more delusional supporters compared the egg throwing to the assassination of Martin Luther King!

PMQs -  Camerons's crumbling regime in panic mode over Scotland and UKIP defections - you can smell the fear (e.g. Edward Leigh MP!).

Sundry Scottish Labour apparatchiks get their snide digs in at their country, and one Scottish Tory MP for an English constituency puts in his slimy tuppenceworth.

Angus Robertson gets Dave in a fluster bluster over his failure to debate, then Speaker Bercow tries to silence and patronise Angus MacNeil, who was merely trying to correct Cameron's torrent of blatant factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations Speaker Bercow, cordially detested by a significant section of the House, is in deep shit over his attempt to select an assistant in defiance of House of Commons selection procedures.

Roll on independence, when we'll be free of this sordid bunch!

Jeane Freeman does a brilliant job here in the face of a hectoring Andrew Neil, the archetypal Brit/Scot journalist, worried about polls narrowing, making the fatal mistake of trying to patronise and bully one of the most incisive voices in Scottish politics.

But Jeane, in an otherwise perfect performance, still leaves the same gap in the argument as all the rest of the YES campaign - that the UK Parliament can weaken or claw back any devolved power, on the NHS or anything else - and they could, and will do it as their privatisation plans gain traction after a No. And who could stop them in a defeated, demoralised YES campaign under such circumstances?

George Robertson describes Scotland as "a minor entity in the North of Britain" That's how he sees Scotland. That's how he sees his country - if indeed he regards Scotland as his country and not UK.

That's how he's always seen it - how NATO sees it, how UK sees it. Of course it's a very handy "minor entity in North of Britain" for storing WMDs well away from population centres in England, but within 20 miles of Scotland most populous area. It's a handy "minor entity" for cannon fodder troops, for low-flying exercises, for safe havens for nuclear armed submarines, for its oil revenues - and for electing Labour nonentities to safe and profitable seats and highly profitable careers, well away from the "minor entity in North of Britain".

Then we have a British financial establishment - as reported by their pink house journal, The Financial Times – in panic mode as they belatedly wake up to the polls, and the fact that, in contradiction of the UK media crap fed to them (incl. by FT) that the Scots were going to safely say a big No Thanks to independence, instead were showing distinct signs of uttering a great, big, joyous YES.

So the financial establishment joins the M.O.D. and sundry complacent politicians in failing to sense the zeitgeist and signally failing make any contingency plans for a probability that was never less the 35%, and has been rapidly moving to 50%!

Would you entrust your savings, your business, your country’s defence and your children’s future to such an inept bunch of gandy dancers and railroad men? Naw …


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Phoney war is over – UK in full onslaught mode against YES

A contemptible spectacle - a Scottish Labour MP, Jim Sheridan, attempting to enlist his Tory BetterTogether boss Cameron into persuading Scottish business bosses to intimidate their workers - for that's what it would be, given power relationship - into voting against the independence of their country.

Between them, in just over a minute, Sheridan and Cameron manage to cram in just about every BT canard and false assertion - about business investment, about alleged Scottish Government bullying, about borders, etc.

I am appalled that many Scots cannot see the democratic threat in employers, holding the careers and livelihood of vulnerable employees in challenging economic times in their hands, trying to influence their democratic vote in a vital, historic constitutional referendum by making negative assertions about the impact on the employers business.

And this at the urging of a failing Prime Minister fighting for his political life, enmeshed in scandal (Coulson) and allegations of incompetence of Europe and management of his shaky Coalition.


Gemma Doyle: "What joy do you have in moving the nuclear deterrent 100 miles or so south? I mean - I really fail to grasp that argument ..."

We know you fail to grasp it, Gemma, or you wouldn't have asked such an inane question. That's why Labour is a busted flush.

But let me help you ...

Labour has been either unwilling or incapable of doing a damn thing about either UK nuclear disarmament or world multi-lateral disarmament.

Scottish Labour is even more powerless.

The Labour Party is committed to WMDs and a number of its most senior figures have had glittering careers and amassed considerable wealth by their association with UK defence posts, the MOD, the armaments trade and NATO.

No one in an independent Scotland's politics is going to get rich that way - if they even thought of it, the electorate would show them the door.

An independent Scotland will do what it can, which is to insist on the removal of these obscenities from Scotland, from proximity to our largest population centre, making us a prime target and a prime disaster zone in a major accident.

It is then for rUK to make its own political decisions, but we believe that the Scottish unilateral action may result in rUK being forced to abandon its WMDs, and the possibility that Scotland's action may act as a catalyst for world disarmament.

Meanwhile, a major scandal seems likely to engulf Westminster, with allegations of a paedophile ring in the heart of Government in the 1980,  a cover-up, a dossier mysteriously lost, and the possibility of a police investigation and enquiry.

The minister at the centre of this at the time, Leon Brittan, has changed his story about what he knew, and what he did about allegations submitted to him

Thursday, 6 February 2014

David Cameron panics, wraps the Union Jack around him – and Alistair’s naebodies Darling …

Scottish Labour's partner and pal in Better Together, David Cameron, terrified by the polls, by today's Spectator article, and by the prospect of debating with Alex Salmond, clutches at the straw of the 2012 Olympics, Team GB and Britishness, and plans to wrap himself in the Union Jack. It may prove to be his political shroud.

"Oh, Danny Boyle! Help me with another spectacular! Can we have Alistair Carmichael in a kilt parachuting on to Lord's Cricket Ground, singing Rule Brittannia? A couple of Royals? Maybe another baby? Are there muffins still for tea?"

The other Alistair is now nobodies Darling. Derided by his own side, a joke to YES campaigners, he seems set for the dustbin of history. Maybe Johann "wee things" Lamont can help, if she can escape the mud flying from the Unite/Falkirk debacle?

May you live in interesting Scottish times, Dave - Eton was never like this...

And a couple of golden oldie flag-wrapping disasters!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A two-year trial period after YES? Aye, right, mate …

A well-meaning comment from England suggesting after indy, Scotland should have a 2-year trial period. 

arkatub:  As a person living in the south of England, I don't want Scotland to leave us, but the whole "your decision is final" thing seems stupid to me.
Can't we be more grown up about this? We should let Scotland try independence and if, after a couple of years, Scottish people find that they don't like it, they can come back without any problems or resentment.
If we did it this way it would prove that we are a union that Scotland should remain a part of, I am sorry that this is not the case.

MY REPLY: I don't know what your reasons for "not wanting Scotland to leave us" are, other than sentimental and social, but I can only say the Scots who want to leave the failed political entity called the United Kingdom are very clear on why they want to go, and believe me, if we do vote for our independence, we do so in the absolute determination that it WILL be forever. The UK telling us that it will be final as a threat makes us smile, since that is exactly what we intend a YES vote to mean. The idea of a two-year "trial period" is, forgive me, ludicrous.

No nation that secured its independence from the British Empire (of which the UK is the rump) ever showed the slightest inclination to return to it, or give up their hard-won independence.

But be reassured, Scotland is not going anywhere geographically or socially - we will still retain all the bonds of friendship, kinship and the economic, scientific and cultural links we have with England. Scotland's independence will give England a desperately need opportunity to reassess itself as a proud nation, and more importantly, as one nation, not the divided, unequal country that it is at the moment, with the North and the rest of England being drained of its life blood by the South East and the city state of London.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Spin by headline and the Herald.

Today was the second time the Herald rejected an online comment of mine. The common factor seems to be that both comments criticised the way the Herald was using headlines.

Today’s article by Kate Devlin was the case in point.

Here is the comment I posted, so far unpublished.


Your headline Cameron: no change to Barnett and the first line of the report DAVID CAMERON has ruled out making changes to the controversial Barnett formula are partial and misleading. The truth lies in the line "The Coalition announced that there were no plans to review the formula before the next general election"

The YES Campaign assertion (and mine) is that whatever government is in power after a No vote in the 2014 referendum will cut the Barnett formula. The pressures to do this from English voters and organisations, including local authorities - not to mention senior politicians - will be irresistible.

But with the referendum vote in September 2014, it is clearly impossible for the Coalition to do this before a general election in 2015. Labour is unlikely to include this in their manifesto, relying still on the Scottish Labour vote, but the Tories have little to lose by offering this vote winner to their English supporters, since the party is dead in Scotland.

A No vote in 2014 will not lead to more devolution - it will inevitably lead to, at best, devo zero, and at worse, a clawback, devo minus.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Pete Wishart’s speech in Commons EU withdrawal debate 15th May 2013


Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP):In the few minutes available to me, I want to confine my remarks to amendment (b). When the history books are written and we come to the chapter that describes and explains the UK’s exit from the EU, this week will go down as an important and significant week. After this week, the UK’s departure from the EU becomes almost unstoppable.

The UK, already a surly, sulky, semi-detached member of the EU, always available to offer some withering criticism to one of its few remaining allies within the EU, already halfway out of the exit door, is like some sort of staggering drunk looking for the oblivion of last orders, on its way out chanting, “We are the famous United Kingdom. No one likes us. We don’t care.” That is the reality of the UK within the EU. Its exasperated, declining number of allies in the EU do not know whether to boo, cheer or sing hasta la vista, such is the state and condition of the UK’s membership of EU.

It is clear that the UK is on its way out. It will either be out on the basis of the salami-slicing favoured by the Prime Minister—let us renegotiate a new terms of entry, which will obviously be rejected by most of its European allies—or, more likely, it will be wrenched out following the yes/no referendum plan by the Government, in a sort of in-your-face Barroso gesture from the UK electorate. What we actually have is an irresistible momentum for the UK to be taken out of the EU.

Of course, the EU was not even mentioned in the Queen’s Speech—that now appears to be an unfortunate oversight—but it is centre stage, because we are entering a new Session of Parliament, the UKIP session. It is the age of Farageism, a desperate creed characterised by an obsession with departure from the EU and with immigrants. It is an unpleasant, intolerant, neoliberal creed with a disdain and hearty contempt for minorities. That is what will underpin this Session of Parliament, because the Government know that UKIP will win the next European election.

That is not my country and I do not want it. I want my country out of all that. My country is very different.

The reason UKIP does not do well in Scotland, and the reason there is the lone panda of one Conservative Member in the Scottish Parliament, is that that agenda simply does not chime with the collectivism and the social attitudes and values of Scotland. That is why UKIP got less than 1% of the vote in the most recent Scottish parliamentary elections. I am proud that my country is so different from the one we observe south of the border. I hope that England and the rest of the United Kingdom do not go down that road, but they are entitled to have the Government they vote for, just as my nation is entitled to the Government we vote for.

There is now the real prospect of a party whose members the Prime Minister refers to as fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists having a share in the running of the United Kingdom.

What will the Government do to ensure that does not happen? They have tried to name-call and disparage, but that has not really worked, given UKIP’s success in the local elections. They could try to buy UKIP off, but that would not work either. They are absolutely stuffed. My advice to the Government is that they had been doing all right and should have stuck with the hoodie-hugging and huskie-mushing new Conservatism. They simply could never out-UKIP UKIP, which is the master of European obsession and grievance. They should stick to their guns and ensure that they are different from UKIP.

It used to be said that Scottish independence would lead to Scotland being taken out of the European Union. Not many people are saying that now.

Henry Smith: Does the hon. Gentleman think that an independent Scotland would have to join the euro, or does he want to keep the British pound?

Pete Wishart: The hon. Gentleman is not on particularly steady ground when it comes to the debate on Scottish membership of the European Union. To answer his question, we will not be joining the euro but instead will follow Sweden’s example.

The Scottish people are observing two futures. In one future they remain shackled to the United Kingdom, which will become increasingly shackled to an intolerant, right-wing agenda.

The hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) has already said that she will have a joint UKIP-Conservative candidacy at the next election. I do not know how many more Conservative Members will adopt that stance. What we are seeing is a realignment of the right. All I have heard from the 1922 committee, which has not been very pleasant recently, with all the disagreements about Europe, is that there is a faultline running through the Government. The Scottish people have a choice: they could have that future, or they could have their own future, determined by them and based on their values.

Keith Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman is making the case that Euroscepticism is an entirely right-wing view. In fact, across Europe the majority of Euroscepticism is on the left, among socialists, trade unionists and working-class people.

Pete Wishart: That might be true, but that is not how it is being demonstrated politically.

What we have observed is a total realignment. There are two different countries, and one is emerging south of the border with increasing UKIP results. It is absolutely certain that UKIP will win the next European election, and Conservative Members should be very careful about all that. They are right to be wary, because it could deprive them of office. I do not know what will happen, but Scotland has a choice—thank goodness—to do something different. We can remain shackled to an increasingly right-wing United Kingdom, almost relaxed about its continuing decline, or we can decide to have a future of our own, a future determined by the Scottish people, based on our social values and the type of community we want to develop and grow. We can choose to be a consensual and helpful friend in Europe, rather than one that likes to criticise, is semi-detached, does not really enjoy being there and is on its way out. Thank goodness we have that choice.

I know the type of future that my fellow countrymen and women will choose. They will opt to ensure that their future is in their hands. They will determine the type of Scotland they want: a Scotland standing proud in a coalition of nations around the world. That is the country I want and I am absolutely certain that that is what my fellow Scots will choose next year.

(N. B. Red highlighting is mine, and reflects my view of its importance. and is not in Pete’s original Wordpress text.)

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Devo plus–a “contribution to the debate” – or something else?

The First Minister, Alex Salmond has gave his official reaction – through a spokesperson - to the devo plus launch yesterday in a press release -


Commenting on the launch of the ‘Devo Plus’ campaign on more powers for the Scottish Parliament – including responsibility for Corporation Tax and a geographical share of North Sea revenues – a “spokesperson for First Minister Alex Salmond” said:

“Scotland is in a process of independence, and we welcome this contribution to the debate on the need for substantial economic, financial and social powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“With access to all of our resources, an independent Scotland would be the sixth-richest country in the developed world in terms of GDP per head – compared to the UK’s 16th place.  Year-on-year, Scotland is in a stronger financial position than the UK as a whole – taking all Scottish revenues and all spending in Scotland into account, the Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures show that, in the five years to 2009/10, Scotland was in a stronger financial position than the UK to the tune of £7.2 billion – or over £1,400 for every person in Scotland.

“The ‘Devo Plus’ launch reinforces the need for clarity, in place of the current confusion, about what No in the referendum from the Tories and other anti-independence parties actually means.  This information needs to be in the public domain well before the referendum.

“People across civic Scotland are considering the powers that we need to have a successful economy and fair society – instead of punitive cuts and a stagnant economy from the UK coalition – and it is becoming clear to people in Scotland that the only way to secure the job-creating powers we need is to vote Yes to independence in the autumn 2014 referendum.  And we are extremely confident of achieving a Yes vote for independence.”

I was going to blog at some length on this in relation to the Newsnight clip of last night, with Jeremy Purvis and Linda Fabiani, but in the light of the FM press release, I think I’ll let my ideas simmer for a bit longer.

Here’s the clip. Linda Fabiani is one of those MSPs who always seems to me to speak with a desperately needed clarity, in the light of the sometimes obscure statement of other SNP spokespersons. She is one of a group of direct communicators, that for me includes Kenneth Gibson, Alex Neil, John Swinney - and a few others - who speak in a language that the ordinary voter can really understand, cutting through the fog of politician-speak and obfuscation aimed at the chattering classes that so often obscures the message from other party spokespersons.

Linda states clearly what I hope is party policy – the SNP wants independence, wants a single question, and regards devo max - or indeed devo anything - as only a recognition that Scotland needs the power to run its own affairs – all of them – that only full independence and a YES vote will deliver.

The only reason they are consulting on devo max, etc. is because as a democratic government of all the people of Scotland, they must ensure that the voter is allowed to make the choices they want to make in the ballot booth.

But let me say that I don’t wholly trust the motives of the organisations pushing devo max or devo plus – they claim to be trying to ‘inform the debate’ but to me they seem to be trying to circumvent the democratic processes of party politics and government in exactly the same way as the Calman Commission did, and with exactly to same motivation – to neuter the elected SNP government and prop up the union.

From Drop Box

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Alistair Darling – naive, disingenuous, or just woefully unprepared for Isabel Fraser?

Alistair Darling has been an MP for 25 years. He served in the Labour Cabinet continuously from 1997 to 2010, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer for three years. Among the other post he has held are Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Sec. of State for Work and Pensions, Sec. of State for Transport, Sec. of State for Scotland and Sec. of State for Trade and Industry.

He is widely touted to lead the Campaign to Stop Scotland Becoming Independent, although he would prefer to call it Keep Scotland in Britain. (Since Britain has been an island for between 180,000 to 450,000 years, short of a drainage and infill plan for the English Channel, Scotland will remain part of Britain.) The campaign is, of course the campaign, to Keep Scotland in the UK, a political, not a geographical entity.

Given Darling’s curriculum vitae, one would expect him to be in command of his brief for an appearance on the Sunday Politics Scotland, a hugely influential news programme at this critical juncture in UK politics, not to mention European politics. Additionally, he was facing the programme anchor, Isabel Fraser, perhaps the most formidably effective political interviewer Scotland has produced, with a trained legal mind and forensic interviewing skills.

Watching his performance yesterday with increasing incredulity, I concluded that there were only three possible explanations for his lamentable performance -

1. He was politically naive. I think this can be safely rejected, except perhaps in the arcane area of negotiation, which politicians, unless they have a diplomatic background, are usually inept.

2. He was disingenuous. This seems the most likely partial explanation, namely, that he had been given (by who?) a brief to block questions about just what the hell David Cameron, his boss in the Campaign to Stop Scotland Becoming Independent - disorientated, full of Quaker Oats and full of emotional **** – meant when he delivered his jam-tomorrow ultimatum to the Scottish electorate – Vote No to your country’s independence and we might just give you some unspecified additional powers.

3. He was woefully unprepared. Whatever his state of mind or brief (1 and 2 above), Darling was undoubtedly woefully unprepared for the interview, both in factual terms, in strategic and tactical terms and above all in behavioural terms. (Half an hour with a bog-standard presentational skills consultant before the interview would have mitigated the disastrous consequences.)


Alistair Darling opened with what became his broken record theme, one that echoed the Prime Minister – the question “Are we staying in the United Kingdom or are we leaving” must be answered by a referendum “- sooner rather than later -” and must be answered first, then you decide what the consequences are. He also stated that tax raising powers had to be fundamental in any further devolution of powers.

Isabel Fraser: If what you are seeking is clarity in the debate, then isn’t it entirely reasonable that voters go into this referendum debate knowing exactly what you are proposing because here, today, you’re saying we could have more tax powers, they could be income tax powers …  I mean, within that, before we just leave that concept – are you talking actually about the rate of income tax or the threshold? Could we vary the threshold? And equally, if we have income tax powers, there's no point in having that if you want to be fiscally coherent unless you have borrowing powers which allow you to offset any fall in income tax revenue?

Alistair Darling: You could – but I mean, look -

Isabel Fraser: Are you saying all of that is up for discussion?

 Alistair Darling: Look, I don’t think anybody would argue that the status quo – what we have at the moment, erm – is satisfactory. It was fine in 1998. Things have moved on – the constitution is always something you need to look and see what’s best. But the first question you’ve got to ask before you get on top any change at all, is – Are we staying in the UK – or – are we going to leave? If we’re going to leave, a whole lot of other questions then arise: if we’re going to stay, then we can look at what further we need to do.

But I honestly cannot see for the life of me why we’ve got to wait till 2014 before we can actually answer that question. Why don’t we get on with it – we could easily have this referendum –eh – next year and decide that and then decide if – if we’re going to stay, then let’s look at what more we can devolve – what more powers the Scottish Parliament can have  - and I think, y’know – most people, I mean, y’know – David Cameron – in actually a welcome step for the Conservatives has said – look – he’s moved from the position of being – y’know – the traditional Tory position of being outrightly against any change to that there could well be change – and equally on the nationalist side … You know, if they’re going to leave the United Kingdom, then let’s look at some of the consequences of that …

Having just transcribed this rambling statement –which confirmed in spades my initial impression of it in the broadcast – I look again with incredulity at Darling’s c.v. above. I would have expected such fractured syntax and confusion of ideas from John Prescott, but from a former Chancellor of the Exchequer? Note the transition from ‘we’ when initially talking about the referendum decision to ‘they’, as in “You know, if they’re going to leave the United Kingdom ..” That confusion of identity is going to dog the Campaign to Stop Scotland Becoming Independent throughout. The Scottish electorate know who they are – the unionist coalition do not.

But back to the interview …

Isabel Fraser: But Mr. Darling, it would seem that what you’re proposing is a one-sided debate. I mean – why do we have to wait for the alternative? This is going to be the most important vote in 300 years of Scottish history. What you’re saying is – trust us, and we will deliver. You’re requiring this enormous leap of faith. Why, if you accept now the status quo is no longer an option, why not spell out clearly what the alternatives are so the people can make an informed judgement about whether we stay within the United Kingdom – or not?

Alistair Darling: Well, isn’t the first question you have to ask is – Are you staying or are you going?

Isabel Fraser: But people are already asking the other question. Is the fact that you’re not raising the possibility of further powers a concession that actually Labour in Scotland have been completely out of the game on this – you are so far behind the curve? Why don’t you seize the initiative and outline a coherent and positive case where people can make a judgement about whether what you’re proposing is what they want or not?

Alistair Darling: Well, actually you know – if you look at, erm – in the pipeline there are changes being made – the Calman Commission, and so on, which we set in train, but what – what, what I do think is that the way in which you address the question of whether we’re staying in the UK or whether we’re leaving is – is got to be a positive case, it’s got to be what is best for Scotland: and my answer to that question is – the Scotland will derive huge benefits from the strength of the UK, just as the UK has huge strengths about – eh, through being in the European Union. You’re part of a bigger – eh – country, you’re part of something that’s much stronger, that benefits can flow from that …

Now – the first question you’ve got to ask so far as the current debate is going on is – are we staying in the United Kingdom or are we leaving? Now, we could easily have that question decided far, far sooner than Alex Salmond wants. I understand why he wants to put it off – because he doesn’t think he can win at the moment. We need to answer that question now, and then once you’ve decided that,  then you decide – if you’re staying – well, what more, eh, powers does, eh, the Scottish Parliament need – that is best for Scotland. If you’re leaving, then – you know, you then have to ask all sorts of difficult question, to which at the moment, there are pretty vague answers. You need to get that discussion now!

Isabel Fraser: If, as you want, Scotland says no to independence, what kind of political leverage do you really imagine Scotland would have in going to Westminster and asking for more powers after a No vote in Scotland? It would have no leverage at all.

Alistair Darling: No, it – I think it would – because there is – you know, in a way that, eh, would have been unimaginable even a year ago – I think there is a consensus amongst all the political parties, and more importantly in some ways amongst Scotland itself, and, y’know, other parts of the UK that, that, that the settlement reached in 1998 – eh is – is not what we want at the moment – we need to move on from that. People fully understand that – and of course there’s going to be a lot of debate as to what you devolve or what you don’t, y’know, and what the arrangements might be … But the first question – I’m sorry to keep going – coming back to this is that – I understand fully well the nationalists don’t want – eh – they want to another option on the table to sort of muddy the waters here. Let’s answer the question – Are we staying or are we going? Once you’ve answered that question then, you know – then there does need to be, y’know, an immediate debate about what further powers the Scottish Parliament needs, and so on. 

And remember whilst all this is going on, an awful lot of people in – in Scotland are facing losing their jobs, who are worried about their children or their grandchildren – and so on … y’know, its the economy, that’s the thing that actually matters – these are the big questions. But let’s get this constitutional question decided one and for all -  it’s being raised now – let’s put it to the people and let the people decide, and then you know, the politicians have to get on with it And – and do what they what they need to do as quickly as they can.

Isabel Fraser: So, Mr. Darling, what message does Johann Lamont as leader of Scottish Labour have to give to the Labour conference in a few weeks, then? Fairly briefly, if you don’t mind – and clearly. What’s the message she has to get out?

Alistair Darling: Well, I think the message is very clear  - it’s got to be about – y’know, it’s about all the difference a Labour administration can make at the local authorities which are coming up for election in May – the difference that the Scottish Parliament already have in relation to training, in relation to education, in relation to our universities and so on. You know, this is a very powerful message – Labour can make a difference. and on the constitution, y’know – yes, we have moved – and yeah, we needed to move. Eh, but on the fundamental, question, we are much, much stronger – we will be a far better nation, eh, within the United Kingdom than we would by breaking ourselves apart from that. It is a very powerful message, and I’m quite sure she’ll make it.

Isabel Fraser: Alistair Darling, thank you very much indeed for that.

MY VIEW: Anyone who thinks Alistair Darling would be the right person to lead the Unionist campaign after this showing needs to think again. Coherence and charisma were notable by their absence from this  performance.


I can offer a negotiator’s summary of the situation  -

There is going to be a referendum in 2014 on Scotland’s independence. It cannot be stopped by the UK Government without risking a political upheaval, and they have, de facto, accepted this.

The UK don’t want Scotland to leave the UK.

The UK didn’t want a referendum at all, but since there will be one, they want it as fast as possible, with one question only.

The Scottish Government intend to hold a referendum in 2014 on Scotland’s independence. The SNP as a party want full independence, but opinion polls indicate that a substantial number of the Scottish electorate (and a body called Civic Scotland) want greater powers for Scotland but want to remain in the UK.

The Scottish Government, as the government of all the people of Scotland, are obliged  to ascertain what questions and what options the electorate want to see on the referendum ballot paper. This will be determined by a large-scale consultation, now underway.

No unionist (UK) political party has set out their views of what extra powers – if any- they envisage being granted, and no comprehensive arguments for remaining in the UK, other than vague emotional ones, coupled with the assertion that Scotland is better in than out, have been offered.

The UK Prime Minister has offered only tentative commitment to as yet unspecified powers, but only if Scotland votes no in the referendum on a singe YES/NO question to independence.

No agreement exists between the UK and the Scottish governments on -

1. The timing of the referendum.

2. Its legality.

3. The wording of the independence question.

4. Additional question on the ballot paper.

5. Votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

Since the referendum is a consultative referendum, a YES vote to independence would be followed by negotiations on the mechanics of implementing independence.


There are two negotiations in this situation, one of which has already started – which I will call the pre-referendum negotiation – and one which will start after the referendum result is known, which I will call the post-referendum negotiation.

The pre-referendum negotiation will be a prime determinant of the referendum negotiation, which negotiators sometimes call the context and agenda negotiation. It is critical from a power dynamics situation, since failure to reach agreement at this stage can result in unilateral action by one or both parties.

Political negotiations take place in a very different context to commercial negotiations because of the media spotlight and the information needs of the electorate. In this negotiation,  the Scottish Government is the change agent and the UK Government represents the status quo. The Scottish Government derives its mandate from the Scottish people, but within a devolved settlement controlled by the UK Government.

To use a very old negotiating classification, this is a conflict of interest, not a conflict of rights under UK law, although international rights do exist. Conflicts of interest are settled by agreement or by power: conflicts of rights under existing agreements are settled by negotiation or by law.

Essentially, the context is one of negotiations between nations, i.e. diplomacy, even though the Scottish Government is not yet independent. In the case of any nation seeking independence, the subordinate nation has to behave as though it were independent before that independence actually exists, i.e. it has to emphasise its capacity to act unilaterally even though the status quo does not theoretically permit it to do so. This is why much of the legalistic discussion that rages is peripheral and essentially meaningless.

The implicit unilateral action here is that the Scottish Government will hold a referendum on its terms and on its timing, with or without the permission and imprimatur of Westminster.

This has in fact gone beyond being implicit – it is explicit, and, de facto, has been accepted by Westminster, because the alternative would be civil unrest on a scale that would make the poll tax riots look like a tea party. Everybody in Scotland knows this – few are willing to publicly acknowledge it.

It is therefore vital that the UK Government gets its act together for the pre-referendum negotiation so that the referendum itself can be conducted in a national climate of consensus about its purpose, if not about its outcome.

The outcome of the referendum has to be accepted equally by those who voted YES and those who voted NO – and perhaps those who voted for other options on the ballot paper or papers. Only then can the negotiations that follow a vote for full independence – the post-independence negotiation – take place in the right atmosphere.

Only then can the negotiations – if any – that follow a vote for remaining in the UK be meaningful. Whether those negotiations take place at all will be determined in part by the balance of the vote, and critically, by whether or not choices other than straight independence, e.g. devo plus, devo max or devo something are offered on the ballot paper.

I therefore offer the following recommendations to the parties -

To the UK unionist parties and anti-independence campaign

Drop the pejorative, emotional language and concentrate on setting out the factual benefits of remaining in the UK

Stop pretending that Scotland being a free sovereign state within the European Union would be the same thing as being a devolved, non-sovereign part of the sovereign state of the UK. In the first case, it would be a free association of inter-dependent cooperation between nations: in the second, it is being a subordinate region of a sovereign nation within Europe, with no place at the European table and no capacity to influence the agenda.

Exactly the same recommendations in respect of the United Nations, and to membership of NATO or Partnership for Peace.

Stop trying to influence the outcome of the independence referendum by vague, unspecified commitments to offering a little more power conditional upon a No vote.

To the SNP and pro-independence campaign

Sharpen the vital democratic distinction between the SNP, as a political party and the party of government, and the Scottish Government as the Government of Scotland.

Make it clear that the SNP does not want anything other than independence and a single question referendum, and that this is the party’s unified consensus.

Make it clear the the Scottish Government will only include a devo max or devo plus type question in the referendum ballot if the consultation exercise clearly demonstrates a wish for such an option, and that if it doesn’t, no such option will be included, regardless of the views of Civic Scotland or any other non-democratic body.

Set an early deadline for the conclusion of the pre-referendum negotiations on the points of disagreement. i.e.

1. The timing of the referendum.

2. Its legality.

3. The wording of the independence question.

4. Additional question on the ballot paper.

5. Votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

A negotiation without deadlines is an endless negotiation – be prepared to call time if negotiations fail, and unilaterally state the Scottish Government’s position on items one to four above. (It is probably a bridge to far to unilaterally commit to votes for 16 and 17 year olds.)

Publicly acknowledge and reiterate at every opportunity(it has already been stated at road shows, meetings etc.) that the independence of Scotland is a bigger question than the manifesto of any single party, nationalist and unionist, and that how Scotland is governed - and by which party or parties - after independence will be the decision of the Scottish people in democratic elections.


Friday, 17 February 2012

Cameron, porridge and the Forth Bridge

Vini, vidi, vici said Julius Caesar – or so they say he said – of his landing in Britain. (My Latin teacher, Mr. Bland, insisted that this was probably pronounced Weeny, weedy, weechy, which he delivered in the extravagant tones of an Italian politician, with much gesturing.) Julius came, he saw, he conquered – but not Scotland. Some say he lost a legion there.

David Cameron came, he ate porridge (with marked reluctance Porridge), he posed ostentatiously against backdrops of the Forth Bridge and Edinburgh Castle. So his words might have been I came, I posed, I sentimentalised. But it seems to have worked for some, and Joyce McMillan came over all gooey about it on Newsnicht and again today in print. I had to reach for the antidote of Lesley Riddoch to get that cloying sweetness out of my mouth.

The metropolitan media were forced to notice all this, and somehow managed to work in an item about Brigadoon as a classic movie. Brigadoon for me was one of the most cringe-making movies of all time – classic move my **** -but it had a couple of great songs, the most notable from a jazz musician’s standpoint being Almost Like Being in Love.

BBC Scotland News and Newsnicht comes to resemble a tiny seaside repertory company more each day, with the same actors, i.e. panellists and commentators, appearing over and over again. Once in a while they trot out an obscure academic from an even more obscure Scottish institution, and having demanded diversity, I find myself crying for the old troopers again.

I had to reach back to yesterday’s Guardian to find an insult that fitted David Cameron’s speech, and since no one delivers an insult better than an old American professor, I am happy to quote  Noam Chomsky, a man for whom I have unbounded admiration and respect.

Chomsky, responding in the Guardian letters page to a critic, says -

The stunning irrationality of his inferences renders comment superfluous.

Media people addressing the subject of negotiation, talk greater nonsense than usual about Scottish politics, but I’ll leave that analysis till later today. I have other fish to fry …

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A glib right-wing Tory intrudes on Burns Day - Eleanor Laing MP

I thought Maggie had returned to the Commons, as this glib, right-wing Tory displayed the contempt for Scotland that typifies the Cameron regime, under the guise of quoting our national poet on this day that means so much to Scots. It provoked the sneering laughter it aimed at eliciting, and a typical snide response from the Prime Minister.

And we had the Labour Tories, Bain and Curran, part of the anti-independence coalition, listening to this with doubtless no evidence of shame or embarrassment as their national traditions were exploited and mocked.

Thanks, Eleanor Laing MP, Epping Forest Tory - you've just delivered another 10,000 votes to the YES vote for Scotland's independence.

Born in Paisley in 1958, Eleanor graduated BA LLB from Edinburgh University in 1982. She was the first woman to be elected President of Edinburgh University Union. She practised law in Edinburgh, in the City of London and in industry between 1983 and 1989.

When the Telegraph released details of MP's expense claims, it was shown that Laing had avoided paying £180,000 Capital gains tax on the sale of her Westminster flat by declaring it as her primary residence. However, she had registered the flat as her second home with the Parliamentary Fees Office, and by doing so had claimed through her Additional Costs Allowance some of the interest due on her mortgage.
Her constituency is Epping Forest, which is close to London and less than an hour's journey by tube. When questioned she said that prior to the sale of the flat she had sought the advice of her solicitor. Laing was cleared by the Legg Inquiry.She voluntarily repaid £25,000. As a result of the scandal she also had to face an attempt to deselect her by her constituency party, led by the Leader of Essex Council - which she survived.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Scotland’s independence referendum–the law and the Supreme Court

An extract from what I had to say on the law and Scotland on 13th October UK Supreme Court - constitutional and independence implications

This also contains links to a number of earlier blogs on Scottish Law and the Supreme Court – see URL links.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

In the light of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment (I spell it judgment against my instincts towards judgement because I believe this is legal practice) and certain remarks about what the Scottish Parliament can and cannot do - which some have interpreted as a shot across the SNP Government’s bows in relation to the referendum - a number of correspondents have asked me if I plan to comment. Firstly, this is properly Peat Worrier’s blog territory, and secondly, I have said pretty much what I wanted to say about the UK Supreme Court in the following blogs -

The UK Supreme Court and the Scottish legal system

The UK Supreme Court–FMQs 16th June 2011 – Holyrood

The UK Supreme Court, the judges–and the Union’s future

The UK Supreme Court–the debate polarises and takes on new dimensions


I am not a lawyer. Fortunately, nationalists have a lawyer who blogs – Lallands Peat Worrier, who recently outed himself on television, revealing a long-haired young man – Andrew Tickell who was not at all like the image built up by many readers of his superb blog, who may have fondly imagined him, as I did, as a crusty old Edinburgh lawyer in a old leather armchair, with whisky in hand.

Anyone who wants an informed and authoritative account of the law as it relates to Scottish and UK affairs, independence and referendums should go to his blog Lallands Peat Worrier

My perspective of the law as it affect Scotland’s independence is that of an informed voter, with a special knowledge of negotiation and the dynamics of reaching agreement in situations of conflict, especially ones that are defined by formal and perhaps legally binding agreements and contracts. In other words, my expertise lies in defining how a party to a dispute should regard the law and how that party or parties may - or may not - use the law to resolve disputes, i.e. a client perspective.


The law as it applies to political and constitutional matters is a very different beast to the criminal law and civil law, especially when that law reaches beyond the nation state, e.g. European Law, international law and human rights legislation.

The issue between Scotland and the UK involves Scottish Law, UK Law, especially as it relates to devolution, European Law and potentially international law.

Two ancient legal systems exist side by side, and have done for over 300 years in the United Kingdom. The Union made one aspect of that law supreme across the UK through the UK Parliament, Westminster. Scotland has its Parliament and its devolved administration by courtesy of that law, The Scotland Act, and the extent of the Scottish Parliament’s powers are determined by that Act, and can be altered or revoked by the UK Parliament.

The UK and Scotland are also bound by European law and by the European Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg.

Until the establishment of the UK Supreme Court, appeals on certain matters of law went to Strasbourg. The UK Supreme Court was set up to provide a UK Court of Appeal on Human Rights matters, but also to rule on constitutional matters.

It was no coincidence that the UK Supreme Court was set up with such powers at the same time as the Westminster Government became aware that the independence of Scotland had become a very real possibility, with huge constitutional implications.

Scotland’s wish to be independent means that it wishes to be independent of all UK law, and therefore of the UK Supreme Court. But that system of law, and specifically that court – the UK Supreme Court - can restrict or frustrate Scotland’s attempts to be secure its independence – or at least, it can attempt to do so.

It can be argued that it was set up at this time to permit it to do exactly that, and no amount of high rhetoric about the rule of law can obscure that stark possibility. All the indicators in the dispute that has built up since the UK Prime Minister’s ill-judged intervention into Scottish affairs tend to support that conclusion.

That is not to say that the UK Supreme Court would accept this attempt to politicise its role – one can hope that they wouldn’t - but remember the the UK decided to go into an illegal war in Iraq on very dubious grounds, based on legal advice at the highest level, advice that was changed at the last moment.

The message is – We, the UK Government, will use the legal system that Scotland’s independence seeks to be free of to control and limit its right to consult the Scottish people. Unless Scotland accepts the UK Parliament’s conditions for the referendum and its right to control and monitor it with its own designated bodies, the UK Supreme Court will be used to challenge, delay and block the referendum, and declare it illegal.

In other words, the interest group that wants to keep Scotland in the Union, and bound by this framework of law, will attempt to use that law to stop Scotland from determining whether the voters of Scotland wish to remain a part of that legal system.

Of course, all of this mumbo-jumbo is cloaked in language that suggest that the UK has Scotland’s best interests at heart, and that they wish to facilitate the referendum. No one who watched and listened to all of yesterday’s one-and-a-quarter hour debate in the Commons could seriously entertain such a proposition.

This is a stark, high-stakes political game, with the law being used as a tool in that game to maintain the dominant power structure.

The UK Government -

- did not want a Nationalist Government – the devolved settlement and the electoral system were specifically designed to prevent nationalists from ever gaining power

- did not want a referendum at all, and frustrated attempts by the minority Scottish Government to call one in the last term of SNP Government

- now, faced with the inevitability of a referendum being called, the UK Government wants it to be held at a time and in a manner that will ensure that independence is rejected, and are willing to use the law and specifically the new UK Supreme Court to block or delay the referendum if their conditions are not met.

The Scottish Government, in contrast, wants to hold the referendum on their timescale, identified broadly in the election campaign as the second half of the Parliamentary term, and now specifically confirmed as Autumn 2014, with the Scottish Government determining the timing, eligibility to vote, the questions and the question formulation. They also want to win.

This is not a legal dispute – it is naked power politics, with a willingness to use the law to further the political objectives of each party to the dispute.

But the SNP Government can claim the moral high ground, because their wish is to determine the will of the Scottish electorate democratically, and to accept their verdict.

The last thing the UK Government want is to allow the Scottish people their voice, because the Scottish people have decisively rejected the two parties that now constitute the UK Government.

The last thing the Labour Party wants is for the voice of the Scottish people to be heard, because the Scottish people decisively rejected them on May 5th 2011, as the people of the UK decisively rejected them in May 2010.

The UK Labour Party will have a dismal future when Scotland becomes independent. All Scottish Labour politicians (MPS) in Westminster (and all Scottish Tory and LibDems MPs) would become redundant overnight, Scottish Lords would be in a very strange place indeed, and only Scottish Labour politicians in Holyrood, i.e. MSPs, would have a political future, and perhaps a bright one, in the new Scotland.

Some are beginning to recognise this.


Consider what happens if a breakdown occurs in a a civil contract of long duration. Firstly, let it be clearly stated that it does not take both parties to end the relationship – it only requires that one is determined to end that relationship. The only question then is the manner in which the relationship is ended. It can be done amicably and legally by agreement and by observing the previously agreed terms of the relationship, or one party can simply walk away unilaterally, leaving the other party to determine how they will react.

The other party cannot stop the relationship ending – they can only attempt to penalise the party walking away, by either invoking legal penalties provided for in the original contract, or attempting to secure damages by law.

Ideally, parties negotiate the terms of the breakup without invoking the law, or perhaps use the law to assist in the negotiations and the drafting of the agreed settlement.

The decision on whether or not to use the law in such dispute is made by the parties to the dispute, unlike under the criminal law, where if a breach occurs, the prosecuting authorities may decide to invoke the law whether or not the parties agree.

(If I murder another person, the decision to invoke the law and to prosecute does not lie with the dependants of the deceased. If I rob a bank, the bank can’t decide to let me off – a crime has been committed and the law will act regardless of the will of the parties.)

The way in which disputes over the independence of nations are resolved follow loosely the same principles – independence can be achieved by negotiation, with reference to the law, it can be achieved by force, ignoring the law – i.e by revolution - or it can be achieved by UDI – a unilateral declaration of independence. If this is not challenged, it is called a velvet revolution, e.g Slovenia.

There is are abundant historical examples of countries achieving their independence, some very recent, many from the British Empire, and there are current examples that are works in progress, e.g. the Arab Spring.

Of one thing you can be sure – the law will not be the key determinant in Scotland’s future – it will be the will of the people, and, I hope, the good sense of the politicians, with minimal reference to the law.

Read my previous blogs (see links above) for more information. If the law itself interests you, read the estimable Lallands Peat Worrier.

Saor Alba!

Monday, 9 January 2012

The facts about the referendum and Scotland’s independence–as I see them …

Here is the essence of this argument, as I see it:

A significant number of Scottish voters want to be independent of the political system called the UK. The political party committed to Scotland's independence, the SNP, was re-elected as the government of Scotland last May with a massive, decisive majority.

In that election campaign, the SNP made it clear that, if elected, they would call a referendum in the second half of the Parliamentary term, i.e. in the period November 2013 to May 2016. The indications have been probably mid-2014.

Only registered voters in Scotland at the time of the referendum, i.e. those on the voters  roll, will be eligible to vote in that referendum. The referendum ballot paper will have a a YES/NO question on independence. It may have one or more other questions, e.g. a question on maximum devolved powers to Scotland while remaining in the UK.

The Scottish electorate understood clearly the position of the SNP on these matters and re-elected them with a decisive mandate to structure the referendum on this basis, including the number of questions, the formulation of questions and the timing of the referendum.

The referendum will determine the will of the Scottish people, and will either result in no action  if there is a NO vote to the question or questions, or will deliver a mandate to the Scottish Government to negotiate with the UK Government, based on a YES vote to one or more questions.

The UK Government has already accepted that, although the referendum outcome is not regarded by them as constitutionally binding, they will accept it as the settled will of the Scottish people.

There are historical precedents for nations achieving their independence by various means,  ranging from violent revolution and war (American independence), negotiated independence after a period of either violence or passive resistance (India and Pakistan) and velvet revolution, i.e. unilateral secession without violence (Slovenia).

Independence has never required the consent of both parties, only the determination of one party  to leave a political union or empire. The details of the settlement may be negotiated, but the fact of independence depends not on law, treaty or contract but on the will of the people.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Cameron’s EU fiasco–a failure of negotiation and an act of political cowardice

Alex Salmond back from China today with 6 questions for Cameron


On his return today from China after a week-long trade visit to promote Scottish interests and industries, First Minister Alex Salmond has made a key intervention on the European issue, writing to the Prime Minister David Cameron with six crucial questions about the UK's isolation within the European Union as a result of the Prime Minister's veto of a new European Treaty.

The First Minister said:

"It is extraordinary state of affairs that while the Scottish Government and our agencies were working hard to promote Scotland's interests and industries in China, David Cameron was blundering into apparently changing the UK's entire relationship with the European Union – without even discussing it with his own Lib Dem coalition colleagues, never mind the devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

"Given that David Cameron took it upon himself to isolate the UK in Europe - from non-euro and the euro members alike - and without a word of consultation, he now needs to answer six key questions about the implications for Scotland of what he has done.  As the price of playing to his own backbenchers, the Prime Minister now leads a riven administration - with zero credibility in EU negotiations across the range of policy areas where Scotland's interests are crucially affected.

"Last week's developments in Brussels demonstrate that Scotland urgently needs a voice at the top table when our vital national interests are being discussed, by becoming an independent member state, instead of being shut out of the room."

The First Minister's questions to the Prime Minister are:

1. What risk assessment, if any, did the UK government undertake of the likely impact of its veto decision on investment into Scotland and the UK, and on negotiations affecting key Scottish industries such as agriculture, fishing, and financial services - where qualified majority
voting already applies?

2. What assessment, if any, was made of how Scotland's interests will be affected in the EU by being represented by a UK government that is excluded from important decision-making meetings, which will impact directly on Scotland?

3. Given the serious impact of a UK treaty veto, why did you not consult with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations on the use of an option which Mrs Thatcher and John Major in their negotiations both managed to avoid?

4.  Can you confirm the reports in the Italian and UK press that you told the new Italian Prime Minister that your negotiating stance was based on the 'big internal problems' you would face if you had agreed to the Treaty change?

5. With key negotiations ongoing concerning the EU Budget, agriculture and fisheries, how do you believe that the important Scottish interests involved will be affected by being represented by a UK member state which has isolated itself?

6. Will you agree to an urgent meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, involving all four of the UK administrations, so that the full implications of your decision can be considered?


The Senior Special Adviser
First Minister of Scotland
St Andrew's House
Edinburgh  EH1 3DG

Friday, 9 December 2011

Will Europe end the Coalition? - is this acrimonious exchange the beginning of the end?

Will Cameron's destruction of the UK's standing in Europe also bring down the Coalition? The tensions are now building, but the LibDems face an invidious choice - recover their identity, principles and values, but perhaps trigger a general election where they would be decimated, as in Scotland.

This acrimonious discussion reveals the San Andreas Fault line between the parties - is it the harbinger of rifts to come?

Touch not pitch lest ye be defiled - or to put it another way, you shouldn't have got into bed with the Tories in the first place, guys and gals. But if you are truly liberal and democratic, get the hell out now, and at least get back some self-respect. Or is it too late for that?

Friday, 2 December 2011

Public sector strike and teachers - Ken Clarke and Mary Bousted on QT

Mary Bousted of AMT was passionate and articulate in her defence of her union's first strike in its 127-year history, was in command of her facts and figures, and put her finger on the worm at the heart of the Coalition's apple - namely, that the money raised by this daylight robbery from public sector workers was not going into their pension funds, but instead to bail out the Coalition's failing economic policy.

Ken Clarke, in contrast, was neither passionate nor articulate, and was most certainly not in command of the facts - he didn't even understand the vital - and substantial - difference between a final salary scheme and a career-average salary scheme, a distinction that even the most numerically challenged can understand very clearly.

Ken Clarke - good old jazz-loving, hush-puppied Ken, a rich man from politics and directorships in the tobacco industry, etc. - is now, I fear, past his sell-by date as an active politician, and his cosy persona is no longer enough to justify his ministerial role, nor his place as a PR front for a brutal, classed-based Coalition, stuffed with rich men like himself.