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Showing posts with label EU. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EU. Show all posts

Friday, 22 May 2015

What if ……?

We won a landslide victory, gaining 56 seat out of 59 , almost 95% of the Westminster Scottish seats. The three main unionist parties are each reduced to a token single member in the Commons. This is unprecedented, and the benefits are very tangible indeed.

Westminster benefits of having 56 SNP MPs

Scottish National Party will chair the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Select Committee and Scottish Affairs Select Committee. However, there were earlier indications that Tories and Labour will attempt to abolish the Scottish Affairs Committee.

The party will be entitled to £6 million over the next Parliament because it took so many seats in the election. It will receive between £1 and £1.2 million from the Treasury each year in what is known as short money.

The GE2015 landslide vote is not a mandate for a referendum” NICOLA

If more than 50% of the electorate voting for a party committed to independence get 94.9% of the seats for their country is not a virtual mandate for independence, what would be?

(I covered some possibilities in my May 1st blog before the election.)

Nicola's argument, quite deliberately, rather dances round this key point, by saying that some very significant event or events - e.g. BREXIT - the exit of UK from the EU - would be required to reactivate the question of a referendum. She rests her assertion on the related facts that 

1) the manifesto did not commit to a referendum and did not make independence a core issue, and

2) a proportion of the electorate voting SNP (unknown) must have included voters who voted NO in the 2014 referendum and still firmly wish to remain part of UK

That group had every right to vote in the belief that, although they were voting for a party whose core long-term objective is independence, the Scottish electorate firmly rejected independence on September 18th 2014 and the SNP accepted that democratic result, and both the former and the current First Ministers had expressed personal views that there would be no referendum in a generation, however one defines that. But those views were personal, albeit widely shared, and they could not bind the people of Scotland, as both Nicola and Alex Salmond have subsequently stated.

NICOLA “The People decide

Although Nicola is right to say that, democratically, the people decide on independence in a referendum, their ability to do so only comes if the independence party they support explicitly commits to independence during the lifetime of the Scottish Parliament - if elected - in their manifesto before the 2016 election. (The People, in practice, decide very little, except at the ballot box, and once in a while, during revolutions!)

In other words, if  Nicola and the Party place such a commitment in the 2016 Holyrood manifesto and win decisively, the aggregate case for an independence referendum would be well-nigh unanswerable.

She won't, because whatever these figure say about a mandate to call a referendum, there is no certainty that she would win. Alex Salmond,  a risk-taker and a gambler, took the political gamble in the 2011 manifesto - and was right to do so. The risk is huge – another NO vote would kill independence aspirations stone dead – or lead to something that no one would care to predict …

We came close to winning. But Nicola is not a political gambler: she will only take carefully judged risks with a high chance of success in the light of the previous failure. She will seek to get more powers, something close to federalism, and will postpone independence till Scotland is independent in all but defence and foreign affairs.

The $64,000 question is - will the SNP’s massive membership permit the Party to exclude such a commitment from the 2016 manifesto or will they pass branch resolutions demanding one?

Nicola's authority and popularity are at their very peak right now, but another mood may develop which, while retaining respect for her and her authority, begins to lose the fan/celebrity awe – a mood in which members are prepared to constructively flex  branch muscles, and democratically question strategy.  That, after all, is how party democracy is supposed to operate.

Will it happen? Who knows? Despite the massive membership, as any Branch Chair or Secretary knows, at any given time only a small minority of members are actively committed to attending branch meetings and influencing branch democracy. But in the SNP, on key decisions, the entire branch can vote online or by post, as for example on the selection of candidates for election.

Additionally and perhaps crucially, there are still campaigning organisations out there committed to independence who are not necessarily SNP supporters or members, e.g. Radical Independence, Common Weal, the Scottish Socialist Party, and party politically unaligned activists and voters, and also supporters and members of nominally unionist parties who nonetheless may support full independence or devomax or federalism within UK.

Depending how event unfold in the next 11 months, and dependent on how Scottish Labourand its ousted MPs – re-group and re-define themselves, all sorts of possibilities exist.

And of course, there are the trades unions, the STUC and campaigning groups within them, not to mention a number of groups who campaigned for YES banner under a variety of identities.

What we have is an unprecedented and varied mass movement - a mass engagement of the Scottish electorate, with its own hydra-headed structure, united by a core desire for political change in Scotland, but with significantly different views of what it should be and how it should be brought about.

Those who wonder how it will behave in the post-referendum, post-GE2015 phase we are in now, in the 11-month lead-up to the 2016 Parliamentary election might find illumination – or cause for alarm – in Eric Hoffer’s unique 1951 book The True Believer

Interesting times …

Sunday, 16 March 2014

A Marr interview with Alex Salmond, marred by simplistic questions – and a gaffe …

Marr, after trying to damn the YES campaign with faint praise on the polls, jumps in with the simplistic Better Together yah-boo mantra - Plan B!

He gets it partially right with "they're so hostile to Scottish independence that it's not bluff and bluster - they just determined to spike your guns" It may well be bluff and bluster (if it's not it's profound economic stupidity, allied to a craven fear of UKIP and their own badly-riven party and doubtful LibDem allies) but it most certainly is driven by hostility to independence and a desire to spike guns. He also observes that  there isn't good will on both sides. Again, Marr is half right - there is goodwill, albeit sorely tested on the Scottish Government side and a total absence of it on the UK side.

Marr's next point is that because "no one can say what's going to happen after a YES vote - if that's what happens - and therefore,  Scots are going to be left in the situation where they don't know what currency they will be using afterwards. Do you think it's sensible to have a Plan B ..." etc. He asks what's wrong with having a pound Scots or - and this is the mandatory Better Together sneer - "a groat, or whatever it would be called?"

Marr ignores completely the answer he got on his first outing with 'Plan B', and dutifully plays the BT broken record soundbyte. He gets a weary but patient repetition of the FM's first answer on the range of viable currency options, and a reiteration that 'Plan A' - a currency union - is in the best interests of both parties. The FM also reprises the requirement of the Edinburgh Agreement for politicians on both sides to act in the best interests of Scotland and rUK after the referendum.

It all falls on deaf - or uncomprehending - ears. "So why not a Scottish currency?" Any interviewer with any claims to professionalism would have had the Fiscal Commission report in front of him, or at least a key summary - but not Marr. Why bother when you can ignore detailed answers and repeat simplistic questions?

Marr conjures up Barroso. He claims that Barroso was "absolutely adamant in private and in the studio that it would not happen." In fact  Barroso said no such thing, since he is unable to speak for all the countries of the EU, and indeed he has been challenged by other heavyweight EU figures on what he did say. He then makes the extraordinary statement that Barroso "has no particular dog in this fight." No 'dog' except the Catalonian people's burning desire for a referendum on their independence.

The FM is too polite - or circumspect - to invoke Catalonia, but he does detail the reality of Barroso's current status and what his ambitions viv-a-vis NATO might be.

Marr then astonishingly offers his own opinion on Scotland's EU membership. "I think it will be quite hard to get back in, I have to say - but let's move on ..."

Let's not, Andrew- you don't get away with that so easily ...

FM: "This is what the Andrew Marr analysis says, as opposed to ... “

Marr: "Having talked to Mr. Barosso of the European Commission ...

FM: "As opposed, Andrew, to the weight of evidence that's been presented to the Scottish Parliament and its committees at the present moment. Is that the individual expression - or the BBC ‘s”

Marr blusters frantically, aware that he's in deep merde. "I've got no views on this, nor has the BBC.."

I'll leave the immigration bit - Marr was similarly simplistic on this topic.

A sad, sad performance from a once incisive political editor - in days gone bye. Long gone bye ...

Monday, 15 July 2013

Would it really have been independence? Should we resign ourselves to less?

"Will it really be independence?" stuff still touted by those hostile to Scotland’s independence, by the fearful and confused – and by quite a few prominent journalists and pundits. (The latter group are either fearful and confused – or they’re being ingenuous…)

Clarity of thought is vital at this point for independence campaigners, so turn it around - anything that leaves ultimate control with Westminster won't be independence. (e.g. federalism or any one of the multiple variants of devolution being touted – devo max, devo plus, full fiscal autonomy.)

While the Scotland Act is in force, Scotland is not independent - everything is in the gift of Westminster, which electorally means England. And it can be modified or withdrawn at any time … The Union remains intact, dominant, with total control over Scotland.

If Scotland decides on its defence policy, its foreign policy - including when to engage in armed conflict - elects its own Parliament and Government and makes it own laws, it's independent. Anything less and it's NOT independent.

The core principle is fully independent within an interdependent world – independence that recognises the reality of interdependence in a rapidly changing and unstable world.

Independence is the freedom to choose, with no limits or constraints on those choices, except ones we freely make and enter into - and can freely unmake and exit from.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Azeem Ibrahim, the Defence of Scotland – and the Scotland Institute. Part Three

PREAMBLE

I’ve taken two fairly long blogs to explain why I think the Scotland Institute is anything but “bi-partisan” (their description) and to speculate on what drives and influences Azeem Ibrahim.

Dr. Ibrahim has now responded to critics of his Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland paper by responding to six criticisms he says were made. These are not quite straw men set up to be knocked down – something like these points have been made by others, although the SNP response still remains – well, underwhelming. However, since I have not yet tackled the content of the paper itself, I now have the luxury of responding with the benefit of Azeem Ibrahim’s attempt at rebuttal.

Faced with Dr. Ibrahim’s degrees, intelligence, high-level contacts and friends, not to mention his stellar (which universe?) array of academics, titled personages, former defence secretaries and academics, do I feel inadequate in addressing this task?

Not a bit of it, because I come to it as a Scottish voter, a proud member of a unique group, the Scottish electorate, which at the end of the day – which will be September 18th 2014 – will evaluate all the stuff that has been thrown at them by polarised, and possibly well-remunerated(?) experts, then will decide the future of Scotland for generations, perhaps centuries. They are the jury who will listen to the witnesses and the competing ‘expert's’ from both sides, then will decide. And no judge can direct their verdict or overrule their decision.

This is democracy – the power of the people – something that Scotland and France virtually invented between them, and it scares the powerful shitless when it operates unintimidated and unencumbered. The UK’s flawed and partial democracy can’t blur the line and frustrate or fudge this one. If they try to, they will reap the whirlwind, and not just from Scotland.

THE PAPER AND ITS CLAIMS

I had always planned to start with Major-General Andrew Douglas Mackay CBE, Chair of the Panel of Experts, but on looking closely at his foreword, there is no real need to go further. (I have read the full paper several times very closely indeed.) Others better qualified than I can pick away at the detail, but since almost all of the flawed assumptions they rest on are contained in the General’s foreword, I see no need, as a voter, to go beyond them.

As can be seen from his Wikipedia entry, the General is a brave, capable, widely-experienced Scot, and deserves to be honoured for what he has done and achieved. (I just wish it had not been by the British Establishment, but that’s how the system works.)

He is also, de facto, a loyal member of that British Establishment and one major purpose of such honours is to cement him into that establishment and its values, which do not include the independence of Scotland.

Let me pick quotes from his foreword to the Scotland Institute report.

I approached this task with a full understanding of how political, public and emotive an issue this might be and sought to ensure that the report’s analysis would be bi-partisan.”

Even I would have expected to get well into the report before finding evidence that the General’s aim had not been achieved. But consider this from the foreword itself.

“… the evidence and conclusions weigh heavily on retaining the Union to safeguard our collective security.”

There’s nothing like cutting to the chase, General, as a no-nonsense military man should! We’re only in the third paragraph of the foreword and already we know the purpose and the desired outcome.  It’s not about defence and security in an independent Scotland, it’s about the collective security of the UK as an entity and whether or not the Union should be retained to serve that purpose.

The Scottish electorate don’t really need to actually read the report – the message, decoded,  is here, in para 3 of the foreword – don’t vote for independence, it threatens the UK’s defence and security policy!

Now we’ve got that sorted out, we can forget all the constitutional, economic and social aspects of Scotland’s independence, not mention the historical and cultural aspects, and we can forget any question of the morality of nuclear weapons of mass destruction or criticisms or the shackling of UK defence policy to right-wing neocon US foreign policy that led to the 12-year folly of Afghanistan (and its current ignominious approaching end) and the crime of Iraq, the death, destruction and destabilisation of the entire Middle East.

Just don’t vote for independence, Scotland,  because a group of politicians old and new, academics and military men, embedded in the system, feel you must “to safeguard our collective security.” Note that use of “our” – it does not refer to Scotland, it refers to the Union that has rewarded many of them so handsomely.

After a paragraph celebrating his Scottishness, the Scots as a “warrior race” and a recognition of the disproportionate contribution to the UK armed forces – but not of their disproportionate sacrifice in blood and death to the Union (it could have been written by Sir Walter Scott in his most fawning-to-King-and-empire style) - the General goes on for another few paragraphs with some history and some current harsh realities, namely that the UK sadly can no longer afford its pretensions as a global power and its ridiculously inflated defence budget (4th largest in the world).

Then he comes to this …

“It is of course highly unlikely that Scotland will ever come under existential threat of invasion or subjection.”

Given that guarding against “existential threat of invasion or subjection” is the primary purpose of the defence forces and defence policy of any nation, the General has to move swiftly to qualify this frank, factual admission which, if left to stand, would lead inevitably to the conclusion that an independent Scotland would be more than capable of discharging that primary responsibility to its citizens.

He does this by trotting out “the list of tasks in a world of hybrid conflict and multiple threats”, i.e. the list of either deeply wrongheaded or blatantly imperialistic involvements that got the US under Bush and his subservient partner, the UK under Blair and Brown into such deep doo-doo – the USA’s idea of itself as global policeman (which Obama is trying to distance himself from in face of screams of pain and outrage from the Republican right and military/industrial complex who profit handsomely from it) and Britain’s attempts to pretend it is still a global Empire, masking naked greed and exploitation of other nations and peoples as noblesse oblige.

In a nutshell, the General is acknowledging that Scotland could perfectly well defend itself – and do more – but he wants to keep it shackled to this failed and destructive global role and policy under the Union.

There is also the little matter that virtually all of the terror threats were brought to Britain by US/UK foreign policy and Iraq and Afghanistan – as acknowledged by a former UK Intelligence High Heid Yin.

Of course, in his penultimate paragraph, the General trots out the familiar defence-as-job-creation-scheme arguments that UK uses to blackmail Scotland’s voters, and the report later uses the grossly inflated estimates that usually accompany such nonsense. Perhaps he wants us to emulate Pakistan’s grossly inflated military and defence budget? (Azeem Ibrahim is especially well-placed to comments on that, as policy advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister in waiting, Imran Khan.)

The Generals’ last two sentences sum it all up -

It is easy to argue from within the comfort of a nearly 300 year-old union that an independent Scotland would only require a small fighting force. It is not likely to be so comfortable after you have jettisoned your allies and you are on your own.”

The “nearly 300 year –old union” is a 306 year-old union, General, and it is anything but comfortable for a very large number of less privileged Scots than you, Azeem Ibrahim or your mainly rich contributors, who have profited nicely from it.

Independent Scotland has no intention of “jettisoning its allies” and it hopes to retain rUK as an ally, while remaining in the EU and exploring development of new alliances with the Northern countries. But it does not intend to be dragged along behind a failed and incompetent MOD and Foreign Office and an endless succession of Governments it didn’t vote for, financing their follies past and to come with, to use your favourite phrase, its “blood and treasure” – the blood and treasure of the Scottish people.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Foreign Affair Committee Report – Scotland’s nuclear disarmament, NATO and EU

The M.O.D. having been in denial over the imminence of Scotland's independence, is now panicking, as is the Westminster Establishment - they're going to lose their WMDs, their seat on the UN Security Council, and as a nukeless rUK, Britain's last claim to be a world power, a global player. The final end of Empire ..

Summarised briefly, they're scared shitless, and desperate to kick the unilateral disarmament of Scotland into the long. long grass. They'll argue, then bully and intimidate - and there's little the shadowy vested interests and dirty money behind nuclear weapons and nuclear power won't do to avoid this outcome.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

What is Truth? (Pontius Pilate): Labour’s Truth Team and video

Scottish Labour’s strange little black propaganda video has made its appearance on YouTube, timed for the Scottish Conference. I don’t know who did the voice over, but it is a very strange voice indeed, modelled roughly on the voiceover in trailers for crap American series on repeat channels – a kind of mid-atlantic, pseudo-portentous growl. Impossible to determine the nationality of the perpetrator – could be a Scot trying to expunge all traces of Scottishness. Clearly, Scottish Labour didn’t trust an honest Scots voice to talk about truth …

The graphic mode is funereal, in the BetterTogether style of Repent_End_Union_is_Nigh! All that’s missing is the lugubrious Alistair Darling. Only the first point, on the currency deserves any attention – the rest is beneath any serious analysis. (It says a lot about Scottish Labour’s ideas of the intelligence of Scottish voters –perhaps the most catalysed, sophisticated electorate in the world right now.)

"For many years now, the pound sterling has been a millstone round Scotland's neck" “Sterling is costing jobs and prosperity” Alex Salmond 10th Nov. 1999

These quotes are over 13 years old. It was in the last millennium – the last months of the 20th century.

Since then, we’ve had 9/11, governments have come and gone, dictators have risen and fallen, the disastrous Republican US/Labour UK wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were started with a bang and are now ending with a whimper, and from 2008 onwards, the world economy and the world’s banks have gone into near meltdown, the British economy is a basket case, due in significant part to the Blair/Brown Labour Government’s mismanagement of the economy and the regulation of the banks, and the Tory/LibDem Coalition Government’s misconceived attempts to handle the shambles left by Labour, Europe has major problems with monetary policy, and the Arab Spring continues, creating major uncertainties for the Middle East and the world.

Economist, bankers, political theorists, academics and governments across the globe have hastily revised just about everything they thought they knew about monetary and fiscal management and investment.

But Scottish Labour relies on 13-year-old last century, last millennium quotes by Scotland’s First Minister to allege a contradiction over the SNP’s present policy over Scotland’s currency after independence!

It is a measure of Scottish Labour’s failure of imagination, failure of basic economic or political understanding and failure to adapt to the world we now live in that they are reduced to such Fox News-type negative campaigning and propaganda.

Political leaders failing to change their minds in the light of the vast changes to political and economic circumstances over this turbulent period would truly remarkable, branding them as dinosaurs, doomed to extinction by forces beyond their understanding or control.

That would be a fair description of the Scottish Labour Party, as exemplified by this misconceived initiative and video, dragging the very concept of Truth into their gutter.

Let’s look then at Alex Salmond’s current position on a Scottish currency, and the quote that encapsulates that pragmatic position -

Retaining the pound under independence is something that I believe is in the interests of Scotland.”

A fuller discussion of the issues can be seen in this June 2012 video. (The FM also discussed this issue at the Brooking Institution very recently.)

Here’s what I said last year on the currency question, as a rebuttal to criticisms advanced of the FM’s position.. The essence of the argument is still much the same, but heavyweight economic commentators have since then suggested revisiting the commitment to sterling and reconsidering a Scottish currency launch, in the light of rapidly the changing economic climate. -

MY REBUTTAL OF ARGUMENTS – June 2012

This is an attempt to talk the language that the average voter might begin to understand, so a warning shot to the ravening hordes of PPE graduates and professional economists – don’t try to bury me alive in complex conflicting arguments and academic references which have more to do with the political axe you are grinding than economic facts – haul your wagon to one of the many learned journals who publish this kind of thing, and have fun quarrelling with your peers over arcane theories.

1. Scotland is not going to be become independent, but if it does, it won’t really be independent if it still has sterling as its currency.

The idea that there is some pure, unalloyed version of independence in the complex interdependent world we live in is fantasy, as it is in individual life. Independence includes the right to decide with whom we cooperate, with whom we form alliances, when we cooperate and when we walk away, and whether that cooperation and those alliances are on trade, on economic controls, on defence, or in cultural, social, humanitarian and sporting policies and joint ventures.

And to forestall yet another ludicrous unionist old chestnut, our present membership of the UK does not already give us such sovereignty – it involves the surrender of the right to decide, the surrender of the sovereignty of the Scottish people on all but the few devolved matters the sovereign UK deigns to permit us to exercise some control over.

It might be nice at some point in the future to have an independent Scottish currency, Equally it might be appropriate to remain in sterling, or to join the euro, or join some other currency union as yet unknown. What will be even nicer is that the sovereign Scottish people will make that decision – nobody else.

2. Alex Salmond really wanted to join the euro: he was wrong on that, therefore he is wrong on this.

Resisting the urge to laugh at the utter naivety of this argument, I will simply say that what anybody said about the euro, about economics, about international banking and finance over four years ago is now almost completely irrelevant in the light of the economic and financial chaos that has engulfed the world. With the exception of a few prophetic voices crying in the wilderness, nobody foresaw it in any meaningful sense, least of all the economic and political theorists. Great fun can be had by selectively picking quotes of yesteryear, but it contributes nothing to an adult debate.

3. An independent Scotland would not have any influence in a currency union with the UK, much less a seat on the MPC, and would be wholly at the mercy of the Bank of England on monetary policy, and since the B of E is invisibly controlled by the UK (sic) Government and the Treasury, Scotland’s financial independence would be an illusion – the control of fiscal levers and policy would make no difference.

First, a few facts -

Currency unions exists all over the world, and can be one of three kinds – informal, formal, or formal with additional rules. They are entered into to maximise economic efficiency in a geographical region.

Scotland doesn’t need permission to use sterling – it is an internationally tradable currency, like the dollar, and if an independent Scotland continues to use it, it de facto has entered into an informal currency union with rUK.

To take the arrangement beyond the informal would require negotiated agreement with rUK. Such an agreement could only be reached during the wide-ranging negotiations that will take place after the YES vote in autumn 2014. The present UK Government is not going to enter into such negotiations, formally or informally, in the lead-up to the referendum when it is fighting for a NO vote. To do so would be to admit, de facto, that Scotland was likely to become independent. (Johann Lamont more or less did just that at FMQs.)

(If sensible politics and diplomacy were a feature of the present UK Coalition Government and Opposition, there would probably be confidential discussions taking place right now. Regrettably, there is little evidence of anyone in the Coalition Cabinet, or in the Scottish Office, or the Holyrood Opposition capable of the sophisticated approach that this would demand. There are undoubtedly such people in the diplomatic services. But to use diplomats would involve acknowledging that Scotland is likely to become an independent country.)

The Bank of England is the Central Bank of the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown gave the Bank of England operational independence in monetary policy in 1997, and it became responsible for setting interest rates through the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee, independent of Government.

The members of the MPC are the Governor of the Bank of England, two deputy governors, the Bank's Chief Economist, the Executive Director for Markets and four external members with financial expertise directly appointed by the Chancellor. A representative from the Treasury also sits with the Committee at its meetings. The Treasury representative can discuss policy issues but is not allowed to vote.

Its role is to set interest rates, to issue banknotes (Scotland still issues its own) and to contribute to “protecting and enhancing” the financial system. It has the right to use a process called quantitative easing to ‘print money’ (which is not printing more banknotes!) usually in crisis situations such as the recent banking collapse. The MPC does this by electronically creating new money to purchase assets, thus increasing the national debt. (Between March 2009 and January 2010, the MPC authorised the purchase of £200 billion worth of assets, mostly gilts – UK Government debt) This injects more money into the economy.

An independent Scotland will have full control of every aspect of the financial measure – fiscal levers – necessary to run the Scottish economy, raise taxes, etc.

If it uses a currency other than its own - e.g. the euro, sterling, the dollar – its interest rates would be set by the central bank of that currency. Scotland would therefore be subject to the monetary controls and monetary policy of that central bank.

The strength of a currency depends on the economic performance of the country issuing it, and the perception of that country, its currency and its economic performance by other countries. This determines the exchange rate, normally defined against the dollar.

For a newly independent Scotland to launch its own currency in a favourable world economy would have been a bit of a gamble: for it to launch its own currency in the current chaotic economic climate, or to join the euro would be lunacy. Sticking with sterling is the prudent, sensible option, either informally or within a currency union with rUK. This is not the time for macho posturing, indeed there is never such a time …

For the Bank of England and rUK not to accept the reality of an independent Scotland, with full fiscal control, using sterling, without having an observer equivalent to the present UK Treasury advisers would be illogical. Lyndon Johnson’s memorable phrase of “better inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in” comes to mind. Since the criteria the chancellor uses for selecting the four independent special advisers is unknown to me, I can offer no advice other than to say that a special adviser with an insight into, and special knowledge of Scotland’s finances would make sense.

A currency union beyond the informal also makes sense to any objective adviser.

As for Johann Lamont’s nonsense about consulting the Bank of England or the UK Treasury in advance, I refer to my comments above. Expect no objectivity from them until we have a decisive YES vote and negotiations have commenced.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Negotiating issues after a YES vote

The two principal negotiating interfaces will be

1. With the UK Government to agree the processes leading to independence.

2. With the EU to consider the implications of an independent Scotland for Scotland’s EU membership

There will be many other negotiating interfaces, but until the key heads of agreement are reached with UK and EU, they will either be held in abeyance or very tentative in character, since they are in significant part dependent on the outcome of the two primary negotiations.

UK Government negotiations

Two main issues will dominate the negotiating agenda – defence (crucially the nuclear issue), and the division of assets and liabilities.

The two key secondary issues will be a currency union and the status of the Bank of England, and complex administrative issues across a wide range of topics, e.g. pensions, tax, benefits, records.

Classifying the issues as either conflicts of right or conflicts of interest, with the legal dimension (UK law, Scottish law, EU law, international law) of conflict of right issues potentially introducing unacceptable delay factors, will be crucial.

EU membership negotiations

These will focus principally on the Scottish government’s position that Scotland is still a member versus a possible EU view that they must re-apply for membership.

The reality is that independence is a game changer and nothing can be taken for granted, legally or otherwise.

The EU that negotiates after a 2014 YES vote is likely to be a very different EU from its present form (Europe is in near-chaos and a ferment for new possibilities, e.g. much tighter monetary union).

NEGOTIATING – DYNAMICS AND PROCESSES

Negotiating is a technique - one of many - for reaching agreement between parties - force, authority, legal process, joint problem solving, selling, persuasion, etc.

It may be used as part of a portfolio of techniques, and may or may not be the principal technique. It may be used alone.

Broadly, negotiations between parties can by classified as one of five types -

1. Negotiation between independent parties to reach a specific limited, one-off agreement

2. Negotiation between independent parties to create a new relationship for a limited period

3. Negotiations between independent parties to create a new, ongoing open-ended relationship

4. Negotiation between independent parties in an attempt to redefine the terms of an existing relationship

5. Negotiation between parties to bring an existing relationship to an end.

(Another broad distinction can be made in dispute negotiations, that of conflict of right and conflict of interest, that is a dispute over claimed existing rights or an attempt to establish new rights. For example, a dispute over alleged breach of contract is a conflict of right, and a dispute over an attempt to redefine the terms and conditions of a contract e.g. a wage increase, is a conflict of interest.)

The first two types above characterise most commercial negotiations – one-off deals, deals delivered over time, short-term employment contracts, etc.

The last three are the ones that concern us in relations to Scotland’s independence. The Act of Union was type 3, the negotiations over the terms of Scotland’s EU membership will be type 4, and the negotiations over Scotland’s independence will be type 5.

With regard to the EU, type 4 is the one that interests us - negotiation between independent parties in an attempt to redefine the terms of an existing relationship.

LOCKED RELATIONSHIPS

Many type 4 negotiations can be described as locked relationships from a negotiating perspective, that is to say, relationships that are expected to continue over time, and where negotiations that result in deadlock or failure to agree do not threaten the ultimate continuity of the relationship.

The technique falls into broad categories – analysis, structure, strategy and tactics and, crucially, behaviour, i.e. the face-to-face interaction of the negotiators.

Negotiators may be accountable to no one but themselves, that is to say, they are their own Principals and have absolute discretion over their side of the process.

Negotiators may also be accountable to a Principal (or Principals) who are not present at the face-to-face negotiation but who play an intimate role in preparation and strategy formulation and have ultimate authority to ratify or reject deals. In such cases the negotiator is the Agent of the Principal (like the lawyer/client relationship).

In a large organisation – or a democracy – the Principal will be accountable to a wider, larger group or groups – the Board, the shareholders, the employees, the customers and the politician to the Government, the Party and ultimately to the voters.

A negotiator may negotiate alone or as part of a team of negotiators. Negotiating team roles, discipline and behaviour are a crucial determinant of negotiating success.

In multi-element, complex negotiations, a back-up team of experts is a vital resources – lawyers, technical people, finance experts, etc. It is not unusual for complex negotiations to be modelled – i.e. to have computer based simulations and models – and to have complex spreadsheets and algorithms to compute the impact of possible changes.

A negotiation that that will take place in the public eye (government, major company or government terms and conditions bargaining, strikes and industrial action – actual or threatened) requires a sophisticated media strategy, not least because everything said – or not said(!) to media – communicates something to the other side of the negotiating table (whether intended or not).

DISTRIBUTIVE vs INTEGRATIVE BARGAINING IN NEGOTIATION

In zero sum games (Games Theory) what one negotiator gains the other loses and vice versa – a finite pot is divided unequally. This is sometimes called distributive bargaining (Walton & McKersie).

Such negotiations are possible, but are highly stressed, prone to deadlock and breakdown, and any deal reached is perceived as having a winner and a loser, relatively speaking. (The recent Fiscal Cliff negotiations are a good example)

Wherever possible, negotiators should strive to add value for both sides by showing new potential for gains to both sides that do not involve win/lose scenarios – the so-called integrative bargain or win/win scenario.

This demands lateral thinking, vision and creativity.

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?


Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Tuition fees – a defining issue for Holyrood elections May 2011

The student vote is vital for a number of obvious reasons: they are young, in the early stages of political awareness, intelligent and articulate, sceptical, new media savvy – and the future belongs to them.




The tuition fees debate has captured the imagination of students and catalysed student protest in a way that has not been seen for many decades. The young have a powerful sense of justice, and of right and wrong, something that many lose as the pressures of adult life and career exert their often insidious grip on the conscience, sometime recovered in late maturity, sometimes never …

And bluntly, the tuition fees debate affects their interest very directly, both economically and socially, and has the power to cross family political allegiances and traditions.

A political party that cannot capture the imagination of the young and appeal to their idealism must question its policy and thrust: a nationalist party that cannot legitimately secure the allegiance of the youth of its nation by appealing to its intellect and emotions is not worthy of the name. If we do not want an independent Scotland for our young people, who hold the future in their hands and their hearts, what do we want it for?

Let’s get a few facts straight -

The commitment of Scotland to free education is fundamental to its history and its national character, and charging for education is alien to Scots.

The establishment of fee paying educational institutions is, and always has been, an attempt to buy privilege, while paying lip service to excellence. Fees automatically discriminate in favour of the those with money, are inextricably related to class and perpetuate and widen class divisions.

The smokescreen of the poor but worthy parents struggling to raise the money to educate their children is a self-serving myth, but a myth rooted in a small reality. A minority undoubtedly do this, but they shouldn’t have to, and the majority give up and accept their allotted subordinate role in the system. The same myth and same tiny reality exists in relation to the poor student taking second jobs and scrimping and saving to go to university. Some do, but they damage their education in so doing, and shouldn’t have to do it. A significant proportion give up the unequal struggle, and some never undertake it.

This myth is also deeply rooted in the American psychology – of the poor boy working his way through college. The American reality is that of a privileged elite buying their education, perpetuating their class, and dominating the professions and the entire political and economic system, regardless of inherent ability. It is a trick they learned from Britain, where the domination of money and privilege in securing an Oxbridge education ensures the dominance of Oxbridge graduate in our deeply flawed and unequal society.

Every analysis and all the statistics support that. Look at Parliament, the House of Lords, the Law, the City, the banks, medicine, the churches, the media and the upper echelons of the armed services if you doubt it. The figures are unchallengeable, and the inequity unspeakable. Only in sport and the performing arts does the the model fail, and the reason why is clear. Mediocrity and incompetence can be concealed in almost any profession, but in sport and the arts, there is nowhere to hide, although the administration and control of these direct contributors often falls into the hands of the elites.

If you doubt any of this, look at the background of those who regularly spout the self-serving poor boy, poor family myth – they are invariably the privileged, usually privileged over several generations. They must perpetuate the lie to defend that privilege – equality of education is deeply threatening to their class.

What can be said with absolute certainty is the the ConLib policy on education will limit access to higher education to the rich and privileged, with few exceptions and that is what the Tories intend it to do, aided by the criminal folly of the their LibDems partners.

Just as their distaste for the public services manifests itself as concern for the nations finances, so does their distaste for equality of opportunity hide behind the need to balance the books. This is a predominantly rich and privileged Government, containing a few token self-made men and women, conducting an ideological class war against ordinary people and their legitimate aspirations under the cloak of the national economic interest.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

1. It is Scotland’s responsibility to offer free education to Scottish students and students permanently living in Scotland.

2. It is not in Scotland’s economic interest to offer free education to students from Europe or the rest of the UK, however, present EU legislation compels us to offer free higher education to EU students – the Umbria/Cumbria rule. It does not, however compel us to offer free education to students from the rest of the UK, since the UK is regarded as the state by the EU.

3. It is in Scotland’s interest to attract paying students from the rest of the world, and ideally we would also like EU students to pay.

4. The demands from the UK that Scotland should offer free education to Students from England in the interests of ‘fairness’ is nonsense – it would negate the whole purpose of devolved government’s freedom to decide how its money should be spent in areas of expenditure over which it has discretion. If English students didn’t pay, some other area of Scotland’s expenditure would suffer, and in the light of the draconian fees (up to £9000 per annum) that the ConLib UK government is imposing, there would be a flood of English students to Scottish universities at the expenses of places for Scottish students.

WHERE THE REAL PROBLEM LIES

The real problem is twofold. Firstly, it lies with the fact that the UK government not only wants to charge students for their higher education, it intends to radically increase the charges.

Secondly, the UK government has not yet come to grips with the reality of devolved government in Scotland. Blair and the Labour Party, and the British Establishment thought it would be an event, not a process, one that would kill the aspirations of the Scottish people for independence.

But the contradictions within the devolved settlement – which is being extended under Calman – will ironically prove right the diehard unionist critics of devolution like Lord Forsyth and Tam Dalyell. It is a process that will lead inevitably and inexorably to full fiscal autonomy and ultimately to full independence, however long it takes, and however many reverses and staging posts there may be along the way.

Sooner or later, the Scottish people will be free of the crippling burden of UK defence and deterrence policy, enslaved as they are to US foreign policy – a policy that has led to half a century of perpetual conflict and war by America on the rest of the world, and the associated crimes against humanity that are more widely recognised every day, by Americans as well as the rest of the world.

(If you doubt the above assertions, watch the John Pilger documentary, ‘The War You Don’t See’ – see link)

Wikileaks has rendered an incalculable service to humanity by releasing that which the military/industrial complex that dominates the US and the UK wishes to keep hidden, so that they can continue in the lunatic policy of eternal war as the operating principle of their respective states, masquerading as free democracies.

The War You Don't See - John Pilger

Scotland, a small northern nation, but one with a unique place in the world’s history, must be free of that poisoned alliance, and the sooner the better. Tuition fees will be a defining issue in next years Holyrood elections that will take us closer to that ultimate objective.

The Scottish National Party must speak with a clear, unequivocal voice on the issue before May 2011.

Saor Alba!



Friday, 17 December 2010

Kenny Gibson nails Unionists to the wall on The Daily Politics. We need more of this …

I miss The Daily Politics with Andrew Neil every Thursday because I am watching FMQs from Holyrood. But I missed a good one on Thursday, however, thanks to it being brought to my attention and the BBC iPlayer, I managed to see it, and it was a satisfying and rewarding experience.

Kenneth Gibson MSP gave a barnstorming performance, firing at will on the shaky positions of Andrew Neil and his two hapless guests. If ever the flaky arguments of the UK were exposed in all their sordid reality, this was it, and on the topic of the moment – the Scottish  position on tuition fees…

Andrew Neil had a Tory MP, Peter Bone, and Rachel Johnson, Editor of The Lady. Interesting choices …

Peter Bone, after unsuccessful attempts at a Welsh Parliamentary seat and the European Parliament, was chosen as the Tory candidate for Pudsey in 1997, after the retirement of its long-serving Tory MP. In spite of a national swing to Labour of only 10%, he managed to lose the seat to Labour on a swing of 13.2%.

In 2001, he fought the marginal Labour seat of Wellingborough (majority 187) during an election when there was a national swing to the Tories of 1.75%. But he failed to take the seat – in fact, there was a swing to Labour of 2.1%. But he managed to take it in 2005, with a swing of 2.9%at the peak of Tony Blair’s Iraq unpopularity with a national swing to the Tories of 3.1%.

Bone is a very active asker-of-questions in the House, but the They Work for You site referred to him as one of three new MPs who inflated their internet ratings by “saying very little, very often …” Other exciting comments from him include saying that the NHS would not have been out of place in Stalin’s Russia. He is a cricketer and is described as bowling left arm around the wicket with varying degrees of success, which perhaps explains his performance on the programme.

Rachel Johnson’s claim to fame - and presumably her place on a heavyweight political programme - is that she is Boris Johnson’s sister, and the new editor of The Lady magazine – judge it for yourselves. (For an idea of what she has been up to, read Zoe Williams – Guardian on her editorial style.)

And this odd duo of diehard unionists were invited to comment on the Scottish Government’s position on the topic that is rending the capital city of the Union apart with riots and attacks on the Heir to the Throne and the Duchess of Cornwall in their roller. The programme could have been a big yawn …

But Andrew Neil is a mischievous bugger, and a journalist first and foremost, and being a Thatcherite Tory and Unionist come second to this allegiance, to his credit. So he invited Kenneth Gibson, Scottish National Party MSP to enliven what  otherwise would have been a leaden mix, and oor Kenny did us proud …

I won’t spoil your fun by analysing what followed in this blog (maybe tomorrow) – suffice it to say that more evidence was provided of the widening fault lines in the Union and that the UK is on its last legs, even though, like all rotten structures concealed by a hefty coat of paint, it may stand for a long time yet.

Watch and enjoy!


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Mitchel McLaughlin - Sinn Fein - politely declines Andrew Neil's traps

Andrew Neill questions Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein on the Irish economic situation, baiting some rather obvious elephant traps in his questions.

McLaughlin, like all Northern Irish politicians, has lived through more challenging times and situations than any British politician has ever seen, and almost disdainfully swats away a mere UK media commentator's 'Ladybird Book of Politics' simplistic analysis.

But in the process, he politely explains some fundamental things about Ireland - north and south - and says things of relevance of all of us.


It wasn’t the Euro, the EU or national identity that did this to us–it was global finance and incompetent UK, US and Irish governments

It wasn't the European Union that did this to all of us - it wasn't the Euro, it wasn't nationalism - it was rampant unregulated amoral gambling by global financiers and bankers, allied to the incompetence and failure of vision, foresight and nerve of US, European and UK governments.

Labour and British banks did it to the UK - the Irish government and Irish banks did it to Ireland - the US government and Wall Street banks did it to America, and compounded it for the rest of us.

Reflect on this before sneering at Ireland and allowing schadenfreude to cloud your judgement, and mouthing cheap Labour sound bites about the failure of Celtic Tigers and the Arc of Prosperity.

Labour are the guilty party - the incompetent Conlib Coalition are now compounding the error in their misconceived programme of cuts, attacking public service, the poor, the sick and the vulnerable.

Only the Scottish Nationalist Government stands between the people of Scotland and this economic incompetence and social lunacy, but they are limited by the lack of full fiscal autonomy.

Saor Alba!