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Showing posts with label Holyrood elections May 2011. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holyrood elections May 2011. Show all posts

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Force is with us – 39% 38% 23%

39% 38% 23%

Today’s TNS-BMRB poll reported in The Herald means a majority of Scots declaring a preference are now in favour of independence, and this is consistent with every indicator since May 6th 2011, from the election results to the recent Ipsos MORI poll that a great sea change has swept across Scotland and the political consciousness of the Scottish people. It reflects the assertion, across the globe, of the right of the people to throw off the conspiracy of wealth, power and inherited privilege, often backed by force – a movement that is throwing off old hegemonies, whether they be totalitarian dictatorships or corrupt, flawed democracies, or the relics of old empires. It is the zeitgeist, and it will not be denied.

We are fortunate in Scotland that we can do it by democratic means, by the ballot box, without the use of force, and without a blood sacrifice of our bravest people. But our bravest people, our servicemen and women are being sacrificed weekly in the misguided foreign entanglements of the UK government, as it desperately tries to hang on to its image of itself as a global power player. And our entire country, Scotland, is being placed at risk by being used as the base for outmoded weapons of mass destruction in our Scottish waters.

The task ahead is clear – to progressively shift, a percentage point at a time, the undecided 23% towards asserting their independence at the ballot box, and convert as many of the 38% committed to a failing corrupt, incompetent United Kingdom to support for their own freedom as a nation – Scotland.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The terms of Scotland’s independence - the great debate …


I have been commenting for some time on the deliberate playing down of the defence issue by both pro and anti independence camps, especially the nuclear weapons and bases aspect, which I regard as the crucial issue. As recently as last night’s Newsnight Scotland, this was being skirted around.

But it has now erupted on to the front pages, as it was inevitable that it would, sooner or later. We’re down to the nitty-gritty with a bang, so to speak. Today’s Herald -

SNP anger over Tory warning on defence - Backlash as Fox brands Salmond’s policy on the military nonsense

And some still say the YES/NO referendum campaign hasn’t started! You could have fooled me …


Just a few short weeks ago, Labour was going to win the Holyrood election, the SNP would be out, and Scotland’s independence would be off the agenda for the foreseeable future because the people of Scotland would not be asked what they wanted.

Now we have the SNP in power, with full control of the Parliament, the referendum now certain, with the debate now shifted to the terms of independence.

As an indicator of just how much things have changed, I refer you to the perception of a European now studying in Aberdeen - Ferdinand von Prondzynski - on his blog.

His last paragraph reads -

What do I think? I’m new here, but I have now spoken with a fairly large number of Scottish voters, and I am getting a very consistent message, so consistent that I am going to discard the normal caution of suggesting that this really isn’t a sufficient sample to be useful. Almost everyone I have spoken to who voted SNP has said the same. And to explain it, I might refer to the comment of a BBC commentator on election night, who suggested that the Scots had ‘lost their fear of independence’. That seems to me to get it absolutely right. It doesn’t mean they voted for it when they voted SNP. But it means that they knew that, by voting SNP, they were making independence a live issue. They might still voice caution when polled. But they are there to be persuaded, and expect the persuasion to come. They are not yet all in favour, but they are no longer determined to be against.

It often takes the clear-eyed perception of an outsider (meant in the very best way, Ferdinand - we are delighted to have you in Scotland!) to encapsulate the mood of our nation, and in this paragraph Ferdinand (@vprond on Twitter) has done just that.

There will be no referendum called until the second half of this Scottish Parliament, but we are already in the YES/NO campaign whether we like it or not (some in the SNP feel it is premature) because the NOs are already in full voice. And those who voted SNP but are cautious about independence are, to echo Ferdinand’s words “there to be persuaded, and expect the persuasion to come. They are not yet all in favour, but they are no longer determined to be against.”

THE UNIONIST POSITION - the NOs in full voice

The Unionists’ many positions on the referendum over recent times may be summarised as follow -


Scotland doesn’t need a a referendum on independence - each UK general election is in effect a referendum.

“If the SNP wants one, bring it on …” The Wendy position.

A referendum would be a needless distraction from the urgent business of sorting out the economic mess “left by Labour” (Coalition position) or “created by the Tory-led Coalition” (Labour position.

The SNP government will be out of office on May 5th 2011, so the referendum is off the agenda.


The SNP is marginalising the independence question - we demand that they bring it up front, so that we may terrify the voters with it.


We demand that the new SNP government call a referendum right now. Bring it on …

We demand that the UK government call a referendum right now.

We demand that the referendum be extended to the whole of the UK.

We may give you everything except defence and foreign policy if you abandon the referendum.

No referendum is needed - England (i.e. the UK) should just throw Scotland out of the Union unilaterally.

The SNP has abandoned any real concept of independence, led into the Unionist Promised Land by Jim Sillars

The SNP is split right down the middle over independence - this is the SNP’s Clause Four moment.

This contradictory, confused and intellectually dishonest range of positions reflects the confusion and disarray in the NO camp. The electorate recognised that before the election, and probably recognise it now. They won’t be voting for a new government of Scotland for five years, but they will be voting for Scotland’s future, something of infinitely more significance - and they know it.


A few things need to be re-stated. The Scottish government can - and will - introduce a referendum bill to Holyrood in the second half of this Parliament and it will be enacted, given the SNP’s overall majority.

The exact question or questions that will be asked on the referendum ballot paper has/have not yet been decided, but ideas have been floated. The essential choice is between a single question  - will you authorise the Scottish Government to negotiate the terms of independence on your behalf with Westminster - YES or NO, or two or more questions on a range of options, e.g. full independence or something less.

If the answer is NO to any change to the status quo, there is no immediate problem, other than an acrimonious debate about how long it should be before the question is asked again, e.g. a generation (Unionist  position) or not for a while, unspecified (Nationalist position.

It must be clearly understood that a YES vote does not legally bind the UK government to agree to the outcome, but there is a near-consensus that the moral and political force of a YES vote would compel Westminster  to accept the democratic decision of the Scottish people.

But a number of key questions arise from the referendum in addition to those above.

Q1. How much detail on the Scottish Government’s position on the exact nature of independence must the electorate have to make an informed choice, i.e. what are the implications of voting YES? 

Q2. What is the case for voting NO, i.e. for the status quo - no change to the present arrangements?

Q3. If there is a YES vote, should there be a second referendum to ratify the heads of agreement reached by the Scottish Government team and the UK Government?

There are more questions, and sub-sets of questions, but let’s look at these three first. I approach them from the standpoint of a negotiator, but in the context of political realities and the history of other successful independence movements.

Individual negotiators or negotiating teams fall into two broad categories - those who are answerable only to themselves and those who are mandated to negotiate on behalf of others - their principals.

For example, someone negotiating the price of a car with a dealer is usually in category one, and a commercial negotiator acting on behalf of a company, or a trade union negotiator or negotiating team is in category two. The commercial negotiator usually has a single principal, e.g. the purchasing or sales director, or a team of principals, i.e. the Board of directors.

The closest parallel for a Government negotiating team is the trade union example - one might think - with the trade union membership parallel being the electorate. However, this analogy doesn’t hold up in the face of political reality. MPs and MSPs are elected as representatives of the electorate, not as delegates or passive mouthpieces. They are elected on the basis of a manifesto - their prospectus so to speak - but once elected they have - or arrogate - considerable flexibility and discretion on how they exercise that mandate.

The alternative is clearly unworkable, namely to seek democratic ratification of every policy detail by consultation and mini-referendums. The electorate is expected to trust their elected representatives to get on with the job as best they can.

That trust has, of course, often been shamefully betrayed by elected representatives once in office, the most egregious recent example being the betrayal of their supporters by the Liberal Democrats in coalition with the Tories. But even before that betrayal, there was another example which, it can be argued, was simply realistic democratic politics, although some would disagree, namely the negotiations with the Tories about forming the coalition, led by Danny Alexander for the LibDems.

Neither the Tories nor the LibDems spelled out in detail in advance to the people who had elected them the rationale for a coalition (some would say it was self-evident from the election results) and neither party told the electorate what their negotiating objective were in detail. They took their mandate to mean that they had the right to exercise their best judgment without referring back to the electorate, and however unfortunate the outcome, my personal feeling is that they had that right.

Where does this leave us on the three questions posed above? Let’s take them one at a time -

Q1. How much detail on the Scottish Government’s position on the exact nature of independence must the electorate have to make an informed choice, i.e. what are the implications of voting YES?

My simple answer to that is - more than they have at present, despite the SNP’s considerable efforts to conduct a national conversation and to spell out  a great deal of their thinking in writing. This is especially necessary  on defence matters and the nuclear question, nuclear in more sense than one. Liam Fox’s outburst - spontaneous or calculated - has catapulted this question to centre stage in the debate, and the referendum campaign, which has already started, despite protestations to the contrary by some.

I have always regarded the defence issue as central, both in my personal priorities, and to the real nature of the opposition to Scotland’s independence, while recognising that it is not necessarily the issue at the forefront of the electorate’s priorities. (Professor Tom Devine said last  night on Newsnight Scotland that economic issues have determined the outcome of every election, but, with great respect, this ignores the fact that the electorate have never had a clear-cut defence and nuclear option put to them in any of the elections he cites - except by fringe parties - because every major party has effectively been committed to nuclear weapons and the nuclear deterrent.)

The SNP’s position on the status of the Scottish component of British armed forces must be clarified. They are either Scottish forces voluntarily ceded to overall UK co-ordination and control, but with the capacity to veto their participation in any initiative that the Scottish government disapproves of, or they are not. All governments participate in coalitions of forces under a central military control  - the UK forces were under Eisenhower and American control for the D-Day landings, and the UK is presently in a coalition in Afghanistan and in Libya - but national sovereignty reigns supreme.

On the nuclear issue, I have already stated my understanding on this, on Sunday May 15th, as follows -

The First Minister says clearly that an independent Scotland would have the ultimate decision on when to go to war, i.e sacrifice the lives of Scottish servicemen and women – and would not, for example, have supported the invasion of Iraq.

He also says there could be some sensible sharing of military bases. But if that were to extend, for example, to leasing the Trident nuclear bases to UK Minus (The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland) after Scotland has achieved independence, then the Scottish Government would have to have a veto on when nuclear weapons were used from its waters, or from a submarine in international waters that was based in Scottish waters.

Since Scotland does not support the use of nuclear weapons or WMDs in any circumstances, UK  Minus (effectively the US) would be leasing bases and owning weapons of mass destruction, e.g. Trident submarines that could never be used.

This would be untenable, therefore Scotland can never lease the nuclear bases to UK Minus.

We cannot reasonably expect the Scottish electorate to vote in an independence referendum without a clear idea of how their new nation is going to be defended.

There are other significant aspects of independence, most of which have been clearly explained by the SNP, verbally and in print, if the unionist opposition and lazy media commentators would take the time to do their homework. For example, the SNP’s commitment to a constitutional monarchy has been clearly stated, and the ancient model of the Union of the Crowns has been cited.

The SNP’s position on the key levers of fiscal responsibility, on control of borrowing, on tax raising powers, on Scotland’s natural resources including oil are clearly set out. We already have our own legal system, and the present status of devolution has already ceded a number of areas of control to the Scottish Parliament. But the nit-picking on detail by the NO camp - the unionists - is patently ridiculous, e.g. what about the DVLC etc.

No rational person can expect the electorate to be buried alive under the minutiae of government  administration, and no reasonable member of the electorate wants to be asked to ratify every detail.

So my answer to Question One is that the electorate must know what is meant by independence on the big, fundamental questions,and my belief is that they already know most of the answers, but that they must be re-stated in clear an unequivocal terms.

The exception to the above is defence and the nuclear issue, as already stated. The electorate must be given clarification now on these fundamental questions by the government that they so recently and decisively elected. They will undoubtedly get - and are getting - answers from the NO campaign, answers that will be at best a distortion of the truth, and at worst, plain scaremongering lies.

That was the unionist parties’ shameful record in the election campaign, and they won’t change now.

Q2. What is the case for voting NO, i.e. for the status quo - no change to the present arrangements?

The answer is that this is the business of the unionists - the NO campaign - and they are already sedulously engaged in it.

Q3. If there is a YES vote, should there be a second referendum to ratify the heads of agreement reached by the Scottish Government team and the UK Government?

My answer is an emphatic NO. 

No other nation negotiating the terms of their independence has done such a thing, or been expected to do it.  If anyone has examples to the contrary, let them bring them forward. Once the electorate of a nation has been offered and accepted the choice of demanding their independence, they have trusted their elected representatives to get the best deal the can, in the context of broad understanding of the fundamental of their government’s position.

The demand for a second referendum, like the demand that the minutiae of independent government should be spelled out in advance should be seen for what it is - an attempt to muddy the water, confuse the electorate and to bury the core issues in mass of detail.

It is an attempt to second guess an outcome to the independence referendum that the unionists don’t like.

Reject it completely.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Please don’t talk about us when we’re gone …

There’s an old jazz song – “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone” With some adaptation, it fits very well with the less generous UK commentators on Scotland’s new dawn and its impending departure from the Union.

Please don't talk about us when we're gone
Although we hope we can be friendly from now on
And if you can't say anything real nice
Then UK, please don't talk at all is my advice

You go your way and I'll go mine
It's best that we do
Here's a thought I hope will bring
Lots of love to you

It makes no difference how you carry on
But UK - please don't talk about us when we're gone

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Vote for Scotland’s future

I’ve cast my votes - both votes SNP and YES to AV. The polling station and the voting process reminded me how privileged we are to have a free vote in a democracy, and how fundamental the political process is to our lives.

And it reminded me of the essential elements of Scotland’s democracy - the equality of every vote and every voter, the fact that every vote really counts because of the dual voting system, and the principle of the will of the people determining how their lives will be run by their chosen government.

I met some of my neighbours, people I have lived among for the last 28 years and exchanged greetings, in the knowledge that they represented all shades of political opinion and party affiliation, but that they were united in the democratic process.

In the last days before the poll, I have tried, successfully, to persuade friends to vote who felt that a vote was pointless, and who I knew for certain did not support my party, because I believe that the right of the people of Scotland to choose is vital, and that there is a duty to vote.

But this must be said. My party, the Scottish National Party, believes that the people of Scotland have a right to determine their future, both at the ballot box and ultimately in a referendum on independence.

But the other three Westminster-controlled UK parties only share one of these beliefs. They would deny the right of the people of Scotland to choose whether or not they want to remain in the United Kingdom in a free referendum choice.

But the belief of the Scottish Labour Party in the right of of the people of Scotland to freely choose their  Parliamentary representative is further compromised by their decision to import politicians, celebrities, and activists from another country who are themselves ineligible to vote in the Scottish election.

These people were no better than mercenaries, and in my book, their involvement was a kind of political corruption. I hope the Scottish electorate have taken due note of this appalling, undemocratic behaviour.


Both votes SNP

Vote for your ain folk

Vote for Scotland’s future

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Things we know we don’t know …

65 campaigning days left until the Scottish Parliamentary elections on May 5th. What will happen during those days?

Two quote are always trotted out about the unexpected in the public arena - a week is a long time in politics, and Harold Macmillan’s reply, when asked what was the most challenging thing for politicians - “Events, dear boy, events …

The following comment, by the awful Donald Rumsfeld, Defence Secretary in the equally appalling George W. Bush administration is often derided, and widely regarded as one of the dumbest quotes on record -

We know there are known knowns: there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns: that is to say we know there are things we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know."

But Rumsfeld, despite the fractured syntax, was actually attempting to articulate the perfectly valid concept of uncertainty in human affairs, as contrasted with risk. Risk is quantifiable, risk can be calculated - a figure can be put on it. But uncertainty cannot. We know it exists, but the best we can do is make some kind of arbitrary contingency plan for it, something set aside for the lightning strike that may never come.

(The likelihood is the Rumsfeld had attended a high-powered lecture that included an explanation of the uncertainty principle, and was regurgitating his flawed and primitive understanding of it. I remember the Managing Director of a company I worked for coming back from a week-long course in Management Centre Europe, which had blown a quarter of my training budget for the financial year, and replying to my question about what he had learned by saying “There was something about a window with four panes …” I eventually realised that he was talking about the Johari Window, a perceptual model that included uncertainty.)

This has been dramatically illustrated by the sudden uprising of the people in dictatorships throughout the Middle East over the last few weeks, triggered in Tunisia by the self-immolation of a market vendor, which caught a global mood, fed by Wikileaks and new media such as Twitter, Facebook and mobile phones.

The stunned reaction of the world’s diplomatic and intelligence services, caught with their collective pants round their ankles, and the spluttering indignation of professional political pundits everywhere, in denial over the fact the new media and the new ‘journalism’ exemplified by Wikileaks had left them looking like the ponderous, irrelevant commentators that they often are, was quite something to see and hear.

This was not quite the uncertainty principle  in action - some prescient and well-informed journalists had scented the wind of change - but it came close to being “Events, dear boy, events …

So what uncertainties, what unforeseen events will beset the Holyrood election campaign? Don’t be silly, dear boys - if I could predict them, they wouldn’t be uncertainties

But I will have a go at the risk factors, although I can’t quantify them -

The way in which the whole Megrahi/Gadaffi/Libya debacle plays with the electorate will be a factor.

How the relentless onslaught of  British Empire and monarchical nostalgia, from Downton Abbey, the new Upstairs, Downstairs through the King’s Speech to the Royal Wedding will affect the forelock-touching, flag-waving, cap-doffing voters is an open question. Right at this moment, someone is doubtless frantically trying to get something up and running on Dunkirk, a re-run of The Dam Busters, and any stiff-upper lip, all-pulling-together-against-the-Nazis quota quickies from the 1940s and ‘50s they can squeeze into the schedules. (A photographic exhibition of the Royal Children is already running.) But the SNP are committed to a constitutional monarchy after independence, to Elizabeth, Queen of Scots (carefully avoiding Elizabeth the I or the II question and giving pillar boxes a wide berth) and can pull a forelock and doff a cap with the best of them, so who knows?

Somewhere, a financial or sexual scandal - ideally both, from a  News International perspective - may be about to blow, and phone-tapping, bugging tabloid journalists will bite their thumbs in frustration at the constraints laid upon them by their own scandal.

A Glasgow land deal with a dodgy developer may be simmering away, relying on the compliant West of Scotland Labour Press to keep it under wraps until after the election.

A member of the Judiciary may be discovered in a lap dancing club, dressed in a top hat and fishnet tights, and again ideally, from a News International perspective, singing No Surrender or The Soldier’s Song.

A prominent person may inconveniently die, perhaps even a Royal.

Sir Sean Connery may suddenly and publicly endorse Iain Gray for First Minister - or renounce his knighthood.

Gail Sheridan may win the lottery (I hope she does …) and pump millions into George Galloway’s campaign (I hope she doesn’t …).

Stop it, Peter! You’re just being silly now - you’ve taken it too far …

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Unionist bias at BBC Scotland?

I hate to ask that question, because the BBC has been an invaluable part of my life since I was a child, and my first instinct is to spring to its defence when it is attacked, as it always has been, on many fronts and for many reasons.

The BBC is a unique institution, and is recognised as such throughout the world. It has been a vital channel of communication, information and hope for occupied and oppressed countries  across the globe throughout its long history, as well as being a major engine of culture.

But from its monopoly status in certain  aspects of its operations, through regular accusations of bias and partiality - from just about every interest group imaginable - to complaints about the allegedly excessive salaries and perks of its senior management, the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, is a target.

It has been variously accused of being




biased towards libertarianism

sexually permissive

too bold in its programming

not bold enough

nationalistic and jingoistic

not patriotic enough

of concealing the realities of war

of being too open about the realities of war

The list goes on and on. It is accused of being a slave to balance in reporting, and yet is regularly accused of lack of balance. It is at one and the same time apparently anodyne yet radical in its style.

The BBC could reasonable respond – and does - that the mutually contradictory range of criticisms levelled at it are demonstration enough of its objectivity and lack of bias.

It has a major foe, potentially its nemesis - the Murdoch organisation, a force for evil in the world if ever there was one in my book, masquerading as free and fearless populist press, responding to the wishes of the people as shown through sales, with the unspeakable Fox News as its model for keeping the ‘free’ world informed. The Murdoch Press believes that the BBC is monopolistic, and hold this belief without any sense of irony.

So I instinctively spring to the BBC’s defence, an aged Don Quixote, saucepan on head, stumbling forward on Rosinante, but with no Sancho Panza to offer moral support. Hands off the Beeb!


I am reluctantly forced to conclude that there is something which, if not yet rotten in the state of BBC Scotland, is giving off a highly dubious aroma.

I am torn between recognising that it is virtually the only medium to offer any real coverage to the SNP among the biased media of Scotland, to regularly feeling that the coverage contains a distinct bias towards the unionist case.

There is perhaps some reason to expect a kind of metropolitan myopia from the BBC at  Broadcasting House in recognising the aspirations of a very large segment of the Scottish electorate to secure the independence of their country, and towards the political party that embodies that viewpoint, the Scottish National Party, even though it is the current choice of the Scottish people and forms the Government in a devolved Parliament.

Buried in the heart of London, within easy reach of Westminster and the politicians and civil servants who govern the UK, they are a part of the Westminster village, and absorb its values by a process of osmosis almost. Scotland only occasionally intrudes into their consciousness sufficiently to warrant real attention. And it is, after all, the British Broadcasting Corporation, but it is not the UK Broadcasting Corporation – the UKBC!

But there is no such excuse from number 40 Pacific Quay in the great Scottish city of Glasgow, a mere forty miles or so away from Holyrood. Yet any objective observer could only conclude that, in the lead-up to the 2007 election and in the three and a bit years since,  there have been many instances where the SNP has not been given a fair throw of the dice, and the niggling suspicion that the dice are loaded and the game is not being played according to Hoyle lingers.

I take heart from the fact that Brian Taylor, a fine journalist who exhibits high journalistic standards at all times, and whose objectivity has never been called in to question by any reasonable person, is BBC Scotland’s Chief Political Reporter. But Brian is one man.

Joan McAlpine, a highly professional journalist herself --  a columnist with The Scotsman, has explored this criticism vigorously in an article  today on her blog, Go, Lassie, Go .

She does not avoid coming to grips with specifics, naming BBC Scotland reporters and commentators and exploring aspect of their backgrounds and affiliations that might raise questions in the minds of a reasonable observer.

Now no one is suggesting, least of all Joan, who herself is a prominent SNP supporter and a candidate for a seat in Holyrood at the next election, that reporters do not have a right to political opinions and affiliations. What she argues for is a level playing field, and that political affiliations do not intrude into the objectivity of salaried journalists in a public broadcaster like the BBC.

So, BBC Scotland – sit up and take notice! There is a growing sense of disquiet among many nationalists, and among fair-minded democrats who are not nationalist supporters, but who value the freedom of the press and media, that while there may not yet be something rotten in the  state of Pacific Quay, it is time to get the fridge thermometer out and check

Westies, Scotland's independence and music!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Scottish Tuition fees - Holyrood, the SNP and the 3 UK Stooges

Here it is in a nutshell - the Green Paper only presents options, including the one that the SNP Government is fundamentally opposed to - charging students for higher education. Listen to Mike Russell, SNP and you know what he and the SNP stand for - no students fees.

Scottish Labour is in favour of fees - their UK boss, Ed Miliband has given them their orders. The Scottish Tories and the LibDems are in favour of fees - their UK bosses, the ill-fated ConLib Coalition have already implemented a fee increase, in the face of student protests and riots.

Scottish students - you know who is defending your interest - the SNP and only the SNP. Don't be fooled by the doubletalk of the Holyrood Three UK Stooges - Gray, Goldie and Scott. They've already sold you down the river.

Scottish students – get on the streets sooner rather than later and show your support for the SNP – your only champions. You are in the last chance saloon – it’s your futures, your careers, your lives that are at stake.

Act now!