Why say it myself when others say it better – and none have said it better than Lesley Riddoch so far …
Monday, 22 October 2012
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
Tomorrow, Venus will cross the face of the Sun. No, it’s not a Page Three girl on the front page of a tabloid, it’s The Transit of Venus, an astronomical event which last occurred in 2004 but won’t occur again until 2117. It happens when Venus, the Earth and the Sun are in alignment.
The independence referendum in the autumn of 2014 will be the last for a long time, but no one can predict when, if ever, another such event will occur if Scotland votes NO. A large number of things will have to be in alignment if Scotland is to achieve its independence, and the Scotsman newspaper is doing its best to ensure that they are not, in fact, its aim is to ensure a total – and permanent – eclipse of the aspirations of Scots who want their country to be independent by permanently keeping a dead moon, the UK, between Scotland and the light of global freedom.
However, as is their way, they do occasionally give a place to a commentator who has something useful to say about the Great Debate. Today it is Lesley Riddoch on the BBC, specifically BBC Scotland. It is well worth a read, and you can read it here.
In her trenchant analysis, Lesley makes a point that has been close to my heart, one that I have made many times, about the narrow pool – and narrow geographical radius from Pacific Quay - from which BBC Scotland lazily draws its commentators.
“... the Beeb’s own narrow selection of TV guests reinforces the impression that intelligent opinion is held only by the hyper-opinionated metropolitan few.
“... current affairs relies on a small number of conveniently located commentators who hop nightly between the Pacific Quay studios of the BBC and STV. Does no-one outside the chattering classes or the Central Belt have a view on our constitutional future?”
The main reason I suspect is that BBC Scotland only makes up its mind very late in the day to invite a commentator or panellist - often at short notice on the day of transmission - and defaults to the easy option of drawing from the Glasgow media types’ dormitories, e.g. Glasgow central and the West End. Extreme parochialism and crony networks have always been a feature of BBC Scotland in my lifetime, although there are brave and hardy – some might say foolhardy – journalists and producers who try to break down this stultifying pattern.
A regular contributor to the independence debate in the Scotsman is Brian Monteith. His right to such a regular platform rests on the fact that he is ‘on message’ in totally opposing independence, and his democratic claim to this rests on the fact that he is policy director of a right-wing think tank funded by a rich individual, Robert Kilgour.
The Scotsman give the URL of ThinkScotland as ThinkScotland.com
I have news for them – this domain is for sale – I quote whois.com as follows -
This domain name (THINKSCOTLAND.COM) without content is available for sale by its owner through Sedo's Domain Marketplace.
Best get it right, guys – it’s thinkscotland.org
Here’s what I’ve said about them in the past The New Right in Scotland
Brian is full of advice for the NO Campaign today – read him here Unionists for Scotland not a contradiction
He at least gave me one laugh -
“Secondly, and most importantly of all, these are swing voters; they are currently counted in the unionists’ No pile but if they move to the Nationalists’ Yes pile, they have the effect of not just adding to the Yes vote but subtracting from the No.” BRIAN MONTEITH
Fancy that! If someone who planned to vote NO votes YES, it adds one vote to the YES’s and subtracts one vote from the NO’s. What an insight! I never thought of that! That level of deep psephological understanding warrants at least a CBE, maybe even a knighthood.
But Brian also made a kind of Freudian slip, and brightened my morning no end with this phrase -
“... the result would be the break-up of the United Kingdom and the birth of a new democratic, sovereign Scotland.” BRIAN MONTEITH
The birth of a new, democratic, sovereign Scotland
I like that, Brian!
Friday, 27 January 2012
Part Two of the BBC Scotland referendum debate - 25th January 2012 - Burns Night.
Johann Lamont MSP - Leader of Scottish Labour Party
Nicola Sturgeon MSP - Deputy First Minister of Scotland
Lord Wallace of Tankerness - Advocate General of Scotland - UK LibDem/Tory Coalition
Lesley Riddoch - journalist, broadcaster and commentator
Note: The Advocate General is the British Crown's legal representative/watchdog in Scotland. It is a political appointment.
Jim Wallace - Baron Wallace of Tankerness - is a former LibDem politician who was in coalition with Labour in the Scottish Parliament. He is currently an unelected Lord, represents a party with 5 MSPs in Holyrood, and the junior partner LibDems in the UK Tory-led, Tory-dominated Coalition Government.
If a UK general election were held tomorrow, the LibDems, deeply discredited and unpopular across the UK, would be wiped out as they were in the 2011 Scottish election.
Jim Wallace, raising yet another unionist scare story about trade with England, appears oblivious to the fact that Scotland and England are in the EU and are part of a free trade, common market. He is unable to give any examples of his imagined ‘barriers’, and resent being told he is spreading scare stories under the guise of ‘debate’. Nicola patiently tries to educate him, but the Baron is excited and approaching incoherence by this point.
A plummy-voiced lady in the audience raises an inaccurate scare story about "being forced into the euro by Germany". This is patent nonsense - no sovereign state can be compelled to join the euro - that decision will be Scotland's alone, and will only be taken if economic conditions are judged to be favourable. Such primitive fear tactics have been characteristic of the woeful case advanced for the Union.
Johann Lamont thinks that Alex Salmond's long commitment to the independence of his country, and his belief that Scotland could handle its own affairs better is some kind of nostalgic romanticism and harking back to the past. Exactly the reverse is true - the SNP is about the future of Scotland, and it has been highly specific as to why independence will make that future a better one, economically, socially, educationally, culturally.
In fact, the nostalgia for "300 years of Union", the lack of any vision except a vague internationalism and the utter void of policy, values or vision at the heart of Labour and Johann Lamont's leadership is the thing most in evidence in this debate.
Thursday, 26 January 2012
16 and 17 year olds can marry, enter the armed forces, have children - but they can't vote in the referendum, to help determine the future of their country, Scotland - the future that is in their hands.
The UK government, the Advocate General and the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party don't want them to vote - except in an AV referendum that nobody asked for and nobody wanted, the campaign for which was one of the dirtiest in a long time, and in which the Coalition 'partners' - Tory and LibDems fought like ferrets in a sack.
Anyone who thinks that the law isn't politicised in the UK should listen to Jim Wallace in this debate. An unelected Lord, a member of a party with 5 MSPs in Scotland - a party that, if there were a general election tomorrow, would be reduced to a rump in the UK - Lord Wallace is the legal watchdog of the Crown in Scotland.
And we know what he's watching for ...
Here is the first half of the 25 Jan 2012 debate - it took ages to upload and process. You’ll have to wait till tomorrow for Part 2 and last.
Monday, 19 September 2011
The Scotsman is in full unionist mode today – it might as well have put the Union Jack on its masthead, given the space it devotes to the anti-independence voices now clamouring to be heard. Before I come to that – and other matters – let me re-state what I consider to be the fundamentals of the current state of the union -
The choice has to all intents and purposes come down to devolution max or full independence. All the talk of economic factors, of the currency, of borrowing powers, of taxation and of the detail of independence is smoke and mirrors – the last redoubt is defence and foreign policy.
Because no country can truly be a nation unless it controls its own foreign policy and defence.
No country can be a nation if it lets another nation decide in what cause - and when - to place its servicemen and women in harm’s way, and to sacrifice their lives if necessary.
No country can be a nation if it permits another to determine its fate in the most fundamental areas of nationhood.
Scotland cannot be a nation again unless it is fully independent.
The above principles are entirely distinct from defence alliances and treaties, which can be entered into voluntarily and exited from at will. (An independent Scotland would undoubtedly enter into such alliances, and would also have a range of flexible and common sense areas of cooperation with other nations short of formal alliance.)
Do all of my fellow Scots men and women agree with me on the above principles?
I don’t know the answer to that – I don’t even know if my fellow nationalists agree with them. I don’t know if every member of the Scottish Nationalist Government agrees with them. I must assume that Scots committed to the Union don’t agree with them, or if they do, they only do so for the entity that claims to be a nation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Only a referendum will determine the answer, and that is why the Scottish electorate must be very clear on the fundamentals – not the detail – of what independence means before they answer a question - or questions - at the referendum ballot.
WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS
A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.
Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.
Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money …
Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.
Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.
Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.
No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.
Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.
After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.
The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.
THE MUNDANE AND THE QUOTIDIAN
Back to worldly matters and today …
Scotsman headlines –
I’ll get the whole Cabinet to make the case for Scotland staying in the UK – Moore.
We can’t allow Salmond & Co to shut down opposition (Tavish Scott)
Blair’s secret Libya talks reopen Lockerbie row
So we have Michael Moore – the Colonial Governor, a member of a party reduced to a pathetic rump in Scotland and wholly discredited in the UK, and a failed and bitter former leader of that party in Scotland, Tavish Scott, spewing their bile and frustration against the choice of the Scottish people and the decisive democratic mandate they gave to a party committed to Scotland’s independence. This from the federalist party, while the two solidly unionist parties desperately proclaim their independence from Westminster, wrapping themselves hastily in an ersatz kilt. And the Blair/Libya story appears, fairly presented by David Maddox, while the unionist spinners are doubtless trying to revive the tired lie that somehow the Megrahi release was a result of connivance between Blair, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, a fiction so bizarre that it beats Fonzie jumping the shark.
A few days ago the Institute for Public Policy Research tried - in a letter to the Scotsman by Tony Dolphin - to correct the distortions that the Scotsman had placed on their report on the public sector in Scotland. The IPPR denied that report had described the Scottish public sector as bloated, that it relied on out-of-date figures and was an attack on the SNP’s proposals for lower corporation tax. Needless to say, in the best traditions of Hearst-style yellow journalism, The Scotsman (was ever a paper so misnamed?) did not give the prominence to these denials that it did to its original anti-SNP coverage.
But in the Scottish Perspective section, Lesley Riddoch has interesting and objective things to say - Politicians failing to focus on now especially in this mordant paragraph -
“Bizarrely, the people talking most about independence right now are the politicians who viscerally oppose it - helpfully pre-airing independence scenarios, pumping the oxygen of publicity into the whole project and making sure that a once inconceivable future can now be visualised by many voters with some clarity. And the SNP haven't even started campaigning yet.”
Gaun yersel, Lesley … that’s journalism! That’s comment!