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Showing posts with label Robert the Bruce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert the Bruce. Show all posts

Monday, 12 December 2011

Alex Salmond back from China today with 6 questions for Cameron

CAMERON HAS BLUNDERED INTO ISOLATION IN EUROPE

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

The First Minister said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


from

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

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cameron’s veto, Europe and Scotland

veto from the Latin I forbid – a constitutional right to reject a legislative amendment.



Cameron’s fiasco at the EU summit was a disastrous negotiating and diplomatic failure in my view, but it has positive aspects as far as Scottish independence is concerned. (I may analyse this from a negotiator’s perspective later.) Whether they offset the undoubted threats caused by the UK being marginalised in Europe remains to be seen, but let me proceed to what I know may be regarded as a dangerously rash statement, one which I will probably regret.

I think the Scottish Government may have to re-think its timescale for the independence referendum, and by that, I mean bring it forward. 2014 at the earliest is now beginning to look like too late.

To use the telling phrase of an SNP branch colleague, the present situation has the feeling of a phoney war, a term coined to describe the period from September 1939 to May 1940 – from the UK’s declaration of war against Germany to the Battle of France and Dunkirk.

I recognise all the commitments made to timing in the second half of the term, repeated many times by the First Minister and others, but circumstance alter cases. The global situation and now the European situation have experienced a quantum shift since April/May of 2011. The new, deeply unstable situation created by David Cameron will potentially seriously damage the UK economy, and soon.

His government has no mandate from the people of Scotland, and unless Scotland, as a pro-European country, wants to be shackled to an anti-European dinosaur and retreat into the insularity of an offshore island of Europe, the Scottish people must have the chance to speak as soon as possible.

If the Coalition falls, Scotland would have the same voice that it had in May 2010 at a general election. What song it would sing is another question …

If it sang the same song, it would still be powerless against the Westminster numbers. There is little doubt that had Labour been in Government, the outcome of the EU summit would not have been much different. A general election now would probably produce another hung Parliament and another Coalition, even if there was a polarisation of the vote in England to Labour and the Tories.

It might result in something much worse if the extreme parties of the right caught a popular mood of anti-Europeanism coupled with a distrust of the three failed major parties – Tories, Labour and LibDems.

No one calls a referendum they don’t expect to win, but no one can ever be certain of the outcome of a referendum, especially in rapidly changing times.

Polls are snapshots of popular opinion at a point in time, but they are like a snapshot of a sunny day in Edinburgh – a moment later the sky opens and the wind cuts to the bone. And if you are lucky, the clouds part, the winds abate and the sun shines again. If you are not, and you are are not clad for heavy weather, a bolt hole must be found, and anyone that promises shelter will do.

A great Englishman once said "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."

A great Scotsman, Robert the Bruce, was faced by a stark choice on of the 23rd and 24th of June 1314 - to be prepared to give battle against superior forces or retreat. Emboldened by his victory over an English knight, Henry de Bohun, in single combat, and by the unexpected route of a force of 300 hundred English knights under Clifford, he still was faced with the decision to either give battle or retreat. He chose to give battle, and to risk all for Scotland’s freedom.

Alex Salmond is not a 14th century knight, and he is not playing 14th century politics. But he will not be oblivious to the parallels. Bruce had not intended to give battle, but he reacted to rapidly changing circumstances, especially to the knowledge of the impact of his two unexpected successes on the already low morale of the superior force.

The First Minister has already killed his Henry de Bohun and his force have routed their Clifford. How will he assess the dynamics of a rapidly changing situation on his return from China?

I was puzzled and disappointed that no Scottish Government minister chose to appear of The Politics Show Scotland today to discuss the Eurozone/UK crisis. I dismiss out of hand the explanation that prior commitments or diaries had anything to do with this decision.

I also dismiss the inevitable unionist opposition conclusions – that the SNP has no coherent policy on Europe or that the party is a one-man band, waiting for Godot.

I think we can be reasonably certain that Scottish Government ministers have been in close contact with Alex Salmond, and that there is a bigger – perhaps a much bigger – game afoot.

Are we preparing to emerge from the Tor Wood?



Friday, 28 October 2011

Words that inspire a nation …

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE – SCOTTISH VERSION

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. But then again, perhaps they would prefer full fiscal autonomy rather than dissolve the political bands – Long Live King George

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – but sometimes they’d rather have devo max, and a kind of independence lite …

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security – or if that seems too extreme, perhaps we should go for full fiscal autonomy and leave them in charge of the vital things

My apologies to the Founding Fathers of a great independent nation, the United States of America and their unanimous declaration of independence, July 4th, 1776

 

BRUCE’S ADDRESS TO HIS CAPTAIN’S BEFORE BANNOCKBURN – 2014 VERSION

And certis me think well that ye
Forout abasing aucht to be
Worthy and of gret vasselagis
For we haff thre gret avantagis
The fyrst is that we haf the rycht
And for the rycht ay God will fycht.
The tother is that thai cummyn ar
For lyppynyng off thar gret powar
To sek us in our awne land,
And has brocht her rycht till our hand

but then again, maybe we should settle for full fiscal autonomy

 

LIBERATION ARMY LEADER,  IN THE LAST STAGES OF THE SIRTE SIEGE (SCOTTISH VERSION)

Maybe we should settle for full fiscal autonomy, guys – a kind of freedom-lite. Let’s see what the freedom fighters think, shall we? Gadaffi might be OK with it …”

 

WILLIAM WALLACE, HANGED, CUT DOWN AND BEING DISEMBOWELLED, 2014

“Full fiscal autonomy!”

SUMMARY

I offer these alternatives to great historical events in the birth of nations as inspirational slogans to nationalist Scots, young and old, as they fight for hearts and minds of their fellow Scots in the lead-up to the Referendum on their freedom  and independence – well, maybe not quite freedom, perhaps full fiscal autonomy. (What’s the Gaelic for full fiscal autonomy?)

Yes, yes, I know Westminster would still be in charge, still sovereign, still free to **** up the economy, engage in foreign wars, kill our young servicemen and women, keep obscene weapons of mass destruction in our country, enrich the South East of England, etc.

For God’s sake, what’s your problem? Politics is the art of the possible! What’s wrong with going into battle with a banner that says Independence Lite – it has a kind of resonance, don’t you think? Devo Max? How about that, then?

Stop throwing things at me! Really!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

On the right side of history – neutrinos, the speed of light and Bannockburn

THE SCIENCE BIT

I always watch television documentaries on particle physics and quantum mechanics in the hope that one day I will get a glimmering of real understanding of the universe and everything. My understanding is constrained by my lack of any real mathematical understanding, limited as it is to arithmetic and very basic algebra and geometry. As a child and young man I was fascinated by astronomy – and science fiction – and my window to the universe is therefore somewhat occluded by garish images of rocket ships and brass-bra’d blondes being carried off by bug-eyed monsters.

But from very early days spent staring at Fulton’s Orrery on the upper floor of the People’s Palace on the Glasgow Green, I gained the concept of the vastness of space, so watching last night’s documentary on the recent mind-blowing discovery that the speed of light may have been exceeded by neutrinos rushing under a mountain, out of our brane into the bulk and back to the brane struck home to me. The neutrino, the tiniest and most mysterious of the particles was compared in relative size to a golf ball in the entire solar system. Now that’s wee – really wee! Yet these wee things are essential to everything, and effortlessly penetrate everything – nothing is a barrier to them, not even time, apparently.

The scientist’s joke, delivered with an understandable lack of comic timing, was -

Barman:We don’t serve neutrinos in here …”

A neutrino goes into a bar …

In other words, in the new neutrino world we may have glimpsed, you get the answer to your text message before you have sent it.

And so it has been throughout recorded history with the concept of freedom – a tiny idea in its emergence, apparently insignificant in the context of the power struggles all around it, almost invisible among the titanic struggles of powerful men and institutions, yet ultimately vital to humanity, permeating everything and essential to everything. And freedom is inseparable from the idea of independence within a framework of inter-dependence. Freedom and independence always take the powerful by surprise – initially ignored, then suppressed, but eventually triumphant. Because ultimately, we can never be content without it.

THE HISTORY BIT

I bought a book in Waterstones last week. It had no price on it, so I took it to the counter and the assistant scanned the barcode. “That will be £30, sir …” I flinched, but since I’d rather go bankrupt than look like a cheapskate, I bought it. And given the book’s title, I couldn’t have given it back without loss of face as a Scot – there might have been a unionist watching!

The book was Bannockburn – The Triumph of Robert the Bruce by David Cornell. I read it in a few days, and it is the best thirty quid I’ve spent in a long time.

The book wasn’t written by a starry-eyed Scottish nationalist, but by a sober English academic from Durham University, a man born in Leicester, and his concern is to present as faithful an account as he can of a 700-year old event that was pivotal in British history, and the event that shaped Scotland as a nation. Despite all the inadequacies and the blatant bias of history as taught in Scottish schools in my schooldays, there wasn’t a Scottish child who had not heard of Robert the Bruce and Bannockburn.

I chose this version because it was new (2009) and precisely because it was written by an English historian and published by Yale University Press. I wanted as objective an account as I could find, to avoid the charge by unionist critics that Scottish nationalists are lost in a kind of Brigadoon and Braveheart land, sentimentalists with a romantic and unrealistic view of their history.

It was a fascinating read, presenting an unvarnished account of the brutal realities of politics and power in the early 14th century, and Bruce emerges as the complex figure that he was, expedient, power-hungry, driven by personal ambition, willing to change sides, forming shifting alliances, often treacherous and occasionally murderous in his actions. He could have been little else, given the world he lived in, which was hardly a place for starry-eyed idealists. But along the way, a vision emerged of a united Scotland – Scotland as a nation, and Bruce became larger than his personal ambitions.

A few quotes from the book serve for me to illustrate its relevance to Scotland today, at another pivotal point in its history.

On Bruce on the eve of battle

In life, few men find themselves empowered with a decision that has the potential to dictate the fate of a nation. To possess such an awesome responsibility is both a privilege and a curse. A correct decision promises unsurpassed success, but a wrong one invites catastrophic failure. Such a man holds in his hands the lives of those who follow him.”

On the significance of Bannockburn

Bannockburn, therefore, is certainly deserving of our fresh attention. It was both a great victory for Scotland – arguably the greatest in its history – and one of the most humiliating defeats that England has ever suffered. As such, it remains inscribed in the pantheon of each nation’s history, albeit with directly contrasting emotions.  Bannockburn was a pivotal event in the shaping of British history: both the battle and its enduring legacy have proved of crucial importance  in the forming of national identity in both countries.”

On the behaviour of the English Establishment and power structure

The magnates  were not men who attached themselves to causes for altruistic reasons. Their decisions were ruled by their own best interests. The political world they inhabited was shot through with bitter, frequently venomous personal rivalries featuring rapidly shifting alliances and amoral self-aggrandisement. This was a ruthlessly self-interested , intensely emotive environment, prone to antagonisms and feuds, in which the currency was wealth and status.”

On Bruce’s political situation at the time of Bannockburn

… the underlying strength  of Bruce’s political position was, that due to his military success in the Scottish civil war, his Scottish enemies had been forced to either join him or fight alongside the English. By 1314, his Scottish enemies relied on the English to continue their war against Bruce.”

The parallels are blindingly obvious, especially with that last quotation – it describes almost exactly the position of the Scottish Unionist parties vis a vis Alex Salmond in the crucial period we are now in, following the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections and in the lead-up to the forthcoming referendum on Scotland’s independence. 

MY MESSAGE TO LEADING FIGURES IN SCOTTISH PUBLIC LIFE AND THE ARTS

There is a tide in the affairs of men, etc. There is such a thing as the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. The spirit of the age is freedom, of independence, of throwing off the suffocating embrace of the old power structures, challenging the dominance of giant corporations, the military/industrial complex, global financial structures inimical to human happiness – big is no longer beautiful – small is beautiful, independence in a context of inter-dependence, a world of free nations cooperating dynamically for humanity and the wider interest.

I have this to say to leading figures in Scottish public life, those with high visibility and influence, whether in the field of politics, of business, of finance, in the arts, in entertainment, in literature, who are not yet committed to Scotland’s independence as a free nation -

Make the quantum leap to endorsing Scotland’s independence publicly, and campaigning for a YES vote to independence. In so doing, you are not saying that the new Scotland will be run in perpetuity by the Scottish National Party, you are saying that it will be run by Scots elected by the new political process in that new Scotland to a Parliament that has full autonomy over Scottish affairs.

You stand, like all Scots, at a pivotal moment in your country’s history. Align yourself with the spirit of the age and with the rebirth of a nation – your nation, Scotland.

Do so now, and you will be respected for a principled decision.

Do so after independence, and you will be regarded as simply expedient.

The time is now - come out for Scotland