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Showing posts with label Scotland's defence force. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland's defence force. Show all posts

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Azeem Ibrahim, the Defence of Scotland – and the Scotland Institute

Azeem Ibrahim should – and in most respects does - represent just about everything I most admire in a Scot, in a Glaswegian and in a Scottish Muslim.

Why then do I profoundly distrust his creation, The Scotland Institute and much that emanates from it?

The answer to that is complex, and I’m not sure I’m capable of giving it adequately, but since he invited me to the media launch of his defence and security report and I responded to his courtesy by frontally attacking his claims of bi-partisanship and objectivity in the independence campaign, I feel that I owe him an explanation.

This will be Part One of a two-part blog on this subject – Part Two late tomorrow or Saturday – with luck …

But first, let’s look at the man himself ---


The first thing to say is that Azeem Ibrahim’s achievements are formidable and beyond question. He has both a national and international profile, and is enormously influential. He is a Scot who is recognised at the highest levels of global politics and academia.

Alex and Azeem

The following YouTube clip of Azeem Ibrahim receiving his honorary doctorate from Professor Sue Scott of Glasgow Caledonian University contains an excellent summary of his background and achievements -

So what’s my problem with Azeem Ibrahim and his Scotland Institute?


The Scotland Institute is a think tank, set up and funded by Azeem Ibrahim last June (2012). Before this one came along, we had – still have – a couple of others with Scotland in their title – Think Scotland, a right-wing pressure group set up and funded by an individual, and  Reform Scotland, advocates of so-called devo plus.  Both are against Scotland’s full independence, Think Scotland rather more obviously than Reform Scotland.

(I have blogged previously on think tanks like these)

Despite an honourable historical tradition of rich philanthropists (Andrew Carnegie jumps to mind) I am instinctively wary of rich individuals who fund anything political, and last June, all I knew about Azeem Ibrahim was that he founded a global macro hedge fund, which I understood to be part of the shadow banking system, outside of state regulation. I therefore pigeonholed him unfairly as just another rich banker in a sector – hedge funds – that had been at the root of the global banking collapse. I was unaware of his background and wider academic, cultural and business activities.

I therefore challenged the bi-partisanship of the Scotland Institute on Twitter, and Dr. Ibrahim responded courteously reiterating that it was, in fact, bi-partisan, and took no position on Scotland’s independence. This rang rather hollow to me when the keynote speaker at the launch proved to be Alistair Darling. I was invited to the launch, but tweeted as follows on 25th June 2012 -

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@scotinstitute I'm being cautious and with very good reason, given the timing and the people involved. I can't come, but will listen closely

Nothing the Scotland Institute said or did since then caused me to revise my initial judgement, but any lingering doubts were dispelled totally by the pre-launch to the press of the Institute’s paper Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland this week.

Here are some samples of how it was received by press and media -

Yes vote 'disadvantage' highlighted

Think tank says post-independent army would struggle (BBC News Scotland politics  24th June 2013)

Scottish independence: defence report released (Scotsman 25 June 2013)

Report: indy Scotland defence force would be less effective (Herald 24th June 2013)

Azeem Ibrahim: How safe would independent Scotland be? (Scotsman 22nd June 2013)

Comment: Risking our security too high price to pay  (Scotland on Sunday 22nd June 2013)

SNP defence plans for independent Scotland 'don't add up' (Telegraph 14th June 2013)

Unionist politicians raise fears about the future of the defence industry in an independent Scotland (Record 13th June 2013)

SNP defence plans ‘would leave forces ineffectual’ (TIMES 24th June 2013)

Former general says independence will raise threat of terrorism Express 23rd June 2013)

And the SNP’s response to this barrage of panic-inducing, superficial headlines, which was in the main a product of lazy, press release journalism?

SNP comment on Scotland Institute Defence report (SNP MEDIA CENTRE 24th June 2013)

I restrict myself to saying that this was underwhelming. It referred to “experts such as Stuart Crawford and Dr Phillips O’Brien”, neither of whom are to my knowledge advisers to the Scottish Government.

Lieut.Colonel Stuart Crawford was in fact a contributor to the Scotland Institute’s paper, and his highly relevant paper on a Scottish defence force was initiated by him and his colleague some time ago at their own initiative to fill the vacuum created by any real statement of SNP or Scottish Government defence policy at the time it was written. (Stuart Crawford was not present at the Scotland Institute launch on Monday. He has previously given evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee under Ian Davidson’s chairmanship.).

Dr. Phillip’s O’Brien’s article appeared in the Herald on 9th of June.

My view of the press and media reports is that they achieved exactly the effect – or a least one effect - that the Scotland Institute hoped for – to trigger a series of scare headlines about the awful fate that awaited Scots if they voted for independence.

The SNP and the Scottish Government’s response to this is to more or less dismiss it as not warranting any real response – just another manifestation of a hostile press and media. Well, independence supporters may shrug it off, but I don’t. My litmus paper test is the very limited sample of the reaction of reasonably well-informed friends and neighbours who are either uncommitted or NO voters. It worried the uncommitted and reinforced the Nos.  Committed YES campaigners on the doorsteps, with a much more extended sample base, may however say it is not a concern of the people they speak to.

The Defence and Security report and Dr. Ibrahim

It is worth reminding oneself at this juncture what game is being played out here – the Great Game of Scotland securing its independence from what is left of the British Empire, which technically started with the conquest of Wales, but in reality truly began with the 1707 Union. Scotland, an ancient nation of five and a quarter million souls is democratically confronting a dysfunctional dynastic conglomerate, now the rump of a once great Empire, comprised of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a total population of about sixty three and a quarter million, i.e. Scotland is about 8.3% of the total UK population, or a ratio of 1:11.

These would be unequal odds even if no confrontation was involved, so the fiction is sedulously maintained by the UK - and the fantasy maintained on occasion by some independence supporters - that this gross inequality doesn’t really matter, because Scotland - and Scotland alone - will be allowed to vote, and that free democratic procedures will determine the outcome.

Without going over ground I’ve covered at length before, the prospect of the independence of Scotland is perceived as a profound threat to the undemocratic power groups that control the UK’s partial and deeply flawed democracy – the monarchy and all that flows from it, the military/industrial complex and its lynchpin, the nuclear deterrent, the nuclear industry, the House of Lords, the Established Church of England and the entire London-based financial establishment, to mention but a few.

Great Britain, which lost an empire and never found a role, will find its increasingly shaky position in the global corridors of power on an even shakier nail if its nuclear power status vanishes or is diminished. And the ramification go far beyond Scotland, into NATO (which lost a Cold War enemy and is now adopting the doctrine of a perpetual war on terror to replace it) and across the Atlantic.

The very institutions of the British State have been corroding for some time without Scotland’s help, with Lords, governmental, Metropolitan police and press corruption, an incompetent MOD, the revolving door practices of senior MOD officials, civil servants and former ministers, cash for questions and influence, an over-extended military, and serious questions raised over some aspects of the judiciary, stretching from the Bloody Sunday inquiry through to the Hillsborough inquiry and beyond.

The combined forces of this British Establishment and its puppets in Westminster, while paying lip service to a democratic Scottish referendum and the will of the Scottish people, are going to use every weapon in their formidable armoury to secure a NO vote in September 2014, and in the event of a YES vote, to frustrate and delay the successful expression of that free choice.

The long arm of the British Establishment reaches deep into Scottish society at every level, in every institution, in every class of that society, through patronage, the honours system, through appointments to high office, and significantly through control and/or influence exercised over key sections of the media. It is no exaggeration to say that Establishment Scots constitute the hidden force within the belly of the British State’s Trojan horse in Scotland.

To see how this works, at least in part, we can look at Azeem Ibrahim’s list of experts, researchers, academic reviewers, other contributors and organisations who contributed. Let’s start with the panel of experts who were present at the launch in the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.

Since many of the contributors have letters after their name representing, not qualification, but honours awarded, it’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves what these mean. (For a more in-depth look, see my 2010 blog The Establishment versus Scotland’s Independence)

These awards are made by the reigning monarch on recommendations from political parties and others, and are conferred for various reasons. They are part of a huge pyramid of precedence with the Queen (who has publicly stated her opposition to Scotland’s independence in the Queens’s Speech) at the apex.

Despite Britain’s claim to be a democracy, this pyramid of power and inherited privilege is inherently undemocratic.

The Lords, for example, way up the pyramid, are unelected by any democratic process, yet constitute a fundamental part of the government and the legislative process. No other country in the world claiming to be a democracy has anything remotely similar. In a very real sense,  the House of Lords epitomises the British Establishment, which at one and the same time stands outside of democratic government and accountability to the electorate, but is yet deeply embedded in it.

Back to Azeem’s list ---

Major General Andrew Douglas Mackay CBE (Chair of the panel of experts)

The military and political figures from the 25 listed contributors -

The Rt. Hon. Lord Browne of Ladyton – a former Labour Sec. of State for Defence

The Rt. Hon Lord Reid of Cardowan – former Labour Sec. of State for Defence

The Rt. Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG, QC, Tory MP – Maggie’s right hand man in Scotland for many years

The Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC – former Labour Defence Secretary, former Sec. General of NATO – perhaps the most extreme of all the critics of Scottish Independence, totally hostile to an independent, non-nuclear Scotland in NATO, to  the point of deriding the SNP’s aspirations.

General Sir John George Reith KCB CBE – former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe

Air Commodore Gordon Moulds, CBE – former Commander Kandahar Airfield and former Commander British Forces South Atlantic

General (retd) Professor Sir Paul Newton KBE – a former military Commander and Intelligence chief, now Director – Strategy and Security Institute, Exeter University.

Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Stuart Hastings Irwin, KCB, CBE – former Adjutant-General to the Forces – former GOC Northern Ireland

Major Sir Edward Mountain – former Adjutant Career Planning UK Armed Forces, former Commander Reconnaissance Squadron

To put it bluntly, the above list represents a roll call of the British military and defence Establishment, deeply embedded in the system, handsomely rewarded and honoured by the system, steeped in its values and assumptions, committed to its global strategic views and to a flawed and destructive transatlantic foreign policy and NATO world view that has led it into two destructive and futile wars since the millennium.

The idea that this group could offer any objective view of an independent Scotland and its defence and intelligence structures – an independent Scotland that threatens all they stand for, especially the nuclear lynchpin of their status – is risible.

They see Scotland’s independence as a threat to their flawed and outmoded global narrative, their world view, and indeed their role and status in that world.

Of course, Azeem Ibrahim and the Scotland Institute are not so naive as to fail to include token voices and contributions representing the other viewpoint, so we have Angus Robertson MP and Luke Skipper of the SNP listed as contributors, and Lieut.Col. Stuart Crawford as an independent expert who has offered an objective blueprint of how a Scottish Defence Force could be structured.

And Azeem Ibrahim has made much of the fact that some of the British Establishment figures, especially the former Defence Secretaries are Scots. But as noted above, they are Scots embedded in the British State, owing all that they are - and all they have - to that state, committed to its continuance in its present form, politically and personally totally opposed to Scotland’s independence and the removal of the Trident nuclear WMD from Scottish soil.

Other contributing individuals/organisations

Senior Level Officials at NATO Office of Policy Planning

Officials from UK and Scottish Governments

Specialists on European Security Issues at RMA Sandhurst

Officials at NATO HQ/SHAPE

In the right context, this dialogue between NATO, UK, the RMA and the Scottish Government could have been helpful. I take leave to doubt that there was any such real dialogue.


In the second part of this blog (Friday/Sat) I will look at what I believe to be Azeem Ibrahim’s motivation and objectives in founding the Scotland Institute and in commissioning this report – and I will address the report itself, and the academic/expert contributors to it, not as a defence expert but as an informed layman and Scottish voter.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Scotsman, defence and independence – realism tinged with fear and despair

The Scotsman, viewed as a entity, provides an interesting case study for the psychologist – or even a psychiatrist. Its identity depends on two things – its concept of itself as the national voice of Scotland and its commitment to the subservience of Scotland under the Union. But these two identities have been in irreconcilable conflict for some years now, and the core personality is disintegrating. Unless urgent professional help is sought, this once great newspaper will become an irrelevance in the Scotland of the future.

This dichotomy is nowhere more evident than in today’s edition. The front page story is the Scotsman trying to induce panic over the prospect of independence by resorting to the defence-as-job-creation-scheme scare story – Breakaway Scotland would lose warship contracts. This theme is extended on pages 4 and 5.

I won’t re-hash all my arguments on the theme of the military/industrial complex here. Those interested can find them in previous blogs – here are some links -

Defence jobs and the military

Military/industrial complex

Defence of Liam Fox

Scottish Labour and Defence - follow the money

But then we reach Scottish Perspective, and a different personality emerges from the editor, Bill Jamieson, no less. In his piece Will the Right back independence? prompted by the highly unwelcome – to the Davidson/Forsythian brand of Unionist Toryism – statement by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie that Scottish independence has “something of an inevitability about it”.

This feeling of inevitability has caught up with Peter de Vink, major Tory supporter and fundraiser, and now apparently with Bill Jamieson, judging by the tone of his article. Tories listen to money when they listen to nothing else, and there is no doubt that the apostasy of these two men has shaken the Scottish unionists to their red,white and blue underpants. I mustn’t be snide, because it is a welcome injection of reality

(Michael Kelly is mercifully silent on the question of independence for once, and confines himself to fighting obesity.)

Letters to the Editor reflect the angst of the loyal unionist with two letters under the sub-header Tories’ white flag.

SNP members must be hugging themselves with glee at this latest faux pas to emerge from the beleaguered coalition government.” We are, we are, Brian Allan!

And Iain J McConnell of Gifford, who rivals Alexander McKay, the sage of  New Cutt Rigg in his loyalism and regular contributions, opens his letter poignantly with “Sadly …” and goes on to excoriate David Cameron for providing “open goals for the SNP”. I feel your pain, Iain, as the empire begins to dissolve before your eyes, but you underrate the enormity of Cameron’s interventions. Not just open goals, but a series of own goals. Never mind, I’m sure a Jubilee party will cheer you up, and there’s sure to be one in Gifford at least.


But then we come to pages 36 and 37 and the report on the Scotsman conference on defence after independence, one of a series to contribute to the great debate. This reflects the prevailing mood of the inevitability of independence, not a mood one might have expected the Scotsman to deliver when examining in advance the panel of speakers for the debate, perhaps one that it did not intend to create.

The headline – What’s in the pipeline for independent Scots forces? – signals the fatalism, indeed the sub-header emphasises pragmatism.

Professor Hew Strachan (MA, PhD, DL (Tweeddale), Hon D Univ (Univ of Paisley), FRSE, FRHistS, Chichele Professor of the History of War and Fellow at All Souls College Oxford, Director of the Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War, and former Senior Lecturer in War Studies and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst) is understandably pissed off at the great debate concerning itself “with cap badges, rather than looking at strategy” and strikes a suitably apocalyptic note -

The military and politicians are fiddling while Rome burns

The British Empire was never reluctant to compare itself with imperial Rome, but equating Cameron, the Coalition and the shambolic UK, a tattered remnant of empire, its last pretension sunk by the economic collapse - and by three ruinous governments over the last thirty years or so - is a metaphor too far, even for an All Souls Chichele Professor, and old Henry Chichele will be shaking with laughter in his cadaver tomb at Canterbury.

A note of sanity was brought to the proceedings by former Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Crawford, who set out what Scotland would need as a defence force if it abandoned the international policeman pretensions of the UK – those are my words, not Stuart’s, who put it much more objectively as a basic defence option. As he said -

This is a model, not THE model, but it is the only one I know of at the moment.”

But from my perspective, a much more ominous note was sounded by Professor William Walker (St.Andrew's University). The Scotsman report quoted him as follows -

"He said he believed some members of the SNP recognise there is room for manoeuvre. 'Some of them realise that maintaining Trident for even a short time and retaining flexibility (for example, keeping Trident but agreeing it would not be replaced) would give the SNP a substantial bargaining card."

Now that quote chills my blood, as does the idea that an independent Scotland might remain in NATO. The road to nuclear hell is paved, not with good intentions, but rather expedient, ill-considered and shabby compromises.

Changing policy on NATO? Whatever gave you that idea?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Scotland’s defence–Angus Robertson’s response to the leaping Lords on Today

Naughtie:On the defence question – do you accept that it’s going to be a very, very costly business if Scotland does go independent? And not only costly to Scots, but costly to people elsewhere in the United Kingdom?”

Angus Robertson:That’s not the way I see it, Jim. Firstly, the prospect of people in Scotland being able to determine their own future is extremely exciting and historic. We look forward to the referendum as a real opportunity for the country, and it is true to say that it will impact on all policy areas of life, and we think it will bring tremendous advantages - and it’s important to understand what those are in defence and security terms.

“We’re in a slightly odd position in Scotland at the present time, where we’re already responsible in Scotland for veterans, but we’re not for defence and security policy, So, the point that we believe is that Scotland, Scotland’s Parliament – the government here – should be able to decide whether our servicemen and women go to war or not, how we defend our regiments, how we retain our bases, what posture we should take – whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.

“All of these are the decisions that normal countries make, and we want Scotland to be a normal, successful country.”

Naughtie:Yes – but in the event of independence, there would be a very simple decision to be made, because the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet is in Scotland. Now that would still be  -em – the defence equipment used by the government of Westminster: in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right? At a cost of many, many tens of millions of pounds?”

I held my breath at this point, because the nuclear issue is at the very heart of my wish to see an independent Scotland. I regard most things as negotiable, and politics and diplomacy are the art of the possible, but for me, the objective of Scotland as a non-nuclear nation is not negotiable – it is a deal breaker – a sine qua non – as the Romans said, “a condition without which there is nothing.”

Why am I holding my breath, I asked myself? I have heard Angus Robertson confirm this very point a few weeks ago to a large and enthusiastic audience at Drummond Community School in Edinburgh, flanked by Derek Mackay. But Naughtie formulated his question as a double-header question – a very dangerous form to respond to. He asked for a single YES/NO answer to what in effect was two questions – nukes leaving Scotland and the cost. YES or NO confirms or denies both possibilities. The question must not therefore be given an unqualified YEs or NO if one answer is YES and the other is not.

Angus Robertson:Well, first off, let’s deal with the financial basis of the defence in Scotland and the UK, before …

That’s my boy, Angus!

Naughtie: “No, no, but hang on .. we’re talking about.” (Naughtie doesn’t like his double header being rejected.)

Angus Robertson:It’s important for listeners in England, who’ve never heard this, to understand the way that defence is currently organised and paid for in the UK, and at the present time, there’s a massive defence underspend in Scotland – incidentally, also in many English regions.

“But in Scotland, £5.6 billion less has been spent here than taxpayers have contributed to the M.O.D. In manpower terms, we’ve seen disproportionate cuts – 10,500 jobs lost – and in the recent strategic defence and basing review, we’ve seen two out of three air bases closed, the total withdrawal of the Royal Marines, and the closure of Army Command in Scotland. That is happening within the United Kingdom …”

Naughtie:Yes, and a couple of billion quid in defence order, which would go down the drain if Scotland were independent, because you wouldn’t be building stuff for UK defence.”

Angus Robertson: “I’m happy to move on to that in a second, Jim – it’s not true – but if I can just finish the point that I’m trying to make. It’s really important for people to understand that the UK Government does not look after defence well in Scotland, and I would argue in other parts of the UK, particularly the North of England either. And one of the advantages of being able to make defence decisions in Scotland is that we would utilise all of our resources – and Scottish taxpayers contribute about £3 billion a year towards UK defence, adequately just for Scotland.

“Now, you talked about procurement there. Let’s move on to procurement.  58% of the defence industry in Scotland in procurement is for export beyond the United Kingdom. Point two – where we have have an excellent domestic producing defence sector - excellent in shipbuilding, excellent in radar, excellent in optronics – I have no reason to believe the decision makers, either in Edinburgh or in London, will not continue to resource the best equipment wherever its made. And at the present time, the UK Government won’t spend 4.4% of its equipment and non-equipment spending in Scotland. That means that Scottish taxpayers are paying for considerable investment in the defence sector in England.”

Naughtie: “Well, the defence sector of the UK – these are matters that we  are going to – well, we will return to often and at length between now and the date of the promised referendum – but for now, Angus Robertson, SNP defence spokesman – thank you.”


I was disappointed that Angus didn’t get round to answering the first part of Naughtie’s question on the “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet ..“ … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?

But he was right to concentrate on the threat/bribe aspect of Lord West’s nonsense on defence procurement in Scotland and its impact on jobs, especially in shipbuilding. Angus Robertson demonstrated a superb grasp of the real issues, and the figures, unlike the two fumbling, bumbling peers who preceded him, and he did an effective demolition job on their feeble scaremongering tactics.

To Angus’ own question in his opening response – “… whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.” We already know the FM’s answer, Angus’ answer, the SNP’s answer and the Scottish Government’s answer – it is a resounding, decisive, unequivocal NO and it has been given in many forums. For the SNP to renege on that posture would be an inconceivable betrayal of trust, and they will never do it.

As for the question “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?”, I think know your answer, Angus, because you have already given it many times in the context of Scotland being non-nuclear, opposed to WMDs, whether carried on nuclear submarines, or by other delivery systems.

Or do I? Is it more complex? Perhaps … A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor, whether or not it carries nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapons could be allowed to remain in Scotland under clearly and repeatedly stated SNP policy, i.e Trident, but nuclear subs and their bases without a nuclear payload?

I know there are existing treaty obligations about Scotland providing safe havens in Scottish waters to our allies – and we will continue to have allies, and will be part of non-nuclear defence groupings. Clearly, there are complex questions to be considered and discussed there with the UK and European allies. Angus Robertson is well equipped to discuss them rationally, objectively, and without rancour. But are the representatives of the UK anti-unionist parties and Establishment?

Not on Friday’s today showing, they’re not … The doughty Baroness was right about one thing – they had better get their act together, and field some politicians or diplomats who know what they’re talking about, unlike the ones we’ve just heard. The Scottish Government – and the SNP – have got their act together, and a superb one it is.

Ah, 2012- what will you bring?

Saor Alba!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Buddy, can you spare a dime? Will the anthem of to ‘30s return to haunt Scotland?

"... financial perspicacity and political perspicacity are inversely correlated.
Long run salvation by men of business has never been highly regarded if it means disturbance of orderly life and convenience in the present. So inaction will be advocated in the present even though it means deep trouble in the future. ---
It is what causes men who know things are going quite wrong to say that things are fundamentally sound."

J.K. Galbraith - The 1929 Crash

"The power and almost the memory of the Picts have been extinguished by their successful rivals:" (the Scots) "and the Scots, after maintaining for ages the dignity of an independent kingdom, have multiplied, by an equal and voluntary union, the honours of the English name."

Edward Gibbon

Volume III of the OUP Gibbon, Henry Frowde edition by the Ballantyne Press


Here’s what I said in the spring 0f 2009, mid-term in the SNP’s first government, and just two years away from their decisive endorsement by the Scottish people on May 5th, 2011. I hold to all of these ideas more than two years on …

MRIDURA BLOG - Saturday, 18 April 2009

Why does the UK want Scotland?

Scottish independence and the UK. We know why we want to go? Why do they want to keep us? Why do many Scots want to stay in the Union?

To answer these questions, we must distinguish between why the Labour Party wants to keep Scotland in the UK, why any British Government wants to retain its control over our little nation, and in the process of answering these questions, examine how the people of the UK view the independence question.

Let's dispose of the Labour Party quickly, as I hope the electorate will dispose of them sometime in the next year.- (It did, decisively on May 5th 2011) - This failed, corrupted, amoral, values-free political entity wants to hold Scotland because it cannot survive without its Scottish power base.

This is, and always has been the electoral reality for Labour. We can be sure they are not motivated by any sense of affection for, or loyalty to the birthplace of the Labour movement, since the first impulse of any really ambitious Labour politician has been to escape from his or her native land into the Palace of Westminster and the heart of the empire, such as it is.

The reasons why the United Kingdom - and therefore any British government - wants to hold on to Scotland are more varied and complex than Labour's narrow little agenda.

Firstly, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are the last remnants of the British Empire, and the self-image of the British establishment is almost totally dependent on the maintenance of that rump of Empire, with Scotland being the most important component by far. The whole panoply of the Crown, the ceremony, the pageantry and the patronage depends heavily on that nostalgic, romantic image.

What is an empire without its subject nations?

There must be someone to patronise, someone to bend the knee, to doff the cap, to pull the forelock. And Scotland, as a subject nation, supplies an essential component of that romantic and nostalgic image, especially as presented to the former colonies of Empire, the United States and Canada in particular, with a significant proportion of their people claiming a Scottish heritage. Scotland can be treated with sentimental paternalistic affection when it suits, and patronising contempt when it doesn't.

(Spluttering knights of the shires and Tory backwoodsmen, in the unlikely event that any of them read this, will be reaching for their P.G. Wodehouse quote about not mistaking a Scotsman with a grievance for a ray of sunshine. As a huge admirer of Wodehouse, I freely acknowledge - with a smile - the accuracy of his insight.)


Let's look now at the hard, realpolitik arguments of a UK government for retaining the UK. The UK has a population of maybe 61m at the moment (60,587,600 in mid-2006), and of that, Northern Ireland accounts for about 1.75m, Wales almost 3m and Scotland 5m. The loss of Scotland would mean a 8.2% reduction, and if all three departed, a loss of about 16%.

No empire, however shrunken from its glory days, can contemplate such a loss with equanimity.

From a defence standpoint, the case can be made that the loss of its northern frontier on the island of Britain is intolerable, especially because of the size of the Scottish coastline. To a nation, the UK, that exalts and celebrates its militaristic identity and its military role in world affairs, one that is paranoid about threats to its security - for paranoia is a necessary component in a state whose organising principle is war - an independent Scotland is intolerable.

And of course, the critical consideration is the requirement to continue basing the monstrous and irrelevant Trident in our Scottish waters, weapons of mass destruction that serve no purpose whatsoever, other than to allow our demented UK government ministers to strut and posture on an international stage, drawing a form of credibility from their possession of these nightmare instruments of mass murder.

The Scotsman
Trident 'increases threat of nuclear attacks on Scotland'
Published Date: 04 February 2009

A LEADING authority on international law has warned that nuclear weapons in Scotland increase the risk of a nuclear attack on the country. Judge Christopher Weeramantry, former vice-president of the International Court of Justice, told a conference in Edinburgh that the issue could not be left in the hands of Westminster. While agreeing that international relations were reserved to the UK Parliament, he insisted the Scottish Parliament must uphold international humanitarian and legal obligations.
SNP defence and foreign affairs spokesman Angus Robertson said: "Judge Weeramantry's comments add further weight to the argument for removing Trident from Scotland."

Lastly, the rump of the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) - given the present mindset of its politicians - cannot tolerate an independent nation on the island of Britain that is highly likely to be culturally and economically dynamic and successful. The British Establishment were prepared to go to any lengths (see 'Diomhair') to stop Scotland having control of its oil, were prepared to misrepresent, to lie, to re-draw the borders of international waters to achieve their ends, not just because they wanted the oil revenues, but because a rich, successful, independent Scotland would have represented an intolerable comparison.

Of course, none of the above reasons can be advanced to Scots to persuade them to remain in the UK, except perhaps some appeal to nostalgia and the fading image of empire. So the Scots must be infantilised, persuaded of their inadequacy, of their dependency, of their inability to manage their own affairs competently. They must be persuaded that they need the Union to survive, to be secure, to be protected from nameless threats, to have status in international forums.

And the powerful state weapon of patronage must be deployed ruthlessly. Ambitious and capable Scots must be courted, flattered, bribed with the prospect of honours, promotion and preferment, and subtly led to despise their nation and their heritage, their language, their accent and their culture.

All of the above criticism I apply to political leaders in the Westminster Parliament and the British Establishment.

But I maintain a vital distinction that must always be maintained between the current corrupt leaders of a nation state and the people of that nation.

When the world condemned the America of Bush, Cheney and the neocons, they were not condemning the American people, and now the people of America have thrown off that pernicious leadership and have embraced a new vision of America and its world role, personified in the new presidency of Barack Obama.

When I condemn Blair, Brown, the Labour Party and the British Establishment, – (and now in 2011, Cameron, Clegg and Miliband) - I do not condemn the people of England, the true heart of a great nation, with a fundamental instinct for justice, freedom and real democracy rooted in its history and traditions. I believe that the English electorate want England to be independent, to stand free and proud as a nation, a nation that will celebrate its history and culture without the trappings of empire, and a nation that will co-exist happily with its northern neighbour and long-time friend, Scotland.

If England can have a special relationship with its former colonies, with Canada, with America, with India, with Australia, with Africa, it can certainly live happily with its Scottish brothers and sisters.

England, you have nothing to fear from Scottish independence, and everything to gain.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Stream of consciousness … and the BBC

I like to have a specific topic to address, but today I haven’t. But since I didn’t blog yesterday, and since some regular readers rapidly reach the reasonable conclusion that I’m dead if I don’t blog for a couple of days, I feel obliged to give proof of life …

So I sit at the keyboard with no plan, in the hope that something will come from the Id at least as far as the Ego and perhaps even reach the Superego. I’m not entirely certain that I have an Ego or Superego anymore, but I’m in regular touch with my Id, something closely resembling its manifestation in Forbidden Planet.

Today’s Radio Times confidently states on page 56


12.00 The Politics Show  Analysis and debate. Includes News at 12.00 and at 12.30 Scottish stories.

Good old reliable BBC - my trusted public service broadcaster, telling the truth to the four nations of Britain, calling the rich and powerful to account, champion of the ordinary people of these isles, in this great united kingdom - Dunkirk, Churchill, muffins for tea, cricket on the lawn, stiff-upper lips, guardian of the free people of the world, men in fancy dress in great cathedrals, monarchs, Royal weddings, knights, Lords, Ladies, colourful ritual and spectacle, stronger together than apart, etcetera, etcetera. You know the rest …

No need to consult the online guide on my television - after all, it’s not a public holiday, although something called Pentecost has knocked The Big Questions out of its 10.00 slot. The Andrew Marr Show was the predictable load of old Westminster village pap it has become since not-so-super injunctions have killed the mojo of its eponymous host.

I switch on just before midday and wait expectantly, laughing in sardonic delight because the tennis has been rained off. May it piss down on that tedious game for evermore, a game that is healthful exercise and a legitimate pursuit for those who actually get off their arses and play the game, but an exercise in mindless voyeurism for those non-players who watch it …

I should have been warned by the fate of The Big Questions. Midday passes, and the mindless chatter of those under the umbrellas continues, with the kind a vacuous gossip and idle speculation that characterises acres of sporting commentary. Panic-stricken, I switch to BBC2, only to find more crap, so I belatedly consult the online guide. Nae politics today, mate. If we can’t have tennis, you’ll have to be content with Country File, or some such rural idyll.

So at the end of a week in which we have seen the care of the old and vulnerable across the UK threatened by the rabid greed of speculative capitalists, the continued revelations of criminal behaviour by our UK newspapers, a week in which the implications of the behaviour of the UK Supreme Court for the Scottish Justice system becomes even more worrying, a week in which more young men and women are dying in misconceived foreign wars, a week in which we contemplate yet another involvement in Syria, and a week in which the Brian Rix Whitehall farce that is called the UK Government - the ConLib Coalition - move seamlessly from one disaster to another, a week in which Miliband Minor’s relevance to his party and to the nation is placed under question, the main political vehicle for examining events and placing the powerful under scrutiny - and where Scottish affairs get a real discussion platform - is sacrificed to a tennis match that didn’t take place and some countryside rambles.

I’m your long-term friend and defender, BBC - but when you behave like this, I shout aloud for independence, for  a free Scotland, with its own public service broadcaster, employing the fine journalists, presenters, creative artists and technicians that make up the present BBC Scotland, but freed from the dead hand of London.

And by God, we’ll have it, sooner rather than later …

Here to the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation - the SBC!

Roseanna Cunningham tweeted me to say it (?) was broadcast at 11.30 am. If so, I kick myself for missing it - but the criticism stands.

Stop press: I've now checked - it was broadcast at 11.00 am - now watching on the iPlayer. Will I apologise to the BBC? Will I ****! You ruined my morning - am I suppose to plan my day on not believing the Radio Times and cross check the transmission time of every programme if there's bloody sport on?