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Showing posts with label Scottish referendum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish referendum. Show all posts

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The only fair referendum ballot paper? - but would it cause confusion?



Answer only one question - tick only one box.

If you answer more than one question, your ballot paper will be null and void. CHOOSE ONLY ONE OPTION - GIVE ONLY ONE ANSWER

I want a fully independent, sovereign Scotland.

I want Scotland to remain in the UK with no increased in current devolved powers to Scotland.

I want Scotland to remain in the UK with some additional powers devolved to Scotland.

I want Scotland to remain in the UK with all powers devolved to Scotland except defence and foreign policy.

N.B.  If you have answered more than one question, i.e. ticked more than one box, your ballot paper will be null and void.




A minority, presumably led by Lord Forsyth, may call for a fifth question - a reversion to pre-devolution status. I believe there is no evidence for other than a tiny Tory minority asking for such an option, and that it therefore should not be offered. (A caller on Call Kaye this morning asked for just that!)

Some nationalists - how many  I do not know - might want devo max as a fifth fall-back question if independence fails. I do not believe such an option should be offered, because it would require a transferable vote option.

Is it too complex? I do not believe it is. There are no gradations of independence - independence delivers devo max and negates the other options. The last three questions are all the reasonable options for those who do not want independence.

Some might argue for a YES/NO on independence, but that again would require a conditionality clause, and answering more than one question, e.g

If you say YES to independence, do not answer any other questions. If you say NO to independence, choose one, and only one of the following two options.

I want Scotland to remain in the UK with some additional powers devolved to Scotland.

I want Scotland to remain in the UK with all powers devolved to Scotland except defence and foreign policy.

This is too complex and confusing, in my view, especially since the first question, the independence question would be a YES/NO, but the other two would be box tick answers.

Doubtless, some will argue over the sequencing of questions, i.e. the order they are set out on the ballot paper. Since it is a referendum with the overarching theme of independence, I believe the order I have set out is reasonable.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Douglas Alexander and Dimbleby gang up on Nicola Sturgeon on Question Time

Douglas Alexander rejects "A politics of grudge and grievance." Judge for yourselves from this clip who is engaged in such a policy, entirely representative of the entire programme, where all the panellists, including the Chairman, David Dimbleby, were ranged against Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland, who acquitted herself with dignity in spite of the contemptible and bullying tone of the programme..

Lord Ashdown was the epitome of grandiose and vacuous British imperial pomposity, and was therefore given extended licence to pontificate by Dimbleby. It is deeply ironic, yet highly significant that the only member of the panel who was seen to extend reasonable courtesy to the lone representative - yes, I repeat, the lone representative of Scotland's interests, was Kelvin McKenzie.

For the benefit of Douglas Alexander, I repeat and endorse Joan McAlpine's comments - the behaviour of the three opposition parties, on full display at the Commons debate on the referendum, was a shameful example of Parliamentary bullying, and their opposition to the Scottish Government being allowed to carry out its mandate to call a referendum and hear the voice of the Scottish people is an attack on Scotland's interests and does betray a lack of concern for Scotland.

To my surprise, Michael Moore was the only member of the combined Tory, LibDem and Labour parties to come out of that debate with some credibility. I actually think he was embarrassed by the behaviour of his allies in their mob tactics against the Scottish nationalist group.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

O the naughty cybernats in the Scotsman!

Interesting comments float in the stagnant sea of bile in today’s Scotsman, alleged swimming ground of the nasty cybernats. Here’s one comment on the item -

Westminster may hand over control of referendum

- from a loyal supporter of the UK and all that makes Britain great.

52 B Cole

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 at 03:55 PM

You Scots don't know how lucky you are , We English have been successfully neutered by the Scotch Raj sitting in the English Parliament. Give us a referendum and England will ditch the United Kingdom and with it the whingeing Scots. Voila, Scotch independence by default As to starting wars, correct me if I'm wrong but the last two wars were started by the Scotch. But then again if things go wrong blame the English. Sadly the English now consider Scotland a bit of an irrelevance so get on with it and get out.

A true cybernat, Trogg, was immediately outraged by this comment – a Trogg feeding a Troll – but his complaint of foul abuse was rather blunted by his calling B. Cole a “a nasty, racist, xenophobic pig!

Lads, lads, please … (surely not lassies?)

The Scotsman, needless to say, loves this kind of thing, and as befits a responsible national newspaper, justifies it on the grounds of it being the voice of the people, rather than poor editorial standards and sloppy moderation policies.

Unionist politicians manage to avert their eyes from the UKnats and see only the cybernats, allowing them to tut-tut periodically

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Referendum eye chart tidied up – with thanks to Garve
















It's that Old Devil Called Devo Max Again! - The Qvortrup/Salmond Duo

The name’s Max – Devo Max, licensed to talk nonsense about independence: my number is 1707-2014 – give me a call sometime …”

In moments of slight megalomania, I imagine that at least some of the things I write might have a tiny influence on the media, but I am rapidly brought down to earth by watching news and current affairs broadcasts. I gave a bit of well-meaning advice on the use of the inaccurate cliché “It may be … but …” as an all-purpose opener or/and closer to news items, but here is Glenn Campbell at it again on his second item on Newsnight Scotland on the Scottish Tories. “The election may be over …” says Glenn. No, it is over Glenn, hadn’t you noticed – the results are in, the winner is confirmed. Do they hand these conversation lozenges over the presenters just before the programme starts, to be chewed and then regurgitated? Or are they now in the DNA?

But my real concern was with the first item on, guess what, devo max and the referendum. BBC presenters are now akin to the Flying Dutchman, condemned to roam the ether, always asking the same questions – What is devo max?- When will the referendum be? - What could the questions be? To sustain them in this endless, fruitless quest, they have an unlimited supply of commentators and experts who don’t know the answers either, and they have a built-in deficiency which prevents them from hearing the answers when they are given, usually by Alex Salmond or Angus Robertson. What ******* chance have I got in offering some clarity?

The referendum and the Noon explanation

Referendum - initial follow-up

Referendum and questions


Here is my referendum eye chart. Please look at the chart and read each line from the top down. Don’t worry if you can’t read or understand it – you are part of a large group that has similar problems.
















Thank you – that concludes the test. I have to tell you that conventional spectacles are not going to prove sufficient to correct your disability, given that you didn’t get beyond the first line, and even understanding that caused you some difficulty. Laser surgery is, I’m afraid, the only option, but it does involve radical adjustment of your political perspective. But you have over two years to decide. Meanwhile, do try to get on with your life. Writing fantasy fiction can help.

May I suggest a couple of topics that will keep you safely shielded from reality? How about How to re-energise the Tory Party in Scotland – that could also be a fantasy comedy – and What Labour Must Do – that would, of course, be a tragedy …

Thursday, 3 November 2011

I’m finding it hard to defend BBC Scotland today …

I grew up with the BBC. My earliest memories are of the BBC in 1939 in the lead-up to war. I didn’t understand the significance of what the announcers were saying, but I saw the tension and sensed the apprehension among my older male relatives. The BBC was my ear on the world and in the 1950s it became my window on the world.  I am one of a declining minority of the population who heard William Joyce – Lord Haw Haw – live, and felt the chill at that braying voice saying “Germany calling, Germany calling”. My instinct is to defend the BBC, because it was the voice of freedom in a world infected by fascism.

Since becoming a nationalist, then a blogger and a YouTube clip poster, radio and television news broadcasts have become very important to me, and with this has come a highly-developed sensitivity to balance and bias in the media. In this period, I have to say that had I, or any Scottish voter, never mind any nationalist, relied on the Scottish or the UK press to get an idea of what was going on in Scottish politics, then the SNP governments would never have been elected, no matter how hard they campaigned on the doorsteps – their voice, and vitally, the image of their people and politicians would have been either completely absent or presented pejoratively.

It was television news and current affairs programmes that made the SNP what it is today, and the BBC, with all its failings, was in my view the major contributor to that, albeit sometimes in spite of themselves. Its nationalists critics – and by God, have they bent my ear – would never have been aware of most of the issues they were addressing without the BBC, their target. (Of course this was not true of party activists and insiders.)

Without the Politics Show Scotland, Newsnight Scotland, the weekly broadcast of FMQs, Channel 81 coverage, and, yes, the UK-level programmes like The Daily Politics, Newsnight, and Question Time, the Scottish National Party would not have had many of its best moments, its peak exposure, Alex Salmond would not have become the national and international figure he has become, nor in my view, I repeat, would the SNP have been elected to government.

Had the nationalist movement been reliant on NewsnetScotland and the army of bloggers like me, it would not remotely have been enough. The online community, vital though they are to our democracy and freedom of expression, would have had only marginal impact of they had not had the televised media to react to, to clip, to deride, to criticise, to comment on. And capable though many online commentators are, few, if any, can match the professionalism and the resources that professional journalists and commentators can bring to the debate.

But I have not been an uncritical defender of the BBC, or any media outlet, and anyone who thinks this should really take the trouble to trawl through my output over the last few years. I can say that I would have had no existence as a blogger, commentator or YouTube poster without the mainstream media. The relationship, whether I or anyone else likes it or not, is a symbiotic one.

But it has got harder and harder to ignore the blatant bias in the print media, the insidious practice of unionist propaganda by partisan headline in factual news items while a pretence at objectivity is maintained – one might say buried – in the main body of text. The Scotsman has become notorious in this regard. The Herald, often guilty of it, seems to be emerging into a period of relative objectivity, with periodic lapses.


The focus of much of the inchoate rage of some nationalists has been Newsnight Scotland, and I have to say they have sometimes deserved it. Their position is unenviable in the schedules, with 20 minutes after the big budget Newsnight. I’ll say no more on that, because it has been covered comprehensively and effectively by Pete Martin, creative director of the Gate Worldwide in the Scotsman today in his article STV’s new contender has BBC on the ropes. Pete Martin article – Scotsman

He is referring to Scotland Tonight, with John Mackay as frontman, scheduled at 10.30 p.m. Last night, the juxtaposition and content of these two programmes pointed up, as nothing has previously done, what has gone wrong with Newsnight Scotland recently.

Leaving aside the fact that the global finance system appears to be approaching meltdown, the EU is in crisis, and the spectacularly incompetent UK Coalition government has no idea where to position itself in this maelstrom, the big story for Scotland yesterday was the ‘confidential’ advice given by Cititgroup, an international banking giant, to its investment clients which found its way at remarkable speed on to the media and into PMQs in Westminster, to avoid investment in renewable technology in Scotland while “the uncertainty created by the referendum” – a line that could not have been bettered by an uber-unionist – continued.

A correspondent yesterday, Joe Boyle, offered me this analysis of David Cameron’s delight, as he seized  upon this, an analysis that I cannot better -

Joe Boyle (by email)

It may also interest you to know that David Cameron is possibly the only head of state of the UK parliament to ever suggest ( in or out of the Parliament) that it is a bad idea for investors to invest in a part of the British Isles. Not even at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland was such a suggestion ever proposed. In fact this may well be a world first for Mr Cameron..... so potentially Guinness Book of records stuff

This statement was instantly picked up by all the news media, and uncritically reported in news bulletins from lunchtime onwards. The SNP’s response was frankly, underwhelming. In fairness, they were flat-footed initially by this bolt from the blue, and simply pointed out that the knowledge of the referendum had not deterred investment up to this point. But there could be little doubt that it was damaging – the unionist pack clearly thought so, and I for one felt that the recent SNP stance on negative stories, of lofty disdain and “we don’t do negative – keep your eyes uplifted to the shining future ..” might be a bit inadequate to cope with this.

So I dug a bit on Citigroup, relying on memory and significantly on Wikipedia – always  a risky course – and banged up a hasty blog early in the evening in the slight hope of influencing the late night media programmes Scotland Tonight and Newsnight Scotland. I realised that this was almost certainly futile, since the programmes were probably being recorded at that moment, but I retained a touching faith in powerful, albeit regional broadcasters, well-resourced, to shift gear rapidly in the face of breaking stories.

This faith was partly vindicated by Scotland Tonight and utterly betrayed by Newsnight Scotland.

Scotland Tonight led with the Citigroup story and had a former Scottish power supremo pitted against Fergus Ewing, the relevant SNP minister. Fergus Ewing was as unimpressive as the earlier SNP responses, seemed unprepared factually, and both he and Scotland Tonight did not see fit to address the elephant in the room – the facts about Citigroup, its monumental failures, losses, bailouts by the US government, strange relationships with powerful regulatory officials in the US government, etc.  Something of an open goal for Fergus Ewing, the SNP and a great story hook for any journalist worthy of the name, one would have thought. But no – not a whisper.

But at least Scotland Tonight covered the story. Newsnight Scotland seemed to have suffered an attack of amnesia about that second word in its programme title – Scotland. Instead, it chose to do its own little derivative coverage of the big European crisis, a story already covered in depth and highly professionally across the entire UK and international media all day, and by Newsnight just before Gordon Brewer launched in to his Ladybird Book of the European financial crisis.

He had chosen to aid him in this little copycat venture three arch unionists – Bill Jamieson, John McFall and Alf Young. Of the Scottish Government, a government recently elected with a massive majority and a firm mandate, not a sign, nor of anyone that could put the European story in the crucial context of Scotland at this pivotal point in its history. Of the Citigroup/renewable investment story – not a dicky bird.

This programme, by omission and by cack-handed selection of topic and panel members was, last night, an embarrassment to the BBC as a public service broadcaster, to Scottish democracy, and frankly to journalistic values.

I’m finding it hard to defend BBC Scotland today …

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The UK Supreme Court – constitutional and independence implications

In the light of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment (I spell it judgment against my instincts towards judgement because I believe this is legal practice) and certain remarks about what the Scottish Parliament can and cannot do - which some have interpreted as a shot across the SNP Government’s bows in relation to the referendum - a number of correspondents have asked me if I plan to comment. Firstly, this is properly Peat Worrier’s blog territory, and secondly, I have said pretty much what I wanted to say about the UK Supreme Court in the following blogs -

The UK Supreme Court and the Scottish legal system

The UK Supreme Court–FMQs 16th June 2011 – Holyrood

The UK Supreme Court, the judges–and the Union’s future

The UK Supreme Court–the debate polarises and takes on new dimensions


There are very fundamental questions raised about constitutional issues and the rule of law arising from the very existence of the UK Supreme Court. I have no legal qualifications or training – I am simply a citizen under the law. But I believe that the setting up of the UK Supreme Court was a political act, and that law and legal systems and processes exist within a political concept and a state – in this case The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - but also within concepts of the rule of law that transcend the state, closely allied to concepts of justice that also transcend the state.

I have a simple, and some might say, a simplistic view of the Union. It was a contract, entered into under bribery and duress, but entered into nonetheless, that united two kingdoms under a single sovereign state. Each signatory to that agreement and subsequent relevant treaties and amendments surrendered their individual sovereignty as formerly independent nation states to the new state. It was, like any contract, intended to be to the mutual benefit of those who entered into it.

The question arises inevitably, as in any contract, how does one party terminate that contract if it no longer serves their interests? Since it cannot be argued that any treaty or contract is permanent, there must be a mechanism and a process, especially in a democracy in the 21st century.

It cannot be argued that all parties to the contract must have unanimity and consensus before one party has a right to withdraw. That would confer a right of veto on withdrawal.

The normal mechanism for withdrawal from a contract is to serve notice of intention to withdraw, discuss the terms of the withdrawal, and observe any notice periods and cancellation obligations that were part of the original contractual document, or were incurred by subsequent agreed amendments. Parallels can – and have been - drawn with ending an employment contract, a commercial contract or a contract of marriage, the latter to the point of tedium. However, when considering withdrawal from a state or empire, such parallels are not entirely adequate, and in any case, there are more appropriate real life models to consider, namely that of countries achieving their independence.


The British Empire can draw on a long history of events, in the progressive loss of that empire, that demonstrate very clearly what the options have been, and how they have been exercised.

Without attempting to catalogue that particular history, the options that are evident from a wider history, as I see them, are as follow -

1. Negotiate a peaceful exit under the terms of the treaties and obligations that exist.

2. Unilaterally withdraw, but negotiate on the obligations.

3.  Unilaterally withdraw (unilateral declaration of independence. UDI) and wait to see what the other party does, i.e. secede. (When this is successful, it is called a velvet revolution.)

4. Unilaterally withdraw and repudiate all obligations as null and void.

Option One is the clear preferred option of the SNP. They are committed to achieving independence through democratic means.

If negotiation fails, or any of the other three options are resisted by the existing state as constituted, the possibility exists of at least civil resistance and disobedience, or in the extreme case, violence, which may manifest itself as repressive violence by the larger state against the country attempting to achieve independence, or revolutionary violence by the smaller entity against the state.

The British State can look at both relatively peaceful and amicable examples, and also at notoriously violent examples. The island of Ireland offers many salutary lessons.


A significant number of the Scottish electorate now wish to withdraw from the United Kingdom.

A significant number wish to remain in the UK.

An appreciable number have not yet made up their minds.

These numbers can only be estimated by polling methods, and can only be ultimately determined by a referendum. The Scottish electorate has twice elected a political party to govern them – the second time with a massive and decisive majority - called The Scottish National Party, one that is committed to the independence of Scotland as a nation state.

The Scottish electorate, in a general election a year earlier, elected a decisive majority of Labour MPS, a party that is committed to maintaining the Union, to govern them in the UK Parliament. (The UK electorate as a whole cast their votes in a manner that was not as clean cut or decisive, and produced a Coalition. Any analysis of the outcome of the 2010 General election revealed a deeply divided nation, with English voters favouring the Conservative and LibDem parties, two parties that were reduced to  a rump in Scotland.)

Just what the Scottish voters meant by their massive vote for a nationalist party is the subject of partisan interpretation and partisan debate by both sides, but what is accepted, I believe by all parties (and by me) is that not all Scots who voted for the SNP were voting for independence. But it also certain that all of the Scots who did not vote for the SNP in the General election, and voted for Labour, were  not necessarily against independence.

The only way to settle the question of what Scottish voters want is a referendum.

Bluntly, what English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters want Scotland to do is entirely irrelevant, whether they favour Scottish independence or are hostile to it – only the wishes of the Scottish people can and must be considered, and only Scottish voters may vote in such a referendum.


The world economy, the European economy, the UK economy and the Scottish economy are facing the greatest threat for generations. Two arguments can be advanced – one, that right now is the wrong time to call a referendum because the Government of Scotland must concentrate on facing the economic challenge, and two, that the referendum must be held as soon as possible, to secure control of Scottish resources and permit more effective action.

A third argument can be advanced in favour a calling the referendum now, namely that the uncertainty is damaging both Scotland’s and the UK’s economic response to the crisis, and it has to be got out of the way.

The First Minister of Scotland made it clear in the party manifesto and in every subsequent statement, that the referendum will be called in the second half of this Scottish Parliamentary term.

From a realpolitik standpoint, both nationalist and unionist camps have a vested interest in only calling a referendum when opinion polls suggest the time may be opportune for their desired outcome. Anyone who claims that the parties are not motivated by such a considerations is ether disingenuous or a damned fool.

The role of the pollsters is therefore crucial.

One hypothetical situation will suffice to illustrate this – if a series of reputable polls in the next week showed that there was a massive shift among the electorate towards an independent Scotland, the Unionist currently calling for an immediate referendum would suddenly find an enthusiasm for delay and obfuscation. If the polling situation were reversed, the First Minister need do nothing, except wait and hope that they  would shift again before the second half of his term.


At the very least, a substantial minority of Scottish voters are unhappy about their membership of the UK and want out, and a significant minority are undecided. Only a minority of Scots therefore profess themselves wholly satisfied with the status quo. No state, however constituted, can ignore such a situation, especially when those who want out are consumed by passionate conviction, are well organised, and constitute the devolved government of that state.

At a time like this, the people need clear-eyed democrats, both in politics, in the law, and in the media, committed to the rule of law, but also to internationally accepted principles of human rights, free speech and the right to self-determination of free people.

Failure to understand these aspirations, especially in a time of deep economic uncertainty, risks serious consequences, ones that could be profoundly damaging to the people of these islands. Sinister forces lurk on the margins of such situations, waiting their opportunity to de-stabilise the the situation, and exploit and profit from it. Once the levers of power slip into these hands, they cannot be prised off by rational argument and democratic processes.


Now read this in today's Telegraph, and tell me I have no need to worry.

Alex Salmond faces Commons grilling over Scottish separation

Saturday, 10 September 2011


I have nothing useful to say this morning. Unless some news item galvanises me later, I will have nothing to say this afternoon or tonight.

But Ieuan Wyn Jones has something very important to say ...

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

How the English see Scotland’s independence–and their own …

When the first reports of the poll conducted on how the English perceive independence – Scotland’s and their own – I expected the haggis to hit the fan, with instant attempts by unionists to spin the result. The first BBC News report I saw confirmed my fears. Here is the clip, brief, but very much to the point – the unionist point, that is …

Since we can safely assume that neither Laura Bicker nor Catriona Shearer – the epitome of a sonsy Scottish lassie – wrote their own scripts, someone behind the scenes in the Beeb had put a quick, superficial spin on a result that, by any criteria, should have given unionists concern, not comfort. But unionists have not been able to face reality for some time now, and are in the deep denial that grips all of the unionist political parties and the British Establishment.

Catriona launches in briskly and selectively on the poll results. “ … suggest that fewer than 1 in 5 English people think England would be better off without Scotland, and just about a third of them want to see an independent England.

Q1 Should Scotland be independent?

YES 36%, NO 48%, DON’T KNOW 15%

The comment options now facing Laura Bicker, or more probably the news editor were

a) Let the figures speak for themselves

b) Offer the pro and anti independence possible interpretations


c) Select a single perspective and present it as fact

The BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation, in its Scottish incarnation, chose the last one. Bias? Probably not, except subliminally …

Here are the two perspectives as I see them -


A minority of English people, about a third, want Scottish independence.

Almost half are against it.

About one in seven don’t know.


Over one third of English people want Scotland to be independent.

A little under half don’t want Scotland to be independent.

More than one in seven are undecided.

These figures are about the same as Scots polled on the same question.

Reporting on this, Laura Bicker is impeccably neutral, and her comments would fit either perspective. Then comes the next question -

Q2 Should England be independent?

YES 36% NO 57% DON’T KNOW 7%

Laura sees this as “ … a more resounding result.” Well, yes – half of the don’t knows have moved to NO.

So far, so good. But then Laura decides to tell us “What this poll teaches us …” and here the BBC moves straight into unionist high gear.

What this poll teaches us is that the myth, that the English simply want rid of us – that they the want to cut a line at Hadrian’s Wall and let us float off into our own future, simply isn’t true.”

The poll teaches us nothing of the kind, Laura - there is no such myth, except the one created by the unionist establishment mindset, formed partly out of paranoia about just that eventuality, but mainly to set up a straw man of an imagined nationalist position just so it could be knocked down.

What I believe, and what I think most nationalist believe, is that the English people, unlike the UK Establishment and the UK unionist parties, are wakening from a long, complacent sleep, in the face of the disintegrating UK democracy, the corruption of UK Government, and what has been done to them by thirteen years of carpetbagging Scottish Labour politicians of the Blair, Brown, Darling, Douglas Alexander mould, the Jim Murphy, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore new breed, and the suicidal, doctrinaire and destructive policies of the rich men of the ConLib Coalition – Cameron, Moore, Haig, Lansley, Osborne, etc.

They are not yet all awake, but 36% are, and 15% are rubbing the sleep from their eyes and considering the new world they find themselves in. That 36% has grown from only 16% not too long ago, and that is the significance of this poll: that the English people are progressively moving in the same direction as the Scots – towards independence.

It’s called a trend, stupid! I call it an inevitable historical process, the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the age, the age of power to the people.


However, BBC Scotland may have got it wrong in a brief, one-minute news item, but an extended edition of Newsnight gave a reasonably full and objective coverage of the poll, the issues it raises, and the real dimensions and implications of Scottish and English nationalism.

It was reasonably well-structured, and Paxman more or less behaved himself, but found it hard to conceal his real sympathies, not to mention his hostility – thinly - disguised, to Joan McAlpine’s calm, reasoned, highly relevant and courteous contributions, especially when she tried to place events in a historical context. In contrast he allowed complete licence to the ramblings of Rory Stewart and Michael Portillo about ‘British’ tolerance and ‘British’ opposition to fanaticism, which in their minds equates to people power and nationalism.

The analytical sections of this Newsnight special were excellent, mainly because they were a Paxman-free zone. However, it is odd that Newsnight Scotland had to be sacrificed to permit this extended edition of Newsnight to be scheduled – they could easily have dumped the Michael Caine documentary that followed, a re-hash of stuff that has been covered endlessly and tediously before.


The facts are that a growing percentage of the Scottish and English populations now want independence, and the 36% or so, when looked at in the context of the undecided – the don’t knows – is highly significant for the survival of the UK, for Scotland and England. Why?

Because this is a committed, vocal and politically active and very substantial minority, in tune with the great global movements towards people power, and the overthrow of old hegemonies and the dictatorship of money, militarism and privileged elites. In contrast, the majority are representative of a complacent status quo, not as politically and intellectually active.

The Force is with the nationalists – the wind of change blows and is unstoppable.

Saor Alba!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The UK Establishment - why they don’t want Scotland to leave the Union

In their more macho moments before the watershed Scottish National Party victory on May 5th 2011, prominent members of the British Establishment, who appear in many guises -  political, academic, military, media pundits, celebrities, etc. - said they would be happy if Scotland decided to leave the Union. This took many forms, from “It’s your decision - we won’t stand in your way …” to “We’ll be glad when you go - drain on our resources, subsidised ..” etc.

But as the polls began to move decisively in favour of the SNP during the campaign, the tone began to shift, and a note of panic increasingly began to sound. Dire warnings to the Scottish electorate were delivered of the horrors that awaited them if Alex Salmond got an overall majority and consequentially the ability to pass a referendum bill.

The prospects of Independence and Separation were rattled in the voters’ faces, like bogeymen on a stick, but instead of provoking terror, this resulted in a collective yawn, then a derisive laugh from the sophisticated Scottish electorate, followed by a swift two fingers as they entered the polling booth.

The election result threw the Establishment into a blue funk. Having thrown their heavyweight champions, political and media, into the arena in Scotland during the campaign, they had the humiliating experience of seeing them thrown back contemptuously through the ropes on to their arses at the ringside.

The note changed rapidly yet again, this time to demands for an instant referendum, followed by a second referendum on the negotiated terms, just in case the first one didn’t deliver the expected rejection, and some even suggested a referendum of the entire UK electorate.

Of course, this farrago of nonsenses didn’t emanate from the English people, who showed a disturbing tendency to either express admiration for the Scots and their concern for their people, or to say bluntly “If you’re going, get on with it. F*** off and good riddance - get off our backs so we can get our own independence for the nation of England, the sooner the better!”, sentiments that most Scots could understand and even applaud as being at least honest and direct.

And the English people were beginning to take a long, hard look at what the corrupted politics of Westminster, the insatiable greed of the financial establishment, the global posturing in foreign wars and the benighted Coalition government were actually doing for them. Ominous noise were being made by the trades unions …

That most contemptible of groups, the Scottish Unionist Establishment - a client group wholly dependent on the UK for their status, the descendants, literally or figuratively of those powerful chiefs and landowners who had betrayed their own people in 1707 and thereafter in their greed for English gold - were running round in circles, as the implications of their long, expedient, quisling subservience became increasingly evident. Their very identity was threatened by Scotland’s independence.

So the real question that must be addressed is - 

Why don’t the English Establishment (and their client Scottish counterparts) want Scotland to leave the Union?

Yesterday’s Telegraph (the Union and the Establishment in print) epitomised both the fear and the insidious nature of the remedies that might be sought against that fear. Vernon Bogdanor - The Telegraph

Salmond ‘could split the UK against the wishes of majority’

Who is being quoted in this scare story? “One of the world’s most respected constitutional experts” according to Simon Johnson, Scottish political editor of the Telegraph - one Vernon Bogdanor, emeritus professor of politics and government at Oxford University, the beating heart - together with Eton College - of the British Establishment and its grip on power delivered through birth, money and privilege.

Vernon Bogdanor? The name - and the sentiments - rang a bell with me. April 2010 and Dinner with Portillo, a programme on the subject of Scottish independence. I dug it out, and I’ve done an edit (edits signalled by fades)on the half hour programme, partly to get it to fit into the YouTube 15 minute slot, and partly to cut out a lot of the drivel emanating from Ron Liddle and Hardeep Singh, two of the dinner guests.

And although it’s over a year old, and preceded the May 2010 general election, and the May 2011 Scottish election, it’s still relevant, and the answers are all there …

What becomes progressively evident from this discussion is that the fear in the minds of the English Establishment that the UK will not exist in any meaningful sense after Scotland leaves. UK Minus - a union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have no relevance, no point, and will rapidly break up. This can either be viewed as realpolitik, or as contempt for the two nations of Wales and Northern Ireland, seen post-Scottish independence as two vestigial appendages of England - relics perceived as about as relevant as earlobes or the veriform appendix.

This view is now echoed daily in the media, who talk of the break-up of the UK, or the end of the UK when Scotland goes, with a pointed disregard for the ancient and proud nation of Wales, and the more recent, but equally proud nation of Northern Ireland, a nation that has transformed itself in very recent times as it emerges from a long, dark night of violence and internal strife.

This is emphatically not how Scotland sees Wales and Northern Ireland, as the meeting of the First Ministers of the devolved nations meeting this very day in Bute House, Edinburgh clearly demonstrates.

The answer to the question of why the UK doesn’t want to lose Scotland - in spite of  UK Establishment claims that Scotland could not survive outside of the UK, that Scotland is a dependent subsidy junkie, that it is a burden to England and so forth, or its pious nonsense about fracturing ancient ties of blood and and tradition  - is fourfold.

The first reason is that Scotland autonomy in foreign policy and defence would threaten UK defence policy, and crucially its nuclear deterrence policy, and therefore it pretensions to be a world power, albeit one totally subservient to American foreign policy. A closely linked sub-agenda is the private profit to be reaped from war and defence expenditure as the operating principle of the UK State.

The second reason is the awful prospect that Scotland would be economically successful, demonstrating that a state can serve all of its people, especially the the most vulnerable, while being economically viable, becoming, in the words of a great English poet “the cynosure of neighbouring eyes”.

The third reason is that Scotland, far from being a drain on UK resources, is in fact a net contributor to them, and subsidises the UK.

And the last, and perhaps  most poignant reason is that somehow England would lose its soul as Scotland regained its own identity, something elegantly expressed by one of Portillo’s dinner guests.

It’s not true of course - the British Establishment would lose its tarnished soul, but the people of England would regain their soul, and their pride as a nation again - a nation unafraid to speak its name.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The new Scotland - where to from here?

There’s a concept among jazz musicians - woodshedding - that expresses where I need to be at the moment. Going to the woodshed is what a jazz musician does when he or she needs to come to grips with something fundamental - technique, conception, tone, etc. Legendary jazz woodshedders included Charlie Parker who entered the woodshed as a primitive young musician and emerged as a fully-fledged genius, with a formidable technique and with a new musical language, and Sonny Rollins, already an established musician, who famously woodshedded on a public road bridge and re-invented himself and his music.

The woodshed is a metaphor, but I’ve got a real one - the Hut, as we call it, our little summerhouse at the back of the garden, an invaluable retreat from the distractions of the house.

I urgently need to woodshed on the big questions that face Scotland and all Scots, old and new, now that the election is over, and we are basking briefly in the new Scottish Spring - independence and the referendum that might lead us there.

But before I disappear, I have a couple of things I want to say -

I have been struck over the last week by the virtual absence of any discussion over foreign policy in the media and in the press - the Trident in the room, rather than the elephant in the room.

For me, independence means Scotland having control of its own foreign policy, of its own defence - of deciding in what circumstances and for what cause Scottish young servicemen and women must be placed in harm’s way by the state and give their lives if necessary, depriving Scottish families of their children, their partners, their spouses, their fathers, their mothers, their brother, their sisters, their friends - and Scottish servicemen and women of their comrades.

Fundamental to that control of foreign policy is the rejection of nuclear weapons and the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

Why is this topic being quietly sidelined by all parties, both those opposed to independence and those in favour? Why is all the talk confined to economic control, social policy, various options all the way through to devolution max, to constitutional monarchy, to somehow retaining the concept of the UK while freeing Scotland of the dead hand of Westminster and the Treasury?

Well, I have a view on why.

It is because control of foreign policy is the truly fundamental issue that no one wants to speak its name, lest they frighten the horses.

It is because it is believed that it was not a particularly important or defining issue in the election campaign,  other than in the context of the cost of Trident, and the job creation scheme argument that is often used to justify military expenditure.

It is because it impacts directly on the ancient link between monarchy, the military and organised religion - all three potential minefields for politicians, whatever their core beliefs and allegiances.

It is because it is believed by politicians, with some justification, that the voting public don’t really care about it, don’t understand it, and are made uncomfortable by it.

Nationalist politicians are wary of putting it centre stage because it might not play well with the voting public when they enter the independence referendum polling booths.

Unionist politicians must play canny with it, because it is in fact their fundamental reason for opposing full independence, and is linked inextricably with the the idea of British identity - an imperial identity - the United Kingdom’s perceived role in world affairs, the whole rotten edifice of undemocratic, unelected privilege that is the British Establishment and the Peerage and the House of Lords, the unionist’s latent or overt anti-Europeanism, and the subservient, client nature of the UK’s relationship with US foreign policy.

So now the nationalist politician may be entering an unspoken consensus with the unionist politician in the two years or so before the Independence referendum bill that, together, we won’t frighten the military horses, the monarchy, the Church, the Establishment or the electorate, and will concentrate on the economic and social arguments, and that something that falls just short of full independence that includes control of Scotland’s foreign policy may be a happy outcome all around.

On my way to the woodshed, let me say that while I will make my contribution to the economic and social argument, and to the principle of gradualism and softly, softly catchee independence monkey, nothing short of full control of Scotland’s foreign policy will ultimately satisfy me.

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