The Scotsman is in full unionist mode today – it might as well have put the Union Jack on its masthead, given the space it devotes to the anti-independence voices now clamouring to be heard. Before I come to that – and other matters – let me re-state what I consider to be the fundamentals of the current state of the union -
The choice has to all intents and purposes come down to devolution max or full independence. All the talk of economic factors, of the currency, of borrowing powers, of taxation and of the detail of independence is smoke and mirrors – the last redoubt is defence and foreign policy.
Because no country can truly be a nation unless it controls its own foreign policy and defence.
No country can be a nation if it lets another nation decide in what cause - and when - to place its servicemen and women in harm’s way, and to sacrifice their lives if necessary.
No country can be a nation if it permits another to determine its fate in the most fundamental areas of nationhood.
Scotland cannot be a nation again unless it is fully independent.
The above principles are entirely distinct from defence alliances and treaties, which can be entered into voluntarily and exited from at will. (An independent Scotland would undoubtedly enter into such alliances, and would also have a range of flexible and common sense areas of cooperation with other nations short of formal alliance.)
Do all of my fellow Scots men and women agree with me on the above principles?
I don’t know the answer to that – I don’t even know if my fellow nationalists agree with them. I don’t know if every member of the Scottish Nationalist Government agrees with them. I must assume that Scots committed to the Union don’t agree with them, or if they do, they only do so for the entity that claims to be a nation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Only a referendum will determine the answer, and that is why the Scottish electorate must be very clear on the fundamentals – not the detail – of what independence means before they answer a question - or questions - at the referendum ballot.
WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS
A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.
Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.
Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money …
Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.
Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.
Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.
No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.
Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.
After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.
The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.
THE MUNDANE AND THE QUOTIDIAN
Back to worldly matters and today …
Scotsman headlines –
I’ll get the whole Cabinet to make the case for Scotland staying in the UK – Moore.
We can’t allow Salmond & Co to shut down opposition (Tavish Scott)
Blair’s secret Libya talks reopen Lockerbie row
So we have Michael Moore – the Colonial Governor, a member of a party reduced to a pathetic rump in Scotland and wholly discredited in the UK, and a failed and bitter former leader of that party in Scotland, Tavish Scott, spewing their bile and frustration against the choice of the Scottish people and the decisive democratic mandate they gave to a party committed to Scotland’s independence. This from the federalist party, while the two solidly unionist parties desperately proclaim their independence from Westminster, wrapping themselves hastily in an ersatz kilt. And the Blair/Libya story appears, fairly presented by David Maddox, while the unionist spinners are doubtless trying to revive the tired lie that somehow the Megrahi release was a result of connivance between Blair, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill, a fiction so bizarre that it beats Fonzie jumping the shark.
A few days ago the Institute for Public Policy Research tried - in a letter to the Scotsman by Tony Dolphin - to correct the distortions that the Scotsman had placed on their report on the public sector in Scotland. The IPPR denied that report had described the Scottish public sector as bloated, that it relied on out-of-date figures and was an attack on the SNP’s proposals for lower corporation tax. Needless to say, in the best traditions of Hearst-style yellow journalism, The Scotsman (was ever a paper so misnamed?) did not give the prominence to these denials that it did to its original anti-SNP coverage.
But in the Scottish Perspective section, Lesley Riddoch has interesting and objective things to say - Politicians failing to focus on now especially in this mordant paragraph -
“Bizarrely, the people talking most about independence right now are the politicians who viscerally oppose it - helpfully pre-airing independence scenarios, pumping the oxygen of publicity into the whole project and making sure that a once inconceivable future can now be visualised by many voters with some clarity. And the SNP haven't even started campaigning yet.”
Gaun yersel, Lesley … that’s journalism! That’s comment!