Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Join THE Party

And so it begins in earnest. The age old tactics, so tried and tested, scourge of many of those colonial Johnnies, are now being turned on Scotland. Yes, it's that perennial favourite, divide and rule!

The so called Earl of Caithness, Chief of Clan Sinclair, Malcolm Ian Sinclair, has added some amendments to the Scotland bill. These are to the effect that Orkney and Shetland should be removed from Scotland in the event that they reject independence while the rest of Scotland votes in favour, and that Rockall should be retained by the rump UK despite being part of the Isle of Harris and therefore under administrative control of Na h-Eileanan Siar.

It's difficult to know quite how to react to this latest unionist skulduggery. Part of me starts fantasising about Madame Guillotine, part of me rages against a Tory peer wielding this sort of influence, part of me wants to laugh at the desperation inherent in this f**kwit's proposals. I guess in the absence of a treasonous cat's paw as First Minister they can't simply redraw the maritime boundaries again to annex all of the above into English waters.

What is abundantly clear is that the Earl only cares about islands that have, or might have, oil nearby. He seems not to care about the democratic wishes of, say the people of the Hebrides, surely also a part of Scotland with significant cultural and historical differences to much of the mainland. He doesn't even single his own Earldom, Caithness, out for his special treatment, despite it also being under Norse control for a time.

In any case, I can't really imagine that the Machiavellian manoeuvrings of a Tory lord will do anything other than turn people firmly against the British state. If this is British fair play and the way the British establishment deals with my country then count me out. I always swore I would never join a political party, but Earl Caithness, congratulations! Your devilish scheming is the final straw after the last few weeks (or rather decades) of unionist lies, outlandish scare stories and disgusting denigration of Scotland and its people. You have created an enemy today, and he's off to join the SNP. I urge everyone else to do the same.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Harrbrian tells it how it is

There's actually a fair and balanced article on Scottish independence in the Telegraph today. No not penned by Alan Cochrane, but by Tom Hunter: The Scottish independence debate needs pragmatism not Braveheart (sadly the headline writers and indeed the picture editor just had to get Mel Gibson in there somehow).

But better than the article itself is a superb comment from Harrbrian which I've shamelessly copied below (Harrbrian, I've assumed your consent but I'm happy to remove this post if you prefer). It's a brilliant summary of the problems afflicting the UK. Enjoy...or rather don't enjoy, and then resolve to change this unholy mess that the UK is in...

"What the Union requires is a fact-based debate that centres around the positives – of Scotland staying put, moving out or indeed accomplishing Devo-Max." At last a grown up comment in this newspaper.

The issue for Scotland is the same for all the regions of the United Kingdom - Westminster's overwhelming grip on revenue and political power, but in Scotland's case history and sentiment may provide the energy for change. For comparison: local councils in the UK are allowed to raise only 25% of their own revenue (which is why they ramp up parking fees), the Scotland bill will allow Holyrood to raise up to 35% (while taking away some powers), meanwhile local municipalities in Denmark, nearly 100 of them in a pop'n of 5.5M, raise 60% of their own revenue, and in Sweden it is 70%.

The politicians talk about sentiment and principle but this is about power. Westminster will not hand over powers voluntarily (nobody ever does - Blair was pushed into devolution by the EU), hence the refusal to consider the undefined but popular option of Devomax. The SNP obviously want more power in Edinburgh.

The catch that Westminster cannot see is that it is precisely its monopoly of power that makes Westminster so dysfunctional. Unlike in the other European democracies, we have no other centre of power, except perhaps Holyrood, which has less revenue raising ability than a Danish municipality. In England Westminster interferes with bin collection and how often nurses make their rounds, for god's sake. Lack of local responsibility turns citizens into fractious whingeing children, (read this comments column). You cannot run a medium sized business like this let alone a complex modern country.

In whatever form it comes, Independence or Devomax - the more power that is taken from Westminster the better.

The incompetence of Westminster is clearer the further you get in any direction from London, and wider travel plus the internet have made the comparisons easier to draw. It is not just the scandals like the Iraq war, MP's expenses, News International, the power of unregulated banks, although they are shameful enough, or even the hilariously inconsequential public inquiries ("Carry on, Westminster"): it also shows in the numbers.

Google almost any economic measure - GPD per capita, percentage industrialisation, balance of payments history, balanced budgets, external debt levels - and all the North European countries, (except France and Finland on some measures), outperform the UK. The UK's long term economic failure versus its Northern European competitors is being achieved despite reduced union bargaining power, significant privatisation, and it being made easier to sack staff than in any of them, and also despite repeated devaluations (a factor of 5 compared with German currencies of the last 40 years). The UK has had North Sea oil and still achieved a permanent trade deficit: genius.

For most social indicators - life expectancy, obesity, cocaine usage, teenage pregnancy, % GDP spent on Health, % of the population in prison, etc - the UK is nearly always the worst, and the more time you spend in Northern Europe the more you sense this. The internet also reveals that the same is true for less obvious indicators - social mobility, Gini index, percentage of women in positions of power, pay differentials, pension regulation, percentage of youth in training, liveable cities,
renewable energy capacity, etc.

With its secretive ways (look up the McCrone report if you live in Scotland), and massive centralisation of power, Westminster is failing the individual populations of England, Scotland and Wales. The McCrone report also contains some interesting remarks about the inevitable failure of regional policies.

But despite the crowded trains, the cracked pavements and pot holed streets that catch your eye when you return here, Westminster will not make the comparisons: it thinks in terms of its own importance, total GDP -" we're 6th in the world", rather than that of its citizens, GDP per capita - "we're poorer than everyone in Northern Europe". It is not just Westminster that is dysfunctional, but so is the underpinning "Great British" culture of its political and chattering classes, a culture that is encapsulated in its veneration of the polar explorer Scott, whose men died of starvation and who lost to Amundsen, whose men put on weight. It is not just the endless wrangling of left and right idealogues, any form of drama is more valued than a grasp of the numbers, cooperation and long term thinking. Costly and outdated assumptions are not challenged, as if Britain somehow deserves its UN security council seat, as if it can afford Trident and its military spend, and so, from Suez to Iraq, it is considered normal to indulge in murderous, self important adventures. Most disabling are the myths - Westminster being the mother of parliaments has nothing to learn from other democracies - and distorted narratives of identity - we won WW2 and have little to learn from our neighbours. The arrogance of empire without the fact.

The current British state works well for the metropolitan chattering and political classes, Westminster in short, who even if they do not believe all the myths buy themselves out from sharing the health and education services of their fellow citizens, and who, looking only to the USA, enjoy empire by association; however, for over a generation Westminster has failed to meet the test of basic competence, let alone the aspirations of the governed.

Unlike the successfully capitalist countries of Northern Europe, the UK is simply not earning its living in the world. As a result it can afford less and less of the modern goodies, like infrastructure investment, market regulation, targeted welfare and wide access to education and training: this leads to its making worse use of its only asset, its people, who become relatively less resourced, educated, numerate, healthy, less
socially mobile and less united in purpose, which in turn leads to relatively less wealth creation, which in turn leads ... etc, etc.

In Scotland the SNP are quite rightly looking to the more successful countries of Northern Europe as their model, because it would be almost impossible to be more dysfunctional than Westminster, from whom the rest of us should try to remove as much power as possible: the more the SNP succeed, the more we may all benefit.

Monday, 16 January 2012


My eternal thanks to James at Scot goes Pop! for putting a broad Monday morning smile on my face. He reports on the grave tidings that Labour's new media savant, Tom Harris MP, has continued his unique line in comic Unionism by uploading a riotous video depicting Alex Salmond as Hitler, a mere two or three years after the Downfall meme stopped being funny. Unfortunately the powers that would like to be, in the form of Labour in Scotland leader Anas Sarwar Johann Lamont, have taken a dim view of his japery. The Sun reports that Tom has sadly stepped back from his much coveted post as Labour's new media adviser. Tom has duly apologised, that is to say he has apologised for having provided an "unhelpful distraction". His regret and sorrow at his actions know no bounds, and surely only his grief at his foolishness can explain why, as of 9:30am today, the video is still available on his YouTube channel.

What can have occasioned such a misjudgement from somebody who has hitherto been an utterly unremarkable Labour MP? Only last month he was warning the Morning Star not to copy nationalist smears. And he has been a longtime and vocal critic of the evil cybernats and their online skulduggery. Following Ian Gray's valedictory Kevin Keegan-esque rant against the cybernats, and in particular his exhortation to Harris and the other Labour in Scotland leadership contenders to stand up to the "vile poison" that the cybernats have allegedly brought into Scottish politics, I guess Labour had little choice but to ask Harris to step down.

I wonder if and when Tom will re-emerge in the new media...all seems quiet on his Twitter account this morning...

UPDATE at 09:50 on Jan 17th

The video is still available on Tom Harris's YouTube channel. Indeed, adverts are now being played in front of the video. I wonder who receives payment from the placement of these adverts.

Friday, 13 January 2012

George Osborne: a UK Chancellor damaging Scotland's reputation

George Osborne is doing a marvellous job for the Yes campaign. In one breath he says uncertainty over the constitution is harming investment (no evidence provided), in the next he is saying Scotland would be worse off if independent. Aren't you creating a self-fulfilling prophesy there George, effectively creating uncertainty by telling investors that Scotland could be struggling in 3 or 4 years time? What damage will that do to investor confidence? Rather reminds of me of his French counterpart who recently, to howls of protest from the UK government, highlighted the UK's massive debt and called for it to be downgraded ahead of France. Extraordinary though his attack was, at least he was speaking about a foreign country, rather than part of his own.

Contrast Osborne's damaging remarks with Alex Salmond's recent trips trying to drum up business for Scotland in China and the Middle East. Perhaps the Chancellor needs reminding that Scotland is still part of his responsibility, right up to the point of independence. Instead Scotland (for his attack was on Scotland, not just the SNP) is already on "the other team" to Osborne. How quickly, easily and smoothly the mask of ruling the UK in the interests of the entire UK has slipped.

And suddenly rumours are swirling that rUK would stop Scotland using the Pound after independence. Quite how they would do this I'm not sure. Similarly, Scottish bank notes would no longer be accepted south of the border. I guess that's the end of any pretence of common sense from the Treasury then. All that cross-border traffic, English people hurriedly trying to get rid of their last Scottish notes before heading back south. Madness.

All of this only serves to show the truth: Sterling is the English currency, even after 300+ years of union, and as long as we behave and do what George and Dave tell us they will let us keep using it. Just like they let us keep using their embassies, their military, their membership of the EU, their treaties negotiated with other countries, etc., etc. What a fine recipe for a happy and contented Scottish population within the UK that is! Dangerous tactics in my opinion. Even if they do help them to win the referendum, it will be a victory achieved by fear and intimidation, a victory that will only serve to breed resentment north of the border. Hardly a harbinger of goodwill and peaceful co-existence in the grievously wounded Union that would follow. We still await the positive case for the Union...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Sea change

For those who haven't yet seen it there is an interesting post from Craig Murray about the post-1999 maritime boundary between Scotland and England in the North Sea. It seems he's a man that knows a thing or two about such matters.