It's Time for Scots, English to File for Divorce
By Matthew Lynn
Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Next year, England and Scotland will mark the 300th anniversary of the 1707 treaty that melded the two nations together. What better way of celebrating that than by filing for divorce? Far-fetched? The latest polls suggest there is growing support for a separation on both sides of the border.
The English and the Scots appear to be fed up with each other. And a split would be the best outcome for both countries. Scotland might take the chance to emulate the miraculous success of Ireland. England would be able to cut its taxes at a stroke. It might even get the Conservative government it voted for, rather than the Labour one the Scots wanted.
There is no doubt that there is now real momentum behind independence. ``Although Scottish independence in the foreseeable future is still unlikely, the chances that it might happen have risen from below 1 percent to perhaps 10 to 15 percent,'' Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economic and Business Research in London, said in a recent report.
An ICM Ltd. poll in the Sunday Telegraph this month found that 52 percent of Scots supported full independence for their country. In September, a YouGov Ltd. poll showed 44 percent of Scots in favor of independence, compared with 42 percent against. The level of support had almost doubled since 2000. Meanwhile, the Scotsman newspaper reported this month that 51 percent of Scots favored full independence versus 39 percent against.
The English are even keener to get rid of the Scots. The ICM poll showed 59 percent of English voters supported the break-up of the union as well.
``We are becoming Britain's Quebec,'' Stuart Thomson, a bond-fund manager at Resolution Investment Management in Glasgow, Scotland, said in a telephone interview. ``It is going to be a constant case of ``will they or won't they?'''
The crunch may come next year. Elections for the devolved Scottish Assembly are set for May 2007 -- and the pro- independence Scottish National Party may well emerge as the strongest grouping. If that happens, the momentum for a split would become unstoppable.
There would be nothing for either side to fear from that. In fact, both would be better off without each other.
It is a myth that countries need to be big to prosper. The Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last year counted only five countries as ``high income'' -- the U.S., Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and Ireland. The U.S. is a big place, but the rest of them are pretty small. That still hasn't stopped any of them getting rich.
The list includes another small Celtic nation on the edge of Europe. Through a modest amount of deregulation and a lot of tax- cutting, Ireland has turned itself from a relative backwater into one of the most successful economies in Europe. It has long since stopped blaming its problems on the English, and set about creating a dynamic economy of its own.
Could Scotland follow in its tracks? It couldn't do much worse than it is now. The Scottish economy is a mess, dependent on a bloated public sector and showing few signs of life. ``If Scotland had simply matched the success of Ireland since 1997, our nation would now be 6,000 pounds a head better off,'' the Scottish National Party said in an analysis this month.
There are few more entrepreneurial people in the world than the Scots. Just take a look at the numbers of companies around the world with names starting with ``Mc'' or ``Mac.'' And if the birthplace of Adam Smith can't create a thriving free-market economy, then who can?
North Sea Oil
True, it wouldn't happen quickly. ``You had 70 years of pain in Ireland after independence,'' Thomson said. ``You probably wouldn't get that in Scotland, but it might be a long time before the economy started to flourish.''
And how about the English?
The accounts of the two countries are hard to disentangle. The U.K. government collects a lot of tax revenue from North Sea oil, and that presumably would have to go to the government in Edinburgh. The financial details of the separation would take a lot of haggling -- as they do in any divorce. Still, the chances are that the English would pay lower taxes as a stand-alone nation.
Most importantly, the English would get the kind of low-tax, free-market government they want. At the 2005 election, the Conservative Party won more votes in England than any other party. Many of the main figures in the Labour government are Scottish, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. And they are kept in power by Scottish votes.
Better Off Apart
In reality, the political cultures of the two countries have drifted so far apart, they are no longer compatible. The Scots want a Scandinavian-style social democracy with high taxes, generous welfare and big government. In Scottish politics, there are virtually no right-of-center voters left. The Conservative Party won less than 16 percent of the vote in Scotland last year.
The English want a U.S.-style free market with lower taxes, and a smaller state. The only reason they can't have it is because of the Scots. That is hardly healthy.
As the divorce lawyers like to point out, once a relationship has broken down, you are better off apart. England and Scotland have reached that point. The 300th anniversary of the union should be the last.
(Matthew Lynn is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)
To contact the writer of this column: Matthew Lynn in London at email@example.com
Thursday, November 30, 2006
It's Time for Scots, English to File for Divorce
The London based 'The Business' claims that 'No-one would benefit from break-up of the Union' in this article:
"The imbalances which Labour introduced to the British constitution should be addressed. Scottish devolution should be matched with an English-votes-for-English laws protocol in the Commons. The financial relationships should be levelled and Scotland’s budget linked directly to how much tax it generates.
England needs to realise that it will lose a lot more than it thinks if it loses Scotland. The Scots need to realise that they cannot live off massive public spending forever. A sense of fairness must be reintroduced between both nations.
The Union between England and Scotland has given each nation more than either is minded to commemorate next May. As the anniversary approaches, both sides of the border would do well to calm down, take stock and realise just how absurd the break-up of Britain in the 21st century would seem to the rest of the world – and how it would do both Scots and English irreparable damage."
This article repeats the usual lies that Scots are 'subsidised' by England because there is higher per head spending in Scotland however with one third of the land mass and 10% of the population this is always going to be the case. What should be considered is the total amount of revenue raised and spent in Scotland, on those figures as the SNP have conclusively proved Scotland pays her own way.
The real question is why the media and business are so far behind the public in their desire for normal powers for Scotland. A union with a country ten times our size is not equal, never has been or could have been and is now long past its sell by date.
Every other country manages to rule their own affairs so why should Scots be considered uniquely incapable of doing so?
There are four Scottish based parties with representation in the parliament. All support independence. It is only those parties based in London who do not and who pretend that all manner of disasters will befall Scotland if we vote to exercise our rights to national self determination.
If between them the Scottish based parties marshall one million votes ie around half the current supporters of the independence cause to vote for them then the independence parties will be able to force through a referendum on this issue.
Perhaps at that point business, commentators and media might wake up to the fact that English rule has proven unnecessary for every colony in the British Empire and is not actually required for Scotland either.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:20 AM
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Only security and negativity at Oban conference
Your Letters (Herald)
November 28 2006
ANYONE arriving in Oban over the past week could be forgiven for wondering if they had entered a danger zone. A massive police presence with armed officers wandering around with guns at hip level, cars escorted with police outriders, roads blocked off, police boats with support vessels in Oban Bay, at what cost to the taxpayers, and why? Even the Church of Scotland weekly worship next door to the Corran Halls had to be moved. The reason? The Scottish Labour Party conference. This used to be a political event; now it is a three-day, organised opportunity to insult the Scottish National Party and its leadership. There were no delegated motions, no votes, no democracy – just negativity. With the media outnumbering the delegates, the opportunity for national coverage was used for personal agendas. First Minister Jack McConnell was removed from the frontal assault, the good guy/bad guy routine, while the major political figures from national government, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Home Secretary John Reid and Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander, were used as the bad guys, to try to make Jack look good. The reality is that the Labour Party has been in power in the UK since 1997 and in Scotland since 1999, and Jack McConnell's speech was a 35-minute apology for not fulfilling promises and five minutes of more promises. This is the party "not fit for government".
W W Wilkie, Oakbank, Benvoullin Road, Oban.
In recent years, I can recall Labour ministers telling us that an independent Scotland would suffer the malnutrition that afflicts Bangladesh, the ethnic bloodshed that befell the Balkans, the type of passport control employed on the North Korean border and the sort of economic chaos that has only been seen in Europe in the past few years when Albania infamously discovered a pyramid-sales scam involving the distribution of brushes.So it comes as little surprise to hear this week from Labour that independence would somehow be "a gift to terrorists and illegal immigrants".I would say "give it a rest", but as a supporter of independence myself, I'm actually very keen to hear more of this wild, hysterical nonsense from Labour, particularly when it comes from the lips of the most unpopular and discredited Prime Minister since polls began. So, Mr Blair, let's be hearing more of the same.
Alasdair Allan, 54b Vatisker, Isle of Lewis.
THE last time I heard mass hysteria of the kind that emanated from Oban was when some poor itinerant swan ended up in Cellardyke harbour in Fife. Then what ensued was a lot of hot air about avian flu. This time it was a whirlwind of fevered outpourings about the apocalypse which would arise should Scottish independence ever be attained by those nasty Nationalists (forgetting that independence can only be achieved by the consent of the Scottish people – not by the actions of one political party). Alas, like the poor swan in Cellardyke, Scottish Labour is dead in the water – the poor souls just haven't realised it yet. For people who claim to be in control, methinks they do protest too much.
Donnie MacNeill, 65 Pentland Park, Livingston.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:14 AM
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The Scottish National Party holds an eight-point lead over Labour in a poll commissioned by Labour itself, the biggest gap registered by recent surveys. It suggests that, if the findings are translated into results at the ballot box next May, the Nationalists would win nine seats more than Labour, and be in the driving seat to form a new coalition administration.
The private poll, carried out by independent research company Populus, found Labour lagging eight points adrift of the SNP on both the constituency and the regional votes. One analysis of those figures suggests Labour would lose 14 of the 50 seats it holds, while the SNP would gain as many as 18 seats, on top of the 27 it won in 2003.
The information was leaked to The Herald in the wake of another worrying poll published in a newspaper yesterday, which put the SNP five points clear of its main rival on both votes. A confidential warning from a senior Labour strategist says that the party's polling position is "bleak" and "a major concern".
Posted by Joe Middleton at 3:16 PM
Referendum on Self-determination (PE1014)
The Convener: Our next petition is PE1014, by Neil Caple, on behalf of Independence First. It calls on the Scottish Parliament to consider and debate what moves it could make to ensure the early presentation to the people of Scotland of a referendum on self-determination. Before being formally lodged, the petition was hosted on the e-petition system, where it gathered 1,333 signatures and 132 discussion comments.
Do members have any suggestions on how we should deal with this petition?
Ms White: First, I ask whether there is anyone here to present the petition. I note that Neil Caple wanted to make a statement to the committee. Did he subsequently say that he did not want to come along?
The Convener: No. I did not ask him. The petition is straightforward and there was no requirement for him to come along and give additional information. The petition speaks for itself.
Ms White: I am not challenging that. I am just asking the question because Mr Caple ticked the box on the form to show that he wanted to come and make a statement to the committee. I thought that perhaps he was ill. I did not know whether he was here.
The Convener: Almost all petitioners tick the box, but I have to decide whether they are required to come and give additional information. Because Mr Caple's petition is fairly straightforward, there is no requirement for him to come and give additional information.
Ms White: I was just asking for clarification. The situation has arisen on numerous occasions and I always ask why there is no one here. I accept your explanation. I might not agree with it, but it has clarified the matter for me.
As the petition states, independence would be down to the Westminster Government, [the petition did not state any such thing and this is not the case it is up to the Scottish people to decide when and if we want independence JOE] but the Scottish Parliament has the power to consider the matter and, in particular, to set up a referendum.
Professor Munro, professor of constitutional law at the University of Edinburgh, said:
"You have to make the distinction between the reserved powers and what parliament can debate and discuss ... there is nothing to stop the parliament arranging to hold a referendum, because that would not involve a change in the law."
That view was confirmed by the Labour-dominated House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, which reported: "constitutional matters are reserved but it is hard to see how the Scottish Parliament could be prevented from holding a referendum on independence".
I recommend that we ask the Scottish Executive for its view on the petition.
The Convener: I will make my position clear, Sandra, as you made yours clear. Starting next April, we will have a debate called an election. Political parties will stand for election and some of them will stand on their proposal to hold a referendum on independence. If the outcome is that those parties win, they will be able to take up the issue and debate it where it requires to be debated. However, the present Scottish Executive does not support independence. I do not see why the Parliament should use time to debate something that will be debated next April. The petition is about publicising an event that the petitioner wants to take place after the election. I think that we should let the election take place and debate the matter after that.
Campbell Martin: This might come as a surprise to you, convener, but I do not agree with you. I agree to a certain extent—I hope that the matter will be settled next May, but I hope that we will have a pro-independence majority in the Parliament at that time. With the greatest respect, you are being a wee bit disingenuous in that people do not vote only on the constitutional issue. We know that they vote on a range of issues rather than on a single issue. The petitioners are asking for all the other issues to be stripped out, leaving a simple question.
The referendum would not be only on independence; it would also be on Scotland's continuation in the British union. In the 300 years of the British union, the people of Scotland—supposedly the sovereign power in Scotland—have never been asked the question, "Do you want Scotland to remain within the British union, or would you like independence?"
It would be a two-way thing. You would think that if both sides were confident of winning, both would be happy to hold such a referendum, but at the moment only the pro-independence side wants to have a referendum. The pro-British union side does not seem to want one. People will draw their own conclusions about why those on the pro-British union side do not want a referendum.
The petition asks the Scottish Executive to consider and debate what it could do
"to ensure the early presentation of a referendum".
We could at least, as we did with an earlier petition, seek the Scottish Executive's view on whether it can do anything with regard to such a referendum. Let us bear in mind the fact that Strathclyde Regional Council held a consultative referendum to determine what the people of Strathclyde wanted to do with Scotland's water.
If we are not scared of democracy and people power, I do not see why we should not ask people the question, and I do not see why the Scottish Parliament, the democratically elected Parliament of Scotland, should not play a part in doing that. Let us therefore do as the petitioners request and ask the Executive whether it considers that it can do anything to facilitate such a referendum, and what its position would be.
Jackie Baillie: I have always believed that clarity and transparency are essential in politics, so to hear some of the disingenuous comments that have been made is quite amusing. I do not intend to debate the terms of the petition. I simply say that, at the most recent, and very democratic, opportunity that people had to voice an opinion on the matter—the general election—the share of the vote for parties supporting independence dropped substantially. That might be an uncomfortable fact, but it is a fact nonetheless. I think that we should await May with interest.
In the meantime, I recommend that, as legislation in this area is reserved, and as people had an opportunity at the general election to do something about it and chose not to, we should agree to note and close the petition.
Helen Eadie: I second that. Clearly, the petitioners could lobby Westminster parliamentarians. I am never surprised—because it is the usual suspects who bring such petitions to the Parliament—that, although such people know that they could lobby Westminster members, they simply refuse to do so. Instead, they choose to use the option of petitioning the Scottish Parliament. This Parliament has powers to hold referendums on devolved matters but, as Jackie Baillie has pointed out, self-determination could be regarded as requiring a change in the constitution, so it is a matter for the United Kingdom Parliament. I whole-heartedly support what Jackie Baillie and the convener have said.
Mr Gordon: I have always supported Scotland's right to self-determination. It might well be that some kind of referendum will be held one day. The petition is quite interestingly worded, as it refers to "the early presentation of a referendum".
If that scenario were to unfold, a referendum ought to be held sooner rather than later. It is interesting to note that the Scottish National Party has been careful to say in Parliament that it might take quite a while to have a referendum on self-determination. The reason why I would support an early referendum, if such a scenario were to unfold, is that the uncertainty that would result if it took a number of years to get to that stage could damage our nation's economy. I worry about the example of Quebec. I have seen the economic damage that was done to Quebec by having what was, in effect, a never-ending referendum.
I am certainly not afraid of democracy and I do not oppose self-determination, but I am above all a practical person and I came to this Parliament to do things, not to indulge in grandstanding. The wishes of the petitioner could easily be met. We could have a debate about a referendum if the SNP used some of its parliamentary time for that. I support the recommendation.
The Convener: We know Sandra White's position. Is she going to tell us something startling—that she does not support independence?
Ms White: I was going to speak to the petition. I thought that we were here to do that, rather than to grandstand. The issue will be decided at the election. I am not talking about the SNP, Labour or any other party—I am speaking to the petition. I do not even know Mr Caple. The comments of Helen Eadie and others were pretty disingenuous. The Scottish Parliament has a Public Petitions Committee and people are within their rights to bring any petition before it.
The Convener: That is why we are discussing the petition.
Ms White: That is why I am speaking to it. I am not grandstanding on any political issue. As Campbell Martin said, the petitioner is calling on the Parliament to
"debate what moves it could make to ensure the early presentation of a referendum on self determination to the people of Scotland."
The outcome of that early referendum could be that the people of Scotland want or do not want independence. The petitioner is asking only for the issue to be determined by the people of Scotland—there is nothing in the petition about what the outcome should be. As I have already mentioned, the professor of constitutional law at the University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Affairs Select Committee have said that there is no legal reason that would prevent the Scottish Parliament from setting the format for a referendum. That is the issue that the petition addresses.
I recommend that we write to the Scottish Executive and seek its views on the mechanism that it would use. That is a sensible suggestion that does what the petition asks for. I have no doubt that it will not be accepted, but I will make it anyway.
The Convener: The organisation that submitted the petition is called Independence First, which hardly indicates that it takes a neutral position on the outcome of the referendum that it seeks. If it seeks a referendum, there is an opportunity for that referendum to take place following next year's election. Different political parties will have different platforms. Some will argue that a vote for them amounts to a vote for independence in a referendum and that the question of independence should be decided by the outcome of the election. The platform of some parties will be that there should be a referendum at some point in the distant future, whereas others will take the position that they are totally opposed to a referendum. At the moment, it is the will of the Parliament not to have a referendum—that has been clearly stated.
Mr Gordon: The petition is asking us to debate how we might have a referendum. I am making the practical point that Sandra White could give effect to the petitioner's wishes by having her party group request such a debate in its allocation of parliamentary time. The SNP can do that tomorrow, if it wants. The petitioner is asking us not to hold a referendum but to have a debate.
The Convener: I was going to conclude on that point. At the moment, the Executive has clearly ruled out holding a referendum. Regardless of whether it is legally permissible for the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum, the Executive has said clearly that it will not happen while it is in government.
Ms White: Does that mean that we cannot get an answer on the petition?
The Convener: No. Political parties in the Parliament that wish to hold a referendum could have the matter debated, but it has been made absolutely clear that the Scottish Executive will not have it debated. There is no point in our writing to the Executive in order that the Executive may tell us exactly what we already know.
Campbell Martin: I refer to the wording of the petition. It calls on the Scottish Parliament
"to consider and debate what moves it could make to ensure the early presentation of a referendum".
It says "could", not "would". The petition is asking us to ask the Scottish Executive what the legal position on holding a referendum is. It is not asking what the Executive's position is.
Jackie Baillie: Irrespective of the merits of any petition, the Public Petitions Committee is not a posting box that passes petitions on to others without first considering them substantially. I have made a recommendation. We should now decide what we want to do, irrespective of the Scottish Executive's view.
The Convener: Jackie Baillie has recommended that we note and close the petition. I do not think that we will get any further by continuing to debate it. If we vote on Jackie's proposal, Sandra White can choose to support or not to support it. We do not need amendments to a straightforward proposal.
Ms White: I do not have an amendment. What about the recommendation that I made? You could vote against that—I presume you will, anyway.
The Convener: What is your recommendation?
Ms White: My recommendation is to write to the Scottish Executive and ask what its legal position is on a referendum.
The Convener: Okay. I think that we should deal with Jackie Baillie's proposal. If her proposal to note and close the petition has the support of the majority of the committee, that will be the committee's decision on the petition. If Jackie Baillie's proposal is not agreed to, I will then take Sandra White's proposal and we can decide whether to take the matter to the Executive.
The question is, that the Public Petitions Committee notes and closes consideration of petition. Are we agreed?
The Convener: There will be a division.
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)Eadie, Helen (Dunfermline East) (Lab)Gordon, Mr Charlie (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab)McMahon, Michael (Hamilton North and Bellshill) (Lab)Munro, John Farquhar (Ross, Skye and Inverness West) (LD)Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Kane, Rosie (Glasgow) (SSP) Martin, Campbell (West of Scotland) (Ind)White, Ms Sandra (Glasgow) (SNP)
The Convener: The result of the division is: For 6, Against 3, Abstentions 0.
It is agreed that we will note and close consideration of petition PE1014.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:05 PM
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Headline should have been 'Blair turns his guns on Scotland' rather than Salmond effectively he is saying we are incapable of running our own affairs which is absurd when many small countries are out performing the UK. As for his figures, I don't believe a word.
The Labour Government lied about our prospects in the 70's as has been conclusively proved so why on earth should we believe them now?
Your scaremongering about ID cards and blatant lies that they will help against terrorism are pathetic particularly when your own Home Office admits that this is completely untrue.
YOU have ignored international law by declaring war on Iraq with the US and without the backing of the security council.
The people who built the once proud Labour party must be turning in their graves.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:19 PM
British Prime Minister Tony Blair today mounted a desperate all-out assault on the economic case for independence as polls showed Labour heading for a mauling at May's Holyrood elections.
Two polls by YouGov - one commissioned by the Daily Telegraph and the other by the SNP - showed Labour losing seats.
The Telegraph poll suggested that Labour would remain the biggest single party, but down nine seats on its 2003 performance and well short of a majority. The SNP said their poll figures if translated into seats, would give them a 13 seat lead over Labour.
Mr Blair's attack on the Nationalists came in an article in The Scotsman ahead of the Scottish Labour party conference in Oban, which the Prime Minister will address tomorrow. In a sign of the seriousness with which Labour views the SNP threat, First Minister Jack McConnell has publicly warned his party that Nationalists could win in May.
Mr Blair's article concentrated on the economic aspects of the independence argument.
He recalled that in their opposition years he and Gordon Brown had set much store on establishing Labour's economic credibility to win the trust of voters.
"As I'll be making clear in Oban tomorrow, I think the same obligations should be placed on a party which wants to break up a successful partnership and march Scotland off on its own," he said.
"The SNP needs to show how Scotland's economy will gain from such a move and show how it will fund its promises. Not for the first time, they fail this test."
On the SNP's figures, said Mr Blair, there was a £10 billion difference between money spent in Scotland and tax raised. "That's £4,000 for every family in Scotland met from the UK Exchequer," he said. That represented a simple recognition that it cost more to provide the same services and infrastructure in areas with scattered populations, he said.
"But break up the UK however, then this Union dividend disappears. "So before the SNP start to explain how they are gong to find the £1.7 billion needed to write off student debt or the additional £1.4 billion to fund the promised cut in corporation tax, they had better explain how the £10 billion shortfall is going to be met."
On the Telegraph poll figures, Labour are running at 32% in the constituency vote (down 7% on 2003) and 29% on the list vote (down 5%)
The SNP are level-pegging at 32% in the constituency vote (up 3%) and are slightly behind Labour in the list vote at 28% (no change).
The Liberal Democrats are running at 15% in the constituency vote (up 1%) and 16% in the list vote (up 3%) while the Tories are running at 16% in the constituency vote (no change) and 17% in the list vote (up 1%).
Poll expert Professor John Curtice said the figures would translate into 41 seats for Labour, 37 for the SNP, 20 for the Liberal Democrats, 19 for the Tories, 9 for the Greens, and three for others.
On independence, the Telegraph poll suggests that in a referendum, 50% would vote in favour of keeping the present Scottish Parliament while 31% would vote for Scotland to be "a completely separate state" outside the UK but within the EU.
[typical poll brings in the EU question to divide the pro indy vote - JOE]
The SNP poll, however, puts the Nationalists on 36% in the constituency vote and 30% in the regional vote, Labour on 29% and 26%, the Tories on 14% and 15%, the Liberal Democrats on 16% and 15%, and the Greens at 8% on the list vote.
Nationalists said that translated into 49 SNP seats, 36 Labour, 16 Tories, 17 LibDems, six Greens, and minority far-left parties reduced from six seats to one.
SNP leader Alex Salmond said: "This poll is great news for the SNP and awful news for the Labour Party on the eve of their Scottish conference this weekend.
"It is also the first poll published which shows that we are on track to meet our target of twenty additional first past the post seats next May. The SNP now have forwards momentum as Labour's support across Scotland is disappearing like snow off a dyke."
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:09 AM
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Honours 'have always been sold'
Tuesday, 21 Nov 2006 11:07
A former Labour minister has criticised the police probe into the loans for peerages row as "absurd", saying the sale of honours has always gone on and always will. Frank Field said although political parties selling peerages was a "nuisance", the public had tolerated it for 200 years and most would not consider Scotland Yard's investigations a "sensible deployment of police resources".
The Metropolitan police are investigating claims that Labour and the Conservatives offered wealthy businessmen honours in return for secret loans. Both parties deny any wrongdoing and no charges have yet been brought. Last week, assistant commissioner John Yates told MPs he had uncovered "significant and valuable material" in his probe, and expected to provide the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) with a file in January.
His comments were welcomed by the Scottish National Party (SNP) as proof of the seriousness of the investigation – the SNP's complaint earlier this year, which prompted the probe, had been dismissed by critics as political opportunism. However, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Field, a former social security minister, said the selling of honours "needs to be seen in context".
"It has always gone on and probably always will. Most people know that for the best part of two centuries that honours were appropriated by money," he told the newspaper. 'In the 18th century honours and cash for political parties were in effect the constitution. It is a different relationship now. But of course it is still going on today. "If the voters were pushed, or had a say, I am sure they would not agree that this is a sensible deployment of police resources. The amount of police effort being expended on this is ridiculous."
Mr Field said allegations about parties selling honours were a "publicity stunt" but the police took it seriously "and they should not have done so". A recent analysis by Conservative organisation the Bow Group found large Labour donors were 1,600 times more likely to receive an honour than non-donors. All in all, people giving more than £50,000 to the party had a 50-50 chance of getting an honour.
[Unfortunately for Field and Labour it may well have gone on for years but is in fact illegal. This is a last desperate throw of the dice, 'yes of course we're guilty but who cares'. Blair is guilty and deserves to be prosecuted for his crimes. JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:13 AM
Monday, November 20, 2006
It's obvious that this executive does not want to ask the people of Scotland whether or not they want independence because they know they won't like the answer.
Of course they may well get another answer that they won't like either in 2007.
Well over two million people in Scotland support independence according to the polls. That's probably twice the amount required to win a general election for the independence cause.
It's down to us, if we want independence then we will get it and there is nothing this executive can do to stop it. As support for the union declines the parties who support it are becoming more and more irrelevant.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 4:56 PM
Friday, November 17, 2006
The SNP was today the target of a sustained attack from defence secretary Des Browne over its defence and foreign policy. That policy amounted to the Nationalists simply saying "it's not our fight" on matters ranging from a global terrorism to combating the opium poppy trade in Afghanistan, he claimed. [Which is true, it's not! JOE]
Mr Browne launched his attack in a speech to Labour activists in Glasgow, where he accused the SNP of wanting Scotland to move apart in a world becoming every closer. "They want to remove Scotland from Nato and to cut off the Scottish people from an alliance that is a force for good in the world," he said. [By threatening the rest of the world with nuclear annihiliation? Great! It's a Nuclear alliance the SNP is against Nuclear weapons. Trident is a complete waste of money why on earth would Scotland want to be part of this imperial fantasy club?]
Mr Browne went on to defend the Nato presence in Afghanistan, and urged resolve to see that mission through. "The Afghan people, our own people, and the Taliban are watching us," he said.
"If we are indecisive or divided, the Taliban will be strengthened just as all of the others despair." [The SNP actually supported this action so this is a typical lie from Labour]
Mr Brown said that under a "separatist" SNP government, Scotland would not be part of the international effort in Afghanistan - and the party's foreign policy implied Scotland could "hide" from the reality of international terrorism. [separatist, yawn! if this means we might disagree with the US and the English rump state then he's probably right, we would and should. Sooking up to Bush won't help Scotland internationally.]
"The idea that a Scotland separated from the UK would be safer from the terrorist threat rests on the false assumption that it is the UK's foreign policy that has made us a target," said Mr Browne. [Bingo! That's exactly what HAS happened. It IS the UK's foreign policy that has made Scotland a target, we have no interest in invading Iraq or anywhere else.]
"The SNP are dishonest if they pretend to the Scottish people that by taking Scotland out of the UK and out of Nato they can protect the Scottish people from global terrorism. "They know as well as any political party that in today's world there is no guaranteed protection from terrorism." [Threatening other states and invading other nations is an excellent way to make the situation much worse. Maybe Scotland would call for a GENUINE resolution of the Israeli/Palestininan conflict rather than cheering on the Isrealis and funding their illegal operations and murder of civilians.]
Mr Browne went on to accuse the SNP of seeking to make political capital out of Iraq and said: "I respect the opinions of those who opposed the war and their right to voice them.
"Let me say this - if the question is the rights and wrongs of the action in Iraq, the answer isn't Scottish independence.
"If the problem is stability in the Middle East, a border between Scotland and England is not the solution. "If the objective is bringing peace to Iraq, breaking up the United Kingdom isn't going to achieve it." [It could be an excellent step in the right direction towards a saner policy in the middle east, Britain has imperial ambitions which it no longer requires and are dangerous to Scotland, that's the reality.]
He said that while world leaders at the G8 conference in Gleneagles last year signed a historic deal to make poverty history, the SNP had complained about who was paying for the policing in Perthshire - another example of their "not our fight" attitude. [the G8 could have done a lot more and it was an insult to hold the meeting here when our country ie Scotland was not represented at the talks because our parliament has no powers on foreign policy.]
"I believe that Scotland and the UK should fight tyranny, should fight poverty and play our part in taking on terrorism," said Mr Browne. [Has this man read George Orwell?!]
"Scotland's partnership in the UK makes us punch above our weight when when stand up for what we believe in on the world stage. [More like we don't punch AT ALL.]
"Alex Salmond believes we shouldn't even pull our weight in the international community.
"We believes we should stand apart, watching the world from a distance and hoping it next comes near us." [He actually believes we should have a seperate national foreign policy and we definitely need one to save more of our soldiers dying in quagmires like Iraq.]
Nationalists hit back by demanding an apology from Mr Browne over his department's "continued failure" to stand up for Scottish interests. The SNP said 4,800 defence-related jobs had been lost in Scotland since 1997, and Labour's policies in Iraq and the Trident nuclear missile system would damage Scotland.
"The SNP will not be taking any lessons from this minister, flown up on public money to make a party political lecture to Scots," said SNP shadow defence minister Angus Robertson.
"Under Labour almost 2,200 MoD jobs have been lost in Scotland, in addition to over 2,600 in shipyard jobs.
"On top of this, eight military bases and two supply depots have either been run-down or closed under this failing administration."
Mr Robertson said the MoD employed 10,000 fewer civilian and service personnel than Scotland's population share warranted, and spent ?420 million less in procurement.
"The evidence is clear. In terms of lost jobs and defence spending, Scotland suffers as part of the UK," he said.
"All this is in addition to Labour's dangerous and unwanted plans for a new nuclear weapons system on the Clyde to replace Trident, and their continued pursuit of the war in Iraq."
[This really is a steaming pile of cr*p from Labour. It is Tony Blair and his illegal Iraq war against imaginary weapons of mass destruction which has made Britain a target of international terrorists who have come to believe that the West is waging a war against their culture and religion and are trying to steal their oil.
Britain want us to 'share the pain' of their foreign policy which basically entails sucking up to George Bush without any benefits to Scotland whatsoever. Scotland is an energy rich country we don't need to interfere in the affairs of other nations in the middle east and we don't want to either. Scotland does not have an imagined post imperial role nor do we want to share in an American empire.
We need our own seat in the UN and our own independent foreign policy. NATO is a nuclear alliance and the SNP is absolutely right to want no part of it. - JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 12:54 PM
Sandra White, the SNP MSP for the Glasgow region, had wanted to find out ministers' views on the matter. She insisted: "I think the Scottish Parliament does have the powers to look at this, setting up a referendum. There's nothing to stop the Scottish Parliament arranging for a referendum because that would not involve a change in the law."
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:16 AM
Thursday, November 16, 2006
While most people would say no, after all we live in a secular democracy, have freedom of speech and are not physically intimidated from raising our political voice, in a very real way the answer is yes. That is in our 'national' media where the Scottish independence cause is given the lowest possible priority.
Yesterday MSP's on the public petitions committee decided to ignore over 1300 people who petitioned them on an independence referendum. The petition itself was deliberately ignored by the media with the Press Association not even acknowledging it's existence while it was running.
Despite this the referendum campaign group Independence First still managed to get around ten times the numbers of their own membership to sign this document.
Those 1300 actually represent a much larger amount, just over over 2 and a half million people, over 50% of our population who actually support independence for Scotland. Now as Press Officer for the campaign I am hardly unbiased but surely the disenfranchisement of over half the population is a story which is worth reporting?!
The reasons given for the rejection of the epetition ranged from lies (it was claimed by a Labour MSP that independence support had fallen at the last election, this is untrue, SNP support fell but the overall amount of independence supporting MSP's went up) to deliberate obstinacy. An election is around the corner, the people can vote for independence then.
In fact independence support crosses all parties and includes people from the traditional unionist parties (top Tory Michael Fry recently anounced his conversion) and a large percentage of Labour supporters support independence as do voters for the Lib Dems. All the Scottish based parties, the SNP, SSP, Solidarity and the Greens all support independence as do numerous small parties and groups.
Elections to any parliament are based on a wide range of issues. Independence is one of those issues but we cannot guarantee that the election will give any kind of clear indication on support for independence.
Since the clear indication is from opinion polls that support for the union is now in the minority it is a simple matter of democracy that the people of Scotland must be asked directly if they want the union to continue or not. Obviously this executive hope that they can ignore this issue and it will go away particulary if the press can be convinced to completely ignore it or treat it as a footnote.
The Press Association covered the issue yesterday but almost every newspaper has completely ignored it. What a disgrace, the Scots ARE an oppressed nation but because of our biased media, they don't realise it yet.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:12 AM
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Michael Fry is a historian and the author of "The Union: England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707" (Birlinn)
The latest opinion poll in Scotland shows a slim majority, 51 per cent, now supporting independence. No need to get too excited, perhaps. We have been here before. The last time was in 1998, when the imminent resurrection of the parliament in Edinburgh brought support for independence to 56 per cent on a wave of nationalist euphoria.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 3:14 PM
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Brown to ‘lower bar’ for race-hate law
By James Cusick, Westminster Editor (Sunday Herald)
The promise by Gordon Brown to revisit Britain’s race-hate laws is further evidence that the Cabinet and Tony Blair already regard the chancellor as Britain’s prime minister-elect.
Following the acquittal of the British National Party chairman, Nick Griffin, and the party’s publicity chief, Mark Collett, on charges of stirring up race hate, Brown has already alerted senior Cabinet colleagues and advisers to begin preparing the legal ground for a “resurrection” of measures that the government failed to push through parliament earlier this year.
One ministerial adviser said: “The bar was raised to ensure there would only be limited prosecutions in special cases. With the acquittal of the two BNP men, we now know this was a mistake. The remedy is simple. We will simply lower the bar again.”
Brown has already said that the preaching of religious of racial hatred offends mainstream opinion in Britain. “We have got to do what we can to root it out, from whatever quarter it comes. If that means we have to look at the laws again, we will have to do so.”
Given Brown’s new-found authority in his co-premiership with Blair, his call to arms to revisit the contents of the failed bill from February this year is already being met with action.
The February bill was watered down following a campaign led by the comedian and actor Rowan Atkinson, who claimed the original planned legislation would effectively outlaw even the most basic religious joke.
The government had wanted a tougher law to protect offences against Christians and Muslims,
who are not accounted for in laws which focus on specific protection.
After the effective Atkinson campaign, which resulted in the Lords rejecting the government’s plans, the likelihood of a successful criminal prosecution was limited by making only “threatening” words or behaviour, not abusive or insulting remarks, a fully criminal offence.
Prosecutions would be brought only if there was a case to answer on an intent to stir up hatred. “Recklessness” would be deemed insufficient for a guilty verdict.
After the failure of the Griffin- Collett case, those close to the process claimed it had been a politically motivated action, doomed to failure and was likely to turn Griffin into a freedom fighter and hero-martyr.
If Brown does indeed revisit the law and attempts to set the bar lower in race-hate cases, he may have the parliamentary power to do so. A full three-line whip, even with a marginal Labour rebellion, could be enough.
The government lost the full force of its bill earlier this year due to a mis calculation by the whips, who allowed 15 Scottish Labour MPs to miss the Commons vote.
However, it remains certain that rights campaigners will again mount another campaign to keep the law as it stands, regardless of the Griffin case, in which the BNP men were secretly filmed as they addressed a meeting calling Islam “a wicked, vicious faith”.
The backbench Labour rebellion may also be lessened if Brown focuses on the potential of the BNP to take votes away from Labour.
John Cruddas, who will be a deputy leadership contender when John Prescott steps down with Tony Blair, said people in Labour’s heartland political territory were losing hope and turning to the BNP in protest at events in mainstream UK politics.
Cruddas, a former Downing Street adviser, said the debate over Muslim veils, the language of the war on terror and “tough” talk on immigration had made things worse and “played into the hands of the extremists”.
12 November 2006
[The British Government are total hypocrites. Their own dubious remarks on race issues are causing a rise in support for lunatic neo-fascist groups like the BNP. Removing the right to free speech and daft laws outlawing criticism of religion (which frankly needs more criticism not less) will not help. Let's have independence soon and remove ourselves from this regime of incompetents. JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 4:43 PM
Straw is quoted as saying: “Historically, England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among others things, of amplifying England's power worldwide. And the reverse would certainly be true. A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interests of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.
He adds "Our [England’s] voting power in the European Union would diminish. We'd slip down in the world league GDP tables. Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN.” [security council]
We should perhaps be grateful to Straw for his honesty. What he is effectively saying is that countries like Scotland and Wales are expected to give up their unique voices in the international community so England can enjoy ‘amplified’ ie undeserved international status.
The case for union then is simple if, like Gordon Brown, you support England’s interests over Scotland’s then as Straw says there is an excellent case for retention of the union because it was designed to amplify England’s voice and it still does today. If however you support Scotland’s right to have our unique voice heard then the only logical choice is independence.
Independence is of course now the most popular constitutional option for the Scottish people. This has became more and more obvious since devolution has been established and is part of a consistent trend of upwards support for independence.
It is obvious that the Scottish parliament has not got strong enough powers to get to grips with the Scottish economy or to tackle issues like immigration or defence. Most people in Scotland want more powers for their parliament and the only way those powers will be delivered is by voting for independence.
Return to direct rule from London is not a possibility and therefore support for independence has soared. This trend was the main reason behind the formation of the non party-political referendum campaign, Independence First (http://www.independence1st.com).
Analysts may wonder why independence support dwarfs SNP support. It’s simply that the independence movement has grown larger than the SNP. A great many groups now supportindependence. The Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity all support independence, as do smaller parties such as the Free Scotland Party, the Scottish Independence Party, the Scottish Enterprise Party and the Communist Party of Scotland.
The Celtic League, the James Connolly Society, the SRSM and others also support independence. All these organisations also support Independence First and its call for a democratic referendum for the people of Scotland.
The diverse organisations supporting IF were on display at our successful rally on 30 September this year. We also ran an e-petition on the Scottish Parliament’s website which attracted over 1400 signatures. We are currently waiting — though hardly with bated breath — to see how far this petition will go through the unionist-controlled Parliament. Whatever the fate of this particular endeavour, with opinion polls showing a majority in favour, a referendum on independence will happen eventually.
Britain’s motto has always been “divide and conquer”, and, in the past, the Scottish independence cause has been divided, with various factions attempting to fight for control of the SNP. Nowadays, although there are many more groups supporting independence, those who believe in independence are more united than ever before.
Groups, like IF and the new Scottish Independence Convention, have allowed the independence movement room to breathe and the opportunity to properly prioritise the independence cause.
While the Independence Convention is aimed at resolving potential tactical differences between the Scottish parties and designing a constitution for an independent Scotland, Independence First is attempting to maximise support for independence by uniting the Scottish people around our campaign for a democratic referendum.
Anyone who supports independence would also support a referendum on it. While some might be uncertain if such a referendum could be won at this time, all have accepted that there is no other route to independence and that, after devolution, the public would logically expect a further vote, on an even bigger constitutional change.
The fact that Scottish politics is now equally divided between Westminster elections and the Scottish elections has focused the media more on Scotland, despite the papers remaining largely unionist-orientated and hostile to the arguments for independence. (That not one of the major newspapers reflects majority public opinion on this issue is a cause for concern in our supposedly democratic society.) Nonetheless, this increased focus on Scottish politics has undoubtedly helped the Scottish-based parties, and these Scottish-based parties all favour independence.
Even at the last election, while the SNP's vote fell sharply, the overall level of independence support and the number of independence-supporting MSPs actually increased.
The smaller parties tend to be marginalised in UK-wide opinion polls and, even in Scottish polls, with a margin of error of ± 3% it is pretty much impossible to determine exactly what the vote for the Greens or the SSP is likely to be.
What we do know is that these parties tend to poll higher than their opinion poll results, and we also know that the SNP's support is much higher than ever before. The new parties, like the right-of-centre Scottish Enterprise Party, or the anti-EU Free Scotland Party or Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party, may well pick up further votes for independence as well.
The possibility is there then for a pro-independence coalition which could project Scotland to independence.
Independence First has achieved a number of important objectives in the last year.
Firstly, we have clarified the position of the UK and Scottish governments on constitutional matters relating to referendums. We recently wrote to both the UK government and the Scottish Parliament asking for a democratic referendum for the people of Scotland on independence.
The Scottish Parliament responded: "Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998 defines matters reserved to the UK Parliament. [According to this] the government of the United Kingdom is responsible for considering fundamental changes to the devolution framework."
The Scottish Office in London stated: "... the UK Parliament is sovereign and it is for Parliament to decide whether to hold a referendum on any particular issue — and what the terms should be."
Obviously the Scottish Parliament wants to pass the buck, while Westminster does not recognise Scotland's proper constitutional position. In England, Parliament may be sovereign, but in Scotland and Scottish law it is generally recognised that it is the people of Scotland who have the right to decide their own destiny.
It makes logical sense that any referendum on independence for Scotland should be organised here by our devolved parliament and the UK Government approached to dissolve the union after a vote in favour of independence by the people of Scotland.
Secondly, we have united the independence movement behind our campaign, and we are expanding fast. We are launching a new branch in Glasgow later this month and we already have branches in place in Dundee and Edinburgh.
Thirdly, we have came up with a structure which will be resistant to any attempt by British unionists to undermine it by playing on political differences. IF have decided that since no important political objectives can be achieved without independence we will not argue about political issues before then.
Beyond independence, Independence First has no policies whatsoever: we believe any decisions on the EU or the monarchy or anything else must be made by our national parliament after independence. This non-political position means we are flexible enough to include every single political group and individual who supports independence for Scotland.
Our ultimate task is a big one, it is to encourage a massive groundswell of people on the scale of Scotland United to demand a referendum as a matter of urgency. We have calculated that around a million Scots voters need to vote for independence in both the first and second ballets to win an election. Current opinion polls shows over half the people of Scotland already support independence and a further substantial chunk are undecided.
We believe one million votes is well within the independence movement's grasp. We also believe that once the Scottish people realise just how close independence potentially is then they will vote for it en masse next year.
Joe Middleton, Media Officer, Independence First
Posted by Joe Middleton at 4:06 PM
Monday, November 13, 2006
By Tom Hundley
EDINBURGH, Scotland - After 299 years of marriage, Scotland is thinking about a divorce.
Perhaps it's just a passing midlife crisis, but two new polls found that for the first time a majority of Scots say they would prefer independence to remaining part of Britain.
In an ICM poll published this month by The Scotsman newspaper, 51 percent of Scots said they favored independence and 39 percent said they preferred keeping things as they are. Ten percent were undecided.
Another poll, conducted for The Sunday Times newspaper by YouGov, found that 44 percent of Scots favored independence and 42 percent were against. The number favoring independence has nearly doubled since 2000, when YouGov asked the same question.
"This is hugely significant," said Angus Nicholson, a member of the Scottish National Party, which is dedicated to Scottish independence.
Nicholson, a local councilor from a rural district in the Outer Hebrides, attributed the surge in separatist sentiment to a combination of disenchantment with Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor government and a real yearning for independence.
"We'd like to see a Scotland that stands on its own two feet, not blaming anybody else when things go wrong," he said.
What is officially known today as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland first came into being in 1707, with the Act of Union between England and Scotland. Since 1999, however, Scotland has enjoyed a kind of quasi-independent status after it was granted a parliament of its own and control over most of its internal affairs under a process called devolution.
Many politicians and analysts thought devolution would put an end to calls for full independence. Instead, a taste of self-governance seems to have left the Scots hungry for more.
Although they number only 5 million, Scots have long had a powerful sense of national identity, something the English, who represent 83 percent of Britain's 60 million citizens, have generally lacked.
The Scottish identity is unusual in that it is not based primarily on a shared ethnicity, language, culture or religion.
"It's territorial," said David McCrone, a political scientist at the University of Edinburgh. "A lot of it is defined by the map of Scotland. The Scots are people who live in Scotland. It is more of a civic identity."
When researchers recently asked Scots how they identify themselves, 2 out of 3 said "Scottish, not British," or "more Scottish than British." Similar surveys in England produce much more ambiguous responses.
"Britishness has to do with war, the threat of invasion, religion - mainly anti-Catholicism - and empire. When none of these factors is present, Britishness begins to lose its pull," said Neal Ascherson, a Scottish writer who was born in Edinburgh and lives in London.
"The ruling class, those who went to the same (elite) public schools, spoke with the same cut-glass accents and belonged to the same clubs - they were Homo Britannicus. And it was in the 1960s, when Britain emerged from its postwar torpor, that Homo Britannicus began to disappear," he said.
In his place, the English middle and working classes began to develop a sense of "English" identity. That first became apparent in 1997 with the death of Princess Diana when most mourners carried the English flag - the red and white cross of St. George - rather than the more familiar Union Jack.
Since then, English soccer fans have adopted the St. George's flag as their banner, and in the words of Ascherson, the Union Jack is now seen as "slightly naff," slang for tacky. Along with this burgeoning English nationalism has come a faint whiff of Scotophobia, fueled by gripes about excessive Scottish demands on the "English" treasury.
All of this is bad news for Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer and the man universally expected to become prime minister when Blair steps down sometime next year. Brown's thick Fifeshire accent immediately identifies him as a Scot.
In recent days, Brown has gone out of his way to emphasize his "Britishness." He even went so far as to declare his fealty to the English soccer team although most fans suspect he'd be hard-pressed to name the starting lineup.
The real problem is that under devolution, Brown and other Scottish members of Parliament can vote on legislation that applies to England and Wales but does not affect Scotland.
The Conservatives, whose electoral strength is in southern England, see that as a potential wedge issue.
"I'm beginning to think it is almost impossible now to have a Scottish prime minister because it would be at odds with the basic construct of the British constitution," Alan Duncan, a senior figure in the Conservative Party, recently told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Never mind the Scottish-sounding name, Duncan represents Rutland and Melton, a rural constituency well south of the border.
Until now, it has been easy to fudge this constitutional problem because the Labor Party controls both the Westminster Parliament and the Edinburgh Parliament. But in the not-so-unlikely event that Conservatives regain power in Westminster and the Scottish National Party takes control of the Scottish Parliament, the stage could be set for the big divorce.
"I would be very happy and proud to see an independent Scotland. I would happily apply for my Scottish passport," Ascherson said.
"But how would it come about? I don't think it's a matter of huge crowds gathering on (Edinburgh's) Princess Street, demanding freedom. More likely, it will result from an obscure squabble between the Scottish Parliament and the English treasury . . . and they will tell us, `Just go away,'" he said.
"I think it might all be rather inglorious," he said.
Divorce usually is.
© 2006, Chicago Tribune.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:23 AM
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Posted by Joe Middleton at 3:15 PM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Reinforcing the case for independence
Your Letters (Herald)
November 08 2006
THE latest ramblings from Tony Blair on why Scotland should not be independent reveal more arguments for independence. He declares that because we share a currency we shouldn't be independent – does that mean Germany and France are one country since they both share the euro?
He then goes on about sharing armed forces – yes, we've noticed how all the Scottish regiments were amalgamated and seem to serve more time fighting Blair's illegal wars than any other troops. Is he not aware that most people in Scotland are against wasting £25bn on a replacement for Trident?
And as for sharing a social security system – how is this a benefit when one in four pensioners are living in poverty yet the gap between the rich and the poor has increased since Blair and Brown took over?
So thanks, Tony, for reinforcing the argument for independence.
Kenny MacLaren, 2 Avondale Drive, Paisley.
It seems that sinister strings are already being pulled from above in the battle for Holyrood next year. After his mild remarks along the lines that independence might not mean the end of civilisation, Cardinal O'Brien pops up again after "briefings" with leading Labourites, to question the cost of taking our country back.
Then the supposedly neutral US Consul, Lucy Vickers, claims that an independence referendum would be held in 100 days of the SNP taking power. The only other figure claiming this is Tony Blair, so it is obvious where this nonsense comes from.
SNP policy is to publish a bill for a referendum within 100 days and to let people choose independence or not in a referendum after a national debate. Aren't the UK and US supposedly in Iraq and Afghanistan to establish exactly this type of freedom of choice?
What are they afraid of?
Gavin Fleming, 517 Webster's Land, Edinburgh.
[Good letters - JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 3:29 PM
Cardinal forced to reconsider home rule
Labour Party pressure on Cardinal Keith O'Brien to re-think his sympathetic views on independence appeared to have paid off yesterday.
The leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics stressed what he said would be "the tremendous amount of money" required for Scotland to split from the UK.
The comments follows several meetings with high-level Labour figures, including Chancellor Gordon Brown, and Jack McConnell, First Minister. There had been alarm in Labour ranks that the cardinal's comments last month, that he would be "happy" with independence if that is what people want and forecasting independence would come "before too long", could damage Labour.
Cardinal O'Brien said yesterday that the constitutional issue was not about morality: "There are reasons why Scotland could become independent, so politicians and the people have to weigh up other reasons why it should not be independent. "One thing is the tremendous amount of money which would have to be raised for an independent Scotland" he added.
[What a shameful sight, a religious leader effectively forced to recite Labour's typical scaremongering rubbish after making the obvious point that Scotland had a right to independence and that many other nations had flourished after doing so. Perhaps Gordon will go to hell for telling the Cardinal bare faced lies. As an atheist I doubt it but it would be appropriate. This is the man who says his favourite goal is Gazza's against Scotland, and yet he has the brass neck to bully the Cardinbal for telling the truth. A pity O'Brien didn't tell him to get st*ffed! JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:10 PM
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Scottish independence would be "disastrous" for Scots, Prime Minister Tony Blair said today.
And he said the "folly" of the SNP, and the advantages of Scotland's union with England, would become clear as public debated unfolded.
Mr Blair made the claim at his monthly Downing Street press conference, hard on the heels of an opinion poll which last week suggested 51% of Scots now favour independence.
The same poll put the SNP ahead of Labour in constituency voting intentions for next May's Holyrood elections.
Mr Blair said the poll showed people had to be persuaded of the case against independence.
"You have to engage with people, you have to persuade them - that's what politics is about," said Mr Blair.
The United Kingdom was of "enormous benefit" both to Scotland and England, through trading links, a common currency, and shared armed forces and social security systems.
"There are enormous benefits," said the Prime Minister.
"You rip Scotland out of the UK, which is the SNP policy, and you will lose those benefits and end up with an uncertain economic future with less power for people in Scotland to affect the big changes that are happening in the world."
He accused the SNP and others of claiming people could only be "truly Scottish" if they were arguing the case for independence.
"But that's rubbish - the question is, what is in the best interests of Scotland," said Mr Blair.
"And what's in the best interests of Scotland is to have a strong Scotland within the United Kingdom where you have the benefit of devolution."
That entailed devolved decision-making in areas like law and order, education and health while having the benefit - "as we do in England" - of being part of the UK.
Mr Blair, born and educated in Scotland, ducked a question about whether he considered himself Scottish.
"I don't particularly look at it that way or not because I have lived all my life in England," he said.
And Scots could be both Scottish and British, he went on, citing a speech by Chancellor Gordon Brown - "I actually think Gordon put it very well in his conference speech."
Mr Blair said: "This is the debate that's going to happen, and the great thing about the democratic process is that there is going to be an election and it's not going to be decided by an opinion poll - it's going to be decided by an election in Scotland."
He continued: "I think when you look at the issue of independence, the sensible way to resolve these things round the world today is to have a constitutional settlement in which the things that obviously should be decided down at the level of the Scottish Parliament are decided by them."
These, said Mr Blair, included health, education, schools and local government.
But he went on: "To end up having a separate Scottish currency, separate Scottish armed forces, separate Scottish economy when we are so integrated together would be disastrous for people.
"I think that when this debate progresses, it's not just that people will realise the folly of the SNP position.
"I think and I hope - this is up to us to make the argument - they will realise the positive benefits to the United Kingdom.
"Through the United Kingdom we are all stronger together - including in England, incidentally."
SNP leader Alex Salmond said later: "The more the Prime Minister attacks independence, the more popular it becomes. "I urge him to continue in a similar vein.
"Labour's negative smears and fears campaign simply isn't working in the face of the SNP's positive case for Scottish independence."
He also accused the Prime Minister of referring to the Scottish Parliament in a "derogatory" manner. "It was as if Mr Blair was addressing a town council rather than a national Parliament," he said. "The Prime Minister is obviously out of touch with public opinion in Scotland."
We already have the unvarnished truth on this from Blair's cabinet colleague Jack Straw. What they are really worried about is a decline in England's position after Scottish independence ie the loss of 'their' seat in the security council and 'their' place in the G8.
Scotland and Wales must stay silent internationally so glorious England can enjoy inflated international status that it doesn't deserve. Aye right!
Here it is: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/5388078.stm
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:19 PM
US consul questions wisdom of Scottish independence
By Paul Hutcheon, Scottish Political Editor
THE US government has made a dramatic intervention into Scottish politics after a senior diplomat said the Bush administration would “probably” prefer independence not to happen. [headline is misleading, probably is not a definite remark.] Lisa Vickers, the new US consul in Scotland, questioned the effect of separation on American energy firms and criticised the SNP’s anti-Nato policy. She also speculated about whether an independent Scotland would become a member of the European Union.
The official’s comments are controversial because independence looks set to be one of the key issues during next year’s Holyrood election campaign.
An opinion poll last week found a majority of Scots favoured breaking up Britain and revealed the SNP was ahead in the popular vote.
The Nationalists’ flagship policy is to hold a referendum on independence during their first four-year term in government. Their election hopes were boosted in recent weeks by a £100,000 donation from businessman Sir Tom Farmer and encouragement from the leader of Scotland’s Catholics, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who said he expected independence “before too long”.
But the independence debate has taken an unexpected turn in the light of the comments made by Vickers, the US government’s “voice” in Scotland.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, she said the US would “probably” prefer the UK to remain united and insisted there were “various elements” of the SNP’s independence policy that had not been fully explained.
“Would an independent Scotland be a member of Nato? They don’t know. [actually SNP policy is that they would leave] Would they be in the EU? They don’t know,” [again SNP policy is that they would remain in the EU] she said. “I don’t think the SNP is willing to say with 100% confidence and security that ‘this is what will happen with independence, and this is how you will be, and this is what will belong to you.’”
She added: “I think there are a lot of questions. And I think that, right now, there are not a lot of answers.”
Vickers also said the consequences of a “yes” vote in a plebiscite were unclear: “Even [the] referendum does not say definitely and conclusively, ‘if you vote for this referendum in this first 100 days, Scotland will be an independent nation again after a period of time’. That’s not what they are saying at all.” [the bill will be published within the first 100 days and the referendum will be held during the term of the parliament with a yes vote triggering independence]
In remarks likely to irk the SNP, Vickers claimed independence was not being seriously discussed by ordinary Scots.
“They may find that, as an article I read in the press a couple of weeks ago quoted, people are not sitting down to breakfast and hotly debating ‘should Scotland be independent?’. It’s sort of an idea in the back of the mind that comes up at cocktail parties,” she said.
However, her most pointed criticisms were reserved for the SNP’s defence policy, which is for an independent Scotland not to be a member of Nato.
The US consul said: “I don’t think it’s nearly that simple. I don’t think you just wake up one morning and say ‘we are going to pull out of Nato’. It doesn’t work like that. There are just so many different questions that would have to be answered. I don’t believe there are any countries that have pulled out of Nato.” [It can be done.]
Vickers also claimed Alex Salmond’s anti-Nato stance may not be “set in stone”. She said: “No good politician is going to tell you ‘this is absolutely what we are going to do’. They are going to tell you that ‘this may be what we would like to do, if it seems the prudent thing to do’. [Obviously Ms Vickers doesn't listen as is obvious from her ill informed remarks- JOE]
On the future of US energy companies in a separate Scottish state, she said: “Would their situation change were Scotland independent?”
The official’s comments provide insights into the US government’s view on constitutional politics in Scotland. Although Vickers said there were “pros and cons” to separation, [ah but this isn't reflected in the article what a shock!] the US is not thought to favour independence because it would involve the break-up of its main international ally. [There's the rub, the US know if Britain breaks up they can't count on a poodle to follow their bidding. An argument in favour of independence if ever there was one. - JOE]
Such constitutional change could diminish the UK’s case for staying in the G8 and weaken the argument for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. [If that's the price of Scottish independence then good. This seat is not used in Scotland's interests in any shape or fashion anyway. JOE]
SNP leader Alex Salmond accused Vickers of “inexperience” and criticised her comments.
“I am sure the US consul doesn’t have to be reminded of diplomatic protocol. It’s a curious position to put so much stress on your own country’s self- determination, and not to think it is important for other people. Maybe it’s time for her to get out of the cocktail party circuit and around the country.
“We have had some good American consuls in the past. I am quite sure that once she gets up to speed, then she will know a bit more of Scottish politics.”
George Foulkes also waffled a lot of irrelevant tripe, as usual.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:09 PM
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Letter to the Editors
In a recent interview former foreign secretary Jack Straw made some revealing remarks about the British union.
Straw is quoted on the BBC website as saying: “Historically, England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among others things, of amplifying England's power worldwide. And the reverse would certainly be true. A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interests of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.
Our [England’s] voting power in the European Union would diminish. We'd slip down in the world league GDP tables. Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN.” [security council]
We should be grateful to Straw for his honesty. What he is effectively saying is that countries like Scotland and Wales and other potential independent states such as Cornwall or the Isle of Mann are expected to give up their unique voices in the international community so England can enjoy ‘amplified’ ie undeserved international status.
The case for union then is simple if, like Gordon Brown, you support England’s interests over Scotland’s then as Straw says there is an excellent case for retention of the union because it was designed to amplify England’s voice and it still does today.
If however you support Scotland’s right to have our unique voice heard then the only logical choice is independence.
If the ‘cost’ of that decision is the loss of Britain’s (as Straw points out effectively England’s anyway) seat in the UN security council, which the Blair government currently uses to back George Bush’s lunatic foreign policy, then I’m sure that is a price well worth paying for any internationally minded Scot.
[Note: Full interview is available here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/5388078.stm]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:16 PM
SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed the ICM poll for The Scotsman showed Labour "floundering" and her party gaining momentum. But Labour downplayed the findings and said SNP support would slip back.
The poll findings are said to be the first time since 1998 that support for independence has passed the 50% mark. It puts it at 51%, compared to 39% against and 10% don't knows.
The Greens score 3% in the constituency vote and 6% in list voting, while the SSP is at 4% in both.
The pollsters calculate the figures would given the SNP 37 seats to Labour's 41, the Liberal Democrats' 25, and the Tories' 17, and the Greens 5.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:11 PM