I see 'Tommy Eng-er-lish' isn't adverse to using the Union Jack when required! I thought these English nats wanted to break the British union up?
Friday, December 29, 2006
The leader of the SNP has called for the Scotland Office to be abolished and for the money saved to be invested in the health service. Alex Salmond said its £6.4m annual budget would be better used improving accident and emergency services. He said that since Labour came to power in 1997, Scotland had lost eight A&E services. However, former Scotland Office minister George Foulkes said the department had strengthened devolution.
Mr Salmond said: "By getting rid of this office in London we could free up millions of pounds each year that could be used instead to protect the vital services at Ayr and Monklands, now threatened by a Labour and Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive.
"It's time to focus on the people's priorities and spend less on jobs for the Labour boys in London and more on keeping health care in Scotland local."
However, Lord Foulkes said: "This proves Alex Salmond's ignorance on two counts. "First he clearly knows nothing about how government works."Secondly, it shows he doesn't recognise the role of the Scotland Office plays in arguing Scotland's corner in government and strengthening devolution - two things the SNP are entirely opposed to with their dangerous plans to break up Britain." [Planet Earth calling George Foulkes! - JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 12:41 AM
So just how should we commemorate the Act of Union - whose tricentenary falls next year?
Perhaps you favour a special coin? Maybe an exhibition at Holyrood and Westminster? Both are in train. Then again, perhaps we might mark 300 years of political marriage between Scotland and England by filing for divorce - and abolishing the Union.
Such an option will be on offer to Scots at elections next year, albeit indirectly.
First, though, the celebrations that are already in hand.
The exhibition and related school projects will, apparently, "inform and stimulate debate about the legacy left by the Act of Union 1707" (Source: the Scottish Executive).
Alternatively, it will amount to "a few half-baked parties about a Union that is past its sell-by date" (Source: the Scottish National Party).
What about that coin, then? Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that he had obtained the
approval of Her Majesty the Queen to issue a £2 coin in honour of the treaty which conjoined the parliaments of Scotland and England.
Rest of article is here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/6199275.stm
Posted by Joe Middleton at 12:27 AM
Interesting article but dubious conclusions. Also why ignore the SSP and Solidarity? Either might do better than the discredited Tories. The SNP would be mad to get into bed with the Tories no matter what garbage they were spinning. The main hope for independence is if the Scottish parties can form a coalition.
We should ignore all the unionists, Lib Dems included, they are part of the problem not the solution. The Tories will of course prop up their fellow British right wingers in the Labour party and indeed they have already promised to do so. JOE
Tories could be saviours of the Union
Robert Kilgour (Herald)
December 27 2006
Could Scotland be hurtling towards independence by the backdoor? Could Tony Blair's much vaunted legacy be the break-up of the United Kingdom?
Could the three hundredth anniversary of the union of the parliaments in 2007 coincide with their final fracture? These are the crucial questions facing Scottish voters as we move inexorably towards the Holyrood elections in May.Scots are every bit as hacked off with Tony Blair and Labour as voters elsewhere in the UK, but unlike England, the main opposition party north of the border is the SNP. If opinion polls are anything to go by then the Nationalists look set to gain the most seats at next year's polls. They will still be far short of an overall majority and will be searching for coalition partners. [Not necessarily, according to the polls it's a lot closer than that and remember there are forty odd independence supporting MSP's at the moment. JOE]
The Greens, also tipped to do well, will be an obvious choice. They, too, favour independence and have already touted Robin Harper for ministerial office in an SNP/Green coalition. Even then, most [biased] political commentators doubt if Salmond and Harper could muster enough seats to form a majority government.
Meanwhile, the LibDems, although always quick to prostitute themselves to anyone offering them a seat at the top table, appear to be playing hardball with the Nats. Nicol Stephen has ruled out any coalition deal with Alex Salmond unless the SNP drops its manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on independence within 100 days of taking power at Holyrood. Needless to say, this has become a major obstacle to further talks, driving the LibDems back into the arms of their current bed-mates – Jack McConnell's motley Labour crew.
Although the LibDems are making their traditional anti-Labour noises as they attempt to define some wiggle-room between themselves and their coalition partners prior to the polls, this remains the most likely scenario. So, Scotland will find itself following the elections in May with the SNP and Greens confronting Labour and the LibDems, with neither having sufficient seats to form an administration.
Enter Annabel Goldie and the Scottish Tories who will, in these circumstances, hold the balance of power. But are they ready to shoulder such a responsibility? Certainly, the David Cameron effect has not filtered north of Manchester, and in Scotland, while opinion polls indicate that the majority would prefer him to Gordon Brown as the next UK PM, the "Cameron bounce" has not benefited Goldie's beleaguered Scottish Tory party. Although Tory MSPs claim to have embraced devolution, they have still not embraced the voting system by which the Scottish Parliament is elected. As Struan Stevenson MEP pointed out in an article in The Herald last year, it is the only party going into the Holyrood elections with the slogan "vote for us, we want to be in opposition"! Albeit now Annabel Goldie has refined this message to "principled opposition", it still looks as if the Scottish Tories are determined to prop up a minority administration rather than actively seek power in a coalition.
Clearly, propping up a lame-duck Lab/Lib coalition that has effectively lost the election next May, would not be popular with voters seeking change. Nor will it be applauded by David Cameron, who will hardly enthuse about his party keeping Labour in power in Scotland while he seeks to oust it from power in England.
[That is what they WOULD do though, their attachment to the Union Jack is much stronger than any interest in democracy in Scotland- JOE]
Far better, then, that Goldie should bite the bullet and join a rainbow coalition with the Nats and Greens. This would provide the Scottish Tories with a meaningful role. Not only would they be in power, but they would be the guardians of the Union, threatening to bring down the coalition if any attempt were made at wrecking Scotland's traditional partnership within the UK.
Of course, the Tories would have to agree to the referendum on independence, but they would do so on the condition that they would use their ministerial positions and influence to campaign for a No vote. Also, they would insist such a referendum could only be con-sultative. There could never be a Referendum Bill, as constitutional affairs are reserved. Indeed, even the funding of a consultative referendum could be challenged in the courts. In the unlikely event that a majority of Scots voted for independence in any referendum, Gordon Brown, assuming he is by then Prime Minister, would face a classic political dilemma.
If he acceded to the demands of a majority of Scots and allowed Scotland to become an independent nation, it would destroy his own career, abolish his own con-stituency and deny Labour the chance ever again to form a government at Westminster, so reliant is it on the army of MPs elected in Scottish seats. On the other hand, if he ignored the result and refused to acknowledge the desire for independence, he could risk fomenting civil unrest in Scotland.
Exciting stuff, and it is ironic that the Scottish Tories may end up hold-ing the jackets during this classic con- frontation. Let's hope that Annabel Goldie's principled opposition melds into a bid for power. There is no-one else that we can rely on to save the UK from political disintegration.
ThinkScotland is a new right-of-centre online think-tank, chaired by Scottish global entrepreneur Robert Kilgour, focusing on European affairs from a Scottish perspective.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 12:15 AM
Thursday, December 21, 2006
By Joe Middleton
As I opened the Scotsman the other day it was obvious that nothing had changed with the unionists arguments against independence. 'A Black Hole of 11.2 billion pounds with independence!' shouted the headline complete with a starry field mock up, the message is that independence will lead to total economic disaster.
Conveniently the politically motivated GERS report referred to by the Scotsman completely ignored oil revenues and other inconvenient statistics which might refute Labour's scaremongering.
The next article promised to wonder if Scotland can 'remain afloat' with North Sea Oil as if our massive oil reserves are in danger of pulling us below the surface!
As Jack McConnell has himself admitted recently there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Scotland would be in economic difficulties after independence. Our economic situation post independence is reliant on a wide range of factors and would rely chiefly on the economic policies pursued by an independent Scotland.
Of course the Tories and Labour are well aware of that and in the same edition of the paper Katie Grant conservative columnist makes the obvious jump in logic for the Tories, ie to embrace independence and suddenly their anti-Scottish label (entirely justified) might disappear.
The traditional unionist arguments are failing fast. Either they are right and Scotland is in such a terrible shape that we require generous England to keep us going (which would appear to be the basic message) in which case they are obviously failing to help Scotland achieve our economic potential.
Then again if we are really as prosperous as they occasionally pretend we are then why couldn’t we afford to go it alone? After all an independent Scotland would not be paying for nuclear weapons and would have the considerable benefit of North Sea Oil revenues. (Labour's internal papers have recently revealed that we have at least thirty years supplies left at the same time as they are pretending that it is about to run out!)
The problem for Labour and the Tories is that independence can mean anything to anyone and the social democratic vision of the SNP is only one vision of independence amongst many.
On the harder left there could be a democratic Scottish workers republic achieved with high investment in services and higher taxation on business, this is what the Tories accuse the SNP of secretly wanting, but people like Jim Mather and Alex Neil don’t say this at all.
Those who do, like the SRSM or the SSP however are unswerving in their support for independence because Scotland does enjoy the potential of becoming a much fairer society.
All the Scottish parties support removing nuclear weapons from our soil so the feeling on Trident is pretty universal and reflects the public mood.
Blair’s utterances on this issue show him up for what he is, a tool of the United States who is desperate to keep alive the US/UK alliance by buying expensive and unusable weapons of mass destruction.
Of course Jack decided shortly after that, after much soul searching (a few hours and a quick chat with Tony) that he was in favour of keeping the nuclear deterrent, so they could be bargained away later! So he's opposing nuclear weapons by supporting having them, good one Jack!
Leaving aside the 'wee sleekit timorous beastie' the cause of independence is simply becoming much too strong to be ignored. The left of centre argument for a fairer Scotland reflects the values of most of the people and the SNP are right to support that as it continually exposes Labour’s permanent lack of vision and political principle.
There are other valid arguments for independence as well. Scotland is currently over regulated and has three tiers of Government where only two are required. The Scottish Office and the British Government it represents are entirely unnecessary, getting rid of those layers would bring an independence dividend with a smaller Government and a Scottish Government could also much more easily court business with lower taxation.
The SNP have moved in on this ‘independence action’ as well but along with an even more aggressive tax cutting policy it can easily be tailored to Scottish orientated Conservatives like Katie Grant.
There is also the historical and cultural argument that Scotland requires freedom to flourish on a cultural level and that respect for our ancestors and their fights for independence from England should lead us to the logical conclusion that the union is no longer in our interests (if it ever was).
This is the most emotionally powerful argument, it reverbrates down the centuries and the more people look into the history of the union the more we realise it was a shotgun marriage of convenience for England which almost wiped out our nation altogether in favour of a new sub-English state called North Britain.
Current opinion polls are also leading to the most modern argument for independence. Democracy and Scottish human rights. A union with a country ten times our size is simply not democratic and the denial of a direct democratic vote on the union is an infringement of our collective Scottish human rights under the United Nations Charter.
It was to highlight this democratic deficit that the non party political referendum campaign Independence First http://www.independence1st.com was formed. Independence First as an organisation has no political policies whatsoever and it is purely about garnering support for a referendum on independence. Because it bypasses any possible political disagreements it has succeeded in gaining support from members of every single pro- independence group and it's membership is open to absolutely every independence supporting individual.
Recently IF presented an epetition to the Scottish Parliament for a democratic referendum on Scottish independence. Despite the fact that the petitions system is supposed to provide a balance to the parliament and a voice for the people the 1300 strong petition was swiftly rejected with Labour and Liberal Democrat MSP’s voting it down before the parliament as a whole even had a chance to consider it.
This undemocratic act went almost completely unnoticed in the media despite a substantial piece being filed by the Scottish Press Association. When a legitimate news story of this type is buried by the press the level of unionist bias becomes much more obvious. It is a disgrace that such a decision can happen without any comment or reaction from any of the Scottish papers.
The Committee claimed that this issue would be conclusively settled by the next Scottish elections. In fact people vote for political parties for a variety of different reasons. Independence is supported by individuals on the left and right of politics and some of those people support Labour, Tories and Lib Dems as well as the independence supporting parties based in Scotland.
The only way therefore to get a clear view about support for independence is to have a democratic vote on the issue called by the Scottish Parliament. This is precisely what Independence First called for on the 15th of November. Unfortunately it would appear that this executive not only ignored the views of over 1300 Scots but also the majority of the Scottish population who opinion polls suggest support independence.
Incredibly there is also majority support for Scottish independence in England and most English people want to break up the British union altogether as do the public in Wales. The unionists are therefore fighting a cause that represents no-one and is respected by no-one. They have might on their side in terms of a highly biased press but you can only feed the public so many lies before they get sick.
The signs are that the people of Scotland are getting very sick of all the unionists lies and that is why the Scottish Independence Convention and Independence First along with the Scottish parties can win an election for independence next year, if they continue to work together. We only need around a million votes for independence next year to win an election which is well within our collective capabilities.
Joe Middleton is the creator of the Scottish Independence Guide http://www.scottishindependence.com and the Press Officer for Independence First http://www.independence1st.com the referendum campaign.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:17 PM
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
by Jason Allardyce (Sunday Times)
LABOUR has been accused of misleading the public in the debate over independence after one of its own policy documents revealed North Sea oil reserves will not run out for “at least 30 years”.
While the party has claimed publicly that an independent Scotland would face economic catastrophe because of dwindling oil reserves, the internal Labour document says the industry will continue to flourish for decades to come.
The disclosure comes after government figures suggested last week that, without the tax revenues generated by oil, an independent Scotland would face an £11 billion black hole.
That led Labour to claim the SNP would be forced to raise taxes or cut public spending if they win power next year and Scotland becomes independent.
Last week Wendy Alexander, the former enterprise minister who is leading Labour’s attack on the SNP’s economic strategy, described North Sea oil as a “decreasing, volatile resource”.
In an article she said: “Oil production is already down one third, is due to fall further and could be exhausted by 2030. So not only will the Union dividend have gone but so will oil revenues — long before many Scots are picking up their pensions.”
The attack was the latest in a series by senior Labour figures after opinion polls put the SNP on course to win next May’s Scottish election and showed that most Scots support independence.
However, the policy document, produced by Labour’s Scottish policy forum last month and signed off by Jack McConnell, rejects Alexander’s suggestion that oil could run out within 24 years, and claims: “There remains at least 30 years of oil and gas in the UK continental shelf.
“Given our technical and academic excellence, opportunities exist for Scottish expertise to develop clean technology for continued use of fossil fuels in our energy mix.”
Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, said the paper had “blown a hole” in Labour’s argument. “Labour has been caught out saying one thing in private while they try to scaremonger Scotland in public,” he said.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 6:56 PM
December 19 2006 (Letters page, Herald)
I MUST be ever-present in Wendy Alexander's thoughts (December 16) these days, having been mentioned by name no fewer than seven times in the same letter! Let me see if I can return the compliment and in so doing cast some light into Labour's "black holes".
Ms Alexander accuses the SNP of traducing civil servants by attacking the basis of the Government Expenditure and Revenue for Scotland (Gers) analysis. Unlike her, I have been a civil servant (ie, a real one, not a special adviser) and know full well the parameters in which they work.
Gers was conceived as a political, not as a statistical, exercise. We know this because the original correspondence from the then Secretary of State, Ian Lang, was leaked some years ago – he wanted it to "undermine the other parties", saying "this initiative could score against all of them".
The civil servants involved have several times tried to pull it back from its more blatant political exploitation by Tory and Labour politicians. The economist in charge, Dr Andrew Goudie, has noted that "Gers tells us nothing about the situation under independence". So why do Ms Alexander and her even less numerate friends misuse it as the basis of their anti-independence attack?
The problems with Gers are twofold and very obvious. It publishes a non-oil headline figure and takes no account of UK borrowing. Thus, it is used by the Tories to talk of subsidies or Labour of black holes. The first is as ludicrous as taking the financial sector out of London finances while the second places the debate in an artificial context. The UK has a budget deficit this year of £34bn, a non-oil deficit of £45bn, and accumulated debt of £500bn.
In Wendy's looking-glass world, this UK black hole should be immediately filled by swingeing tax rises, or does her brand of logic only apply to Scotland? Gers is also two years out of date, and merely by adjusting for this year's oil revenues, which have doubled to more than £10bn, and allowing for the UK deficit, the "subsidy" flows in 2007 from north to south. That is before making any other corrections – for example, the clear counting of English-only departmental expenditure as part of the Scottish total.
Wendy should stop claiming that "oil revenues are falling", since the pre-budget report shows them rising from just more than £10bn to almost £12bn over the next five years. Nor should she pretend that it is running out – Labour's internal policy documents suggest more than 30 years of supply. Of course, there is nothing new about the Labour Party systematically and cynically under-estimating Scotland's oil wealth. The secret papers, recently published from the 1970s, show that this is a long-established Labour tradition.
In these papers was the private economic advice that an independent Scotland would be richer than Switzerland. In public, Labour politicians were comparing our economic prospects to those of Bangladesh.
Ms Alexander doesn't go that far, but she does seem to have great trouble in coping with the notion that Scotland could be a normal independent successful country like our near neighbours, Norway, Ireland and Iceland. All three have lessons to teach us if we are open-minded enough to learn. One of these lessons is to use the strength of Scotland's current budget position to improve our competitive advantage and generate growth and revenue for the long term.They pursue three very different social and taxation models but all three are among the top six economies in the world in terms of wealth per head.They also happen to be three of a handful of western countries running an absolute budget surplus. That has happened because they are economically successful.
I have used up my seven mentions of Ms Alexander so let me close on this note. In a world of dodgy dossiers on Iraq and loans for Lords, the black hole she should really worry about is the one where Labour credibility used to be.
Alex Salmond, MP, 17 Maiden Street, Peterhead.
I NOTICE that Wendy Alexander is now taking a swipe at Norway's tax regime as if that should be a disincentive for Scots to vote for independence.Since all tax systems differ the key to the debate is not tax but quality of life. Ms Alexander should know this and acquaint herself with the UN and other internationally accepted institutions which consistently show Norway, Iceland and Ireland way ahead of us on this measure.
Can she produce a single country in the north-west of Europe whose quality of life has been overtaken by Scotland over the last 50 years?
Would she be even more transparent and volunteer to name the countries that have overtaken Scotland during the same period, and why?
Graeme McCormick, Redhouse Cottage, Arden.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 6:18 PM
WENDY Alexander started her letter to The Herald on Saturday with the statement "The SNP have had a bad week". As she is obviously in no position to benefit from such a state of affairs and is an unimpeachable barker of truth, I will be gracious enough to believe her.
However, I must let her know that, in common with the rest of the electorate, I failed to notice, as we discovered the Labour Prime Minister had been questioned by police investigating the grubby commercialisation of the honours system. At the same time we learned he had spiked the Serious Fraud Office's investigation into allegations that a major British contract to secure the sale of weapons of mass destruction to a country, a number of whose citizens were largely responsible for the 9/11 atrocities, involved bribery and corruption on a scale running into hundreds of millions of pounds.
In the same week, the war the Labour leader largely initiated saw a death toll between Sunday and Friday of at least 443, with many more kidnapped, missing and injured.
At a Holyrood level, we heard that the Liberal Democrats would not tolerate the prospect of a minority Labour administration, following the Deputy FM's long-held wish to lower Scottish business rates to below those of our competitors being scuppered by the Finance Minister's pledge to retain parity until 2012. I also read a poll which suggested that Scottish Labour were performing so badly that they would continue to control only one solitary local council after May 2007, perhaps as a result of an electorate tired of having a massive deficit and anaemic growth being waved around as a barometer of success. Then again, it may have something to do with the publication of a Culture Bill about which, despite careful scouring of newspapers, websites and broadcast media, I have yet to find a kind word.
If the SNP happened to have had a bad week, as Wendy established, is the fact Labour had an infinitely worse one a result of simple bad luck or fiendish manipulation of the news cycle by Nationalist spin doctors? Perhaps the people should be told. Perhaps not, though.
Alex Cox, Whistlefield Court, Bearsden
WENDY Alexander starts her partisan pro-Labour letter on Saturday with the assertion that it has been a bad week for the SNP. Where has she been all week when the rest of us have heard of Tony Blair's interview with the Met, the surrender of the UK government to Saudi blackmail and that a majority of Scottish MPs would appear to be against the renewal of Trident? These are matters of morality and amount to a far worse week for Labour than the politicking of which she accuses the SNP.
She boasts that she lived through the transformation of Labour (not, I note, New Labour) to an organisation that answers tough questions convincingly (not, I note again, truthfully). Such a pity they lost their moral compass in the process of that change.
Fred Allardice, Hillside, Grange of Lindores, Cupar
WHAT on earth political cloud-cuckoo land does Wendy Alexander occupy? In a week which has seen a Labour Prime Minister and a Labour government almost overwhelmed by sleaze and corruption, she suggests it was the SNP that has had the bad week. It takes a particularly virulent intellectual myopia to be able to write something like that.
Alan Clayton, Westfield, Letters Way, Strathlachlan
I SEE that senior Labour opinion-formers are advising that to beat David Cameron a slightly shop-soiled Gordon Brown may have to be skipped in favour of someone from the younger generation to lead them into the next election. At this interesting moment in the music-hall of politics, who could fail to be amused by the contributions of the Alexander Twins as ambitious Wendy presses an accordion on eager Douglas, crying, "Play, brother, play!" until the strains of Land of Hope and Glory echo around the manse.
Frederic Lindsay, 28 The Green, Pencaitland, Tranent
Posted by Joe Middleton at 6:16 PM
By Alex Salmond
Scotland is underperforming. We have the lowest long-term growth in the European Union and over the past 10 years – the Gordon Brown era – our growth has been almost 30 per cent lower than that of the UK as a whole. Growth is the key to a flourishing country. We only have to look to Ireland to see the transforming effect of annual growth rates averaging almost 8 per cent – four times the Scottish rate.
The result is that too many new businesses in Scotland struggle to survive, average wages are lower, households have less money to spend and each year 25,000 young people leave home to find work and opportunities elsewhere.
Twenty-five years ago, Ireland was the poor relation of these isles. However, with the Dublin government free to choose the right policies to give Ireland an economic edge – lower corporation tax, full engagement with the EU and a national investment in skills and education – it has soared past the UK to become one of the world’s wealthiest half-dozen nations. Last month, Ireland was judged the fourth best place in the world to live by the United Nations, leaving Britain (and Scotland) trailing.
Sustainable growth is the central objective of economic policy for any country and it is Mr Brown’s proudest boast of his record as UK chancellor. By the same measurement, he has failed miserably in his home country.
The devolved government in Edinburgh is unable to move the most important economic levers. It cannot lower corporate tax rates like Ireland or effectively husband our huge natural resources like Norway. It is powerless to make the necessary improvements that could see Scotland join the premier league of successful countries.
What frustrates me most about Scottish Labour politicians is their insularity, illustrated by their depressingly low ambition for our nation. They seem proud when growth figures almost touch the UK average, but over the cycle leave Scotland trailing each of our near international neighbours. They boast of high employment, but seem to forget that includes more low-wage, low-skill, part-time positions. They claim, wrongly, that Scotland is subsidised by the generosity of the London Treasury, euphemistically describe it as a “dividend” and seem content with that state of affairs.
Never have so many people spent so much time desperately attempting to “prove” that their country is subsidised. In the Labour looking-glass, world oil revenues are “falling”, the oil price is about to collapse and the resource is about to run out. In reality, oil revenues are rising (even in the pre-Budget report), we are only about halfway through the North Sea oil revolution in resource terms and the expectation is for a continuing rise in prices over the medium term. The Scottish National party’s approach to oil is to control the resource for the long term – as Norway has done through a capital investment fund – not the grab everything you can, “boom and bust“ attitude of the chancellor.
Scotland’s economic performance today is not good enough for any self-respecting Scot. We urgently need a new management and a new, fresh approach. We can be more successful: we can create a wealthier, fairer and more dynamic nation.
All around us, we have examples of successful independent countries. The human development index is a measurement by the UN that looks at both the performance of a nation’s economy and the success of its society. To our west is Ireland, the fourth most successful country in the index; to our north, Iceland, the second; and to our east Norway, for the sixth year in a row the top country for quality of life. These nations, all also in the top six in terms of gross domestic product per head, form an arc of prosperity that Scotland must aspire to join.
Scotland has as much talent, energy and enthusiasm as these nations. Our people are as skilled; our geography, if anything, offers more advantages. Only Norway could claim to match Scotland in terms of natural resources.
Why are these nations powering ahead, while Scotland’s economy slumbers? I believe independence is the key. Norway, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Sweden are all comparable nations to Scotland, each with the freedom to find the best way to enable their economy to compete.
Not one would leave their success to another nation or tolerate the whining defeatism that is the miserable excuse for unionism in Scotland – the extraordinary proposition that somehow Scotland is uniquely incapable of managing a successful economy. We have tried devolution and, after almost eight years, we know its shortcomings. It is time for Scotland and England to be equal, independent partners, neighbours and friends.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:26 PM
Opposition to Trident could trigger a win for the SNP, which in turn could generate a push for independence and the euro.
John Palmer (Comment is Free - Guardian)
The increasingly desperate-sounding calls from Labour leaders to the party faithful in Scotland to prepare for a life-or-death struggle against the Scottish National party comes on the heels of the cabinet's decision - come hell or high water - to drive the modernisation or replacement of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system through his party and parliament. It is difficult to think of something better calculated to play into the hands of the SNP. As Iain Macwhirter reminded us, the vast majority of Scottish people do not want Trident and demand that the nuclear base at Faslane is removed from Scottish soil. As matters stand Labour is heading for a humiliating defeat in its traditional Scottish heartland next May. According to the latest YouGov poll, the SNP already enjoys a substantial lead over Labour among Scottish voters.
A convincing win for the SNP in the elections to the Scottish parliament next year would generate new momentum behind the demand for independence. With an ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph showing a clear majority of English voters in favour of dismantling the United Kingdom the London establishment could find it much harder this time to win the case for union.
It is true that the SNP will need to find coalition partners to take office in Edinburgh. The Scottish Greens would certainly back the SNP in demanding an end to the Trident nuclear base at Faslane. Although Tommy Sheridan's anti-Trident, pro-independence Solidarity party will need time to recover from the split among the Scottish socialists, it may yet win seats next May. As Iain Macwhirter points out, more leading Scottish Tories - the latest being Michael Fry - have now come out for independence.
The most likely coalition partners for the SNP are the Liberal Democrats. They will not be keen to agree to a full-blown referendum on independence during the life of the next Scottish parliament. But they will not have missed the opinion poll evidence showing a small - but measurable - majority support for Scottish independence. They will also know that the Blair government's obsession - no matter what the expense - to maintain and enhance Britain's capacity to unleash nuclear devastation will strengthen the move of public opinion flowing towards independence.
The shape of a future independent Scotland remains unclear. But getting there will involve negotiations not only between Edinburgh and London but also between Edinburgh, London and Brussels. If Scotland is to become an independent state in the European Union, the consequences for the UK state within the EU will be very far reaching. The number of votes the UK is entitled to cast within the EU council of ministers would be sharply reduced - and the balance transferred to the new Scottish state. Mind you, a reduction in the powers of the UK to block EU decisions will cause few tears elsewhere. Scotland would also - subject to future treaty changes - be entitled to nominate a member of the European commission.
A common complaint heard in Scotland is that its economy needs lower interest rates than are being set by the Bank of England. If and when independence within the EU comes to be negotiated this could open the debate on whether an independent Scotland should join the euro. After all real interest rates (nominal rates adjusted for inflation) just now are lower in the euro zone than in the UK. In this event a political border between Scotland a rump British state might also become a currency frontier between sterling and the growing number of countries in the euro area.
Even short of outright independence, the polarised political atmosphere in Scotland after the next Scottish elections may make an eventual closure of the Faslane nuclear base inevitable. A new home would then have to be found for Trident - almost certainly somewhere in England. Wales and Northern Ireland are most unlikely to volunteer to house the new system. The consequences of the Blair government's determination to turn its back on nuclear non-proliferation will last much longer than ministers seem to understand. The ultimate irony is that Blair's Iraq war and Trident bequests to his Labour successors may now help set the scene for the break-up of the UK.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:13 AM
Monday, December 18, 2006
I don't have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal unfortunately however this article certainly begins on a very positive note:
Scotland's Strong Independence Movement Is Hardly a 'Faint Blip'
Word Count: 629
Scottish and English readers were probably surprised to read Quentin Letts's assertion that Scottish independence is a "faint blip" on the political radar ("Scot Free," editorial page, Dec. 8). After all, the latest numbers show 52% of Scots and 59% of English people are in favor of Scottish independence. Mr. Letts may call this a "faint blip," but in democracies the more appropriate term is "majority."
It is a certain type of critic who takes issue with the basic principal of self-governance, and I am pleased to say that they are in the minority in the United Kingdom.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:16 AM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Letter to the Editor
Not many people realise it but after the treaty of union Scotland's official designation was North Britain, and people used to write NB at the bottom of a letter rather than Scotland.
We know that this upset some of our historic contemporaries like Robert Louis Stevenson who complains in a letter to a friend "Don't put `NB' on your paper, put Scotland and be done with it ... the name of my native land is not North Britain, whatever may be the name of yours."
Robert Burns was similarly concerned about his country's identity writing "Alas, I have often said to myself what are the boasted advantages which my country reaps from a certain Union that counter balance the annihilation of her Independence, and even her name!"
Sir Walter Scott said "All must center in London... What are we esteemedby the English? Wretched drivellers, incapable of understanding our own affairs; or greedy speculators, unfit to be trusted? On what ground are we considered either as one or the other?"
However Hugh MacDiarmid probably summed it up best when he wrote"Without it's own culture, Scotland will remain a slave."
We owe a great debt to MacDiarmid, to Sir Walter Scott, Burns and the rest for defending our identity during the height of the Empire and beyond and itis probably true to say that without the actions of patriots like them our identity as Scots could have been snuffed out. Of course we can also look back to the heroic deeds of Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce who fought England to a standstill and guaranteed our national independence for four hundred years.
Today most Scots according to the opinion polls support full self government for Scotland. Devolution, though it was a hundred years delayed, and denied undemocratically for twenty years has encouraged us to realise we can have normal powers for Scotland whenever we choose to vote for it.
We have a historic opportunity next year to vote to resume our proper place in the world as a proud independent nation.
Let's go for it.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 12:38 AM
Friday, December 08, 2006
[Excellent attacking stuff by Sturgeon. JOE]
First Minister Jack McConnell today came under fire from the SNP and his Liberal Democrat coalition allies for backing plans to keep Britain's nuclear deterrent. In clashes at Question Time, SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon accusedhim of being out of touch with the majority of Scots on the issue - and with the majority of his own party.
The Question Time clash began with Nicola Sturgeon recalling that MrMcConnell had previously refused to give his views on replacing theTrident nuclear missile system. On Monday morning his office said he still had an open mind - but on Monday evening he said he agreed with the Government's decision to replace Trident, she told MSPs."What were the compelling arguments that turned the First Minister from don't know to gung ho in seven hours?" she demanded.
Mr McConnell told her: "It's easier to comment on a decision after it has been made than before it's made."Miss Sturgeon may find it easy to have a preconceived position regardless of the evidence or analysis or proper discussion, but I takea far more serious approach to my responsibilities and to the defence of the nation."
He said he believed the decision announced by the Westminster Governmentwas right on two grounds. He did not believe in "unilateral action" to disarm Scotland or the UK -and he also believed it was right to announce that the number of Trident warheads would be reduced, along with reductions in the number ofsubmarines on duty."I also believe it was right to indicate that in the next UK Parliamentthere will be a further decision to be made on the future of the warheads themselves," said Mr McConnell."On all of those bases, I believe the decision was right for the moment,while offering further opportunities for multilateral disarmament in the future - and this is right for Britain and right for the world."
But Ms Sturgeon retorted: "What happened on Monday was that the Prime Minister told the First Minister what his view was to be, and the First Minister complied."She demanded of Mr McConnell: "Doesn't the Government's White Paper make nuclear proliferation more likely, not less likely?"She said Tony Blair had described nuclear weapons as the "ultimate insurance" and a vital element of national security, and had also said he would be prepared to use them in a first-strike attack.
"What does the First Minister say to other countries that cite their national security and their need for an insurance policy as justification for developing nuclear weapons of their own?"
McConnell said he welcomed the Government's decision to reduce thenumber of warheads by 20%, the number of submarines if possible by 25%,and moves allowing a future parliament a decision on whether the warheads should be renewed."I think that's the right decision for multilateral disarmament worldwide, the right decision in an uncertain world - and a decision the SNP could never take because they are not serious about government or the defence of the nation - and they're certainly not serious about being in Britain." [What a shock! JOE]
Ms Sturgeon said: "Just one nuclear warhead can wipe out entire populations - that's why they are morally wrong."She continued: "The decision to replace Trident, publicly backed onMonday by the First Minister, represents the most appalling hypocrisy and robs the UK of any moral authority in arguing the case for non-proliferation." The First Minister is out of touch not only with the majority of Scots on this issue, but also with those in his own party who say in aparliamentary motion tabled yesterday that there is convincing military, economic and political case for the non-renewal case of Trident."And she urged Mr McConnell to have "the courage and honesty" to make the case against new weapons of mass destruction instead of "meekly following Tony Blair's line".
Mr McConnell told MSPs she appeared to be arguing the world would be safer, and it would be morally right, for only other countries to have nuclear weapons in a dangerous world."I believe, as I have said consistently in this chamber for at least six months now, that the only way to reduce the nuclear arsenal worldwide is through multilateral action, and certainly not through weakness," he said.
And it was "essential" that Britain continued along the path first set by Tories, and followed by the Labour Government, of continuing to reduce Britain's nuclear arsenal.He said of the Government's announcement last Monday: "These are the right decisions for multilateral disarmament, the right decisions forthe security of our nation - and the right decisions in an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world."
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs there were eight countries with nuclear weapons but 180 countries without them."I want Scotland to be in the majority," she said.She went on to argue that the difference between Mr McConnell and theSNP was that he was happy to see £25 billion "wasted" on nuclear bombs, while the SNP wanted it spent on better health, education and pensions."
He's for weapons of mass destruction, we stand for building a better Scotland for all - isn't that why more and more people want to see an SNP government?" she said.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:23 PM
A former editor of The Herald newspaper has joined a campaign calling for a referendum on Scottish independence. Harry Reid, author of a recently-published history of the Scottish press, Deadline, has signed up with the Scottish Independence Convention, saying: “I’ve been a ‘fellow traveller’ for a year or so now, yet somehow I’ve never quite faced up to what both my heart and my head have been telling me: that an independent Scotland could – and almost certainly would – be a better Scotland.”
An author also of books about the Church of Scotland and Scottish football, Mr Reid was editor of The Herald when it was urging a yes-yes vote during the 1997 devolution referendum.He continued: “I further believe that the Union is finished, and that England could benefit greatly from rediscovering itself by going through the potentially positive process of becoming English rather than British.“And then my old friend and colleague, [The Herald’s former political editor] Murray Ritchie, bludgeoned me into writing this short piece [for the Convention’s website].
So, let me come out and scream it: I believe in, and now I earnestly desire, an independent Scotland.”The war in Iraq is one of the reasons for Reid’s decision. “This man Blair – surely the worst British leader in living memory – has been responsible for the worst thing I can recall the British state doing. That is, the reckless and illegal invasion of a sovereign foreign country, Iraq.”
Continues Reid: “And what has this to do with an independent Scotland? It is quite simple. An independent Scotland would never ever misuse its power in this manner. I could never imagine, in a thousand years, an independent Scotland sending its army to invade a far-off country on such phoney pretexts.”
Posted by Joe Middleton at 1:19 PM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
This appeared on the daily Record (moderated) forum:
You should grow up and be less of a bigot again. The only reason the bigots and
Ayattollahs at the SNP are riding high in the polls is because Blair's social
policies are a disgrace. The SNP should depart to Iran or Syria etc given thier
love for Islamic fundamentalism. We dont need racists here [plus other rubbish].
What on earth is this garbage? Is this the new Labour line, waffle a lot of crap about the SNP being in favour of Islamic Fundamentalism? Completely desperate stuff.
Britain seems to believe it is still a world power which is why it feels it should have it's virility symbol of nuclear weapons. Scotland doesn't need Nukes, it doesn't need England fan Gordon Brown and it doesn't need Labour. Labour are noi better than the Tories and there scaremongering garbage that Scotland would fall to bits with independence is beneath contempt.
ID cards have nothing to do with terrorism (as the Home Office have admitted) so John Reid is talking rubbish about this as well.
Scotland WOULD be less of a target to international terrorists if our government wasn't involving themselves in illegal wars in the middle east and denying others the nuclear weapons that Tony Blair seems to love so much.
The SNP are right to want to leave NATO and get rid of unusable nuclear weapons and the fig leaf of 'a nuclear defence' when really we are just an aircraft carrier for the US.
Scotland doesn't want to spend money on unusable nuclear weapons, we don't want or need them and if England wants to buy them from the US they should do so theirselves and base them in England, not Scotland.
Scotland does not need to interfere in the middle east or prop up despotic dictatorships, we need to have our own foreign policy and our own independent representation in the UN and the EU.
Toryism whether Blair style Pink or new style with call me Dave is equally as bad. It's time for a socialist/social democratic Scotland and an SNP/SSP/Green coalition.
As for Brown, get a grip! He's no different to Blair and like Blair he puts England first, even to the extent of supporting their football team!
Free Scotland Now!
Posted by Joe Middleton at 12:21 AM
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
SCOTTISH LABOUR are set to lose almost half of their councillors as well as the control of 12 local authorities next year, according to a new opinion poll. If the figures are reflected in May's council elections, First Minister Jack McConnell's party would only have a majority of seats in North Lanarkshire.
It would be Labour's worst result in a local authority election and signal the end of the party's domination of local government politics in Scotland. The figures are contained in a YouGov poll commissioned by the SNP. Around 1000 people were asked in November about their voting intentions for next May's council elections.
Alex Salmond's SNP polled 28%, up 4% from the last local authority election in 2003, while Labour slumped to 27%, down six points from three years ago.
The Liberal Democrats were shown to be up marginally to 16%, while the Conservatives were down 1% from 2003 to 15%. Another category, marked "Independent/Others", gathered 15% support. But it is the 5% swing away from Labour to the SNP that will worry election strategists in McConnell's party.
Labour were expecting to lose dozens of councillors next year because of the introduction of proportional representation, but a dip in the party vote would be a double disaster.
An analysis of the poll findings found that a 5% swing would result in a "near wipe-out" of Labour-held councils next year. Labour currently has more than 500 councillors and controls 13 of Scotland's 32 local authorities.
Such a result would see Labour lose overall control of 12 councils, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, South Lanarkshire and North Ayrshire. McConnell's party would have to consider forming coalitions with others if they still wanted to control these local authorities. Only North Lanarkshire would remain in Labour hands.
The SNP report claims the poll indicates a "revolution in Scottish local government bringing to an end decades of Labour domination". It adds: "Due to proportional representation and low Labour poll ratings Labour seem ready to crumble at local level."
Another YouGov question on the council election, this time based on those "certain to vote", was even better for the SNP.
The poll found support for the Nationalists at 30%, up 6% on 2003, while Labour trailed in second place at 26%, down seven points from three years ago.
If reflected in the council election result next year, the SNP would end up with 385 councillors, a gain of 211. Labour would be left with 319 local government politicians, down 190 from 2003. This would mean the Nationalists winning more council seats than Labour for the first time in their history.
The Liberal Democrats, on 14%, have been predicted to gain 18 council seats, while the Tories would lose two compared with the 2003 election.
The heavy losses have prompted Labour's local bosses to start coalition talks with other political groupings ahead of next year's poll.
Already the local parties in Edinburgh and Glasgow have reportedly been in talks with the Liberal Democrats to see if a post-election pact would be viable.
SNP leader Salmond said the poll was further evidence of a Labour meltdown in Scotland.
"One of the final bulwarks holding the Labour Party in Scotland together is their domination of local government. That now, too, is coming to an end. The very foundations of Scottish Labour are collapsing," he said.
A spokesman for Labour Party yesterday dismissed the local election poll: "The dogs in the street were laughing at the last discredited poll when it was published well before Labour's successful conference in Oban. It's time the Nationalists started publishing information like how they would pay for their wild spending pledges."
[That 'successful conference' would be the 'bash SNP' farce where Labour showed they didn't trust Jack McConnell and drafted in Tony Blair, England fan Gordon Brown and other True Brits to waffle a lot of utter cr*p about the prospects of an independent Scotland would it? Despite every other country managing their own independence, Labour's message is that Scots are uniquely incapable of running their own affairs and the sky will fall in with independence. If this is the best argument they can come up wth then the SNP must be rubbing their hands with glee. JOE]
Posted by Joe Middleton at 11:28 PM
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Blair: Independence is backward
INDEPENDENCE for Wales and Scotland would be an old-fashioned backward step, Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday - while claiming his own legacy was to make Britain a more modern place.
[A backward step? More like a necessary step which every former colony of the British Empire has made and none have regretted! Independence is not 'backward' for Wales or Scotland. As Jack Straw has pointed out the union is useful for England but it is not useful for Scotland or Wales, both of whom would benefit from independent representation in the EU and the UN. JOE]
Mr Blair has been under pressure on the constitutional issue after a series of polls showed growing support among the English for the break-up of the UK, and a surge in support for the SNP in Scotland.
But Mr Blair told a Westminster lunch that autonomy for the nations of the UK was "a completely regressive step, totally wrong and totally contrary to where the modern world is moving, which is countries moving together."
Using his own background to stress the "interdependence" point used repeatedly by Chancellor Gordon Brown, Mr Blair said, "My mum was Irish, my Dad was English, both lived most of their lives in Scotland. I was born in Scotland but brought up in County Durham, and I now live most of my life down in London. [Who cares? Blair's allegiance is to England, fair enough, but can he not realise that others put Scotland or Wales first?]
"It's a good newspaper story - You have an opinion poll question to people saying 'Scotland have got their own parliament, should England have its own parliament?'
"I would be kind of surprised if people didn't answer that question 'yes'.
"But to then take it a step further and say they want to bust up the United Kingdom; I don't think they want to bust-up the UK." [Pity that's exactly what the polls say Tony.]
An ICM survey for The Sunday Telegraph which suggested support for Scottish independence had reached 52% among Scots and 59% in England. And a poll in yesterday's Scotsman suggest the SNP was on course to be the largest party in the Scottish parliament after next May.
Mr Blair said he recalled similar poll results being published in the summer of 1998, which were not reflected in the results of the 1999 Welsh and Scottish elections.
"When people come to the point of do they want to bust up the UK, I don't think they want to do that," he said. "I'm not saying these aren't difficult arguments that you have to handle carefully, because you do, but I think independence would be a thoroughly old-fashioned and regressive step."
The Prime Minister has said he will step down before next September, but would not be drawn on his departure date when questioned by reporters yesterday. Asked about his biggest mistakes since entering 10 Downing Street in 1997, he hinted they might not include issues such as the Iraq war.
"If people ask me what's your biggest mistakes, I always say 'that's for me to know and you to find out'. Although they may, funnily enough not be some of the things you might think of," he said. He added, "I think the thing that has changed about the country overall is that I think the country is basically more willing to advance people on merit today, and ... I think we've become a far more modern country."
Returning to his theme of the regions [Scotland and Wales are COUNTRIES not regions], he said, it was wrong to always compare areas such as Wales or the north-east of England with London, saying there had been strong economic growth throughout the UK
"Part of the trouble with comparing region by region is, if you take London for example, you have some of the wealthiest parts of Britain and some of the poorest. It's more sensible to analyse disparities within regions rather than pitting regions against each other."
Monday, December 04, 2006
So Tony has decided, yes Britain needs it's nuclear deterrent so it can play big man on campus. His friends in the US will be very happy to receive a £20 Billion order for an unusable nuclear defence system.
Despite the fact Britain can hardly equip it's troops in the current US instigated wars, Tony thinks that a new missile system is a snip. "No madman can blow us up, if he did we'll blow him up, they'd have to be mad" he assures us, yes Trident will save us from all manner of unlikely scenarios dreamed up by Whitehall mandarins.
Well I'm sorry Tony but Scotland doesn't want or need your 20 Million quid virility symbol. We don't need to have the capacity to blow up other nations and we don't feel the requirement to pretend we're a big bully on the international stage.
Scotland is a small country, we are a rich country but we are not willing to waste our money on bombs which can't be dropped, again. There is a simple way to destroy Tony's nuclear dream where he sits in his bunker as the last man under the nuclear slag heap. That way is by voting for Scottish independence.
The radiation won't stop at the border but at least we won't waste our money on a unusable nuclear deterrent nor will we contribute towards a future nuclear conflict. Let's leave the US to play their games in NATO and if England wants to pretend they've still got imperial power they can pay for their bombs themselves.
One of Scotland’s most eminent journalists, Harry Reid, has joined the Scottish Independence Convention, throwing his weight behind the campaign for a referendum and proclaiming his belief that the Treaty of Union is dead.
Mr Reid is a former editor of The Herald who ran the paper during its acclaimed campaign for a Yes/Yes vote in the 1997 devolution referendum. He has since written authoritative books on the Church of Scotland and the state of Scottish football. His latest book, Deadline, is a fast-selling history of the Scottish press.
He explained his decision to embrace independence: “I’ve been a ‘fellow traveller’ for a year or so now, yet somehow I’ve never quite faced up to what both my heart and my head have been telling me: that an independent Scotland could – and almost certainly would – be a better Scotland. I further believe that the Union is finished, and that England could benefit greatly from rediscovering itself by going through the potentially positive process of becoming English rather than British.
“And then my old friend and colleague Murray Ritchie bludgeoned me into writing this short piece. SO LET ME COME OUT AND SCREAM IT: I BELIEVE IN, AND NOW I EARNESTLY DESIRE, AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND.”
He said there were many reasons for this, some subtle, some crude, some cerebral, some emotive, some obscure, some historical.
“But the clincher for me has been the way this man Blair – surely the worst British leader in living memory – has been responsible for the worst thing I can recall the British state doing. That is, the reckless and illegal invasion of a sovereign foreign country, Iraq. I’m not sure if the invasion would have been justified had our security been genuinely at risk, but without doubt a case could have been made. Whereas the case that Blair presented was utterly false.
“And it was easy enough to invade, easy enough to topple Saddam: but how to secure the peace and how to construct a new and stable Iraq? How to persuade that country’s people – those of them who have not been slaughtered - that their life is better and the invasion has been beneficial? Not a thought seems to have been given to these crucial policy decisions. And thus, for the people of Iraq, life has slipped towards the abyss.
“The invasion of Iraq has been supremely and horrendously counter-productive. Our fine military have been shamelessly sent on a grotesque fool’s errand, a mission that was supposed to help us defeat terrorism but is instead creating and mentoring a whole new generation of terrorists.
“And what has this to do with an independent Scotland? It is quite simple. An independent Scotland would never ever misuse its power in this manner. I could never imagine, in a thousand years, an independent Scotland sending its army to invade a far-off country on such phoney pretexts.
“Iraq must dominate our current political agenda. But as I have tried to explain, Iraq is relevant to our constitutional debate.
“There are many other, far more positive, arguments for Scottish independence and I look forward to discussing these in the months ahead. The key point in the here-and-now is this: the British state – and it pains me to write this – has done something that is seriously wrong and very stupid. A Scottish state would never have behaved in this way.”
Murray Ritchie, convention convener, welcomed Mr Reid to the campaign. “Harry’s an intellectual heavyweight. He has thought through the arguments for and against independence and, like most of Scotland’s leading thinkers, reached the conclusion that the benefits will be overwhelmingly in favour. We are delighted to welcome him to the winning side.”
from Scottish Independence Convention www.scottishindependenceconvention.com
By Paul Henderson Scott, Sunday Telegraph
Last weekend in Oban, the Scottish Labour Party held a very unusual conference. A succession of ministers from the Westminster Government, beginning with Tony Blair and followed by Scottish MPs Gordon Brown, John Reid and Douglas Alexander, all indulged in hysterical speeches about what they saw as the dangers of Scottish independence. They spoke as if it would be a strange anomaly in the modern world of increasing interdependence. Have they failed to notice that in recent years all the old empires, including the British, and most of the multinational states have resolved into their component parts? It is Scotland (probably the oldest nation in Europe) that is the anomaly in failing so far to follow the modern tendency.
"We are two open countries, England and Scotland," Mr Blair said, "open to each other and open to the world." So they would remain with Scottish, or Scottish and English, independence. We should both be members states of the European Union and of the United Nations. On most issues we should agree and be able to support one another.
As separate states, we should have more influence in Europe as two voices than as one; more seats in the European Parliament and more votes in the Council of Ministers. But when our interests and views differed, Scotland would be able to state its own case. And, of course, we should still have free movement of people and goods, not only between us but over the whole of the European Union. Scottish independence would remove grievances between England and Scotland, not increase them.
advertisementWe have a parallel close to home. Ireland, as part of the UK, was impoverished and resentful. As an independent country it is contented and prosperous. The small independent nations of Europe, such as Ireland, Norway, Iceland and Finland, are among the most prosperous. Small countries are closer and more responsive to the needs of their citizens and more flexible in responding to changing circumstances in the global economy.
An independent Scotland would, of course, have to stand on its own feet financially. There would be no suspicion, as there is at present in England, that it is being subsidised from south of the border. In fact, the financial flow is in the opposite direction because of the proceeds of the oil in Scottish waters, which, at the current oil price, is worth about £10 billion a year. The oil revenues have been seized by Westminster, although under international law they are a Scottish asset. That is presumably one reason why the present British Government would like to hold on to Scotland. This may be a contentious issue but, after all, oil is a diminishing asset, Westminster has enjoyed it for 30-odd years, and that is probably at least half of the total.
With independence, Scotland would assume responsibility for its own defence, with such international agreements as it might wish to make. This is one of the issues where majority opinion in Scotland and England diverge. Most people in England still seem to hold on to the idea of Britain (or England) as a world power. From this follows a desire to renew the so-called nuclear deterrent.
We in Scotland see no advantage in trying to act as a major power, especially if in practice it means hanging on to the coat-tails of the United States. This is the attitude that leads to such disasters as the Iraq war and the consequent provocation of terrorism.
This, of course, brings us to the awkward matter of the nuclear submarines on the Clyde. In the opinion of most people in Scotland, they are immoral, useless, hideously expensive (an independent Scotland would be more than happy to have to contribute towards them no longer) and always liable to an explosion, either accidentally or as a consequence of a terrorist attack. They are close to our major centre of population. How can Britain express indignation about other countries seeking to obtain nuclear weapons when it proposes, contrary to its treaty obligations, to renew its own? British nuclear weapons should be abolished, which might be an encouragement to other countries to do the same.
If England takes a different view from an independent Scotland, what happens? An elaborate and expensive base has been built for the submarines at Faslane. It would take time to build a new base in England and one can imagine the outcry from people living close to it. If that consideration helps to influence a decision against renewal, so much the better. If not, perhaps an English government could persuade the United States to allow them to share one of their bases. They use the same technology, after all, and it is highly improbable that an English government would ever want to start a nuclear war on its own.
• Paul Henderson Scott is a former diplomat. He has written many books on Scottish history, politics and culture. The most recent is The Union of 1707: Why and How (Saltire Society)
Scottish independence? No fear!
by Jimmy Reid, Alasdair Gray and Christopher Harvie
Scotland’s election of May 2007 may be decisive for the future of the British state. On St Andrew’s Day 2006, three leading Scottish writers urge voters to choose the route of national independence.
Before a major general election in 1966 an "independent voters' initiative" was launched by German writers and artists supporting Willy Brandt's challenge to the federal republic's Christian Democrat government. Brandt's campaign success strengthened democratic institutions and defeated what looked like becoming a neo-Nazi revival.
The election to the Scottish parliament on 3 May 2007 is a comparable challenge to Scotland. It occurs exactly 300 years after the Act of Union, passed by the last independent Scots parliament, made Scotland part of England's expanding empire. The loss of that empire after 1997 allowed Tony Blair to give Scotland what Billy Connolly rightly called "a wee, pretendy parliament." Since then the London government has made that term apply to Westminster by using docile Scots Westminster MPs to carry through legislation against majority English and Labour opinion.
Result: ever-angrier Anglo-Scottish stand-offs, and the functional and moral collapse of local Scottish Labour parties whose main work nowadays is selling public property and giving well-paid jobs to its members. More and more Scots now accept independence as inevitable. The question is: when?
Do we want a new generation of nuclear-power stations, or of Trident nuclear submarines? Does Glasgow need a super-casino? Does Scotland need another corporate golf course? Must the country's local hospitals be closed so that most invalids must travel long distances to a few super-hospitals? Must the Scottish executive's plan to help local authorities sell off chunks of our public parks to private businesses succeed? Is Scotland's only social construction plan to build big work-spaces for global corporations to lease cheaply, though after a few years the corporations pull out because they can hire workers more cheaply in third-world nations?
New Labour has sold itself to private business at every level, cutting deals with individual, corporate and multinational wealth as enthusiastically as the John Major and Margaret Thatcher governments it replaced, promising only (but failing) to rule us more honestly. We want instead a land whose government encourages local businesses of different kinds, and enterprises whose goals are not just profits, but support for innovation and cooperation.
New Labour's economics are fraudulent - an indiscriminate growth of gambling, retailing and fast food, financed by borrowing, arms-dealing and social inequalities, with the bill yet to come in. We need independence to start sorting our country and making it a nation with a voice in world affairs. The approaching fuel crisis has been brought nearer by Tony Blair's foreign wars, making Scotland's North Sea resources even more valuable. These oilfields won't last for ever, but Scotland could use them as collateral for an independent government and technology for an eco-hi-tech future and responsible international role.
We accept the view of Tam Dalyell - an honourable opponent who in some respects we agree with - that devolution was a motorway to independence without an exit. It is time to go down it, making our own decisions and not blaming others when things go wrong.
We need independence, and soon, to debate the choices open to us, make alliances with other lands in and outside Europe, and make the sort of Scotland we want. It will be years before we get another chance.
Leadership matters. At a time when New Labour has weaved and dodged through the ambiguities of devolution, wrapped in a tattered Union Jack, Scottish National Party (SNP) leaders Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have shown an articulate social democracy, weak on spin and strong on principle. What matters to them is not a party victory but our empowerment as the community of Scotland, again exercising that "freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life."
We ask you to support this appeal for what has been called the "Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Republic".
Alasdair Gray, Christopher Harvie, Jimmy Reid
Christopher Harvie is a historian who was professor of British and Irish studies at Tübingen University, Germany. His homepage is here
Alasdair Gray is a novelist and artist.
Jimmy Reid is a journalist and broadcaster
Friday, December 01, 2006
Well, we told you so. Some months back we predicted in this website that Labour would resort, as ever, to lying as the independence cause continued to make progress. The big lies, we suggested, would be the following:
Scotland is too poor to afford independence
There would be border patrols at Berwick
We would make foreigners of our families
We would need passports to go from Dumfries to Carlisle
Scotland would have a crippling deficit if we became independent
Scotland will be a haven for terrorists and illegal immigrants under independence
Scotland would need a new and separate currency
And so on. It was all the usual venal propaganda that we have heard a millions times before. And we will hear it all again. What those shameless Labour so-called heavyweights did not explain was why the independence cause is soaring to new heights of popularity in Scotland – and now in England. Or why the polls are showing support for the Union collapsing in both England and Scotland as we approach the 300th anniversary of the Treaty.
So, as a service to any few remaining doubters who might still be worried by this Unionist tosh, we offer this response based on facts, not fantasy. In place of disinformation designed to scare off the independence vote next May, here are a few basic truths.
1 - The legacy of the Union is that Scotland has had the lowest average economic growth of any west European country for a generation. That is an astonishing and shameful record. There is an uncomplicated reason for it: we are denied – by the Union – control over our own economy. No country can have economic prosperity when it has no fiscal power.
2 – Scotland has all the economic resources for a modern prosperous independent state – but only if the Scots are given control of these resources. But we are denied that power because Unionists like Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are determined that economic and fiscal policy must be decided in the best interests of the most populous area of the British state – and that means the south east of England. (Remember Eddie George, erstwhile governor of the Bank of England, who said unemployment in the “north” was the price of prosperity in the south.)
3 – There will be no border patrols at Berwick, or Gretna or anywhere else when Scotland becomes independent – unless, of course, an independent English government decides to put them there. Anyone who has travelled in Europe in the past decade knows that internal EU borders are coming down, not going up. You can travel across most of the EU without showing a passport – except in cases where security is an issue. The EU is all about removing internal borders and the need for passports. The only people who ask for passports inside the UK these days are airlines!
4 – We will not make “foreigners” of our families. When Ireland left the British state its citizens continued to have free access to the UK, and vice versa. The Irish could still vote in British elections for many years after Ireland became a republic. On the night that Scotland becomes independent everyone in it can choose to be a Scot – or not. This choice would unite families, not split them.
Families living in different countries would see no change. Scots in New Zealand are no more foreigners to their families now than he they would be after Scottish or English independence. Do we really see the Irish as “foreigners” when we criss-cross the Irish Sea?
Besides, dozens of small countries have become independent in recent times and the nationality issue has never been an issue.
5 – Scotland might or might not have a fiscal deficit after independence. The big lie is that our deficit, if it existed, would be crippling because we are so poor and dependent on the British state. It is curious, is it not, that Scotland is apparently in such a hopelessly impoverished mess after almost a decade of the best chancellor since sliced bread, that we must remain dependent.
How can this happen when the Union is so wonderful? Or is it just another Labour lie?) The truth - as even the Scottish Tory Unionists now freely admit – is that Scotland’s deficit or surplus will be decided by the independent government of the day and its running of the economy. The UK deficit now is running at just over £35 billion. If it is acceptable for the best chancellor ever to run a deficit of that order why can’t Scotland do the same proportionally? To misquote Jack McConnell, but only slightly, Scotland could happily run the best wee deficit in the world. Labour’s argument is nonsense and they know it.
6 – The argument that independence will make Scotland a haven for terrorists is pathetic. At present the UK is a terrorist target because of the illegal war in Iraq, a war based on more Labour deceit. If Scotland becomes independent there will be no Scottish armed forces in Iraq unless a Scottish government sends them there – which would be highly unlikely. Scotland is against Trident – a real cause of terror, and against the shame of rendition flights. But we have Trident and rendition and Iraq forced on us because we are part of the Union. As for immigration, Scotland needs immigrants. Our economic slide means population decline and a loss of skills. But we are not allowed our own immigration policy – because of the Union.
7 – As for the currency, well, we would probably just remain in the single currency with England in the immediate aftermath of independence. The Irish shadowed sterling for years after their independence until they joined the euro, and Scotland could do the same if the people so decided. It would be relatively painless. We have little to lose. After all, we lost our central bank centuries ago, because of the Union.
So the next time the Labour, Tory and LibDem Unionists start their scare stories – remember the truth. The Union has had its day. It is time for a fresh start with independence. It would do so very much for Scotland.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:21 AM
"A poll showing that the Scots wish independence is a rarity: I can remember only one other, some years ago. The much more common view expressed in polls - and certainly at the ballot box - is that somewhere between a quarter and a third of Scots say they wish independence.
The high watermark in a British general election was in the second election in 1974, at 30.4 per cent of the Scots electorate - which was something of a freak result, since the vote fell to the low teens in the 1980s. In 1997, it was 22.1 per cent: it fell to 20.1 per cent in 2001 and to 17.7 per cent in 2005. In Scots parliament elections, the high was the first such vote, in 1999, with 28.7; in the last election, in 2003, it was 23.8 per cent.
The highest vote the party has received was in 1994, with 32.6 per cent in the European parliament elections. These are substantial votes: but they are also volatile, and never more than a third."
John Lloyd has deliberately directly equated SNP support with independence support however he should know that these are not the same thing.
The Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity all support independence as well. In addition to this there are numerous small groups and parties such as the Free Scotland Party, the Scottish Independence Party, the Scottish Enterprise Party the Communist Party of Scotland, the Scottish republican Socialist Movement and the Celtic League who all support independence as well.
This widening of independence support then includes every political organisation which is actually based in Scotland (Labour Lib Dems and Tories are London controlled and it shows) and in fact many voters of the unionist parties actually support independence as well.
Two organisations have been set up to represent this cross party support, one is the Scottish Independence Convention, where the Greens SNP and SSP meet on a regular basis with others from 'civic Scotland' to discuss promoting independence in the style of the successful 'constitutional (devolution) convention'.
The other is the referendum campaign Independence First www.independence1st.com which has not only received messages of support from all the organisations listed above but which is aimed directly at the Scottish people of all parties and none who support a democratic referendum on independence.
The independence movement as a whole is more united than it has ever been, the SNP is the biggest player in that movement but it is not the whole story and as long as commentators ignore every other organisation in that movement they will fail to understand the massive rise in independence support.
Independence is very simple, it is about democratic equality with other nations, a union with a country ten times our size is not equal and never has been.
This has been recognised by every organisation based in Scotland, it's a pity our media aren't more open minded and less biased. It appears the only voices they want to hear are the 39% minority who share their preference for the status quo.
Posted by Joe Middleton at 10:18 AM