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Showing posts with label Angus Robertson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Angus Robertson. Show all posts

Sunday, 29 March 2015

SNP Spring Conference 2015 – there’s never been a party conference like this one!

Angus Robertson MP and Stewart Hosie MP, the two stalwarts of the lonely advance guard of six SNP MPs, who have spent years as a tiny embattled group on the Commons benches, surrounded by the hostile forces of unionism, alternately abused and patronised, facing the full wrath and hostility of all unionist parties, including abuse from their fellow Scots in Labour, LibDems and Tory ranks, exhausted by commuting to and from their constituencies and demanding party duties in Scotland.

Here they set the scene for Conference and for Nicola, and calmly nail – hopefully  once and for all(!) - the repetitive distortions and simplistic questions and soundbytes directed at us by hostile and often deeply confused unionists – on party leadership, on Westminster leadership and on Westminster strategy and the questions of a second independence referendum.

It is not a an exaggeration to say that no other political party has such clarity of policy, objectives and tight focus.

Scotland, the party and the massive new SNP membership owe them a debt of gratitude for their incalculable contribution to party strategy and the success of the SNP, especially to Angus Robertson, the modest hero of the SNP, the architect of so much of its success - our leader in Westminster. We owe so much to this man.

We won't forget - and after May, you'll never be lonely again, guys - massive reinforcements are coming!

There has never been a party conference like this. It let the world see what Scotland and Scots are really like - open and determined. There's a simple explanation for SNP's success and poll position - it understands Scots, Scotland and politics better than the opposition.

HUMZA: "We are nobody's branch office. Nobody puts Scotland in a box. No one puts Scotland in a corner." And so say all of us ...

If you're a lifelong Labour supporter (I was!) but increasingly realise that the SNP is the party that now represents your values - join us!

If you voted NO at #indyref but are having second thoughts, now's the time! Join the SNP - you'll be welcomed and immediately among friends.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Trident Renewal Debate – 20th Jan 2015

#Trident The moral and intellectual, not to mention the strategic and economic bankruptcy of the pro-nuclear case is staggeringly evident.

 #Trident Trident Debate 20 Jan 2015: Dame Joan Ruddock - Part 2  "Nuclear weapons have no utility..."

#Trident Trident Debate 20 Jan 2015: Dame Joan Ruddock - Part 1 “A unilateralist is a multilateralist who means it!"

#Trident #WMD God help us - look who's in the Deputy Speaker's chair - Eleanor Laing MP! -

#Trident #WMD Trident debate, 20 Jan 2015: Angus Robertson - Part Two

#Trident My least favourite Scottish MP, Rory Stewart (Jim Murphy close second) is on his feet

#Trident I take my hat off to Labour MPs attending who spoke for the motion. As for the Scottish ones who didn't attend - my utter contempt

#Trident Some of the arguments for retaining WMD sound like those that might be advanced by not very bright, morally deficient adolescents.

#Trident #indy #WMD Trident debate 20 Jan 2015: Angus Robertson - Part One. Angus Robertson on superb form ..

JOAN RUDDOCK: Nuclear weapons have no utility.They cannot be used to advance any cause or to secure any territory without devastating effects”

#Trident There's a grinning ghost missing from Labour benches - Jim Murphy, arch-Blairite, Henry Jackson nuclear hawk. Will he vote tonight?

#Trident I continue to marvel at what prats some English Tories are, e.g. Julian Fellows.

#indy George Osborne effectively confirmed today that he wants to see English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) applied to parts of the Budget

#Trident The argument for having nuclear weapons is identical to the NRA's case for every American family to keep an arsenal in their homes

#Trident Thanks God Labour has a tiny number of principled MPs left. Dame Joan Ruddock is one. Currently on her principled feet ...

#Trident Michael Fallon, in between defending WMD as a job creation scheme, attacks Labour's alleged equivalence on at sea nuclear deterrent

#Trident If ever we needed evidence that Labour and Tories are unfit to govern a civilised society, Trident debate offers it in abundance.

#indy Which is the more contemptible - Labour's loss of values and principles, or its attempt to hide the loss from the electorate by lies?

#indy Labour MPs absence from Trident debate says that they support WMD but are afraid to be seen to be doing so, afraid to debate. Feart.

#indy Survation poll this morning shows a majority of those who expressed a view are opposed to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Where are we at? 12 campaigning days left (incl. today!)

It has been some week – a politician – Jim Murphy - on the stump, shocked that - in Labour heartlands betrayed and devastated by Westminster Labour, Tory and Coalition Government’s - they don’t like him or what he stands for and show their distaste, and their  commitment to doing things differently, by turning out in force and heckling him.

And an egg was thrown – shock, horror! An egg thrown at a political event! Murphy makes himself utterly ridiculous by alleging  plots and intimidation.

One of his even more delusional supporters compared the egg throwing to the assassination of Martin Luther King!

PMQs -  Camerons's crumbling regime in panic mode over Scotland and UKIP defections - you can smell the fear (e.g. Edward Leigh MP!).

Sundry Scottish Labour apparatchiks get their snide digs in at their country, and one Scottish Tory MP for an English constituency puts in his slimy tuppenceworth.

Angus Robertson gets Dave in a fluster bluster over his failure to debate, then Speaker Bercow tries to silence and patronise Angus MacNeil, who was merely trying to correct Cameron's torrent of blatant factual inaccuracies and misrepresentations Speaker Bercow, cordially detested by a significant section of the House, is in deep shit over his attempt to select an assistant in defiance of House of Commons selection procedures.

Roll on independence, when we'll be free of this sordid bunch!

Jeane Freeman does a brilliant job here in the face of a hectoring Andrew Neil, the archetypal Brit/Scot journalist, worried about polls narrowing, making the fatal mistake of trying to patronise and bully one of the most incisive voices in Scottish politics.

But Jeane, in an otherwise perfect performance, still leaves the same gap in the argument as all the rest of the YES campaign - that the UK Parliament can weaken or claw back any devolved power, on the NHS or anything else - and they could, and will do it as their privatisation plans gain traction after a No. And who could stop them in a defeated, demoralised YES campaign under such circumstances?

George Robertson describes Scotland as "a minor entity in the North of Britain" That's how he sees Scotland. That's how he sees his country - if indeed he regards Scotland as his country and not UK.

That's how he's always seen it - how NATO sees it, how UK sees it. Of course it's a very handy "minor entity in North of Britain" for storing WMDs well away from population centres in England, but within 20 miles of Scotland most populous area. It's a handy "minor entity" for cannon fodder troops, for low-flying exercises, for safe havens for nuclear armed submarines, for its oil revenues - and for electing Labour nonentities to safe and profitable seats and highly profitable careers, well away from the "minor entity in North of Britain".

Then we have a British financial establishment - as reported by their pink house journal, The Financial Times – in panic mode as they belatedly wake up to the polls, and the fact that, in contradiction of the UK media crap fed to them (incl. by FT) that the Scots were going to safely say a big No Thanks to independence, instead were showing distinct signs of uttering a great, big, joyous YES.

So the financial establishment joins the M.O.D. and sundry complacent politicians in failing to sense the zeitgeist and signally failing make any contingency plans for a probability that was never less the 35%, and has been rapidly moving to 50%!

Would you entrust your savings, your business, your country’s defence and your children’s future to such an inept bunch of gandy dancers and railroad men? Naw …

THE ISLANDS

Friday, 18 January 2013

L’Europa and other matters

EUROPE – UK and SCOTLAND

The UK parties fight like ferrets in a sack over Europe - Scottish Labour MPs don't know their gluteus maximi from their elbows on the issue, and don't matter at UK level anyway. UKIP doesn't exist in Scotland, thank God, and we are spared a farrago of Farage, except on metropolitan media, which he is all over like a rash.

The SNP is solidly committed to Europe, and Scotland will continue to be a member after independence after negotiating relevant aspects of their changed status. They will be welcomed with open arms by the EU as a rational new country untainted by UK European divisions.
Some independence supporters are Eurosceptics but will not change their vote from YES - they will rely on influencing an independent Scotland to think about membership. Most are fully committed to Europe.

In contrast, among the undecided are many Scots wholly committed to Europe who may well be tilted to a YES based on UK indecision, confusion and even an opt-out of EU. There may even be hard core NO voters who are wholly committed to Europe who will be shifted by UK divisions and threats over EU membership.

GLASGOW

The voters of Glasgow re-elected Labour councillors in the local elections last year.

Fears for Glasgow council leader's future over sex act

The poverty campaigner who walked away with £500k of poor kids' cash

Glasgow City Council in action against the poor

Spectacular fall of Glasgow Council Leader Stephen Purcell shocks Scotland's political world

THE POLITICS THAT MATTER FOR SCOTLAND

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Democracy and political party democracy

Scientists sometimes talk of the tyranny of the dominant theory, or in another manifestation, the complacent invulnerability of the established system. Theory - scientific, economic, medical, social or political - often plays a key role in decision making, and decision making affects lives.

In religion, theory becomes dogma and as history shows, the tyranny of religious dogma can be oppressive, stultifying and at its worse, murderous. Political theory can manifest all the characteristics of religious dogma, with equally appalling results, as the history of the 20th century demonstrates, and we are well on our way to repeating the horrors with a lethal mix of old religious dogma and new political dogma in the 21st.

But let’s leave religion and look briefly at economic theory, since it intimately affects the geopolitical climate, and appears to have failed humanity in a spectacular fashion in the very recent past. Since I am neither political scientist nor economist and certainly not a mathematician or statistician, bear with in my layman’s analysis as I struggle to understand ideas that perhaps a new PPE graduate could easily expound on …

For most of the last century, the dominant economic theory has been the theory of utility. As best I can express it, utility theory makes the base assumption that all decisions are made rationally, and analyses – and attempts to predict – all decisions based on the value (utility) that the decision maker places on the elements in the decision.

The problem is that this is not how people actually behave when they make real decisions, as the the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman – and many others – has conclusively demonstrated. The work of the games theorists took this further in the 1950s and 1960s, and anyone who enjoyed the Russell Crowe portrayal of John Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind might want to try the dense, complex book on which the film was based about the work of John Von Neumann and John Nash at Princeton and the RAND Corporation (CIA)

Suffice to say that the utility theory didn’t roll over easily and give up when confronted with the incontrovertible new evidence and new theory, any more than the financial traders of Wall Street shut up shop when they were confronted by equally incontrovertible evidence (from their own trading records, rigorously statistically analysed) that stock trading has a success rate over time slightly less successful than random picks, and that, as Daniel Kahneman has observed, a blind monkey throwing darts at a board would have had a better hit rate. Similar reactions came from clinicians when confronted with disturbing analysis of diagnostic and treatment success, and from experts in a wide variety of disciplines who got into deep doo-doo when they ignored the numbers and trusted their experience, gut feel and ‘expert’ judgement alone.

What has all this got to do with a pound of mince and Scotland’s politics? Well …

DEMOCRATIC POLITICS AND POLITICAL DECISIONS

A thought before I continue … The fate of the world may soon be in the hands of a US President, Commander in Chief of awesome nuclear destructive forces, of the CIA, of the American military and effectively of NATO, who believes that a young American had an angel appear to him in the early 1820s in upstate New York and lead him to a place where he dug up gold tablets with a holy book inscribed on them, which amongst other things, said that one of the lost tribes of Israel found its way to America.

The gold tablets mysteriously vanished, there is not a shred of historical evidence of any kind for the claims, and all that is left is The Book of Mormon, translated from the mysterious tablets. The rest of Mitt Romney’s beliefs about the world, current affairs, social matters, economics, etc. are now a matter of embarrassing - and often hilarious – record, but the people who will vote for him appear unbothered by all this.

Perhaps we should bear all this in mind when we remember the SNP’s recent vote to join NATO, and when we are tempted to hope that democratic politics is even half way rational. But I do live in hope …

NUTS AND BOLTS

I have long experience, covering decades, of the political and organisational behaviour of trades unions, including some brief but intense experiences as union member, a union representative and a committee member, including the formative experience of being on strike.

But my experience of political party membership and of party democracy is very much briefer, superficial , and in itself, one from which no deep conclusion could be drawn about wider political behaviour.

My experience of politics and the behaviour of political parties as a citizen and voter, however, crosses eight decades, from the 1940s to the ‘teens of the 21st century, and throughout all of that time I have maintained an active interest in current affairs and politics, both as a voter and a citizen, and in my professional life because of the high relevance of politics to my work. You must judge the relative value of what I say in that context against that of commentators who have much deeper inside knowledge of politics, including activists, politicians and specialist academics.

In making that judgement however, try to bear in mind my opening preamble on the tyranny of the dominant theory – and therefore the dominant theorists and practitioners – and the complacent invulnerability of the established system.

Democratic politics are imperfect, but the alternatives have been consistently shown to be much, much worse by the lessons of history - and democratic processes can be improved. Scotland has a long, honourable record of contribution to democracy, in fact can be seen as a cradle of democracy, and there is no reason why the contribution should stop in the new age that we are entering.

Recent events have forced me to focus, as a voter, on some aspects of that democracy and, since I am a nuts and bolts man by background and instinct, I’ll leave the endless theorising about neo-liberalism and macro-economic theory to the think tanks, academics, assorted lefties, righties, gandy dancers and railroad men who revel in that kind of arcane discourse. But there is a kind of dominant theory of how political parties operate in a democracy, about their role in elections and in government, and a feeling of complacency about the way the party and branch systems operate, especially in relation to policy formation when a party is in government. 

Perhaps that dominant set of assumptions should be challenged.

Consider the role of parties in an elective democracy. The Founding Fathers of American democracy didn’t want them, because party is faction – groups with a core common political agenda who act in concert when they can. The Founding Fathers did their best to avoid them, by separation of powers between the judicial, legislative and executive functions, by federalism, and by having a President elected indirectly by an electoral college.

Despite all this, political parties are what they wound up with.

In the UK, a constitutional monarchy, at least the fiction of being without faction, i.e. party, could be maintained, and while first-past-the-post still operates at UK level as the system of election to Westminster, the pretence can be maintained that voters elect the person, not the party. In the case of someone standing as an independent, this is still true. The ballot paper asks the voter to choose between named candidates, not political parties.

But with the advent of proportional representation in its various forms, this ceased to be true, and party now has an overt role. Indeed for many years there have been electoral rules governing party election expenditure and other matters in the UK.

PARTY AND SCOTLAND

The method adopted for proportional representation in the Scottish Parliament is the d’Hondt method. Candidates stand either for an individual constituency seat or are placed on a list by their parties. After the initial results are in, the  parties are ranked on by the number of votes cast, the votes in each region are divided by 1 + number of seats won, and each party is ranked and re-ranked on a ranking list by an iterative process

One example should suffice to demonstrate how the d’Hondt method works. Party gets 100,00 votes and wins one seat - 100,000 divided by 1+1 = 2. Party’s vote is now 50,000, and it is re-ranked on the list, and so on until process complete and list seats allocated.

Voting in the Scottish Parliament

If you don’t understand this, don’t worry – all you need to know is that some MSPs are elected as individuals (73 in total) by voters for a specific constituency, and some are allocated a seat by the outcome of a list computation (56 in total), and are known as list MSPs. Each voter therefore has two votes – the constituency vote and the regional vote – and one constituency MSP but seven regional list MSPs for each of the eight regions.

Under the d’Hondt system, the fiction cannot be maintained that party has no role in the electoral process – it clearly has, and a crucial on at that.

Do you get to choose the person you vote for?

Answer: No, you get to choose among the people chosen by the political parties, and if you always vote for one party, only the person chosen for you by that party.

Of course, if there is a candidate standing as an independent, a choice of the individual can be made. Among Scotland’s famous independents we may number Margo Macdonald and Dennis Canavan, both of whom are about as individual as one can get …

Or you can stand for election yourself – all you need is a deposit, and the willingness to lose if too few vote for you!

So in most cases, a voter is voting for the party and its policies and programme as outlined in its manifesto when they vote for an individual, although dependent on how deep party loyalties run, the character and record of the individual may also influence voters, especially floating voters.

To be able to stand under the banner of a political party as a candidate for a constituency, a prospective candidate must first persuade a party selection board to adopt them as candidate. To do this, they obviously must be a member of the party in good standing and agree to ‘take the party whip’ if elected, which means voting the way they are told, except on the rare free votes on matters of conscience.

(In theory, this process is controlled not by the national party but the constituency party and branch structure: in practice, party HQ often has a significant and sometimes dominant input. Gerry Hassan and Eric ShawThe Strange Death of Labour Scotland – give the following insight on page 119 into the 2006 by-election in Dunfermline and West Fife -

Labour was not aided by allegations of attempts to get the candidate the leadership wanted, with evidence of ‘a high-level “fix” to select the [Labour] candidate. This had transpired because party bosses sent out a leaflet on behalf of Catherine Stihler’s campaign hours before she was selected to fight the seat. (Sunday Herald 29 January 2005 ?)

Gerry and Eric seemed to have slipped a year here on the 2005 date of the Sunday Herald story – it must have been 2006. Catherine Stihler lost that election, but she is now an MEP, elected on a list by the d’Hondt system. When the Party wants you elected, the Party gets you elected – the voters are incidental to the process. Catherine is, of course, much in the news over the FOI request and allegations against Alex Salmond.)

Similar requirement exist for ‘getting on the list’ for possible election as a regional list MSP, with the key difference that the electorate play no role directly on electing a list MSP except by their choice of party for the regional vote. On the constituency vote, the voter may feel they have some kind of choice influence over the individual elected, but on the list appointee they have none – it is entirely in the gift of the party.

POLITICAL STRUCTURES AND MECHANISMS

Members of political parties understandably feel they have some rights over policy in the party of their choice, rights not shared by supporters who are not party members, and certainly not rights shared by the wider electorate. The world of politics belongs to the active, the committed, the involved. Even within a political party, the active branch members and officers and the active campaigners - who give up so much of their time and energy – feel that they may reasonably claim rights not shared by the wider, passive branch membership.

This is the way our democracy works – it is the way all democracies work – and one may draw close parallels with the trades unions, who operate with similar structures and who share a set of similar assumptions.

Now the true democrats in political parties and in trades unions are prepared to face squarely the sometimes unpalatable truth that democratic principles enshrine absolute power in the individual voter - the vote, and its collective expression when exercised in elections. This principle requires that the wider, passive, less participative membership of a political party or a trade union must be given clear information of choices to be made, encouraged to become involved in those choices, and to cast their vote when they are entitled to.

But observance of this principle requires an almost heroic selflessness from activists who have sacrificed time, energy - and perhaps money - to the cause, often at the expenses of their personal lives and objectives. So it is understandable that the involvement of a wider membership in vital matters that the activists understand deeply is sometimes given no more than token recognition at best, and at worst, is marginalised or deliberately ignored.

Examples of deliberate entryism in politics and trades unions abound, and simple levers and mechanisms are there to be pushed and utilised by individuals or groups who want to exercise an influence that is essentially undemocratic over nominations to office, to proposing and adopting of resolutions, to the selection of delegates or members of key committees and ultimately to the nomination of candidates.

A danger has always existed in politics and trades unionism that democratic politics shade imperceptibly into Tammany Hall and machine politics. At a time when corruption in UK political and financial institutions has brought trust in these institutions, in politicians and in democratic government itself to an all-time, highly dangerous low, it is vital that the danger signs are recognised and dangerous trends nipped in the bud before we slide towards something ugly in our national life and our democracy.

SNP POLICY FORMATION AND THE NATO VOTE

In my view, the SNP is the most truly democratic party in UK politics, with the possible exception of the Greens. Until now, they have managed to contain certain centre right (that’s being kind!) views within what is broadly an anti-nuclear, social democratic party of the left, under the over-arching objective of independence for Scotland.

But under pressure of the opinion polls, which despite the enthusiastic, optimistic and infinitely creative interpretations of supporters and the party spin machine, remain stubbornly intractable, they have begun to slip inexorably down the Blairite route of placing electability before core belief, albeit with rather more justification than Blair. The monarchy, Britishness, sterling, the social union – all defensible as policies individually– have come to seem to many as, collectively, a dangerous blurring of the line of what an independent Scotland is all about.

The wider core support, uneasy but loyal, have resorted to what I call the magic wand solution – all criticism, all differences must be subordinated, the leadership must be credited with infinite wisdom and have blind trust placed in them until 2014 and the referendum, because everything can be magically undone, modified or changed once independence comes.

In the even wider, non-SNP support for YES and independence, this manifests itself as the variant that in 2016, somehow the SNP may be magically dumped in an election which may be – if negotiations are concluded with rUK - for an independent Scottish Parliament, and similar miraculous transformations of policy can be accomplished by a government of a different political complexion. This is a two-pronged magic wand, which not only ignores the complex nature of the commitments given and the long-term, binding agreements that will be entered into to achieve that independent Scotland, but additionally conjures up a magical realignment of the parties who have up to this point constituted Better Together, the bitter opponents to independence.

A new party of the democratic left – or right - is going to spring fully formed from the head of - who or what? Henry McLeish? Jim Sillars? The Jimmy Reid Foundation? Reform Scotland? Civic Scotland? The CBI? The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations?

I won’t go over all of the lead-up to the NATO vote – my analysis and the reactions to it are well-documented in my back blogs, which I can confidently assert are revisited by a negligible amount of SNP supporters, many of whom (not all!) have a marked distaste for having their shining certainties being blurred by anything resembling facts or detailed analysis, an approach that they share with the media they hate so much.

What can be plainly seen by anyone who examines the timeline objectively is that the SNP leadership driving the NATO U-turn did not expect the reaction they got, and in fact they planned a quick, low-key debate and a conclusive endorsement of the NATO proposal. They got something rather different …

My concern here is to examine the events and the party structures that led to the voting patterns that resulted at Perth on 19th October.

Having launched their superficial little paper on NATO in July - having spent  the earlier part of the year trying to pretend that no U-turn was planned - Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeill were stunned by the broad-based coalition against it that sprang up almost instantly. But they still appeared to retain their confidence in recent polls they quoted, but principally in the outdated Mitchell Report, (questionnaires sent out between 16th and 19th November 2007, when the SNP memberships stood at  13,203, with two other mailings up to March 2008.) which appeared to give them a 3:1 majority for their viewpoint. They appeared unconcerned by the fact that the membership had grown from 13,203 to 24,000 or so, and a number of major events had occurred since the original poll.

The point that neither they nor their support in the party seemed able to grasp - then or now - was that as the party of government, the one that would be charged with negotiating the terms of Scotland’s independence after a YES vote in 2014, they could not and should not treat such a fundamental policy shift as though it was in the gift of a few hundred party delegate to an SNP Conference, to be quietly railroaded through without consulting at least the full SNP membership, the key members of the YES Coalition and ideally the electorate.

The branches, from my anecdotal evidence gleaned from correspondents and on Twitter, were slow to react, more than a little uncertain about the significance of the NATO proposal, and substantially under-informed. This was hardly surprising, since some leading SNP figures (e.g. Alyn Smith) were boasting of their lack of knowledge – and patently of interest - in defence matters. This was not helped by the commentariat and the media, who by and large, with a tiny number of honourable exceptions, showed the same lack of interest and knowledge.

In marked contrast, the NO to NATO campaign, especially CND, were highly informed and produced detailed fact sheet after fact sheet, which appeared to remain entirely unread by at least half of the SNP membership and perhaps a significant majority, judging by the Perth debate and vote.

In among all this was a wriggling, radioactive worm in the SNP/NATO rosy apple – the question of safe havens for nuclear submarines of other NATO countries, including those armed with nuclear weapons. Put at its starkest – as it was by the sole media commentators to appreciate its significance, Gary Robertson on BBC Radio Scotland and Isabel Fraser of the Sunday Politics Scotland and Newsnicht to the First Minister – this meant that an independent and notionally nuclear-free Scotland would allow such WMD-laden vessels to come and go freely on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ basis.

Not only did the press and media fail to pick up or follow up on this, the NO to NATO campaign and the SNP conference speakers against the NATO proposal also missed it, or failed to see its vital significance.

And so the lead-up to the Perth conference and the debate.

An increasingly nervous leadership group steeled themselves for a harder time than they had planned, as the word came back that at least some of the branches were awakening from their Mitchellite trance of being ‘relaxed’ about NATO membership, Bill Ramsay of the SNP CND group was devastatingly articulate on the media, a disparate range of groups under the NO to NATO Coalition were omnipresent, a group of dissident MSPs had more and more to say, and the best efforts of SNP proxies such as George Kerevan weren’t cutting the mustard on media.

Having tried to slide the NATO U-turn paper through low key, after initially pretending it didn’t exist, Robertson and MacNeil were now trumpeting the debating and democratic party virtues of the SNP. Instead of being a triumph of party democracy, Conference was now to be celebrated as a triumph of debate.

What followed was fascinating, uplifting and encouraging in one sense, yet profoundly depressing in its outcome.

The delegates (759 from the voting outcomes) arrived in various states of preparedness for the great debate. Some were there with a free vote, presumably permitted by their branches. Many were mandated in advance by their branches. I have no statistics or information on what went on in the branches, other than anecdotal, from Twitter exchanges, and from emails and comments, many of a confidential natures.

But what I can say with reasonable confidence is this -

1. No general detailed, specific effort was made by any SNP branch to canvass and collate the views of the wider, non-active branch membership. (If there was, there was no evidence of such a consultation)

2. Some branches thought the whole affair very low key and gave it little attention or thought. They were, to use the phrase quoted again and again, “relaxed about NATO membership”.

3. Some branches gave it a lot of discussion, voted on it, and mandated their delegate or delegates accordingly. Some delegates had a very narrow mandate, based on a narrow margin, some were virtually unanimous.

4. No mandated delegates were given authority to change their minds, based on the arguments they heard in the debate. (Bear in mind, there had been no pre-conference debate mounted or indeed encouraged by the party – the debate drivers all came from the NO to NATO camp.)

The delegate group of 759 permitted in the conference hall for the debate therefore included delegates with no mandate who were at least in theory free to decide on their vote based on what they heard from the platform speakers and delegates who were pre-mandated and therefore had to be immune to reason and argument from the platform.

The debate itself was a triumph of passion, cogent argument and principled belief, but the context of the debate, especially what preceded it, was close to Tammany Hall politics. Some anti-NATO speakers came close to saying this. Some have said it to me in confidence, one which I respect. All were torn between their horror, not only at what the party was doing but also how they went about it, and an overriding imperative to close ranks for the sake of the YES campaign.

The outcome was quite simply this -

759 members of a political party that constitutes the Government of Scotland have voted to take 24,000 party members, a much wider number of party supporters who are not members, and a Scottish electorate of millions into a first strike nuclear alliance if independence is secured, and - without any vote, discussion or consultation whatsoever  - into a grossly hypocritical and perhaps lethal arrangement to permit nuclear submarines armed with Trident WMDs to come and go freely in the waters of an independent Scotland.

If this is what the dominant theory of our party politics has brought us to, then that dominant theory and all its related assumption, practices and procedures require urgent revision, because this is not democracy as I want to see it in an independent Scotland. I hope my fellow Scots agree with me.

POSTSCRIPT

Christine Grahame – and others – have called upon John Finnie and Jean Urquhart to resign their seats as MSPs because they were elected as list MSPs on a party vote.

On the contrary, any SNP list MSP who supported the NATO U-turn should resign, because the voters who placed them in Holyrood voted for a party that was clearly opposed by policy to NATO membership, and committed to Partnership for Peace.

Get your dubious principles right, please …

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Coda – the NATO debate, SNP Conference 2012

The full debate is up on other clip. I selected these end clips to give my personal impression - and it is only that - of the quality of the speakers and the delegate reaction.

It leaves me with the question I posed elsewhere - given the calibre of the anti-NATO speakers and the audience reaction to them - how did Conference end up endorsing the motion? Some branches had pre-mandated their delegates, some had not. Some delegates came with their minds made up, some didn't. Some changed their minds, some didn't.

The anti-NATO speakers all gave cogent arguments why Conference should reject this misconceived motion and think again. The pro-NATO speakers opted in the main for strident assertions of their anti-nuclear credentials while advocating joining a first-strike nuclear alliance for expedient and, for me, highly questionable reasons.
 
In Kenny MacAskills's case, it was a piece of shameless rabble-rousing populism, eschewing argument for pushing easy anti-nuclear buttons in the audience, while calmly dumping a lifetime of principled opposition to nuclear and NATO for realpolitik and a place in the sinister NATO corridors of power.

Sadly, his approach probably consolidated the pre-debate pressures on some delegates and swung the vote with the unmandated, undecided remainder.

The fatal die was cast ...

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The SNP and NATO – the argument in detail

On Sunday, I set out the basic SNP argument for the proposed NATO U-turn, and offered a basic classification of the elements of that argument. When it first came out in July, that statement, taken from the defence paper, was the sum total of the argument, together with Angus Robertson’s interview with Isabel Fraser.

And that would have been it until the SNP’s October conference if the issue had not been kept under a continuous spotlight by the media and by other concerned parties represented principally by the SNP CND group and the NO to NATO Coalition.

However, because of that external focus, allied to internal dissent, we now know much more about the thinking of those who champion the NATO U-turn. It was evident from the start in July that the co-signatories of the defence paper, Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeil were behind it, and it logically followed that the First Minister had to be behind it or it would never have seen the light of day. It could also be safely assumed that senior figures who were on record from much earlier as favouring a change of policy on NATO -such as Michael Russell – were behind it, and that the Cabinet were either behind it or maintaining a public silence if there was dissent within their ranks.

I had entertained what later proved to be a vain hope (see Renfrew Cabinet meeting) that Nicola Sturgeon might be against it, which would have been hugely significant if true. However, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister made it abundantly clear in Renfrew Town Hall that they were solidly behind the NATO motion, and advanced arguments for it. So the delegates to the SNP Conference will be asked to vote on a motion that has heavyweight endorsement at the highest levels of the party.

The MSPs who have come out against the motion are – at the last count - John Wilson, Gordon MacDonald, Jamie Hepburn, John Mason, John Finnie, Bill Kidd, Marco Biagi, Bob Doris, Sandra White, Jean Urquhart and Dave Thompson.  In addition, the SNP CND group and the SNP Youth group are opposed.

The NATO U-turn has been described by some as immoral and hypocritical. I agree on both counts.

THE ARGUMENTS FOR THE NATO U-TURN 

We now know a lot more about the thinking behind the proposed policy change than we did in mid-July, thanks to various articles in the newspapers – what Bill Ramsay of SNP CND called “the deafening silence from senior members of the party” - some by SNP proxies such as George Kerevan, and from the latest responses of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to queries.

So let’s listen to George Kerevan, because it is now apparent after the Renfrew meeting that he reflects the SNP leadership’s position very closely indeed. In his Scotsman piece, Kerevan opens with an attempt to wriggle out of the boorach provoked by the SNP leadership’s inept handling of the pre-conference release of the news of the U-turn – the storm of protest, the inaugural meeting of SNP CND and the “high-profile MSPs” opposed to the NATO proposal – by ingeniously converting the rift to a rite -  “another rite of passage for the SNP as it moves from protest movement to nation-builder.” Aye, rite (sic), George …

He goes on to a low-key acknowledgment on the proposed U-turn -

“This is partly to deflect inevitable negative publicity during the referendum campaign – “Salmond will leave Scotland defenceless.”

If that alone was the SNP’s objective, it has already failed, since such publicity had already been endemic in the media and from unionists, including the NATO criticism, but now has the crucial added element of ridicule, because of the self-evidently contradictory nature of the proposal – resolutely non-nuclear but willing to be part of a nuclear alliance, with the ludicrous idea that NATO membership can be offered to the UK as a bargaining concession to speed the removal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Kerevan focuses on trying to rebut the SNP CND arguments against NATO membership, indeed his nation-builder stuff is a rather panic-stricken response to the very existence of SNP CND as the “first break in the party’s famous iron discipline for well over a decade”. Of course, his Scotsman article is a reluctant recognition that the party’s hope that they could keep the debate out of the media and the public domain until the party conference is now blown out of the water, and some public response is desperately needed, but ideally not in detail by senior party figures so that the fiction can be maintained. (Angus Robertson, as the main architect of the U-turn, had little choice but to speak.)

Let’s look at his attempted rebuttal arguments -

SNP CND argues that Scotland’s remaining in/joining NATO will make it harder to get rid of Trident. (For the record, I believe that the SNP’s wish to be part of NATO may be to sanitise a long-delayed removal of Trident, i.e. a fudge to square the SNP’s non-nuclear stance with NATO membership.)

Kerevan’s response is that if an independent Scotland was in NATO, it would be harder for rUK to “blackmail Scotland, as a fellow NATO member into accepting what it does not want…” i.e. nuclear weapons on Scottish territory.

This argument does not stand up to even the most superficial scrutiny. ‘Blackmail’ is in fact a criminal technique of negotiation - an attempt to compel a concession against a threat of unilateral implementation of something fundamentally unacceptable. Kerevan uses the term blackmail pejoratively - in a non-criminal context - but without appearing to understand it. If one thinks about it, the concept of nuclear deterrence is blackmail on a grand scale conducted between nations and power blocs.

What exactly does Kerevan think the ‘blackmail’ will consist of?

Refusal to remove Trident from an independent Scotland?

Threatening an independent Scotland with force?

Refusal to assist with the defence of Scotland on matters that affected UK/NATO interests?

Or perhaps he is thinking of the post-referendum/pre-independence negotiations? Does he actually think the UK will be more demanding, more obstructive to a Scotland that rejects NATO and nukes than to a Scotland which is a member but demands removal of nukes as a quid pro quo for its membership?

A Scottish Government negotiating team with a clear YES mandate from the 2014 referendum, standing clearly by its principles of a non-nuclear Scotland and non-membership of a nuclear alliance which is committed to the possession and use of WMDs will have more moral and intellectual credibility  - and bargaining clout - than one fatally compromised by NATO membership.

SNP CND argues that the NATO bureaucracy could be used to delay the removal of Trident from Scotland if Scotland were within NATO.

Kerevan’s response is the tent argument, much beloved by those who wish to suppress dissent by giving the illusion of influence. In essence it is stay within the system and influence change from within. It is the argument Labour has used since the Cold War and the nuclear standoff on nuclear disarmament – it has failed for over half a century. It is the current argument of Labour for remaining within a failing, unjust and unequal UK – it has failed, spectacularly. It is the argument currently used by the SNP to try to mute dissent within the party over NATO – it has failed.

But George Kerevan dutifully trots it out -

“Germany and other key Nato states are already leading a campaign to remove nuclear weapons from European soil – a campaign Scotland can support best by remaining inside the alliance where its vote counts.”

Bill Ramsay’s response was short and to the point in his Newsnicht debate with George Kerevan -

If Scotland stays in NATO and fights its anti-nuclear case, we’ll be doing exactly what Germany has done – failed. (7m 24sec in to Ramsay/Kerevan Newsnicht interview.)

Kerevan has an example of what he sees as such influence at work to offer -

“… at its Chicago summit in May, under heavy German pressure, Nato altered its so-called “deterrence and defence posture”. Instead of a traditional refusal to give a “no-first-strike” guarantee, Nato now promises never to use nuclear weapons against a country that does not possess them, and is a signatory of the UN non-proliferation treaty (that means Iran, by the way). The Chicago summit also adopted – for the first time in any military alliance – a commitment to make nuclear disarmament a constituent part of its strategy.”

I would not go so far as to say that such changes – if they really meant anything – were worthless. What I do say is that they are concessions wrung out of a NATO in a state of confusion over its role post-Cold War, still in search of a credible enemy to justify its continued existence, and anxious to curry favour by tossing a bone to nuclear disarmers.

Remember, NATO is the United States, France and the UK, with the other 24 member countries as impotent spear carriers, with no influence whatsoever on the major decisions. One only has to remember what happened to democracy, to UN resolutions, to truth and justice at the time of the Iraq war – all were either ignored or perverted to the pre-determined wishes of Bush and Blair. And that was in the face of an imagined, invented threat! I don’t trust NATO, especially in a crisis situation, and neither should the SNP nor an independent Scotland.

It is instructive to note that Kerevan, faced by the SNP CND argument that the US will ‘thwart’ the German campaign, has to reach back to General De Gaulle and a 46-year old example to try to rebut that patently true statement.

The kernel – and a pretty rotten kernel it is – of George Kerevan’s argument is this -

“Pretending Nato is solely to blame for nuclear weapons is naïve. Pretending an independent Scotland that repudiated Nato could fend off Russian bullying in the oil-rich North Atlantic is a dangerous gamble. And pretending a majority of Scots will vote for independence plus neutrality is political fantasy.”

Firstly, no one is ‘pretending’ that NATO is solely to blame for nuclear weapons. The United States which invented them and which used them against a non-nuclear state – twice - must take the principal share of the blame. The former USSR for reacting to that by creating its own nuclear arsenal comes second in the blame game. Then the rest followed …

The non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) formally recognises and in a sense, legitimises five states as nuclear weapons states (NWS) - China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States. But  three other state who are not signatories to the non-proliferation treaty - India, Israel and Pakistan - possess nuclear weapons. North Korea, in 2009, claimed that it had developed a nuclear weapon: it is believed to possess a small stockpile of simple nuclear weapons.

What is NATO, then? It is a military alliance created and dominated by the United States, the country that created the nuclear threat and was the first and so far, the only one - to use it against civilian populations. It is the threat that countries outside of it reacted to by creating their own nuclear arsenals. The United States bankrolls and support Israel and its nuclear weaponry, despite the fact that Israel is not a recognised nuclear weapons state under the NPT. De facto, NATO supports Israel, although it is not a member.

Secondly, the idea that an independent Scotland would face “Russian bullying in the oil-rich North Atlantic” is, to put it mildly, an unlikely scenario, but if it did, it would not be bullied by a nuclear threat – a ludicrous proposition. It would defend itself by conventional methods and, as a member of Partnership for Peace, could call upon support from other countries in the North Atlantic region who, NATO members or not, would respond because it would be self-evidently in their own security and strategic interests to do so.

Kerevan’s last, and faintly contemptible suggestion - that a majority of Scots will be asked to vote for independence and political neutrality and will reject it - is nonsense. There is no suggestion whatsoever that an independent Scotland will be neutral in conflict situations involving its neighbours and long-term friends and allies – nor would it in any way shirk its European and international obligations under the UN - and to imply it is to deny the many public policy statement by the SNP and the First Minister to the contrary – all made in the context of the existing non-NATO policy. Kerevan is trying to equate non-membership of NATO with pacifism, which is patently ludicrous.

The Scottish electorate will vote for an fully independent Scotland, in control of its own defence, foreign policy and economy, but fully integrated into the European and international community and full compliant with its responsibilities to these communities.

The fantasies are all Kerevan’s – the paranoid fantasies of NATO and its cold war mentality, locked into the military/industrial complex, desperately in search of an enemy and a role. In October in Perth, we can only hope that the SNP delegates do not allow themselves to be sucked into this paranoid nightmare and that they vote against NATO membership.

Say NO to NATO!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Scotland and NATO–the arguments

It is always vital in debate – and  in negotiation - to be able to state the position and arguments of the other party as objectively as possible. If the other party’s position and arguments are not clearly understood, it is difficult, if not impossible to combat them effectively.

THE SNP POSITION AND ARGUMENTS ON NATO

The defence paper and resolution of mid-July from co-signatories Angus Robertson MP and Angus MacNeil MP contains the key statement.

A long-standing national consensus has existed that Scotland should not host nuclear weapons and a sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane which will be replaced by conventional naval forces. Security cooperation in our region functions primarily through NATO, which is regarded as the keystone defence organisation by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the United Kingdom.

The SNP wishes Scotland to fulfil its responsibilities to neighbours and allies. On independence Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO. An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations.

In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. Scotland will be a full member of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union and the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

Angus Robertson MP Elected Member

Angus MacNeil MP Elected Member

The above statement has the virtue of clarity and will be presented to Conference as a simple statement of claimed facts, statements of intent and negotiating deal-breakers. I use the following abbreviations to classify –

claimed fact CF

statement of intent SoI

negotiating deal-breaker NDB

conditional negotiating proposal CNP

ANALYSIS

Scotland won’t host nuclear weapons under any circumstance SoI

Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO CF

NATO is the primary defence security coordinating force in the region, the region being defined as Scotland/UK/Scandinavia CF

The SNP wants an independent Scotland to be a good neighbour to Denmark, Norway, Iceland and rUK SoI

A sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane SoI

The nuclear fleet at Faslane will be replaced by conventional naval forces. SoI

The SNP Government will stay in NATO CNP if UK accepts the removal of nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland CNDB1 and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations. CNDB2

If agreement can’t be reached, an independent Scotland will join Partnership for Peace SoI

TIMEFRAME

The timeframe over which this will take place, important dates within it, and the possible context at different points in that timeframe are crucial to possible outcomes.

26th August – 18th October 2012 – the period from now until the SNP Party Conference at Perth.

This period is significant because the debate that the SNP wanted to keep in house and on hold until the conference is now in full voice, with a cross-party, cross-interest coalition of opposition, the NO to NATO Coalition set up, the SNP CND group active and vocal, the dissident MSPs openly stating their positions and wide debate and coverage in the media.

Instead of a conference where the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the party’s chief strategist, defence spokesman and party leader at Westminster threw their considerable weight behind the proposal to the delegates, in the normally disciplined, consensual and amicable atmosphere of Conference to a group with only the leadership's paper to consider, they will now face a highly informed group of delegates, many mandated by branch resolutions on NATO membership. What was intended to be one topic among many will now undoubtedly be a principal topic, if not the principal one.

There can be little doubt that at this moment the party leaders in favour of the NATO U-turn are working hard to try to shape attitudes, to persuade, to cajole, to appeal to loyalty, in short, to use all the levers that a dominant leadership can to avoid this resolution being defeated. And as always in such situations, a danger exists that the very techniques of persuasion used, if ill-judged, will be counter-productive. Media scrutiny will be intense, not only in Scotland but beyond. This debates matters in fundamental ways to a wide spectrum of interest groups and individuals.

This was not how it was intended to be in the spring of this year, when the party spokespersons were playing the whole issue down, e.g. from the Scotsman on 16th April 2012 – ‘An official SNP spokesman dismissed as “mere speculation” reports that its leadership was considering proposing a change to the party’s policy on Nato.’

(If one took that statement at face value, the leadership didn’t start considering any change till 17th April at the earliest, but managed to produce a policy paper including one by mid-July!)

The other dates in the timeframe are as follows -

Late 2013 – launch of detailed policy papers on the shape of an independent Scotland by the Scottish Government

In effect, this will embrace the key negotiating objectives for the Scottish Government across a wide range of issues if they win a YES vote in 2014.

Autumn 2014 – the independence referendum

Following a YES vote, negotiations will commence almost immediately on the terms of independence, including the crucial defence issues. If the outcome is NO, or on a two-question referendum, a devo-max outcome, what follows is anybody’s guess …

May 2015 – latest date for UK general election

A change of government at this point early in the negotiations over independence would have major significance for the negotiating agenda: the idea that there would be a seamless continuation is untenable, and a new government could repudiate provisional agreements already reached and introduce new items to a still live negotiating agenda. It is highly unlikely that they would repudiate a fully-completed and signed agreement, however.

May 2016 – Scottish Parliamentary election

At this point, negotiations on the independence of Scotland could be complete (unlikely, in my view), near-complete (a possibility) or have a long way to go, especially on the defence-related issues (highly likely).

The implications of a change in the power balance at Holyrood or even  a change of government are enormous and far-reaching.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Scotland in NATO - the core arguments against

1. NATO is a nuclear organisation, committed to the possession and first-strike use of Trident nuclear missiles.

2. NATO is comprised of 28 members countries, but controlled by three of them - the U.S.A, France and the UK. Of the three, the U.S.A. is the dominant controlling entity.

3. Any proposal to NATO by the 25 non-nuclear states can be vetoed by the Big Three - the U.S.A, France and the UK. (This is my practical interpretation of the complexities of the NATO consensual decision making structure where each member country remain sovereign and has right of veto - other interpretations are possible. Please advance them if you have them)

4. Neither the consent nor the involvement of the 25 non-nuclear members is required - nor would it or could it be sought - to authorise a nuclear strike launch. Only the President of the United States, the President of France and the Prime Minister of the UK have the launch codes. No prior approval by the democratically elected bodies in these three countries would be sought prior to launch. (This is my practical interpretation of the complexities of the NATO nuclear command structure - other interpretations are possible. Please advance them if you have them)

5. The time elapsed from launch order to the missile striking its target is dependent on the location of the nuclear submarine at the time the launch order is given, but it is typically 25 minutes.

6. Any member country of NATO by definition is approving the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction by being a member of NATO, regardless of their stated non-nuclear policy. Any member country is therefore responsible for the consequences of such an act, even though they play no part in the launch decision process.

7. The Scottish National Party's policy proposal - which is effectively the Scottish Government's proposal - to seek membership of NATO for an independent Scotland on the condition that the UK (rUK) accepts the removal of Trident is simplistic and unrealistic, and is recognised as such by any objective and informed political commentator.

It is being presented to the SNP membership as a deal breaker, i.e. no Trident removal, no Scotland in NATO. If presented as such in the negotiations after an independence YES vote, it will be rejected out of hand by the UK (significantly influenced if not controlled by NATO and America). 

But despite the manner of its presentation to the SNP membership, it will not be a deal breaker - it will simply be an opening position in negotiation. The scope for movement by the UK(rUK) is to negotiate -

i) an immediate disarming of Trident warheads (approx. 2 days) which could be reversed in as short a time.

ii) an extend timescale for removal of Trident submarines and decommissioning of the nuclear aspects of the Faslane base - a minimum of 10 years, probably extending to 20 years - effectively never.

iii) the acceptance that an independent Scotland will provide 'safe havens' for any NATO nuclear-armed submarines and nuclear-powered submarines in perpetuity.

It is conceivable that rUK would seek a long-term lease of the Faslane base, or even seek to negotiate the base and relevant area as rUK sovereign territory, thus allowing the Government of an independent Scotland to claim that Scotland is a non-nuclear nation.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENT

The implications of this dangerous and far reaching proposal (Scotland's NATO membership) are of such significance that it is unacceptable that it should only be discussed and voted on by a few hundred  delegates from one political party. Once adopted by the SNP as policy, it will then be the official negotiating entry position in 2014 after a YES vote. It will not be submitted to the Scottish Parliament for approval - if it were, it would be carried by the SNP majority.

The Scottish electorate could not question it until May 2016 at the Scottish Parliamentary elections, by which time the negotiations on this item might either be concluded or at a crucial stage. A change of the power balance in Holyrood or a change of government could result in a chaotic situation under such circumstances, dependent on the voice of the electorate.

The electorate should at least be consulted now. Relying on university polls some years old (The Mitchell Report) or ephemeral opinion polls conducted with an under-informed electorate on this crucial topic is democratically unacceptable.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The SNP and NATO – an internal party matter or a question for Scotland?

Here is a little problem for a class of undergraduates studying politics and international affairs, majoring in defence matters -

ON A PLANET NEAR YOU – A SCENARIO

A political party within a democratic nation state has a long-standing policy relating to a defence alliance, of fundamental relevance to the relationship that state has with other states. The political party is in a highly unusual situation - probably unique in world affairs - for the following reasons -

1. It is currently the party in a devolved government for one of the four component countries of that nation state.

2. It only exists as a party in that country and its raison d'être is to secure its independence from that nation state.

3. The long-standing defence alliance policy is not within its devolved powers, and is reserved to the nation state, which is a member of that defence alliance.

4. The political party forming the government of the component country of the nation state has scheduled a referendum in two years time to seek a mandate from that country’s electorate to negotiate with the nation state for its independence. The nation state is totally opposed to the independence of the component devolved country, but accepts that the referendum will determine the will of its people.

5. A general election for the government of the nation state will take place in May of the year following the referendum, a period of around six months. A devolved Parliamentary election for the country seeking independence will take place one year after that, a period of around 18 months from the referendum.

6. If the result of the referendum is a YES vote for the independence of the devolved country, complex negotiations will follow and are likely to last at least two years, and will therefore cover a period embracing two critical elections, either of which could result in a change of government.

7. The crucial issue, and potentially the most complex issue in these negotiations will be the defence issue. Central to that is the issue of nuclear weapons, and a policy to possess and use these weapons.

8. The nation state is a member of a defence alliance that includes in total 28 member countries, the dominant country in that alliance being one of the most powerful countries in the world, arguably the most powerful, although that dominance is being challenged.

9. The party that forms the government of the devolved country seeking independence from the nation state has a non-nuclear policy that it will implement if it secures its independence. The devolved country hosts the entire nuclear capacity of the nation state of which it is a component part and it is virtually certain that if it refuses to host that nuclear capacity - if and after it secures its independence - the nation state will lose its nuclear status, since it has no suitable place to host the nuclear weapons systems. It will therefore lose its place among the top three countries in the defence alliance who effectively control that alliance, and it is likely also to lose its place on the Security Council of the global body that has a major impact on world affairs, especially military affairs.

10. The party that forms the government of the devolved country – with an unchallengeable Parliamentary majority – has now proposed to its membership, through its strategic leadership with the de facto endorsement of its party leader, who is also First Minister of the government, a defence policy that reiterates its non-nuclear stance but intends to reverse its long-standing policy of opposition to membership of the nuclear alliance committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

It now wishes to remain in – or join – that nuclear alliance, with the pre-condition that the nuclear weapons crucial to the nation state and significant to the defence alliance be removed from its country. It proposes to debate that policy change, together with its total defence policy, at its annual conference with delegates to that conference, and if the policy is endorsed, it will then constitute the entry position to the negotiations that will follow a YES vote in the referendum two years later.

The defence policy (already extant as a party conference paper) will be presented to the country’s electorate about a year later, together with comprehensive statements about every aspect of the position of the devolved government, as part of the campaign for a YES vote to independence a year after that.

QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS

Discuss the following in group session, then reach your conclusions and recommendations -

Consider the above scenario and the following facts -

the party of government of the devolved country will not face the electorate until after the referendum on independence

such a policy change is therefore unchallengeable by the electorate until after the referendum

it will therefore form the entry position on defence matters in the negotiation that follow a YES vote

the negotiations will have been underway for some 18 months – and may well be close to completion - before the devolved government faces the electorate

a general election will take place some six months after the referendum result and the start of the negotiations that could result in a change of government of the nation state and therefore the composition of the other side of the negotiating table

QUESTIONS

i) Is the defence alliance question a routine party policy matter, one only for delegates of that party to decide on?

ii) Is the defence policy a major or a minor matter in terms of significance to the electorate of the devolved country, or does it also have significance to the nation state, the members of the defence alliance and to world affairs?

iii) Is it it reasonable or democratic that such a crucial policy change be debated by a small number of delegates from one political party only, or should there be a wider consultation among the total electorate of the devolved country and in its devolved Parliament?

Friday, 3 August 2012

My Twitter lead-up to the NATO U-turn

After the denial period by SNP supporters in the Spring of this year, when a NATO U-turn was something being got up by the wicked media – encouraged by me, apparently – and no senior party person was even considering it – so said the true believers - there was a period of quiet.

Then a press release from the SNP on the cost of Trident, emphasising the Party’s non-nuclear stance came out, and I loyally tweeted various facts from it. Maybe I should have recognised the danger signs – fifteen days later, the press began to speculate authoritatively about a U-turn on NATO, and on the 16th came the Angus Robertson/Angus MacNeill defence paper.

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Labour claims a social conscience, yet squanders billions on WMDs, claims to be internationalist, yet makes war on other nations. Johann?

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Scotland’s share of WMD costs, £215m could have funded 11 Community Hospitals (at £20,000,000 per hospital). Your turn, Johann Lamont? ...

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Scotland’s share of WMD costs, £215m could have funded 5,972 teachers or 27 single stream Primary Schools or 11 Secondary Schools. Johann?

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Scotland’s share of WMD costs = £215m - could have funded up to 430 doctors (at £500,000 per doctor) or 5,119 nurses (at £42,000 per nurse)

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

£2.54bn was spent on running costs of WMDs in Labour’s last 3 years in office. Labour says Yes to WMDs, but NO to Scotland's independence.

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Angus Robertson: "The social cost of the UK's nuclear obsession. ...warped priority of investing in WMDs before better local services"

1Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Over next 6 yrs Scottish taxpayers will spend £83m a year on nuclear warheads that can't be used. Enough for another 1500 service personnel.

Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

When Scotland goes, UK lose its WMDs, its oil and whisky revenues, its raison d'etre. Scotland, England, Wales recover their

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The negotiations on the terms of Scotland's independence will be dominated by the defence debate, Everyone is commenting on it - except ..?

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

RUSI: "..were Scotland to dissolve the Union, then the question of the UK's nuclear deterrent may be the most serious and difficult of all"

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

RUSI: "the future of UK nuclear deterrent should Scotland go it alone, an issue likely to dominate security agenda in event of a Yes vote."

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO, dominated by the US, says it would never use Trident in a first strike attack. The US is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The two events of August 1945 - Hiroshima and Nagasaki - are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date. A first strike attack by the US

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Defence and an independent Scotland - Sitting on de fence on defence http://moridura.blogspot.com/2012/07/sitting-on-de-fence-on-defence.html … via @moridura

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

UK Committees with no SNP voice - Sitting on de fence on defence - http://moridura.blogspot.com/2012/07/sitting-on-de-fence-on-defence.html … via @moridura

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Defence - a big yawn for the Scottish electorate? Will they still be yawning at ground zero when the WMDs rain down? http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/sitting-on-de-fence-on-defence.html …

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Labour AM Mark Drakeford opposes Trident fleet in Wales http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-18707465 …

5 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Defence is lynchpin issue for independence negotiations. Most of my blog readers must be indy supporters, yet they don't read defence blogs?

7 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Dean Acheson, Kennedy's NATO advisor in 1962 "Britain's role as an independent power is about played out." 50yrs on, fiction kept up by UK

8 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Will an Independent Scotland Throw Out UK Nukes? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-T2iFNpG6A … Aye, but how long after independence before it's done? Say no to NATO

9 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Back devomax and you back WMDs - the continuation of Trident in Scotland and more misguided foreign wars. I say NO to devomax, YES to indy.

9 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Two news discussion tonight on indy and devo max. Both managed to avoid the nuclear/WMD aspect. BE CLEAR - Yes to devomax means Yes to WMDs.

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Only independence will deliver a WMD-free Scotland. Devo max advocates are lethally compromising this key objective

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Devo max = Trident stays = foreign wars = zero international influence for Scotland. So does devo-anything else. Say YES to independence

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

We are told there is a majority in Scotland opposed to nuclear weapons, but also that a majority that favours devo-max. Does not compute ...

 

10 Jul  Gregor Murray@grogipher

@moridura People said that about Devolution (not in favour of devo-max, but neither do I buy your argument!)

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@grogipher You think a vote for devo max will remove nuclear

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Why do the nuclear bombers love devo max? Why do politicians slide away from defence matters? The UK’s nuclear panic http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/uks-nuclear-panic-and-devo-max.html …

11 Jul  Hugh Hunter@Gabicabi

@moridura Absolutely. I feel everyone is hedging their bets until someone throws their hat into the ring with a definitive position.

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Gabicabi I wish I could escape the gnawing suspicion that a nuclear fudge is being contemplated. October SNP Nato vote will be litmus paper

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Gabicabi Should qualify my last tweet - non-SNP party activists don't give a damn about Trident or WMDs. The activists most certainly do.

11 Jul  Hugh Hunter@Gabicabi

@moridura Yet again I agree. I believe SNP may sacrifice their position on Trident as a concession to appease scared/undecided voters.

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Gabicabi Voters don't give a damn about Trident, defence. If they did that, it would be as a negotiating bargaining chip after a YES vote

The Watershed: 16th July 2010 - Angus Robertson’s media announcement on the NATO U-turn

16 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura SNP could drop opposition to Nato if Trident is removed from Scotland - Politics - http://Scotsman.com - http://po.st/K9PjwU

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 I saw it - something I've blogged on and expressed concern about for some time now.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Who now doubts that the SNP leadership and Angus Robertson want to join NATO? What the Party will say in October is another matter.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO - SNP preparing to join? If the Party votes to remain in NATO after independence, I will resign my membership. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4It72lFwzR8 …

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The SNP leadership wants to join an alliance- NATO - committed to the use of nuclear weapons so they will remove nuclear weapons. Aye, right

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Trident poisons Scotland: Nuclear leaks, Faslane - a 2009 clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQhGJushOEc … This is what we will STILL have if we join NATO. Say NO!

16 Jul  Stuart Crawford@509298

@moridura Peter, I did say this would happen. Where now for people like you? #Labour is pro nuke, so only the #Greens seem to fit the bill?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@509298 Resign from the party, campaign for independence, vote SNP in by-elections, re-assess Scottish parties policies after independence.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@509298 The $64 question is - will Labour be pro-nuclear in an independent Scotland. I say NO, with a reasonable amount of

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@509298 @moridura If you read @thesnp defence proposals you'll see the provision for joining #NATO is removal of Trident anf Nukes #yesscot

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp I know that - and they're nuts if they think they can negotiate any such thing - it will go into very long grass

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@509298 @moridura If you read @thesnp defence proposals you'll see the provision for joining #NATO is removal of Trident anf Nukes #yesscot

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp NATO is going to surrender Trident and the UK nuclear deterrent of we join NATO? Dream on: the idea is ludicrous

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @moraymp @509298 @thesnp He'll have answers. It will depend on the interviewer whether they cut any ice. I'm not sure at all.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura Then an Independent Scotland won't be joining #NATO , the conditions are clear. Non-negotiable. @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland They're calling spirits from the vasty deep - it is not that simple, but it's beyond Twitter scope.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura Angus Robertson ( @moraymp )is on #scotnight as he helped write the proposal I'm sure he'll have answers. @509298 @thesnp

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @moraymp @509298 @thesnp He'll have answers. It will depend on the interviewer whether they cut any ice. I'm not sure at all.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura It is simple, no nukes or no NATO. Clear as day @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland I wish I had a pound for everyone who said that before getting monumentally screwed in negotiation.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura It is simple, no nukes or no NATO. Clear as day @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland You could try finishing your tweets with END OF - you're headed that way ...

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura It's clear to me, if @thesnp can't deliver, we'll just have to vote someone else in 2016 who can. @509298 @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland If we join NATO, we'll either be locked into an unbreakable deal or be in open-ended negotiation.

16 Jul  Jim @jafurn50

@moridura @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland Serious question Peter. how do the other non-nuclear countries in NATO do it?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@jafurn50 @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland They don't have the UK's nuclear fleet in their waters - read my blogs.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

To save trying to answer endless queries on complex arguments, please go to my blog, check the index for NATO. Complex arguments need space

16 Jul  Jim @jafurn50

@moridura @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland I do read ur blogs The point is with #indy WE decide. Do you not trust SNP (if elected) ?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@jafurn50 @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland If you've read, you haven't understood. I have no more to say that would be helpful.

16 Jul  Isobel Waller@IsobelWaller

@moridura @Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp But surely that is a given with SNP? no trident?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@IsobelWaller @Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp I'm beginning to wonder just what can be taken as a given with the SNP at the moment.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@ElaineKY2 Of course I'm not against the YES vote. Try reading my tweets of yesterday and my blog. And see today's tweet re Norway.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

#NATO Norway parallel is false as is that with other non-nuclear NATO members. None of them have the UK's nuclear arsenal on their doorstep.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO, the SNP, Angus Robertson, Isabel Fraser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbI6jn2p0HU … This was effectively a filibuster by Angus to stop awkward questions.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The idea that UK/NATO will give up Scottish nuclear base for Trident as quid pro quo for an independent Scotland joining NATO is ludicrous.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

I feel utterly deceived by the SNP's posture on NATO up to yesterday's news - smoke and mirrors over whether such a thing was contemplated.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@bordersbankie May 2016 SNP will still be negotiating terms. If they're voted out, incoming Labour-controlled coalition won't reverse indy.

17 Jul  David Munro@bordersbankie

@moridura Not sure but presumably then we would say bye bye to Nato. Bigger worry is if pro-Union parties comprise first Government imo.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@bordersbankie The NATO 'offer' is a way for SNP to get an empty promise to disarm/remove nukes, then have the issue shelved for i20 years.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO resolution seems clear-cut - but is it?

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

SNP will maintain Nato membership subject to agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and will only take part in UN operations.

17 Jul  Pat Kane@thoughtland

@moridura: SNP NATO resolution seems clear-cut - is it?” Seems 2 b. Vote should b on B-plan tho. A-plan pines unnecessarily 2 b "credible"

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@thoughtland I'll need to anwer in full in blogs, Pat. Meanwhile, this will have to do for the moment. http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO is a nuclear alliance: it will brook no interference on its WMDs from member countries with non-nuclear policies e.g. Norway, Scotland.

17 Jul  David S. Berry@DavidSBerry

@thoughtland @moridura May not legitimise but are examples to follow. A non-nuclear world needs us "inside the tent" of NATO to change it.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@DavidSBerry @thoughtland The utter folly of that argument is Labour, inside the UK tent since 1945 - zero influence on nuclear policy.

17 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura Peter that would be a shame are you not better inside the tent arguing ur case than outside

9:28 PM - 17 Jul 12 via TweetCaster for Android · Details

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 I'm not outside it till the vote in October. But I don't believe in staying inside wrong tents - it never works. Look at LibDems.

17 Jul  Lilly Hunter@LillyLyle

Those of you complaining about @thesnp tonight, have a look south of the border & count your blessings

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@LillyLyle Those of you afraid to confront your party when they're fundamentally wrong - remember Robin Cook, the last decent Lab MP

17 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura @LillyLyle nato is a non issue who says SNP will ever form the 1st or 2nd government or any government of an independent Scotland

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 I heard the non-issue argument months ago when naive SNP supporters were denying that the SNP had any such plans. It's an issue.

17 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura Thanks Peter...please stay in the tent :-)

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 Until - and if ...

18 Jul  David S. Berry@DavidSBerry

@moridura @thoughtland Perhaps that's more down to Labour's folly and not my arguments: they sold out any principle on this in the 1980's.

18 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@DavidSBerry @thoughtland Long before that, David - it started with Aneurin Bevan's "going naked into the conference chamber" remark.

18 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

SNP leadership want to maintain nuclear virginity by getting rid of Trident yet join a nuclear alliance committed to retaining and using it.

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Jim Sillars view of Scotland:"NATO's aircraft carrier" If this remotely reflects the SNP view what's the point of indy? http://www.scotsman.com/the-scotsman/opinion/comment/jim-sillars-scotland-is-bound-to-stay-in-the-club-1-2422109 …

20 Jul  NConway@NConway2

Jim Sillars: Scotland is bound to stay in the club - Comment - http://Scotsman.com - http://po.st/xzVbK6

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 A club I won't want to be in - Scotland as NATO's aircraft carrier. What point to independence if this view holds sway?

20 Jul  David Robertson@Daveinmaryburgh

@moridura what would your thoughts be on membership on same basis as Iceland ?

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Daveinmaryburgh NATO exists as a reality that we must interact with, David. The only interaction I support is through Partnership for Peace

20 Jul  Ron Wilson@TartanSeer

@moridura @NConway2 The point being the people can vote for parties opposed to NATO & if given demo assent remove Scotland from alliance

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@TartanSeer @NConway2 If that means "join and we can get out later" Ron, I say no - it means "go along with anything till indy then get out"

20 Jul  Ron Wilson@TartanSeer

@moridura It means playing hardball 4 the prize, NATO a Unionist fox shot by Robertson, real choices after indy when you & the people decide

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@TartanSeer I disagree fundamentally with that, Ron. I'll have a blog up on Sillars later today.

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Twitter is not exactly awash with tweets from our fearless, outspoken MSPs about how they feel about NATO. How do whips work in Holyrood?

21 Jul Stewart McDonald@StewartMcDonald

@freescotlandnow like the UN?

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@StewartMcDonald @freescotlandnow UN does not endorse the use of nuclear weapons, nor the policies of member countries. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=32223&Cr=disarmament&Cr1 …

21 july Peter Curran@moridura

If SNP votes to join NATO they will move from being the best option for a nuclear-free Scotland to least worst option. I'll still vote SNP.

Peter Curran@moridura

NATO Kosovo campaign 2001 failed to avert a humanitarian disaster - a questionable model of humanitarian intervention. http://ics-www.leeds.ac.uk/papers/vp01.cfm?outfit=pmt&folder=4&paper=816 …

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Kosovo - NATO's shining hour? Absolutely not. Review of NATO’s War over Kosovo Noam Chomsky http://www.chomsky.info/articles/200005--.htm …

Peter Curran@moridura

What NATO says about its nuclear policy. Support NATO membership and you support this http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_topics/20091022_Nuclear_Forces_in_the_New_Security_Environment-eng.pdf …

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Presence of US nuclear forces in Europe committed to NATO provides essential political/military link between European and N.American members

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Alex Salmond - against NATO intervention in Kosovo http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2008/02/19/demand-for-alex-salmond-apology-over-kosovo-86908-20324118/ …

Peter Curran@moridura

Public support for NATO won't translate into YES votes for indy, but "Why leave UK if in NATO?" Most NATO supporters support the deterrent.

Peter Curran@moridura

Whatever most Scots think, Scots won't be allowed to determine nuclear status. If we join NATO, indy Scotland won't get rid of Trident.

22 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Poll shows majority of Scots in favour of Scot.Govn. making decision on nuclear weapons. Most of them mean a devolved government, not indy

22 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Pro-NATO nats rejoice in poll showing majority of Scots in favour. Hardly surprising - most want to stay in the UK if other polls accurate

AngusBMacNeilMP@AngusMacNeilMP

Independence for Scotland contains all the Devo Max you could ask for- free!

23 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP And we won't get it if the party goes down the NATO route you favour, Angus - a golden gift to the devo/status quo brigade.

24 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP If you haven't read my blogs on this, I don't plan to repeat it all here. You'd better get beyond such simplistic thinking.

24 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP @bordersbankie Powers? What 'powers'? NATO = 3 nuclear states with a veto dominating 25 non-nuclear. Scotland's 'powers' = 0

AngusBMacNeilMP@AngusMacNeilMP

@moridura so long as u move powers from.Westminster to Scotland ..Scots can decide what forums they are in. I'd choose NATO :-)

23 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP I know you would, Angus - you've put your name to the motion. You're giving up on independence with this one