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

Monday, 20 January 2014

Angus Robertson’s speech – Dublin 20th January 2014

Scotland: A positive international partner

(NOTE: All reformatting, italicisation, coloured highlighting, bold text is mine, and was not present in original SNP draft. Text and content are unaltered.)

Angus Robertson MP, speech to the Institute for International and European Affairs, Dublin. 20 January 2014

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address the Institute for International and European Affairs on the subject of “Independent Scotland: A positive, proactive international partner”.

2014 is a historic and exciting year for Scotland and the international community is watching.

On 18th September 2014 voters will be able to freely and democratically answer the referendum question: “Should Scotland be an independent country”.

The consequences of the vote are profound and will bring tremendous benefits to people in Scotland and will improve our relationships with neighbours, friends and allies in the international community.We shouldn't lose sight of how we have got to this historic point and why the way in which it is happening is of global relevance.

Scotland’s constitutional journey is a long one, which has accelerated in recent decades with the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, culminating in the independence referendum.

Home rule efforts go back into the nineteenth century, following the First World War the Scottish Trades Union Congress pressed for Scottish representation at the Versailles Conference, just like the then British dominions: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The formation of the Scottish National Party in 1934 marked the beginning of serious political efforts to re-establish direct democracy in Scotland and has had permanent parliamentary representation since 1967.

At the historic 1967 Hamilton by-election Winnie Ewing declared: ‘Stop the world Scotland wants to get on’.

At the heart of Scottish nationalism is an internationalism which has long pursued a desire to play a positive, proactive direct role in the international community of nations. 

Even with the limited powers of devolution since 1999 Scotland has sought to reach out to the world, in particular to neighbours on these islands, our European partners, nations with a strong diaspora connections such as the United States and countries with strong ties of history like Malawi.

However, the powers of devolution are limited. They don’t offer the full advantages of bilateral and multilateral relations in a world where normality is independence and growing interdependence.

In 1945, the United Nations had 51 member states. Now there are 193.

Over the same period there has been a proliferation of international organisations which seek to improve national and international conditions, whose members are sovereign states.

From the European Union and the biggest single-market in the world, the Council of Europe and its human rights safeguards, the World Trade Organisation supporting economic growth, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with defence cooperation guarantees and the list goes on and on.

In this age of cooperation it is states of all sizes that determine progress, and Scotland is not represented in its own right.

This can and will change with a ‘Yes’ vote on the 18th September 2014.

In unique international circumstance, the Scottish and United Kingdom governments have signed an agreement which charts the democratic referendum process. The Edinburgh Agreement, was signed in the Scottish capital by Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond following the election of a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament in favour of an independence referendum, and supported by parliamentarians from the Scottish National Party, Scottish Green Party and independents. In fact referendum legislation is also being supported by the Labour Party, Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats.

The Edinburgh Agreement crucially commits both the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government in Article 30: “to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom”.

Following a ‘Yes’ vote in September 2014 both governments would begin discussions and negotiations about transition to Scottish sovereignty. There is an eighteen month period for this co-operation while Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom. It is during this time that arrangements will be made for Scotland to take its place in the international community including multilateral organisations such as the European Union, NATO, United Nations, WTO and so on. While the anti-independence campaign seem to spend most of their time suggesting this will be extremely difficult, even the UK Government’s legal adviser, says the timescale is ‘reasonable’, and the ‘No’ campaign’s own constitutional adviser believes it would occur with an ‘accelerated’ procedure.

How this will happen and details of the international priorities of the Scottish Government are laid out in unprecedented detail in ‘Scotland’s Future - The White Paper on Scottish Independence’

There is no international precedent for such a detailed prospectus.

In over 10 chapters, 650 pages and 170,000 words, it details the  proposal to move from devolution to sovereignty. It has an extensive Question and Answer section with clarification on hundreds of common queries.

Within weeks of the White Paper launch last November:

40,000 copies printed, following third reprint of 10,000.

Around one million online page views

More than 90,000 hits on the PDF download page

It is free for all to download the White Paper at: www.scotreferendum.com where there is also extensive further documentation.

At the heart of the independence prospectus is the proposition that decisions about Scotland will be taken by the people who care most about Scotland - that is the people who live and work in Scotland.

Our national democratic life will be determined in an independent Scottish Parliament elected entirely by people in Scotland which will replace the current Westminster system. Under that current antiquated and inadequate  system, elected representatives from Scotland make up just 9 per cent of the 650 members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords is wholly unelected.

Governments in an independent Scotland will always be formed by parties that win elections in Scotland. It will no longer be possible for key decisions to be made by governments that do not command the support of the Scottish electorate

This will end the sorry unacceptable situation that we are regularly governed by parties we have not entrusted to make decisions on our behalf. For 34 of the 68 years since 1945, Scotland has been ruled by Westminster governments with no majority in Scotland. Policies are imposed on Scotland even when they have been opposed by our elected Westminster MPs, including foreign, defence and security policy.

With a 'Yes' vote in the independence referendum we will put an end to governments, policies and priorities which do not have democratic support.

With a 'Yes' vote Scotland will rejoin the international community as a sovereign state and enjoy the benefits and advantages of a normal country.

In the White Paper, Chapter 6 deals with International Relations and Defence.

It explains:

  • Why we need a new approach,
  • The opportunities open to Scotland, and The Scotland we can create, in an international, defence and security context.

The main summary is as follows:

Scotland's national interests will be directly represented on the international stage

Scotland's foreign, security and defence policies will be grounded in a clear framework of participating in rules-based international co-operation to secure shared interests, protecting Scotland's people and resources and promoting sustainable economic growth

We will continue to be a member of the EU and will have a seat at the top table to represent Scotland's interests more effectively; we will not be at risk of leaving the EU against the wishes of the Scottish people

An overseas network of 70 to 90 international offices is planned, built on Scotland's existing capacity and our share of the UK's international assets

Scotland will recognise and act on its responsibilities, as one of the wealthiest nations on the planet, to international development

 Our defence plans focus on a strong conventional defence footprint in and around Scotland and the removal of nuclear weapons, delivering a £500 million defence and security dividend in 2016/17

Scotland's security will be guaranteed as a non-nuclear member of NATO, with Scotland contributing excellent conventional capabilities to the alliance

The foreign policy and international relations of the Scottish Government will take place within three overlapping and interacting spheres that will be the cornerstones of Scotland's foreign policy:

our partnership with the other nations of these islands

our regional role as an active member of the EU with strong links to the Nordic countries and the Arctic

the global context: our independent role in international and multilateral organisations, including the UN and NATO

I would like to take these priorities in turn to underline why an independent Scotland will be a positive and proactive international partner.

Island Neighbours - Closest Partners

On these islands, we are bound by historic, economic and social ties of great value. This importance is not of itself, determined by where political decision-making lies but we have the opportunity to do so on the basis of equality.

We now have a British-Irish Council which brings together governments from across Britain and Ireland. With a sovereign Scotland, there will be three independent governments in the Council together with Scotland, the Irish Republic and the rest of the United Kingdom working with the devolved and island authorities.  The secretariat of the Council is already headquartered in Edinburgh, and there is active cooperation between governments across the widest range of subjects from health to the environment.

Scotland is a bigger trading partners with the rest of the United Kingdom, than China, India, Russia and Brazil combined. This is also true for Ireland.

Our Common Travel Area, citizenship and voting rights and other cooperation arrangements, including the importance of our shared common market through the European Union are crucial.

It is in all of our interest that these closest of relationships flourishes. It is in the interests of all of the peoples of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and our immediate island neighbours that our cooperation goes from strength to strength.

European Union - Crucial Cooperation

It is also crucial that we continue to safeguard and build on the advantages delivered through the European Union. Decades of peace, economic growth social rights, free movement of people, goods, services, capital and cooperation in an ever widening European Union are a massive achievement.

28 member states make up the European Union, and more seek to join. We look forward to Scotland taking its seat at the EU top table shortly.

While there is no doubt there is a need for democratic, political and economic reform to how the European Union works, we need to face up to the threats posed by strong Europhobic extremes, especially in UK politics outside Scotland.

Even the UK government is planning an in-out EU referendum, and are being politically driven by anti-Europeans in UKIP and the Tory Party.

This is dangerous to Scottish and Irish interests, and also incidentally to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This weekend prominent Scottish businesspeople wrote the following letter to the media:

"It looks as though the UK may leave the EU following an in-out EU referendum promised by the Prime Minister David Cameron in 2017.

"Access to the common market is vitally important to both Scottish and wider UK companies. We can see from the poor performance of UKIP in elections and successive opinion polls here that the people of Scotland are generally more outward looking and pro-European than the electorate in other parts of the UK.

"Scottish businesspeople are worried that despite an overwhelming desire to stay connected with our European partners, voters beyond our borders will remove Scotland from the EU against the democratic expression of Scotland’s business community and wider public. This threat may persist no matter what the result of Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague’s ongoing negotiation on the terms of membership with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"On this issue, as with many others, Westminster opinion does not represent the democratic will of all the constituent parts of the UK.  It seems likely that all major political parties with a chance of being in government after the 2015 Westminster election will commit to holding an EU referendum. This prospect of a dangerous, metropolitan media driven referendum on EU membership creates great uncertainty.

"Scotland may no longer be part of the UK at the time of the EU poll and an independent Scotland’s approach to negotiating continued EU membership (which experts have said there will be an obligation to have after a Yes vote) will ensure continuity of membership and effect.  We note in particular the recent positive comments of No Campaign policy adviser Professor Jim Gallagher regarding an independent Scotland staying in Europe and its ability to successfully negotiate key opt outs.

"Indeed, the Scottish people must now see that there is far more uncertainty over Scotland’s continued access to the common market if we vote to No in the independence referendum on September 18th this year.  A Yes vote is the only way to guarantee that Scottish based companies can continue to trade in a UK and European common market for the free movement of capital, goods, services, trade and people.”

Scottish independence in a European Union context means that the Scottish Government, elected by the people will be present at all Council of Ministers meetings where the big decisions are taken. Scotland will have a nominated commissioner in the powerful European Commission, and there will be fairer Scottish representation in the European Parliament.

Scotland will play a positive and proactive role in the EU.

Key Regional Priorities - Northern Dimension

A key regional regional priority is the northern dimension. Scotland is a northern European nation with significant priorities shared with our Nordic regional neighbours including: Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

There are huge environmental challenges posed to the High North and Arctic as well as potential opportunities especially in the energy sector.

Our neighbours are cooperating through a host of bilateral and multilateral organisations and initiatives.

Scotland can and must take its responsibilities seriously and work with our regional neighbours.

This will be a key Scottish priority.

Scotland’s geo-strategic position with the Atlantic to our west, Iceland gap to the north and North Sea to our east also has an important security dimension. It is in the interests of all allies, neighbours and friends that there is stability.

That is why the Scottish Government White Paper outlines in great details the plans for defence and security arrangements. Scotland will prioritise maritime capabilities, including maritime patrol aircraft (something that Ireland has but the UK does not).

We will work with our NATO allies just like the overwhelming number of other members as a non-nuclear state to fulfil the objectives of mutual defence, appropriate capabilities, stability and peace.

Global Context - Something to Offer

In a global context an independent Scotland has something particular to offer.

On international development a strong commitment has been made by the Scottish Government with an an aspiration to be a global leader, championing best practice and innovation.

The White Paper explains that being a global leader in international development is not necessarily just about the size of aid given in absolute monetary terms, but the impact that can be made across government policy.

Aid is however an extremely important dimension and an independent Scotland would enshrine a legislative commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance, and an aspiration to reach  1% of GNI in time.

Success and global impact will be pursued by delivering a coherent approach to international development across all Scottish Government policies - crucially trade, environment, defence and finance.

On peace and reconciliation there is a long standing commitment to make Scotland the ideal place to support international initiatives. Scotland has already hosted the St Andrews northern Ireland discussions, also meetings from the South Caucausus and there is significant Scottish NGO peace and reconciliation experience such as Beyond Borders Scotland. A sovereign Scottish government can do so much with our particular experience of civic, non-ethnic, democratic and peaceful constitutional change. Scotland is known and liked around the world. This is an ideal way of being able to contribute to a better world. 

On helping the vulnerable we look to a new model with of asylum services separate from immigration. The White Paper Contains proposals for a Scottish Asylum Agency to oversee asylum applications:

'The process will be both robust and humane, and we will continue Scotland's present approach of promoting the integration of refugees and asylum seekers from the day they arrive, not just once leave to remain has been granted (as is the case in the rest of the UK). In an independent Scotland, we will close UK  Home Office detention centre at Dungavel, end the practice of dawn raids and inhumane treatment of those who have exercised their legitimate right to seek asylum"

While these initiatives will bring international benefits to those from outside Scotland, there will also be tangible advantages to Scotland in Scotland when pursuing its own international agenda.

For all of those talented and committed people wanting to work in the diplomatic service, on international development and in defence and security, there will be a full Scottish headquartered career path. Home postings will be in Scotland and the relevant government departments will be based in Scotland. International partners will be directly represented in Scotland with embassies and diplomatic staff and international organisations will also seek enhanced representation in Scotland.

For all of those involved in the voluntary, charitable and academic sectors in Scotland which deal with international affairs, it will be possible to work with  government departments, agencies and decision makers at all levels in Scotland.

Conclusion:

Independence will mean Scotland taking its place in the international community and playing a positive proactive international role.

We will be able to promote a bigger role for the British-Irish Council that brings together the home nations, work constructively within the European Union and join our Northern European neighbours to fully address the challenges and opportunity  of our region.

Scotland will be a trusted security partner for our allies, play a full role in the Commonwealth, properly carry our burden towards international development and have an ambition to support peace and reconciliation efforts around the world.

This contrasts with an ever growing parochial anti-European agenda at Westminster. Sadly politics at a UK level is massively influenced by the anti-immigration, Europhobic agenda of UKIP and large swathes of the Tory Party. Their priorities are leaving the EU, walking away from European Human Rights commitments and ignoring the opening gulf in political priorities with Scotland.

The time has come for people in Scotland to embrace a better international future and grasp the huge exciting opportunity offered by the independence referendum with a 'Yes' vote.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How Westminster views Scots and Scotland at a crucial point in their history

Unionist MPs laughing at a Scottish Labour MP, Ian Davidson, clowning, gesticulating wildly, and jeering at the aspirations of Scots and Scotland in an historic referendum.

This is about the intentions of UK to implement £2bn draconian cuts to the Barnett Formula after a No vote, in a Scotland already experiencing child poverty and deprivation from UK's austerity and the lunacies of the Bedroom Tax.

Ian Davidson exhibits complacent self-satisfaction at the reception his clowning receives - at the expense of his fellow Scots - from a claque of Unionist MPs, with the so-called 'Scottish' Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, girning and guffawing  and endorsing Davidson's pantomime.

This is how Scottish Labour MPs who take the UK shilling behave. This is how they regard a crucial time in their county's history. These are the servants of a failed Empire, sneering and jeering their way to redundancy as Scotland secures its independence.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Azeem Ibrahim, the Defence of Scotland – and the Scotland Institute

Azeem Ibrahim should – and in most respects does - represent just about everything I most admire in a Scot, in a Glaswegian and in a Scottish Muslim.

Why then do I profoundly distrust his creation, The Scotland Institute and much that emanates from it?

The answer to that is complex, and I’m not sure I’m capable of giving it adequately, but since he invited me to the media launch of his defence and security report and I responded to his courtesy by frontally attacking his claims of bi-partisanship and objectivity in the independence campaign, I feel that I owe him an explanation.

This will be Part One of a two-part blog on this subject – Part Two late tomorrow or Saturday – with luck …

But first, let’s look at the man himself ---

AZEEM IBRAHIM

The first thing to say is that Azeem Ibrahim’s achievements are formidable and beyond question. He has both a national and international profile, and is enormously influential. He is a Scot who is recognised at the highest levels of global politics and academia.

Alex and Azeem

The following YouTube clip of Azeem Ibrahim receiving his honorary doctorate from Professor Sue Scott of Glasgow Caledonian University contains an excellent summary of his background and achievements -

So what’s my problem with Azeem Ibrahim and his Scotland Institute?

THE SCOTLAND INSTITUTE

The Scotland Institute is a think tank, set up and funded by Azeem Ibrahim last June (2012). Before this one came along, we had – still have – a couple of others with Scotland in their title – Think Scotland, a right-wing pressure group set up and funded by an individual, and  Reform Scotland, advocates of so-called devo plus.  Both are against Scotland’s full independence, Think Scotland rather more obviously than Reform Scotland.

(I have blogged previously on think tanks like these)

Despite an honourable historical tradition of rich philanthropists (Andrew Carnegie jumps to mind) I am instinctively wary of rich individuals who fund anything political, and last June, all I knew about Azeem Ibrahim was that he founded a global macro hedge fund, which I understood to be part of the shadow banking system, outside of state regulation. I therefore pigeonholed him unfairly as just another rich banker in a sector – hedge funds – that had been at the root of the global banking collapse. I was unaware of his background and wider academic, cultural and business activities.

I therefore challenged the bi-partisanship of the Scotland Institute on Twitter, and Dr. Ibrahim responded courteously reiterating that it was, in fact, bi-partisan, and took no position on Scotland’s independence. This rang rather hollow to me when the keynote speaker at the launch proved to be Alistair Darling. I was invited to the launch, but tweeted as follows on 25th June 2012 -

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@scotinstitute I'm being cautious and with very good reason, given the timing and the people involved. I can't come, but will listen closely

Nothing the Scotland Institute said or did since then caused me to revise my initial judgement, but any lingering doubts were dispelled totally by the pre-launch to the press of the Institute’s paper Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland this week.

Here are some samples of how it was received by press and media -

Yes vote 'disadvantage' highlighted

Think tank says post-independent army would struggle (BBC News Scotland politics  24th June 2013)

Scottish independence: defence report released (Scotsman 25 June 2013)

Report: indy Scotland defence force would be less effective (Herald 24th June 2013)

Azeem Ibrahim: How safe would independent Scotland be? (Scotsman 22nd June 2013)

Comment: Risking our security too high price to pay  (Scotland on Sunday 22nd June 2013)

SNP defence plans for independent Scotland 'don't add up' (Telegraph 14th June 2013)

Unionist politicians raise fears about the future of the defence industry in an independent Scotland (Record 13th June 2013)

SNP defence plans ‘would leave forces ineffectual’ (TIMES 24th June 2013)

Former general says independence will raise threat of terrorism Express 23rd June 2013)

And the SNP’s response to this barrage of panic-inducing, superficial headlines, which was in the main a product of lazy, press release journalism?

SNP comment on Scotland Institute Defence report (SNP MEDIA CENTRE 24th June 2013)

I restrict myself to saying that this was underwhelming. It referred to “experts such as Stuart Crawford and Dr Phillips O’Brien”, neither of whom are to my knowledge advisers to the Scottish Government.

Lieut.Colonel Stuart Crawford was in fact a contributor to the Scotland Institute’s paper, and his highly relevant paper on a Scottish defence force was initiated by him and his colleague some time ago at their own initiative to fill the vacuum created by any real statement of SNP or Scottish Government defence policy at the time it was written. (Stuart Crawford was not present at the Scotland Institute launch on Monday. He has previously given evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee under Ian Davidson’s chairmanship.).

Dr. Phillip’s O’Brien’s article appeared in the Herald on 9th of June.

My view of the press and media reports is that they achieved exactly the effect – or a least one effect - that the Scotland Institute hoped for – to trigger a series of scare headlines about the awful fate that awaited Scots if they voted for independence.

The SNP and the Scottish Government’s response to this is to more or less dismiss it as not warranting any real response – just another manifestation of a hostile press and media. Well, independence supporters may shrug it off, but I don’t. My litmus paper test is the very limited sample of the reaction of reasonably well-informed friends and neighbours who are either uncommitted or NO voters. It worried the uncommitted and reinforced the Nos.  Committed YES campaigners on the doorsteps, with a much more extended sample base, may however say it is not a concern of the people they speak to.

The Defence and Security report and Dr. Ibrahim

It is worth reminding oneself at this juncture what game is being played out here – the Great Game of Scotland securing its independence from what is left of the British Empire, which technically started with the conquest of Wales, but in reality truly began with the 1707 Union. Scotland, an ancient nation of five and a quarter million souls is democratically confronting a dysfunctional dynastic conglomerate, now the rump of a once great Empire, comprised of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland with a total population of about sixty three and a quarter million, i.e. Scotland is about 8.3% of the total UK population, or a ratio of 1:11.

These would be unequal odds even if no confrontation was involved, so the fiction is sedulously maintained by the UK - and the fantasy maintained on occasion by some independence supporters - that this gross inequality doesn’t really matter, because Scotland - and Scotland alone - will be allowed to vote, and that free democratic procedures will determine the outcome.

Without going over ground I’ve covered at length before, the prospect of the independence of Scotland is perceived as a profound threat to the undemocratic power groups that control the UK’s partial and deeply flawed democracy – the monarchy and all that flows from it, the military/industrial complex and its lynchpin, the nuclear deterrent, the nuclear industry, the House of Lords, the Established Church of England and the entire London-based financial establishment, to mention but a few.

Great Britain, which lost an empire and never found a role, will find its increasingly shaky position in the global corridors of power on an even shakier nail if its nuclear power status vanishes or is diminished. And the ramification go far beyond Scotland, into NATO (which lost a Cold War enemy and is now adopting the doctrine of a perpetual war on terror to replace it) and across the Atlantic.

The very institutions of the British State have been corroding for some time without Scotland’s help, with Lords, governmental, Metropolitan police and press corruption, an incompetent MOD, the revolving door practices of senior MOD officials, civil servants and former ministers, cash for questions and influence, an over-extended military, and serious questions raised over some aspects of the judiciary, stretching from the Bloody Sunday inquiry through to the Hillsborough inquiry and beyond.

The combined forces of this British Establishment and its puppets in Westminster, while paying lip service to a democratic Scottish referendum and the will of the Scottish people, are going to use every weapon in their formidable armoury to secure a NO vote in September 2014, and in the event of a YES vote, to frustrate and delay the successful expression of that free choice.

The long arm of the British Establishment reaches deep into Scottish society at every level, in every institution, in every class of that society, through patronage, the honours system, through appointments to high office, and significantly through control and/or influence exercised over key sections of the media. It is no exaggeration to say that Establishment Scots constitute the hidden force within the belly of the British State’s Trojan horse in Scotland.

To see how this works, at least in part, we can look at Azeem Ibrahim’s list of experts, researchers, academic reviewers, other contributors and organisations who contributed. Let’s start with the panel of experts who were present at the launch in the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.

Since many of the contributors have letters after their name representing, not qualification, but honours awarded, it’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves what these mean. (For a more in-depth look, see my 2010 blog The Establishment versus Scotland’s Independence)

These awards are made by the reigning monarch on recommendations from political parties and others, and are conferred for various reasons. They are part of a huge pyramid of precedence with the Queen (who has publicly stated her opposition to Scotland’s independence in the Queens’s Speech) at the apex.

Despite Britain’s claim to be a democracy, this pyramid of power and inherited privilege is inherently undemocratic.

The Lords, for example, way up the pyramid, are unelected by any democratic process, yet constitute a fundamental part of the government and the legislative process. No other country in the world claiming to be a democracy has anything remotely similar. In a very real sense,  the House of Lords epitomises the British Establishment, which at one and the same time stands outside of democratic government and accountability to the electorate, but is yet deeply embedded in it.

Back to Azeem’s list ---

Major General Andrew Douglas Mackay CBE (Chair of the panel of experts)

The military and political figures from the 25 listed contributors -

The Rt. Hon. Lord Browne of Ladyton – a former Labour Sec. of State for Defence

The Rt. Hon Lord Reid of Cardowan – former Labour Sec. of State for Defence

The Rt. Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG, QC, Tory MP – Maggie’s right hand man in Scotland for many years

The Rt. Hon. Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, KT, GCMG, FRSA, FRSE, PC – former Labour Defence Secretary, former Sec. General of NATO – perhaps the most extreme of all the critics of Scottish Independence, totally hostile to an independent, non-nuclear Scotland in NATO, to  the point of deriding the SNP’s aspirations.

General Sir John George Reith KCB CBE – former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe

Air Commodore Gordon Moulds, CBE – former Commander Kandahar Airfield and former Commander British Forces South Atlantic

General (retd) Professor Sir Paul Newton KBE – a former military Commander and Intelligence chief, now Director – Strategy and Security Institute, Exeter University.

Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Stuart Hastings Irwin, KCB, CBE – former Adjutant-General to the Forces – former GOC Northern Ireland

Major Sir Edward Mountain – former Adjutant Career Planning UK Armed Forces, former Commander Reconnaissance Squadron

To put it bluntly, the above list represents a roll call of the British military and defence Establishment, deeply embedded in the system, handsomely rewarded and honoured by the system, steeped in its values and assumptions, committed to its global strategic views and to a flawed and destructive transatlantic foreign policy and NATO world view that has led it into two destructive and futile wars since the millennium.

The idea that this group could offer any objective view of an independent Scotland and its defence and intelligence structures – an independent Scotland that threatens all they stand for, especially the nuclear lynchpin of their status – is risible.

They see Scotland’s independence as a threat to their flawed and outmoded global narrative, their world view, and indeed their role and status in that world.

Of course, Azeem Ibrahim and the Scotland Institute are not so naive as to fail to include token voices and contributions representing the other viewpoint, so we have Angus Robertson MP and Luke Skipper of the SNP listed as contributors, and Lieut.Col. Stuart Crawford as an independent expert who has offered an objective blueprint of how a Scottish Defence Force could be structured.

And Azeem Ibrahim has made much of the fact that some of the British Establishment figures, especially the former Defence Secretaries are Scots. But as noted above, they are Scots embedded in the British State, owing all that they are - and all they have - to that state, committed to its continuance in its present form, politically and personally totally opposed to Scotland’s independence and the removal of the Trident nuclear WMD from Scottish soil.

Other contributing individuals/organisations

Senior Level Officials at NATO Office of Policy Planning

Officials from UK and Scottish Governments

Specialists on European Security Issues at RMA Sandhurst

Officials at NATO HQ/SHAPE

In the right context, this dialogue between NATO, UK, the RMA and the Scottish Government could have been helpful. I take leave to doubt that there was any such real dialogue.

CONCLUSION of PART ONE

In the second part of this blog (Friday/Sat) I will look at what I believe to be Azeem Ibrahim’s motivation and objectives in founding the Scotland Institute and in commissioning this report – and I will address the report itself, and the academic/expert contributors to it, not as a defence expert but as an informed layman and Scottish voter.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Scotland and NATO – a US view. The questions and contradictions that just won’t go away …

This is a right-wing Republican argument - but - who knows when the US will have another right-wing republican president? In less than four years? And who knows exactly what Obama and the Democrats think of Scotland and NATO?

The essence of the argument is all here - it contains all the contradictions inherent within the SNP's hotly-debated policy shift last October. They weren't successfully addressed or answered then - and Angus Robertson did not successfully address them in the debate that immediately followed this. Jim Murphy was of course in his usual backroom Glasgow political brawler mode, and betrayed all the intellectual poverty and hypocrisy at the heart of the Labour position.

Only independence - and an election in 2016 for a truly independent Scottish Parliament - will resolve these matters.

Since the Scottish Labour Party that contests that election will be a very different beast to its present expedient, power, money-grubbing and militaristic incarnation, who knows what the outcome of the 2016 election will be? The same will be true to a lesser degree of the LibDems. The Tories will still be Tories ...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Unhappy NATO tweeting time–the NATO U-turn and the Perth Conference

There are a dozen more personally rewarding and pleasant things I could have been doing with my day than this. But none more important.

Have a good Conference, delegates! I wish you all well.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP is willing to protect vulnerable species - sharks and pandas - but not protect the vulnerable peoples of the world from NATO and WMDs.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP press release:"SNP MEP Alyn Smith swims with sharks .." SNP must not swim with NATO sharks and be complicit in nuclear warfare and WMDs.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Only time in NATO's history that Article 5 of North Atlantic treaty has been invoked as an attack on all NATO members. It led to Afghanistan

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@AlynSmithMEP Why swim with the NATO sharks, Alyn - no tank safely contains them. Say NO to NATO at Conference!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Perth delegates: tell your leaders you love them and trust them but that they are wrong on NATO. Say NO and move on to the independence YES!

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Better Together will smile and crack a bottle of champagne if SNP Conference says yes to NATO U-Turn. Liam Fox and arms dealers will rejoice

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Perth delegates: at Conference you will hear from committed SNP CND brothers and sisters asking you to say NO to NATO. Trust them and say NO

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP Perth delegates - on arrival you will see committed veterans of the Faslane Peace Camp asking you to say NO to NATO. Don't betray them!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Perth delegates: the NATO U-turn presents a tactical, strategic and moral challenge. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do - say NO

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Most flawed pro-NATO U-turn argument of all - "It's disloyal to SNP to oppose the motion and support the amendment." Be loyal to Scotland!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Flawed NATO arguments:

1:"We need it" We don't!

2:"Influence from within" You can't!

3:"We need it to get a YES" You don't - risks a NO

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Pressures on delegates at Perth to close ranks on NATO U-turn will be formidable. Resist them - NATO is bad for SNP and for Scotland. Say NO

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

An independent Scotland will present a moral example to a troubled world, one however that will be seriously compromised by joining NATO.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

I feel strongly about NATO (you noticed?) - I speak only for myself, from a deep concern for the Scottish people http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/my-reasons-for-cancelling-my-snp-party.html …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

While the SNP MPs pursue their 'Ladybird Book of Nuclear WMDs', one ordinary Scottish voter tries for detailed argument http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-snps-dangerous-nuclear-nonsense.html …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

NATO – a nuclear alliance: membership may lead to party fission http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/nato-nuclear-alliance-membership-may.html …

5h Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP keep invoking the non-nuclear NATO members as a kind of desperate mantra. Contrast this simplistic approach with > http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/scotland-in-nato-core-arguments-against.html …

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP None of them remotely compare with Scotland's situation as the base for the UK's WMD's crucial to NATO strategy. You know it

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Influence NATO from inside the tent? Enter this tent and be silenced and suffocated by money, influence and pressure. NATO=WMDs=WAR Say NO!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

The SNP playing with NATO membership is like a child playing with a hair-trigger revolver. Don't do it, SNP. Vote NO to NATO at Perth.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@theSNP @AlexSalmondMSP Then abandon the NATO folly, First Minister. You are creating a potential San Andreas fault line in the party.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@Tarzan123 NATO is dangerous, lethal. I turn away from the US military/industrial complex and an rUK that support WMDs and foreign wars.

5 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP Don't be foxed by NATO, Angus. You're aligned with some very dubious people and organisations. Naivety is not in my nature..

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

#NATO There's something nasty in the woodshed in the SNP's NATO/nuclear position. There's a distinct aroma of NATO influence in all they say

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP support unilateral nuclear disarmament. Why then are they quoting organisations and think tanks who support multi-lateral disarmament?

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Look hard at organisations who support NATO while arguing for multi-lateral disarmament. There's nice consulting, travel and lectures perks!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

NATO 'influences' a number of organisations with 'PEACE' in their title. They argue for multi-lateral disarmament while arguing for NATO.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@PeterMurrell @theSNP Why not add a couple of replica Trident warheads for delegates to admire? They go with NATO - or rather, they don't go

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

LIAM FOX says "I support your NATO membership, Alex but warn you to keep Trident on the Clyde for as long as it takes" http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-independence-alex-salmond-s-nato-u-turn-is-right-but-trident-must-stay-says-liam-fox-1-2583433 …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

#NOtoNATO NATO membership will keep Trident on the Clyde "for as long as it takes" Who says so? Liam Fox, Alex Salmond's new supporter.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

A wee reminder of what Liam Fox (new supporter of SNP's U-turn on Trident) was and is. He "warns" FM to keep Trident! http://moridura.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/uks-nuclear-panic-and-devo-max.html …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

#NATO Liam Fox supports Alex Salmond's NATO U-turn but "warns" him to keep Trident. What more does the Party need to know to say NO to NATO?

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Disgraced former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox backs SNP's Nato U-turn but warns Trident must be kept on Clyde “for as long as it takes ..

Expand

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Reid Foundation on security threats:".subject has been treated not as real issue of national significance but in terms of political sloganeering"

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Security threats to Scotland:"has failed to give any consideration whatsoever to security responses other than military ones"Reid Foundation

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Security threats to Scotland:"failed to consider the most pressing security threats Scotland faces" REID FOUNDATION

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Security threats to Scotland:"been based on no credible assessment of the form of or response to security threats Scotland might face" REIDF

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 That is unquestionably true. NATO membership will make it infinitely more difficult to do so, and presents major ethical

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

That naughty, nasty NATO thang …

The Scotsman has one undoubted talent – it can recognise an SNP Achilles Heel when it sees one, and aims its arrows accordingly. It’s a pity the SNP didn’t spot its own vulnerability on the NATO membership question, but there’s a reason for that – it is often described in the media as a disciplined party, as indeed it has been. But there is a fine line between a disciplined party with a clear vision presenting a unified front to a hostile world and one that is suppressing – or ignoring – dissenting voices within its own ranks.

The latter approach runs the risk of creating a climate in which dissent is perceived as disloyalty, and bland conformity to the party line being seen as a virtue. This danger becomes greater when a party that has had to struggle against enormous adversity to gain a foothold in the political life of the nation suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, finds itself with an unchallengeable majority under a charismatic, powerful leader. It is further compounded by the presence of a large number of new members in a Parliament who are equally surprised and delighted, but anxious to please the established power structure. Tony Blair posing with his new intake of Blair’s Babes in 1997 comes to mind.

I’ve been trying without success to track down a quote, which I hazily recall as being in Aldous Huxley’s collection of essays Ends and Means. The idea within it is that at the heart of every major religion exists a core of powerful people who believe exactly the opposite in key doctrines and dogma to the version promulgated to the faithful. This is almost certainly true in politics, and within political parties. It’s sometime called realpolitik, although this doesn’t exactly capture it. An additional factor is that a political party can be a very convenient vehicle for a powerful man or woman at a point in time, even when they do not share its core philosophy, ideals and values.

Again Blair comes to mind. Some believe – and I am one of them – that Tony Blair, an Old Fettesian who was nonetheless of humble origins and and certainly not ‘one of us’, in Maggie’s phrase, and not part of any Establishment power networks, simply looked around -from a position of no real values of any kind - for the political vehicle most likely to allow him to rise to power. As a young lawyer, he found it in the most unlikely of places for one of his class and background, in the mining communities of Durham, and aided by Joe Mills, Regional Secretary of the T&GWU, found his constituency in Sedgefield and his power base in Trimdon village. (I knew Joe Mills very well indeed for ten years or so, and I know Trimdon village, Sedgefield and Durham equally intimately.) The rest is history, a history that brought great wealth and influence to Blair but misery, death and devastation to Iraq  and Afghanistan, terrorism to Britain, and the transformation of the Labour Party into a thing utterly alien to its roots and values.

Now let me be clear – I do not believe that Alex Salmond or any of his key ministers are cut from the Blair cloth. Leaving aside my judgement of them from their actions and statements, their intellect and huge political talents mean that the fastest route to power and influence for any one them would have been through a unionist party to Westminster. They are driven, not by personal ambition, but by personal conviction and a belief in the independence of Scotland. (For example, no objective commentator doubts that Alex Salmond has all the qualities of a world statesman and could have had a glittering career in UK, European and world politics.)

However, the SNP - like any political party – contains men and women of lesser talent who are content to play on a smaller stage, and are realistic enough to constrain their ambitions within their modest abilities. Among that group, it is likely there there are some – I hope only a few -  who hold personal and political views contrary to the SNP’s social democratic, anti-nuclear beliefs which they are willing to subordinate to their career interests.

And the top group may contain some who do not quite burn with a gem-like flame in their belief in a non-nuclear Scotland, and whose key focus is economic and social.

We now know that ministerial group most certainly contains perhaps a majority who believe in an independent Scotland being a member of NATO, a military alliance firmly committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

I also believe that this group contains some who are prepared to see the nuclear disarmament of Scotland and the removal of Trident take a very long time indeed if realpolitik demands it, and are prepared to accept constraints and a radical dilution of the pure vision of speedy removal of WMDs from our land.

All of this is mirrored in the party membership as a whole and in the SNP-supporting electorate who are not party members. Such is democracy, and we must recognise the reality of it, but argue for our own beliefs within that democratic framework.

THE ERIK GEDDES MEMO

I expressed the view recently that the SNP was either muzzling internal criticism of the NATO U-turn or those who opposed it were self-censoring. This produced cries of outraged denial from some party members. The Scotsman today believes it has evidence of suppression of open debate, based on a leaked memo from Erik Geddes, an SNP Group Communications Officer. (I have reason to be grateful for Erik’s many informative press releases.) Here is the memo -

I understand some of you may be getting calls about defence policy. Please ask them to e-mail you any questions and respond with the following:

We are looking forward to an excellent debate within the SNP on Nato, which will be democratically decided at party conference in October – the SNP’s clear policy is for Trident nuclear weapons to be removed from Scotland, and independence is the only constitutional option which enables this to be achieved.”

Thanks – Erik Geddes, SNP Group Communications Officer

The most likely interpretation of this email is that Erik is simply doing what any communications department in any political party does – advising its parliamentary members how best to respond to media and external queries in a way that protects consistency of response and accurately reflects policy. However, it is rather oddly worded and sequenced -

I understand some of you may be getting calls about defence policy.

Please ask them to e-mail you any questions

and respond with the following:

That suggests the following sequence of events and action -

1. MSP receives a telephone call asking for information about defence matters, and specifically the Party’s NATO policy.

2. MSP requests that questions be emailed to him/her.

3. MSP does not answer specific questions but responds with the bland pro-forma message.

If the above is an accurate interpretation of the memo – and that is exactly what it says, even if it may not have been intended that way, then it essentially is an instruction, not a suggestion, to MSPs not to answer questions, not to offer their own views – bear in mind that in our democracy MSPs and MPs are elected as individuals, not party drones – but in effect to say “Bugger off, this is a party matter for Conference, and we’ll tell you in our own time what we decide.”

That might just be acceptable if the SNP were not the governing party of Scotland, but to me, it is unacceptable from the party of government to  a free media in a country that aspires to open government.

This would be bad enough if it only applied to media and external queries, but if it applies to voters and specifically also to party members and constituents, it just ain’t on

If a matter as fundamental – and it is fundamental – to the Government of Scotland’s anti-nuclear policy and to NATO membership is open for debate in the confines of a venue in Perth in October, it sure as hell should be open for debate in the media and among the electorate of Scotland.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Independence

independence noun (often followed by of or from) the fact or process of being independent.  Concise Oxford

INDEPENDENCE

I support Scotland’s independence.

Independence is what I’ll vote for.

I will try to persuade people to vote for independence.

The independence of Scotland is what I hope for.

I like the word independence – it conveys a precise meaning to me.

I have a powerful aversion to doubletalk and PR speak in politics – and in life.

I believe Scots are known for saying what they mean and meaning what they say.

As an advocate of Scotland’s independence, I fully intend to use the word independence at every opportunity

 

Vote YES in the autumn of 2014 for independence

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bias by headline –The Scotsman and Ruth Wishart

I have commented before many times on the technique of Bias by Headline in newspapers. This is normally used in a news report, where the paper feels obliged to present facts that do not quite fit their unionist bias (there are no print newspapers that have a nationalist bias) but wants to create an impression in the headline that is either contrary to the body of facts, or presents an interpretation of them without offering an argument.

This approach relies on two things – that many readers scan headlines but don’t get to grips with complex reports, and that if they do read the full piece, they have already been conditioned by the headline to favour the editorial interpretation.

(Newspaper editors will reject this, if the argument of bias by headline is presented to them, saying that the only purpose of a headline is to grab the attention of the reader and briefly signal content. Aye, right …)

Unlike television channels, newspapers have a right to take a political stance and put forward a point of view. In an ethical newspaper (after Murdoch, we may ask if there is such a thing) viewpoint and polemic will be confined to editorial and opinion pieces, and will be reflected in the selection of regular columnists, e.g. The Times and Alan Cochrane, and some sort of balance will be maintained by the occasional token inclusion of views and opinions presenting a countervailing position.

Headlines are normally written by someone other than the author of the piece. I make this claim, not on direct experience of news room policies, but on the excuses offered when newspapers are criticised over headlines.  I would guess this is almost invariably true of news reports, and sometimes true of opinion pieces. We may therefore speculate that in this world, the body of the piece represents the skills of the journalist and the headline reflects the skills of the huckster and possibly the spinmeister.

Today’s example I’m sad to say, involves Ruth Wishart, a journalist and commentator who has my respect. The sub-header for her piece on the referendum debate sets out precisely what the thrust of her argument is -

Both sides of the debate will wheel out conjecture and half truths, but it’s up to everyone to vote with conviction, says Ruth Wishart

But what does the banner headline across the page say in bold type?

Beware of the sales pitch for independence

I don’t believe for one moment that this is the title under which Ruth submitted her piece. If it was, it bears a very strange relationship to her content, epitomised by this quote, where she speaks of what the voter will be subjected to in the referendum campaign -

“Over the next few weeks and months they will be fed all manner of ‘evidence’ from all sides as to the impact of their vote. Some of this will be the kind of statistics that would give damned lies a good name. Some will be little more than slightly informed conjecture, because in truth nobody in a (sic) possession of an infallible crystal ball.”

Leaving aside the fact that crystal balls are not of much use unless they are infallible, this is a fairly accurate statement of what will occur. It points to no particular side of the argument, YES vote or NO vote, as either villain or hero. Ruth, in the early part of her piece, reported on one of Angus Robertson’s roadshows. Since so far there are no unionist roadshows, she was unable to offer that balance.

The headline for her article could equally have read Beware of the sales pitch for the Union, and if such a thing as a print newspaper with a nationalist bias had existed, it might well have.

An objective headline would, of course,  have have been Beware of the sales pitches for the referendum vote.

What I would suggest to voters in search of truth is beware of Scotsman headlines. It is ironic that the headline writer managed to betray the very bias that Ruth Wishart was warning against in her plea to voters to examine all sides of the argument. But one must never look to right-wing media for a fine appreciation of irony …

Monday, 23 January 2012

Reflections on defence and the military

(Note: The ideas below and some of the text derive from earlier blogs. I make no apology for this - I still feel the same way and still want to say the same things in the same way.)

The choice that will soon face the Scottish electorate is devolution max or full independence. All the talk of economic factors, of the currency, of borrowing powers, of taxation and of the detail of independence is smoke and mirrors – the last redoubt is defence and foreign policy.

Why?

Because no country can truly be a nation unless it controls its own foreign policy and defence.

No country can be a nation if it lets another nation decide in what cause - and when - to place its servicemen and women in harm’s way, and to sacrifice their lives if necessary.

No country can be a nation if it permits another to determine its fate in the most fundamental areas of nationhood.

Scotland cannot be a nation again unless it is fully independent.

The above principles are entirely distinct from defence alliances and treaties, which can be entered into voluntarily and exited from at will. (An independent Scotland would undoubtedly enter into such alliances, and would also have a range of flexible and common sense areas of cooperation with other nations short of formal alliance.)

In the defence debate now raging, my concern is the insidious way in which the military/industrial complex subverts the moral consciousness of governments, trades unions and ordinary voters - and the very nature of democracy itself  - by the offer of industrial investment and jobs, and the naked threat of the withdrawal of that investment if Scotland doesn’t toe the line, not to mention tug the forelock and bend the knee.

Is this emotive, heated language? If it is, it is several hundred degrees cooler than the threats, abuse, contempt and distorted propaganda that has been thrown at Scotland since the British Establishment and their Scottish political puppets have reached the stunned conclusion that Scotland will hold a referendum and will hear the voice of its own people, without interference from Westminster and from political appointees in the UK legal system, and that the referendum is highly likely to result in a vote for complete independence

I believe in legitimate defence of the Scottish nation, and in conventional defence forces and armaments, but I abhor the use of defence jobs as job creation schemes to induce tacit participation in, and compliance with the foreign policy of the United States and of the UK as its compliant ally. This is exactly the insidious perversion of democracy that former US President and distinguished American WW2 general Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against when he pointed out the dangers of the military/industrial complex.



Why question the purpose of the armaments or their relationship to any real defence need, or the price in blood that must be paid for them when they are such an unfailing source of jobs to Scotland, not to mention lucrative directorships and consultancies to politicians? So they warn Scotland of the terrible consequences of attempting to be a free nation, to have defence forces appropriate to its real defence needs, to be free of the intolerable financial and moral burdens of WMDs, to stop sending its young men and women to die in the foreign wars that are so necessary to the profit machine called the military/industrial complex.

Of course, they are not consequences, they are empty threats, designed to intimidate a free people and suppress their democratic instincts .

But then, that’s what British imperial foreign policy has always been about, isn’t it - intimidating free peoples and suppressing their democratic instincts? But from America onwards, free nations have rejected that intimidation and thrown off the yoke of empire.

Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence,  the MOD, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

ATTACK ON SCOTTISH NATIONALISM FROM THE UK POLITICIANS AND COMMENTATORS

Back in June of last year, Allan Massie wrote a piece in the Scotsman - False patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel prompted by the Labour (Ian Davidson MP) fascism slur against the SNP. Allan Massie then managed in his piece to move seamlessly from appearing to condemn Ian Davidson’s unfortunate remark, as a Member of Parliament under privilege in the House of Commons, to conflating the most extreme remarks of sundry anonymous online posters to draw parallels between  some Scottish nationalists and Hitler’s Germany, anti-semitism, Franco’s Spain, and to describe them as “at least proto-fascists”  (I said my piece to him back in June 2011)

Since then, we have had the Tom Harris’s ‘Downfall’ YouTube clip and innumerable attacks, direct or oblique, on the right of Scots to express pride and belief in their nation and seek its independence. All of them seem oblivious to the fact that the UK is a constant example of extreme nationalism under the term Britain, and regularly displays all the characteristics of such nationalism, one that is deeply alien to Scotland.

I offered an analysis of the characteristics of a fascist state back then.

CHARACTERISTIC OF THE FASCIST STATE

Fascist states are obsessively militaristic in character, consuming a wholly disproportionate part of their national resources on armaments.

They appeal to a nostalgic and glorious past that has little to do with present social and economic realities.

They exalt the Head of State, whether monarch or dictator, and claim either a hereditary or nepotistic right to succession in key offices of state.

They maintain the semblance of a democracy, while effectively nullifying, or as they describe it, ‘balancing’ the democratic institutions with non-democratic, unelected bodies.

They have key linkages between the military and relevant sections of industry in a military/industrial complex. Defence procurement is perceived by the public as incompetent, when in fact it is mainly corrupt, and unfailingly enriches the politicians associated with it.

They claim a right to intervene by force in the affairs of other nation states, and occupy them, always with the claim that they are acting in the interests of the people of the occupied territories.

They have a cult of blood, death and sacrifice in which the Head of State plays a major role. They exalt the dead as heroes of the nation: the children of the governing elite are rarely if ever among the dead. They drape the coffins of the dead with flags.

They are given to militaristic displays at any and every opportunity. They blatantly use military contracts and jobs as a political lever to influence the vestiges of true democracy that remain in the state apparatus.

When the voice of the people is heard, either through popular protest or electoral success, a sustained attack is made by the fascist state on the legitimacy of such protest and electoral success, and the democratic mandate is challenged frontally. The fascist state exercises significant or total control over media.

The fascist state has an elaborate system of patronage, titles and honours to sustain its power and to limit and control the democratic mandate where it exists. Large swathes of decision-making are controlled by people who have no democratic mandate whatsoever, who were appointed by the ruling group.

The fascist state will sacrifice any public service rather than contain its military ambitions or curtail the profits and privileged of the rich and powerful. It deeply distrusts the public services of the nation. It readily blames the poor and the vulnerable for the ills of the nation and holds them responsible for their own miseries.

THE STATE OF THE UNION

All of the above characteristics are either currently present or developing in the state of the United Kingdom. None of them are present in Scottish nationalism, the Scottish National Party, nor in the vast majority of its supporters.

Is the UK fascist? No, absolutely not - yet. The good sense of the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland militate against it, and the deep democratic instincts of the people are currently being aroused in the countries of this ‘United’ Kingdom, because the dangers and the abuses of power by an unrepresentative elite are manifest. The impending independence of Scotland and its non-nuclear defence policy will place an effective brake on the dangerously militaristic tendencies of the UK Establishment, tendencies that are especially evident under Tory control.

That of course is why the Scottish Government’s defence policy is under a sustained and unprecedented attack at the moment - it is the real threat to the power of the elite and the pretensions of a small militaristic state to global power and influence.

A democracy must be on high alert when the military establishment flexes its muscles and tries to dictate an agenda - world history reads us that lesson loud and clear.

DEFENCE AS JOB CREATION SCHEME AND ROLE OF THE TRADES UNIONS IN SCOTLAND

A nation must be ready to defend its people, its territorial integrity and its interests against external threat. It therefore needs a defence force, and in the modern world, that means an army, a navy and an air force. The right size for such defence forces, and therefore the proportion of GDP allocated to defence must be the minimum necessary to meet defence objectives.

The idea that defence policy, defence expenditure and defence procurement should serve other objectives is a pernicious and dangerous one. It is also a seductive one. When it is allied to the commercial objectives of manufacturing and exporting armaments, it is potentially a moral and ethical quagmire.

There are powerful voices that argue that, when it comes to these issues, that maintaining an arms trade between nations - and indeed relationships between nations - can ultimately only be conducted on a basis of realpolitik, and that diplomacy - negotiation between nations - is essentially ethics and morality free. (Sir Christopher Myer, a former British diplomat who I admire as a presenter, argued this view cogently in a BBC documentary, citing from his wide experience the kinds of ethical dilemmas a diplomat faces. The late Robin Cook argued in contrast for an ethical foreign policy.)

As a negotiator, I recognise the dilemma, and the stark fact that you don’t negotiate with people who already agree with you. In diplomacy, this is expressed as ‘A nation doesn’t negotiate peace with nations they are not actually - or potentially - in conflict with.”

ARMS SALES

Scotland, with its skills and expertise, especially in its shipbuilding industry, must face such dilemmas too, including the perennial question - “If they don’t buy it from us, they’ll buy it somewhere else …”

I have no easy answers to this - ethical dilemmas are dilemmas because there are no easy answers. But decisions have to be made across a range of defence products: we’ve already made the biggest one - we will not harbour nuclear weapons, nor in my view should we trade in any products that supports them.

At the other end of the spectrum, we shouldn’t sell electric cattle prods adapted to deal with protesters and political opponents to oppressive dictatorships. The insidious argument “If they don’t buy it from us, they’ll buy it somewhere else …” could equally be applied to the cattle prods, or selling high tech thumbscrews to torturers. There must be an ethical line, and it must be drawn with care if the new Scotland is to live up to its highest ideals. I believe it can.



EMPLOYMENT AND THE TRADES UNIONS

In Britain, the trade union movement has traditionally been more than simply a way to even up the negotiating clout of ordinary working people faced with powerful employers and legislators in the pockets of powerful vested interests.

Combination on the one side is patent and powerful. Combination on the other is the necessary and desirable counterpart, if the battle is to be carried on in a fair and equal way. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the Vegelan Case.

The British trade union movement has always proclaimed political, social and moral values, in contrast to the American trade union movement, which adopted a model of business unionism, essentially the realpolitik of unionism. American trades unions have moved a long way from Woody Guthrie and the Wobblies - Workers of the  world - Unite!

(They may have to return to this if the present parlous state of the American economy and the gross social anomalies within it continues to worsen. Five recent studies have shown America now to be one of the least socially mobile countries among the developed countries of the world.)

A number of major trades unions are beginning to show signs of challenging their long affiliation to the Labour Party, in the face of a party that is now in many respect indistinguishable from the Tories in their economic and social policies.

But in Scotland, where the heart and soul of trades unionism historically lay, the union hierarchy show no such recovery of ideals, or willingness to question allegiances that no longer serve their membership.

Not the least of their problems in doing this - in addition to the effect on the career path of trades union officers - is confusion over Scotland’s thrust for independence, and the related ethical dilemma involving defence jobs, in the shipbuilding and nuclear-related industries.

Shipbuilding and WMD-related jobs, not to mention those in the nuclear power industry, are being used cynically and blatantly in threat/bribe scenarios by Westminster politicians, notably  Scottish Labour politicians, and the defence debate is polluted and debased by such behaviour.

I do not cast a jaundiced eye on Civic Scotland - I recognise the valid place such a grouping has in a pluralistic democracy - but I do cast a sceptical eye on some of the ambivalence they are currently showing about independence, especially when it comes to the defence and jobs debate.

I would remind the churches within Civic Scotland, and those who claim a social and moral conscience of the swords into ploughshares principle, especially when the ploughshares can be readily identified as the renewables industry, among others where Scotland has real strengths.

Among the latest scare tactics over the last few days have been a number of attempted frighteners over jobs in the armed forces, where contemptuous comparisons have been made on the challenge, opportunity and travel benefits for young men and women in the British armed forces as opposed to a Scottish defence force.

My position on this is best summed up my response to a comment and query on my most recent blog, which genuinely posed the question as to what Lieut.Col. Stuart Crawford’s position is on these questions, and by implication, what is the SNP’s position. I don’t know the position of either Stuart Crawford or the SNP, but here was my answer, and where I stand.

  • Alasdair Ross Jan 23, 2012 01:59 AM

    No mention or he may have not been asked - what about the servicemen? Those who who are already in a British Army and those who would continue to join the English/Welsh Army- would the Scottish Regiments stay- becoming Scottish Gurkhas, or will Scots just travel south and join an English regiment?
    Most who join the armed Forces want to see the world and challenge themselves- that will not be possible in a Scottish Army- unless remaining part of NATO-

  • Moridura Jan 23, 2012 02:22 AM

    I don't know the answers to these questions, Alasdair. The only statement I know of from Alex Salmond said the servicemen would be free to choose, and I am sure that those with the motivation you describe would want to "travel south and join an English regiment".
    Scotland will not remain in NATO while NATO is nuclear, but will cooperate through Partnership for Peace as some other countries do. The defence forces of a nation cannot be predicated on the basis of “join the Army and see the world”, although that has always been a recruitment slogan of the military throughout the ages. Exactly how this will affect recruitment and choices cannot be predicted, but defence forces of other small nations don't find a difficulty in filling their ranks.
    What recruits to the new Scottish Defence Force can be assured off is that they will not be sent to die in illegal wars and misconceived foreign engagements, and that a Scottish Ministry of Defence will be staffed by competent and ethical persons whose motivation is to serve the military personnel and their families, instead of their own advancement and careers in private companies.