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Showing posts with label The UK Establishment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The UK Establishment. Show all posts

Monday, 5 November 2012

The Key Facts – all you need to know about Scotland’s independence and the referendum …

I am an individual Scottish voter, I have no role within the SNP, and my opinions are my own. I am an SNP supporter but no longer a party member. I first published this in November 2011

Here are the facts that I have heard from the SNP, in publicly available statements, from printed material, newspapers, periodicals and from the broadcast media – they have been freely available to every member of the Scottish electorate.

I have no trouble understanding them, and I cannot imagine that any adult voter would have trouble understanding them. Frankly, a moderately intelligent 12-year old would understand them. But clearly the large sections of the media, politicians and spokespersons for unionist parties are either unable or unwilling to understand them.

THE KEY FACTS, AS I UNDERSTAND THEM

The SNP stated in its manifesto that, if elected, it would hold a consultative referendum on Scotland’s independence, with a YES/NO question. If the answer is YES, the Scottish voters will have mandated the Scottish Government to negotiate the timing and terms of securing Scotland’s independence with the UK Westminster Government.

The Scottish Government will be fully mandated by the sovereign Scottish People to reach agreed terms in those negotiations, subject to core stated major policy positions, e.g. non-nuclear.

The SNP has defined independence in exactly the same way as every independent democratic country in the world defines it – total freedom to act in the interests of Scotland in every aspect of Scottish life – law, defence and foreign policy, taxation and fiscal policy, public services, relations with other nations, etc.

(No other nation in history has ever felt the need to explain to its people what independence meant in more detail than that, nor has any free people, even when suffering under non-democratic regimes, ever been in doubt what independence meant.)

Only Scottish voters - as defined by normal criteria of eligibility to vote in Scottish and UK elections, plus new provisions for 16 and 16 year-olds - will be eligible to vote. Scottish, in this context, does not refer to country of birth or ethnic group but to eligibility to vote in Scottish elections.

The referendum timing, legality and how other key questions will be handled have now been agreed in the historic referendum agreement with the UK Government.

The SNP will establish relationships with other nations through normal diplomatic means, and will seek to be a part of relevant interest grouping with other nations, such as the European Union and the United Nations. There is no doubt whatsoever that one of the world’s oldest nations, one that has had made a major contribution to that world in every field of human endeavour, with a distinctive history and culture that is recognised instantly in every part of the globe, would be accepted into the European Union and the United Nations.

The SNP will maintain a Scottish defence force and will protect the traditional identities of Scottish defence groupings. Serving members of the armed forces will be offered a free choice to either join Scottish defence forces or remain in UK defence forces.

The SNP will be part of defence alliances that it considers relevant to Scotland’s defence interests, and to the maintenance of our democratic way of life, and will take part in international operations as part of a coalition of forces in pursuit of objectives with which it agrees.

The SNP is committed to retaining the Queen -and her natural successors - as the constitutional monarch of Scotland.

The SNP is committed equally to a strong, vibrant private sector and to first-rate public services, properly funded and supported in an independent Scotland.  The SNP sees the private sector and the public sector as being complementary vital parts of a civilised nation, of equal significance and status, and not as in competition for recognition or resources.

The SNP is committed to supporting businesses large and small, and to the re-industrialisation of Scotland significantly based on alternative sources of renewable energy. The SNP is committed to supporting a strong, properly regulated and controlled financial and banking industry in Scotland. It is committed to supporting tourism and leisure. It is committed to free higher educations, and to fully supporting our world-class educational institution, ancient and modern.

The SNP will retain sterling as its currency until such time as it may seem in the interests of Scotland to change that, and such a change would be put to the Scottish people in a referendum.

The SNP will not join the Euro until it is in the interests of the people of Scotland to do so, and only after a referendum on joining the Euro.

The SNP asserts that the Scottish People are sovereign.

NOTE: In my original version of this, I reflected the anti-NATO policy.

The policy on NATO membership changed on 19th October to one of seeking NATO membership, providing rUK and NATO accept a non-nuclear Scotland and the removal of Trident weapons systems from an independent Scotland.

SUMMARY

That’s all I really need to know to determine how I will vote in the referendum. My thanks to the Scottish Government and the SNP for keeping me and every other Scottish voter so fully and frankly informed.

My reason for choosing the Scottish National Party to vote for in May 2007 and in May 2011 is that they are the only major party committed to delivering the independence of Scotland.

(I have heard no coherent case for the preservation of the Union. Such conflicting arguments as have been offered have relied on a combination of vested interest groups, unelected bodies and individuals, nostalgia and emotionalism, scaremongering, indefensible statistics and a staggering lack of belief in and contempt for the Scottish people and their ability to run their own affairs.)

My reasons for wishing to be independent are -

the inability of the Union of 1707 ever to deliver equity and justice to all of the people of Scotland

the fact that the United Kingdom is not, and never has been a true democracy, but a coalition of unelected wealth, power, privilege and special interest groups, notably the military/industrial complex allied to and controlling a compliant political class and legal establishment

the staggering incompetence displayed in recent times (which I define as the last forty years) of all of the three main UK parties when in government, exemplified by the spectacular financial, fiscal, social and foreign policy incompetence displayed by the Labour Government 1997-2010 and currently being displayed by the Tory/LibDem Coalition since 2010.

A core policy reason for my support for the SNP and independence is that it is the only way we can have a nuclear-free Scotland, and only the SNP and Scotland’s independence will deliver that.

It therefore follows that my nuclear objectives cannot be delivered by anything short of independence, and therefore remaining in the UK but with radically increased powers – the devo max or full fiscal autonomy option cannot meet my requirements, nor that of many Scots voters.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New pals in the Tory/Labour Coalition

Here is Margaret Curran MP keeping even worse company than Willie Bain, Michael Moore and David Mundel – Richard Baker MSP.

No surprise – they ganged up against the SNP minority government in its first term, i.e. they ganged up against the people of Scotland – and they’re still at it over the independence referendum.

Three cheers for the Tory/Labour/LibDem Coalition – formed to block the freedom aspirations of the Scottish people.


From Drop Box

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Part Two: Independence and the voters - where are we at?

WHERE WE’RE AT NOW – 13th November 2011

The First Term 2007-2011

A political party called the Scottish National Party, with a clearly stated commitment to the independence of Scotland from the United Kingdom, and to calling a referendum in the second half of the Parliament should they be elected - with probably two questions being asked of the voters in that referendum - offered themselves to the electorate in a campaign that ran in April and early May of 2011.

They had already governed Scotland for four years from 2007 as a minority government – the first-ever SNP government of Scotland – in the devolved Parliament. During that period, without an overall majority, they had conducted the affairs of the nation of Scotland against a coordinated opposition comprised of the three unionist parties – the Tories, Labour and the LibDems – with only the intermittent support of the two Green MSPs and one independent, Margo MacDonald.

During their term of office, the combined opposition parties blocked major initiatives designed to tackle serious problems facing the nation, including, notoriously, minimum pricing for alcohol. The SNP government decided not to bring forward its bill for a referendum on Scotland’s independence because of the clear, stated intent of the opposition parties to block it.

Other major events during the SNP’s first term included the release of Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie Bomber, on compassionate grounds, which resulted in a storm of criticism from the Holyrood Opposition, the UK Government and the American Government, and the setting up of the Calman Commission by the opposition parties with the connivance of the UK government to deliberately frustrate the elected SNP government’s plans to secure amendments and extensions to the devolution settlement under the Scotland Act.

In 2008, a major financial crash occurred, affecting the whole of the UK and indeed the global financial markets, and two banks with Scottish roots, but now  global banks with a reach far beyond Scotland the UK and Europe, almost went belly up. The UK had little choice but to bail them out, and had Scotland been independent at the moment of their near collapse, UK Minus would have done the exactly same, because its own survival depended on it.

In 2010, Scotland decisively rejected the Tories at a general election, yet a Tory/LibDem Coalition, with the Tories as the dominant partner, now claims to be “one of Scotland’s two Governments”.

On the 5th of May, the Scottish electorate gave an overwhelming mandate to the SNP for a second term, confounding the experts and indeed the structure of Scottish devolution, which was expressly designed to prevent such an outcome.

The electorate did so in the full knowledge that –

they were voting for a party committed to achieving Scotland’s independence, a party whose raison d’etre is the independence of Scotland from the UK

they were voting for a party committed to an independence referendum with probably a second question in the second half of the Parliamentary term.

they were voting for a party that had released Megrahi

they were voting for a party committed to minimum pricing for alcohol

they were voting for a party that had refused to participate in the Calman Commission, and which rejected key fiscal recommendations of the Calman Commission

Not only did the electorate give the SNP a massive majority, they effectively reduced the Scottish Tories and LibDems to insignificant rump parties, and gave the Labour Party the worst results for half a century or more.

 

REACTION AND THE SECOND TERM 2011-2016

The UK London-based parties reacted with incredulity, despair, then denial. Their Scottish puppet parties reacted with all three reactions plus policy catatonia.

Everything the three UK parties have done since has continued that denial reaction – the Tories and the LibDems  have not yet broken through to an objective consideration of the reality: Labour are beginning to show a few glimmerings of understanding, but rather than producing a coherent strategy, this has resulted in near-panic.

The metropolitan media has failed almost totally to understand the new reality, and has periodic bouts of amnesia, when they block it out altogether. Only the Guardian newspaper has shown any real understanding, one that of late has approached a fatalistic acceptance of Scotland’s ultimate independence.

The Scottish media reaction has been a strange mixture of real, penetrating insights, especially by  a small group of print and television journalists, commentators, television presenters and interviewers, coupled with a contrasting, lemming-like regurgitation of factoids fed to them by the UK spin machine, leading them into a repetitive reiteration of simplistic questions that have already been clearly answered.

INTERPRETATION OF THE May 5th MANDATE

The first reaction of the Scottish Unionist opposition parties was to challenge the arithmetical validity of the SNP’s mandate, based on a farcical conclusion drawn from the poll turnout considered against the SNP majority. This line is so idiotic as to almost not warrant any response except derision, with the observation that if such arithmetic had been applied to UK elections, virtually no government ever had a mandate.

The opposition swiftly moved away from this nonsense (a few eejits are still peddling it) to interpreting the mandate. They reached the following set of conclusions, some reluctantly, and to each one I have offered my assessment and interpretation -

1. Not every vote for the SNP was a vote for independence.

This is undoubtedly true, and I base this on my certain knowledge that people I know well have told me that they voted on this basis, and it accords with common sense that it must be true of a number of voters. (The polls on independence appear to confirm this conclusion.)

2. The electorate voted for the SNP because they believed they offered the most competent team to govern in the difficult times ahead.

Leaving aside wholly irrational votes, this must be true of the vast majority. What goes with this conclusion, as night follows day, is that they judged that competence on the SNP’s record during four years of minority government, including minimum pricing for alcohol, the Megrahi release, and the SNP’s refusal to participate in, and serious reservations about Calman. Individual voters may or may not have supported each major position, but if opposed, they clearly felt that they were less important than the overall record.

3. The electorate voted for the SNP because they offered a positive vision for Scotland’s future compared to the negative arguments advanced by the opposition parties.

This is almost certainly true: what is equally true is that a positive long-term vision alone would not have been enough to secure a vote without a belief in immediate competence to govern effectively in a challenging present and immediate future.

4. Part of the electorate who were totally opposed to independence nonetheless voted SNP because of a belief in their competence and/or their positive vision for Scotland.

I do not believe this to be true – it offends against common sense, and all I can offer in support of my view is that I have never met anyone who expressed such a view. The idea that a voter who was diametrically opposed to – let’s give it their pejorative term – separation – would vote for the party who is totally and unequivocally committed to it doesn’t stand up for a moment.

5. Part of the electorate voted SNP in the belief that they would immediately call an independence referendum with one YES/NO question. This part of the electorate might have been supporters of independence or opposed to it. If opposed, they wanted a quick referendum and a simple choice to settle the question once and for all, or at least for a generation.

I believe that some supporters of independence voted in this belief. In so doing, they were either ignoring their party’s clear manifesto statements, supported at various times by statements from the First Minister and other ministers, or were – and still are – living in hope that, once in power, this is how the Party would act.

I cannot, however, believe that anyone hostile to independence, or separation as they would call it, could be so stupid as to vote for a party committed to it.

6. The Scottish voter won’t understand the significance of, and the distinction between two questions on a referendum ballot paper.

I have the highest respect for the intelligence and sophistication of the Scottish voter, but I do think a two question ballot paper – if there is one – would have to be very carefully structured, and considerable voter education done in the lead-up period. I’ve had my say at length on this in blogs passim, so I won’t go over the ground again.

7. Scottish voters don’t know what independence means.

Bollocks …

In summary: I believe we have a clear and decisive mandate to hold a referendum in the second half of this Parliamentary term, and to ask two questions if the Scottish electorate appear to want a third option to independence or status quo.

I believe we have a clear mandate to block the Calman recommendations until our criticisms are answered and our required changes implemented.

I believe that those Scottish voters who voted SNP but did not vote for independence on May 5th were fully aware of what the SNP stands for and its determination to achieve it, and they have an open mind – they will evaluate performance in office - and listen to the arguments.

WHERE WE’RE AT, WITH NO DOUBLETALK …

The glaring, undeniable Scottish Government priority right now is to meet the formidable challenge of the economic and banking crisis, not hold a referendum.

The UK Government and Scottish Unionist’s demands for an immediate referendum are cynically politically-based.  If the FM said yes to their specious request, they would be thrown into even greater panic and driven to even greater incompetence than they are now displaying, and that’s saying something … Their thinly disguised political motive is to make mischief, not to force a referendum, although if they listen to some lunatic voices within the unionist camp, they might try to gerrymander their  own referendum, which would be an act of utter political folly with consequences no one could predict.

If a referendum was held now, the chances are it would not deliver a YES vote to independence, although it might just …

If it did, or delivered a second option vote for devo max, no one, least of all the incompetent UK Coalition Government – which may fall prematurely – would be able to devote the time to the complex negotiations necessary to deliver either option. That leaves aside the question of legal challenges, which I cover below.

LEGAL CHALLENGES TO THE RIGHT OF THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT TO HOLD A REFERENDUM

The law is a process which now and again delivers justice and equity, but often doesn't. We can expect the kind of war of legal experts that has erupted recently to intensify until the debate proper starts,when Alex fires the starting gun. I think he may have to fire it a little sooner than he'd planned … (see above)

I could find a team of eminent lawyers tomorrow - if I could afford them - who would persuasively make a case that the Act of Union and the Treaty of Union were illegal from the start and we should all walk away from them now. I'm sure the UK would find a team who would argue equally persuasively that the Act of Union and the Treaty of Union are binding till hell freezes over, and only Divine intervention can change them.

The freedom of nations is not decided ultimately by such things, although they play a part in window-dressing a course of action actually pre-determined by other political forces.

If I could finance my own referendum as a massive sample opinion poll, say with 35% of the electorate taking part and say 51% of that number saying Yes to independence, I could and would demand immediate negotiations on our freedom and bollocks to the law. If my request was firmly rejected, then I might consider older forms of political action, all entirely peaceful, but rather more direct than briefing lawyers.

The thrust towards independence by any nation is not driven by law, nor is it determined by law – it is determined by the will of the people, however it manifests itself. The law is a necessary adjunct to the negotiations after independence becomes an inevitability.

I fervently hope that we can determine the will of the Scottish people by a referendum properly conducted by the Scottish Parliament, at a time that is right.

But the present crisis of capitalism, for that is what it is, represent a great wind of change blowing across the UK, Europe and our planet, and the Left are in disarray worldwide and have nothing to offer in this great crisis, one that they forecast for a century or more but are now totally ill-equipped politically to handle. There are great threats to democracy within the crisis, and the vicious interests that have the will to exploit it are already ‘slouching towards Bethlehem’ as Yeats presciently foresaw in the 1920s, long before Hitler and fascism.

There is an oasis of sanity in the North of Europe, however. I can do no better than quote the Sunday Herald lead article of today -

SCAREMOGERING ON EU BACKFIRES para 9

Scotland is one of the cradles of the Enlightenment and one of the world’s oldest democratic communities. An independent Scotland would inherit part of the UK budget deficit, but it would also inherit around £400 billion in North Sea oil, a quarter of Europe’s entire wind and wave energy resources, and five world class universities.

I would recommend reading the entire editorial – it is what I had always hoped for from the oldest continuously published newspaper in the world – The Glasgow Herald.

Scaremongering on EU backfires - Sunday Herald  13th November 2011

Global Spin - Time Magazine: An Independent Scotland? Q&A with Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond (Jay Newton-Small , November 4, 2011 ) Interview Time

EXTRACT

Alex Salmond:50 countries have become independent from London since the Second World War. In just about every case they were told the whole thing would be a complete misadventure, a disaster.

And I'll tell you something strange.

You know, when I was an MP in London where I was for the best part of a quarter of a century, I met all of these high commissioners [ambassadors from the Commonwealth] at various events and occasions, countries large and small, rich and poor and you know what? Not a single one of them ever said we're coming back under London rule, not one.

 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The riots in some English cities

The title of this blog represents the only accurate locational description of what happened over the last week. If you don’t accept this, consider the alternatives in ascending order of inaccuracy -

The English riots: The British riots: The UK riots: The Western European riots: The European riots.

When the French people riot - as they have done many times, e.g. 1968, 1995, 2005, 2011 - they are described by the international press as either The French riots, if widespread, or if confined to one city,  The Paris riots.

Riots in America are described by the city, e.g. The Newark riots, The Chicago riots, The Seattle riots - or by subject, e.g. the draft riots, the Seattle prison riot, or by the trigger, e.g. the Rodney King riots.

The BBC started its coverage of the riots accurately with The Tottenham Riots, which rapidly became The London Riots. Once other English cities became involved, they became either the UK riots or the riots in Britain. This was picked up by some foreign media outlets, and was paralleled in the UK press.

Scotland, in the middle of an economic recession created by Westminster and global factors, a country to which tourism is a vital component of its economy, was also in the middle of its tourist season and its International Festival,  with tourists thronging the capital, and more on the way. The scenes of flaming buildings, police in full riot gear appeared across the world’s media, causing understandable apprehension among those contemplating a visit or already booked for Scotland.

The First Minister made a low key comment on radio about this, and in brief TV news clips. (The  news clips reporting this also confirmed that Scotland was sending 300 police officers to assist the Metropolitan Police.)



Alex Salmond would have been in dereliction of his duty as First Minister if he had not done so. Within 24 hours, the riots were being accurately described in all BBC news bulletins and straplines as The English Riots.

A Scottish Government committee had already met at this point to consider possible responses should the riots spread north of the border. There was no complacency, simply a desire to offer practical help to our southern neighbours and friends, allied to the recognition that this was a sickness that could spread. Asked to speculate on the causes of the riots, and the possible reasons why they had not so far occurred in Scotland, the First Minister replied that we were “a different society”.

This entirely accurate observation was enough to induce hysteria among unionist politicians in Scotland, and their mouthpieces in the Scottish Press. As I observed in recent blogs, the debate then split along what I called The San Andreas Fault of Scotland - the question of the Union and of course the referendum. Every word uttered by unionist commentators since then has focused on that aspect, rather than concern for the people of England sorely afflicted by these appalling incidents of civil disorder.

From the autumn of last years onwards, when the polls punctured the complacent assumption that Labour was going to win the 2011 Holyrood election in  a walk, unionist panic grew, as they faced the real possibility that the Scottish National Party might actually be going to achieve the unthinkable - a second term, this time of five years, with its inevitable consequence - a referendum on independence. Scottish Tories, LibDems and Labour then ran about in all directions like headless chickens, vomiting out dire predictions of doom and disaster, performing incredible somersaults of policy, and totally failing to understand the mood of the electorate or the real issues involved.

When the horrifying scale of their defeat became evident, there was a brief period of stunned disbelief, followed by  a change of tack, now desperate to have the referendum immediately, in the hope that the opinion polls on support for independence were accurate. As so it has gone since May 6th, with the UK media realising that Scotland did exist, posed a threat to the very existence of the UK and its pretensions as a global power. And this was accompanied by the recognition that Scotland was different, in deep and fundamental ways, from the rest of the United Kingdom, a recognition that had briefly flickered into life after the results of the 2010 General election, when the fact that there were two nations not one became starkly evident from the voting pattern.

Since then, the strategy of the unionists, to the degree that their deeply divided ragbag of ploys constitutes a strategy or even a viewpoint, has been to emphasise the one nation concept, stronger-together-than-apart, and ‘Britishness’, a nebulous, nostalgic, imperial idea that some national character held the rickety and failing political hybrid called the UK together. A Newsnight Special even had a debate on this, with Rory Stewart MP fighting back a tear for the Britishness about to be lost if Scotland became independent  typifying the gross sentimentality and poverty of thought and political grasp in the unionist approach.

TODAY’S PRESS

Since the Scottish press is well on its way to terminal decline and irrelevance, I probably shouldn’t waste too much time on them. But as an old print junky, and being as unrealistically nostalgic for the great days of print journalism in Scotland as Rory Stewart is for the misty imperial past, I’ll give them some attention …

Scotland on Sunday has Kenny Farquarson saying that We must be part of the great debate. The great debate he refers to is the English Riots and the questions raised, and he refers to the ‘national debate’. He raises the central questions - who are ‘we’ and what is ‘the nation’. Kenny clearly want the nation to be the UK, not Scotland, but the ‘we’ that he wants to be part of the great debate in his headline seems to be Scotland, so he seems to be in some confusion there.

He accurately identifies the real questions raised by the English riots and the frightening experience of our English neighbours - and of course of the many Scots living in the affected areas, including friends and close relatives of mine - and he place at the centre, the question “A national debate, then. But for which nation?”

He quotes David Cameron’s comments on “the rip in English society”, but then goes on to say

But as far as Alex Salmond is concerned, this has no relevance for us north of the Border.”

He then follows this with

“Scotland, says the First Minister, is a ‘different society’, by which he plainly means “a better society’.

Both of the statements above by Kenny Farquarson are misrepresentations and distortions of what Alex Salmond said, and he has not a shred of evidence for either one of them. (If he has, he should bring it forward at once.)

(His use of quotation marks for “a better society” creates the implication that Alex Salmond actually said this, when he neither said it nor meant it. This is, at best, poor punctuation from Kenny Farquarson and he should be ashamed of himself, whatever the explanation.)

The rest of the article could be taken apart paragraph by paragraph in its attempt to project a set of values and assumptions on The First Minister and by extension the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Party and those who voted for them so decisively last May, that are just not representative of the facts.

It is a grubby attempt, but since it will influence very few voters when the referendum comes, because they simply won’t have read it, given the Scotsman’s circulation decline, and because many of those who have read it, like me, will dismiss it entirely, why should I devote more time to it?

Kenny Farquarson recognises that Scotland is different from England in many respects - he just doesn’t recognise the areas that are the important differences. That’s why the unionists lost the May election, and it is why they will lose the referendum argument.

Scotland is better than England in some respect, and it is manifestly worse in others. The Scottish Government doesn’t flaunt the superiority in some areas nor does it conceal the deficiencies in others - it offers its better qualities as an example, and is dealing, and dealing successfully with its difficult areas, in spite of the fact that throughout the last Parliament it was impeded in crucial areas by a united unionist opposition, e.g. minimum pricing for alcohol.

The Scottish people are not better or worse than the English people or the Welsh or the Northern Irish, but they are different: they rejoice in their positive difference and tackle their negative differences. But the Scottish Government is different and better than the last UK Westminster Government and the present woefully inadequate Coalition, in their commitment to social justice and the poor, the vulnerable, the old, the sick and the underprivileged.

And that is our message to the people of England and Wales - stand as a nation once again, as Scotland does - rejoice in your English and Welsh identities and cultures, as Scotland rejoices in its Scottish identity and culture, and throw off the dead hand of the Disunited Kingdom - a Britain that no longer exists  - a conspiracy of the rich, the unelected, the wealthy and the privileged against the people of these islands.

Scotland will stand beside you as your friends and neighbours in this great constitutional change, and looks forward to a new era of cooperation, culturally, economically and in the defence of our islands.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The referendum question - more comments make Moore look increasingly isolated

The Scottish National Party said that Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was in an "ever more lonely place" over his personal position that two referendums on independence would be required, as University of Edinburgh and Constitution Unit academic Alan Trench said on BBC Radio Scotland this morning that this proposal was "very problematic" (having been a supporter of the idea), while former Lib Dem councillors who have defected to the SNP said that the Lib Dems have become "the Tories' face in Scotland".

And in the Scotsman newspaper today Professor Stephen Tierney, Director of the Centre for Constitutional Law at Edinburgh University, said that: "But let's be clear, there is no constitutional requirement for a second referendum following negotiations."

Commenting on Alan Trench's remarks, SNP Campaign Director Angus Robertson MP said: "Michael Moore has blundered into this, and finds himself in an ever more lonely place, as Alan Trench - who has been an advocate of Mr Moore's idea - says that he is “unhappy with the implications of a two-referendum approach”, and that it is “politically very problematic”. “It is a daft idea without constitutional precedent, and very bad politics for the Lib Dems in Scotland."

South of Scotland SNP MSP, Chic Brodie, who was a member of the Liberals and LibDems for 36 years, a former member of their Scottish Executive, and stood aside for the SDP's Roy Jenkins to fight and win the Glasgow Hillhead by-election in 1983, said:

"The Lib Dems have gone from the party of federalism in Scotland to a ridiculous Tory notion called 'muscular unionism'. No wonder so many former Lib Dem supporters voted SNP in the election, and why elected Lib Dem members are now moving to the SNP.

"This is the latest example of a party which now has no principles. We've seen it with tuition fees, with VAT and with their support for Tory cuts. We saw it when they said they wanted to abolish the position of Scottish Secretary, then comfortably took up the role of the Tories' man in Scotland. Now we are seeing them abandon their support for maximum devolution."

A former LibDem councillor in Renfrewshire Cllr Marie McGurk, who joined the SNP in May and is now an SNP councillor, said:

"It was LibDem MPs from Scotland giving up on their principles and allying with the Tories in London that led me to join the SNP. They left me unable, in all conscience, to continue my membership of the party.

"The comments by Michael Moore just show I right I was. I am sure this latest example of abandoning liberal democratic principles will be the last straw for many other LibDem members."

Another former LibDem councillor from Renfrewshire who also defected to the SNP last month, Cllr Mike Dillon, said:

"Instead of supporting the Scottish Government to acquire the powers for the Scottish Parliament, which they previously supported, the LibDems at Westminster have just become spokespersons for David Cameron's Tory-led government. Sadly, the Lib Dems are now just the Tories' face in Scotland.

"Many LibDem members will now be questioning what has happened to the party under the likes of Michael Moore and Danny Alexander. They will be seriously questioning if they can continue with so many sell outs of long held principles just to be in office with the Tories at Westminster."

Cllr Glynis Sinclair, a former LibDem turned independent in the Highlands who joined the SNP last month, said:

"It is never easy to change to another political party but it became clear, even before the last Westminster election, that the Liberal Democrats were losing touch with ordinary people in the Highlands.

"Michael Moore's comments just show how they have gone from being the Highland party of Home Rule to one that bears more resemblance to the Tory Party which ignored Scotland's wishes in the 1980s and 1990s.

"I can see many remaining members of the LibDems asking just why their party cannot even stand up for their own policies on more powers for the Scottish Parliament."

OTHER QUOTES

1. On BBC Radio Good Morning Scotland today, Alan Trench said: "I have to say I find myself unhappy with the implications of a two-referendum approach. I think that while constitutionally it has a good deal to be said for it, politically it's very problematic."

2. [Michael] Moore said: "We will not be bringing forward a referendum ourselves, it's entirely a matter for the Scottish Government."

Press Association, 8th May 2011

3. Professor Matt Qvortrup has been described as the "world's leading expert on referendums".

Professor Qvortrup, in the Scotsman of 29th March 2007:

"There has been a great deal of debate and discussion in recent times over the question of the Scottish Parliament holding a referendum on independence. Like any other parliament, the Scottish Parliament would be quite entitled to do so if its members so desired.

"In the United Kingdom, all referendums are advisory, though if the Scottish people did vote for independence in a referendum that met normal democratic standards, Westminster would be obliged to recognise that result.

"There are no examples of two referendums being held before independence was granted."

LINK

Professor Stephen Tierney - comments in the Scotsman.

How Scotland will decide its future

referendum: the process of referring a political decision to the electorate for a direct decision by general vote

Well, that clears that up then. Not in Michael Moore’s mind it doesn’t, nor in the murky, expedient, panic-stricken, confused, unscrupulous depths of the unionist Establishment, for which Moore is the mouthpiece - as every Secretary of State for Scotland has always been - with the Telegraph is the house organ.

Before coming to the Scottish papers, it is useful to contrast the Telegraph with the Times on this ‘story’, since both papers considered Moore’s witterings to be worthy of the front page headline.

The Telegraph headline presents the issue authoritatively as a statement of fact - Scotland will need second poll to leave UK - supported by two equally confident sub-header bullet points - Moore: SNP referendum ‘advisory’ only and Commons to fix second ballot question.

This assertive tone continues in the Leader article - Westminster fights back -and quotes Moore as having Downing Street approval.

The bearded rumbler, Alan Cochrane, brings his basso profundo (profundo in pitch only, not in ideas or quality of analysis) to bear with - Moore’s tough talk finally puts paid to the bogus SNP ‘respect agenda’

The Times, which has a true, objective journalist as political editor, Angus Macleod, also leads with the story, but is more circumspect, and its headline reads Scots ‘will have to vote twice on independence’, recognising by the use of quotes that this is a briefing statement by one figurehead, the Scottish Secretary. It underlines this point in its sub-header - Scottish Secretary claims that two referendums must be held.

The detailed, balanced objective reporting that follows, typical of Angus Macleod’s entire approach to journalism, sets out the facts and the arguments, and explores in some detail the vital question of whether or not this is Government policy, quoting Downing Street’s apparent rebuttal of Alex Salmond’s claim that Moore did not speak for Cameron -

A No 10 spokesman said: “The constitution is one of the many areas the UK Government is responsible for in Scotland and the Secretary of State’s comments reflect that fact.”

Close examination of this statement shows that it  is a long way from explicit support for Moore’s briefing. It simply says that Moore had a right to comment on matters affecting Scotland. Had Cameron wished to offer support publically, he could have made a statement of support personally. My view is that they are cautiously flying kites. Lurking in the background is our old friend Vernon Bogdanor, Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford, who chooses to paint terrifying - and entirely irrelevant - parallels with Ireland in the 1920s and the Czech/Slovak “divorce settlement” in 1993.

The Times and Angus Macleod also quote a balancing expert view from Professor Matt Qvortrup of Cranfield University, who believes one referendum is enough, and is on record as saying that no country in the world that has moved to independence has required more than one.

No such balancing views are presented by the Telegraph, who present this farrago of nonsense as legal and constitutional fact. Their Leader comment doesn’t even pretend to be  objective, cheerleading Moore on in his ‘fightback’, using highly coloured and emotive language. The bearded growler rampages across this territory in his commentary piece, with an attack on Alex Salmond in virtually every paragraph.

The Scotsman, which in many regards - in spite of its belated support for the SNP in the final stages of the election campaign - sometimes sounds like the Scottish Telegraph, unionism in a kilt, essentially mirrors the Telegraph approach to the Moore statement.

Its headline baldy states Two referendums needed for UK split, with the sub-header Salmond reacts with insults as Scots (sic) Secretary insists  independence vote.

The Colonial governor (with no mandate whatsoever) has spoken and, in spite of 'insults’ from ‘Salmond’ (not from the First Minister of Scotland, recently elected with a decisive mandate by the Scottish people) that’s that - there will be two referendums.

However, the Scotsman calms down a little inside on page  4, and presents a balanced report, with a welcome highlighted box entitled Double poll a radical change, which effectively demonstrates how ludicrously inappropriate a second referendum would be, totally without precedent.

The Herald doesn’t lead with the story, and just gives a wee front page lead-in  - Referendum row - to a substantial piece on page 7. It also gives a highlighted likely timetable for independence, with a date 0f 2019 for final achievement. This is may be realistic, but I find it depressingly long, and hope for a much shorter lead-in than this, since it reduces the likelihood of me seeing my country independent in my lifetime. I hope my impatience is matched by the impatience of the young Scots who want their freedom now and have watched other countries achieve it much more swiftly than this.

The other significant fact is that the UK government will attempt to bog the process down, and even frustrate it, with bureaucratic delays and nit-picking. They will try to turn Scotland’s independence into another Edinburgh trams project, where the lines are laid, the business of the capital disrupted, but due to unforeseen works below ground and the inability to resolve difference, the whole thing is shelved indefinitely.

The long journey to Scottish independence has been a slow, careful one with many setbacks, but characterised throughout by patient democratic process and rational argument, relying on the ballot box to achieve the ultimate goal.

With the exception of a few incidents in the 1950s during the EIIR pillar box rows, involving a few misguided youths and some very sinister agents provocateur and dubious special Branch involvement, (see Diomhair’s account of this period) the nationalist movement has been completely free of violence and direct action.

It must be kept that way, because the British Establishment has a long, contemptible record when it comes to trying to suppress the wishes of their subject peoples to be free, in India, in Rhodesia, in Kenya and of course in Ireland - a record that includes the use of agents provocateur to instigate acts of political violence that were then used to justify repressive force in response, and the suspension of democratic procedures and legal rights.

Two dangers exist in the present state of panic among the unionist establishment and their compliant media shills - one is that, in their confusion they overplay their hand in opposing independence, the other is that they are deliberately provocative. Both would have the same dangerous results - a growing resentment among those supporting Scottish independence, especially the young supporters, and a growing impatience with democratic processes.

The young live in a world where they see subject peoples seizing their freedom with great courage and personal sacrifice, often at the risk of their own lives. They believe, however, that they live in  a civilised, free democracy with a free press and media, where such radical measures are not necessary. But if they are regularly given evidence that they are mistaken in these beliefs, that their media are not as free as they thought, that their democratic rights and processes are being distorted and manipulated, that their democratically elected leaders are being treated with contempt, and that their legitimate aspirations are being suppressed, then they will find different routes to their goal.

Radical social and political change belongs to the young, not to the old. It also belongs to the activist, not to the silent majority, the Nixonian idea of a group in the body politic that will do anything for their beliefs except act on them. No revolution, velvet or otherwise, was accomplished by old men. However intellectually conceived, change is carried forward by the young.

The Middle East revolution caught the Western power brokers entirely by surprise. All their intelligence, all their analysis, all their careful realpolitik was turned upside down by events driven by the young, and they are now running behind the movement of history.

A great and legitimate expectancy has been created by the mandate given to the nationalists on May 6th 2011. It may well create a tide in the affairs of Scotland that will accelerate at a pace that takes both nationalist politicians and unionist politicians by surprise. I don’t think the young want to wait till 2019 for their freedom and I know that I don’t.

Unionists - don’t play with fire!  Nationalists - speed up your timetable and your game! History won’t wait and the young won’t wait …

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Reactions to the victory

I’m still in the woodshed on independence, but popping my head out from time to time to see what’s happening in the big, wide, new Scotland.

The winners - let’s not avoid the word - fall into two broad groups, those who are part of the new Parliament and those who put them there. Those in the Parliament are savouring their triumph today, enjoying the ritual, experiencing the warm feeling that comes from being part of a team that won against what at times seemed overwhelming odds against them. They have a right to enjoy these historical moments, because they worked very hard for them, and in many cases made personal sacrifices and took career risks that no one outside of the political process can ever fully understand.

Those who put them there fall into two sub-groups, the first being those who tirelessly gave of their time and energies to support the campaign on the ground - the canvassers, the leafleters, the envelope stuffers, the telephone teams -with no expectation of reward, no salaried post to look forward to, no expenses, no trappings of status.

I am not a part of that sub-group, but they have my unqualified respect, admiration and gratitude - they won this historic election for me and for Scotland. I am one of the other sub-group, which of course, since it embraces every member of the electorate who voted SNP,  isn’t really a sub-group at all. (A Venn diagram is needed!)

And this total group, the group that put the winners into Holyrood, watches, rejoices - but waits …

I have experienced this moment before, as a ten-year old in 1945, when a war-weary generation threw out the hero of the nation, Winston Churchill, and elected a Labour Government - the Attlee Government - to the incredulity and terror of the British Establishment. While the privileged inhabitants of countless Downton Abbey’s muttered fearfully around their dinner tables and looked suspiciously at their servants, the rest of the nation, exhausted physically and emotionally from the long conflict, rejoiced briefly - then waited …

That government did not betray them but it did not deliver the revolution that some expected - the destruction of a privileged establishment - but it did deliver better housing, the NHS, the welfare state, nationalisation, and it ushered in a period of unparalleled prosperity - the 1950s. It used its mandate and its power to revolutionise British society.

The Attlee Government did not betray the people, but the people betrayed them in 1951. Their failure to destroy the British Establishment left them vulnerable to that pernicious web of privilege and influence - it re-grouped and destroyed them.

Clement Attlee was the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century, and his Government was a Labour government. Its demise marked the end of the Labour Party as it was conceived by its founders, and the Labour Governments that followed were Labour in name only - the insidious decline in values and morality that led to the thing that the Labour Party became under Blair and Brown began.

Today, Scotland has its bright new day, and its elected representatives have their moment in the sunshine - the Scottish spring has begun, but so has the testing time. The eyes of Scotland are upon you, Holyrood - don’t disappoint us …

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Elites in UK politics - the Public School PPE degree - Passport to the Establishment

Last year, I wrote about the UK Establishment versus Scotland’s independence and also about the insidious infiltration of UK democracy at the highest level by a privileged elite -public school (Oxbridge, Fettes, Roedean etc.) PPE degree holders, often from rich, privileged, and sometimes politically dynastic backgrounds - using their connections and their PPE degrees as a Passport to the Establishment. (Andrew Neil has now caught up with me in his recent documentary Posh and Posher on BBC television.)

The UK Establishment versus Scotland's independence

Elites at the top of the Labour Party - PPE degrees



After various indignant outbursts from PPE degree graduates and undergraduates, I made it clear that I had nothing against the degree itself - indeed, if I had gone to university it would possibly have been my degree of choice, since it offers three subjects that are essential to a functioning democracy, politics, philosophy and economics - but only to its use, especially by well-connected public school graduates as a direct entry, fast track  route to the highest jobs in politics and government, and in the process, without any direct exposure to the real life of the nation, effectively marginalising or excluding from high office people from less privileged backgrounds.

In the process, a narrow, self-sustaining elite that is profoundly undemocratic and unrepresentative of the people is created,with a shared view of life and society that totally fails to understand the needs of the people and is inimical to their interests.

This is not, as will instantly be claimed by those with a vested interest in this insidious perversion of democracy, the politics of envy.

It is a burning resentment of the way in which the democratic processes of the United Kingdom, and therefore Scotland, a nation with deep egalitarian and democratic instincts, have been high-jacked, notably and contemptibly by the upper echelons of the the thing the Labour Party has now become - a party utterly alien to the people it claims to represent and to the aspirations of the Scottish people to control their lives and their futures.

We are currently being misgoverned by an unholy coalition of wealth and privilege, a Tory Party reverting to its atavistic instincts to destroy public services, dismantle the NHS for profit and attack the living standards of ordinary people while protecting the rich, supported by a compliant, principle-free and largely impotent partner, the Liberal Democrats, now effectively a subordinate part of the Tory Party, all liberal and democratic values abandoned.

Labour - having misgoverned the UK for 13 wasted, blasted years, betraying every principle they ever espoused, mismanaging the economy in the lead-up to, and during a global recession, and leading the UK into disastrous foreign wars in support of the most right-wing government the United States has seen in generations - are now trying to induce a mood of collective amnesia about their failure, while criticising the appalling coalition that they effectively put in power.


Don’t let any of these people back into power in Scotland on May 5th.

If the Scottish National Party is returned for a second term after the Holyrood elections, they will have a difficult task ahead of them in the most challenging economic times. But the Scottish people will be governed by their ain folk, not by an alien, rich privileged elite, whether it calls itself ConLib or Labour, nor by their puppet party leaders in Holyrood, the Three UK Stooges.

If the Scottish National Party is not returned for a second term, then Scotland and Scots face a bleak future. That is the stark reality.

Make the right choice on May 5th, Scotland!