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

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Nicola – fearlessly abseiling down the rock faces of the Union …

I have seen and heard many political performances in my life, from the 1945 general election through to April 2015, including some great ones, but I have never witnessed a flawless one – until yesterday at the Edinburgh International Climbing Centre.

The contrast between Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party and the confused, panic-stricken, contradictory, fact-free, humanity-free utterances of Tory, LibDem, UKIP and Scottish Labour politicians could not have been more starkly evident. Her calm, informed, gently humorous and profoundly human outline of the SNP manifesto and her responses to a wide range of media question could not be really be described as a performance – it was a direct expression of core values, coming straight from an intelligent Scottish heart.

This was not a contrived media persona, but the true face of a warm, vanity-free Scottish woman who patently has no fondness for the limelight or political celebrity, but who endures both as a necessary part of realising the hopes and dreams of Scots, of all ethnic origins and backgrounds who have placed their trust in her and the party she leads. Indeed, it is a trust that now extends beyond Scotland …

Gaun yersel, Nicola!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

2014 AR – After the Referendum: Where are we at?

It’s over, and we lost. Or did we?

Confession time – I expected to be devastated after a NO vote, but in the event, I wasn’t. My immediate reaction was one of relief, which baffled me and left me feeling ashamed of myself. I watched the ecstatic NO groups celebrating and the tearful YES groups staring bleakly into space, my heart went out to them, and the question returned – why don’t I feel like that?

THE RESULT

In the years leading up to this moment, my biggest fear was not that we would lose – it was that we would win with a narrow majority after a polarised campaign, and the new Scotland would start in very troubled times.

Even with my scepticism over UK’s motives and methods, the scale of their unprincipled onslaught in the final weeks staggered me. It also convinced me that if we won, it would be by the narrowest of margins and that we would be subject to intense pressures to ensure that our new Scotland failed.

Any Government that was capable of perverting the apparatus of the state to secure their ends -  e.g., Treasury, Whitehall, the Civil Service, the ‘think-tanks’ – and was willing to engineer a possibly criminal leak of information to media from a board meeting in progress - i.e. RBS - that was calculated to destabilise the markets – was capable of anything. The last minute Big Bribe was the final evidence.

Although I would have rejoiced in a narrow win, and fervently hoped that Scotland could make independence work against this wall of hostility, the gnawing, subliminal idea took root that maybe the time was now wrong.

In the event, the outcome was decisive for NO – Scotland had rejected its independence, rejected its chance to make history and had acted out of fear or complacency – or both - rather than vision, confidence and hope.

The attack by an organised mob of male thugs brandishing Union Jacks and throwing flares at a mixed sex group of YES supporters sharing their grief in George Square, Glasgow – my native city, and a city that had voted YES – underlined my fears.

But a recent tweet of mine summed up my view of validity of the result. While accepting its democratic reality, and feeling bound by it, my feeling was -

How can a referendum outcome based on news management and intimidation of voters by vested interests be the "settled will" of Scots?

Judging by the immediate reactions to that tweet, and the subsequent number of retweets in the hundreds (more than anything I’ve ever tweeted, in over 43,000 tweets), that view resonated with many of the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence.

YouGov post-ballot poll - with a sample three time the normal size (3,188 voters) - showed fascinating stats on how people voted (if you accept poll validity).

74% of those born in rUK voted NO. By definition, that includes the very large block of English-born residents in Scotland. 51% of voters born in Scotland voted YES. Those stats alone trigger interesting speculations, but I won’t offer opinions on them that I can’t substantiate.

Analysed by party support affiliation, 27% of Labour and 29% of LibDems said YES, but only 8% of Tories. Of the five demographic bands, four were majority No vote – only the 25-39 group voted YES – 55% of them.

20% of those who claimed to be SNP supporters vote NO.(Related findings came from poll after 2011 Holyrood SNP landslide – not all SNP voters were YES supporters.)

REACTIONS

Initial reactions (my subjective impressions from media, online comment and direct contacts) ranged from despair and grief through bewilderment from those who had been in denial at polls - preferring to believe instead that a YES majority was being hidden - to real, visceral anger and feelings of betrayal.

The latter emotions were raw online on Friday morning, with wild accusations of betrayal  of the young by the old (prompted by Ashcroft poll of young voters) being flung about including by one high-profile activist who should have known better, as if exacerbating the tension already present within many families would offer a constructive way forward.

I was aware that for the essentially secondary online activists, the betrayal would be felt less keenly than by the dedicated, exhausted and by now potentially demoralised front-end activists from the streets, the doorsteps, the public place and public meetings. They were the ones who had shifted the polls so close to victory – and they had not had the offset of mini-celebrity, visibility, networked contacts and in some cases much more tangible benefits that others had received – perfectly legitimately – to cushion the shock of the result.

Similar considerations may be applied to those who had been salaried for all or part of the campaign – the politicians and the YES staff.

I say these things, not in any spirit of criticism, but as a recognition of a harsh reality in all politics: that, of necessity, the security of paid political professionals and the economic and career gains of a minority rest on the unpaid work of an army of dedicated and usually unrewarded and often unrecognised body of activists. 

These were the supporters of YES who were, in addition to giving of their precious time and energies, were also engaging in repeated acts of incredible generosity, crowd-funding all sorts of worthy, valid, and in some cases, absolutely vital initiatives that made significant contributions to the greatest grassroots campaign ever see in British politics.

But the most incredible contribution of that group was then delivered in a matter of days after the ballot – the massive and entirely unexpected surge in SNP membership, (unparallelled to my knowledge in British politics) from around 25,000 to well over 62,000 at the last count, now exceeding the combined membership of the other Scottish parties and overtaking the UK-wide membership of the LibDems.

In the midst of the chaotic responses to the NO vote, and the burgeoning of a rash of online groups clustering round the magic number of 45, this was a great cry of endorsement for the SNP, accompanied by a steely resolve to not just support the party that had taken Scotland so far towards achieving its independence, but underline Alex Salmond’s recognition in his resignation speech that the great democratic and re-energised Scottish body politic was now less in need of leaders, but still in need of politicians and a party that would carry their agenda forward – the sovereign Scottish YES people.

WHERE ARE WE AT?

I’d planned to offer my perceptions of that key question in this blog, but having already expended over 1200 words on reviewing reactions, I feel that I would test the stamina of my readers for the moment.

But I’ll be back tomorrow or early next weeks, because I have a lot more. to say.

I’ll close with my blog motto - Id dico quod ego morior - non habetis audire, which is in Latin to make it sound more profound than it really is, and to give an entirely spurious gloss of learning to my ragbag reality – “I say what I must – you don’t have to listen!”

Monday, 28 April 2014

A “bereft” commentator says Westminster must not recognise a YES vote!

This Michael Ignatieff interview of 2012 continues to attract comments. One today prompted me to a vigorous response …

 

from Nathaniel Brisbane

As a child of Scottish and English parents I would be totally bereft if my historic homeland was to split and two states were to go their own ways. Whatever the SNP say it needs to be realised that there is bound to be friction between England and Scotland which will disadvantage the Scots. I am dismayed that staried-eyed 16 and 17 year olds can vote in the referendum. Westminister must not recognise a yes vote. Give greater devolution to Scotland as in Quebec but hold the union together. 

Reply
from Peter Curran

I am a child of Scottish and Irish parents, like many Scots. That "historic homeland" of Great Britain and Ireland was split in the 1920s after a bitter conflict with England, followed by a civil war in the South and partition of the country. Despite this, family relationships continued, trade continued, a shared currency was maintained for decades, and very recently the Queen visited the Republic of Ireland: even more recently, the head of the Northern Irish government visited the Queen in Buckingham Palace. The Royal Albert Hall recently celebrated the Irish and English relationship with a great musical event.

I think that Scotland, a country that will achieve its independence without violence through a democratic referendum agreed by the UK Government, and which will continue to have the Queen as constitutional monarch might just manage to maintain amicable relationships after independence.

In a word, you are talking sentimental nonsense, Nathaniel - you don't live here, and whether you feel "bereft" or not is not really a subject of much concern to Scottish voters. I am not a starry-eyed teenager - I am in my seventies and have lived in Scotland for most of my life, with about a decade in England, a country I love, and will continue to love, with ties of family, friendship and business.

What you are nostalgic for is a long-lost dream of British Empire - a brutal, exploitative imperialist construction that its component countries have long-since shaken free of, with Scotland soon to follow.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ius Naturale – the Referendum and pre-negotiating positions

THE REFERENDUM

Some of the ideas here come from a two-year old blog – I’ve pulled out the essence that I believe is still pertinent.

The Act of Union was a treaty between two independent kingdoms. It doesn't take two to end a treaty or an agreement, it only takes one, either by negotiating the terms of exit - or unilaterally. The ius civile and the ius gentium are undoubtedly relevant, but so is the ius naturale, especially after 300 plus years. If the UK Government wilfully misunderstands this, and continues to act like the Romans in decline, then the Scots will become less civil and move towards acting naturale - take note, gentlemen ...

Independence is a beautifully simple concept, and needs no complex definition - it means a nation doing its own thing, in every aspect of its affairs. Full fiscal autonomy doesn't need Ming Campbell's version of the Steel Committee to tell us what it is - it's independence in everything except the ultimate sovereignty of Westminster, foreign policy and defence, the nuclear deterrent and membership of the EU and the UN.

If you really expect us to blow our negotiating hand in advance of the referendum outcome on the detail of the negotiation that will inevitable follow, dream on, UK. But by all means set out what you see as the detailed agenda for that negotiation, and we'll let you know what we think of the items that might be up for discussion. Most of them are self-evident as heads of negotiation – have a read at Scotland’s Future if you’re as bereft of ideas as you appear to be.

And lastly, Alistair Darling, David Cameron, George Osborne, Alistair Carmichael – and Gordon Brown(?) - if you want to go down in history as statesmen, rather than as pompous windbags, you might consider addressing the issues in an adult, statesmanlike fashion. Try and act in the spirit of the ius naturale. The Roman Empire first began to negotiate seriously when it was near to collapse - maybe the UK can make a better job of it in similar circumstances ...

We know what side you're on - the UK's side - and you know what side we're on - Scotland's - and England's and Wales's and Northern Ireland's. Talk calmly about the issues that lie ahead and stop your ridiculous posturing and grandstanding - it cuts nae ice wi' Scots. Frankly, it gie's us the boke ...

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The formidable powers of an independent Scotland that Johann Lamont thinks are “wee things”: Scottish Labour’s nadir at FMQs

Scotland doesn't control the currency or interest rates at the moment. Neither does UK - they're controlled by Bank of England. We won't control them under a currency union either, but we'll have more influence than we have at the moment, as an independent country, a partner in a currency union.

ECONOMIC LEVERS: Excise duty, air passenger duty, VAT, capital gains tax, oil and gas taxation, national insurance, income tax, corporation tax, competition law, consumer protection, industry regulation, employment legislation, the minimum wage, energy markets and regulation, environmental regulations.

ALL THESE THINGS ARE CONTROLLED IN LONDON UNDER UK

ALL OF THEM WILL BE CONTROLLED IN SCOTLAND AFTER INDEPENDENCE.

We'll be able to set the minimum wage, abolish the Bedroom Tax (not just mitigate it). We will be able to transform childcare.

WE WILL BE ABLE TO REMOVE WEAPONS  OF MASS DESTRUCTION FROM SCOTLAND

WE WONT HAVE TO PARTICIPATE IN ILLEGAL WARS

Bur all of these things - which we can only do with independence - are, to Johann Lamont, "wee things".

The prospect of this woman and her cohorts leading  even a devolved Scottish Government is not to be contemplated.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Scottish Defenders of the Union – complex and varied in motivation and belief

Over the last month, I have been exposed directly to a fair sample of the infinite variety of the Scottish (defined as resident in and committed to Scotland, regardless of country of origin) defenders of the Union and advocates of a No vote, through a more or less random series of contacts.

As our intrepid YES doorstep campaigners and politicians know far better than I, direct contact yields insights and perceptions that can seem more profound than print and media exposure to more structured arguments. But they can be dangerously misleading on occasion – so I proceed here tentatively, and with many reservations and qualifications. I make no general claims – what I have to say is subjective and reflects only one - and perhaps unduly narrow – perspective. Here are the variants I have encountered, in some cases dominant and seeming to almost define the position of the individual displaying them, in other case simply one aspect of a complex and often conflicting mix. The list of course is not, and never can be comprehensive.

SOME ANTI-INDEPENDENCE  VOTER TYPES

The Patroniser: Independence? It will never happen – it’s Salmond and the SNP’s obsession – has always been a minority sport, as shown again and again by the polls. Two-term SNP Government elected? Simply a local reaction to last days of UK Labour, incompetence of Scottish Labour, the Crash and the Coalition – slap on the wrist for UK – will return to normal UK voting at referendum and in 2015. Give it up, mate – it’s a lost cause …”

A brief discussion with Patronisers quickly reveals that they have little conception of the arguments for and against independence and are sadly deficient in facts and key dates. Overall mode – complacency and reluctance to be confused by argument or hard information.

The Cringer: “Do you think Scotland’s big enough to run its own affairs? We haven’t got the people – just look at Holyrood – they’re all mediocrities in a wee, pretendy Parliament.  It would be all kilts and heather, Braveheart and tartan dolls. And the oil’s running out, there’s no real industry. All the real talent has left long ago – anybody with any sense heads south or emigrates. We couldn’t even run the Bank of Scotland – it caused the UK crash and we had to be bailed out by England. “

As in all classic Orwellian-doublethink, the Cringers don’t see themselves as inferior - or ready to head south or emigrate - and any current examples of Scottish success in running things can be dismissed by either claiming it’s an aberration – or down to UK involvement and help. Pointing to Scottish success in the past is either put down to Braveheartism or to the benefits of the Union. Overall mode – embarrassment at Scotland and Scottishness, complacency that their personal repudiation of Scottish competence somehow explains them being exempted from the criticisms, and the belief that it ingratiates them with UK power and influence.

The I’m Alright Jocks:I’ve got no complaints about the UK – it’s done alright by me. I bet it’s done alright by you too! What have we got to complain about? Yes, there’s been a bad patch since 2008 crash, and difficult things have had to be done, but we’re on the way back up. The poor? Hungry children? Pressures on the sick and vulnerable, the NHS, unemployment? There are no poor people! Have you seen any?

Growth in food banks? All exaggerated, and what do you expect – some people will always turn out for a freebie! I don’t see any deprivation or poverty near me. Most of those in trouble are in that state because of their fecklessness – they can all afford phones and iPads and holidays abroad on benefit. Too many scroungers, too many immigrants abusing NHS and benefits. My parents didn’t have much, but they scrimped and scraped to educate me, and I’ve done all right.”

There’s an element of the I’m Alright Jock callousness and denial of reality in all unionist types, but the above summarises the core ‘arguments’ in their most basic version. Overall mode: Denial of deprivation or blaming of the poor, belief in urban myths, blame, and utter callousness about the less-fortunate.

The Fearful: “The risks of dismantling a 300-year-old union are too great. These are dangerous times – we need the security of belonging to a larger, more powerful grouping. On defence, security, international clout, trade with other nations, we need the backing of UK. Duplication of services, inevitable in a newly-independent nation add extra cost and the risks of settling-in problems.”

Often mainly rational, albeit with an element of irrational fear, the Fearful will listen to argument and can be persuaded, providing their logic-based posture isn’t simply a rationalisation for deep-rooted, emotional opposition. A simple test is whether or not they’ve at least looked at the White Paper and/or are amenable to examining its argument. If they’re totally dismissive and contemptuous of it, they are probably a lost cause in the immediate term. Overall mode: The status quo of UK may not be perfect, but it’s the devil we know. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

The Emotional Scot/Brit: “We have over three centuries of co-operation, a shared cultural and commercial heritage, we have fought and died together in wars for freedom, and justice. The links of family – kith and kin – cross all national boundaries. I don’t want my children and grandchildren to be foreigners, to have to stop at border points. We will lose a fundamental part of our identity – not to mention our shared institutions, e.g. BBC - if we rip the union apart.”

This category exists with subtle but important variations, e.g. are they Scot/Brits or Brit/Scots – which identity is regarded as more significant? The Emotional Scot/Brit mindset can also be part of other dominant modes, indeed it can represent a residual, buried emotional mindset in some marginal independence supporters! Some are actually seeking reassurance on these points. Their fears can either be factually removed by the truth - e.g. on boundaries, border posts – or are logically inconsistent – e.g. pointing out that we fought and died together with other independent nations in wars for freedom and justice, and the majority of wars were imperialist, unjust, and in some cases, illegal. (The Emotional Scot/Brit is often present in Don’t knows.) Overall mode: There are important, unquantifiable family and emotional ties that bind us, and it is a huge risk for the stability of the British Isles to sever them.

The Internationalist Multilateralists:

“Nationalism is inherently divisive – bigger is better, economically, socially and for powerful defence. Ultimately, I favour world co-operation across boundaries, and I believe all men and women are brothers and sisters, and are equal, regardless of social class, economic or ethnic background, but meanwhile I support the UK, despite its appalling imperial record of exploiting other nations and ethnic groups for centuries, and its current record of Parliamentary, police and press corruption, its gross inequality and staggering gap between rich and poor, its inherent distrust of and opposition to trades unions, its House of Lord comprising over eight hundred unelected peers, ennobled variously because of birth, being bishops on one church, large donors to political parties or being failed, but loyal politicians.

I am morally opposed to nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and would never be the first to use them – however … (and here comes the buts and the caveats) … but in a still unstable world, with unpredictable rogue regimes, I believe it is vital to hold on to our nuclear weapons and to our nuclear alliance with those countries – our allies - who got them first, resisting any attempts by other countries to get them (that’s called nuclear proliferation, by the way!) because we can be trusted with them but they can’t.  Of course, I’m committed to nuclear disarmament for the whole world, but only if every other country goes first – that’s called multilateralism.

As I said, I would advocate only using them as a deterrent and would never use them first, if at all, but I see no contradiction on being part of a nuclear alliance, NATO, that has a first-strike policy, and is dominated by the only country in history to have used nuclear weapons twice against cities in a non-nuclear country, Japan, and in a then non-nuclear world.

The various close misses of nuclear Armageddon over the last sixty years or so I dismiss as unfortunate aberrations caused by periodic gross incompetence of military or civil authorities, greedy and amoral industrialist or lunatic politicians – including at least one President of the USA

I suppose in summation, I regard it as deeply unpatriotic of Scottish independence supporters to want to be rid of weapons of mass destruction located without their consent near to their largest centre of population, posing an ever-present threat of nuclear accident, pollution, and of Scotland being a first-strike target by the lunatic foreign dictators our whole case for WMD is predicated on.

Overall mode: Utter idiocy, moral bankruptcy, venal hopes of profit, career and preferment – almost certainly a Scottish Labour politician in UK power structure. With a tiny number, a faint hope that the corrosive effect of their amoral sophistry is beginning to weaken the rotten foundations of their strategically and morally untenable position.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Azeem Ibrahim, the Defence of Scotland – and the Scotland Institute. Part Three

PREAMBLE

I’ve taken two fairly long blogs to explain why I think the Scotland Institute is anything but “bi-partisan” (their description) and to speculate on what drives and influences Azeem Ibrahim.

Dr. Ibrahim has now responded to critics of his Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland paper by responding to six criticisms he says were made. These are not quite straw men set up to be knocked down – something like these points have been made by others, although the SNP response still remains – well, underwhelming. However, since I have not yet tackled the content of the paper itself, I now have the luxury of responding with the benefit of Azeem Ibrahim’s attempt at rebuttal.

Faced with Dr. Ibrahim’s degrees, intelligence, high-level contacts and friends, not to mention his stellar (which universe?) array of academics, titled personages, former defence secretaries and academics, do I feel inadequate in addressing this task?

Not a bit of it, because I come to it as a Scottish voter, a proud member of a unique group, the Scottish electorate, which at the end of the day – which will be September 18th 2014 – will evaluate all the stuff that has been thrown at them by polarised, and possibly well-remunerated(?) experts, then will decide the future of Scotland for generations, perhaps centuries. They are the jury who will listen to the witnesses and the competing ‘expert's’ from both sides, then will decide. And no judge can direct their verdict or overrule their decision.

This is democracy – the power of the people – something that Scotland and France virtually invented between them, and it scares the powerful shitless when it operates unintimidated and unencumbered. The UK’s flawed and partial democracy can’t blur the line and frustrate or fudge this one. If they try to, they will reap the whirlwind, and not just from Scotland.

THE PAPER AND ITS CLAIMS

I had always planned to start with Major-General Andrew Douglas Mackay CBE, Chair of the Panel of Experts, but on looking closely at his foreword, there is no real need to go further. (I have read the full paper several times very closely indeed.) Others better qualified than I can pick away at the detail, but since almost all of the flawed assumptions they rest on are contained in the General’s foreword, I see no need, as a voter, to go beyond them.

As can be seen from his Wikipedia entry, the General is a brave, capable, widely-experienced Scot, and deserves to be honoured for what he has done and achieved. (I just wish it had not been by the British Establishment, but that’s how the system works.)

He is also, de facto, a loyal member of that British Establishment and one major purpose of such honours is to cement him into that establishment and its values, which do not include the independence of Scotland.

Let me pick quotes from his foreword to the Scotland Institute report.

I approached this task with a full understanding of how political, public and emotive an issue this might be and sought to ensure that the report’s analysis would be bi-partisan.”

Even I would have expected to get well into the report before finding evidence that the General’s aim had not been achieved. But consider this from the foreword itself.

“… the evidence and conclusions weigh heavily on retaining the Union to safeguard our collective security.”

There’s nothing like cutting to the chase, General, as a no-nonsense military man should! We’re only in the third paragraph of the foreword and already we know the purpose and the desired outcome.  It’s not about defence and security in an independent Scotland, it’s about the collective security of the UK as an entity and whether or not the Union should be retained to serve that purpose.

The Scottish electorate don’t really need to actually read the report – the message, decoded,  is here, in para 3 of the foreword – don’t vote for independence, it threatens the UK’s defence and security policy!

Now we’ve got that sorted out, we can forget all the constitutional, economic and social aspects of Scotland’s independence, not mention the historical and cultural aspects, and we can forget any question of the morality of nuclear weapons of mass destruction or criticisms or the shackling of UK defence policy to right-wing neocon US foreign policy that led to the 12-year folly of Afghanistan (and its current ignominious approaching end) and the crime of Iraq, the death, destruction and destabilisation of the entire Middle East.

Just don’t vote for independence, Scotland,  because a group of politicians old and new, academics and military men, embedded in the system, feel you must “to safeguard our collective security.” Note that use of “our” – it does not refer to Scotland, it refers to the Union that has rewarded many of them so handsomely.

After a paragraph celebrating his Scottishness, the Scots as a “warrior race” and a recognition of the disproportionate contribution to the UK armed forces – but not of their disproportionate sacrifice in blood and death to the Union (it could have been written by Sir Walter Scott in his most fawning-to-King-and-empire style) - the General goes on for another few paragraphs with some history and some current harsh realities, namely that the UK sadly can no longer afford its pretensions as a global power and its ridiculously inflated defence budget (4th largest in the world).

Then he comes to this …

“It is of course highly unlikely that Scotland will ever come under existential threat of invasion or subjection.”

Given that guarding against “existential threat of invasion or subjection” is the primary purpose of the defence forces and defence policy of any nation, the General has to move swiftly to qualify this frank, factual admission which, if left to stand, would lead inevitably to the conclusion that an independent Scotland would be more than capable of discharging that primary responsibility to its citizens.

He does this by trotting out “the list of tasks in a world of hybrid conflict and multiple threats”, i.e. the list of either deeply wrongheaded or blatantly imperialistic involvements that got the US under Bush and his subservient partner, the UK under Blair and Brown into such deep doo-doo – the USA’s idea of itself as global policeman (which Obama is trying to distance himself from in face of screams of pain and outrage from the Republican right and military/industrial complex who profit handsomely from it) and Britain’s attempts to pretend it is still a global Empire, masking naked greed and exploitation of other nations and peoples as noblesse oblige.

In a nutshell, the General is acknowledging that Scotland could perfectly well defend itself – and do more – but he wants to keep it shackled to this failed and destructive global role and policy under the Union.

There is also the little matter that virtually all of the terror threats were brought to Britain by US/UK foreign policy and Iraq and Afghanistan – as acknowledged by a former UK Intelligence High Heid Yin.

Of course, in his penultimate paragraph, the General trots out the familiar defence-as-job-creation-scheme arguments that UK uses to blackmail Scotland’s voters, and the report later uses the grossly inflated estimates that usually accompany such nonsense. Perhaps he wants us to emulate Pakistan’s grossly inflated military and defence budget? (Azeem Ibrahim is especially well-placed to comments on that, as policy advisor to Pakistan’s Prime Minister in waiting, Imran Khan.)

The Generals’ last two sentences sum it all up -

It is easy to argue from within the comfort of a nearly 300 year-old union that an independent Scotland would only require a small fighting force. It is not likely to be so comfortable after you have jettisoned your allies and you are on your own.”

The “nearly 300 year –old union” is a 306 year-old union, General, and it is anything but comfortable for a very large number of less privileged Scots than you, Azeem Ibrahim or your mainly rich contributors, who have profited nicely from it.

Independent Scotland has no intention of “jettisoning its allies” and it hopes to retain rUK as an ally, while remaining in the EU and exploring development of new alliances with the Northern countries. But it does not intend to be dragged along behind a failed and incompetent MOD and Foreign Office and an endless succession of Governments it didn’t vote for, financing their follies past and to come with, to use your favourite phrase, its “blood and treasure” – the blood and treasure of the Scottish people.

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.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

What is Truth? (Pontius Pilate): Labour’s Truth Team and video

Scottish Labour’s strange little black propaganda video has made its appearance on YouTube, timed for the Scottish Conference. I don’t know who did the voice over, but it is a very strange voice indeed, modelled roughly on the voiceover in trailers for crap American series on repeat channels – a kind of mid-atlantic, pseudo-portentous growl. Impossible to determine the nationality of the perpetrator – could be a Scot trying to expunge all traces of Scottishness. Clearly, Scottish Labour didn’t trust an honest Scots voice to talk about truth …

The graphic mode is funereal, in the BetterTogether style of Repent_End_Union_is_Nigh! All that’s missing is the lugubrious Alistair Darling. Only the first point, on the currency deserves any attention – the rest is beneath any serious analysis. (It says a lot about Scottish Labour’s ideas of the intelligence of Scottish voters –perhaps the most catalysed, sophisticated electorate in the world right now.)

"For many years now, the pound sterling has been a millstone round Scotland's neck" “Sterling is costing jobs and prosperity” Alex Salmond 10th Nov. 1999

These quotes are over 13 years old. It was in the last millennium – the last months of the 20th century.

Since then, we’ve had 9/11, governments have come and gone, dictators have risen and fallen, the disastrous Republican US/Labour UK wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were started with a bang and are now ending with a whimper, and from 2008 onwards, the world economy and the world’s banks have gone into near meltdown, the British economy is a basket case, due in significant part to the Blair/Brown Labour Government’s mismanagement of the economy and the regulation of the banks, and the Tory/LibDem Coalition Government’s misconceived attempts to handle the shambles left by Labour, Europe has major problems with monetary policy, and the Arab Spring continues, creating major uncertainties for the Middle East and the world.

Economist, bankers, political theorists, academics and governments across the globe have hastily revised just about everything they thought they knew about monetary and fiscal management and investment.

But Scottish Labour relies on 13-year-old last century, last millennium quotes by Scotland’s First Minister to allege a contradiction over the SNP’s present policy over Scotland’s currency after independence!

It is a measure of Scottish Labour’s failure of imagination, failure of basic economic or political understanding and failure to adapt to the world we now live in that they are reduced to such Fox News-type negative campaigning and propaganda.

Political leaders failing to change their minds in the light of the vast changes to political and economic circumstances over this turbulent period would truly remarkable, branding them as dinosaurs, doomed to extinction by forces beyond their understanding or control.

That would be a fair description of the Scottish Labour Party, as exemplified by this misconceived initiative and video, dragging the very concept of Truth into their gutter.

Let’s look then at Alex Salmond’s current position on a Scottish currency, and the quote that encapsulates that pragmatic position -

Retaining the pound under independence is something that I believe is in the interests of Scotland.”

A fuller discussion of the issues can be seen in this June 2012 video. (The FM also discussed this issue at the Brooking Institution very recently.)

Here’s what I said last year on the currency question, as a rebuttal to criticisms advanced of the FM’s position.. The essence of the argument is still much the same, but heavyweight economic commentators have since then suggested revisiting the commitment to sterling and reconsidering a Scottish currency launch, in the light of rapidly the changing economic climate. -

MY REBUTTAL OF ARGUMENTS – June 2012

This is an attempt to talk the language that the average voter might begin to understand, so a warning shot to the ravening hordes of PPE graduates and professional economists – don’t try to bury me alive in complex conflicting arguments and academic references which have more to do with the political axe you are grinding than economic facts – haul your wagon to one of the many learned journals who publish this kind of thing, and have fun quarrelling with your peers over arcane theories.

1. Scotland is not going to be become independent, but if it does, it won’t really be independent if it still has sterling as its currency.

The idea that there is some pure, unalloyed version of independence in the complex interdependent world we live in is fantasy, as it is in individual life. Independence includes the right to decide with whom we cooperate, with whom we form alliances, when we cooperate and when we walk away, and whether that cooperation and those alliances are on trade, on economic controls, on defence, or in cultural, social, humanitarian and sporting policies and joint ventures.

And to forestall yet another ludicrous unionist old chestnut, our present membership of the UK does not already give us such sovereignty – it involves the surrender of the right to decide, the surrender of the sovereignty of the Scottish people on all but the few devolved matters the sovereign UK deigns to permit us to exercise some control over.

It might be nice at some point in the future to have an independent Scottish currency, Equally it might be appropriate to remain in sterling, or to join the euro, or join some other currency union as yet unknown. What will be even nicer is that the sovereign Scottish people will make that decision – nobody else.

2. Alex Salmond really wanted to join the euro: he was wrong on that, therefore he is wrong on this.

Resisting the urge to laugh at the utter naivety of this argument, I will simply say that what anybody said about the euro, about economics, about international banking and finance over four years ago is now almost completely irrelevant in the light of the economic and financial chaos that has engulfed the world. With the exception of a few prophetic voices crying in the wilderness, nobody foresaw it in any meaningful sense, least of all the economic and political theorists. Great fun can be had by selectively picking quotes of yesteryear, but it contributes nothing to an adult debate.

3. An independent Scotland would not have any influence in a currency union with the UK, much less a seat on the MPC, and would be wholly at the mercy of the Bank of England on monetary policy, and since the B of E is invisibly controlled by the UK (sic) Government and the Treasury, Scotland’s financial independence would be an illusion – the control of fiscal levers and policy would make no difference.

First, a few facts -

Currency unions exists all over the world, and can be one of three kinds – informal, formal, or formal with additional rules. They are entered into to maximise economic efficiency in a geographical region.

Scotland doesn’t need permission to use sterling – it is an internationally tradable currency, like the dollar, and if an independent Scotland continues to use it, it de facto has entered into an informal currency union with rUK.

To take the arrangement beyond the informal would require negotiated agreement with rUK. Such an agreement could only be reached during the wide-ranging negotiations that will take place after the YES vote in autumn 2014. The present UK Government is not going to enter into such negotiations, formally or informally, in the lead-up to the referendum when it is fighting for a NO vote. To do so would be to admit, de facto, that Scotland was likely to become independent. (Johann Lamont more or less did just that at FMQs.)

(If sensible politics and diplomacy were a feature of the present UK Coalition Government and Opposition, there would probably be confidential discussions taking place right now. Regrettably, there is little evidence of anyone in the Coalition Cabinet, or in the Scottish Office, or the Holyrood Opposition capable of the sophisticated approach that this would demand. There are undoubtedly such people in the diplomatic services. But to use diplomats would involve acknowledging that Scotland is likely to become an independent country.)

The Bank of England is the Central Bank of the United Kingdom. Gordon Brown gave the Bank of England operational independence in monetary policy in 1997, and it became responsible for setting interest rates through the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee, independent of Government.

The members of the MPC are the Governor of the Bank of England, two deputy governors, the Bank's Chief Economist, the Executive Director for Markets and four external members with financial expertise directly appointed by the Chancellor. A representative from the Treasury also sits with the Committee at its meetings. The Treasury representative can discuss policy issues but is not allowed to vote.

Its role is to set interest rates, to issue banknotes (Scotland still issues its own) and to contribute to “protecting and enhancing” the financial system. It has the right to use a process called quantitative easing to ‘print money’ (which is not printing more banknotes!) usually in crisis situations such as the recent banking collapse. The MPC does this by electronically creating new money to purchase assets, thus increasing the national debt. (Between March 2009 and January 2010, the MPC authorised the purchase of £200 billion worth of assets, mostly gilts – UK Government debt) This injects more money into the economy.

An independent Scotland will have full control of every aspect of the financial measure – fiscal levers – necessary to run the Scottish economy, raise taxes, etc.

If it uses a currency other than its own - e.g. the euro, sterling, the dollar – its interest rates would be set by the central bank of that currency. Scotland would therefore be subject to the monetary controls and monetary policy of that central bank.

The strength of a currency depends on the economic performance of the country issuing it, and the perception of that country, its currency and its economic performance by other countries. This determines the exchange rate, normally defined against the dollar.

For a newly independent Scotland to launch its own currency in a favourable world economy would have been a bit of a gamble: for it to launch its own currency in the current chaotic economic climate, or to join the euro would be lunacy. Sticking with sterling is the prudent, sensible option, either informally or within a currency union with rUK. This is not the time for macho posturing, indeed there is never such a time …

For the Bank of England and rUK not to accept the reality of an independent Scotland, with full fiscal control, using sterling, without having an observer equivalent to the present UK Treasury advisers would be illogical. Lyndon Johnson’s memorable phrase of “better inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in” comes to mind. Since the criteria the chancellor uses for selecting the four independent special advisers is unknown to me, I can offer no advice other than to say that a special adviser with an insight into, and special knowledge of Scotland’s finances would make sense.

A currency union beyond the informal also makes sense to any objective adviser.

As for Johann Lamont’s nonsense about consulting the Bank of England or the UK Treasury in advance, I refer to my comments above. Expect no objectivity from them until we have a decisive YES vote and negotiations have commenced.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The role of negotiation in Scotland’s progress towards independence

It rarely surprises a professional negotiator when politicians and media professionals betray their ignorance of the processes of negotiation – after all, professionals in many fields – the law,  diplomacy, industry and commerce - where one might expect some level of negotiating skill, or at least a basic understanding of the principles to be a prerequisite of effective performance seem to manage to function with this gaping hole in their skills set.

This happens often because they confuse others techniques – persuasion, selling, joint problem solving, debating skills, etc. – with negotiation. When there is some negotiating understanding, it is at the most rudimentary level, a kind of antiques fair bargain hunting haggling. It goes without saying that understanding of negotiating strategy and structures is usually totally absent.

The Scotland, Barroso and the EU debacle is a case in point. Much has been made by unionist critics of the SNP’s constant assertion that Scotland would remain a member of the EU, now qualified – as they see it – by Nicola Sturgeon’s recent statement that negotiations would take place. The Better Together take on this, aided by the failure of various news programmes and interviewers to have done even the most basic homework on the issue, is that acknowledgment that negotiations would take place is a volte face and evidence that the original assertions were without foundation. This flawed analysis is compounded by their repeated assertion that negotiation means acceptance that failure to reach agreement would mean Scotland out of the EU.

A few facts -

Scotland is currently an EU member as part of the UK's membership.

After a YES vote in 2014, Scotland would still be a member of the EU since it would still be part of the UK. The referendum vote does not in itself bring about Scotland’s independence – it simply opens the door to negotiations with the UK to bring about independence, backed by the mandate of the Scottish people. The UK will remain until those negotiations are completed (2016 at the earliest.)

A YES vote in 2016, as well as triggering negotiations with the UK government, would also set in motion parallel negotiations with the EU (as well as many other negotiating interfaces with countries and organisations affected by Scotland’s imminent independence).

During these negotiations, Scotland would still be part of the UK and part of the EU under its UK membership.

At a point in time when the crucial negotiating agenda has been successfully addressed, although many other items would remain under discussion for years, Scotland’s independence will be formally confirmed, it will become an independent nation state and the new state of rUK will be formed by default.

rUK will also be compelled to enter into parallel negotiations on its EU membership at least from Scotland’s independence day, although the likelihood is that the UK would have opened parallel negotiations from the date of the YES vote in the Scottish referendum.

Let’s nail the nonsense about failure of negotiations meaning that breakdown would occur and Scotland would be out of the EU …

Broadly, negotiations between parties can by classified as one of five types -

1. Negotiation between independent parties to reach a specific limited, one-off agreement

2. Negotiation between independent parties to create a new relationship for a limited period

3. Negotiations between independent parties to create a new, ongoing open-ended relationship

4. Negotiation between independent parties in an attempt to redefine the terms of an existing relationship

5. Negotiation between parties to bring an existing relationship to an end.

(Another broad distinction can be made in dispute negotiations, that of conflict of right and conflict of interest, that is a dispute over claimed existing rights or an attempt to establish new rights. For example, a dispute over alleged breach of contract is a conflict of right, and a dispute over an attempt to redefine the terms and conditions of a contract e.g. a wage increase, is a conflict of interest.)

The first two types above characterise most commercial negotiations – one-off deals, deals delivered over time, short-term employment contracts, etc.

The last three are the ones that concern us in relations to Scotland’s independence. The Act of Union was type 3, the negotiations over the terms of Scotland’s EU membership will be type 4, and the negotiations over Scotland’s independence will be type 5.

With regard to the EU, type 4 is the one that interests us - negotiation between independent parties in an attempt to redefine the terms of an existing relationship.

LOCKED RELATIONSHIPS

Many type 4 negotiations can be described as locked relationships from a negotiating perspective, that is to say, relationships that are expected to continue over time, and where negotiations that result in deadlock or failure to agree do not threaten the ultimate continuity of the relationship.

For example, most successful marriages – and relationships - have their share of disputes and their negotiations over the years, but always against the expected continuation of the marriage. The annual terms and conditions negotiations in large employers and local government take place against the base assumption that however difficult and protracted the negotiations, however serious the industrial action that may result from failure to agree, agreement will ultimately be reached, and no one seriously doubts that the relationship will continue.

(The UK’s often rocky relationship with the EU may be described as a locked relationship over the decades, as Scotland’s relationship with the UK under the Union has been for over three centuries. In fact, the process leading to devolution and subsequent modifications to the devolution settlement can be seen as negotiation in a locked relationship.)

The negotiations over the ultimate terms of an independent Scotland’s EU membership will be conducted while Scotland is still part of the UK and an EU member, and will be in a locked relationship context.

No serious observer or commentator envisages an EU without Scotland in membership, nor can anyone seriously believe that negotiating difficulties and disagreements could result in an independent Scotland being denied membership.

The EU is in a constant state of negotiation with its member states, often on hotly contested topics. Only in the case of the UK’s confused and contradictory relationship with its EU membership, driven largely by a deeply divided Tory party, has there been any real threat of breakdown of the relationship leading to exit.

However, the negotiations between Scotland the the UK government after a YES vote will be of type 5 - negotiation between parties to bring an existing relationship to an end.

Whether the negotiations are successful or they fail, the end result will be the same – the exit of Scotland from the United Kingdom. I am confident they will succeed, and that we will enter into a new and more productive relationship with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and of course Europe, Scandinavia and the world.

POSTSCRIPT

One of the relatively few commentators to talk calm, good sense on this issue throughout has been Iain MacWhirter. Here is his Newsnicht contribution, a voice of sanity and reason after the political posturing by the Better Together front men and women.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Why don’t BetterTogether and the UK want a second question?

I felt this comment and reply warranted being pulled out on to the main blog page

DougtheDug Sunday, August 19th 2012

I find that there is a question which is much more interesting than whether or not the SNP will agree to a simple Yes/No question on the ballot paper.

It is, "Why are all factions in the unionist camp, Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem so hell-bent on burying the second question as soon as possible before the results of the consultation and the presentation of the referendum bill?"

It doesn't really make sense on the surface. A devo-something option, properly spelled out and offered on the ballot paper would kill independence by either splitting the independence vote or winning outright and since all three of the UK parties have been heavily hinting that there's going to be a feast of new devolved powers for Scotland if it votes no then a second question on devo-something seems to agree with their future policies on Scotland.
If the unionist parties simply stay quiet the SNP don't have the power implement a second question even if they have a brainstorm and put one on the ballot paper.

The reason of course is that despite the "jam tomorrow" hints the unionists have no intention of offering anything significant to Scotland if it votes no and what they want is for the SNP to accept corporate guilt by shutting off the second question early in agreement with the unionists.

That way the SNP cannot then point at the unionist camp and say that they have denied Scots any other option apart from independence once the unionists fail to come up with an amendment to insert a second question in the referendum bill because they were party to the decision to kill the second question before the bill was presented.

MY REPLY

You raise relevant points, DougtheDug. My perspective is as follows -

Q. Why are the unionist factions insisting on a single question and opposing devo-max?

It makes sense to me on several levels -

Firstly, based on the polls, they expect to win on a single question.
 
Secondly, they believe Alex Salmond and the SNP strategic leadership want a second question (I believe they do too) and that devo-max is his fallback position. They don't want the SNP to have a fallback position - they believe a NO vote will neuter them if not destroy them.

Thirdly, they don't want to deliver any more economic powers to Scotland, not because it would be a stepping stone to independence (in my view it would kill independence stone dead if delivered) but because an economically independent Scotland challenges frontally the UK's conspiracy of wealth, power and privilege, and it might well be more successful socially and economically than the UK.

Fourthly, they believe (accurately in my view) that while the Scottish people have a de facto right to unilaterally determine their independence, they do not have a legal right to unilaterally determine the degree of devolution they have while remaining in the UK.

I don't agree with you that the SNP could not put a second (or a third, fourth etc..) question on a consultative ballot. They could, legal or not, just as they can put the independence question. But the UK would have a much greater legal - and ethical - right to reject it.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Scotland in NATO - the core arguments against

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANALYSIS AND COMMENT

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

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

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