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

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Seven key strengths of Scotland’s economy – SNP response to The Economist

15/04/2012

The Scottish Government today outlined the positive case for independence, highlighting Scotland’s economic strengths.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, highlighted seven key strengths of Scotland’s economy.

1.     Overall Wealth: An independent Scotland would be ranked 6th in the OECD in terms of GDP per head, compared to the UK's sixteenth place (in 2010).

2.      Oil: There is up to 24 billion barrels remaining in the North Sea. Such a figure equates to a wholesale value of some £1.5 trillion in today's prices.

3.      Renewables: Scotland has around 25 percent of Europe’s potential offshore wind and tidal energy, and a tenth of Europe’s wave power potential.

4.     Food & Drink:  The latest food and drink export figures show exports are at an all time high of £5.4 billion, and growing.

5.      Public Finances: In terms of our public finances, Scotland is better off than the UK as a whole to the tune of £510 for every man, women and child in Scotland in the most recent year (2010/11).

6.      Education: Scotland has five of the top 200 universities in the world.

7.   Inward Investment: Scottish Development International are an award winning agency, with major companies continuing to locate in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said:

“Whilst The Economist blundered into the economic debate on Scottish independence, it is clear that Scotland has a strong economy – despite the global recession – and that we have huge potential for further growth and development.‪‪

"Scotland today has a highly skilled workforce, an acclaimed record of business investment, a large oil and gas asset base, huge natural resources, including our job-creating green energy industry, and an excellent export record, especially in the food and drink sector.

“There is much to be done to make Scotland even better, but Scotland’s Seven Key Strengths will remind every Scot that our nation is one we can be proud of now, and confident about for the future. While Scotland has a higher rate of employment and lower economic inactivity than the UK as a whole, we need to do more to reduce unemployment and tackle poverty.

"But we know that we have huge potential as a nation – and that with the powers of independence we can do more.”‪

Related information

FURTHER INFORMATION ON SCOTLAND’S SEVEN KEY STRENGTHS

1. OVERALL WEALTH: RANKED 6TH IN OECD

An independent Scotland would be ranked 6th in the OECD in terms of GDP per head, compared to the UK's sixteenth place (in 2010).

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0039/00390896.pdf

2. OIL: NORTH SEA RESERVES WORTH £1.5 TRILLION

Oil and Gas UK estimate that the North Sea has up to 24 billion barrels of oil remaining. Such a figure could equate to a potential wholesale value of nearly £1.5 trillion in today's prices suggesting more than half the economic value of the North Sea's reserves have still to be extracted

In January, a leading industry player Wood Mackenzie published a report showing that in 2011 capital investment in North Sea Oil was £7.5 billion – the highest ever. It is expected to stay high with £2 billion being invested in the West of Shetland field alone in 2012.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Business-Industry/Energy/Energy-sources/traditional-fuels/oilandgas

3. RENEWABLES: HUGE POTENTIAL FOR FURTHER GROWTH

Scotland’s natural energy resources are not restricted to oil and gas. We have around 25% of Europe’s potential offshore wind and tidal energy, and a tenth of Europe’s wave power potential.

An extra 45% of renewable energy was generated in Scotland last year according to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change – meaning that around 35% of Scotland’s electricity needs came from renewables in 2011 – surpassing the Scottish Government target of 31%.  The Scottish Government aims to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity from renewables by 2020.

http://www.decc.gov.uk/assets/decc/Statistics/source/renewables/et6_1.xls

4. FOOD & DRINK: EXPORTS AT ALL TIME HIGH

The latest food and drink export figures, published last month, show exports are at an all time high of £5.4 billion, and growing.

Our top food and drink exports markets were France (up 18 per cent to £825m) and USA (30 per cent increase £726m). Strong growth was achieved in Asia, with 44 per cent increases in both Singapore (£319m) and China (92m).

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/03/foodanddrinkexports270312

5. PUBLIC FINANCES: £510 BETTER OFF PER HEAD

In terms of our public finances, in 2010/11 Scotland was in a stronger fiscal position relative to the UK as a whole by £2.7 billion, according to the latest Government Expenditure Revenue Scotland (GERS) report.

The equates to Scotland being better off than the UK as a whole to the tune of £510 for every man, women and child in Scotland in the most recent year (2010/11).

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/03/9525

6. EDUCATION: SCOTS UNIVERSITIES AMONGST BEST IN THE WORLD

Scotland has 5 of the top 200 universities in the world, all of which are benefitting from unprecedented funding. We therefore produce some of the best graduates in the world to support economic success.

The Scottish Government is providing an unprecedented number of modern apprenticeships tailored to business needs as part of its Opportunities for All initiative guaranteeing a learning or training opportunity for all 16-19 year olds in Scotland not already in work.  We are delivering a record 25,000 Modern Apprentices this year and in each year of this parliament.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-16532440

7. INWARD INVESTMENT: AWARD WINNING SUCCESS

Scottish Development International are judged one of the most successful international development agencies in the world.

Scotland’s inward investment record punches above its weight in international markets. Our foreign direct investment agency is independently recognised as one of the most successful in the world with the most recent Ernst & Young UK Attractiveness Survey, highlighting Scotland’s leading position in the UK for job creation from international investment.

http://www.ey.com/publication/vwluassets/2011_uk_attractiveness_survey/$file/2011_uk_attractiveness_survey.pdf

http://www.sdi.co.uk/about-sdi/who-we-are.aspx

Most recently, Gamesa announced last month a £125m investment creating 800 new jobs in renewable energy at Leith in Edinburgh, rather than Hartlepool.

In addition, leading international companies such as Scottish Power, Samsung Heavy Industries, Glaxosmithkline, Amazon, Avaloq, Dell, Gamesa, BNY Mellon, State Street and Mitsubishi Power Systems have all recently announced significant investments demonstrating confidence in Scotland.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Decisive, incisive Mundel? Afraid not - God help the Union!

This is the Scottish Tories - or rather, this is THE Scottish Tory - the only one at Westminster. Only the Borders could elect such a candidate. Only a desperate David Cameron could offer him a Scottish Office post.

Mundel, together with Michael Moore, Margaret Curran and Willie Bain constitute the Coalition for the Defence of the UK. Alex Salmond is terrified at the prospect ...


Sunday, 5 February 2012

How can the electorate become engaged with the referendum debate? A Voters in the Village initiative.

The referendum ballot is the most significant choice the Scottish electorate will have made for over 300 years. It cannot and must not be viewed as just another election, because it is not an election like a council election, a Scottish Parliamentary election or a general election.

It can only be compared to other referendums, and the only ones remotely comparable in scale and significance were the 1975 referendum on the UK remaining in Europe and the referendum on Scottish devolution in 1997 that led to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

But the 2014 Scottish independence referendum dwarfs both of these in its ramifications and its implications for Scotland, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Europe, Scandinavia and in a wider sense, the entire world, in its nuclear and defence ramifications.

Autumn 2014 starts on the 23rd of September. The earliest date for the referendum is 23rd September 2014, and the latest date before the winter solstice is 20th December 2014. We have between  32 months and 35 months to go until the most important decision facing Scots since 1707 arrives.

It will also be the most important event facing the United Kingdom, a highly significant event for the Republic of Ireland, an event of vital interest for the European Union, and an event major interest for the rest of the world. It may spell the end of Britain as a nuclear power, and therefore the end of the US/Britain links on the so-called ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent, it will have a fundamental and incalculable effect on NATO, and on the perception of the rest of the world of ‘Britain’, in the sense that it still exists, as a world power.

It matters profoundly to the future of the people of Scotland, and will determine the nature of Scottish society for at least a generation, and almost certainly for far, far longer. For everyone alive today in Scotland, this will be the most significant determinant of their future.

VOTING IN THE REFERENDUM

The first choice facing those eligible to vote is to vote or not to vote. A failure to vote can result from many causes – apathy, failure to establish eligibility to vote, factors beyond the control of someone who wished to vote and couldn’t (this happened to large numbers of voters in the last general election), absence, illness, disability, etc. A conscious decision not to vote is usually based on one of two factors – a view that the vote doesn’t matter, or that the voting process is less important than other priorities, or a decision to boycott a ballot.

For those who do vote – the ones who will determine the outcome – the exact nature of the choice or choices they will have to make at the ballot box has not yet been finalised.

It is therefore essential that there is consensus or near consensus that the framing of the question or questions is fair: only then will the ballot outcome be seen as just and equitable.

The higher the turnout, the greater the legitimacy of the ultimate choice – a low turnout would result in a referendum outcome that would be challenged by those opposed to the decision as being unrepresentative of the will of the Scottish people.

(It is desirable, but not essential, that the outcome should not be subject to legal challenge. The reality is that however constructed, any ballot can be the subject of legal challenge, the only question being how valid the challenge is.)

THE KEY FACTORS

1. Clarity on who is eligible to vote. Because this referendum is different from anything that preceded it, eligibility to vote is a contentious issue and has not yet been fully resolved. None of the arguments being advanced or the criteria being offered are wholly objective, since those advancing them have a political view on the outcome. There will be clarity before the referendum, and the criteria of eligibility will be fixed, but they are likely remain contentious. Just how contentious will affect views of the validity of the outcome of the referendum.

2. The question or questions. How the question(s) is/are worded, the mode of response to it/them (e.g. YES/NO, tick for agreement, etc.) how the ballot paper is structured, the sequence of questions (if more than one), conditionality between questions, and a range of other issues remain to be determined. All are contentious, and again, the method adopted must be seen to be fair for the ballot outcome to be perceived as just and equitable.

3. The information electors require to make an informed choice. Ballot questions and ballot papers must be a simple and straightforward as possible, and must be readily understandable to ensure that choices are clear and easily and accurately recorded.

Traditionally, they have been – voters make choices of great significance on simple questions because they believe they understand the import of the question or questions. The reason they believe this is because they have been exposed to a campaign prior to the ballot, setting out issues and policies, and also information that is intended to be objective. An informed electorate is the pre-requisite of a successful democracy. The media play a crucial role in this information process, especially the public service broadcaster, which in Britain is the BBC.

Impartiality can only be an ideal that information providers strive towards – the very nature of democratic politics is the espousing of a political viewpoint, and a sophisticated electorate knows that it is being asked to choose between conflicting arguments and different perspectives of facts, and that the perspective and interpretation of a fact is not the same thing as the fact itself.

Our political system is adversarial in its nature, as is our legal system. Expert and qualified people will argue widely differing interpretations of the same facts and events, and then a judge and/or jury will decide which version it chooses to accept. In democratic politics, the people are both judge and jury, and are sovereign in their choices and wishes.

THE REFERENDUM CAMPAIGN

To date, the referendum debate has  been characterised by acrimony, ultimatum, negativity, and a great deal of misinformation. Because of what I want to say here, it would be counter-productive to say where most of that was emanating from. Suffice to say that it has not helped the vitally necessary process of open, rational debate, nor has it served to make electors better informed.

In a real sense, it has been a phoney war, and the debate proper should now have started with the naming of the referendum date – Autumn 2014 – and the identification of the Scottish Government’s preferred question – “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

It is essential that the great debate from now on is conducted in a more civilised and structured manner. It will be political, it will be partisan, and debate will – and must be – vigorous and energised, but it must be placed on a calmer, more objective footing. The electorate must be given the information necessary to make an informed choice. To facilitate the provision of such information, and to enable them to weigh the relative merits of the arguments, the electorate must become more aware and more involved than they have been in any previous election in their lifetimes.

I have some ideas on how that might be done …

CREATING AN INFORMED ELECTORATE

The political parties will campaign using a range of traditional techniques – leafleting, door-to-door, public meetings and road shows, press releases and media interviews – and specialised focused approaches developed uniquely and specifically for the referendum.

Both the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government will make pronouncements, engage in debates: both will use the law and the services of experts and advisors, and in so doing will be theoretically constrained from using public resources, public servants and public money for overtly political campaigning. Both will claim to be governing and acting in the interests of the entire nation and not the interests of the governing party. The Westminster government will define the nation as the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and the Scottish Government will define the nation as Scotland.

Various bodies and organisations will claim to speak for their members, e.g. businesses, the professions, the churches, the representatives of ethnic and national groups, individual trades unions, bodies such as the STUC, representing a group of trades unions, bodies such as the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), thinks tanks, campaigning groups, etc. Civic Scotland has emerged as a coalition claiming to represent many of these groups.

Few, if any of these organisations will be fully democratic in their structures, although some may have elements of democratic procedures. None will have a true right to claim to speak on behalf of all of their members.

For example, the CBI cannot claim to speak for all businesses in Scotland (there are other business organisations), it cannot claim to speak authoritatively for all members of the CBI, and it most certainly cannot claim to speak for all employees of its member businesses. The think tanks are self-appointed groups: some are funded by special interests, some are openly political in their views and objectives. The churches are not democratic in their structures, although some have strong elements of democratic structures.

This is not to say that the above bodies and organisations should not have a voice, or that they do not have a place in a democracy – they should and do, providing the limitations of their mandates are recognised, and that the sovereign, democratic voice is that of the people at the ballot box.

The electorate are involved in all of the above, but they have the trump card, which is their individual, unique democratic vote.

MY IDEA – THE VOTER IN THE VILLAGE

I intend to launch an initiative in my own village – Kirkliston, in West Lothian – an ancient village with a proud place in Scottish history. Kirkliston was the location of the first recorded Parliament in Scottish history. The Estates of Scotland met there in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II of Scotland. We can also claim that the The West Lothian Question, a fundamental question in Scotland/Westminster relations, has given the UK and the world a wider recognition of our region.

Kirkliston has a strong and active sense of community, with two churches, a bowling club, and a community centre playing a central role. It has a number of small businesses located in the village.

My initiative is in its infancy, and may come to nothing, but I am breaching – with considerable trepidation - the old taboo of not talking politics or religion with my neighbours in an an attempt to get something going. The Voter in the Village initiative will focus solely on the independence referendum, with the following objectives and constraints -

1. To create a wider awareness of the purpose of the referendum, its significance to Scotland, its wider significance, and its possible outcomes and their implications.

2. To create opportunities to discuss the referendum and its implications for anyone in the village, focusing on those who believe they will be eligible to vote at the time of the referendum, or who believe they should be eligible to vote at the time of the referendum.

3. To offer an initial forum in a village venue for that purpose, which will take the form of a facilitated workshop discussion.

4. No elected politician, e.g. councillor, MSP or MP will be permitted to attend the initial meeting or meetings. No one may act as representative of the views of any specific political party or organisations at the initial meetings, although it is hoped that those attending will represent the widest range of personal political and social views possible.

There will be no platform speakers, no speeches, no defence of, or attack on political beliefs – the format will be that of a facilitated workshop, with the emphasis being on discussion in small groups, followed by feedback and comment. Some will be familiar with this structure and approach from industry and commercial experience, many will not.

I will facilitate the initial meeting and workshop, supported, I hope by one other person. Both of us are highly experienced in this type of workshop, but not in a political context. There will be no committee, no elected officers, and no minutes. There will be no agenda in advance, other than the broad purpose and framework.

I will meet all initial costs, to get the initiative started. If it continues, some way of meeting what I hope will be very low costs will have to be considered. No funds will be accepted from political parties, nor from any organisation that has a specific political agenda.

I have strong views on the independence of Scotland, available to anyone to read on my blog, I am a member of a political party, but hold no office in that party, but I will not be advocating my personal viewpoint in this Voters in the Village initiative.

It is vital to the success of the approach that I get people who hold very different views to myself at the initial and subsequent meetings, and the widest possible sample of views in the village, including those who have not yet formed an opinion on the referendum.

MEDIA

I have already been filmed by a BBC reporter for The Sunday Politics Scotland for a possible, but by no means guaranteed 30 second clip inclusion in a feature on the show on Sunday, 12th of February. The BBC has indicated that if we do get the initiative going in Kirkliston, they would be interested in covering it.

FINAL THOUGHT …

I leave you with this thought – the 2014 referendum will take place, with or without your participation and involvement, and even without your vote, and there will be an outcome that will radically affect your future, that of your family, friends and colleagues for a least a generation, and this will happen during very challenging social and economic times for Scotland.

Ask yourself if you need to know more, and want to contribute to this momentous decision with a clear idea of the issues and arguments involved. If your answer is yes, come along when the date is fixed.

And can I emphasise again that this is for residents of Kirkliston only, is not for elected politicians even if they live in Kirkliston, nor is it a platform for those acting on behalf of a political party. However, members of political parties who do not hold elected office are welcome. In other words, you represent only yourself …

If these initial constraints don’t suit you, then arrange your own initiative, find your own venue and set your own rules - it’s a free country.

Who knows, I might like your approach better than mine and come and join you!

Friday, 20 January 2012

The UK’s nuclear panic - and devo max

To see oorsel’s as ithers see us - Al Jazeera - Breaking up Britain? 19th Jan 2012

Among the many perceptive insights in this article are these -

When independence comes “the UK will lose 90 per cent of its oil and gas reserves in the North Sea and almost half its land mass.”

Malcolm Rifkind (“who is himself a ScotAye, right) says "It would certainly open up the question of permanent membership of the Security Council in a way that would be quite awkward for the UK."

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director at the Royal United Strategic Institute, notes the central nature of the nuclear issue, and the desperation of the UK to force Scotland to retain the bases. The observation is made that if the bases go after independence, “it is a real possibility that the UK could be left with no operational nuclear deterrent because the submarines could not be safely berthed.”

The article also notes that “The ability to continue formulating its own policy is also a factor motivating Scotland's drive [towards] independence.”

And there you have it in a nutshell - defence, the nuclear bases and the UK’s status in world affairs hang on Scotland’s independence, and nothing else really matters as much to the Unionists.

I’ve said a lot about the nuclear and defence issues over the years, and you can find my views by looking down the right hand index of blog search terms.

But the essence is this, for me at least -

1. I want a nuclear-free Scotland, and the only way to achieve this is full independence. I am totally and utterly opposed to the concept of the nuclear deterrent and WMDs.

2. I do not want anyone other than the Scottish Government that I elected to commit my country to war and to foreign engagements.

3. I do not want anyone other than the Scottish Government that I elected to send our servicemen and women into harms way and to die.

4. I am not a pacifist, and believe in conventional defence forces, and in joining with other countries in international military operations, e.g. peacekeeping operations or strategic interventions that Scotland supports.

The only way to achieve these objectives is the full independence of Scotland as a nation, since all of the UK parties are committed to nuclear weapons and the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent.

Independence delivers devo max, i.e full fiscal autonomy, by default. The price of devo max without independence exacted by the UK is -

1. Retention of Scottish nuclear bases.

2. Retention of the Trident weapons of mass destruction.

3. Retention of the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

4. Retention of the right of the Westminster Parliament to send Scottish servicemen and women to war, and to die.

If you want to retain the UK, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

If you want devo max without independence, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

If you want neither devo max nor independence, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

The Labour Party, the Tory Party, the LibDems are committed to the UK, therefore they are committed to all of the above.

THAT IS THE STARK REALITY OF REJECTING SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE - THERE IS NO OTHER POSSIBLE INTERPRETATION.

The media slide away from these issues whenever they can, and focus instead on the economy. The economy is important - defence issues are vital.

Unionist politicians slide away from these issues whenever they can, at least until they are driven into panic mode by being forced to face them, as  Jim Murphy has been today by  Alex Salmond’s position on Scotland defence forces and resources..

Last night on STV, a politician I have some respect for, Henry McLeish, slid away from these issues, because despite his realism on Scotland and Scottish politics, he is a Labour politician and shackled to nuclear weapons like the rest of them.



Until very recently, these issues, and therefore the lives of Scottish servicemen and women were in the hands of one Liam Fox, the then Defence Minister. The circumstances leading to his downfall - preceded by desperate attempts to defend him and prop him up by Tory politicians - told us all we need to know about the reality of defence matters, defence procurement and the M.O.D. when in such hands.

At the moment, more Scots seem to want devo max than want independence. If they reject independence, there is no guarantee they will get devo max, because it will then continue to be in the gift of the Westminster Parliament, and Scotland has no democratic way of securing it, nor any negotiating card to play.

If the Scottish voter in favour of independence cannot persuade those against it to change their minds, then we default to nuclear weapons, war and death.

It’s as simple as that, and nothing will ever compensate us for that fatal choice. Make it with care, Scottish voters.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

UK Minus - Science and Religion, Obama – and Christmas …

THE UK POST-INDEPENDENCE

The UK has been understandably reluctant to consider what it will call itself when Scotland leaves the union. I have suggested UK Minus, and some refer to it as rUK. Among the speculation in the Guardian letters today, we have the suggestion Former United Kingdom (as in Former Yugoslavia). This is fine until one considers the acronym thus derived, and although it might accurately describe the reaction of the British Establishment to Scotland’s independence, I feel that it is unlikely to be adopted.

SCIENCE AND RELIGION

The seasonal press and media are boke-inducing at this time of year, an orgy of triviality, religiosity and sentimentalism. I look around despairingly, hoping to find a street urchin to shove up a chimney or a downtrodden clerk to oppress, but such consolations are hard to find. Unfamiliar people pop up out of nowhere – the Guardian gives over its Face to faith column to  Denis Alexander, an eminent scientist, who is director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, based at St. Edmond’s College, Cambridge. A cursory glance at the site and its publications seems to show rather a lot about religion and not too much about science, but this is a superficial judgment. Denis Alexander is the author of a book called Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose? My answer is – well, yes, we do.

The article opens with another question -

“Given the fact of human evolution, here is a good question for Christmas: if we last shared a common ancestor with the chimps about 5-6 million years, and humans have been gradually emerging through a series hominid intermediates ever since, then why did Jesus die? The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent.”

The last universal ancestor was not a chimp, but the cenancestor, which was around some 3.7 billion years ago. Around 6 or 7 million year ago was the time of the latest common ancestor, but it’s  not for the likes of me to quibble with an eminent scientist – Millennium Man was foraging in Kenya about 6m years ago, and various others hopped about until Australopithecus around 3.6m years ago considerately left footprints on volcanic ash to help Denis Alexander with his Christmas message.

Denis Alexander rather disarmingly says that “The connection of thought here might not be immediately apparent.” Well, yes, it is, Denis – to everyone but The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, who, Templeton Prize perhaps in mind, make a different connection. For the uninitiated, I quote Richard Dawkin’s description of the Templeton Prize – “"a very large sum of money given ... usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion."

The Templeton Foundation’s connection with right-wing causes and a certain kind of free market economics is well-documented. Its objectivity is, to put it mildly, fiercely disputed. The Templeton Prize - £1 million pounds – is enough to make any scientist consider carefully what he or she has to say about the link between science and religion. I am forced to say that, for that kind of dough, I might be persuaded to think again about my atheism and my ‘spirituality’.

OBAMA

I greeted the election of Barack Obama as a great event signalling a new dawn for America and for global politics. His initial attempts to reform healthcare in the US seemed to point towards a new liberalisation of America.

In fact, he has turned into the American equivalent of Nick Clegg – all shining idealism in opposition and pre-election campaigning, and sordid expediency and retreat from principle in power, with the difference that Obama has the reality of power, but has failed to used it.

Mehdi Hasan - Obama's abysmal record – is one of many commentators to document his bleak record in today’s Guardian, and there are many others.

Obama is about to endorse the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) permitting indefinite detention in military – not civil – custody of US citizens who are suspected of having terrorist connections. This pernicious act will also make such detention mandatory for foreign nationals who are ‘accused’ of having links with Al Quaida.

This makes Obama an even more illiberal president than George W. Bush. What the Obama presidency appears to show is that even a liberal, Democratic president is powerless in the face of the conspiracy of unelected power in the United States, an impotence mirrored by that of successive UK governments in the grip of a similar unelected Establishment. In the case of a good man like Obama, it is a tragedy: in the case of the Cameron/Clegg regime, it is a predictable Whitehall farce.

But despite all of this, I am of good cheer, capable of Scrooge-like regeneration, surrounded by those I love and respect, and looking forward to another year’s progress towards the independence of my little nation.

If Scotland must face global corruption and chaos, I want us to face it daien oor ain thing.


Friday, 11 November 2011

The New Coalition – Labour Scots in league with the Tories against Scotland

Today’s Scotsman has decided the issue for me. Accepting that Alex Salmond being named Politician of the Year is a Herald award, the fact that the Scotsman gives it a meagre four column inches at the bottom right of an inside page says it all. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer is a maxim that can be applied to media, but the enemy has to matter. The Scotsman no longer does – I had as soon watch Fox News as read it - and I can pick up their token Nationalist articles online. The Scotsman no longer matters to Scotland and it no longer matters to me. After all, for 85p I can buy a newspaper …

THE NEW COALITION

As if the benighted and incompetent Tory/LibDem coalition wasn’t bad enough, we now have a New Coalition, one that is even more damaging to the people of Scotland – The Labour/Tory/LibDem anti-independence Coalition. Scottish Labour MPs, terrified of losing their jobs, their perks - and perhaps their Party - after Scotland secures its freedom from the UK, are engaged in a sordid alliance with their ancient class enemies, the Tories (the LibDems are irrelevant) to frustrate the aspirations of Scots to conduct a fair referendum on how they see their country’s future.

This contemptible, self-serving alliance is led from the Labour side by Margaret Curran MP and Willie Bain MP, who have now accepted Shadow posts as Colonial Government apparatchiks, (I’m trying desperately to avoid giving them the name they richly deserve) mirroring the Scotland Office, a body set up to preserve the Union and maintain the Scots in subservience. This is what the thing that was once the People’s Party has come to


From Drop Box

THE BENEFITS OF THE UNION ACCORDING TO MICHAEL MOORE

Scotland’s economic opportunities are larger

Scotland’s public finances are more robust

Scotland’s defence is stronger

Scotland’s influence on the international stage greater

Scotland’s welfare system more secure

Cultural and family ties (with the rest of the UK) are closer

(Michael Moore had to read from a crib sheet to offer even this meagre, self-serving little list at Scottish questions in the Commons on Wednesday: he referred to them as being just six of many reasons. Aye, right …)

I have the kind permission of Gerry Hassan to reproduce his eleven reasons for Scottish independence, quoted in a recent article by Gerry, a commentator who thinks deeply about Scotland, Scottish politics and Scotland’s place in the world.

Gerry Hassan's 11 reasons for Scottish independence.

  1. Britain, according to academic Danny Dorling, is the fourth most unequal country in the rich world. The only more unequal places are the United States, Portugal and Singapore. British economic growth is increasingly about a narrow segment of society – primarily concentrated around London and the south east.

    2. Britain, despite devolution, is one of the most centralised countries in western Europe. Then there is the travesty of Westminster governance, a critique of which was one of the main drivers behind Scottish devolution. Since the advent of the Scottish Parliament, Westminster has become even worse.

    3. The nature and direction of English public services: the current English NHS Bill opens up health to parasite American and foreign private companies eager to get their hands on public health monies. This is an extension of New Labour public sector reform.

    4. Then there is the character of British politics. There have been four periods of Labour government since 1945 and only one has succeeded in narrowing inequality: the Attlee government. The other three led by Wilson/Callaghan and Blair/Brown all presided over widening inequality.

    5. The scale of poverty, health inequalities and dislocation in Scotland requires fundamental change: one in four children living in hardship, the worst life expectancy levels in western Europe. Doesn’t the union have to take some responsibility for this? Isn’t there at least the possibility independence could aid the transformational change we need to address this?

    6. One wouldn’t argue for independence solely based on North Sea oil revenues, but a contrast between Norway and ourselves is salutary. The North Sea has oil reserves for the next 30 to 40 years; wouldn’t it be good to see some of its benefits directly benefit the Scottish people?

    7. Foreign policy and international affairs (without reference to Iraq). The British state has for decades become a problem child in the world, a troublemaker in Europe, slavishly pro-American, a hawk on foreign adventures.

    8. Defence: there is the controversy of the nuclearisation and militarisation of Scotland without the consent of its people.

    9. Europe: Britain’s Euroscepticism shrinks its influence in the corridors of Brussels. An independent Scotland would be seen by France and Germany as a Euro enthusiast, and allow us direct representation on key Scottish interests: farming, fisheries, the oil industry and much more.

    10. The Scottish public sphere has suffered in recent years with the atrophying of large parts of our mainstream media. Part of this is global economics and the internet, but part is the media regulatory framework. An independent Scotland would allow us to create an environment where our public broadcasting began to reflect and represent our culture.

    11. Tory governments: for as long as Scots vote Conservative in such small numbers, whenever we have majority Tory governments at Westminster, there will be a crisis of legitimacy. Devolution hasn’t sorted this; it can’t because it is a political, not constitutional issue.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Referendum eye chart tidied up – with thanks to Garve


REFERENDUM EYE CHART


REFERENDUM


SECONDHALFOFPARLIAMENT


SCOTTISHVOTERSONLY


CONSULTATIVEONLY


NOTLEGALLYBINDING


NEGOTIATIONFOLLOWS


QUESTIONSYETTOBEFORMULATED


WILLINCLUDEQUESTIONONINDEPENDENCE


MAYINCLUDEQUESTIONONMOREPOWERS


FORMATOFBALLOTPAPER


YETTOBEDETERMINED


INDEPENDENCEMEANSINDEPENDENTSTATE


DEVOMAXMEANSFULLFISCALPOWERS


QVORTRUP


It's that Old Devil Called Devo Max Again! - The Qvortrup/Salmond Duo

The name’s Max – Devo Max, licensed to talk nonsense about independence: my number is 1707-2014 – give me a call sometime …”

In moments of slight megalomania, I imagine that at least some of the things I write might have a tiny influence on the media, but I am rapidly brought down to earth by watching news and current affairs broadcasts. I gave a bit of well-meaning advice on the use of the inaccurate cliché “It may be … but …” as an all-purpose opener or/and closer to news items, but here is Glenn Campbell at it again on his second item on Newsnight Scotland on the Scottish Tories. “The election may be over …” says Glenn. No, it is over Glenn, hadn’t you noticed – the results are in, the winner is confirmed. Do they hand these conversation lozenges over the presenters just before the programme starts, to be chewed and then regurgitated? Or are they now in the DNA?

But my real concern was with the first item on, guess what, devo max and the referendum. BBC presenters are now akin to the Flying Dutchman, condemned to roam the ether, always asking the same questions – What is devo max?- When will the referendum be? - What could the questions be? To sustain them in this endless, fruitless quest, they have an unlimited supply of commentators and experts who don’t know the answers either, and they have a built-in deficiency which prevents them from hearing the answers when they are given, usually by Alex Salmond or Angus Robertson. What ******* chance have I got in offering some clarity?

The referendum and the Noon explanation

Referendum - initial follow-up

Referendum and questions

 

Here is my referendum eye chart. Please look at the chart and read each line from the top down. Don’t worry if you can’t read or understand it – you are part of a large group that has similar problems.


REFERENDUM EYE CHART


REFERENDUM


SECONDHALFOFPARLIAMENT


SCOTTISHVOTERSONLY


CONSULTATIVEONLY


NOTLEGALLYBINDING


NEGOTIATIONFOLLOWS


QUESTIONSYETTOBEFORMULATED


WILLINCLUDEQUESTIONONINDEPENDENCE


MAYINCLUDEQUESTIONONMOREPOWERS


FORMATOFBALLOTPAPER


YETTOBEDETERMINED


INDEPENDENCEMEANSINDEPENDENTSTATE


DEVOMAXMEANSFULLFISCALPOWERS


QVORTRUP


Thank you – that concludes the test. I have to tell you that conventional spectacles are not going to prove sufficient to correct your disability, given that you didn’t get beyond the first line, and even understanding that caused you some difficulty. Laser surgery is, I’m afraid, the only option, but it does involve radical adjustment of your political perspective. But you have over two years to decide. Meanwhile, do try to get on with your life. Writing fantasy fiction can help.

May I suggest a couple of topics that will keep you safely shielded from reality? How about How to re-energise the Tory Party in Scotland – that could also be a fantasy comedy – and What Labour Must Do – that would, of course, be a tragedy …


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

On the right side of history – neutrinos, the speed of light and Bannockburn

THE SCIENCE BIT

I always watch television documentaries on particle physics and quantum mechanics in the hope that one day I will get a glimmering of real understanding of the universe and everything. My understanding is constrained by my lack of any real mathematical understanding, limited as it is to arithmetic and very basic algebra and geometry. As a child and young man I was fascinated by astronomy – and science fiction – and my window to the universe is therefore somewhat occluded by garish images of rocket ships and brass-bra’d blondes being carried off by bug-eyed monsters.

But from very early days spent staring at Fulton’s Orrery on the upper floor of the People’s Palace on the Glasgow Green, I gained the concept of the vastness of space, so watching last night’s documentary on the recent mind-blowing discovery that the speed of light may have been exceeded by neutrinos rushing under a mountain, out of our brane into the bulk and back to the brane struck home to me. The neutrino, the tiniest and most mysterious of the particles was compared in relative size to a golf ball in the entire solar system. Now that’s wee – really wee! Yet these wee things are essential to everything, and effortlessly penetrate everything – nothing is a barrier to them, not even time, apparently.

The scientist’s joke, delivered with an understandable lack of comic timing, was -

Barman:We don’t serve neutrinos in here …”

A neutrino goes into a bar …

In other words, in the new neutrino world we may have glimpsed, you get the answer to your text message before you have sent it.

And so it has been throughout recorded history with the concept of freedom – a tiny idea in its emergence, apparently insignificant in the context of the power struggles all around it, almost invisible among the titanic struggles of powerful men and institutions, yet ultimately vital to humanity, permeating everything and essential to everything. And freedom is inseparable from the idea of independence within a framework of inter-dependence. Freedom and independence always take the powerful by surprise – initially ignored, then suppressed, but eventually triumphant. Because ultimately, we can never be content without it.

THE HISTORY BIT

I bought a book in Waterstones last week. It had no price on it, so I took it to the counter and the assistant scanned the barcode. “That will be £30, sir …” I flinched, but since I’d rather go bankrupt than look like a cheapskate, I bought it. And given the book’s title, I couldn’t have given it back without loss of face as a Scot – there might have been a unionist watching!

The book was Bannockburn – The Triumph of Robert the Bruce by David Cornell. I read it in a few days, and it is the best thirty quid I’ve spent in a long time.

The book wasn’t written by a starry-eyed Scottish nationalist, but by a sober English academic from Durham University, a man born in Leicester, and his concern is to present as faithful an account as he can of a 700-year old event that was pivotal in British history, and the event that shaped Scotland as a nation. Despite all the inadequacies and the blatant bias of history as taught in Scottish schools in my schooldays, there wasn’t a Scottish child who had not heard of Robert the Bruce and Bannockburn.

I chose this version because it was new (2009) and precisely because it was written by an English historian and published by Yale University Press. I wanted as objective an account as I could find, to avoid the charge by unionist critics that Scottish nationalists are lost in a kind of Brigadoon and Braveheart land, sentimentalists with a romantic and unrealistic view of their history.

It was a fascinating read, presenting an unvarnished account of the brutal realities of politics and power in the early 14th century, and Bruce emerges as the complex figure that he was, expedient, power-hungry, driven by personal ambition, willing to change sides, forming shifting alliances, often treacherous and occasionally murderous in his actions. He could have been little else, given the world he lived in, which was hardly a place for starry-eyed idealists. But along the way, a vision emerged of a united Scotland – Scotland as a nation, and Bruce became larger than his personal ambitions.

A few quotes from the book serve for me to illustrate its relevance to Scotland today, at another pivotal point in its history.

On Bruce on the eve of battle

In life, few men find themselves empowered with a decision that has the potential to dictate the fate of a nation. To possess such an awesome responsibility is both a privilege and a curse. A correct decision promises unsurpassed success, but a wrong one invites catastrophic failure. Such a man holds in his hands the lives of those who follow him.”

On the significance of Bannockburn

Bannockburn, therefore, is certainly deserving of our fresh attention. It was both a great victory for Scotland – arguably the greatest in its history – and one of the most humiliating defeats that England has ever suffered. As such, it remains inscribed in the pantheon of each nation’s history, albeit with directly contrasting emotions.  Bannockburn was a pivotal event in the shaping of British history: both the battle and its enduring legacy have proved of crucial importance  in the forming of national identity in both countries.”

On the behaviour of the English Establishment and power structure

The magnates  were not men who attached themselves to causes for altruistic reasons. Their decisions were ruled by their own best interests. The political world they inhabited was shot through with bitter, frequently venomous personal rivalries featuring rapidly shifting alliances and amoral self-aggrandisement. This was a ruthlessly self-interested , intensely emotive environment, prone to antagonisms and feuds, in which the currency was wealth and status.”

On Bruce’s political situation at the time of Bannockburn

… the underlying strength  of Bruce’s political position was, that due to his military success in the Scottish civil war, his Scottish enemies had been forced to either join him or fight alongside the English. By 1314, his Scottish enemies relied on the English to continue their war against Bruce.”

The parallels are blindingly obvious, especially with that last quotation – it describes almost exactly the position of the Scottish Unionist parties vis a vis Alex Salmond in the crucial period we are now in, following the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections and in the lead-up to the forthcoming referendum on Scotland’s independence. 

MY MESSAGE TO LEADING FIGURES IN SCOTTISH PUBLIC LIFE AND THE ARTS

There is a tide in the affairs of men, etc. There is such a thing as the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age. The spirit of the age is freedom, of independence, of throwing off the suffocating embrace of the old power structures, challenging the dominance of giant corporations, the military/industrial complex, global financial structures inimical to human happiness – big is no longer beautiful – small is beautiful, independence in a context of inter-dependence, a world of free nations cooperating dynamically for humanity and the wider interest.

I have this to say to leading figures in Scottish public life, those with high visibility and influence, whether in the field of politics, of business, of finance, in the arts, in entertainment, in literature, who are not yet committed to Scotland’s independence as a free nation -

Make the quantum leap to endorsing Scotland’s independence publicly, and campaigning for a YES vote to independence. In so doing, you are not saying that the new Scotland will be run in perpetuity by the Scottish National Party, you are saying that it will be run by Scots elected by the new political process in that new Scotland to a Parliament that has full autonomy over Scottish affairs.

You stand, like all Scots, at a pivotal moment in your country’s history. Align yourself with the spirit of the age and with the rebirth of a nation – your nation, Scotland.

Do so now, and you will be respected for a principled decision.

Do so after independence, and you will be regarded as simply expedient.

The time is now - come out for Scotland

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Margaret Curran exposes the vacuum at the heart of Team Scotland

The sound of a lonely wind blowing through the vacuum of Labour's policies - no idea what they stand for, forgotten what they used to stand for ...

Scottish Labour – they’ve learned nothing, forgotten nothing. But they’ve rediscovered a place called Scotland, after a long amnesia.

And Team Scotland will save the people of Scotland from the government they’ve elected twice, the second time with a massive, decisive majority – the SNP, and their wicked leader, Alex Salmond, and separationLabour can’t bring itself to say independence. Of course, they’ll do all the saving from England – Westminster to be precise.

And what does Labour now stand for? Well, democracy, motherhood – well, all that stuff … They feel no need to spell it out.

But they have one shining, eternal principle, one that they’ll die for, metaphorically speaking – the right of England to rule the Scots!

We understand at last, Margaret – that’s why you and Cathy buggered off down the high road to England, well away from the grinding realities of the daily lives of your constituents. And it’s much nicer in the Palace of Westminster, with all the delights of London on a fat salary and expenses, although since Michael – sorry, Lord Martin went, they’re not quite what they were.

Aye, right …



Friday, 14 October 2011

DEVO MAX - The Union’s last throw of the dice

Devo Max will give Scotland everything

except that

We won’t control our foreign policy

We won’t have the revenues from our own oil

The UK Supreme Court can still overrule our own Scots law and our own judges

We will have no seat at the United Nations

We will have no independent membership of the European Union

Our voice will be stifled, marginalised, ignored in international forums

The UK Parliament will still be sovereign, and can revoke devo max any time it likes

The UK Parliament will still decide when our young people are sent to die on foreign fields

We will still be forced to have nuclear weapons of mass destruction in our waters

Scotland won’t a be a nation in any real sense

EPITAPH

Scots had their chance and they blew it

RIP Freedom

Devo Max is the Union’s last throw of the dice to keep Scotland as a subject nation, to be bled of its resources and talent

If you vote for it, you will never again be allowed to vote for independence

 

Scots know exactly what they mean by independence – the UK Government knows exactly what it means by subjection and sovereignty

The Scottish Unionist parties know exactly what they are complicit in

HOLD YOUR HEAD HIGH AS A FREE SCOT - REJECT DEVO MAX

 

 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Turning the eye inwards – the Moridura blog

Why am I doing this?

A question that I have asked myself at various points in my life in relation to many things – recreational activities, jobs, specific projects and sometimes big, life-changing decisions and actions. The question is prompted by recognition of the dangers in proceeding with a course of activity without revisiting the impetus and purpose for that course of action. The dangers are many and manifest, and among the main ones are -

The deadening but comforting compulsion of routine, of running on a rail without thinking too clearly about a destination.

The force of a plan or project – a commitment to a course of action that acquires its own momentum, where the disciplines of the system and procedures became more important than the objective, which mustn’t be questioned because it would conflict with the plan.

The feeling that all the hard thinking is in the past, and that the momentum must not be slowed or blunted – a kind of don’t confuse me with new facts or new realities position.

The fear that if a course of action is halted or abandoned, there will be nothing to fill the vacuum.

The feeling that all the activity must have been worth something, is its own validation, and that it must be justified. This is the converse of the old accounting maxim that sunk costs are irrelevant – or don’t throw good money after bad. Has it all been for nothing? is perhaps the most painful question of all.

 

WHAT I TRY TO DO AS A BLOGGER

I am an SNP supporter and party member. My little ship flies under the saltire, not the Union Jack. My blog is aimed at supporting the SNP in government and in their pursuit of independence for Scotland. I am not an objective commentator – I have an agenda and a political orientation. (If only the media would treat many of those who present themselves as objective commentators to the same scrutiny and look hard at the colours they are flying under, especially the former spin doctors and PR persons who present themselves as objective. The Jolly Roger, in the form of the Union Jack, waits to be hoisted at the bases of the mast.)

Within my political allegiance, I try to be fair and objective, not an easy task, given the nature of the opposition. I am also a firm supporter of the BBC, despite all its many shortcomings, because I believe that it discharges its responsibilities as a public service broadcaster better than any other in the world. This does not always endear me to my party or to my blog readers who support the SNP! In spite of being acerbic, and occasionally exasperated, I do try to recognise than my task, and that of all nationalists is to persuade and convert the unionist and the uncommitted or tentative, not to alienate them, or preach to the converted.

Nonetheless, I recognise that there is a valid role to play in supporting the faithful and committed, in the face of relentless and unscrupulous misinformation from other sources.

I present myself, not as an expert in political science, or economics, or constitutional history, or defence, but as a Scottish voter with a long experience of Scotland, a decade of living very happily in England, with many deep cross-border commitments, friendships and relationships, and with sound business experience with special expertise in human relations, negotiating skills and corporate behaviour. I have operated at managerial, senior managerial and director level for most of my employed career, (37 years) and ran my own consulting and training business, serving blue chip companies, mainly multi-nationals and transnationals in Scotland and the UK for 15 years.

I am not an SNP party insider, have no role and hold no office within the party, do not speak for the party, and regard myself as an independent voice.

I try to counter negative and misleading media reporting, and therefore operate in an essentially reactive way, but within that frame of reference, I offer my perceptions as a voter. I try to keep the arguments simple enough to be grasped by the average voter (and often fail!) not because the average voter is lacking in intelligence and insight, but because the majority of the electorate at any given time are more occupied with their lives, careers and responsibilities than they are with political theory and arcane analysis, and must therefore have simple, but not simplistic arguments presented to them – the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities of life.

The Scottish electorate is one of the most sophisticated in the world, and certainly is the most sophisticated in the UK – they don’t need to be patronised, they certainly don’t want to be lied to, as they are regularly, but they do need clear messages at this pivotal time in Scotland's – and the world’s – history.

Politicians are inhibited in offering clarity by wider political compromises, political commentators are inhibited by the need to make a living and find a publisher, and very often those who offer simple messages are unscrupulous populists with money as their main focus.

I am not inhibited by any of these constraints, and neither are a wide and diverse chorus in individual voices, courtesy of the new media freedoms.

That’s where I’m at, and despite a wish to escape from the tyranny of a self-imposed blog output – and I do have many other things I want to do, and should be doing – I fear I’m stuck with it till independence, or perhaps other events that wait for me in the space-time continuum.

The next section is 800 words of history. A busy, or bored reader should probably skip it.

THE MORIDURA BLOG – A BIT OF HISTORY

I started my blog in February 2008 for two reasons, one to give myself a regular vehicle to write, a kind of daily exercise for the writing muscles, and the second to react to current events. The previous year and half had seen me abandoned a lifelong political allegiance to the Labour Party and vote for the SNP, and I had watched with growing admiration the way Alex Salmond and his team managed the delicate balancing act of minority government. The roots of this went back to the devolution settlement and the opening of the Scottish Parliament, then 9/11, Afghanistan and the horror of Iraq.

In May 2007, while committed to the SNP, I still felt that the three opposition parties were basically decent democrats with a different viewpoint to mine. The Tories I had grown up with as my class enemy, a visceral distrust that wasn’t easy to get past, but I recognised the need for a proper voice and representation for centre right voters. The LibDems I thought of as basically on my side of the political fence, and although I regarded their previous coalition with Labour as more or less a failure, I had never doubted that it was the only course of action open to them in the new Scottish Parliament. Labour I thought of as a party that had badly lost its way and its moral compass, but was in the process of a painful reorientation. The year that followed proved me wrong on all counts about the three opposition parties. The decision of the LibDems not to enter a coalition with the SNP baffled and angered me, and the subsequent obstructive and destructive behaviour of all three in Holyrood appalled be. The fact that the Tories in Holyrood were the only party to at least occasionally behave with any good sense amazed me.

All of this - which hardened political observers may well regard as astounding naivety from someone of my age, who by that time had lived in seven decades of the turbulent 20th century and was now well into the first decade what is already proving to be a more turbulent 21st century - was compounded by what I saw as the blatant bias and irrelevancy of much of the media reporting and commentary.

Early in the blogging game, I saw the need to capture video clips of news and current affairs broadcasts which otherwise would have been ephemeral, and give them a second life on YouTube, and linking them to my blog. My YouTube channel, TAofMoridura, in many ways had a greater impact than my blog, and certainly provoked more discussion. In December 4th 2009, with some half a million words up on my blog and a lot of videos on YouTube, I had a heart attack. There’s nothing like to prospect of imminent death to bring life and purpose into sharp focus. Thanks to the superb care and professionalism of the RIE and the Scottish NHS, I came through it, although I had some little local difficulties again in late May of 2010.

I had coped pretty positively with the challenges of my quad bypass and recovery, however, I was unprepared for the psychological effects – not uncommon – of the deep anaesthesia, and during my early recovery period had a complete collapse of confidence for a few days. This unfortunately coincided with a vicious and threatening attack on me by a well-know Unionist blogger, promising legal action on a variety of fronts. I was unequipped to handle it, and felt that I had to concentrate on my recovery, so I took down my entire blog and all my YouTube videos, a decision I now regret. To compound this, I thought I was properly backed up, but wasn’t, although I have managed a partial recovery of files since then. However, I bounced back before the General election of May 2010, started up again, and by the time of my second heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrest in late May of 2010, had no such crises of direction – I even managed a blog from my hospital bed, using the inadequate and exorbitantly expensive TV system inflicted by PFI on the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Building up a following again was a slow process, especially since someone who had admired my blog had in effect written a glowing obituary of the Moridura Blog (not of me, thankfully) and I’m sure I lost many followers permanently.

And here we are in October 2011, with an SNP administration with a commanding majority and the confidence - and the hopes - of the Scottish people in their hands, under attack from all sides, and prospects of me being able to do some writing on my own account and playing my instruments a bit more looking increasingly remote.

Saor Alba!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Clout, corruption, Capone – and the Neo-Scottish Unionists …

When I was a child in Glasgow, a clout was something I was regularly threatened with, and often received. Never from my parent or relatives, but often from teachers, the polis and sundry friends, enemies and the occasional gang member. A cloutie was a cloth, especially the one used to warp the wonderful cloutie dumplings that were a feature of Christmas, stuffed with silver threepennies and sixpences wrapped in greaseproof paper. We pronounced the slap around the heid as clowt, and the dumpling version as clootie, effortlessly and unknowingly distinguishing between the ancient origins of the word – the Old English clut and  and Old Norman or Frisian klut. The word was also used in archery in archaic form as a piece of cloth stretched over a frame, and in joinery to describe a large, flat-headed nail.

But for fifty years now it has increasingly come to mean influence, power of effective action, especially political  - Concise Oxford Dictionary.

This usage is now dominant, but was never used, to my knowledge, before the late 1950s. So where did it originate? Well, as far as I can determine, it was a Chicago word, describing the power of gangsters over politicians and police, and of the power of the politicos themselves, some of whom were also gangsters. It was probably confined to Chicago throughout the Capone era, which ended with Capone’s imprisonment on tax charges in the early 1930s. Capone, after his release, lived well into the post-war period and died a rich man, at home, in his bed, just as I was going to St. Mungo’s Academy in Glasgow.


But the first recorded example in print seems to have been an article in the Chicago Tribune in early 1960, as part of a four-page spread on corruption and crime in Chicago, in an article by Wayne Thomas – MOB WIELDS CLOUT THROUGH POLITICIANS, prompted by the murder of Roger ‘The Terrible’ Touhy by gunmen in broad daylight in front of witnesses in a Chicago Street.

Since then, the word increasingly entered the vocabulary of the British chattering classes, ever anxious to be up-to-date with American political jargon, without the faintest idea of where the word or phrase had come from, e.g. step up to the plate, what’s your take on this issue, the Commander-in-Chief, etc.

The UK’s web of corruption is of course much more subtle, of course, as befits an ancient empire that has been exploiting the people for centuries, and the commissioners of violence usually carry a title, or have a few letters after their names that almost always include BE – or they wear the ermine. They are distanced at several levels from those who carry out the killings, and unlike the brash gangsters of old, rarely kill each other, but target the innocent, the vulnerable, usually in another country, ideally of another race and religion. When they kill someone at home, it is usually someone outspoken who has got too close to the truth, and they are too fastidious to have them gunned down in broad daylight – the intelligence services have long experience of doing these things quietly, with minimum fuss. The UK has exploitation of booze as a nice little earner on the side – witness The Beerage – but the main honeypot is the military/industrial complex and political, Eisenhower’s nightmare forecast come true.

And now for something completely different …

THE NEO-SCOTTISH UNIONISTS

An interesting day in our two national dailies, The Herald and The Scotsman.

The Letters page of both newspapers are often a better sample of the true mood of Scotland than the news, comment and editorial comment, especially in The Herald Letters page. But the Scotsman increasingly, and I hope not reluctantly, gives a platform to a wider range of views than Blackett Place, New Cutt Rigg or sundry nimby’s and landowners fulminating against wind farms from the remote airts and pairts, and today we have Ruth Marr, a regular and mordant contributor to The Herald, but more rarely appearing in The Scotsman.

I hope Ruth and The Scotsman will forgive me for picking quotes, but -

On the Labour and Tory name changes -

I’d always thought changing your name was something you did when you were fleeing from justice …”

On the newly-discovered Scottishness of the Tories and Labour -

Are we witnessing expressions of sincere patriotism or political expediency?”

Gaun yersel’ Ruth …

Joyce McMillan always has something relevant to say, Ultimate Westminster bubble boy e.g. this paragraph -

The decline of the Labour Party as a grass-roots movement, the old Blairite obsession with severing trade union links, the growing separation of the leadership from the nuts-and-bolts organisation on the ground, and (sic) makes true radicalism possible; all of this has produced a generation of young would-be leaders with only a vague focus-group image of the society they would lead, and often no knowledge at all of its rich pattern of popular and local culture, and of how those cultures interact with the task of political organisation

The above paragraph is worth more than the Collected ‘What Labour Must Do’ Essays of John McTernan to Labour, but they cannot confront the Blair Portrait in the Attic – it’s too horrible to contemplate.

Ewan Crawford offers a challenging piece SNP show the way when it gets down to business that includes this telling sentence in his closing paragraph -

“Since the SNP’s election victory, a curious phenomenon has taken place: the government and Alex Salmond have been assailed on a range of issues, but the SNP’s poll ratings have hit record highs.”

Ewan also refers to the blatant misrepresentation of John Swinney’s budget, and the notorious CPPR £850m figure, seized upon by The Scotsman among others with an agenda, although Ewan is too polite to say so. This hasn’t stopped The Scotsman and other continuing to trot the figure out, including today. A good lie is worth too much to let it die quietly. The CPPR didn’t lie of course – they were misunderstood and misquoted, poor dears.  Aye, right then …

The Great British Public think Ed Miliband is ‘weird’, rather as they thought John Redwood, a rising Tory star was weird, especially after his rendition of the Welsh national anthem. I can’t think what gives people these ideas. John Redwood at least had the popular kudos of looking liking a Vulcan whose starship was about to be vapourised by Captain Kirk. Ed Miliband? The closest I can come is a young Raymond Burr, in his nascent phase as a sinister villain, before he lost his power of movement and became Ironside.

But let me close on an optimistic note – American movies at the close of the Capone era, the beginning of the talkies, and in the early stages of the Great Depression that followed the Wall Street Crash. Will movies – and our society, ever recover this vitality, this visual flair, this great music? In this era, when pop musicians are stressed if the vocal range leaves the diatonic scale and spans an octave, if more than four primitive harmonic changes are quite impossible, and where a key change or a modulation in unthinkable, indeed literally inconceivable, it seems unlikely.

No, we must be content with the soft porn and relentless sniggering sexual innuendo of Strictly Come Dancing and, God help us all, The X-Factor. But surely if the people must have bread and circuses, we could give them quality instead of this pap to divert them from the economic horrors that await if we stay in the UK.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Keep the Union and learn to love the Bomb! – happy tweeting time


 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Independence? Scots can have whatever they want, except defence and foreign affairs. Devo Max? Nae problem! Just leave the UK with the WMDs.

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

What must a Labour or Tory mediocrity do? Get a defence post ASAP. That's where the power and money lies. It's the nuclear honeypot, stupid!

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Labour and Tory politicians get into defence and the war game as fast as possible like money-seeking missiles. Scots can have their devo max

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

The UK - a state whose operating principle is war. That's where real money, real power lies. The Blair Factor: War = power,influence, riches

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Why are unionists committed to devomax? To retain the nuclear war core of UK, control of foreign policy. That's where the money and power is

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

All unionist parties are committed to devo max. What's left of the Union after devo max? WMDs, foreign policy, defence - the war core of UK.

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

If the West and Israel had no WMDS, would I support invading other countries to stop them having nuclear weapons. I'm thinking about it ...

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

US/UK line - our WMDs deter mad dictators elsewhere. They don't know a lot about mad dictators, wherever they are. Dr. Strangelove is alive

 

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Multilateral nuclear disarmament is a smoksecreen for US/UK and Israel keeping their WMDs and trying to stop anyone else having them.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

The People’s Flag is deepest - Red? Blue? Purple? Tartan?

 John McTernan, king of the What Labour Must Do? franchise, has accepted a post as director of communications to the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. Julia, a Labour Prime Minister has just turned fifty years of age. It would be ungallant to speculate on what the half century does to a woman’s judgement, so we must assume that she was either impressed by his former role as Tony Blair’s spin doctor, or she wants an antipodean version of McTernan’s franchise, What Australian Labour Must do?

But it’s nice to think of John sunning his bronzed body on an Australian beach, munching a Vegemite sandwich – a kind of Scottish Adonis. I wish you well, John. But then a dissonant note sounds – what if he plans to do the job from Scotland? After all, one can write a What Labour Must Do article anywhere in the world …

And perhaps Julia should take a long hard look at what has happened to the party that John devoted his communication and strategic skills to for so many years.

 

WHAT THE UK OWES SCOTLAND

The Nationalist Government of Scotland – nationalist means a government committed to the nation of Scotland - have been taking a long, hard look at the UK’s asset base, sending cold shivers down unionist spines. After all, given our significant contribution to the UK for over 300 years in technology, science, innovation, tax and oil revenue -  and blood - and the less than significant return, it is only fair that Scots tot up what is owed to them. In addition to the assets that are based in Scotland, we own a fair chunk of assets based in England. Since the unionists insist on using the analogy of a marriage (a shotgun marriage) a divorce and a separation to describe the Union and Scotland’s imminent independence, we may safely say that that divvying up the assets will be as protracted a negotiation after independence as many other aspects. But the break-up comes first …

 

THE BUDGET

The outraged squeals of vested interest groups over John Swinney’s budget, with the Scotsman conducting the cries in a kind a hellish choir, was followed rapidly by what we hoped might be objective third party analysis. Surely Glasgow University’s Centre for Public Policy and Regions would provided such a cool, objective look at the figures? The analysis by the CPPR’s John McLaren, described by Robin Dinwoodie in the Herald as “Ex-Labour special adviser and CPPR economist John McLaren” claimed that the budget would take an extra £849m in business taxes over the next three years. John Swinney, in a detailed rebuttal in a letter in yesterday’s Herald, says that this is misleading and is the result of double counting.

John Swinney’s trump card is of course that undeniable fact that Scotland is the only part of the UK where unemployment is falling and employment has increased. Union members like that, but union officials – and the Labour Party - don’t, masking their annoyance by attacks on the interpretation of the figures. I wonder why that should be? It could be something to do with the fact that the greater the degree of independence, the better Scotland works, and it could have something to do with four and a half years of competent SNP government, with a real economist at the helm.

But the Scottish Secretary has lurched on to the scene, demanding explanations. Michael Moore is “ … alarmed at the reaction that the Scottish Government’s Spending Review has provoked from the business community.” By the business community, he means the Big Business community - the one’s who extravagantly reward their directors with obscene amounts of money for pushing cheap booze and cancer sticks at the poorer sections of the community - and the ever-critical Iain MacMillan of the CBI.

The small to medium business community welcomed the budget, and the valuable check it places on Big Business to roll over small businesses, destroy competition and inflict near lethal blows on our once vibrant public houses. The Scottish Secretary, especially after the warm glow of the LibDem party conference, labours under the delusion that he, his party and his Coalition partners – the Tories - matter to Scotland, when in fact they are regarded as an irrelevancy, and inimical to Scotland’s best interest.

 

THE PEOPLE’S PARTY AND ITS TROUBLES

As what was once upon a time the People’s Party staggers into its conference, they are accompanied by Scottish headlines that must give them cause for alarm.

Can Britain learn to like Ed Miliband? (Scotland on Sunday) with the sub-header Seven out of ten people think the Labour Party are not fit for Government.

Labour told to forget about Thatcher – Alexander criticises party’s Holyrood election campaign strategy (Herald)

McAveety is held off Labour list amid probe (Herald)

Harris fear party could ‘stop being relevant’ (Herald)

This last one heads a report by Tom Peterkin and Eddie Barnes that also quote Harris as saying “Labour’s complacency could kill the Union.”  Tom Harris’s analysis is accurate of course, and he sees clearly what his party – and most metropolitan commentators have only glimpsed fleetingly, and in a glass darkly.

 

“We are on the brink of the biggest constitutional upheaval this country has ever seen.” (By country, he means the UK.)

“The idea that it’s business as usual in the Labour Party is going to kill us, and it’s going to kill the Union”

“I’m talking about standing up for Scotland. It’s Scotland first, the Union second, the Labour Party third.”

Nobody in Scotland – or the UK – is fooled by that last statement, Tom. You can’t hedge your bets- it’s too late to lay off the risk.

The scale of priorities has always been the careers of Labour politicians and trades union officials first and Scotland and its people a poor second. The Union is simply the necessary context for the Labour Party to pursue that naked self-interest. and your career, and those of every Labour MP, Labour Lord and Labour apparatchik depend on the continuance of this Union.

It has been ever thus in empires that exploit the people, and oligarchies masquerading as democracies. In their death throes, the politicians that depend on them will defend them to the death against the force of the ordinary people, as we have seen in the Arab Spring.  They have no choice but to go down with the thing they have supported.