Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A pathetic, hate-filled article: and my response

This morning, the extreme right-wing British website The Commentator produced one of the most hilarious interventions in the independence referendum debate to date. Riddled with inaccuracies throughout, it was clearly written by a patrician, arrogant British nationalist whose understanding of Scottish life, politics and culture is clearly firmly grounded in the Victorian era. I half-expected, genuinely, to be told at some point in the article that Scotland isn't a real country anyway, and we should be called North British again.
The article in question can be found here. It contains the usual rubbish. In abridged format, this is it.
There is no oil left. The oil that is left isn't worth anything. Anyway, it's all in Shetland. And some of it in Orkney. And they will want to be part of England if Scotland votes Yes. Which it won't. Because it's too small and too poor and it's people too stupid. They get subsidised by England. Alex Salmond is a bit overweight. Scottish people eat deep-fried Mars bars, hahaha. 
My response to the worst article yet - and I am including Michael Kelly's cries de coeur in this - in the independence debate is below.
What a tragically misguided article.
Clearly written from the viewpoint of a hard-right Little Englander and British nationalist who simply can't understand why the jocks would ever want to leave the benevolent United Kingdom which has been so good to them, it is an article riddled with errors, and with panic and fear at the prospect of the end of his country seeping out of every word, with a liberal dollop of hate and contempt on top. The author clearly has no knowledge of Scotland beyond about 1955 and the article absolutely reeks of a "but how DARE they, after all we've done for them?!" colonialist mindset.
1. The errors begin before the article even does when it asserts "2/3 of the oil is in Shetland and Orkney waters, and they'd probably rather stay with England than join an independent Scotland"..As a matter of fact, when Scotland becomes independent, Shetland and Orkney - as part of Scotland - will be coming with us (they won't need to "join" - they are already part of Scotland). If at some stage in the future there is any movement whatsoever for Orcadian and Shetland self-government, they will be entitled to hold a referendum on independence. They certainly won't be "staying with England" in the immediate post-independence period.
Indeed, it appears that the only person in the northern isles who has any desire not to remain part of Scotland is the increasingly-hysterical pantomime dame, Tavish Scott, a fanatical British nationalist extremist whose singular contribution to Scottish politics was the utter destruction of the Liberal Democrats in 2011, being reduced to a rump of only five MSPs, with not a single constituency retained in the Scottish mainland. There are boybands with more members than the Liberals have MSPs.
Furthermore, the international law of the sea could not be clearer on what the situation would be on the isles' ownership of oil should either or both secede from Scotland: it would have absolutely none. The islands would be, legally, an enclave with exploitation rights to the oil only within a 20km radius of their coast. There is between little and no oil there.
2. The first paragraph talks of the "increasingly unlikely event of Scotland becoming fully independent". The author has every right to view (or, in my opinion, he hopes) independence as unlikely, but to claim the likelihood is *decreasing* is simply untrue, with every consecutive poll showing a narrowing in the gap between the pro-democracy campaign and the Tory-led No campaign, which shares a sponsor - Ian Taylor - with Arkan, the Yugoslav War criminal.
3. "Neither does it mean that the UK will pay anything". Well, yes, it does. Unless the remaining UK wishes to default, it will indeed be paying anything. It is a matter for the UK Central Bank whether it wishes to pay 90% of the UIK debt (i.e. the national debt less Scotland's 10% share by population) or 100% of the UK debt (i.e. if the British regime decides that the UK Central Bank is not a shared asset and liability, e.g. by refusing Scotland the continuing use of our currency). But with an absolute minimum payment of 90% of the national debt, it is tosh and piffle to assert that the UK will not be paying "anything".
4. Whilst the Barnett Formula does indeed give Scotland more money per head than England, this is not some sort of "English subsidy" to Scotland. This is a common "mistake" by journalists (I appreciate the author of this piece is a blogger, not a journalist) as they attempt to pretend Scotland is subsidised. Imagine Mr Mitchinson and I entered into a marriage. I earn one million pounds (or Euros, of course, given Scotland will simultaneously be expelled from the EU and have to join the Euro....) per annum, and Mr Mitchinson earns one pound per annum. Our salaries go into a joint account, giving the Mitchinson-Ball family a total annual income of £1000001. I withdraw £700002 per annum. Mr Mitchinson withdraws £299999 per annum.
Whilst I indeed withdraw over twice as much money as Mr Mitchinson over the course of a year, would anyone seriously claim that this means I am a kept man? Of course not. Yet this is the exact situation with Scotland and the UK: Scotland contributes 9,6% of all UK taxes, but receives only 9,3% of UK spending in return.
5. The gap between revenue and expenditure is wider than in England. This is true. The author asks how we will bridge the gap. The running cost of the Trident nuclear weapon programme alone is £2bn per annum (at a 10:90 population split, this would be £200 million per annum from Scotland). Scottish repudiation of Weapons of Mass Destruction would immediately, and alone, pay for one in every ten pounds of the author's claimed "£2bn spending gap". Scotland, at the moment, is paying for 10% of the English High Speed Rail line, despite the closest it comes to Scotland being Leeds, in Yorkshire. Scotland receives not a brass penny in Barnett consequentials, as this is a "UK infrastructure project". Like Crossrail - entirely in England but paid for with Scottish money, and with no Barnett consequentials. Like the London Olympics - almost entirely in England, but with Scottish money propping it up: and no Barnett consequentials.
6. The author, reasonably correctly, asserts that the "Chancellor rubbishes this idea [of Scotland retaining the Pound Sterling]. He may well rubbish the idea, but he has conspicuously refused to rule out a Sterling Zone - as has every single member of the British government. At any rate, the Pound is a freely-tradeable international currency which can be used by any nation which desires to, whether that is Scotland, Sweden or Senegal.
7. The author then tells us "it is inevitable that the [oil] price per barrel will fall markedly. North Sea oil is notoriously expensive to find and extract. If the price falls below about $80 a barrel the rigs could stop pumping. And there has been little investment in exploration for some years." Perhaps he is unaware of the development of the brand-new Kraken oil field, in Scottish waters, less than two months ago, which will create 20 000 new jobs. Perhaps the author knows more about oil exploration than oil exploration companies. Perhaps these companies like to throw money away on worthless projects. Perhaps the author rather hopes that the oil will run out. It's been "running out" since the 1970s. There's only so many times you can shout "boo" before the cat stops jumping in fright.
8. Having spend hundreds of words dripping with fear, the article moves swiftly into hatred and contempt territory. We're told that "the islanders ...are not Celtic; they are Norse." I'm not entirely sure what that has to do with anything. Scotland is a non-racial society. It's the witless witterings of someone who dearly imagines Scotland as a society riven by tribal rivalry, sort of like a particularly rainy South Africa.
"They have their own dialects and don’t speak Gaelic.". Well, bully for them. There are more Polish than Gaelic speakers in Scotland. Indeed, the vast majority of the Scottish people don't speak Gaelic. The point is a complete irrelevance, and at this stage, one begins to wonder if the author has, in fact, ever set foot in Scotland. He seems to imagine it as this Brigadoon land so beloved of Victorians. It isn't. Really.
"They don’t wear the kilt.". Jesus wept. A total and complete irrelevance, patronising and contemptuous. It undermines his whole argument to suggest that the independence of Scotland is somehow about "kilts". It isn't. Really. This is a modern, 21st century society. Kilts are as popular as top hats are in England. A kitschy relic of the past generally worn at weddings and by Prince Philip.
"They have their own flags and distinct identities.". Ok, so the author's point here seems to be that because the islands have their own flags and distinct identities (but no independence movement whatsoever), they ought to be independent of Scotland. Simultaneously, despite Scotland having its own flag and distinct identity (and a pro-independence government), it, er, ought not to be independent of the UK. Be stupid and patronising if you want, but for goodness sake, be consistent.
"And they would prefer remote Westminster to over-close Edinburgh." They expressed this preference in a remarkably odd way, then, voting overwhelmingly (62,4% in Shetland; 57,3% in Orkney) at the last referendum to be governed from Edinburgh than London.
9. It is an article riddled with hope. The hope that if the silly jocks vote for independence, to "throw it all back in our faces", that we will be punished by economic warfare from London. The hope that when we vote for independence, we will lose our northern territories, despite there never being the slightest desire from Lerwick or Kirkwall for either self-government or leaving Scotland (neither an MP, MSP or local councillor is elected on a self-government platform.
But more than anything else, what shines through this pathetic cry of hate, bitterness, contempt and fear is the earnest and apparently genuine hope that after more than three hundred years of Union, what has been achieved is a Scotland too crippled and poor to govern herself.
I would say that's a pretty good advertisement for giving up the Union. For if we couldn't go back to governing ourselves after three hundred years, what sort of condition will the Union have left us in after four hundred.
Mr Mitchinson is, of course, entitled to his opinion. It's just a shame that his opinion is bilious poppycock scored through by hate.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

What have the Constitutional Courts of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium to do with the Referendum?

Not a great deal, one might imagine. 

But the precedent set by a European Economic Community-appointed panel consisting of Roman Herzog (president of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany), Aldo Corasaniti (president of the Constitutional Court of Italy), Franciso Tomás y Valiente (president of the Constitutional Tribunal of Spain) and Irene Petry (president of the Constitutional Court of Belgium) and chaired by Robert Badinter (president of the Constitutional Council of France) at the end of a process lasting between 1991 and 1993 may have some impact on the decision Scots make in nine months time. 

In late 1991 the former British foreign minister Peter Carrington asked several questions pertaining to the then-ongoing situation in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a multi-national European state which was in the process of undergoing secession of several of its member states. 

The most pertinent question asked by Carrington was that if one or more constituent nations seceded from SFR Yugoslavia, did SFR Yugoslavia continue to exist - as claimed by the entities (the Socialist Republic of Serbia, the Socialist Republic of Montenegro, the Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija) which had remained - or alternatively did the international community regard SFR Yugoslavia as dissolved with each republic being an equal successor to the state.

The Commission ruled that

the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia is in the process of dissolution

The Commission further ruled, at the same time, that the international community in general and the EEC (now the European Union) in particular should recognise the independence of the so-called "Republic of Macedonia", the Republic of Slovenia, but not the independence declarations of the Republic of Croatia (citing concerns over a lack of protection for minorities incorporated into the constitution, a deficit was which immediately remedied by president Tuđman and  followed equally swiftly by the recognition of Croatian independence)  or the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina on the grounds that unlike the other seceding Republics, Bosnia-Herzegovina had never held an independence referendum. Ultimately, the horror which subsequently unfolded in Bosnia and Herzegovina - provoked in large part by Arkan, a war criminal who was sponsored by BetterTogether's main funder Ian Taylor - led to a permanent withholding of independence of the Republic, until a merger with the (Croatian) Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia to form the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which subsequently and indisolubly merged with the Republika Srpska to form the modern state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

So far, so straightforward. The precedent set by the European Union is clear and unambiguous, and supported by the Constitutional Courts of the most important European states: a nation which wishes to secede from a multi-national state is entitled to international recognition provided secession has received the consent of the population, regardless of the wishes of the population of the rest of the state outwith the seceding nation. 

Furthermore, subsequent opinions by the Commission considered the problem of State Succession resulting from secession. 

In Scotland, we are constantly and loudly told by the Tory-led Unionist campaign that Scotland's declaration of independence in 2013 (which will be confirmed in a referendum in September this year) means that we will be leaving the United Kingdom, which will carry on as the successor state. They even have a name for it: rUK (I prefer fUK, for "former UK", but appreciate that there are reasons why this may not gain traction in the popular press). 

This - we are told - presents several problems for Scots. We would be thrown out of the European Union (despite the fact independence will be confirmed in September, leaving eighteen months to negotiate continued membership of the EU for one of its richest, most strategically-vital territories. Scotland will not be an independent state until March 2016, and only then could the EU begin moves to expel Scotland. At this point, it is worth noting that when Greenland resigned from the EU in 1979, it took more than six years for its membership to cease. One can only begin to imagine how much longer it would take the EU to expel a state which desires to continue its membership - even if it had the inclination to do so) because we "would not be the successor state".

Given that the Commission (in Opinion 9) considered that the membership of the SFR Yugoslavia in international organisations could not be continued by any of the successor states (FR Yugoslavia (consisting of Kosovo and Metohija, Montenegro, Serbia and Vojvodina), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Fyrom and Slovenia), but with an equitable division of the international assets and obligations of the former SFR Yugoslavia, and new applications for membership by each successor republic to organisations such as the United Nations, FIFA and so on, is it completely inconceivable that, faced with a xenophobic, anti-European government of spivs and bigots in Whitehall, who wish to either withdraw from the EU in its entirety or ignore its raison d'etre of free movement of capital and labour, the EU might choose to regard Scotland as the successor state rather than the former United Kingdom, particularly with a referendum on British secession from the EU on the agenda which is extremely likely to pass (certainly on the basis that pro-EU Scotland will have withdrawn from the UK and be unlikely to have a vote)?

This would simultaneously solve the problem of reluctant British membership of the European Union (they get to leave), and allow Scotland to remain part of it. It would solve a serious problem for Madrid (the government would not be seen to give assent to Scottish membership, allowing it to present its own Catalan problem as the entirely different scenario of a territory of a unitary state, not a nation in a multi-national state, unilaterally seceding). 

If FR Yugoslavia is legally not considered a continuation of SFR Yugoslavia, it is hard to see how fUK could be considered as the legal continuation of the United Kingdom by the same organisation. 

A further precedent which ought to give cheer to pro-democracy campaigners is that of Saint Martin and Saint-Barthélemy in 2007. These two French colonies seceded from Guadeloupe, itself a French colony, and (significantly) an Outermost Region (OMR) of the European Union. An OMR is part of a European Union member state situated outside the European continent but which is comprehensively part of the EU. 

Saint Martin and Saint-Barthélemy were part of the European Union exclusively as a product of their being a part of Guadeloupe (much in the same was that we in Scotland are told today that we are only part of the EU because of our membership of the UK). When they seceded from Guadeloupe, they became OMRs of the EU in their own right.

If Scotland wishes to remain part of the European Union after independence, there is no legal or constitutional barrier in its place. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Why Jack McConnell is an idiot

Yesterday dawned well for, ahem, "The Right Honourable Jack Wilson McConnell, Baron McConnell of Glenscorrodale of the Isle of Arran in Ayrshire and Arran" (for the purposes of brevity, it's probably best to call him "Jack").

"Union Jack" is one of the beneficiaries of the Establishment's method of survival and regeneration whereby every so often it opens up its ranks to outsiders in order to freshen up its gene puddle. Risen from a humble sheep farmer and mathematics teacher, Mr McConnell is a prime example of a man who, through a combination of hard work and good fortune, has "made it". 

His predecessor as First Minister, Henry McLeish, is not "the right sort" for the Lords. He cannot be "relied upon" to fight to preserve the fossilised Establishment. Every so often he goes off-message. He might criticise the Tory-led BetterTogether campaign. 

Mr McConnell is not such a man. He is now a creature of the Establishment. An undeniably successful and skillful politician, he was the last leader of the Labour Party remotely viewable as First Minister. Now created a Senator for Life on a stipend of a cool £300 per day, he is keenly aware that the price of this opening up of the Establishment is his defence of it. 

And there is no more Establishment position than to defend the existence of the Tory State.

Lo, so it came to be that yesterday, a figure who has left active politics and been largely forgotten about by the public exploded back onto the scene with a call for a "political truce" during the referendum. Greeted with mockery and incredulity, it rapidly became a call "not to politicise the Games".

There are two possible reasons for this:

i) Mr McConnell is genuinely concerned at the hijacking of the Commonwealth Games by the independence referendum (perhaps he is scared that the Government will send its Finance Minister to hand out some medals as BetterTogether did?).

ii) The Establishment has noted the "Olympic Bounce" gained by BetterTogether in 2012 and are deeply concerned that a similar "Commonwealth Bounce" will happen this summer - with substantially less time for such an effect to die down before polling day. 

At this point - and with apologies to Mr McConnell for "politicising" the Games - it should be pointed out that at the Commonwealth Games, Scotland competes as an entirely independent entity. And a particularly successful one too - the country is 7th in the all-time medals table despite being only the 21st most populous member state. 

The Unionists are keenly aware that their prospectus to remain under the gentle caress of David Cameron depends largely on Scots believing that Scotland would be a crippled, vestigial place, unable to survive, isolated by the world, with a populace entirely unable to govern themselves. 

They seem to believe that we should be rather like a large turtle which had rolled over onto its back on the beach, simply awaiting the coming of dawn where a flock of birds of prey (the European Union, terrorists, Nato, the Russians etc etc etc) will come and peck away at our belly.

It absolutely does not fit the Unionist world view to have a successful international sporting event held in Scotland. It does not suit them one iota to see an independent Scotland, successful on the global stage. Our flag waving and one of our myriad national anthems playing as our competitors become the best in the world at their events. Smiling faces, and happy children, in full stadia, proud to be Scottish. 

This is, in short, A Bad Thing for those who conspire to prevent Scotland joining the international community. 

A successful Commonwealth Games would be a nightmare for Unionists. Imagine a long summer of contentment followed by visible success for Scotland as an independent entity, concluding mere weeks before Scots go to the polls with Unionists hoping voters will believe we are incapable of being an independent entity.

It is likely, to my mind, that this is the main motivation for Mr McConnell's desperate intervention yesterday. 

It is as stupid as it is hypocritical. I searched in vain yesterday for a similar call from the former First Minister ahead of - or during - the Olympic Games in 2012, the memory of which is rapidly fading, and the end of which will have elapsed more than two years previously by the time the referendum polls open. 

However, I did find a succession of articles and interventions from the Tory-led BetterTogether campaign, which spoke breathlessly of how the relative success of "Team GB" (and how the athletes from the north of Ireland must feel at that appellation) showed that we are Better Together within the UK. They even produced a graphic, showing in which parts of England Scottish gold medalists trained. It appeared to have slipped their notice that the total lack of international-class sports training facilities in Scotland, necessitating young athletes leaving the country, is not the most compelling argument for the largesse of the Union. 

It seems that the achievements of Scottish athletes are ripe for exploitation when it suits the dependentist argument. 

Regardless of the hypocrisy of Unionists in this matter, it is an utter fallacy to suggest that sports and politics should somehow be segregated. 

Late last year, the world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, probably the closest the world has come to a saint since Gandhi. Mandela is, of course, noteworthy for negotiating the end of Apartheid with F.W. de Klerk. But whilst he negotiated the end of Apartheid, it is certainly not true to suggest that he caused it. The minority white government was quite content to shoot, hang, "suicide" and imprison its internal dissidents. What brought about the negotiations to end Apartheid was the international isolation of the Republic of South Africa: and that international isolation was felt no more painfully - particularly by the Afrikaaner community - than in international sporting isolation. For an outdoorsy country which particularly loves cricket and rugby, the loss of sporting contacts, the deprivation of their old rivalries was a devastating blow to the confidence of the Afrikaaners. 

Perhaps Mr McConnell is suggesting that we shouldn't have politicised the nascent Rugby World Cup by banning South Africa for what was, after all, an internal political problem. It seems to me to be a truism to argue that Apartheid would have been, in fact, strengthened by South Africa being permitted to participate in the 1987 World Cup. 

A South African rugby team playing international rugby in New Zealand and Australia is the most natural thing - and one of the greatest spectacles - in the sporting world. Imagine the boost it would have given to P.W. Botha to have been photographed with the all-White Springbok team before it flew east to - almost inevitably, for they had the best team in the world - win the World Cup. 

But the international community said No. The sporting community said No. The rugby world deprived itself, in its first World Cup, of its best team and biggest name, deliberately, to politicise the World Cup. 

Even when Nelson Mandela was released, and Europe hosted the World Cup the next year, the international community still politicised the World Cup. "It is not enough to release Mandela", we insisted, "you must dismantle Apartheid". 

And so they did. 

And is it reasonable to suggest that there would still be Apartheid in South Africa today if the Boers had been able to sit in Ellis Park and watch the Springboks play the best teams in the world as if their country was normal? That F.W. de Klerk would still be prime minister if white people had been able to watch international cricket being played at Newlands? Again - South Africa had one of the best teams in the world at cricket during isolation. 

I don't believe so. Apartheid was creaking, and the economy struggling. But certainly, if the white population had believed that their country was normal, might they have resisted the fall of Apartheid a bit more stringently? Might there have been an ultimately violent confrontation instead of the quasi-miraculous peaceful resolution? I think so. 

The politicisation of sport was a huge part of the dismantling of normality. 

Indeed, the end of British support for Apartheid was partly a consequence of a boycott of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. 

Sport is politics: that's why in the Cold War we had successive Olympic boycotts. Giving the soccer World Cup to Qatar has legitimised the disgusting regime there in the eyes of the world. (It is not difficult to imagine circumstances under which the modern FIFA would award the World Cup to an Apartheid South Africa, had the periods overlapped rather than being separated by a few years). 

Nowhere more is sport political than in Catalunya. The symbol of Catalonia to the world is the might FC Barcelona. It has been a symbol of resistance to Spain for generations. Once the only place where is was possible to speak the Catalan language without fear of arrest by Franco's fascist troops (the Catalan Nó was similar in intent - to oppress a language and a culture - than the Welsh Not, if more brutal), the Spanish champion club now hosts displays and demonstrations of Catalan independence. Its red and gold change strip is not, in fact, a homage to Glasgow's Partick Thistle club, nor the result of a sponsorship deal with wine gums, but a manifestation on the pitch of the Senyera, the Catalan national flag. It is no exaggeration to say that without FC Barcelona as an expression and totemic symbol of Catalanism, the distinct Catalan culture may have been wiped out during the Franco era. Certainly, they wouldn't be having a referendum this year without the public support helped along by politicising sport.

Sport is politics and politics is sport. It is nonsensical to demand that they are separated.

Scottish success in the Commonwealth Games will inspire more Scots than a dozen televised debates between the First Minister and the British prime minister. A successful Scottish sporting team - in any competition - will reach more people than every episode of Scotland Tonight and Newsnight Scotland, even those which include the deputy first minister dismembering yet another Scottish Secretary and feasting greedily on his remains. 

The Unionists know this. And they fear it. 

The writing is on the wall for a campaign which has tried to present Scotland as a pathetic nation, unable to be the equal of the independent nations of the world. 

The grafitti on the wall says Yes. 

And when you listen to Union Jack's calls for the pro-Scotland campaign not to mention one of our greatest assets - the success of Scotland in an international context - remember just one thing: Jack McConnell does not want this referendum to take place at all. He, and his ilk in the Labour Party, wants Scotland's future to be chosen by the political class instead of the working class. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

Don't Separate, Don't Split, Don't Think, Just Trust Labour

We're not to vote to govern ourselves now because, you see, it's all OK. 

Labour, the munificent fount of all that is great about the benevolence of the British government are going to look after us. They'll see us alright. It'll all be grand. 

If we trust Labour, they'll give us extra powers. 

Notwithstanding the inalienable fact, of course, that the last time we trusted Labour enough not to deliver a resounding Yes vote to Home Rule, we didn't get more powers, but eighteen years of vicious Tory rule. 

In 1979, the clear majority of those who voted (1.230.937 to 1.153.500) voted Yes. Only - only - because the Labour Party made a conscious, malicious and vindictive decision to count the votes of those who died or did not vote as No votes did Scotland fail to achieve Home Rule then. It was a model that a young Robert Mugabe, then a dissident leader in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, retained for future reference.

Enough people trusted Labour and their fellow members of the Establishment to vote No that we couldn't outweigh the "votes" of the dead. Labour told us then that we ought to vote No to Home Rule because they would deliver more powers to us with a No vote than a Yes vote would. 

Sound familiar?

The chairman of one of the "grassroots No campaign branches" in that referendum was one Johann McDougal Lamont. 

Sound familiar?

Johann Lamont opposed Home Rule then. She tells us anew today, as she opposes today's move to Home Rule, the same lies as she told in 1979: that a vote to be run from London gives us more powers than Home Rule by the people who live and work here. 

Johann Lamont is opposed to devolution. Why on earth would you even begin to trust her, particularly with the events of 1979 fresh in your mind, to deliver more powers to Scotland if we give away our only leverage against the British Establishment? I wouldn't trust Johann Lamont to deliver a note to my ma, never mind deliver extra powers to the people of Scotland. 

And even if you were to trust that her heart was true and she genuinely intended to deliver extra powers, how on earth could she? She isn't the leader of her party, merely the person who selects the front bench out of that deep, wide pool of Scotland's brightest and best minds, sitting eagerly on the Labour Party benches at Holyrood. Her party is an irrelevance, constitutionally, in power neither in London nor in Edinburgh. The Scottish Labour politican with the most political power anywhere in the world today is the mayor of Tower Hamlets. 

The last time we trusted No-hann Lamont that a No vote would deliver more powers, she instead delivered two decades of Thatcherism. 

It reminds me of the tale Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells of European settlement in Africa. "We had the land, and they came with Bibles", he would say, "and they told us to close our eyes and pray. And we opened our eyes, and we had the Bible, and they had the land". 

Scotland had shipyards, it had manufacturing, it had industry, it had coalmines, it had Ravenscraig, it had Linwood. 

And then Johann got her No vote. 

And what were the extra powers we got? 

The power to sit and watch impotently as the shipyards were closed - by the British government. As our industry was devastated - by the British government. As our manufacturing disappeared - at the hands of the British government. As our coalmines were mothballed - by the British government. As Ravenscraig fell in a cloud of dust and tears - thanks to the British government. As Linwood moved seamlessly from pride of the Scottish motor industry to the capital city of the Republic of Unemployment. 

We're gradually recovering from eighteen years of Thatcherism. 

And now, Johann Lamont comes, once again, to spit her hate of Scotland, to bare her teeth at anyone who dares to "dream different dreams". To abuse those who dare to jeopardise her ultimate ambition of a seat in the Commons, followed in short order by the sussuration of ermine being draped around her shoulders.

We trusted her in 1979 and look what we got. 

If we trust her in 2014, we know what we'll get. George Osborne has made it clear: Scottish Old Age Pensioners will be stripped of their paltry winter fuel allowance (whilst filth like Margaret Curran have their fingers in the till to the tune of £600 to heat the sumptious villa which serves as her second home and to which none of her consituents can ever aspire). Scottish grannies will have the bus pass torn from their gnarled hands and forced to walk to the doctors surgery, which will charge them £10 and then give them a prescription they can't use anyway, because they can't afford the charges Lamont is on record as wanting to introduce. 

The Labour Party, particularly in Scotland, tell us "don't be silly and govern yourselves. Let Labour do it for you. Haven't we been so good to you?"

And haven't they indeed.

We are to trust that the Labour Party - which has managed to govern for a mere 33 of the 307 years of the UK - will not only manage to win power with the goonish, incompetent Ed Miliband as their candidate for prime minister, but will do things for us which are worth throwing away our right to govern ourselves. 

Out of that cumulative 33 years, I can only think of three massive, society-changing things they've done for Scots:

1) The minimum wage
2) The National Health Service
3) The Welfare State

We know that George Osborne and Ian Duncan Smith are currently dismantling the Welfare State - with the support of Labour's Johann Lamont, who would rather divert money from such undeserving causes as working mothers to people who really need it like Alistair Darling (who systematically defrauded the public out of £70.000 over a period of years). 

We also know that the Tories are privatising the NHS in England - and that our NHS is only safe from privatisation precisely  because it is separate. We know, further, that Labour desire to abolish the independence of NHS Scotland in order to have a unified, UK-wide health system. And do we think that this means investment in the UK NHS will rise to match Scottish levels; or will it mean that investment in the Scottish NHS will fall to match UK levels? I think I need not waste time in answering, in this time of neo-Thatcherism and Lamontism.

So we're left with the minimum wage. 

That's it.

That's Labour's big pitch. We've to trust Labour because they've been so good to us. 

Fall for Lamont's lies, again. Vote No, again. And we'll be rewarded by a minimum wage which is 20% less than the minimum sum needed to live on. And we might even get to keep it. As long as both of these variables hold true for all time: 

i) The Tories aren't in power and decide to axe it; and
ii) The Labour Party don't completely abrogate any sense of socialist principles by - as they've done for thirteen out of their thirty-three cumulative years in office (or FORTY PER CENT of their total time in office) - choosing to adhere to the Tory spending plans.

Yeah, sounds like a good deal, doesn't it?

Saturday, 4 January 2014

One Direction

We're often told that Scots should not vote for independence because that would, somehow, "abandon" our friends in England, Wales and the north of Ireland to perpetual Tory domination. 

Bizarrely, this is often parroted by elected Labour representatives in Scotland, clearly convinced that Ed Miliband is a catastrophic leader who is fundamentally unable to persuade the good people of the Home Counties of the dubious merits of his case for being British prime minister. 

They never, however, seem to argue in their manifesto for a federal Europe. Presumably the SPD-voting denizens of Hamburg and Bremen are not to be saved from a third term of Merkelism by the tender mercies of Jackie Baillie; nor do Labour appear to believe that Norway and Bulgaria should merge in order to ensure that the left-wing voting people of Finnmark are governed by Plamen Oresharsky instead of Erna Solberg. 

Setting aside:

i) the utterly anti-democratic position of the Labour Party in this regard, that the people of England, Wales and the north of Ireland shouldn't get the government they vote for, but the "right" - i.e. the Labour Party - government, and;

ii) the fact that in the entire 307-year history of the United Kingdom, Scottish votes have turned a Conservative majority into a Labour majority on one single occasion (Harold Wilson's 1964 government, which lasted less than two years);

it is an argument which is specious balderdash. 

Left-wing voters in Scotland - of which there is a clear majority - cannot get the government we vote for. Even if 100% of our voters vote for a Left-wing government, we can still get a Thatcherite government. This is not the case with the rest of the United Kingdom: given the paltry turnouts, a 40% vote by English voters for the Left is likely to return a Left-wing government. 

The fact is, however, that politics in the United Kingdom - and particularly in England - are moving inexorably to the Right at a frantic, and frankly terrifying, pace. 

Today, the Labour Party pretend to be concerned at a cost of living crisis. There is no cost of living crisis for its MPs, such as Margaret Curran, who greedily demanded £600 to heat her second home while pensioners in Easterhouse freeze to death. There is no cost of living crisis for Alistair Darling, who embarked on a deliberate, sustained campaign of fraud and theft from the public purse, having his fingers in the till to the tune of £70 000. 

But what is the Labour Party's response to the crisis? Are they going to impose rent controls? Are they going to fix prices (as a mark of how far British politics has moved to the Right, the February 1974 Conservative Manifesto advocated price controls as a reasonably middle-ground proposition - something which is now viewed as dangerously Left-wing by the motley collection of privately-educated nincompoops, Tory peers' daughters, and middle-class tarts like Richard Baker who currently comprise the Labour Party's elected caucus) or nationalise the public transport system so that people no longer see their wages transfer almost in their entirety from their employer to the speculators and embezzlers who make up the railway operators, barely touching their own purse in between?

No. You see, that would "alienate" the voters in the south-east. It might frighten the Home Counties. The shire gentry would never stand for it. So Labour's big idea to alleviate the cost of living crisis is to reduce - temporarily - energy bills by £4.17. 

And that's it. That's the big division between Labour and the Tories. £4.17. No nationalisation, no transfer of the means of production from spivs to workers. The only difference is as they pull each other's hair, kicking each other's shins, in a frantic attempt to get further to the right of the U.K.I.P. than the other, showing how "tough on immigrants, tough on the causes of immigrants" they are. 

It is entirely conceivable that at the next General Election, the Liberal Democrats will be wiped out to be the sort of rump that goes sadly for tea and reminiscences with the Ulster Unionist Party. We already know that Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs don't believe Miliband can win. So the prospect before us is of a Conservative/U.K.I.P. coalition: a bedroom-taxing, immigrant-bashing, benefits-removing, NHS-privatising, EU-leaving, student-charging, bank-bailing, arms-selling gang of thugs, thieves, spivs and criminals. 

And the sad thing? Scottish Labour won't be too disappointed. Because they're never truly in Opposition. Sure, they mightn't be eligible for ministerial positions, but the money still rolls in from their expenses frauds, their cute bending of the rules, their second jobs (no conflict of interest, guv), their outright thefts, the committee chair sinecures. 

British politics is going in one direction: to the Right. Every Westminster party is either complicit in it, or content to keep it going that way. 

We can escape. And we should escape. And if the people of another country are too stupid to revolt and get rid of their government, then damn them. It's not our problem any more.