Basic Arguments for Independence

I think one of the key reasons why the Yes campaign failed to build a compelling case for independence in 2014 is that, rather than spending time trying to bring the fundamental issues with our place in the UK into sharper focus, they got too hung up on trying to offer counter arguments to a series of challenging questions raised by the No campaign.

Of course these questions had to be dealt with; however, they were highly tactical, and they had the desired effect of creating sufficient doubt in the minds of those who may have voted for independence otherwise. It will be vitally important not to get drawn into that particular language game again.

This time around the temptation to place too much emphasis on the point that Scotland should not be forced out of the EU against our will, should be resisted. Of course it is important, but it makes it too easy to counter that with facts and figures about voting intentions and patterns across the two different referenda, doubts about whether an independent Scotland’s accession to the EU would be drawn out and fraught with difficulties, and why you would chose to reclaim sovereignty from one union and then give it away again to another (as if the unions were of the same ilk).

We should also resist the temptation to focus too much on questions like which ‘single market’ is more important to the Scottish economy; what the GERS figures apparently tell us about the state of Scotland’s finances as a region of the UK and what they could tell us about the fiscal position of Scotland as an independent country with full control over its economy; and which currency an independent Scotland would use?

These are all important questions. However they are rooted in a deeper set of issues which need to be looked at first. Therefore, in my view, the argument for Scottish independence needs to be based around a discussion of the following issues, and their consequences for the people of Scotland –

First, the issue of Scotland’s permanent democratic deficit, the effect of which has been hammered home by Westminster’s handling of the outcome of the EU referendum, captured in the Tory Prime Minister’s patronising insistence that ‘we leave the EU as a United Kingdom’, and her Secretary of State for Scotland’s angry assertion that ‘it doesn’t matter what the people of Scotland want’.

Second, the constitutional irrelevance of the Scottish Parliament, despite the Sewel Convention, which was brutally exposed in the judgement that absolute authority in decisions of fundamental importance to Scotland lies with Westminster alone – no need to consult the Scottish Parliament on how Westminster plans to strip the Scottish people of their EU citizenship and the freedoms and rights which that citizenship vests in them (after all, as we were told by the leader of the Scottish Labour Party in 2014, the people of Scotland ‘are not genetically programmed to make political decisions’).

Third, the opportunity for the people of Scotland to exercise their fundamental right of self-determination being dependent on legal permission being granted by Westminster. It just sounds utterly incredible that a nation can have this right denied to them on the whim of a Government sitting in a neighbouring nation, just because that neighbouring nation’s superior population size voted to go in a different direction, and therefore the timing doesn’t suit them as they pursue their own agenda, arguing that it needs to be our agenda too!

Fourth, the Block Grant and Barnet Formula are deeply embedded in the Scottish psyche as necessary life support mechanisms – we have come to be believe that we need them to be in place because we spend more on public services than we raise, that we are subsidised by England, and that we cannot afford to be independent.

Rather than see that they are contrived political tools used to massage the strains of forcing four nations to stay together in a union of highly unequal economies – in which the largest one needs to manipulate and control the economies of the smaller ones in order to safeguard every competitive advantage possible – we have been trained to see them in a way that reinforces our belief in our inability to run our own affairs as a fiscally autonomous country.

Scotland’s growth and confidence as a nation will be forever stunted, and its voice forever silenced, because of this undemocratic and unequal union. The union that holds the four nations of the UK together is, in my view, economically too restrictive, politically too centralised, institutionally too corrupt, constitutionally too archaic, and globally too inward, to be anything but detrimental to Scotland’s ability to reach its full potential.

 

 

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Why Theresa May is saying ‘No, not now’

Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May have both taken big gambles. The former in advising that she will seek permission for an independence referendum within the next two years, perhaps earlier than she would have wanted; and the latter in advising that she will reject any such request due to the timing of it, potentially fuelling more support for the very thing she wants to prevent.

Sturgeon is insisting that the people of Scotland need to make a decision on independence and membership of the EU before being forced to leave with the rest of the UK; whereas May’s concern is that this would impact on her ability to get the best possible deal for the whole of the UK in her negotiations with the EU, which Scotland is leaving, regardless how the people of Scotland voted.

It seems to me that underlying Theresa May’s refusal to budge on this issue is the very challenging question of whether Scotland’s 1999 devolution settlement would have looked different, and indeed whether we would have had any form of devolution at all, had the UK not been part of the EU at that time.

That we would have had a different settlement, or no settlement at all, appears to explain her position that when powers are returned to the UK on leaving the EU – for example aspects of fisheries and agriculture – there needs to be a decision made on where these returning powers should sit.

That decision, according to May, needs to be weighted towards a whole of UK solution, even if it would seem more in keeping with the current devolution settlement and its conventions that they were transferred to the devolved administrations.

So despite the damage it will do, Theresa May needs to do whatever she can to block independence before Brexit, because the UK Government needs unobstructed access to all those powers that are deemed necessary to negotiate new relationships for the UK that would not have been possible, or even necessary, as members of the EU.

A UK solution will be determined by which new trade deals we can agree, and what our new trading partners will demand from us; the most beneficial, or even just the legally consistent, repositioning of powers for any of the devolved nations of the UK will simply not come into the equation.

This is a threat to the devolution settlement, to the future of the Scottish Parliament, and therefore also to any prospect of independence. What would happen if the demands placed on the UK by the new relationships Theresa May is seeking meant that certain other devolved powers eventually had to be relocated back to Westminster temporarily, or even permanently, in order to achieve the best UK wide solution?

Where would this stop? Ultimately, it could lead to the permanent dissolution of the Scottish Parliament on the grounds that Westminster needed control over all powers for the benefit of the whole of the UK (which, after all, Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014).

Voting to leave the EU in 2016, and the Supreme Court’s decision that the devolved administrations do not need to be consulted on triggering Article 50, has highlighted that the Sewel Convention was worthless, and that the devolution settlement was designed as it was, not because it was the best settlement for Scotland’s future, but simply because the UK Government had no pressing need for certain powers to be reserved at the time, as a member of the EU, and with full access to its markets.

The manner in which the UK Government is handling this situation must send a chilling warning to Scotland that had the UK not been in the EU at all, devolution may not have happened in the first place; and had devolution not happened, we would not have had an independence referendum in 2014, and we could not even contemplate the possibility of another one, ever again. This is where Theresa May wants us to be, and why she is saying ‘no, not now’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My EU citizenship is worth at least four times more to me than my UK citizenship

Among many others – currency again being the obvious one – there are two arguments against Scottish independence that have come to the fore recently in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the UK Government’s subsequent decision that this means leaving the single market too. They are worth brief consideration.

The first argument is this. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are worth approximately £49Bn. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the EU are worth approximately £12Bn. Therefore, continued access to the UK single market (made up term) is worth four times more than continued access to the EU single market.

Now, if it really is the case that Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are worth four times their exports to the rest of the EU, then it would appear foolish for the Scottish Government to want to remove itself from the former union in favour of the latter.

Or at least, that’s how unionist politicians would put it. However, I think it is important to be very cautious with this comparison. Dig beneath the headline figures and it is no longer as clear cut.

First, it is not clear in this statistic how many Scottish exports to the rest of the UK are then sold on to the rest of the EU anyway; nor is it clear how many of these exports have to follow this route for UK taxation purposes, which means that as a mere region of the UK, Scotland has no choice but to export in this manner. This skews the figures.

Second, the four to one ratio means very little without understanding how many of the companies in the rest of the UK receiving Scottish exports are themselves dependent, for their very existence, on their own access to the EU single market. Take that away, and it is no longer clear that their demand for Scottish exports would continue to the same extent.

Third, would the rest of the UK really stop importing from Scotland if Scotland were to leave the UK and join the EU as its own state? Highly unlikely, given that Theresa May has set herself the objective of securing an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU. Scotland could not be excluded from this.

The second argument is about the apparent contradiction that lies at the heart of the SNP’s position. Why would Scotland choose to regain its sovereignty from the UK and then immediately hand it over to the EU? Again, on the surface, this would appear to have weight. There would be no point whatsoever in doing this, especially given the ‘four to one’ market ratios and the turmoil that would ensue.

However, this argument deliberately muddles the type of relationship that the Scottish Government has with the UK, as a region with limited devolved powers protected by what has now turned out to be a worthless convention, and the type of relationship it would have with the EU, independent of the UK, as a fully competent state.

To me, the point is this. As things stand, Scotland’s place within the UK means that the Scottish Government cannot legislate on issues of fundamental importance to the structure of our society, such as immigration, foreign policy and defence; for example, Scotland could not decide to rid itself of the nuclear weapons it hosts on behalf of the UK, because the UK Government simply would not let this happen. If Scotland were to leave the UK in favour of the EU, there would be no such interference.

Given the direction in which the UK has been travelling for quite some time now, obsessed with fulfilling the xenophobic wishes of its right wing elites, desperate to lead the free world again with Trump’s America, and as always, totally fixated on ridding Scotland of all but its most mundane political ambitions, my EU citizenship is worth at least four times more to me than my UK citizenship ever will be again.

Why would I want to give that up?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dylan’s Nobel Prize and My 20 Favourites

I was absolutely delighted to hear that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

As a tribute, I tried to compile my top ten favourite Dylan songs. I would think that these songs may have contributed to the judgement that Dylan created new poetic expression.

I couldn’t stop at ten. So here are my 20 favourites:

 

Boots of Spanish leather

Queen Jane Approximately

Girl from the Red River Shore

Visions of Johanna

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

Shelter from the Storm

It takes a lot to laugh it takes a Train to Cry

Chimes of Freedom

She Belongs to Me

To Ramona

Changing of the Guards

Sara

Desolation Row

Born in Time

Jokerman

Tangled up in Blue

Simple Twist of Fate

Brownsville Girl

Senor

Kingsport Town

 

 

 

 

Hermetically Sealed Sovereignty

The Tory party’s outrageous proposal that employers produce a list of immigrant workers was, according to Amber Rudd, simply put forward as one among many of the tools available to encourage people ‘into better behaviour’, as a means of ‘flushing out’ companies that did not make sufficient effort to recruit locally trained people.

Whether it is one tool among many or not, the implication that positively discriminating on the grounds of ethnic origin is a manifestation of better behaviour, is a vile nod to historical British attitudes that were once commonplace – before Europe helped open our eyes – and a sanctimonious wink to fellow right wing elites who clearly believe that fomenting the same again today among sufficient swathes of the population has been good and just.

Behind this lies a foolish and misguided ambition to achieve what will transpire to be a deeply ugly, hermetically sealed sovereignty.

How ironic it is that one of the more hurtful accusations (inaudible mumbles) against supporters of Scottish independence in 2014 was that their fundamental outlook was informed by blood and soil nationalism, and that independence would inevitably pull up the draw bridge on Scotland’s involvement with the rest of the world.

When the question of independence is put back on the table, whether the Scottish economy as it stands – embedded within, and ultimately shaped to suit, the United Kingdom economy – would be in the best shape or not to embrace independence, should no longer carry the same weight.

What matters more now, as it already did to those who supported independence in 2014 anyway, is that our fundamental values, indeed our very way of life, are at risk.

I see it as no recompense that triumphant right wing nationalists will have restored full sovereignty to Westminster, because I am terrified what they will do with it. And I feel absolutely no kinship whatsoever with those who revel in discriminating against immigrants to achieve that power and authority.

 

Theresa May’s Precious Union and Arthur Schopenhauer’s Blind Giant

May, Hammond and Mundell have all made it perfectly clear.

They are deeply passionate about our ‘precious, precious union’ and they have a firm belief that Scotland’s future is best served within the United Kingdom, outside of the European Union. Simply put, as part of the UK, it would be ‘quite fanciful’ for Scotland to negotiate its own way in the world.

So herein lies the problem with their passion: having made it clear that it would not be possible for Scotland to remain in the UK and the EU at the same time, their passion must be regarded as a domineering, controlling and possessive type of passion. It is a passion that blinds them to the diverging beliefs and the deepening disunities within, and a passion that will drive them to destroy the very thing they think they hold so dear.

Arthur Schopenhauer might have described the UK as a blind, blundering giant, driven on by an insatiable will to power, carrying a small man on his shoulders who can see; the giant does this, not because he believes this is the best place for the small man to be, nor out of love because the small man can’t walk on his own, but because the blind giant cannot walk on his own, and therefore refuses to let him go.

May, Hammond and Mundell have made their position perfectly clear.

Thankfully, so has Scotland this time.

Indy Ref 2: Unjustified and Irresponsible?

Ruth Davidson thinks that calls for a second Scottish independence referendum, in response to the UK voting to leave the EU, are utterly unjustified and completely irresponsible.

Utterly unjustified, because 2 million Scots voting to remain the UK in 2014 is not cancelled out by 1.6 million voting to remain in the EU in 2016; completely irresponsible, because it adds even more uncertainty to an already very uncertain situation.

I think this tells us more about Davidson’s commitment to tory party politics than her commitment to what the majority of Scotland voted for – to remain in the EU.

True, we must acknowledge Davidson’s underlying point that Scotland did not vote to remain in the EU as an independent country. The majority of people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU, as part of a UK wide referendum. Therefore a second Scottish independence referendum would indeed appear to be unjustified.

However, the argument is weak. When Scotland voted to remain in the UK, the UK was part of the EU. Just as Scotland did not vote to remain in the EU outside of the UK in 2016, Scotland did not vote to remain in the UK outside the EU in 2014. Therefore the argument has changed fundamentally, and a second Scottish independence referendum, assuming there is sufficient support for it, must be justified by that

Furthermore, and quite perversely, Davidson is trying to steal an early march on the anti-independence fear campaign by suggesting that calls for a second independence referendum are completely irresponsible, when it was her own divided party that got us into this mess in the first place.

As David Cameron hummed his way out of Downing Street today, he will know that he was completely irresponsible in tabling the EU referendum as a means of silencing the tory euro sceptics once and for all. He took a reckless gamble on the future of two unions he claimed to care deeply about.

So with justification, and with responsibility, we must ask whether the utterly different UK we live in today still offers the optimum social, political and economic conditions for Scotland’s future, or whether our future interests would be better served elsewhere.

There are times when the only path out of uncertainty is itself uncertain.

This is one of those times.

 

 

Aggression, with Impunity

I am sure that there was nothing sinister going on in 2002, when the Rome Statute came into force and the members of the International Criminal Court could not reach an agreement on the definition of Crime of Aggression.

It wasn’t until 2010 that an agreement was reached, and it will not be until after January 2017 that the Court will be able to exercise jurisdiction over this crime, defined as ‘the use of armed force by one State against another State without the justification of self-defence or authorization by the Security Council’.

Unfortunately (or thankfully, if you happen to be Tony Blair), this law will not be retroactive. It could have been the only means of enabling prosecution. Perhaps, and charitably assuming that this multi-millionaire has been wrestling with guilt, regret and shame ever since he took the decision to side with Bush whatever, Blair’s own conscience will achieve what the law cannot.

He must also recognise, despite attempting to minimise the link, that his decision to join the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003 ‘to bring about regime change’, not only left that country facing a deeply insecure and troubled future, but was one of the key triggers for the unstoppable global growth in Islamist terrorism.

Not to mention the completely unnecessary waste of innocent lives, and the permanent emotional and psychological damage in those left behind. All caused by Blair’s utterly foolish and unforgiveable judgement to side with Bush unconditionally, and the subsequent misrepresentation of facts to parliament to justify their imminent act of aggression.

It is not obvious why a consensus could not be reached on the definition of Crime of Aggression until 2010. Nor is it obvious why Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, felt compelled to contribute to the myth that Britain should be proud of its legacy in Iraq, at a ceremony in 2009 to mark the official end of Britain’s mission there.

Perhaps the answers lie somewhere in the gap between the absolute power that certain people have to manipulate world affairs, and the powerlessness of others who are used as instruments in that process.

Elite power does not stop at the ability to force regime change in countries of strategic importance.

It extends to controlling the law to enable such things to happen with impunity.

 

 

 

Which Union do we Value more?

I think the outcome of last week’s EU referendum has made the people of Scotland reflect on a number of things that matter greatly to this nation. In particular, it has forced us to reconsider our place within the United Kingdom, and whether we value that union more or less than we value our place within the European Union.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU has yet again hammered home the consequences of Scotland’s permanent democratic deficit, and left us in no doubt whatsoever about the utter powerlessness of the Scottish Parliament with regards to matters of constitutional significance across the United Kingdom.

That Scotland now faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU, despite choosing overwhelmingly to remain, because a majority of people in England voted to leave, is unfair and undemocratic; not to mention an appalling abuse of our rights to have our EU citizenship removed, after we have chosen to endorse and retain it.

Perhaps one of the most outrageous factors in the UK’s decision to leave the EU is that the winning argument, and to an extent the losing argument as led by the UK Government, was built on misleading statements, dire warnings, and downright lies.

Furthermore, it is difficult not to be concerned by the fact that many people who voted to leave did not do so on the basis of sound political, economic and social reasons – they couldn’t have done, for the truth was blurred and facts hidden by both sides. There were not too many who understood the intricate details behind the question we were asked, nor the real and lasting consequences of the decision we have taken.

Rather, many were consumed by a backward-looking sense of British exceptionalism, and some voted on the basis of an ugly and irrational hatred of immigrants – they were led to believe that leaving the EU would restore the former in all its glory and decisively deal with the latter.

That this has been forced on Scotland is in no small part due to the majority of people of in Scotland voting against independence in 2014, although some people did so because they believed that it would be the only way of guaranteeing our continued place in the EU.

Putting that to the side, within the UK it is crystal clear that Scotland’s views do not matter. We simply do not have the numbers required to influence this type of decision. And even if the Scottish parliament tried to exert its devolved authority on matters concerning the Scottish legal system by refusing to repeal EU law in Scotland, the absolute sovereignty of Westminster would allow the UK government to overrule that.

In the meantime, the power vacuum in Westminster is quite concerning. Cameron resigned in order not to be the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU, and in order to avoid being the Prime Minister whose actions consequently led to the dissolution of the UK; the opposition party is in disarray, and rather alarmingly, the Leave group appear to have no idea what to do next.

They do seem clear, however, that they want to negotiate continued access to the single market and to keep free movement, and so have effectively sold millions of people a dummy.

Privately, there must be a great deal of regret in Westminster. It wouldn’t surprise me if the UK government were not holding out for a last minute deal from the EU to remain after all, something like the Vow, or for a snap general election to be held, which could potentially be won on a party mandate to remain in the EU, superceding the ‘advisory’ referendum we have just had.

Whilst the rest of the UK scratches its head trying to work out what to do about the mess it has created, the people of Scotland must be hugely relieved that we have a strong leader who is prepared to stand up and take control of the situation, determined to fight for the outcome this country voted for.

The next thing we need to do is vote for Scottish independence, in order to distance ourselves from the backward-looking sense of British exceptionalism, irrational hatred of immigrants, and hard right-wing political thinking that appears to be tightening its cruel, callous and corrupt grip across large swathes of the rest of the UK, with which we have no affinity.

Lies, Meaningless Slogans and Contradictory Claims (EU Debate)

Had I relied on the information made available to us throughout the political debate to decide which way to vote in tomorrow’s EU Referendum, I would be utterly confused.

Instead, I will need to go with my instinct because both sides have worked tirelessly to obscure the truth.

They have taken advantage of the fact that the majority of us do not understand the finer details of the United Kingdom’s role within the European Union and how that supranational state is internally organised, nor how our membership actually benefits us, or otherwise.

They have attempted to create confusion with meaningless slogans and contradictory claims from the outset, and have been determined to keep it going until the final day, with each side calling the other side liars, whilst hoping that their own lies are more believable than the other’s!

They have worked on the basis that lies, told with absolute conviction, by a rabble of elite Oxbridge graduates in Savile Row suits and ermine robes, elaborately spun and unfalteringly repeated, often take on the appearance of truth to those who have not had the privilege of their education and political training.

Regrettably, this was a genuine opportunity to learn something about the European Union and the United Kingdom’s role within it, and to make an informed decision about this country’s future, that has been exploited for individual gain.

The problem is, the ordinary man in the street could be left paying a very hefty price indeed – whether for deciding to leave the EU without a clear vision of how the UK might rebuild its economy in the aftermath; or for remaining with reluctance, and demanding special exemptions from some of the fundamental principles that all other members embrace.

 

 

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