Tag Archives: Alistair darling

Questions For Darling

In what respect is it better for Scotland that the people who live and work here do not have the right to make every key decision that affects the way we live our lives in this country?

Why is it better for Scotland that we have a permanent democratic deficit with respect to UK Government elections and are never guaranteed to get the UK Government that we choose?

Why is it better for Scotland that the Westminster Parliament holds absolute sovereignty over Scotland and the Scottish Parliament remains a non-permanent institution that could be abolished in a matter of days if the UK Government decided it wanted to do so?

Why is it better for the people of Scotland that billions upon billions of pounds are wasted annually on weapons of mass destruction and fighting illegal wars, rather than tackling child poverty, homelessness and creating meaningful and long term employment opportunities for school leavers, graduates and the rest of our workforce?

Why is it better that the people of Scotland are subject to the UK Government’s stigmatising, destructive and socially divisive welfare and immigration policies, rather than being able to shape our own immigration policies to suit our different demographic profile and economic needs, and our own socially inclusive and universal approach to welfare?

Why is it better for the people of Scotland that the UK Government dictates that Trident is kept in Scottish waters against our will and within close proximity of Scotland’s largest city?

Why is it better for the people of Scotland that we are forced to subsidise the cost of major UK infrastructure projects such as HS2 when the majority of the benefit will be reaped by the City of London, whilst corporation and income tax are effectively rendered optional for multinational businesses and the wealthy elite?

How can it be better for Scotland that the UK government exploited Scotland’s oil wealth to subsidise UK debt and failed to invest a single penny of it in a fund to create a more prosperous future for the people of Scotland?  

In what sense is it better for the people of Scotland that our key decisions are taken for us by a government that has a track record of deceiving the people of Scotland with regard to its oil resources, used Scotland as a guinea pig for unpopular Tory policies and cheated the people of Scotland out of home rule in 1979?

If invited, would you be willing to help negotiate the terms of separation from the UK in the event that Scotland decides to become an independent country, and if so which currency option would you consider to be the right one for an independent Scotland if, as you insist, a currency union is guaranteed not to happen?

Why did David Cameron make a sneaky visit to Shetland this month?  





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How to Defeat Independence with a Joke and an Inaudible Mumble

Alistair Darling and Blair McDougall should hang their heads in shame this morning, mindful not to let their Dunce caps slip off in the process.

Alistair Darling should do so because he likened the leader of the only democratically elected Government in the United Kingdom to North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong-il.

And Blair McDougall should join him because he happily promoted Darling’s New Statesman interview, in which he was also reported to have said that the SNP represented not civic nationalism, but ‘blood and soil’ nationalism.

It doesn’t matter that the comment attributed to Darling was subsequently corrected by the New Statesman. What matters is that the Campaign Director for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom, McDougall, promoted the original version of the interview on Twitter, in which it appeared that Darling had made that comment.

Having corrected that part of the interview by attributing the ‘blood and soil’ comment to the interviewer in the form of a question, with Darling replying ‘At heart…’ followed by an ‘Inaudible Mumble’, we are left wondering exactly what he did say in response to the ‘blood and soil’ comment and why this blunder was allowed to happen in this first place.

And apparently, Darling comparing the First Minister of Scotland with the North Korean Dictator was simply poking fun at Alex Salmond’s comment on UKIP winning a European Parliament seat in Scotland, courtesy of English television beaming them into our homes every evening – ‘it was a joke, and should be treated as such’, according to a spokesman for Better Together.

In other words, the interview consisted of a joke and an inaudible mumble – and that would appear to be the basis on which the people of Scotland should be persuaded to reject the right to make all of their own decisions.

Many of the arguments churned out by the Better Together campaign are nothing short of nonsense, and ridiculous interviews by twits like this only serve to remind us that they should be treated as such.

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Nietzsche Versus Darling on Scottish Independence

The philosophical concept of eternal recurrence is a complex one. Friedrich Nietzsche used it to put forward an interesting hypothesis about the existential plight of human beings.

His aim was to capture the idea that we could be forever locked into a fatalistic cycle of continually recurring events. There are times when life comes close to feeling like that; most of the time British politics feels exactly like that – the former Chancellor, Alistair Darling might be able to shed some light on that.

But first Nietzsche, who invited us to imagine how awful and frightening it would be to suddenly realise that everything that had already happened to us in this world would happen over and over again, down to the minutest detail, with no variation and no opportunity to escape.

In Nietzsche’s fatalistic scenario, it would take an exceptional person to recognise that this is what human existence was like. Rather than fall into a state of despair, his superior strength of mind would enable him to embrace eternal recurrence and learn to love his fate.

We don’t need to be fatalists nowadays to appreciate why eternal recurrence might actually seem like a comforting idea to many people. Not necessarily in a metaphysical sense, but in an everyday sense that captures the belief that our core patterns of social, political and economic exchange ought to be reliable, predictable and guaranteed to be in place again tomorrow.

It would be entirely natural to feel a sense of dread when trying to imagine what it would be like if these predictable patterns were suddenly disrupted for good. And in the event that there were insufficient detail available to understand exactly how that disruption would affect our lives, our fears would start to fall quite neatly into the gaps opened up by our unconstrained imaginings.

This is how Scottish independence is depicted in some quarters, with a great deal being made about the horrible uncertainty that would follow. Alistair Darling invited us to imagine how awful and frightening it would be to buy a one-way ticket to an uncertain destination. And despite his disastrous spell in charge of the United Kingdom’s bank balance, he still tries hard to spook us about the turbulent and troubled world we would be inviting into our lives if we voted against the absolute certainty of the union.

But rather than run away from it, it is actually worth remembering there is an important place for uncertainty in our lives: exceptional outcomes are often achieved when a major change comes along to shock us out of our old routines.

The psychological discomfort that accompanies major change, and the feeling of uncertainty it creates, can be the catalyst for unexpected growth, whether for an individual previously afraid to deviate from an established routine, or for a nation hitherto not even permitted that basic right.

Unlike the set up in Nietzsche’s fatalistic landscape, and despite Darling’s apocalyptic warnings, it is perfectly possible, and highly desirable, that the ordinary man in the street should disrupt the eternally recurring political manoeuvres that continually conspire to have a detrimental effect on Scottish society.

Of course, and with Thatcherism to one side, it is not that these manoeuvres were purposely designed to damage Scotland, or other parts of the United Kingdom for that matter; far from it. It is rather that the absolute supremacy of Westminster, and the London centric policies its politicians are slave to, means that we will be unable to maximise the potential of our natural resources for the benefit of our people for as long as we remain locked into this rigid union.

There is something to be said for embracing uncertainty, particularly when the certainty we are being urged to stick with is for the benefit of a union that has gone so far down a one way track that it can do nothing else now, other than feed its powerful and insatiable economic centre, whilst telling the story that is in the best interest of our country that we are set up this way.

The underlying reality is as rock solid and certain as you could ever imagine it to be; in this respect, Darling is right on the money (for once).

It is a reality in which Scotland’s democratic deficit is guaranteed for evermore; it is a reality in which we know that Scotland’s position on social equality and welfare will never be driven by the people of Scotland but by a Government in Westminster with entirely different priorities and allegiances; it is a reality in which we can be assured that Scotland’s true wealth will never be used for the benefit of the people of Scotland, but to help pay for colossal infrastructure projects with no benefit to Scotland, support illegal wars we did not agree to, and host weapons of mass destruction we neither need, nor want.

Now, I am no fatalist. Yet I feel more inclined to heed the words of Nietzsche over Darling: how awful and frightening it would be to suddenly realise that everything that had already happened to us in this world would happen over and over again, down to the minutest detail, with no variation and no opportunity to escape…

As far as I concerned, this is the most exciting year in Scotland’s history.

Let’s hope 2014 is an exceptional one.

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Precariously Pinned Together

Whereas Alistair Darling previously threatened that voting for Scottish independence would be like buying a one-way ticket to a deeply uncertain place, Gordon Brown this week warned that it would signal the start of the race to the bottom.

For some people retaining the union is about having an emotional commitment to a tradition and a history. And that is absolutely to be acknowledged and respected, whether we feel the same commitment or not.

But the rhetoric of the likes of Darling and Brown, which unashamedly exploits this emotional commitment, clearly shows that what lies at the heart of the no campaign is neither decent political debate concerning the true interests of Scotland, nor sound economic argument relevant to the country’s financial standing before and after independence.

Rather it is about a deep rooted unwillingness to lose control over the critical variables – mainly the fiscal levers, as they have been occasionally described – that could potentially damage the wealth, privilege and position of certain elite groups of individuals, and undermine the competitiveness of certain other economic areas across the United Kingdom.

Ensuring that Scotland’s right to determine its own social, political and economic future is not granted is therefore their priority, rather than creating a progressive unionist strategy to improve the quality of life, educational opportunities and employment prospects across the whole of the United Kingdom as it currently stands.

The problem is that such a strategy has never been viewed as an integral component of the unionist campaign. It has simply been about blocking a movement for change, for selfish reasons, whereas it should have been about recognising that the motivations behind that movement are signs that the United Kingdom is predicated on a union that is not fit for purpose.

Grasp that simple fact and the unconvincing frontmen like Darling and Brown could have had a better chance of gaining credibility for their paymaster’s position, and perhaps significantly more support.

But those of an independent mind needn’t worry. That is never going to happen. It just doesn’t figure in the thinking of those who run the United Kingdom government that the fundamental political and economic structures precariously pinning the country together need to change.

So in the meantime we can happily let the better together campaigners continue their efforts to persuade the people of Scotland that it is in their interests to stop looking for change. That it is in their interests to stop seeking the right to make their own decisions, just so that the status quo continues to deliver its cosy benefits for a small pocket of people spread throughout the United Kingdom, including Scotland.

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Some More Thoughts on ‘Better Together’

When Alistair Darling urged us to believe in the dictum that we are ‘better together’, I think there is probably a very strong sense in which he genuinely believes that to be the case (but I also think, quite cynically, that he is using a very clever tactic here, which may turn out to be a master stroke).

In fairness to Darling, and those behind the ‘no campaign’, the arguments given in favour of maintaining the political status quo, whilst weak, probably still reflect a deeply held conviction, that the best future for Scotland will be one which is secured through an unaltered position within the United Kingdom.

But rather than simply rhyme off the benefits we apparently enjoy as part of the United Kingdom, and remind us of the impending uncertainty that independence would bring, it might help the case somewhat to promote a positive vision for the future.

My view is that the key problems with the unionist strategy are that it fails to offer one single reason why Scotland should not want to regain full responsibility for its own affairs; and it fails to take cognisance of the growing conviction in many quarters that some form of structural change would need to occur in the United Kingdom if the ‘better together’ promise were ever to be fulfilled.

Even if we were better together in the sense promoted by the ‘no campaign’ – the senses in which we are supposed to benefit, such as having a stronger voice in Europe, or a stronger defence arrangement, for example, are all areas in which the current devolution agreement prevents Scotland from autonomously participating and building any strength in the first place – there would still be an urgent need to address the fundamental flaws in the United Kingdom’s corrupt political, economic and sociocultural frameworks.

It might be possible to muster a little sympathy for the ‘better together’ campaigners themselves – because, after all, we are talking about some people’s deeply held beliefs, which ought to be given due consideration and respect – if what they believed in really did have a promising message to deliver for Scotland. But as far as I can see, it doesn’t; and as far as the spin has gone so far, there is little prospect of a positive message being delivered any time soon.

However, here is a cautionary note to finish with: it is one thing to recognise that our current constitutional arrangement is not perfect, and that there are serious problems that need to be addressed in the United Kingdom as it stands; every day the news greets us with another one, piled up on top of another one.

But until the ‘yes campaign’ is in a position to present a detailed and unambiguous vision of what an independent Scotland would look like, and how it would positively improve the personal circumstances of the people of Scotland, doubts will remain in the minds of those waiting to be convinced that a yes vote would be in their best interests.

We live in a society where most people have simply given up on politicians and have little or no interest in the details of our constitutional arrangement. If the ‘yes campaign’ focuses exclusively on the need to change the latter, without clearly justifying it in terms of improved personal circumstances, it may lose some ground.

For many people, the decision will simply come down to what is better for their own individual circumstances, what is left in their pocket after tax, rather than what is better for Scotland as a nation. And that is exactly what Alistair Darling and company are playing on when they talk about being ‘better together’. It is an attempt to make us feel more secure by not changing anything. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a master stroke for the ‘no campaign’.

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‘Better Together’?

The irrefutable strength of the Scottish Independence campaign is that it is built on the fundamental right of self-determination. All nations have the right to choose their own sovereignty and political status, without external interference, and that is essentially what the independence of Scotland would secure.

It is insisted that independence is therefore the natural condition of a nation such as Scotland, and that the people of Scotland are best placed to determine its economic, political and social future. I completely agree with this.

In my view, the only argument that would ever convince me that we were ‘better together’ is one that would demonstrate, first of all, that Scotland’s claim to nationhood was ill conceived, and hence that we had no right to self-determination; and secondly, that the people of Scotland were simply incapable of taking full responsibility for the future of their own country.

It would take a very powerful argument to convince me that it is better for Scotland to have its economic, political and social future controlled and determined by a Government that sits outside of Scotland; a Government that the people of Scotland can rarely influence, if at all.

When Alistair Darling launched his ‘Better Together’ campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, I was hoping that he, as the former Chancellor of the United Kingdom Government, would offer some sound economic and political arguments why Scotland would indeed be better off remaining in the union.

I genuinely wanted him to challenge my thinking on this matter. I genuinely wanted to feel that Alex Salmond would now need to come back with some strong rebuttals. Perhaps then he would need to begin filling in some of the gaps in his own vision. But no need – there were no strong arguments forthcoming, just a watery statement about how we should embrace and celebrate our cultural diversity and our great social union.

I am with Darling in recognising that cultural diversity is a good thing. It is a fact of life in an interesting, prosperous and thriving nation. It is what Scotland was built on. It is absolutely to be embraced. I am with Darling in acknowledging that loving Scotland does not mean having to leave the United Kingdom behind. But it does mean exactly that if your love for Scotland means that you want to take responsibility for your own affairs.

The poverty of Darling’s argument has not gone unnoticed. And it is not because he failed to come up with hard facts and figures demonstrating that Scotland could not survive on its own – in fact, he acknowledged that it probably could, given its oil wealth – but because he failed to put forward one single convincing reason why a nation such as Scotland should not want to determine its own future.

In some respects we may well be better off together. In some respects, there will be strengths to be gained from being part of a union that you cannot have on your own. That much is obvious. But it does not preclude the fact that there may also be many other respects in which you are not better off together. That much is obvious too.

I believe that it would be significantly better for Scotland as a nation to create and nurture its own opportunities, and to maximise its own resources, than have its future determined by a Government that believes that independence should be avoided because it is unsettling, inherently risky and unjustified; and fronted by a scare mongering individual who tries to spook us by insisting that independence ‘would send our children to a deeply uncertain destination’.

Sorry Darling, poor effort; I, like many others, remain unspooked.

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