Tag Archives: better together

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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Scotland’s Separation Anxiety?

Unsurprisingly there are a number of people who intend to vote ‘no’ in next year’s independence referendum, whilst there are many others who remain to be convinced either way. It is interesting to consider whether part of the reason for this is that as a nation, Scotland may be suffering from a type of separation anxiety?

Whilst there might not be a single specific cause of separation anxiety in every instance, it is sometimes the case that it affects individuals who have been deprived of opportunities to fully explore their autonomy during their formative years, and therefore believe that they are limited in their capacity to make significant decisions, and take independent action, when it matters most.

In severe cases, it can have a crippling and suffocating effect on confidence, particularly when the reduced state of autonomy has been enforced over a considerable period of time by a third person on whom we have become dependent as our decision maker, and whom we have been trained to perceive as a necessary condition for our survival.

Whilst the negative psychological impact of this process is not always easy to recognise or articulate from a first person perspective, its behavioural manifestations can be easy pickings for those who have a vested interest in reinforcing the desired direction of power, particularly if there is the slightest indication of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

And so it is instructive that the Better Together campaigners frequently use the term ‘separation’ when criticising the Scottish Government’s ambition to regain full decision making powers for Holyrood. It is almost as if they were trying to manipulate the vulnerable psychology of a nation that has had its autonomy denied or restricted in order to secure the political and economic interests of others.

But that would be immoral, particularly if you questioned whether the type of separation anxiety that Scotland may be suffering from, whilst it would have already existed in a basic form as a result of generations of external control, had been deliberately exaggerated and exploited for the purpose of securing a ‘no’ vote in 2014.

Exploiting the natural anxieties that exist among some of its people, in order to make a nation believe that it would not be in its best interests to make its own decisions, would be incredibly damaging. It would be the point at which Scotland decided to turn its back for good on an opportunity to come up with its own distinctive solutions to its own unique problems, and it would be the point at which Scotland chose to avoid living through the social and cultural changes that would be required to achieve its true potential.

The main problem I have with this is not so much that I would be devastated by the outcome – if the majority of Scotland decides to vote ‘no’, then so be it – but that it would not be obvious that any such decision was actually made from an authentic standpoint. To vote that you disagreed with Scotland being an independent country may in fact turn out to be a vote not to experience a very uncomfortable episode of separation anxiety.

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Opting into Scotland

Generations of workless families; undernourished children living in poor quality housing; the choice between eating a healthy meal, or heating your home; low educational attainment, low life expectancy and ill health; alcoholism and drug addiction; theft, violence and vandalism; corruption and exploitation; sectarianism, racism and bigotry.

This is the state of the country we live in today. It is neither great, nor is it united. Unashamed adherence to neoliberal economics, the reckless pursuit of individual wealth and the preservation of elite privilege, hereditary power and status at the expense and misery of others, have created one of the most unequal and unethical societies in the developed world.

To commit Scotland to the United Kingdom is to commit this depressingly sad future to the absolute supremacy of Westminster with its London centric policies and its belief that granting Scotland the right to develop its own taxation and welfare systems in the manner best suited to addressing a raft of social inequalities in Scotland, would be inconsistent with being in the union.

In other words, there is no clearer indication that we will never be able to address Scotland’s social and economic problems whilst part of the United Kingdom than that the policies required to do so are simply not compatible with the terms of the union and the Westminster agenda.

The specific powers required to introduce the right type of social and economic policies for Scotland cannot be devolved without radically disrupting the primary focus of the union, a scenario which has been mockingly referred to as the ‘race to the bottom’, by the Better Together campaign.

The decision to remain in the United Kingdom is therefore the decision to opt out of regaining the full range of powers needed to make Scotland a fairer, more progressive and more socially just nation; it is the decision to opt out of Scotland, to leave this country forever at the disposal of a Government with no real ability to make our society any better than it is. The union doesn’t work for Scotland’s benefit.

The set of skills which enables the majority of individuals to engage meaningfully and respectfully in a wide range of social and cultural activities is the set of skills which will only ever take root and flourish within a new type of political, economic and moral framework that genuinely values education, equality and social justice over wealth generation, global positioning and military clout.

It will be up to the people of Scotland to make sure that, in the event of independence, the newly acquired powers are used to bring about the changes the country actually needs. It may take a couple of generations to reshape our damaged society.

But in doing so, we would be addressing problems specific to Scotland using powers previously reserved to a Government that has always had an entirely different focus – which is to get what it needs out of the union, rather than to get the best out of Scotland.

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Definitely Better Together

The Edinburgh Agreement confirmed that a section 30 order will be laid in the Scottish and United Kingdom Parliaments to allow the Scottish Government to hold a referendum before the end of 2014 to decide the country’s constitutional future.

With very good reason, it has been billed as the most important decision the people of Scotland will have had to make in more than three hundred years.

Notwithstanding the fact that the ordinary people of Scotland had little or no input to the original decision that established the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, the decision to be made in 2014 will indeed be momentous.

Public opinion appears to be divided. Many people in Scotland feel that their strong emotional and cultural ties to the United Kingdom, together with the perceived economic benefits of being part of a larger entity, means that the continuation of the Union must be achieved.

Many have a strong belief in Scotland’s right to determine its own future and regain the autonomy it gave up when it entered into political union with England three hundred years ago; the crux is that only by doing so will the country be able to maximise its own resources and build a stronger economic and social future than it would have if it remained within the restrictions of the Union.

Others are still to be persuaded either way and are likely to delay their decision until more precise details are provided. They may be waiting for quite some time. For most, the decision will be an emotional one and the Yes Campaign and Better Together Campaign will build their arguments around that fact.

It has been said that one of the problems with the Yes Campaign is that it still needs to create a clear and credible account of what an independent Scotland would look like. We are told that the detail will be worked out in due course.

But in the meantime the Better Together Campaign is likely to trade on this lack of clarity and create a feeling of uncertainty around the very idea of independence. It will exploit the fact that many of us are subconsciously reluctant to take a chance on moving towards the unknown, when what we already have is a feeling of security within the Union. We know our place.

Ironically, this is the fear that also lies at the heart of the Unionist agenda – the current economic status, political stability and national security of the United Kingdom will be challenged by the removal of an economically significant and politically important part of the equation.

Facing up to the daunting prospect of having to dismantle the United Kingdom is likely to cause a great deal of anxiety in Westminster. It is likely to throw up many difficult challenges with very few experts around to guide the process. It will be horrendously complex. It will be ridiculously expensive. And it will be psychologically unsettling.

And going by the scare mongering tone of the Better Together Campaign’s arguments, this is the angst that has been shaping their view from the beginning. Their arguments against Scottish independence would seem to reflect their own concerns about dealing with the aftermath, and protecting what they already have as career politicians, rather than a genuine concern for Scotland’s best interests.

The deciding factor for me is simply that every country has the right to self-determination. Through regaining that right Scotland will enjoy the same opportunity that almost every other country in the world enjoys – to make its own decisions and shape its own future; and this includes not knowing all the answers. It includes making mistakes and getting things wrong. That is part of the life of an autonomous nation. It is not to be feared.

That said, I think there is a sense in which we are definitely better together. But I am not talking about the sense promoted by the Unionist campaigners. I believe that Scotland will be better when the people living in this country come together to achieve a common purpose. It is the purpose of making this country better than it has ever been before.

That is the true sense in which we are better together.

Together in an independent Scotland.

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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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The Independence Debate & The Politics of Rogues

Various questionable arguments have been thrown into the debate about Scottish Independence in recent months; so much so that it is now becoming amusing to see predictions of economic ruin sitting right next to forecasts of previously unachievable wealth and prosperity.

It is almost as if we are being told, ‘don’t listen to the other side’s nonsense, it will lead you in the wrong direction; now, here are the facts, on which you need to make your decision’. In this respect, both are as bad as each other.

Encouraging others to adopt a course action by exaggerating benefits and making grand promises that may never be fulfilled, looks remarkably similar to some of the unscrupulous sales tactics adopted by individuals operating at the gutter end of the market.

Whilst encouraging others against that same course of action by instilling disproportionate fear in their minds, reveals much more about the psychology, and personal circumstances, of the scare mongering individuals than it does about the reality of the situation.

It makes you want to ask the question, what do the latter really think they are going to lose by acknowledging that it would be better for Scotland to make its own decisions, and why do they really want the rest of us to feel the fear of that loss too, in the way that they pretend to?

And it makes you want to ask of the former, why do they feel the need to spin a fabulous, sometimes confusingly mixed, story around a couple of facts and stats, immediately casting their credibility in doubt and raising questions about whether they are indeed the people to take this country forward in the right direction?

Perhaps the only reality we can work with in entering this debate is that being an independent country is simply about taking full responsibility for your own affairs, and nothing less than that.
Everything else we have been told, and will be told countless times over, about how damaging independence would be for Scotland’s position in the world, or how wonderful it would be for our economy, is imaginative conjecture.

It is an attempt to manipulate our emotions by individuals who know that they have too much to lose.

Both campaigns recognise that they have, in fact, too much to lose; not just from a political point of view, but also from a personal, selfish point of view. Their obsession with winning this game at all costs is beginning to ruin what should otherwise have been the build-up to a momentous event in our country’s history.

In fact the event itself – regaining independence or reinforcing the union – is beginning to look like it will be spoiled. Either way, it is beginning to look like it will turn into a reflection of the politics of self-interested rogues, than a reflection of the best interests of the ordinary people of Scotland.

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