Tag Archives: Scottish Independence

The Brown Tory Trap

In an infuriating, but not unexpected turn of events, Gordon Brown has asked the people of Scotland to sign a petition demanding that the unionist parties remain true to their referendum clinching Vow of devolving significant additional powers to the Scottish Parliament.

It looks like a face saving panic measure from the former United Kingdom Prime Minister who asked the people of Scotland to trust a Labour party that no longer has a sense of its own purpose in Scotland, and a Tory party that has always been crystal clear on its purpose in Scotland, and who now appear to be seeking a way of making additional devolution for Scotland contingent on securing a ruling against Scottish MPs voting on English only matters.

Worse than this, they seem to be seeking a way of selecting the exact combination of additional powers that would have very little impact on Scotland’s ability to make the social and economic changes many people desperately want to see, whilst adding up to a reduction in Scotland’s ability to influence certain United Kingdom affairs.

So to be fair to Gordon Brown, despite the feeling that he tried to sell us out, there is a sense in which he is quite correct: fully devolving certain powers, but not others, would leave Scotland in a difficult position; it would compromise the effectiveness of Scottish MPs in Westminster and would negatively impact their ability to make decisions on key parts of the United Kingdom budget, for instance.

The problem for Gordon Brown is that there are people who believed that he was the lead figure on a promise to devolve significant additional powers, with no strings attached, in return for a No vote. It is not too difficult to imagine that there are many people who now believe that he has betrayed that trust and sold out the country he claims to love.

On the Saturday morning after the referendum, Gordon Brown made a triumphal speech in which he claimed to be too old to return to front line politics and too young to be seen as an ‘elder statesman’.

Regrettably for Gordon Brown, but more for the people of Scotland, you can play an unintended lead role in someone else’s devious game at any age. As far as the former Prime Minister’s career is concerned, he is now stuck in some kind of political no-man’s land. Exactly the state in which he has left his beloved Scotland.

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Ironic Interventions

Ironically, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is the latest leader of an independent country to express concern over the prospect of Scotland becoming independent from the United Kingdom. Barack Obama and Tony Abbott have made similarly ironic interventions in recent months. Their collective view is that an independent Scotland would not serve ‘greater global interests’.

Whilst there are bound to be several reasons for this, we may hazard a guess that the crux would be an independent Scotland’s commitment to removing the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent from Scottish waters. This would force the United Kingdom to unilaterally disarm for an unspecifiable period of time, thereby ‘threatening global security’ and upsetting the existing international order.

There is also the concern that a diminished United Kingdom would not retain the same standing within the European Union, which would have an impact on the United States’ ability to strategically influence defence and economic decision making within a major supranational institution it cannot directly control.

Finally, the loss of softer powers; it has also been suggested that the United Kingdom would lose a degree of credibility in promoting itself as a model of democracy and justifying some of its military interventions in other regions of the world on that basis.

How could it hold onto that platonic ideal when one of the primary reasons cited for becoming an independent country is that the United Kingdom’s constitutional arrangement delivers a permanent democratic deficit for the people of Scotland, with unjust consequences.

An inability to block the imposition of immoral and discriminatory welfare policies, to reject involvement in illegal wars, or simply to have the government you choose, is hardly the sign of a society that considers itself to be a beacon of democracy, personal freedom and social justice.

Scottish independence would be an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the elected Government and the people governed; it would be an opportunity to reconnect economics with morality, and place universal welfare and social justice at the heart of our political and economic decision making. It might sound too fantastical to believe, but only because we have been conditioned into thinking that way.

More than that, it would be an opportunity to usher in a new era of confidence in Scotland, as a country that is perfectly entitled to enjoy the very same rights that Canadians, Americans and Australians have enjoyed since becoming independent countries. Scotland is an innovative, intelligent and resourceful country that is perfectly capable of negotiating its own way in the world. Successfully.

The United Kingdom Government should be berating itself for refusing to respond earlier to the level of frustration and discontent within Scotland, and other parts of the United Kingdom for that matter, with regards to the political weaknesses, and economic failures, of the union. Had it done so, it may have been able to avoid a late surge in favour of a Yes vote in two weeks’ time.

The union does not deliver what it purports to deliver, nor could it without fundamental reform. As some unionist political commentators have repeatedly warned, the biggest threat to the continued existence of the United Kingdom is not Alex Salmond, but the union itself.

The people of Scotland should not be influenced into rejecting independence by self-interested world leaders, when the objective of independence is to achieve what is no longer achievable for Scotland within the United Kingdom.

If the choice is between serving the ‘greater global interests’ of manipulative, corrupt, self-obsessed, power hungry military superpowers – the United Kingdom included – or having the full range of powers to address the economic, social, moral and cultural needs and interests of the people of Scotland, whether Scotland should become an independent country should not even be a doubt in anyone’s mind.  

 

 

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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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Lord Robertson’s Cataclysmic Comments

Cataclysmic: a violent upheaval that brings about great destruction or brings about fundamental change.

You would be forgiven for thinking that Lord Robertson was talking about the tragic, ruinous and devastating consequences of a tsunami or an earthquake, when he used the word ‘cataclysmic’ in a recent speech at the Brookings Institute in the United States.

But what he was actually talking about is what would happen if the people of Scotland were to agree that it would be better to make their own decisions than have them made on their behalf by politicians in Westminster with entirely different interests and motivations.

What would be so cataclysmic about that?

The gist of Lord Robertson’s position is that the opportunity for Scotland to become an independent country has come during an era of international turmoil, and dismantling the constitutional framework that holds one of the Western world’s major military powers firmly in place would have globally devastating consequences.

Essentially, Lord Robertson is asking the people of Scotland to decline the opportunity to regain the fundamental right to self-determination in order to avoid tipping the world into a perilous and unsafe state. Scotland is so strategically important to the United Kingdom, and therefore to the United States, that independence, and the subsequent removal of the country’s nuclear deterrent from Scottish waters, cannot even be contemplated.

Global economic forces and international politics have conspired to create an underlying world order that terrifies the very people who have been responsible for producing it; we all know it is out of control, and Lord Robertson fears that removing one of the key pillars in that world order would force a very uncomfortable and painful rebalancing of power.

The importance of this point cannot be ignored.

However, it would be outrageous to think that the people of Scotland should be denied the opportunity to become an independent country because major political decisions taken elsewhere, over which we have had no control whatsoever, had produced a global state of affairs that could only be tampered with at our peril!

And it would be such a shame to think that an individual of Lord Robertson’s standing would wish to discourage independence, not by presenting compelling evidence to the effect that we actually are better as part of the United Kingdom, but by uniquely linking Scotland’s right to self-determination with a threat to world stability.

(Who would have thought that a country that is too small to survive on its own, and full of people not genetically programmed to make political decisions, could have such a powerful impact on the world stage?)

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Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity

The principle that moderate levels of economic inequality encourage growth may hold true in many cases.

However in the United Kingdom, one of the most unequal societies in the developed world, doing nothing to tackle the very high levels of inequality that exist has encouraged the emergence of a society riddled with extremely hard to shift social problems.

The longer it goes on this way – the United Kingdom government will never dismantle the economic and political frameworks that brought us to this point – the less likely things are to get better. So we need to ask the question, seriously, in what respect is Scotland better remaining part of the United Kingdom, when the United Kingdom has been in social and moral decline for generations?

It is one thing to trumpet the temporary trackers of economic success, such as low interest rates, low inflation and low unemployment, as Alistair Carmichael, Secretary of State for Scotland, did today; it is fine to talk about the security, stability and certainty that being part of a larger and more diversified economy offers; but it should never, ever be forgotten that these are the very conditions that have conspired to conceal the true extent of the corporate greed, fraudulent trading and immoral practices that have been propelling the United Kingdom forward for years.

Independence would not be a magic wand, nor does anyone seriously believe that; furthermore, even if an independent Scotland were able to build a new society in which economics and politics had not been granted permanent exit from the moral space of reasons, as is the case in the United Kingdom, other new social problems would be likely to emerge in the future to take place of the old ones.

It is worth reminding ourselves that economic inequality and social injustice, to the extent that we experience them today, are not inevitable, except within states and societies that consciously choose to organise themselves in certain ways; the United Kingdom is an excellent example of that way of organising things.

Although not a quick fix, independence could create the right conditions for Scotland to positively redefine itself and start to eradicate many of our existing social problems. This should not sound too good to be true, but it does. Why is that?

It is partly because we lack the belief that we could be doing so much better as a country, and there are some unscrupulous politicians within the Better Together campaign who are desperate to keep us feeling that way; but largely because some of our most basic economic beliefs and social values are partly constituted by the politically manufactured institutions that have been stubbornly holding the United Kingdom together well beyond its sell by date.

Regrettably, many of us are now at a point where we can no longer make a confident judgement about the authenticity of the beliefs we hold and can no longer recognise that the source of our social values is to be found within the complex web of capitalism, consumerism, cronyism, corruption, elitism, entitlement and greed, that sits immediately behind the façade of security, stability and certainty (the very things we are being asked to choose by the Better Together campaigners!).

Disdain for those living in poverty and needing government help, because they are bone idle and have become an unaffordable drain on our economy; suspicion of those unable to work due to illness, because they are a burden on our elitist society, and probably at it; fear of increasing integration into the European Union, because Westminster would not be able to call the shots and because it permits immigrants employment rights and benefits we would rather they did not have.

Making life as comfortable as possible for corrupt bankers and financiers because their skills are vital to the prosperity of the City of London and elitism is economically efficient; invading other countries because military intervention is required to deliver them a modern democracy similar to our one.

These are politically manufactured bull shit British attitudes.

They are dangerous and manipulative, but they have served an important purpose for successive United Kingdom governments. The question is: do we just keep going along with them because we don’t yet know which currency we will use in an independent Scotland, or how long it would take to process our application to join the EU? Are you being serious?

There is no disguising the fact that many of the institutions we consider to be supremely and quintessentially British were created to justify the United Kingdom’s imperialistic thinking, whilst many others now exist to encourage us to remain subconsciously wedded to the false and damaging world view created in Westminster, and unashamedly promoted by its band of job’s worth politicians, including the ones living it up in Holyrood and still pretending to care, really care, about economic equality and social justice.

It is this world view that still underpins the union today and is the reason why so many of our deep rooted social problems remain, despite all of the showy efforts to tackle them through the use of meaningless initiatives, such as David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. British politicians have forgotten what the concepts of social justice and equality actually mean, despite their rhetoric to the contrary.

Westminster’s puppets in Holyrood are keen to argue that the Scottish Government already has the powers it needs to eradicate the high levels of inequality we have in this country; it just chooses not to use them. But that is an illusion. It is too simplistic to think this way. Eradicating inequality cannot be achieved by exercising more of the powers we have at our disposal. Nor would further devolution achieve this. It would just be more of the same way of thinking, within the same set of restrictions and the same end results.

What Scotland needs is the confidence and the creativity to think differently about how it organises itself, and the boldness to return economics and politics to their rightful place within the moral space of reasons.

Independence would not solve all of our problems quickly; but it would offer an opportunity to start again, on Scotland’s terms, and with wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity at the heart of what we are trying to achieve.

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Genetic Determinism is the Last Refuge of a Political Rogue

The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Johann Lamont, appears to think that one of the key reasons why Scotland should not be an independent country, is that we Scots are not genetically programmed to make political decisions.

Not only is her claim embarrassing, astoundingly false, and logically incompatible with her own position in politics; it is also in danger of creeping very close to racism.

What on earth would possess a political leader in Scotland to think that it is appropriate to ridicule the social, economic and political intelligence of her own fellow Scots on live television, many of whom were watching in the hope of learning more about the independence debate, and many of whom she is supposed to represent in the Scottish parliament?

David Hume, Adam Ferguson, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith, to mention just a few of the intellectual giants of the Scottish enlightenment, would have been outraged to hear such a comment. As would Jimmy Reid, John Smith and Donald Dewar.

No doubt Johann Lamont is feeling the pressure of her paymasters in Westminster to secure a vote against independence. Not because it is the right thing for the people of Scotland, but because it appears to suit the environment within which she and many others have been emotionally programmed to denigrate their own country. And that is a shame.

To appeal to this piece of abject nonsense as a reason why Scotland should remain within the United Kingdom smacks of fear, loathing and desperation. If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, genetic determinism is the last refuge of a political rogue.

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The Wonky Logic of the Independence Debate

With only eight months to go until the independence referendum, you would be forgiven for thinking that the arguments for and against Scotland becoming an independent country would be getting clearer by now.

This is far from being the case. Instead we have been treated to a deliberately confusing mix of facts, false assumptions and invalid conclusions that have done very little to help us understand the real issues or make an informed choice.

The Better Together campaign builds its argument against Scotland becoming an independent country something like this:

Assumption 1: A whole is necessarily stronger than its constituent parts.
Assumption 2: Scotland enjoys a number of unique benefits that would be lost on leaving the United Kingdom.
Assumption 3: These benefits are necessary to maintaining and building Scotland’s strength and success as a small country.

Conclusion 1: Therefore the benefits Scotland enjoys in the United Kingdom are worth more than the benefits it would gain by becoming an independent country
Conclusion 2: Therefore everything Scotland needs to grow and prosper is already available to the Scottish Government within the context of devolution in the United Kingdom.

The Yes campaign counters this by suggesting that believing in Conclusion 1 is equivalent to believing that it would be better that Scotland did not have access to the full set of powers to manage its own affairs because it would lose out on things like the United Kingdom’s EU Rebate, or access to its global network of embassies, and these are apparently more beneficial to Scotland than having the full range of powers to tackle child poverty or rid the country of nuclear weapons, for example!

And they claim that Conclusion 2 is false, because Westminster controls the Scottish block grant, which means the Scottish Government’s hands are tied by how much money it gets back from its taxes sent down to Westminster, and this is set to be reduced in the coming years; therefore it is not possible to come up with the additional funding it would need to support its flagship independence policies designed to make Scotland stronger and more prosperous.

However the Yes campaign is equally sneaky in the way it builds its arguments for independence. It makes the false assumption that a stronger economy and a better society can only be built by gaining access to the full range of ‘fiscal levers’ currently reserved to Westminster; it then goes on to draw the invalid but very appealing conclusion that social justice and equality will only be achieved through Scotland becoming an independent country.

How do you unravel this mess and sort out the wonky logic? Firstly, the Better Together campaign needs to explain exactly why their list of benefits outweighs what Scotland would gain in independence, rather than try to frighten us about losing them, which has been their key tactic to date; and the Yes campaign needs to articulate exactly how an independent Scotland would use its full range of powers to build a more equal, more socially just, and more prosperous country, rather than just assert that this is what independence would achieve.

Both sides are still quite sketchy as far as that is concerned, and so for many people it is likely to come down to gut instinct on the day.

I will be voting for independence based on a mix of gut instinct and recognition of the following facts: (i) every nation has the fundamental right to self-determination and (ii) Scotland has a permanent democratic deficit within the United Kingdom. What this means is that irrespective of which political party the people of Scotland choose to represent its interests in the United Kingdom Parliament, the party elected to govern the country, and the key decisions it takes, will always be determined by the people living outside of Scotland.

The conclusion I draw from these facts also reinforces the falseness of the conclusions already drawn invalidly by the Better Together campaign, and which shape their rhetoric that Scotland benefits more as part of the United Kingdom than it would on its own.

It cannot be more beneficial for Scotland to be part of a union that is set up to represent the economic and political interests of the majority (and rightly so!), when that majority sits outside of Scotland; nor can it be more beneficial to have a strong global voice through the United Kingdom government, when Scotland’s voice is already irrelevant domestically because of its democratic deficit.

Both sides need to sharpen up their arguments between now and September. The outcome is more than likely to depend on the decisions made by those who are still undecided, and wonky logic isn’t going to cut it at this stage. Perhaps the best strategy now would be to leave the fiction to the media and start concentrating on the facts. But that would require a display of honesty and vulnerability, and these are very rare qualities in British politicians these days.

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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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On Michael Kelly’s Objection to a Written Constitution for Scotland

According to Michael Kelly, the people of Scotland would be misguided if they were to vote for independence next year. He makes this bold statement in the context of an argument against the idea of an independent Scotland having a written constitution:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/michael-kelly-constitution-no-guarantee-of-rights-1-3229389

In rehearsing a couple of flimsy arguments in defence of the United Kingdom’s unwritten one – such as the ease with which we can change elected politicians, in whom the powers to modify that constitution are ultimately vested – he goes on to make the point that the integrity of those who would be responsible for formulating a new written one for Scotland would need to be unquestionable.

It is difficult to disagree with this point of principle. However, he builds his argument by making the assumption that the SNP would be responsible for devising a written constitution in the event of independence, and then proceeding to call into question the SNP’s record on human and civil rights. He refers to the release of al-Megrahi, “the biggest mass murderer in Scottish legal history”, as being fundamental to his argument.

Now, it is not entirely obvious that the emotive description Michael Kelly attaches to the latter is factually correct. There are many who believe that al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted in the first place and that his release on compassionate grounds was the right thing to do.

But the rights and wrongs of that case are beside the point as far as I am concerned, because far from being devised by a political party with a questionable record on human and civil rights as Michael Kelly claims, the SNP’s views on how an independent Scotland’s written constitution would be devised, by whichever Government happens to be elected in May 2016, are very clear:

“The process of creating a written constitution in Scotland should include parties from across the political spectrum and wider society. Most importantly however, the process should ensure that the sovereign people of Scotland can be centrally involved in designing and determining a written constitution as the blueprint for our country’s future.” http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0041/00413757.pdf

“Following a yes vote in 2014, the first independent Scottish parliament will be elected in May 2016. One of the first, most fundamental and exciting tasks of that parliament will be to establish the process for Scotland’s first written constitution through a constitutional convention…Scotland’s convention will provide an opportunity for everyone to express their views. All political parties will be involved, together with the wider public and civic Scotland.” http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2013/01/written-constitution16012013

My view is that it would be important to have a written constitution, partly for the reason that it would enshrine our fundamental values and protect our basic rights, but principally for the reason that it would be the first step in creating a new form of democracy for our country, central to which would be the principle that sovereignty resides with the people of Scotland, unlike the United Kingdom model, where Parliament is sovereign and Governments are often unduly influenced by wealthy individuals, large businesses and strong unions.

The alarming point for me in all of this is that the United Kingdom’s unwritten constitution means that there is no protection whatsoever for the permanent existence of the Scottish Parliament. Should the people of Scotland decide to vote against independence next year, there is nothing to prevent the subsequent dissolution of the Scottish Parliament with the stroke of a Westminster pen. But perhaps the likes of Michael Kelly would be perfectly happy with that outcome.

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A Fine Array of Academics

A fine array of academics led by Professor Hugh Pennington have quite clearly been banging their learned heads together to come up with a few more ‘reasons’ why it is better that Scotland does not have the right to make all of its own decisions on issues of great importance to the people who live here.

The primary one appears to be that the excellent tradition of great Scottish thinkers contributing to global problems would come to a regrettable end with independence; in other words, our world leading reputation for innovation and discovery could be irreparably damaged because we would no longer be able to share ideas outside of Scotland and would no longer be able to benefit from UK funding.

Professor Pennington is quoted in various newspapers as saying that ‘the absence of barriers allows not just funding and people, but ideas and innovation, to flow freely across borders’.

I find it incredible that he would make this type of comment whilst arguing against independence. Which type of barriers does Professor Pennington think would suddenly be erected in an independent Scotland that would create a hermetically sealed bubble around Scottish ideas and innovative thinking?

More than that, I find it utterly astonishing that he would think that we would believe that two or more independent countries could not collaborate on significant international research programmes and access appropriate funding for that purpose! How on earth would we have progressed thus far?

Good ideas are not stopped at the borders of an independent country any more than disease causing bacteria are held up for checks at passport control; but unfortunately, when it comes to political interest, it seems to be much easier for influential thinkers to spread bad ideas that frighten people today, than it is for the rest of us to share good ideas that will bring real benefits in the future.

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