Wee Ginger holidays

I’m off on holiday for a couple of weeks, to spend some time with my husband. I’m back on 31 July. Unfortunately Sam Miller (Macart) isn’t able to look after the blog in my absence this time, so neither he nor myself will be doing be any updates to the blog until I get home.

The dug has already started his holidays. He’s staying with Ray and Sandra (of Indypram fame) while I am away. Many thanks to Ray and Sandra for looking after him. He always gets spoiled when he’s there. When I got up to go after dropping him off, he was lying in the back garden sunning himself.

I should have intermittent internet access while I am away, so if you fancy writing a guest post, please send it to me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will try to get it online – although I can’t make any promises!  I won’t be checking my emails every day, so please be patient.

Please also note that I won’t be checking every day for new comments that need to be authorised, so if your comment doesn’t show up immediately you may find that your comment takes a couple of days to appear. That doesn’t mean it’s been censored, it just means I haven’t checked the comments queue. Cos you know, I’m on holiday.

See yese aw when I get hame!


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Pensioning off the pensions scare story

pensions
During the independence referendum of 2014, there were numerous reports of anti-independence activists who were canvassing on doorsteps, telling elderly people that if Scotland became independent, then they would lose their pensions. This was scaremongering of the very worst sort, an overt attempt to bully elderly people who very often subsist on one of the worst state pensions in Europe, threatening them with losing even the meagre pittance that the British state pension provides. The threat was absolutely, categorically, untrue. What made it all the more vile was that the British Government itself had already guaranteed that existing pensioners would continue to receive their state pensions.

The first point to be made here is that private pensions, local and central government pensions, and employee pensions will be unaffected by Scottish independence, at least from the point of view of the pensioner. The companies and agencies providing these pensions will continue to have an obligation to the pensioner no matter whether Scotland is independent or not. As a pensioner you have a right to one of these pensions because of an individual contractual agreement between you and the pension provider and because you have contributed to the pension fund throughout your working career. Following Scottish independence, there may be internal administrative issues for these pension providers to deal with, however this should not affect the amount of pension due to the pensioner nor their entitlement to that pension.

In the exact same way, you continue to be entitled to your private or employee pension should you decide to retire abroad to sunnier climes in the Caribbean. If the pension provider were to turn around and say, “Oh well, you no longer live in the UK, so we don’t have to pay,” you could sue them for breach of contract. And you’d win.

What we are really discussing here is the state pension. As already noted, the British Government has already guaranteed that existing pensioners and those who would become of pensionable age after a Yes vote but before Scotland becomes independent would be unaffected.

On 7 May 2014, the then UK pensions minister Steve Webb told the Scottish Affairs Committee in the House of Commons that older people would be entitled to continue receiving the current state pension even in an independent Scotland. He acknowledged that there would have to be a negotiation between Holyrood and Westminster about how these pensions would be administered, but assured the committee that Westminster would continue to have an obligation to pay the pensions to existing pensioners. When asked by a Labour MP if the pensions of existing pensioners would be secure following a Yes vote, Steve Webb confirmed that this was the case, saying “Yes, they have accumulated rights into the UK system, under the UK system’s rules.”

Then he added, “Take a Scottish person who works all their life and then retires to France… they still have an accumulated pension right in respect of the National Insurance they have paid in when they were part of the United Kingdom.”

Some opponents of independence claim that by voting for independence, people resident in Scotland will have voted to deprive themselves of any of the benefits of British citizenship, one of which is pension entitlement. This is nonsense. When the pensions minister was asked if a person’s citizenship made a difference, he replied, “Citizenship is irrelevant. It is what you have put into the UK National Insurance system prior to separation. Answer [for example] 35 years, that builds up to a continued UK pension under continuing UK rules. They are entitled to that money.” The minister’s remarks were reported by the BBC, here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-27309215

As an aside, with respect to the citizenship issue, if you were born in what was UK territory to parents who were UK citizens, you will still have the right to UK citizenship following Scottish independence. As a resident of Scotland, you will also be entitled to Scottish citizenship, but assuming that the UK government doesn’t alter its citizenship laws (which it didn’t following Irish independence), then you’ll still have the right to UK citizenship should you choose.

What the pensions minister told the Scottish Affairs Committee was merely confirming what the Department of Work and Pensions had already informed an individual who had queried the matter of pensions in an independent Scotland. On 4th January 2013, the DWP wrote, “If Scotland does become independent this will have no effect on your state pension; you will continue to receive it just as you do at present.”

So if you are already in receipt of a UK state pension, you can be confident that you will continue to receive it after Scottish independence. Likewise if you are due to retire following a Yes vote but before Scotland becomes officially independent, your entitlement to a UK state pension is unaffected. It doesn’t matter what Gordie Broon tells you on the doorstep. Both the British and Scottish governments have a cast iron commitment to ensuring that existing pensioners will be unaffected by Scottish independence.

How those pensions are administered can’t be settled until after Scotland has voted for independence. Pensions will be a subject to be dealt with in negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster following a Yes vote. However the key thing to remember is that this is a matter for the pension provider, and that both parties will ensure that existing pensioners will be unaffected.

The real issue here is what happens to people in Scotland who are not yet of pensionable age, and who won’t become of pensionable age until after Scotland becomes independent. Although your entitlement to a state pension is based on the number of years you have been making National Insurance contributions, unlike employee pensions and private pensions where you pay into a pension pot during your working life, the state pension is “pay as you go”. The government allocates funds to pay the state pension from its current revenues, not from a pot of money that has been saved up from your National Insurance contributions and set aside specifically for the purpose of paying you a pension. Today’s state pensions are paid by today’s workers, and those workers in turn will have their state pensions paid by future workers.

Scotland is facing what has been described as a demographic time bomb. The population of Scotland in the early 21st century contains a higher percentage of older people and a smaller percentage of younger people than it did back in the 1950s. This means that the burden of providing state pensions will take up an increased amount of tax contributions from a numerically diminishing workforce. As a society, we’re all getting older. Which is a small consolation to those of us who have lost hair and teeth yet still fancy ourselves as trend setters. I remember having a drink fuelled conversation with friends back in the early 1980s when we joked that in the future old men would have earrings, old women would have coloured hair that wasn’t a blue rinse, and there would be OAPs with a complete collection of the best hits of The Stranglers. The future has arrived.

This isn’t just a problem for Scotland. All Western societies are facing a similar problem. Birth rates are declining as people have fewer children because women can now control their fertility in a way that wasn’t possible in the early 20th century. As medicine improves people are living longer. These are indeed better problems to have, but they do have the knock on effect of creating issues for future pension provision. The truth is that all countries are going to have to face up to these problems sooner or later. It will remain an issue for Scotland whether Scotland is independent or a part of the UK. However the demographic issue is particularly acute in Scotland because as a part of the UK Scotland is poor at retaining its young people, and because Scotland cannot do anything to promote the immigration of skilled workers.

Scotland can only take steps to tackle the demographic time bomb with independence. Then the Scottish Government will be able to introduce economic policies which develop the Scottish economy, leading to the country retaining a larger proportion of its young people instead of losing them to the economy of London. Scotland will also be able to introduce an immigration policy tailored to Scotland’s needs. Unlike the migrant-phobic Brexiteers, Scotland needs inward migration. Most of this can be expected to come from the rest of the UK and from other EU countries.

The UK also has difficulties due to the demographic time bomb. Scotland can’t escape this problem by remaining a part of the UK. The changing demographics of the UK is one of the most important reasons why the UK government is committed to equalising the age of retirement for men and women, and to raising that age of retirement. The way that the British government has carried out these changes have been deeply unfair to women who were approaching retirement age, many of whom feel that they are being deprived of their fair and just pension entitlement.

Finally, it needs to be said that although it’s difficult to make a direct comparison between different pension systems, the UK state pension is not notable for its generosity. The UK treats its elderly poorly and expects those without private or occupational pensions to subsist on a near poverty level of income. This problem is only going to get worse over time. In an independent Scotland we can aspire to do much better.

The plan for this article and several others dealing with key points in the independence debate is to collate them and publish them in book form when we have a date for the independence vote. Some of these articles have already been published on this blog and others have yet to be written. The idea is that when we know when Scotland will be voting, I will do a crowd-funder specifically for the purpose of raising money to get the book printed, and then it can be distributed to Yes groups and campaigners and given away for free.

There’s already a Wee Blue Book, let’s have a Wee Ginger Book too. This isn’t meant as competition for the Wee Blue Book – which is a fantastic initiative with proven success – but rather it is to be complementary to it. Different writing styles and different books can appeal to different readerships and different demographics. The more information we can get out there, the more people we can persuade to Yes. If you have any suggestions for topics for articles to include in this book, let me know and I will write something up – if I haven’t done so already.


Help this blog with a donation. There are a number of ways to donate. You can use the PayPal button on this page. you don’t need a Paypal account to use the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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Alternatively you can make a PayPal payment directly to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or you can click the following link to GoFundMe where credit and debit card donations are accepted.
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If you would prefer to donate by cheque or some other method, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details.

Not hating – what really drives the indy movement

ethnicnationalism
The Scottish independence campaign is frequently accused of being motivated by anti-English racism. It’s possibly the most frequently made accusation against independence supporters. As a campaigner for independence, I’ve been called an anti-English racist myself, despite the fact that my late husband was English and I gave up everything to care for him when he was dying of a terminal illness, despite having close family who are English, people who I love deeply. Naturally, I find such an accusation deeply insulting. Indeed, defamatory.

It is unarguable that there is a long history of antagonism between Scotland and England. It was born out of many long centuries of wars, of attempted conquest, of England’s attempts to secure its northern border and Scotland’s willingness to invade and pillage northern England when it had the chance. It arose from the assimilating tendencies of the Scottish ruling classes who sought to impose English culture on Scotland and the wilful refusal of the majority of Scots to assimilate.

But that’s ancient history. These days the antagonism mostly surfaces in the willingness of Scottish football fans to support anyone but England in international contests, and the occasional bit of name calling. Anti-English racism might have been a factor in the armed rebellions in the 18th century, but this is the 21st century. Scotland isn’t campaigning for the restoration of an absolute monarchy, and its politics are not motivated by the hatred of any ethnic groups. For the most part, Scottish people do not hate the English, or indeed anyone else. English people are our friends, our family, our neighbours, our workmates.

It is also unarguable that there is a strain of anti-Scottish racism in England. This receives far less attention from opponents of independence, for obvious reasons. However the difference is that instances of anti-English racism in Scotland make the newspapers, the Scottish Government is called upon to condemn and to disassociate itself from the perpetrators, and BBC Scotland makes a special programme about how it represents a dark cancer that lurks at the very heart of the Scottish psyche. And in case anyone thinks that last comment was ridiculous hyperbole, that’s exactly what the BBC did during the first independence referendum campaign after its star presenter Andrew Marr made an off the cuff remark at a book event at the Edinburgh Festival about how “everyone knows” that anti-English racism motivates the independence movement.

Meanwhile instances of anti-Scottish racism in England and in the English press are merely banter and we are told that only humourless dour Scots with a chip on both shoulders would dream of complaining about it. I lived in England for many years. I was told on a regular basis that wanting home rule for Scotland meant that I was ungrateful and a racist. Of course, by pointing this out, I am clearly a humourless jock with a chip on both shoulders. During my time in London, I was called a porridge muncher, a sweaty sock, a tight-fisted jock, and could feed myself for months if I actually had a deep fried mars bar for every time I had to listen to comments about deep fried mars bars. Although admittedly I wouldn’t live very long as my arteries seized up with all the cholesterol. Worse than that was the occasion when I was sworn at and spat on by a drunk man on the Tube who heard my accent and took umbrage at newspaper reports of Scotland fans during the World Cup who were wearing Brazil shirts.

Yet English people in general are not defined by a hatred or a disdain for Scotland. The truth is that most people in England don’t know much about Scotland, and that harder truth for opponents of Scottish independence is that they don’t really care. The problem that Scotland has had for many decades is that the important decisions about Scotland have been made by a government in Westminster which is overwhelmingly composed of people who don’t know much about Scotland, and who only care about this country as a place to park the UK’s nukes and as a source of oil and gas. The desire for Scottish independence is motivated by wanting what is best for Scotland, and by the belief that a country is best governed by those who care enough about it to live in it and to understand it. No one can seriously claim that Boris Johnson knows and understands Scotland.

Scottish independence is driven by the democratic deficit. It’s driven by the fact that Scotland in the UK doesn’t get the governments it votes for, and those governments impose policies on Scotland that Scotland doesn’t want and which damage Scotland’s interests. That was bad enough when it was merely a government that Scotland didn’t elect. But Brexit is forever and the damage it causes will last for many decades. None of this has anything to do with hating English people or anyone else.

In 2014, a majority of people born in Scotland voted for independence. According to a major survey carried out by Edinburgh University following the independence vote, 52.7% of native born Scots voted in favour of independence in 2014. However of Scottish residents born elsewhere in the UK, overwhelmingly in England, a massive 72.1% voted against independence. These votes were sufficient to swing the overall result to No. This survey was widely reported in the press when it was published in March 2015. For example, there’s this article in the Daily Record, not exactly a bastion of Scottish nationalism : https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/independence-referendum-figures-revealed-majority-5408163

The proof that the campaign for independence is not motivated by anti-English racism lies in the fact that despite a majority of native born Scots voting in favour of independence in 2014, this is not an issue in the independence campaign. You will not hear any mainstream independence campaigner or mainstream pro-independence party making the fact that native born Scots voted in favour of independence in 2014 a key part of this renewed campaign. However if the Scottish independence movement really was motivated by anti-English racism, then you might think it would be yelling to the rooftops about how we wiz robbed by English people living in Scotland.

Instead, it’s not an issue, and no one in the mainstream of the independence movement believes it should be. In fact, the mainstream independence movement is proud that it’s not an issue, because we don’t want a Scotland that is defined by a narrow ethnic nationalism. We seek a Scotland that is inclusive, welcoming, and tolerant. English people, or people from other countries, choosing to make their lives in Scotland and throwing their lot in with Scotland’s story is something to be proud of.

The Scottish independence movement promotes a civic nationalism. Scottishness is not defined by where you came from. It’s not just defined by who your parents were or where you were born. More importantly it is defined by where you live, where you love, and where you choose to build your life. People who come to live in Scotland, to give Scotland the benefit of their experiences and skills, enrich us all. New Scots are Scottish too, and those of us who are Scottish by accident of birth are proud to welcome them into our family.

This conception of who is Scottish is very different from the prevalent view of Britishness amongst the Brexit supporters who now dominate British politics. Brexit trumps all other considerations. They’d prefer to see Scottish independence rather than make any accommodations to Scotland. That fact alone tells us that the union is dead. Brexit is right wing English nationalism writ large, and Brexit is based upon and fosters a form of nationalism which is suspicious of immigration, is inward looking, and is characterised by a strong streak of xenophobia and exceptionalism. Can you imagine the outcry from Brexit supporters if it had been discovered that the votes of EU residents living in the UK had been sufficient to swing the result of the EU referendum to remain? In fact, EU citizens were not allowed to vote. Absolutely no one in Scotland would think to propose that the franchise for an independence referendum should be restricted solely to people born in Scotland.

That neatly illustrates the difference between a right wing populist movement which campaigns against immigration, and the Scottish independence movement. The stark reality facing Scotland in a Brexit Britain is that the Scottish independence represents our best chance of escape from ethnic nationalism.

The plan for this article and several others dealing with key points in the independence debate is to collate them and publish them in book form when we have a date for the independence vote. Some of these articles have already been published on this blog and others have yet to be written. The idea is that when we know when Scotland will be voting, I will do a crowd-funder specifically for the purpose of raising money to get the book printed, and then it can be distributed to Yes groups and campaigners and given away for free.

There’s already a Wee Blue Book, let’s have a Wee Ginger Book too. This isn’t meant as competition for the Wee Blue Book – which is a fantastic initiative with proven success – but rather it is to be complementary to it. Different writing styles and different books can appeal to different readerships and different demographics. The more information we can get out there, the more people we can persuade to Yes. If you have any suggestions for topics for articles to include in this book, let me know and I will write something up – if I haven’t done so already.


Help this blog with a donation. There are a number of ways to donate. You can use the PayPal button on this page. you don’t need a Paypal account to use the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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Alternatively you can make a PayPal payment directly to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or you can click the following link to GoFundMe where credit and debit card donations are accepted.
https://www.gofundme.com/wee-ginger-crowdfunder-2019

If you would prefer to donate by cheque or some other method, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details.

The Wee Ginger Book, getting ready for the indy campaign

As you may already have heard, I’m planning a new pro-independence project. I’m writing a book covering some of the most important topics in the independence debate, and when the book is ready the plan is to crowdfund to raise the money to get it printed so that it can be distributed to Yes groups and local campaigners, who can then give it away for free to the public. Since my blog’s crowdfunder was so wildly successful, I will be able to devote the time and energy to this project and to treat it as a major part of my job. Please note that I am not currently crowdfunding to get the new book printed. Details of that will only be announced once the book is ready to go.  I am aiming to have the new book ready for publication early next year.

This book isn’t intended to duplicate anyone else’s work. Initiatives like The Wee Blue Book or Commonweal’s How to Start a New Country have been proven to be successful.  My new book will complement these works, not compete with them.  Books may be old fashioned technology, but they are still capable of reaching parts of the population that the internet doesn’t reach. In particular books can reach that hard to reach older demographic who are proving most resistant to the independence message in a way that social media cannot.

One reason for doing a new book is that different writing styles and different kinds of presentation appeal to different people. The more information we get out there, the greater the variety of style and presentation, the better chance we have of covering all the bases and engaging the interest and attention of a larger number of people.

This new book will consist of a series of chapters, each of which will be at least 1000 to 2000 words long, or occasionally more. That gives plenty of scope for giving a decent introduction to a topic concerning Scottish independence for people who may not have previously considered it. And of course the book will be written in the Wee Ginger Dug’s inimitable style. There will be jokes. There will be references to obscure sci-fi, drag queens, and nasal hair. You have been warned.

As well as the book, I’ll also be working on a series of short videos together with The National’s video team. Each video will deal with a chapter in the book and will be made available online for people to share and download. So that will be another way of sharing the information that the book contains.

For the next few months I’ll be concentrating on writing the chapters for the book. I’ve already written several. At the moment, I have approximately 20,000 words collated and ready for editing. There will be at least double that word count by the time I’m finished. Once I’ve got the bones of the book together, I will send each chapter off to a recognised expert in the particular topic it deals with for revision and correction. There may be mistakes that I have made, there may be relevant information that I have forgotten to include, there may be things that I could explain more clearly. It’s important that the information and arguments in the book are as watertight as possible.

What I’d like from readers of this blog just now is ideas for topics to cover. Some very valuable suggestions have already been made. There will be chapters on the NHS, the GERS figures, pensions, anti-English sentiment, the Spanish veto myth, and more besides. I’ve already published some draft chapters on the blog, including one on currency options, another on Scotland’s resources, the border issue, and EU membership. Please note that the versions of these pieces published on the blog will not necessarily be the same as the final version that ends up in the book. Meanwhile all suggestions for other chapters are most welcome.

Although it’s early days yet, it would also be great if someone who has experience in designing and layout for books would be willing to volunteer their services. If so, please do get in touch. It’s important that this look looks attractive, that it will look exactly like a book that you would purchase in a bookshop. A nice looking book is a book that people will be more likely to share. Speaking as the man who has been called Scotland’s best dressed cybernat, I know that presentation makes a difference. Information presented in an attractive and appealing way will make more of an impact and will be better received than the exact same information presented in an unattractive or unappealing manner.

The book will plug into tried and tested distribution networks which have already been developed by independence campaigners. The goal will be to get a significant number of copies out to every independence group in the country. Those copies can then be given away at street stalls or when canvassing door to door. People will take leaflets, but they rarely hang on to them. However people do hang on to books and are far less likely to throw them away. People pass on books that they find interesting or enjoyable to friends and family. The challenge for me is to make this book not just informative, but also an enjoyable and entertaining read.

Originally I had thought about getting this book out when we have a firm date for an independence vote, however I have since changed my mind. The plan now is to have the text of the book ready for the end of this year, and to publish it shortly afterwards. The number of books printed will depend on how much the dedicated fundraiser raises. All the money raised in that fundraiser will go towards printing the book. No one involved with it will be making any profit from it.

The reason for the change of mind is that raising awareness of independence in Scotland is essentially an educational exercise. This is especially true because we live in a Scotland where the vast majority of the traditional media is (to put it kindly) reluctant to give an airing to pro-independence arguments. So the sooner that we can get pro-independence texts out there, the sooner we can start changing minds and engaging in those important discussions and conversations that will lead to bringing about a pro-independence majority.

Another reason is because when we do know when the date is for an independence vote, there will be a rush of activity and initiatives. I think it’s important that we stagger the publication of our efforts, in order to maximise the impact of each. Publishing this book early can help to prepare fertile ground for other pro-independence initiatives nearer to the time of the vote. We don’t know exactly when we’re likely to have another vote on independence, and when we do have that vote it is possible that it will be held at short notice. Or at least on much shorter notice than we had with the 18 month long official campaign leading up to the referendum of 2014. Publishing early gives longer for the message in the book to percolate through. It can take months of rumination for a person to change their minds on an important subject.

None of this would have been possible without the support and encouragement that regular readers have given this blog over the years. You are the people I’m doing this for. Scotland is perhaps closer now to independence than it has been at any time over the past 300 years, but we can’t take it for granted. We all have work to do, and this wee project is a bit of my small part of it.


Help this blog with a donation. There are a number of ways to donate. You can use the PayPal button on this page. you don’t need a Paypal account to use the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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Alternatively you can make a PayPal payment directly to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or you can click the following link to GoFundMe where credit and debit card donations are accepted.
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If you would prefer to donate by cheque or some other method, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 12 July 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of the Wee Ginger Dugcast with myself and Callum Baird of The National. This week we discuss the Tories’ panicked attempts to plaster union flags on things in an attempt to save the union that they themselves have broken, plus we also talk about an exciting project that I’m working on – the plan for a Wee Ginger Book. And now I can reveal that not only will I be doing the book, together with The National’s video team, we’ll also be producing short videos on each of the book’s chapters to share online.


Help this blog with a donation. There are a number of ways to donate. You can use the PayPal button on this page. you don’t need a Paypal account to use the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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Alternatively you can make a PayPal payment directly to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or you can click the following link to GoFundMe where credit and debit card donations are accepted.
https://www.gofundme.com/wee-ginger-crowdfunder-2019

If you would prefer to donate by cheque or some other method, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com for details.

Rebellious Scots to shush

rebelliousscotstoshush
Faced with the realisation that they’ve broken the precioussssss union, the Conservatives have now come up with a master plan to save it. They’re going to use tax money paid by Scotland in order to tell Scotland how great it is being ignored by Westminster. That’ll see off those pesky nats, because sticking union flags on things is well known for its power of persuasion. Just ask Tesco.

According to reports, Theresa May called a special meeting of the cabinet in order to tackle what is being described as the greatest threat to the union since, well, the last time the Tories cocked it up. The only reason that there is a threat to the union, although those of us of a Scottish independence persuasion prefer to describe it as an indy opportunity, is because the governments of Theresa May and her predecessor David Cameron have systematically treated Scotland with contempt. And when they’re not actively treating Scotland like a recalcitrant child, they’re ignoring it.

If the Conservatives were really serious about tackling this existential threat to the precioussssss, you might think that the very first thing they’d be addressing is their own attitude towards Scotland and their own behaviour. You know, the root cause of the problem. But no. The only reason there’s an issue here is, according to the Tories, because Thatessempee keeps pointing out that if Scotland was independent, it wouldn’t get governments which ignore it and treat it with contempt. Or at least not for very long.

So having treated Scotland and the preciousssssss like an abused dug for the past few years, what’s really getting the goat of the Conservative party is not that they’ve suddenly seen the light and realised that their behaviour is unacceptable. Oh no, they’re fine with the way they’ve behaved. They’re perfectly OK with the fact that throughout this entire Brexit process the needs of Scotland have been marginalised and ignored. They’re cool with the fact that they’ve used Brexit as an excuse to undermine the devolution settlement.  They’re quite mellow about having traduced all the promises that they made as a part of the Better Together campaign in order to get Scotland to vote against independence.

What’s getting them upset is that someone has been calling them out for bad behaviour and they have belatedly realised that the consequences are coming home to roost. It’s a bit like a bank robber complaining that they have to go to jail because the polis gave the newspapers and the telly news their description and not because they robbed a bank. The real villains here are the people calling out the villains.

The UK government is claiming that it is only spending some £100,000 annually on “promoting the union” out of an annual budget for promotional activities of £440 million. Presumably this £100,000 doesn’t include the £750,000 annually that David Mundell spends on spin doctors, the money that the Scotland Office spends on advertising, or the ever increasing bloat of a Scotland Office that does less and less except act as the voice of the Conservative government in Scotland and an advertising agency for all things Yookay. And which is funded out of money that would otherwise go to the Scottish government to be spent on public services in Scotland.

The amount of public money which the Scotland Office spends on spin doctors has gone up a whopping sevenfold under the Conservatives. According to figures obtained by SNP MP Deidre Brock, the amount that the Scotland Office has spent on spin doctors and public relations has risen from £108,439 in 2010/11 to £757,868 in 2016/17. In addition, the Scotland Office also spends a fair wodge of dosh on advertising on social media. In the month of March 2019 alone, the Scotland Office spent almost £11,000 on advertising on social media. According to an investigation by The Ferret, a previous social media advertising campaign by the Scotland Office was targetted at small business owners in David Mundell’s constituency. A cynic might imagine that the Fluffy One was using public money in order to secure his own career.

The Conservatives are already doing their damnedest to promote the union to Scotland, and it’s not working. The reason it’s not working is because the Conservatives are doing even more to destroy it. They’re putting up pro-UK posters in the living room with one hand, while with the other they’re undermining the foundations of the house.

The Tories call themselves the party of the union, but they act as the party of British centralism. That was fine for decades, because unionism in Scotland rested upon the comforting myth that Scotland was a voluntary equal partner in the United Kingdom. That was, and is, the defining belief of Scottish Unionism. Scotland, they tell everyone else and themselves, is not a colony. Scotland was an enthusiastic participant in the British Empire. Scotland, they assert, was never a possession of the Empire but rather a partner in doing the possessing.

Unfortunately, this was never the understanding of the union that was current amongst the Anglocentric British establishment. The belief in England was always that the UK was simply Greater England. The UK consisted of England and those lesser nations which had been compelled by one means or another to throw their lot in with England.

When there was an Empire to exploit, the different Scottish and English understandings of the union were unquestioned and unexamined. After the dissolution of the Empire the disconnection could easily be ignored while there was no Scottish Parliament to articulate Scotland’s political sense of itself, and while Scotland and the rest of the UK both swung between voting Tory and voting Labour. The cracks only started to appear after the demand for Scottish self government arose in the latter part of the 20th century, and only grew wider after Tony Blair’s government introduced an assymetric form of devolution.

The cracks grew wider still during the independence referendum and its aftermath, when the parties forming the Better Together campaign turned their back on the Vow and complacently thought that the No vote meant a return to business as usual. Scotland was back in its box, and could be ignored once again. But the independence movement born during the referendum campaign ensured that the lid of the box was kept loose.

In order to keep Scotland tied to Westminster, we were told that it was only because of the UK that we were a part of the EU. The message that leaving the UK meant leaving the EU was central to the Better Together campaign. Scots were taught that their country was poor, semi-bankrupt, and dependent on the largesse of a kind and benevolent UK. But this only provoked an unexpected reaction in England, when England started to grow resentful at what it saw as Scottish privilege that English voters were being told they paid for, privileges which were being lavished on ungrateful Scots.

All this simmering discontent with the union metaphorically exploded with Brexit. The Conservatives brought about a referendum on EU membership in order to tackle internal Tory disputes between the Europhile and Europhobe wings of that party. After a defeat in the EU referendum that the then Prime Minister David Cameron had neither expected nor prepared for, his successor continued to treat Brexit as an internal matter for the Conservative party.

Despite the fact that the vote to leave won only a very narrow victory, Theresa May set out to placate the extreme europhobes on her back benches. She set out entirely unnecessary red lines, and the definitions of soft and hard brexit were moved ever further in one direction, in the direction of right wing Brextremism and ever further away from what Scotland could accept. This was only exacerbated after Theresa May lost her majority in the General Election she had promised not to call. She continued as though nothing had changed. The only difference was that now she required the support of the DUP.

Heavily remain voting Scotland was ignored, along with all the other remain voters in the UK. The proposal from the Scottish Government for a differential treatment of Scotland along with Northern Ireland never even got a reply. The Conservatives had never been happy with devolution, and leapt upon Brexit as their opportunity to recentralise the UK. The Brexit vote gave them a convenient excuse to undermine the devolution settlement and grab devolved powers for Westminster, all the while mendaciously claiming that they were giving Holyrood more powers.

What really happened was this. When devolution was established, the new Scottish Parliament was given control of all powers of government except for those which were explicitly to be reserved to Westminster – such as broadcasting, international relations, defence, the social security system, most tax powers, the constitution, etc. All other powers were devolved. However as a part of the EU, a number of these functions were exercised by EU institutions. In essence, these powers were still Scotland’s, but they were being held in trust for Scotland by the EU. After Brexit, Westminster took it upon itself to decide unilaterally which of these powers it was keeping for itself, and which it would allow Holyrood to keep. And then David Mundell told us that we had no grounds for complaint because Holyrood was getting extra powers.

Thanks to the Tories and the consistent way in which they have placed the interests of their party before the interests of Scotland and before the interests of the UK, the devolution settlement is being undermined, and Scotland is facing the prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal.

The UK is indeed under immense strain.  On the one hand the Tories have created an England which is resentful of what it sees as Scottish privilege, and whose Brexit supporters would prefer to see Scotland go than to give up on Brexit.  On the other hand the Tories have created a Scotland which is resentful because it is being wrenched out of the EU even though the Conservatives told Scotland that the only way to remain in the EU was to vote against independence. On top of that, Scotland is seeing its precious devolution settlement being undermined and traduced and no longer has confidence that it will be able to continue in its current form in a centralising post-Brexit Britain.

All this is the creation of the Conservative party. They did this. This is their doing. In pursuit of their own short term party interests the Tories dug into the very core of the union between Scotland and the rest of the UK and destroyed its foundations. The cracks are wide and growing ever wider. The chasm between the Scottish and English conceptions of what this so-called union means cannot be papered over with some union flag posters and a spot of rebranding. It won’t be bridged by blaming the SNP and the Scottish independence movement.

A cosmetic exercise by the Tories won’t succeed in propping up an edifice which they themselves have brought to the point of collapse. You don’t save a structurally unsound building with a lick of paint and some new wallpaper. It’s too late to save the UK. The Tories have exposed its true nature. They are the unwitting midwives of Scottish independence. Because of the actions of the Conservatives themselves, there’s now far too many rebellious Scots to shush.


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Nationalism and Thatessempee

itsaboutdemocracy
How many times have you heard someone say that they’re not going to vote for independence because they “hate that SNP”. Often Thatessempee is spat out as though it was a single word, and a swerrie word at that. Just as frequently you’ll hear people say that they don’t want to vote for independence because they don’t like Nicola Sturgeon, or because they loathe Alicsammin, whose name has also developed a tendency among certain opponents of independence to be spat out as though it was a single swerrie word.

The overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland has always been very keen to foster an association in the minds of the Scottish public between independence and a single political party. Most often the BBC presents discussions on independence by having on a sole representative from Thatessempee, and then “for balance”, he or she is up against a Labour person, a Tory, and a Lib Dem. The other main pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens, are rarely invited. Other smaller parties which support independence, like the Scottish Socialists who once had representation in Holyrood, never get a look in. The impression given is that Scottish independence is a party political project belonging in its entirety to Thatessempee.

The desire of the media and opponents of independence to foster the myth that Scottish independence is the sole preserve of Thatessempee is constant and unrelenting. How many times during the independence referendum campaign of 2014 did you hear the phrase Alex Salmond’s referendum? And how many times did you hear the UK being personalised by the name of the leader of the Better Together campaign as Alistair Darling’s No Campaign or Alistair Darling’s Pro-UK project? Never, that’s how many times.

The aim of this messaging is to discourage people who do not support the SNP from engaging with the arguments for independence. Yet there are many independence supporters who do not support the SNP. There are other parties which back independence. There are even people within the traditionally anti-independence parties, particularly the Labour party in Scotland, who privately support independence. A vote for Scottish independence is not a vote for the SNP. The anti-independence parties and their friends in the Scottish media just want you to think it is.

When Scotland does become an independent country, and there’s a now a majority in Scotland who believe that it’s merely a matter of time before that happens, it will be a democracy. An independent Scotland will not be a one party SNP state. Voting for an independent Scotland is not a vote to have Nicola Sturgeon as dictator for life. In fact, voting for Scottish independence is not even a vote of confidence in the SNP. It’s certainly not a signal that you support the actions of the SNP administration of the devolved Scottish Government. A vote for independence is nothing more and nothing less than a statement that you believe that it is up to the people of Scotland to decide what course this country takes. It’s a statement that the government of Scotland should be elected by the people of Scotland and should be answerable to the people of Scotland and to no one else. Voting for independence is not party political.

The desire for Scottish independence is motivated by a recognition that Westminster governance is not allowing Scotland to develop to its full potential. It is driven by the understanding that there is a great deal that is wrong with Scotland, and these wrongs and shortcomings can best be addressed if the people of Scotland have a government which is responsible to them, and which puts the interests of Scotland first and foremost. Saying that you refuse to vote for independence because you hate Nicola Sturgeon or Thatessempee is rather like saying that you’re not going to have your toothache dealt with because you dislike a particular dentist. You’d rather have the toothache.

You may also have heard people say that they are voting against independence because they don’t like nationalism. Opponents of independence are very keen to paint the Scottish constitutional debate as a debate between nationalists on the one hand, and non-nationalists on the other. However it is untrue. A vote against independence is equally a vote for a nationalist project, because by a vote against independence is effectively a vote to back the intensely nationalist project that is Brexit and to support a British state which is every bit as nationalist, if not more so, than an independent Scotland would be.

Opponents of independence are aided in this by a deficit of the English language. The English term nationalism encompasses two very different political philosophies. Nationalism can mean the aggressive aggrandisement of an existing state. It’s often xenophobic, authoritarian, and intolerant. However it can also mean the campaign for independence by a nation which currently doesn’t have it. These are not the same political philosophies at all, and in some languages they are called by different names. Scottish nationalism is of the latter variety, and in Spanish it would be referred to by a different word, independentismo. Unfortunately if you try to adopt this term into English and call yourself a Scottish independentist, people just ask you how much you charge for orthodontic work, so it’s unlikely to catch on.

Mainstream Scottish nationalism is of the civic variety. It defines Scottishness not by where a person was born, but by where a person lives or how they choose to identify. Mainstream Scottish nationalism is honoured to accept as Scots those people born elsewhere who have come to this country, made their lives here, and have become a part of Scotland’s story and journey. Scottishness is not about where you came from, it’s about where we are all going.

Brexit on the other hand is most definitely strongly characterised by many of the features of the first kind of nationalism, the intolerant xenophobic sort. Opponents of independence seek to blur the distinction to get people to believe that by supporting Scottish independence, they are also supporting intolerance, xenophobia and racism. The claim that supporters of Scottish independence are anti-English racists is a constant refrain. However the movement for Scottish independence is no more defined by anti-English racism than opposition to independence is defined by the sectarianism of the Orange Order, or the out and out racism of Britain First, both of which are groups which oppose independence. The claim that Scottish independence is racist is a tactic designed to prevent English people in Scotland from supporting independence. Yet one of the most active grassroots groups campaigning for independence is English Scots for Yes.

Even without Brexit, a vote against independence would still be a vote to support a nationalist project. It’s a vote to back a British state which is every bit as nationalist in its actions as any independent Scotland would be. In fact as a country which is quick to take military action around the globe in pursuit of what it sees as British interests, the UK is far more aggressively nationalist than an independent Scotland would ever be. Supporters of the British state do not get a free pass from nationalism just because they back the UK. Indeed, one of the defining myths of British nationalism is that it’s better than the nationalisms of lesser breeds by virtue of not being nationalist at all. It’s a comforting fairy story, but it’s not true.

The reality is that the debate about Scottish independence is not a debate between Scottish nationalism on the one hand and non-nationalism on the other. It’s a debate between two different visions for Scotland’s future. One vision puts that future into the hands of the people of Scotland, the other surrenders it to decisions made by a Westminster Parliament which is not primarily accountable to the people of Scotland. Both sides of this debate contain people who are nationalists, and both sides contain people who are not nationalists. The debate about Scottish independence is essentially a debate about accountability and democratic representation.

As we have seen with Brexit, Scotland is being subjected to a damaging and reckless estrangement from Europe even though the people of Scotland have consistently voted against it. Yet throughout this entire process the voices of Scotland’s parliament and elected representatives have been ignored and sidelined. As far as Brexit is concerned, British Government has made precisely zero accommodations to the needs of Scotland. This is merely the latest and most egregious example of Scotland’s needs and concerns not being met by the Westminster Parliament. This happens because Westminster Governments do not rely upon Scottish votes in order to get into power, so are free to ignore Scotland’s needs with impunity. British governments are not accountable to the people of Scotland.

Over the past 50 years, Scotland has only had governments in Westminster that it voted for for a total of 17 years. As long as Scotland and the rest of the UK were on the same page politically, both alternating between Labour and the Conservatives, this was tolerable. Scotland got what it voted for often enough that we could pretend to ourselves that Scotland really was a partner in a Union. There was always another election in five years time. But that foundation myth of Scottish Unionism has been blown out of the water by Brexit. Brexit is forever, not just for five years, and the way in which Scotland was treated by Westminster during the Brexit process has proven that Westminster governments have no interest in making accommodations to Scotland’s needs or concerns.

Scottish independence is about establishing the principle that the path that Scotland takes should be decided by the people of Scotland. It is about ensuring that Scotland always has a government elected by the people of Scotland, and which is accountable to them and to no one else. If we cannot vote them out of office they will not take decisions in our interests. Theresa May or Boris Johnson have no need to consider Scotland’s interests, and so they treat Scotland with arrogant contempt. They know that Scotland can’t vote them out of power.

The real reason for Scottish independence is to ensure that our politicians and our governments are kept accountable to the people of Scotland. It’s to ensure that Scotland always gets governments that it elects. It’s to ensure that those politicians always operate in the interests of Scotland and that they are kept accountable to us. It’s only by keeping them close to us in an independent Scotland that we can ensure that their backsides are within kicking distance of our feet and that we can vote them out of office when they break their promises.

That’s the very nub of the argument for Scottish independence. It’s not about party politics. It’s not about nationalism. It’s about democracy.

The plan for this article and several others dealing with key points in the independence debate is to collate them and publish them in book form when we have a date for the independence vote. Some of these articles have already been published on this blog and others have yet to be written. The idea is that when we know when Scotland will be voting, I will do a crowd-funder specifically for the purpose of raising money to get the book printed, and then it can be distributed to Yes groups and campaigners and given away for free.

There’s already a Wee Blue Book, let’s have a Wee Ginger Book too. This isn’t meant as competition for the Wee Blue Book – which is a fantastic initiative with proven success – but rather it is to be complementary to it. Different writing styles and different books can appeal to different readerships and different demographics. The more information we can get out there, the more people we can persuade to Yes. If you have any suggestions for topics for articles to include in this book, let me know and I will write something up – if I haven’t done so already.


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