Gordon Brown tells the truth

According to one theory, there is an infinite number of universes, which in turn means that all possible things which can potentially happen do in fact happen somewhere in the infinite multiverse, no matter how implausible or unlikely.  There is a universe where there are actually more Tory MPs in Scotland than pandas, it’s one of the Hell Dimensions.  There’s also a universe where Reporting Scotland is a really good news programme, although quantum physicists consider this less plausible than the universe where the Daily Mail publishes an editorial begging the UK Government to allow in more asylum seekers from countries which Westminster has invaded.

However yesterday we discovered we reside in perhaps the most singular universe of all, the blessed land where Gordon Brown actually tells the truth for once.  No really, it did happen.

Gord has now admitted that he’s an ex-politician, something the rest of us have known for quite some time.  You have to phase these things out gradually you know, so he’s still drawing his MP’s salary, and his expenses, and gaining contributions to his pension pot and pay offs.  He gave up doing any work himself a long time ago.

But we must not be harsh on him, he’s really just practising the message that he preached while in high office.  He’s privatised his constituency work by farming it out to office staff he pays for out of expenses.  So he’s really a job creator and not a parasite.

Gord has lied for years on just about everything, mostly to himself, but also to the rest of us.  He was the Labour Chancellor who proudly stuck to Tory spending plans and Tory attitudes to the jobless.  He had a moral compass but it was really a device for telling the direction in which to sling some mud.   He was the man with a plan who was going to put the Labour back into New Labour, but it turned out the only plan was how to get his paws on Tony Blair’s job.  Gord approached politics like an obsessive Monroe bagger, once he’d reached the highest peak he didn’t know what to do with himself.

The blessed land where this miraculous truth telling occurred was not Scotland, that’s too ridiculous for any universe in which we’re not yet independent.  It was Qatar.  Gordie was doing what he does best when he’s not got a book to plug or an after-dinner speech to make for nothing more than his food, travel, lodgings and a very fat cheque.  He does it all for charidee you know.  He was punching above the weight of the constituents of Kirkaldy at an international summit on something terribly important, held at a posh and lavishly appointed conference and hotel centre. Conveniently somewhere warm where people think he’s the former prime minister ingliziya.

Removing themselves from being subject to difficult questions is the only demonstrable skill possessed by Scotland’s Labour politicians.  They are experts in disappearing, world class in fact.   It’s surprising that they didn’t demand hide and seek to be added to the list of Olympic sports when the games were held in London.  Between Gordie Broon, Johann Lamont and Jim Murphy they’d have snapped up gold, silver and bronze.  It would have given them an excuse to wrap themselves in Union flags and pose on the front of United with Labour leaflets.  Only there aren’t any leaflets.

United with Labour is the invisible campaign for invisible politicians.  Despite being launched with a fanfare of “that’ll show thae nats a thing or three” puffery from media hacks, Labour’s own campaign to save the Union in a way that doesn’t involve being photographed with Conservatives has managed to garner just 6 friends and 47 likes on its Facebook page.  I almost felt sorry for it.  Even Gary Glitter’s got more people who believe him than that.

Johann Lamont has learned well from Gordie, many would say she now surpasses the old master in the vanishing arts.  It’s much harder for Johann to hide, since she’s rarely invited to international conferences in warm countries.  No one in Labour’s London office seems to have heard of the supposed leader of the party in Scotland, she didn’t even figure on the CC list for the report into the goings on within the Falkirk constituency party, so it’s hardly surprising no international conference organisers have heard of her either.

After briefly emerging to have a wee gloat over a predictable Dunfermline by election result,  chicken Johann has gone back into hiding in order to avoid being asked any questions about the flustercluck that was the role of Labour and the Unite union in the Grangemouth crisis.  Labour and Unite spent the past few months attacking one another with the single minded fury of battery chickens on steroids determined to establish who ruled the roost.  They forgot all about the Ineos fox intent on devouring Grangemouth’s wee chicks in high visibility jaickets.

For all that they preach that Scotland should demonstrate solidarity with workers in England, Labour’s pretty poor at showing solidarity with workers themselves.  Grangemouth showed that Labour’s sole interest is Labour.  Unite’s sorry role in the Grangemouth affair is nothing to be proud of either, but at least their basic point is correct.  The Labour party was established by the union movement as a vehicle for workers’ rights.  But the Labour party has transformed the union movement into a vehicle for the Labour party.

Now the Labour party rails against the evil inquities of avaricious foxes, but when in office Labour embarked on a fox breeding programme with all the enthusiasm of their Tory predecessors, and cut down the chicken wire protecting the coops saying it was a barrier to business.  They muzzled the guard dogs and sold off the chicken sheds.  They created the conditions that allowed Grangemouth to be so vulnerable.

Johann doesn’t want to answer any questions about this.  And it’s terribly unfair of us to think she should.  After all, it’s not like a Unite sponsored MSP and nominal leader of the Labour party in Scotland could possibly know anything about a major bitch-fest between Labour and Unite that ended up being the blue touch paper on a powder keg of petrochemicals.

Labour doesn’t want us to think about its role in leaving Scottish industry a sitting duck for any passing capitalist predator, a legacy of the ex-politician on a freebie to Qatar.  Instead we must allow Johann to get back to doing what she does best.  Lying down in a darkened room until she can think of something to accuse Alex Salmond of.  It’s her only apparent purpose.  She’s a fat lot of use for anything else.

Scotland’s Labour politicians have been known to submerge for weeks and months on end, only finally surfacing for a brief period, usually in order to accuse Alex Salmond of something.  It’s a skill in which they are rivalled only by Nessie, except for the accusing Alex Salmond bit, although it is fair to say there are more plausible sightings of Nessie than Gordie or Johann.  It’s also probably true that Nessie would be capable of giving a far more coherent account of herself, but that’s by the by.

However the similarities far outweigh the differences.  All are elusive cold blooded reptilians, all have a reputation that is largely mythical, and all are easy to confuse with lumps of dead wood floating at an odd angle.

Johann Lamont is an ex-politician too, she’s just not admitted it yet.  Perhaps in an independent Scotland a real Labour party can rise from the ashes of despair created by the current incarnation.  It’s unlikely that Johann or Gordon will have any role in it, then perhaps they can disappear forever.

Cross words about independence

If you believed some of the coverage in the UK press, the independence campaign is all about cross words.  Of course that’s nonsense, but being a kindly soul and wishing to help them out of their embarrassing lack of knowledge of Scotland and its campaign for self determination, I thought I’d give them some real cross words.  So here’s an independence themed crossword – although not all the clues and answers relate to the indy campaign.

I spent a couple of hours wrestling with a wee widget that promised to allow an interactive crossword to be embedded in this post, but I couldn’t get it to work and life’s too short to faff about with computery stuff. If you want to complete the crossword you’ll have to print this page off and do it the old fashioned way with paper and pen and a nice wee cuppa. Mair civilised that way anyway.

The answers will be posted tomorrow. Enjoy.


1. Jessica’s Gaelic homeland. (4)
3. The 18th of September’s big event. (10)
9. Ancient Scot. (4)
10. Stage rungs to read high shelf. (10)
12. Colossal dint makes huge contribution to national economy (9, 3)
15. UK was AAA, but not any more. (5)
16. Objective to change No to Yes (9)
18. Tunnel man manufactures cancellation of Westminster marriage. (9)
20. Better Together ends in anaesthetic for Scotland. (5)
21. The key to unlocking a better future (12)
25. Iain Duncan Smith’s crazy mad ex robot evicts council tenants. (7, 3)
26. See 17 Down
27. Choice address in Scotland decides outcome of vote. (10)
28. Paradise is blocked away by Aye denial. (4)
1. Confused, a raw ass ran as Labour PM (4, 6)
2. A student with much time in slag heap for casting votes (10)
4. Broad, comprehensive, and sizeable, just like Scotland’s resources and potential. (9)
5. Exhibitions are former mail without time. (5)
6. Avoiding the issue is what you get when asking Better Together a question. (7)
7. Bird as extinct as Danny Alexander’s career after the next election. (4)
8. Out of touch London Scot who thinks debate is anti-English. (4)
11. Radiators, veins, and Scotland’s resources all got drained. (4)
13. Angling for Mr Stewart? (5, 3)
14. Better Together press release is false revolution. (6, 4)
17, 25 acc. How you should drain a bottle of good whisky after a Yes vote. (2, 3, 4, 4)
19. Left house after period before Easter and acted like a library. (4, 3)
20. Means goals. (4)
22. Wost the ewection when he wan away down the subway (5)
23. Aye we can, because we’re this. (4)
24. Tory employment policy lied confusedly, making thousands this. (4)

Adventures in forensic linguistics and the art of sock puppetry

The key to a well balanced and sane life is to have multiple obsessions.  Apart from boring the arse off my relatives about the need for Scottish independence – a project in which I’m making slow but steady progress – I’ll also bore the arse off you about obscure languages spoken by 5 elderly folk and a parrot up a valley somewhere in the Andes.  I’m a geek, an anorak, a nerd, the linguistic version of the guys who stand on the ends of station platforms obsessively jotting down train numbers.

Not that any of this has ever proven of much practical use in daily life, although when watching Pointless I did once get 3 pointless answers when the category was “official languages of India”.  Mind you, it’s not that hard really.  You can also get 3 spectacularly pointless answers when the category is anything to do with Westminster politics.  Just yell at the telly “Magrit Curran, Ian Davidson, and Jim Murphy” and you’re sorted.

But back to linguistics, forensic linguistics to be precise, and its usefulness in the Scottish independence debate.

Forensic linguistics is the science of gleaning information about people’s backgrounds from their linguistic patterns.  Language is like fingerprints, it follows repeating patterns, but each of us have uniquely identifying traits.  In certain Sherlock Holmes stories, our pipe wielding cocaine snorting hero is able to say with confidence that a particular suspect comes from the north side of a particular street in a small district of a particular town.  In real life, you can’t be so precise, but people’s speech and language patterns do reveal a lot of information about their background.

I’ve posted previously about watching Unionists who post obsessively in the comments sections of newspapers.  I’ll mock them en-masse, but wouldn’t ever single out an ordinary individual who seems to be who they claim to be.  They’re just opinionated punters like the rest of us, they have no more power or influence than anyone else, and they’re entitled to their wrong opinions.

But there is a significant, albeit small, minority who are clearly not who they claim to be.  Suspiciously well briefed, they post lengthy comments.  They’re sock puppets, party hacks who have created false identities in order to manipulate a debate in their own interest.

I’ve searched for similar examples amongst Yes supporters, but have failed to find any.  Those Yes supporters who are also SNP activists are up front about it.  The Yes campaign has genuine, and massive, popular support online, it has no need for sock puppetry.  Sock puppets are a Unionist phenomenon.  What’s interesting is that the Unionist camp has so little confidence in what it has to offer that it feels the need to lie about the sources and providers of their message.

Better Together has form for this sort of behaviour.  Wings Over Scotland has highlighted a particularly staged looking leafleting session Better Together held in Edinburgh on the day of the Rally for Independence.

Better Together does the same in the online comment sections of newspapers.  One poster who pops up regularly in the Herald and the Guardian claims to be a disinterested foreigner from a small European country, who is simply concerned enough to point out all the terrible problems with the practicalities of becoming independent, and so we really shouldn’t do it.

If you click on a poster’s user ID in the Guardian, you can see their posting history.  This individual only ever posts on threads about Scottish indy.  Never on the (few) threads relevant to the small European country from which they claim to come.  That’s interesting all by itself.

And this is where forensic linguistics comes in.  This person’s posts are lengthy and copious.  Actually they’re bloody tedious, but they do form what linguists call a comprehensive corpus.  I read through it.  See how I suffer for the cause?

What was interesting was not the content, it was the total absence of a single grammatical, syntactic, or semantic indicator which would point to the writer’s mother tongue being that of this particular small European country.  Anoraks who jot down grammatical information at the ends of train platforms know what to look for.

I noticed another person in the Guardian had obviously pointed this out to our mysterious European, only to be subjected to a rant.  It was racist to assert that people from this small European country could not learn English properly, apparently.  But it’s not racist to point out the universals of human linguistic behaviour, and speaking as a former professional translator, I can assure you that professional translators only ever translate INTO their mother tongue.  You never translate into your second language, you never write for professional publication in your second language.  Those who do have the assistance of native speaking sub-editors.  No matter how fluent you become in your second language, there are always tell tale signs that give you away.

The reason for this is that many of the rules of a language are triggered by some words but not others, and there is often no logical basis for deciding which is which.  You just have to know.  So in English the words ‘leaf’ and ‘herb’ are count nouns, and must appear with a determiner, you have to say “a leaf”, “a herb”, or “an herb” if you’re American and talk funny.  But the word ‘grass’ is a non-count noun, and can appear without an article, it’s just “grass”, not “a grass” – unless you mean a wee clype.  I’m a grass just now, because I’m grassing this poster up.

Definite and indefinite articles in English are used differently according to whether a noun is a count noun or a non-count noun.  There is no logical semantic or grammatical reason why leaf is count but grass is non-count.  It’s just one of the many wee quirks of English.  All human languages have wee quirks like these.  Learners of the language just have to learn them individually, and it’s impossible not to make the occasional mistake because there is no rhyme or reason to them.

So you can imagine that if your mother tongue doesn’t have definite or indefinite articles, learning how to use them correctly 100% of the time in English is no mean feat.  This person claims to be a native speaker of a language that lacks definite and indefinite articles.

There are other linguistic give-aways, but I’m not going to say what they are.  I’m not about to explain to Better Together how to make their sock puppets more convincing.

The person making all these posts is clearly someone whose dominant language is English.  They do not display any of the signs of a person who has learned English as a second language, and who still resides within the milieu of their mother tongue.  The only possible conclusion is that the person is a native English speaker who lives amongst English speakers.

Even more intriguingly, this person’s user ID is the translation into this south central European language of the name of a gay festival held in the neighbouring (German speaking) country.  It’s a festival which attracts visitors from all over Europe, including Scotland.

Despite the fact that the Guardian newspaper regularly publishes stories of LGBT interest, including stories directly relevant to LGBT people living in small East European countries, this poster has never commented on any of them.  They only comment on stories about Scottish independence.

So I am breaking my own rule here, because this person is not an ordinary punter who is telling the truth about themselves, their background and their motivations.  Jezerna Roza is a Gay festival which isn’t in Slovenia, and neither is “Jezerna Roza”.   “Jezerna Roza” is no more Slovene than I am.  He, and it’s most assuredly a he, is a gay man who is also a Labour party activist.  He is more Lothian than Ljubljana, more Motherwell than Maribor.  I can think of a number of suspects.

Jezerna Roza’s posts deserve no further consideration.  After all, if you’re misrepresenting yourself, just why should we believe anything else you have to say?

This is the lesson that Better Together and the Unionist campaign have signally failed to learn.  Don’t lie to people.  You’ll get caught out, and it will be your undoing.

Lessons in conversational Lamontese

I wasn’t really paying attention to the Sunday Politics show on BBC Scotland.  There are far more important things in the world than listening to Labour politicians attempting to justify themselves.  But adrift amidst a mountain of washing and tripping over the hoover, I caught Johann Lamont declare that she had never said that people in Scotland get “something for nothing”.

Aware that her something for nothing comments had been received like a deep fried cockroach in a bucket of chicken nuggets, Johann has spent the last year alternately back-tracking and being unavailable for comment.  Now she’s trying to pretend that they never happened at all, and it’s all our fault for misunderstanding her.

Johann Lamont has a grasp of fact that’s worse than a Young Earth creationist’s grasp of evolutionary theory.  The crazed creationist at least possesses the virtue of being consistently selective in their treatment of data, Johann just makes it up as she goes along.

In the speech she delivered in September 2012, her exact words were:  “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world,” before going on to promise that her new commission would leave no stone unturned in its search for ‘affordable’ policies, and left no doubt that free education and free prescriptions would be amongst those things the commission might throw some stones at.  A report on the speech is still available on the STV website.

This wasn’t an off the cuff remark either, Johann had herself called a press conference to let us all know that “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world.”  She had invited telly crews and people who know how to take shorthand and use audio recorders.  We heard her say it and we saw her lips moving.

At times like this we should always be kind, and try to think of an innocent explanation first.  Maybe Johann just forgot, what with her being scared shitless that some of the blame for the Grangemouth debacle is going to rebound on the Labour party and the Unite union for allowing their petty internal politicking to put thousands of Scottish jobs at risk, and her only having her job because she got the Unite vote in the Labour leadership campaign.  She’s struggling to find a way to shift the blame onto Alex Salmond for that one.  So the whole something for nothing stuff just slipped her mind.

Admittedly there are heroin addicts with head injuries who have better recall of events, but this is the Labour party in Scotland we’re talking about here.  They don’t have high standards.  Even so, the only way that Johann would be unable to remember making the statement would be for her actually to be in a vegetative coma.  So come to think of it, it is a plausible excuse after all.

Perhaps it’s also our fault for misunderstanding, what with us being Scottish and struggling to articulate sentences that make any sense, as Johann consistently demonstrates in solidarity with us ordinary folk.  We can’t put it down to linguistic differences though, since another Labour luminary has already told us we can’t have independence because we have no language of our own.  It’s only Johann Lamont who has a language of her own.

So the sentence “Scotland cannot be the only something for nothing country in the world” was not a rehashed Tory slogan from a hash of a Labour politician who’s adopting Tory policies so her party can get elected south of the Border and make a hash of social provision in the process.  It must really mean something entirely different to what it looks like it means to us stupid people who don’t speak Lamontese.

What she actually said was : “Scotland can obey the only summons for nuke gantries in a whirl,” which was really coded advice to tell us to vote yes in the indy referendum so we can get rid of Trident.  Johann’s a closet Yes supporting nuclear unilateralist, who knew?

But that’s about as plausible as the BBC interviewer challenging Johann when she tells a blatant lie.

Dear Westminster: A divorce letter

I originally wrote this article during the lead up to the Holyrood elections, and it was first published in March 2011 in Newsnet Scotland.  It was later published by the Scots Independent as their lead article in the edition published during election month.  (My mammy was dead proud.)   I’ve been writing a new and updated version, but have been unable to finish it as my partner had a bad night last night, and we had to call the doctor out today.  Thankfully it seems like it’s nothing serious.

I thought the original letter was worth republishing.  The new and updated version will be published just as soon as I get time to finish it.  

Dear Westminster,

There was a time when you wooed me.  Once you promised me the delights of India and the magic of Hong Kong, but these days all you do is sit on the sofa with your American pal playing war games.  You’ve squandered all our money on expensive toys and presents for your mates in the City.  Now you tell me you’re cutting the housekeeping money but you’re still buying two aircraft carriers, only there are no planes to put on them.  You even had the cheek to tell me you were doing me a favour by letting me assemble the airfix kits.  And don’t start me on those bloody submarines.

You treat me like you’re ashamed of me.  You never let me leave the house alone.  Are you afraid that I’ll say something to embarrass you if I was to meet up with some other countries without you being there?  I was really upset when you didn’t let me go to Copenhagen to that workshop on climate change, especially because you know how much work I did installing wind turbines in the back garden and got all those books about tidal energy out the library.  It was hurtful and unthinking.  Does the term ‘control freak’ mean anything to you?

I always knew you were never faithful.  I never mentioned your thing with Wales, you know, the other woman, your kidnap victim from a previous relationship.  I was even your biggest supporter when you wanted to start that menage-a-trois with Ireland.  You know as well as I do how much that particular little escapade ended up costing in therapy sessions and broken crockery.  I can’t believe how naive I was.  It’s all water under the bridge now, but I’ll never have a proper relationship with my own family until you stop claiming the right to speak for me.

I bumped into Norway the other day, she’s looking good and doing so well for herself.  I remember her when she worked in the fish factory and didn’t have two kroner to rub together, then she divorced Denmark and rushed into that rebound affair with Sweden which ended in tears.  Well that’s all changed.  She was just popping off to some important do at the UN and was looking very stylish.  And there was me in an auld coat and head-scarf like the depressive suicide risk in an Ingmar Bergman movie because you say I can’t afford nice things.

I see the banks are Scottish again.  That’s nice.  For years you’ve insisted on controlling all the pursestrings, and now the pursestrings are flapping around your ankles like snapped knicker elastic all of a sudden the empty banks are Scottish and a reason I could never look after myself.  You’re like a wean that breaks a toy then gives it back saying it was broken when you got it.  Funny how you managed to play with the banks for years without noticing how broken they were.

You say the oil money is spent and gone, and you always said that it was never a significant sum anyway.  Well now I’ve discovered the truth that you’ve been trying to keep from me for the past 30 years.  For all that time you’ve known that I could be very wealthy, but you kept schtum so you could spend the money on things for yourself. 

I don’t know what’s more hurtful, the fact that you kept secrets from me and stole from me, or that you didn’t trust me enough to be honest with me in the first place.  Just what other dirty little secrets are you keeping?  You know what Oprah Winfrey said, when trust breaks down there can be no marriage.  You’ve ripped up my trust, thrown it away, and trampled it in the gutter.  You’ve only got yourself to blame for that.

Then there was thon weirdo Thatcherism cult you got seduced into joining.  You gave away all the family silver and kept chanting that mantra about obeying the market.   What a nightmare that was.  You went all wild-eyed and starey and really scared me.  Remember Jack Nicholson in the Shining?  I was Shelley Duvall cowering in terror while you took an axe to everything.  I’m still not entirely convinced you’ve got over that little episode, and there is no power on Earth that would force me to endure another bout of it.  You’ve not done a great deal to boost my confidence on that score.

I’m under the doctor now.  You don’t care, you just mutter about Celts and alcoholism and tell me it’s all my own fault because I’m feeble and useless.  But the truth is I have cancer, the media and political parties that you support have turned against my body, poisoning my system.  They make me weak and cause me to doubt myself and lose my self-confidence.  They eat away at me from within.  The doctors have diagnosed it as Unionosis, it’s caused by a loveless and one-sided marriage.

What makes it worse is that it’s you who is feeding the disease.  I’m not saying you’re doing it deliberately – that would imply you have a degree of self-awareness I don’t think you’re capable of – but I can’t rid myself of the dark suspicion and you don’t help by refusing to accept that there’s a problem.  It keeps me awake at nights and I’ve been drinking more than is good for a person. 

All you do is to accuse me of having a chip on my shoulder.  Well that’s true, and guess what honey – you put it there.  You aren’t just a chip on my shoulder, you’re a whole fish supper with extra sour vinegar all wrapped up in a copy of the Hootsmon.  And frankly the fish smells pretty rank.  Chip.  I’ll gie ye bloody chip.

Anyway, the only cure for Unionosis is to root out the problem at source, and that means leaving you.

We don’t have any reason to stay together.  The children are all grown up.  Australia and Canada are doing so well for themselves.  I used to worry about Canada living in that bad neighbourhood, but he managed to avoid getting led astray by that neighbour of his.  Such a sensible and level-headed child.  He gets that from me you know.  Even little New Zealand has done us proud, and you know how I used to fret about him being so far away with nothing but sheep for company.  It’s worked out well for him, and I’ve learned not to judge who the children choose to spend their lives with.

I know you’re angry.  No one likes to be told they’re a failure, and it’s hard for you to hear you’ve been a failure as a parliament and a partner.  But you react either by screaming abuse at me or by telling me I’m worthless and would fall apart without you.  I don’t believe you any more.  You’re acting every bit the spurned lover.  You’re acting exactly like you’re always accusing France of behaving, and I only broke off my engagement with him because you convinced me he was possessive and jealous.

We’ll always be close, we still share so much and I want us to be friends.  But until you can learn to have adult relationships with the other nations in these islands, and treat us like equals and not as your harem, there’s no hope for us and there’s no hope for the people of England.  People in England deserve a proper parliament and not the pretendy wee excuse for patronage, privilege and dressing up in fancy costumes that you’ve become.  It’s time you got your fat lazy arse up from resting on your Mother of Parliament laurels and went and took a long hard look at yourself in the mirror.  You’re very good at looking after your own interests,  In time you’ll realise that this is in your best interests too.

Meanwhile I’m taking a leaf out of your book and putting my own interests first.  So I want a divorce.  There, I’ve said it.  There’s not much love anymore, I think you know that as well as I do, and it’s time we learned to live our own lives before what’s left of our feelings for one another turn into hate.  Being in this marriage has made both of us lose sight of who we are, and we need to find ourselves again.  I’ll still stand beside you to defend what we have in common, but I won’t be under your thumb.



Ooops… a correction

One of the problems with launching yerself into a rant is that you rant first and check later.  And that’s what I did yesterday.  As I was writing yesterday’s article, I had a feeling I was missing something bleedin’ obvious.  And it’s now been pointed out to me by readers who are more observant than I am that the obvious thing I was missing is that in the UK, food is zero-rated for VAT.

Food isn’t zero rated for VAT in every European country.  Some of you may know the Dug lived in Spain for many years.  We’ve been back in Scotland for 8 months now, and I had forgotten that food here doesn’t incur VAT.  Easy mistake to make – because food bills are not actually any cheaper in the UK.  And the fish counter in Scottish supermarkets is rubbish too – but that’s by the by.  If you really want a fish counter heaving with the very best of Scottish seafood, much of which is still alive in tanks where it stares back at you and makes you feel guilty for considering having it for tea, you’ll have to go to Mercadona or Hypercor in Murcia.

However the point of the article still stands, even though there will be no tax gains for an independent Scotland on items like Kirriemuir Gingerbread or baked beans which are zero rated for VAT.  There will be tax gains for an independent Scottish Treasury on non-food items, and the total amount which will accrue to the Scottish Treasury across the entire retail sector will still run into billions of pounds.  The money which we spend in retail chains which are not headquartered in Scotland does not currently figure as Scottish revenue in UK Government statistics.  That was the point of the article, it’s just funnier to waffle on about Kirriemuir Gingerbread and baked beans than economic tables.

So sadly we’ll have to say goodbye to ideas of starting a Scottish space programme with a tower of baked beans, and instead think about starting one with a mountain of flat screen tellies, toilet duck and deep clean skin cleanser.  Or maybe Michelle Mone’s bras can be adapted to make a sling shot to shoot Scottish astronauts into space.  Or possibly even Ms Mone herself, as she’s very keen to tell us she doesn’t fancy living in an indy Scotland.

Thanks to the folk who pointed out the error.  It’s good to have a laugh about our indy debate at times, but it’s even more important that we get it right.