Honour and dishonour

Thatcher’s former Governor General of Scotland, Ian Lang, made a wee speech in the House of Lords in which he said that Scottish independence would dishonour all those who had fought and died in the UK’s assorted wars.

As far as I can discover, Ian Lang has never seen active service in the military.  Instead he’s made a very lucrative career for himself in Tory politics, followed by his pretendy Lordy title and a series of directorships.  According to Businessweek, the privately educated Lang has amassed a very profitable portfolio of part time directorships which bring him in over £240,000 annually.  It’s the natural career path of a Tory poshboy.

So I asked my other half what he thought about Lang’s intervention.  Himself is a former Royal Marine who saw active service in Suez and Cyprus, two not especially honourable episodes in Britain’s imperial past – but we’ll gloss over that.  He killed people, his friends died, and he got some shiny medals for his pains.  After leaving the Royal Marines he served for 25 years in the Metropolitan police, where he continued to protect the likes of Ian Lang.

The other half is English, not a person of Scottish parentage who happened to have been born down south, he’s yer actual Englishman with the yew wot accent and everything.   He fully intends to vote yes in September’s referendum.  His exact words on hearing Lang’s comments were:  “Lang can go fuck himself.  He doesn’t know what honour means.  He won’t tell me what I fought for.” 

I wish I hadn’t asked, because the other half then went into an extended rant about how a former Thatcher cabinet minister has no business telling anyone what is or is not “honourable”.  It’s pretty rich for an exserviceman to be called dishonourable by a man who spent his career betraying working class servicepeople and took a leading role in a government which slashed the services those servicepeople now rely on when they are infirm or disabled.

All across the UK, frail and elderly ex-servicemen are left lying for hours  in their own shit because care provision has been axed.  Where’s the honour when you reek of stale urine Ian?  Thanks to Ian Lang and his colleagues, former soldiers freeze because they’re forced to choose between eating or heating.  Where’s the honour Ian?

If that’s the honour Ian Lang speaks of, who is dishonouring who?

If anything, my partner fought for the Britain of consensus, the Britain of the NHS and the welfare state, the Britain of free education, the Britain that cares for the infirm, the disabled, the elderly, and those who’ve been dealt a bad hand by life.  He did not fight for the Britain of ATOS, the Britain of cuts and privatisation.  He certainly didn’t fight for the Britain of illegal wars. But that’s the Britain Lang has created, and now he has the audacity to claim that we dishonour the selfish nasty and narrow little Parliament that is a tool of the misrule of those who know no honour, only profit.

No Ian, we are not dishonouring servicemen by voting for independence.  We are honouring them, because we’re protecting them from your betrayals, your cant, and your lies.  With independence we can create a land that really is fit for heroes.  We can preserve those good parts of the postwar consensus that you have made it your life’s work to destroy.

We are dishonouring YOU Ian, because dishonour is all you and your so called “Lords” deserve.

I do hope the Daily Mail is listening, because this particular instance of cybernattery comes from an English ex serviceman who has never used a computer in his life. 

We can work it out

Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England made a much anticipated speech in Embra on Wednesday giving his opinion on the sterling currency union the Scottish Government proposes post-independence.  His opinion boiled down to “we can work it out”, saying that the Bank of England would implement whatever agreement Holyrood and Westminster came to during independence negotiations following a yes vote.

For those of us who are neither economists nor central bankers, that’s pretty much all we need to know.  A sterling currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK is perfectly possible, and perfectly sensible.  Yes, there will be issues to be sorted out, but they can be sorted out.

Carney took pains in his speech to state that he was neither pro nor anti Scottish independence, but that hasn’t stopped a barrage of negative commentary in the Unionist press telling us that Carney’s speech means we’re all doomed and will have to buy the weekly shopping with cowry shells.  It’s all very predictable from a UK media which tells Scotland that winning £1.5 trillion on the oil lottery is a very bad thing.

Better Together have already rushed out a press release saying that Carney’s remarks “quietly demolish Alex Salmond’s claim that Scotland could keep the UK pound” when Carney had in fact said no such thing.  But then Better Together are doubtless employing the same speed reading skills they used when the White Paper on independence was published last year.

The Guardian’s resident ray of sunshine, Severin Carrell, warned us that an indy Scotland would have to “cede sovereignty” if it wanted a sterling currency union.  Which kinda implies we have sovereignty just now under the Union, an obvious nonsense.  It was a misrepresentation of Carney’s words, what the Governor of the Bank of England actually said was:

“An independent Scotland would need to consider carefully how to develop arrangements with the continuing United Kingdom that are both consistent with its sovereignty and sufficient to maintain financial stability.”

This is not quite the same as “an independent Scotland would be in thrall to George Osborne”, which is what the Guardian was trying to imply.

However “ceding sovereignty” is not the “ooo you’re not really independent then are you” which Carrell would have us believe.  Independent countries cede sovereignty all the time.  The UK has “ceded sovereignty” to the UN, NATO, the EU, and to just about every other international organisation or country with which it has signed a treaty.  Because that’s what treaties mean – two or more nations commit themselves to an agreement, and in the process surrender a part of their sovereignty by the mere fact of making a commitment to one another.

However what Carrell fails to point out is that while an independent nation can choose to cede sovereignty by entering into a treaty with another independent nation – the other nation which is party to the agreement also cedes sovereignty.  It’s not just Scotland which would “cede sovereignty” by entering a currency union, it’s the rUK as well.  It’s this element of the rUK ceding sovereignty to an indy Scotland which has got the Unionist knickers in a twist, as they typically fetishise the supposed sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament.  But that’s their problem, not ours.

The other point Carrell fails to mention is that an independent nation which cedes sovereignty in this way has not lost that sovereignty forever.  If times and circumstances change, an independent state can withdraw from a treaty commitment at a time of its own choosing.

The difference between this set of circumstances and what we have now ought to be clear.  At the moment Scotland has ceded all sovereignty to Westminster and we won’t get any back unless we take it from them in the independence referendum.  They’re certainly not about to give it to us if we ask nicely.  Independence means Scotland has choices it does not have just now – that is the real point.

If at some point in the future a Scottish government decides that it wants to join the euro, create a Scottish currency, or use Norwegian kroner, it could do so.  Westminster will not be in a position to refuse or to prevent us.  That’s what sovereignty really means.

During independence negotiations Scotland will hold some very strong cards.  The UK Government has already conceded that it will remain responsible for the UK’s existing national debt, currently sitting around an eye watering £1.5 trillion.  Scotland may take on a portion of the UK’s national debt, and become a debtor to the rUK Government, in return for a share of UK national assets, but the bottom line during negotiations is that the debt remains Westminster’s problem.  In theory the Scottish delegation will be able to say “stick yer debt”.  This would cause a serious economic crisis in the rUK which would be in no one’s interests, however it does give Scotland the freedom to decide which of the UK’s debts we are going to shoulder.  Westminster will not be able to unilaterally decide which debts we will be lumbered with, and if they want us to take on any of their debt – well they’ll have to cede part of their sovereignty to Scotland by agreeing to a currency union won’t they.

The thing that always intrigues me in Unionist discussions of independence is the underlying assumption that Westminster will always get its own way.  That’s certainly the case just now under the Union.  Unionists inhabit a mental universe where it would remain the case even after independence.  That’s not merely missing the point, it’s completely misunderstanding the entire argument.  And that’s why they’re going to lose.

Feeling the lurve

It was recently revealed that Better Together are to embark on a new phase of their campaign.  The fearmongering and the scare stories just aren’t cutting it any more, and have only resulted in increasing support for a yes vote in opinion polls, so we are to be love-bombed by Unionist politicians and celebs who are going to tell us how much they love us.  To date we’ve seen at least two examples of this new loving tactic, neither of which have left anyone feeling moist.  Although there have been quite a few tears of laughter.

First up was John Barrowman in an excruciatingly embarrassing performance for Burn’s Night.  It contained enough ham to supply the Danish bacon industry for a decade, but failed to convince that Rabbie Burns would have signed up to the Unionist cause.  John was attired in a tartan jaiket last seen on a 1970s TV presenter – the only thing missing was his hand up a muppet’s arse, but one muppet fisting another muppet was probably deemed too meta for a prime time audience.

However in the true style of an overly friendly 1970s telly presenter, John tried to make out that Westminster’s abuse was actually a loving act.  He did this by mugging to the camera with a glaikit expression and a series of pish poor jokes about Alex Salmond and how fat he is.  As an exercise in love-bombing it was a dismal failure – the first time anyone has attempted to employ toe-curling as a sexual practice.

John Barrowman emigrated to the USA before he hit puberty, so I’m not going to criticise his Virgin midAtlantic accent.  It’s quite normal for people who move to another country in early childhood to adopt the accent of their new home, or a facsimile thereof.  Unfortunately however, John’s concept of Scotland is also prepubescent, as he doesn’t think we’re a grown up country capable of grown up decisions.  John takes his intellectual cue on all things Scottish from the Krankies, and believes we’re in safer hands with the 1970s TV presenters.

Next up was something with a bit more intellectual substance.  That’s substance in the sense of that suspicious brown matter you find inside a dirty public toilet.  Martin Woollacott, formerly the Guardian’s foreign editor, published an article in the paper telling Scotland how much England loves us, and warning us that we will miss them when we go.  Martin employed the tired old divorce metaphor, which has already been done to death, and made a number of references to thon movie starring that Australian American with the dodgy politics.

Anyone following the independence debate knows that a Braveheart reference in any discussion of Scottish independence is a reliable indicator that the person making the reference knows less about Scottish politics than they do about copra harvesting in the Comoros Islands.  It’s a bit like discussing Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet in a technical report on ship building standards and the risks posed by icebergs.  No wonder Better Together is holed below the water line.

According to Martin’s fact free zone of an article, which was ignorant and patronising in equal measure, Scottish independence will have a devastating effect on England’s self-esteem.  The English, he tells us, are terribly afraid.  I immediately telephoned some English members of my family in order to reassure them, asking if their sense of personal well-being might suffer if Scotland declared independence.  However the reply was, “Eh? Are you on drugs?”  I took that as a no.

The truth is that a large majority of English people are indifferent to Scottish independence.  A minority want us to stay, another minority supports independence, but most don’t give a shit – and why should they.  They know what Martin Woollacott and a plethora of pro-Union commentators don’t know – that the independence debate is about Scotland, it’s not about England at all.

Of course the obvious question which Martin’s article raises is that if this guy was the paper’s foreign editor, and he’s so ridiculously clueless about the affairs of a country so very close to his metropolitan home, just how reliable are the paper’s reports about places further away?  Or indeed, their reports on anything at all.

That’s the big problem Better Together’s love-bombing campaign will not be able to overcome.  They’re relying on people who know bugger all about us, and their ignorance is plain to see for a Scottish readership. Every time some clown puts his grinning mug in front of a camera and makes a fool of himself for the Union, a little bit more of Scotland’s rapidly diminishing faith in the UK media dies.

Better Together has spent the last 18 months trying to frighten us with alarmist tales and scary stories.  Now they’re telling us how much they love us and need us.  That’s not love bombing.  It’s stalking.

Of course, I am just saying this because of the SNP microchip implanted in my brain …

The howls of the cyberbritbrats

The Daily Mail continues its attacks on the evil cybernats, and is still valiantly trying to make out that online abuse is the sole preserve of independence supporters.  Today they had an interview with Kezia Dugdale MSP, former aide to George Foulkes who used the ID Fifi Le Bonbon when she was a cyberbritbrat and an active and enthusiastic participant in the zoo that passes for the comments section of the Scotsman newspaper.

Kezia was pictured in the Mail an unflattering photo which made her look like a refugee from the former East Germany who had narrowly escaped the Stasi.  She was upset that she had ‘recently’ been the recipient of an offensive tweet, although it turned out the tweet was sent over a year ago.  The tweet wasn’t helpful to the independence cause and was crass and stupid, but it was not a direct threat – the tweet read “dancing on the head of a pin? I wish Kezia Dugdale would dance on the head of a bayonet”.

It was in fact eerily similar to a phrase uttered by Kezia’s party colleague, the fragrant Ian Davidson MP, who spoke a few months ago about “bayonetting the wounded” after a no victory had been secured in September’s referendum.  Kezia was schtum on Ian’s comment, possibly because she was concerned he might threaten her with a metaphorical doin’, just as he’d previously threatened SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford.

Of course Kezia and the Mail ignore the abuse coming from Unionists directed against independence supporters.  Kezia’s quite happy to associate herself with the Mail’s demonisation tactics when it suits her political ends.  The aim of the Mail’s campaign is obvious, to portray the independence campaign as something which ‘normal’ people would not want to associate with, although it remains unclear in which universe Labour politicians are normal people.  Independence supporters are ‘other’, as dangerous as the Mail’s usual targets – like benefits claiming gay disabled immigrants who cause cancer.

It’s a peculiar tactic.  Demonising a minority can only be effective when few people are acquainted with members of the said minority and so are prepared to accept the definitions provided by the tabloid press instead of the evidence of their own eyes and ears.  Supporters of independence are not like gay people – who represent just 5 to 10% of the population, or migrants, who account for a similar percentage.  These groups could be successfully demonised by the tabloids since a large proportion of their readership did not know any gay people or any migrants.

The so called cybernat is merely an independence supporter with an internet connection, but independence supporters represent a very substantial chunk of the population, and a huge majority have an internet connection.  These hundreds of thousands know that there is no cybernat conspiracy, so do their friends and families.  Instead of silencing the ‘cybernat’, the Mail’s campaign has given the online independence campaign a major boost.

Meanwhile a young supporter of independence has been subject to serial abuse on Twitter for daring to speak in favour of independence during a recent edition of Question Time.  17 year old Liam McLaughlan from Easterhouse also said during the programme that Tony Blair should be arrested for war crimes – a point of view shared by a great many.

Liam McLaughlan is the son of friends of mine.  Way back in the 80s his father was the first of my straight friends that I told that I was gay.  (He’d already worked it out.  Liam’s dad is as perceptive as his son.)  Liam has written his own story, published in The Targe.  It’s well worth a read.

We’re constantly told by the likes of Kezia Dugdale that politicians need to do more to engage young people with politics.  Here’s a young man who is actively engaged in politics, and who is articulate, intelligent and passionate.  He has done well at school and expects to go to university.  He doesn’t just sit about complaining, or taking drugs and getting drunk, he gets up off his arse and tries to do something to improve his local area, an area which has been betrayed and let down by generations of Labour politicians.

Liam is precisely the kind of young person that Scotland needs.  Yet for his pains he was subject to a campaign of vilification on Twitter by supporters of the party which claims to speak for the people of places like Easterhouse.  He was called a ned, told that he needed a translator as his Glasgow accent made him unintelligible, insulted for what he was wearing, told he was deformed and that he was mentally ill.   That was a particularly harsh insult as a close family member of Liam’s suffered serious mental illness for many years.

The abuse came from unionist supporters of the Labour party, the same party that for the past 3 generations or more has presided over the compendium of multiple social deprivation that is Easterhouse.  But from the Daily Mail or Kezia Dugdale, not a word.

Kezia Dugdale and the Daily Mail have no solutions for the problems that Liam highlights.  They have nothing to offer him, except that if he does well at school and goes to university he might be able to move away to find a decent job down south.  That’s what happened to me, I had to leave Scotland to seek work in London where I lived for the best part of a decade before moving to Spain.  I only returned to Scotland last year.  Scotland must be the only country in the world when the emigration of our youth is described as a benefit of the Union.

The Daily Mail and Kezia Dugdale want to keep it that way, and have the nerve to make out that they are the victims, not those who suffer the ill effects of the politics they espouse.  We’ll hear many more howls of protest from the Britbrats over the coming months.  It’s the complaint of the privileged that their privileges are about to be revoked.  After 18 September they’ll be sitting on the naughty step without their toys.  No wonder they’re greeting like weans.

In the interests of fairness, it should be pointed out that Kezia Dugdale denies that she was Fifi le Bonbon.

The poison fruit of secret meetings between Westminster and La Moncloa

The Spanish language Catalan newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya carried an interesting report on Friday, about a propaganda offensive planned by the Spanish government aiming to ‘overwhelm’ the independence movement with economic data and figures.  It’s a tactic which we are familiar with in Scotland, with regular reports from Westminster departments and, ahem, neutral think tanks which tell us that we’ll be poorer than Rwanda and will envy Afghanistan’s human rights record.

According to el Periodico de Catalunya, the idea for the Spanish government’s new offensive is based upon the UK Government’s series of papers on independence.  Those are the papers which lead cabinet ministers to come to Scotland utter outlandish threats then run away back to London before anyone has time to mock them.  The tactic is not having much success with a Scottish public which has come to regard the regular visits from cabinet ministers as a species of comic interlude, but Rajoy believes that Westminster is doing a far better job of convincing Scots that indy is a bad idea than la Moncloa is at convincing the Catalans.  If nothing else that ought to give you some idea of just how poorly Mariano Rajoy is at getting Catalan opinion on his side.

The article in el Periodico de Catalunya says that the Spanish Government is also planning a diplomatic offensive against Catalan independence and plans to send a thick dossier to all Spanish embassies which detail the disadvantages of Catalan independence in an attempt to persuade foreign governments to oppose it.  According to el Periodico de Catalunya, the UK Government has already sent British embassies around the world similar dossiers, with instructions to use them to get foreign governments on the side of Westminster against Scottish independence.

And here we get the briefest of glimpses of the backroom machinations that both la Moncloa and Westminster are employing in their desire to defeat the democratic aspirations of Scotland and Catalonia.  The two governments are employing similar strategies and tactics, and have had regular secret meetings in order to coordinate their campaigns.  According to el Periodico de Catalunya:

Dicho informe se ha elaborado para contrarrestar la campaña internacional que a su vez ha puesto en marcha la Generalitat catalana para airear el proceso, y está basado en documentos similares que David Cameron tiene en su poder para plantar cara al desafío independentista que le ha planteado Escocia, donde la consulta sí está autorizada.


The said report [sent to Spanish embassies] has been drafted in order to counter the international campaign which the Catalan Generalitat has in its turn put into action in order to flag up the process, and is based on documents similar to those which David Cameron has in his possession to face up to the independence challenge placed on him by Scotland, where the vote is already authorised.

The documents in question are the fruit of secret meetings between representatives of Westminster and the Spanish Government.  In the week of 12 December 2013, the same week that the Catalan government announced that Catalonia would vote on its future on 9 November 2014, Westminster and la Moncloa held another secret meeting.  According to el Periodico de Catalunya:

De hecho y según ha podido saber este diario, la misma semana en que Mas reveló la fecha escogida para la consulta, hubo una reunión discreta (y llamativa) en la Moncloa entre una delegación del Gobierno español y una del británico para intercambiar puntos de vista sobre las situaciones en Catalunya y Escocia y las posibles estrategias a seguir en escenarios de desafíos independentistas, salvando las particularidades de cada caso.  Desde la Embajada británica en Madrid se confirma que existen contactos “fluidos y permanentes” entre los gobiernos de Mariano Rajoy y de David Cameron, aunque se prefiere no especificar los contenidos de que se tratan entre ambas administraciones.


In fact and as this newspaper has been able to discover, the same week in which Mas [the Catalan president] revealed the date chosen for the consultation, there was a discreet (and significant) meeting in la Moncloa between a delegation from the Spanish Government and one from the British Government in order to exchange points of view on the situations in Catalonia and Scotland and the possible strategies to pursue in scenarios of independence challenges, excepting the particularities of each case.  It was confirmed by the British embassy in Madrid that “fluid and permanent” contacts exist between the governments of Mariano Rajoy and David Cameron, although it prefers not to specify the details of what was dealt with between both administrations.

The existence of a UK diplomatic campaign against Scottish independence was revealed by a speech made by Simon Manley, the newly appointed British ambassador to Madrid, earlier this month.  Speaking in the Basque city of Bilbao, Manley told the newspaper Noticias de Gipuzkoa that Scottish independence was “a great risk” and went on to assert that Scotland would have to leave the EU, NATO and the United Nations without any guarantee that we would be allowed to rejoin.  He cast doubt on the ability of an independent Scotland to remain safe from terrorism, saying “How can the Scottish Government defend the country from terrorism or other threats?” – presumably because other small countries like Finland, Denmark and Austria are equally incapable of coping.

So much for Scotland being a full partner in the Union.  If Scotland is truly a partner in the Union, then British embassies are as much Scotland’s as any other part of the UK’s.  This must be the first time in history that a nation has used its own diplomatic service to argue that it shouldn’t be recognised as a nation as it would pose a threat to international security.

So when the likes of William Hague come to Scotland to deliver some dire threats, and cites foreign politicians as support for his position, their apparent agreement is the product of secret meetings between Westminster representatives and sympathetic foreign political parties.  They are colluding to present a common argument against independence.

People who have secret meetings then agree a common story are what lawyers and policemen would call unreliable witnesses, who would rightly be suspected of an attempt to pervert the course of justice.  There’s no difference between them and Mariano Rajoy or David Cameron.

Witch hunts, and who’s afraid of who

The Daily Mail has embarked on a witch hunt of “evil cybernats”.  It’s the same old story from a publication which panders to the basest instincts of the uneducated and the willfully misinformed, it’s only the target which has changed.

Back in the early 1980s, during the Aids hysteria, an acquaintance was outed by a newspaper.  It was one of the usual suspects given to demonising innocent and powerless members of the public, either the Daily Mail or the Express, I can’t remember which now.  His ‘crime’ was to organise private parties for gay men, and his punishment was to have his personal details and photo plastered all over a gutter rag, describing him as a sleazy pervert.

He wasn’t out as gay to his work or his family, this was the early 80s after all.  The newspaper report caused him to lose his job and estranged him from many of his relatives.  He struggled to keep up with his mortgage payments and almost lost his home.

My friend was not involved in anything that would raise an eyebrow these days – nor even back then if you were a normal human being instead of a tabloid rag.  He did not organise sex parties, just quiet and very douce gatherings where gay men could meet up and chat in an era when there were few public spaces available and many gay people were suffering dreadful social isolation.  Most of us, myself included in those days, were not out as gay to our families, straight friends or work colleagues.  We had few opportunities to meet other gay folk.

Even though the events were strictly sex-free zones, my friend rigorously enforced an age bar and refused to allow anyone under the age of 21 – then the legal age of consent – to attend.  But the law in those days permitted gay sex only in private, and ‘private’ was legally defined as no more than two persons being present on the premises.  Any gathering of more than two gay men, for whatever purpose, was a target for tabloid purience.

When the tabloids see you as a vile and disgusting sex-beast, any gathering becomes a ‘perverted sex orgy’ even when the most orgiastic thing that happens is cooing over how delicious the home baked cakes are, and if you were lucky swapping contact details for later and more intimate meetings.

My friend had the misfortune to live in a day when gay people were one of the tabloids’ favourite bogeymen.  According to the Sun and the Mail, we were all part of an international conspiracy to destroy the family and spread disease.  Their current demonisation of the mythical cybernat conspiracy is very much in the same diseased and deformed mould.

That wasn’t something any of us expected to change back when gay people were seen by the tabloids as the number one threat to public health and morality.  You had to learn to ignore the insults, the slander, the threats and the oppression, but it took a toll and eventually something snapped inside me.

One day I woke up and thought “fuck this for a gemme o sodgies” and resolved to tell my family and friends the truth.  It wasn’t easy back in the 1980s in a working class part of Glasgow and a deeply Catholic family, but it was the best decision I ever made.  And I wasn’t the only gay man or lesbian making that decision.  The closet doors were popping open across the land.  We weren’t going to stand for it any more.  30 years later the gay rights campaign has won all the legal arguments, and legal discrimination is a thing of the past.

Yet here were are 30 years on and the tabloids have found a new target.  Now it’s independence supporters who are part of an imaginary conspiracy to destroy all that is Great and British.  In 1980 I never imagined that one day it would not be permissible to insult and threaten me for being gay, but perfectly acceptable to insult and threaten me for being Scottish.  That’s what happens when a minority get “uppity”, and currently from the perspective of the London media bubble, Scots are very uppity indeed.

The lesson I learned was that you can only be silenced when you collude with those who seek to oppress you.  Fear lives only inside your own head.  The tabloids seek to create fear and by targeting a few individuals hope to dissuade others from putting their heads above the parapet.  But when you are out and proud, tabloid threats have no purchase – what are they going to do?  Tell my mother I have sex with men?  She already knows.  It’s not me who is afraid, it’s the tabloids who seek to demonise.  They are afraid of me.

Those who have been targeted by the tabloids for daring to express opinions in favour of independence need to realise that they are not the ones with cause to fear.  The fear the tabloids seek to generate within you is a weapon you can use.  Instead of provoking fear it provokes righteous anger, and that anger provides the energy to continue to fight against them.  And you already know that you scare them.

When you live in the light you cannot be threatened by the darkness.  The way to avoid the fear provoked by the tabloids and the media is to give them no purchase against you.  If you haven’t already done so, tell everyone you know that you support independence, it’s not a shameful secret, it’s something to be proud of.  Be out, be proud, live without fear.  Then when some sleazy tabloid reporter doorsteps your neighbours or your colleagues and tells them you are an evil cybernat who says nasty things about Unionist politicians they will reply, “So what?”

Gay people have largely won their struggle for equality, despite forming only a small minority of the population.  Independence supporters make up a far far larger proportion of the Scottish population.  This is a struggle we are not going to lose unless we collude with the Daily Mail.  That’s not going to happen.  Just like the late 1980s when closet doors burst open and gay men and lesbians refused to live in silence, the independence closet is well and truly open and Scots are going through it in droves – out into the light.

This uppity Scot has every intention of continuing to be uppity, and I’ll keep doing what I can in my own small way to get it up Westminster politicians and their lackeys in the press some more. I won’t be alone.  Cybernat conspiracy my arse, it’s the anger of righteous indignation.

Cowdenbeath scare for Project Fear

There was a byelection in Cowdenbeath yesterday.  Nobody paid much attention, least of all the electorate of Cowdenbeath, only 38% of whom could be arsed enough to vote.  A byelection in a rock solid Labour seat doesn’t generally qualify as interesting.   Labour won, as you’d expect in this part of Fife, and that was the least interesting part of the entire process.  However there was a genuinely interesting result, although it had little or nothing to do with any of the candidates.  It’s a result that will have put a shiver up the spine of Better Together, assuming it could find a spine to shiver.

The SNP revealed that during canvassing, they had asked over 11,000 local residents how they intended to vote in the independence referendum – and the largest percentage said they were going to vote yes.  Of the 11,727 people who gave their opinion, 41% said yes, 36% said no, and 23% said they were still undecided.  Ignoring the undecideds, although it’s terribly unscientific and everything but who cares, that would give a notional referendum result of 53.2% yes, 46.8% no.

The referendum is 8 months away, and the supposedly overwhelming majority for no that we keep hearing about has vanished like a stain that’s not so stubborn after all.  Cowdenbeath shows that there is a large number of people who traditionally supported Labour, but who nowadays can’t always be bothered to vote because Labour in its current incarnation is not a party worth voting for.  They know that Labour wasn’t listening before, isn’t not listening just now, and it’s not showing many signs it will be listening at any point in the near future.  And by and large they have come to the conclusion that the only hope of anything changing is through a yes vote.

This point was all too clearly illustrated by the three nodding head Unionist politicians commenting on the byelection on Newsnicht on BBC2.  Naturally it turned into a discussion on the referendum, so we had the spectacle of three Unionists and one person from the SNP to put the case for yes.  It wasn’t biased though, because it was really a programme about a byelection that most people, including most people in Cowdenbeath, didn’t think especially significant.

Gordon Brewer asked all three whether Labour, the Tories, and the Lib Dems get a better devolution proposal together.  But Better Together exists only as vacuous sloganeering.  Its constituent parts are incapable of coordination, they can’t work together at all never mind better together.  So we got a lot of uhming and ahhing instead, as all three swore blind they were listening to the electorate – but none thought there was much prospect of a joint proposal on enhanced devolution from the three headed guardian of the gates of Westminster.

And that is why so many people who would never dream of voting SNP are now deciding to vote yes.  While many, perhaps most, would like to see change happen within the United Kingdom, some version of devo plusextrasuper, it’s clear that it’s not going to.  In September we can either send Westminster’s politicians a message that they will have no choice but to listen to – that message being “here’s yer jotters” – or we can roll over and allow them to do as they please, uhming ahhing austerity and selling the contract for your listening services provider to ATOS.

Of course Cowdenbeath is not representative of Scotland as a whole.  But it is representative of a very large segment of the Scottish population.  That’s the segment that lives in the Labour heartlands, the segment which is most likely to be disengaged from the political process.   But those who have fared the worst under the Union are also those who are most likely to see the need for change that can only happen if Scotland is independent.  If that important – and large – constituency can be mobilised in support of a yes vote, independence is secured.

Cowdenbeath shows that they are being mobilised in support of a yes vote.  There is every indication that the turn out for the referendum will be high, and those extra voters will be the people who are pissed off and fed up with our current system of politics and see little point in voting in elections.  Like the 62% of Cowdenbeath voters who didn’t vote in the byelection.  They’re not going to turn out to vote no in order to keep a political system that they feel so alienated from that they don’t think it’s worthwhile voting.  They’re going to vote yes.

Project Fear must be very afraid.

An outbreak of common sense

Just today Reporting Scotland led with the claim by Alistair Carmichael that Westminster would have to impose border controls if an independent Scotland had its own immigration policy, apparently forgetting that the UK already shares an open border with an independent state with its own immigration policy – the Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile in the Basque Country there was an outbreak of common sense which went unreported by the Scottish media, which finds Better Together’s hysterics and nonsense far more worthy of attention.  On Wednesday this week the Basque city of Bilbao hosted a conference organised by Euskal Herriko Unibertsitate (the University of the Basque Country) on the future of Scotland in the European Union. 

Titled “The Scottish referendum and the European dimension”, the conference was addressed by two notable experts in European law and EU enlargement: Prof Graham Avery of Oxford University, honorary director general of the European Commission and considered the leading expert on EU enlargement, and John Edward, former chief of the European Parliament’s office in Edinburgh.

And guess what, these two experts assert that in the event of a yes vote in Scotland’s independence referendum, common sense will prevail and Scotland will make a smooth transition into full EU membership in her own right, without being excluded from the EU.

Prof Avery believes that the assertions of UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that an independent Scotland would be excluded from the EU and would have to reapply like an external candidate state are not realistic.  Which is a polite way of saying that they’re just making things up.

But instead let’s have a look at what was said by some folk who actually know what they are talking about.  I’ve translated the quotes from the report in the Spanish language Basque newspaper Deia, the link is given in the first paragraph of this blog post.

According to Prof Avery:

“If the Scottish people say yes to independence, our political leaders, the heads of state of the European Union and the Council of Ministers in Brussels will have to engage in dialogue on the steps to follow.  The most logical would be, on achieving independence, Scotland joins a series of institutions, like the European Union, the Council of Europe …  The other way would be that it would have to apply for admission and put itself at the end of the queue with Turkey and Serbia, for example, but this second option is not realistic.

“The problem is that the subject has been highly politicised.  One side says that membership of the EU is assured, the other maintains the exact opposite, and the reality is a middle way.  The question is that there is no precedent.  The examples of Greenland and East Germany are given, but there is no point of comparison.”

John Edward added:

“The EU does not have a policy in this respect [the independence of Scotland], this question has more to do with the constitutions of each member state.  There is nothing in the statutes which speaks of it, neither in one direction nor another …  what they do say is that the constitutions of member states must be respected.”

So the repeated assertions by supporters of Better Together and Westminster politicians that Scotland would be excluded from the EU and have to reapply are simply nonsense.  The EU treaties do not specify that this is what must happen.  What is important in EU terms is the constitution of the member state which is dealing with the possible independence of a part of that state.

And there’s the rub for Better Together.  The collection of unwritten practices and written laws which make up what passes for a constitution in the UK permits the holding of an independence referendum in Scotland, and moreover Westminster has pledged to respect its result.  Scotland’s independence will be negotiated with Westminster, and recognised by Westminster.  This makes all the difference in terms of EU membership.

John Edward stressed that the Scottish referendum has been agreed with London, and said, “If the Scots vote for independence, negotiations will commence on the currency, the EU, and other questions.  London will have a tough stance in these negotiations, but it has accepted the principle and the right [to independence].”  Edward believes that the lack of a written constitution in the UK has benefited Scotland in this respect.

Prof Avery went on to highlight some other cases of independence and membership of the EU, or application for membership.  Montenegro and Kosovo were both parts of the former Yugoslavia, both declared independence from Serbia.  Montenegro was a union republic of Yugoslavia, and as such had a constitutional right to self-determination.  Meanwhile Kosovo was an autonomous republic within Serbia.  Montenegro became independent in 2006 after an independence referendum which was agreed with Serbia, Kosovo became independent after a unilateral declaration of independence which was not recognised by Serbia.

Avery said that the two processes produced very different responses from the EU.  In the case of Montenegro, “The referendum was agreed with Serbia, [Montenegro] left and there was no problem of recognition from the European Union.”  Montenegro is currently applying for membership of the EU.

However Kosovo’s desire to apply for EU membership is on hold as five EU member states (Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, and Romania) do not recognise its independence, citing the Serbian constitution which prohibits Kosovan independence.  These five states will not agree to Kosovan membership of EU membership until such time as they recognise Kosovo as an independent state.  Kosovo is recognised by the EU as a possible future candidate, but it is not currently an applicant state.

Avery points out that Scotland is more like Montenegro, in that its independence will be agreed with Westminster and recognised by the UK.  This means that no other EU state has any grounds to object to Scottish membership of the EU.

The other case highlighted by Prof Avery was that of the former East Germany, which became a part of the EU as a logical consequence of German reunification.

Prof Avery said:

“This was a case of enlargement of the EU without incorporation – the number of member states did not increase.  Nevertheless, in this case a change was produced regarding the EU population, 16 million new Germans entered.  In the Scottish case, the EU population will remain the same.”

He added:

“This was a democratic process, the remaining member states accepted the most practical solution.  They adopted a plan based in common sense, and in the case of Scotland common sense will also prevail.”

Gosh, who to believe, the Fabulous Alistair Brothers, Carmichael and Darling – just as dated as the Fabulous Alexander Brothers, but their tunes are more discordant and the only thing fabulous about them is their tendency to present fairy stories as fact –  or neutral experts with no particular axe to grind.

Of course the Scottish media would prefer we believe the Fabulous Alistair Brothers, judging by the amount of airtime they’re given to spout their self-interested lies and misinformation.  They’re not interested in common sense, only in Better Together’s hysteria.

It’s not all about the money, money

According to Scotland’s only polling expert, the pro and anti independence campaigns are failing voters as they are preoccupied with issues which are of low priority to the electorate.  Or at least that’s what the Scotsman said he said, which means that the ubiquitous Prof John Curtice probably didn’t say that at all.  But then it wouldn’t be the Scotsman if it didn’t find some way of spinning every story as bad news for independence.

Och It’s Yerself Again John has published findings from the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, which showed that 52% would vote in favour of independence if it meant they’d be £500 a year better off.   That works out at around a curry with nan bread and pakora every week for a year.  If only Gandhi had known, India could have been independent long before 1948.

The point is not that Scots could easily be persuaded to vote for independence in return for a national curry food bank, after all the UK is already doing a marvellous job of forcing people to rely on food banks, but that in the Prof’s opinion the electorate want to hear about how independence will affect the family budget.  So they could decide if they’d rather have a fish supper, pizza, or a Chinese cairry oot instead.

In fact the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey contains some good news for the yes campaign.  It shows that the gap between yes and no is narrowing.  Support for yes is up 6% while support for no has dropped by the same percentage.  However the Survey was conducted between May and October last year, before the publication of the White Paper.  The Survey continues to ask people whether they would prefer some form of enhanced devolution, which isn’t going to be on the ballot paper due to Westminster’s refusal.  It certainly underestimates the true level of support for independence.  But you won’t hear that in the mainstream media.

There is little real doubt that Scotland would be in a far better financial position as an independent state.  Scotland is blessed with an embarrassment of natural and human resources and runs a much smaller deficit than the rest of the UK.  As an independent country Scotland would not have to contribute large chunks of cash to UK projects which are of little or no benefit to Scotland’s citizens – like the London Olympics, London’s sewer upgrade, or nuclear weapons.  Those billions could instead be spent on developing the Scottish economy and improving the finances of Scottish households.

The Jimmy Reid Foundation has already published a wealth of economic reports which detail the financial situation of an independent Scotland.  Business for Scotland have also published numerous articles detailing the robust financial health an independent Scotland would enjoy.  The Scottish Government has produced figures to support its claim that the average Scot would be £600 a year better off with independence.

The Reid Foundation’s most recent report demonstrates that if Scotland had controlled its own finances, we would be sitting on a surplus in public finances of over £148 billion.  The report makes the reasonable suggestion that Scotland’s historic contribution to UK finances must inform any negotiations on the proportion of UK debt an independent Scotland is to take on.  If Scotland had achieved financial control of her own affairs in 1979 when Westminster’s underhand manipulation deprived us of Home Rule, independence negotiators would be able to tell Westminster “stick yer assets, and yer debt”.

The problem is that the Scottish electorate remain unconvinced by the fact that – irrespective of how much historic debt Scotland will be lumbered with from the UK – they live in a wealthy nation, and this is not unrelated to the way in which the Scotsman et al cover the independence debate.

The media revels in bad news for Scotland, and takes agenda from the Better Together campaign.  The no campaign has a vested interest in ensuring that the electorate does not engage with the debate, as once people start to consider independence with facts as opposed to scares they tend to shift to a yes vote.  Instead the Unionist media ensures that the topic de jour is yet another “blow to independence hopes”.

Just a few days ago another important survey was published, one which the Scotsman, the BBC and the rest of the Scottish media virtually ignored – Scottish broadcasters are providing heavily biased cover of the debate which favours the no campaign by a margin of 3 to 2.

It’s not the independence campaign which is failing the electorate, it’s the Scottish media.

Alistair Carmichael takes his pointy stick to Brussels

What is the point of Alistair Carmichael exactly?  We pay the guy’s wages after all, and the deal was supposed to be that he spoke for Scotland’s interests in UK Cabinet.  And here he is again, doing his utmost to damage Scotland’s interests.  It’s not anti-Scottish to damage Scotland’s interests – not when it’s all for the greater good of the UK.   Alistair gets very upset when people call him anti-Scottish, and greets like a wean trying to deny he’d been tormenting the cat again, despite it being pointed out on previous numerous occasions that the cat gets upset when you poke it in the ribs with a sharp pointy stick.

This week he was on day release, and got packed off to Brussels so he could hob with some nobs and feel pure dead important while poking a Scottish cat with a sharp stick.  He did this by insisting that Scotland would have to leave the EU and get in the membership queue with Serbia and Albania.  No fast track for Scotland, although we already knew that since the High Speed rail is only going as far north of London as Birmingham.

This is because in Alistair’s legally trained opinion the Scottish Government’s proposal to use Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union to gain membership is a non-starter, because the Article has never been used for that purpose before.   Article 48 deals with matters internal to the EU, Scotland has to use Article 49, which deals with states external to the EU and specifies how they can apply for membership.

It seems not to have entered his sharp legal mind that after a yes vote in September, the EU would be in a situation that it has never been in before.  Which means “but no one has ever used Article 48 for that purpose before” explains itself.  Does this really need to be pointed out to him?  There would be an EU member state, the UK, where a part of that state had voted in favour of independence but which wasn’t yet independent.   That’s obviously a situation which is internal to the EU, it’s not a question of external enlargement.

Perhaps there’s a wee corner of his lawyer’s brain that thinks that EU matters are reserved to Westminster and after a yes vote the Scottish Government won’t be allowed to talk to Brussels without a permission slip from David Cameron.

But onto the next box to check in his handy list of Euroscares.  He blamed it all on Alex Salmond, even describing the referendum as Salmond’s “vanity project”.  (I thought that phrase was copyright to someone on the Herald.)  At this point, if we hadn’t realised already, it’s clear we’re dealing with a political speech in the sense that a very drunk guy in pub talks loudly to himself in the corner about the iniquitiesh of the shyshtem.  He too will tell you he lovesh you before he tries to heidbutt you, and it’s best not to think about what he might do with a pointy stick.

All the tired old lines got trotted out, the ones that refuse to die even though they’ve had more stakes through the heart than Michael Forsyth’s career in politics.   Alistair tells us we’ll be forced to sign up to the Schengen Treaty.  This is the EU Treaty that has the purpose of removing border controls between EU member states.  The one the UK has an opt out from that we won’t get on account of no one in Europe possessing an atlas.  See Europe.  See Scotland.  See its only border.  Guess who it’s with!

Scotland can’t use a single article of an EU treaty in order to gain smooth access to the EU, because the article has never been used for that purpose before.  Meanwhile Westminster can take an entire EU treaty and use it for a purpose it’s never been used for before – the exact opposite purpose from the one the Treaty is intended to achieve.  Alistair wants to use the Treaty which removed border controls across Europe to create border controls where there were none before.

Alistair is a Proud Scot.  It’s not that he’s anti-Scotland’s interests, it’s just that he’s subsumed them in Westminster’s interests and has forgotten what Scotland’s interests actually are.  It is in Scotland’s interests to ensure that we would have a smooth entry into the EU whether we choose to vote yes or no in September.  Our national interest demands that we keep our options open.  Alistair wants to close Scotland’s options down because it’s in Westminster’s interests.

He’s comfortable with the many contradictions he spouts because he forgets that there’s a Scottish perspective.  He’s not Scottophobic, he’s Scottamnesiac.  He’s forgotten that the nation of Scotland may have interests which are different from those of the Parliament on the banks of the Thames.   So it’s not that he pokes the cat with a sharp stick out of badness.  He does it out of love.  Like that’s not weirder.

Alistair loves the Scottish cat really, but he thinks it would be better off declawed.  And preferably have its teeth removed too.  That way it will never inconvenience anyone who pokes it with a sharp stick.