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.

Slaving away at a moral case for the Union

It’s been a frustrating few days, I’ve been offline due to computer problems.  To give myself something to do I started on building the new model tram layout I’ve got planned, only to discover that the extremely expensive track system was missing some parts and other bits don’t work.  So after a protracted period of hassle I’ve ended up with a much shorter and simpler layout than I paid for – now I know how Edinburgh felt.  But at least the computer is working again, although the tram track is still giving grief.

A week ago, Daily Mail and former Record journalist Chris Deerin published an extended piece of trolling in which he set out what he risibly described as the moral duty for Scots to vote no in the referendum, as in his view the United Kingdom is a greater force for good in the world than the Fairy Godmother.  The UK is the Magic Kingdom where happy little munchkins gaily skip to zero hours contracts jobs and nothing bad ever happens.

Naturally folk didn’t respond well to the implication that voting for independence is an immoral act, on a par with exposing yer wullie in public, although Deerin was blind to the irony that his list of things that are Great about Britain boiled down to exposing Westminster’s wullie in public.  But he still managed to find time to publish a follow up article in which he complained that horrible cybernats were being nasty to him for exposing his many idiocies.

The entire episode has already been roundly mocked, but I thought it might be useful to examine Deerin’s “moral duty” a bit more closely.  After all, it’s only possible to arrive at a fair assessment of the UK’s morality footprint if we also consider the occasions when the UK trod morality face down in the mud.

Let’s look at just one of the reasons why Deerin thinks voting for Scottish independence is just the same as flashing yer nads.  Does it stand up or is Deerin a flaccid flasher?

The UK, he tells us, led the way in the abolition of the slave trade.  It’s a topic that has been under discussion recently, with the success of the movie 12 Years a Slave – touted by the UK media as an example of how it took a British movie to get the Americans to face up to their legacy of slavery.  In fact in an interview the director, Steve McQueen, the son of Caribbean migrants to the UK, stated that as far as he was concerned in making this movie he is not a “British director”, he’s a descendant of the enslaved not the enslavers.

The UK was very much one of the enslavers.  What Deerin didn’t say is that Britain also led the way in pursuing the slave trade.  The historian Professor David Richardson estimates that European nations transported 12 million Africans into slavery across the Atlantic.  British slave ships carried more than 3.4 million of them, almost 30% of the total.

Only Portugal, which began the slave trade 100 years prior to British involvement and continued 50 years after the UK had abolished the trade, took more Africans from their homes into a life of degredation and suffering.

Sadly, “the UK, it’s not quite as bad as Portugal” isn’t really the ringing moral endorsement Deerin was hoping for.  But it’s the best he’s going to get.

By the second half of the 18th century, the UK was leading the world in slavery – but not in the way Deerin meant.  In the 1760s an estimated 80,000 Africans were transported across the Atlantic annually, British ships carried more than half of them.  Most were destined for the sugar and tobacco plantations in the British colonies in the Caribbean.

Slavery made some people in the UK very wealthy. By the middle of the 18th century Britain was raking in £4 million pounds a year from the West Indian sugar and tobacco plantations.  (In today’s money that works out at close to £1 billion.)  During the same period, the entire combined international trade of the UK from other sources brought in only £1 million. Between 1750 and 1780, about 70% of the government’s total income came from taxes on goods from its colonies, meaning that slavery accounted for 56% of the annual income of the UK Exchequer.

The UK abolished British involvement in the slave trade in 1807, although slavery continued in British colonies until 1833.  But the British abolition of slavery was not motivated by moral concerns.

The vast funds the UK raised from the 18th century slave trade were invested in new opportunities as the Industrial Revolution got under way.  The Industrial Revolution and the financial centre of the City of London were kick started by the capital raised from slavery, and with the growth of factories and industrial production the economics of slavery became less profitable.

The new factories meant Britain had less need for slave produced goods.  Instead of an enslaved workforce, the UK economy began to benefit from mechanisation and vastly greater manufacturing efficiency with free labour which could be hired or fired as market needs demanded.  Unlike slaves, free workers did not have to be fed by their employers when there was little work for them to do.

After the USA became independent in 1776, Britain’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean went into economic decline as the USA could now buy sugar from French or Dutch plantations.  Revenues from Jamaica and the other Caribbean colonies dropped drastically.  It now became in Britain’s financial interests to act against slavery, since the economies of the UK’s European rivals were still dependent upon revenues from slave labour.

Although those individuals who led the campaign against the slave trade had the highest of motivations, their campaign was only successful because of changing economic circumstances.  From being the financial motor of the British economy, changing times and circumstances had gradually turned it into a threat to British financial interests.  Slavery was no longer profitable.  As ever with Westminster, it’s all about the money.  The only morality Westminster recognises is the morality of the pound note.

If you vote no in September on moral grounds, you are voting for the morality of money, the morality of the market, the morality that puts profit before people.  That’s a direction in which the UK’s moral compass has pointed unwaveringly, and continues to point to this day.  The UK doesn’t need slavery any more, it has zero hours contracts and workfare instead.

Slapping Alistair Carmichael with a wet fish

Alistair Carmichael is at it again.  This time he says Spain is going to veto Scottish membership of the EU unless we grant them access to fishing waters where the Spanish fishing fleet doesn’t currently have full access.  But the icing on the cod was Alistair’s claim that Scottish fisheries get a better deal from the UK than they would from an independent Scotland.  Alastair said:

“Spain has long wanted access to North Sea fishing rights for its fleet as part of the Common Fisheries Policy because there are provisions within the CFP, which favour the UK fleet in the North Sea. I cannot think Spain would be very keen to offer Scottish fishermen the deal that they get as being part of the United Kingdom.”

So in other words, according to our representative in the UK Cabinet, Spain will veto Scottish membership of the EU, thereby losing access to the entirety of Scottish fishing grounds, unless we grant them increased access to an area they don’t currently have access to.  Hmmm.  That’ll make the Partido Popular really popular amongst customers at the fish counter in Hypercor.

The peculiar assumption underlying Koalamichael’s fishy threat is that Scottish fishing grounds aren’t Scottish at all.  They’re European, or they’re British, or they’re Spanish.  They’re anything but Scottish.  Claiming that Spain will veto Scottish membership of the EU unless they are given a part of Scotland’s fishing grounds is a bit like saying that Italy would veto Scottish membership of the EU unless the branch of Domino’s Pizza in Paisley high street was declared Italian soil.

Naturally Spain is intensely interested in maintaining the access its fishing fleet has to Scottish waters.  And that’s precisely why they won’t veto Scotland, because vetoing Scotland means that Spain loses access to much of the North Atlantic as well as the North Sea.  And that is politically unthinkable for a Spanish government, especially a Partido Popular one.

However as a negotiator, Alistair Carmichael is clearly more suited to the depths of the toddler pool in Bellshill Baths than the icy waters of the North Atlantic.  In this instance, it’s Scotland which holds the cards, not Spain – because if Spain does not cooperate with Scottish membership of the EU an independent Scotland could veto Spanish entry into Scottish waters, which would have political consequences in Spain that Mariano Rajoy could not survive.  He needs our fish more than we do.

Throughout Iberia, seafood makes up an important part of the diet.  Despite their many other differences, Basques, Catalans, Castilians, Andalusians, and Galicians are all united in their love of fish and shellfish.  The Spanish fishing industry is huge, and as rapacious as the Iberian appetite for its product.  Between 2000 and 2010, the Spanish fishing industry benefited to the tune of €5.8 billion (approximately £4.83 billion) in subsidies from the EU and Spain – far more than the industry of any other EU state.

The fishing industry is particularly important in Galicia, where Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy comes from.  Well over 50% of the entire Spanish catch is landed in Galicia.  The fisheries sector employs 4.6% of the active population in Galicia, a much higher percentage than in any other European country.   It is estimated that 12% of all jobs in Galicia directly depend upon the fishing industry.  In coastal areas, this figure reaches 40% to 50% and the economy of many towns and villages is entirely dependent upon the fishing fleet.

As well as being the home of Mariano Rajoy, who represents the Galician city of Pontevedra in the Spanish Parliament, Galicia is one of the main power bases for the Partido Popular who benefit greatly from their links to the owners of the Galician fishing fleet, many of whom are important donors to the party.  Angering this powerful lobby is not a step that any Spanish Government is going to take lightly.

A Galician friend informed me that 65% of the Galician catch comes from the waters of the North Atlantic off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.  I’ve not yet been able to find a referenced source for this figure, but it is certainly a large and significant percentage of the total catch.  According to Greenpeace Spain, the Galician fleet in the North Atlantic – excluding those trawlers who fish off the coasts of Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland – consists of 46 deep water trawlers and 194 longliners.

If Spain were to veto Scottish membership of the EU, it would instantly lose all access to a large part of its fish catch.  The effect on the Galician economy would be devastating and the powerful Galician fishing lobby would withdraw its traditional support for the Partido Popular.  Meanwhile shoppers across Spain would be deprived of their bacalao and merluza, and the politicians they’ll blame for that would be the ones who decided to veto Scottish EU membership in the hope of getting a bigger slice of our fish cake.

Alistair’s claim that Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU unless we allow them even greater access to our fishing grounds does not hold water, and neither does his claim that Scotland’s fishing industry benefits from Westminster rule.

Westminster has mismanaged the Scottish fishing industry and used its interests as a bargaining chip to be traded away for benefits to the farming industry in the south.  Tory PM Ted Heath infamously traded away Scottish fishing rights in return for agricultural subsidies for large southern English farmers in 1973, and Westminster has pursued similar policies ever since.

According to figures from the Scottish Government, Scotland receives just 41% of the UK’s European Fisheries Fund allocation despite accounting for 87% of the total value of UK fish landings – 37% of the total EU Total Allowable Catch (TAC).  Scotland receives just 1.1% of European fisheries funding although the Scottish fleet lands 7% of the total EU catch of wild fish and 12% of European aquaculture production.

The only way that Scotland can protect its fishing industry is through independence.  Alistair Carmichael is clearly not up to the task – he’s a man who doesn’t recognise a bargaining chip when it comes in the form of a wet cod slapping him across the face.

Prof Jim Gallagher hits the ground running

Better Together got a new expert recently, who promised to inject a note of substantive academic rigour into the contradictory mess that purports to be the argument for the Union.  Professor Jim Gallagher was formerly the UK civil service’s heid bummer on the Calman Commission which promised Scotland a little bit of devolutionary jam.  Now he’s retired, he’s taken up a new job as a director of a company owned by Swiss Re, the insurance giant responsible for the Gherkin, that very large penis shaped building in the City of London.

The no campaign hopes to persuade Scotland that the fact that Westminster is populated by very big pricks is a good thing.  So combined with his expertise in the contradictory mess of the Calman Commission, working for people with a severe case of penis envy made Jim the ideal candidate as an advisor on policy and strategy for the Better Together campaign.  And just one week into the job, he’s already made a dick of it.

The Herald reports today that in his blog last April, the Prof admitted that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be forced to join the euro or the Schengen free travel zone.  Cue red white and blue faces all round Better Together’s HQ, where they’ve been spending the last year claiming Scotland would have to join Schengen and the euro, apparently simultaneously with being expelled from the EU.  I’ve never been entirely clear on how that’s supposed to work, but then neither is anyone from Better Together.

When it was put to him that his blog comments contradict the line fervently spun by his new boss Alistair Darling, the Herald reports that the Prof said in a statement : “there have been significant interventions from the Prime Minister of Spain and the President of Catalonia, and it is not all clear what terms could in fact be agreed.”

Uh huh, so the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Catalan President Artur Mas have since made important interventions that have changed everything.  Have they buggery Jim, as you know fine well.

Firstly of course, the Prof didn’t actually say that it was now clear that his original opinion was wrong.  He may very well still be of the opinion that, as he wrote on his blog in April you could take an “educated guess” at the situation, and see that it is “pretty likely that Scotland would be an EU member state, probably after an accelerated set of accession negotiations” and that “requirements to join the Euro or Schengen agreement can surely be avoided.”

That remains the situation, and nothing either Mariano Rajoy nor Artur Mas have said have altered it.  I’ve already posted a piece on what Mariano Rajoy really said, and what he didn’t say.  A few days later Rajoy was asked repeatedly whether Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU but refused to answer.  All Rajoy said is that a country which becomes independent cannot be an EU member because of the fact that it has not signed the EU treaties.  But Rajoy has been spouting the same simple minded legalism since well before April last year, when the Prof wrote his blog.

Rajoy has never answered any questions about Spain’s attitude to a Scotland which has voted yes, but which is still a part of the UK, and is negotiating EU membership prior to the date of independence.  That’s what would actually happen in the event of a yes vote.  If he had made a statement about that then perhaps there really might have been a significant intervention on the part of Mariano Rajoy, but all Mariano is doing to parroting lines fed to him by the folk who had the meetings with the UK Tories, when they discussed a common response to independence campaigns within EU states.

I’ve also written on what Artur Mas said, and how he was discussing a hypothetical situation which has no bearing on Scotland.  Mas was discussing what measures might be necessary in order to preserve EU membership for a Catalonia whose independence Madrid refuses to recognise.  That’s not a situation which would apply to Scotland, whose independence would be negotiated with Westminster and recognised by Westminster.  Unlike Scotland, where the referendum is legally recognised and constitutional, Madrid refuses to countenance an independence referendum in Catalonia and is threatening to block any vote.  Rajoy’s government has said repeatedly that they will not recognise the result and will not negotiate independence with the Catalans.

All this greatly complicates Catalonia’s path to international recognition, which in turn complicates its path to EU membership.  Scotland faces none of these hurdles.

Catalonia is already part of the Schengen area and uses the euro as its currency, and desires to continue with both.  None of this has any bearing on an independent Scotland which doesn’t use the euro and which will continue in the Common Travel Area with the UK, the Irish Republic, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.  So nothing Mas said can possibly have put an independent Scotland’s position on those two subjects in any doubt.

Given that neither Mariano Rajoy nor Artur Mas have never uttered any statements relevant to the spurious claim at hand – would an independent Scotland be forced to join the euro and the Schengen zone – Professor Jim’s explanation for his change of mind is in the long tradition of Better Together strategy planning.  It’s made up as they go along, hoping that a sympathetic media will ignore the glaring contradictions, the gaffes, the nonsense, the half truths and the outright lies.  Looks like he’s hit the ground running.

The debt we owe to the Union

It doesn’t really matter how often a pro-independence organisation, website, or individual publicly refutes one the many lies perpetrated by the Better Together campaign, the lie continues to be asserted – all too often unchallenged by the supine British media.  Just within the past few days, Alistair Carmichael repeated the spurious claim that Scotland benefits financially from the Union when in fact the reverse is true, and Alistair Darling repeated the multi-refuted Unionist fantasy that Alex Salmond need only snap his fingers and every indy supporter with a keyboard and an internet connection will stop taking the piss out of Better Together and its minions.

Speaking entirely personally, because I am not a member of any political party, I would love Alex Salmond to make a public statement asking people to be nice to Alistair Darling.  I’d take it as carte-blanche to rip seven shades of shite out of Ali, and I wouldn’t be alone.   Not out of badness, well not entirely, but because it would prove that Alex Salmond is not McAstaroth directing his minor demons (my demon name is Weegingerdugaroth and my special power is frying mince).  We could demonstrate once and for all that this is not Alex Salmond’s independence referendum by blythely ignoring him and continuing to mock.  Mind you it still wouldn’t stop Darling from blaming Eck for the extra abuse heaped upon him, nor stop the media from repeating the lie.

But onto the Big Lie, the one that deserves the capital letters.  It’s the oil.  It’s too volatile, and we’re lucky to have Westminster to look after it for us and give us economic stability.

The first part of this statement is true, strictly speaking.  Oil is volatile.  All commodities are volatile, but oil is especially volatile – in the sense that it evaporates away over time, leaving you with nothing but a rank sticky toxic mess and a stain that’s impossible to shift.  Which is also a fair description of Scotland’s Unionist parties since the oil revenues started to flow into the UK Treasury.  But the rest of the claim is utter bollocks which has been refuted more often than it’s been pointed out that Bruce Forsyth wears a wig.  Didn’t they do well.  Well, no, they didn’t.

Norway passed a wee historical milestone this week.  Every Norwegian became a millionaire.  The Norwegian state oil fund is now worth 5.11 trillion krone, or 1 million krone per head of population – around £100,000 for every man woman and child in the country.  Of course that cash isn’t theirs to spend individually, it’s a fund for the country’s future so that generations of Norwegians to come can continue to enjoy high quality public services and benefit from first class infrastructure.

And while the Norwegians were quietly patting themselves on the backs of their expensive knitwear, what was the main topic of discussion regarding the future of the UK economy?  Austerity in wongaland, indebtedness and cuts.

In the independence debate, the latest salvo is that the UK government will continue to guarantee the UK’s debts.  Which in many ways is is merely a statement of the obvious dressed up as news.  But they did also say words to the effect that the UK government would continue to guarantee existing UK debt, including that part which would be inherited by a future independent Scotland.

This is really rather important.  It is in fact a tacit admission that Westminster will accept a currency union with an independent Scotland, and an admission that Westminster cannot force an independent Holyrood to accept a single penny of the UK’s £1.4 trillion debt.   Scotland will of course accept a share of the debt, which will be owed to the UK, but only in return for a proportional share of UK assets.  It helps to smooth the path of future negotiations on independence, and as such is a major advance for the yes campaign.  Not that the media would report it like that.

But the point remains, they were discussing debt, not the vast assets of Norway.  If an independent Scotland had started an oil fund when Norway started its fund, we would currently be discussing Scottish assets, not Scottish debt.  If Westminster had established a UK oil fund then Scotland would now be discussing what share of it was ours.  Instead it’s all about debt.

Norwegians are millionaires, but as part of the UK Scotland doesn’t have an oil fund, we have public debt.  Our public services are bleeding to death, and our straining transport and communications infrastructure cries out for investment.  If we remain in the UK we are screwed economically and face unparalleled cuts in public spending – not so much cuts, as amputations and decapitations.

Monday’s Newsnight on BBC2, the one for grown ups in London not the 20 minutes at the end tacked on to assuage Scotland, spent much of the programme discussing the extent to which the services of the UK state will be axed or privatised.  We live in a UK where all the main parties agree on the need for cuts.  They just differ on the presentation.

Scotland’s oil bonanza was pissed away on Tory tax cuts, benefits to the millions thrown onto the scrap heap of unemployment as Thatcher used people’s lives as a tool to break the unions and destroy heavy industry, casino banking, privatisations, nuclear weapons, and the odd foreign war or three.

Yet we’re supposed to believe that Westminster is a competent manager of Scotland’s economy.  Better Together operates in a peculiar little bubble of parochialism where it imagines that not only are Scots unaware of the news from furren pairts, we’re also unaware of the news from the rest of the UK.  The big oil lie exposes itself as a lie every time we read another headline about austerity.  They want to spend what remains of the oil revenues on more wars, nukes, privatisations, casino bankers and tax cuts for the well off.

And that’s what really gets my goat about Alistair Darling.  It’s not that he defends a system that benefits the few not the many.  It’s not even that he exercises power without responsibility – because mere electoral rejection can’t kill off a Westminster political careerist.  It’s that he expects to be beyond criticism, and beyond mockery.  He’s so eager to avoid being mocked he’s turned Better Together into a joke without a punchline.

A Scotsman, an Englishman, and a Welshman got into debt.  It’s the way you tell them, Alistair.