Flying kites

The news today in the Scottish press is dominated by Stu Campell’s proposal for a new pro-independence party. Apparently the musings of a pro-indy blogger are the most important thing to happen in Scotland today. Well who knew? Perhaps the BBC might even start interviewing pro-indy bloggers now. Or maybe not.

The first I knew about this idea was when it was published in his interview with Kenny Farquharson in The Times. As far as I am aware it’s not a concrete proposal, but more a solo kite flying exercise on Stu’s part. It’s simply an idea he has thrown out there for discussion.

Yet even as a kite flying exercise, the proposal has of course produced the entirely predictable slew of headlines in the anti-independence press about splits in the Yes movement. Because a half-articulated notion – it’s not even well formed enough to count as a plan – from a single politics blogger is far more important than the melt-down in the Labour party, the irrelevance into which Ruth Davidson’s Vote Ruth Davidson For More Ruth Davidson Party has been consigned by Boris Johnson, or the ever increasing mutual contempt which characterises the relationship between Scotland and the Conservative Government. So just today in the Herald we have a Tom Gordon hit job story entitled Wings over Scotland blogger attacks SNP and Greens in Yes movement split, and the anti-independence columnist Mark Smith opining How a Wings Over Scotland party could turn Yes to No. Meanwhile over in The Scotsman we have Wings Over Scotland: New pro-independence party could challenge ‘far left’ Scottish Greens.

Unfortunately this chorus line of headlines is not an indication of the true political influence of Stu Campbell, it’s more an indication of the desperation of the overwhelmingly anti-independence media in Scotland to find a distraction from the mess into which the UK has got itself, and the growing attraction of independence amongst Scottish voters as their disenchantment with Westminster grows. All that has happened here in practical terms is that the Scottish press has seized an opportunity to depict the Yes movement as being riven by division and dissent, precisely at the time when the real news story is death of Labour in Scotland, the impending doom of Brexit, and machinations within the Conservative party in Westminster to frustrate their own government. It’s a perfect example of “Oh look a squirrel.” It’s entirely predictable that the Scottish press would have reacted in this manner.

So here we are, discussing Stu Campbell’s proposal for a new party, and not the implosion of the Labour party in Scotland and with it any political force which can claim to both oppose the Tories and independence. That’s a hugely significant development, but we’ve been distracted from it.

Apparently some people have been suggesting my name as a possible candidate for this new party. Well sorry, but no. That’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because I would rather poke my eyes out with rusty knitting needles than stand for election for any party, whether that’s Stu’s proposed Wings party, the SNP, the Greens, or the Vote Wee Ginger Dug For More Clapping Of Dugs Party. There’s a reason I didn’t join the SNP in 2014 in the aftermath of the independence referendum, and that reason is because I don’t think it’s healthy for someone whose job is writing commentary and opinion to be tied to the manifesto of a particular political party – irrespective of what that party is.

In any event, this idea for a putative new party is premature. In that assessment I agree with James Kelly of Scot Goes Pop. We are nowhere near needing to set up a new political party for Yes voters. That’s a decision which doesn’t have to be taken until other avenues to an independence referendum have been exhausted. There’s still quite a road to travel there. Yes, I understand the frustration with the caution and small-c conservatism of the SNP leadership. They are frustrations which I share. But I believe that the way to counter them is to redouble our efforts to campaign, to persuade, to spread information, and to demonstrate the strength of pro-independence feeling on the ground. It’s only by doing so that we can provide the SNP leadership with the political confidence it needs to press ahead with demands for a referendum.

It could certainly be argued that the recent opinion poll showing majority support for independence is a vindication of the ‘steady as she goes’ strategy of Nicola Sturgeon.  It was always expected that Brexit and a Boris Johnson government would produce a boost in support for independence in Scotland.  Only one of those events has actually come to pass.  It is entirely likely that when Brexit does happen, there will be a further boost in support for independence in the polls.  A series of opinion polls showing increasing support for independence and demand for a referendum will make the current refusal of the anti-independence parties to countenance a referendum politically untenable.

The current SNP plan is to hold an independence referendum in 2020. That’s the preference of Nicola Sturgeon, and over the weekend deputy leader Keith Brown announced that the party plans to ramp up its preparations for a referendum.  If that referendum does indeed come to pass, then any plans for a new Yes party in 2021 are entirely moot. While the Westminster parties are united in their refusal to concede another independence referendum at the moment, denying the mandate that the Scottish Government currently possesses and denying that the Scottish Parliament has already voted in favour of another referendum, that refusal may not be able to survive the political fallout from a snap Westminster election in which the SNP perform strongly and increase the number of Westminster seats that they hold.

This is especially the case if a snap General Election produces a minority government with the SNP holding the balance of power. Either the Labour party may seek a confidence and supply deal with the SNP in return for a Section 30 order, or a minority Boris Johnson administration may agree to a Section 30 order as a way of getting rid of those troublesome Scots and increasing his majority in Westminster. Those are just two possible scenarios. There is also the political reality that a strong showing from the SNP in that election will destroy the arguments currently deployed against a referendum by the anti-independence parties, and increase the pressure on them to respect the democratic will of the people of Scotland.

There’s no guarantee that the election is going to take place of course, but all observers agree that it’s looking increasingly likely. Just today, Monday, the Guardian is reporting that a group of rebel Tory MPs, including former Chancellor Philip Hammond, are planning a move in the second week of September in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit. If they are successful, Boris Johnson will have no choice but to call an election in order to change parliamentary arithmetic so that he can get his way.

It is this early UK general election which Yes campaigners ought to be focussing on just now, not the elections of 2021. In that UK general election – sorry Greens – it’s going to be the SNP which is the only pro-independence party which has any chance at all of getting seats. That’s the nature of the first past the post system so beloved of Westminster. So we need to concentrate our efforts on ensuring that we maximise the SNP vote in the elections which are most likely to come first. That should be our current priority, not thinking about setting up a new party.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 9 August 2019

ABOVE FINAL SENTENCE
In the latest edition of the dugcast, The National’s editor Callum Baird and I discuss what has been a momentous week for the Scottish independence movement. The anecdotal reports that many people who had voted No in 2014 are now switching to Yes were confirmed by the poll from the Conservative pollster Michael Ashcroft which put support for independence in the lead. We talk about the poll, the BBC’s shameful lack of coverage of it, the implications for the movement, and the meltdown in the Labour party in Scotland.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
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If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The Federalism Fairy flaps again, again

federalismfairy
It’s as regular as prune addict on a high fibre diet, every time that there’s a boost in support for independence, some opponent of independence keeches out the Federalism Fairy.  Back when the Edinburgh Agreement was being negotiated between Alex Salmond and David Cameron, both the Conservatives and Labour refused to allow any question on devo max or federalism to figure on the ballot paper. This was because the anti-independence parties were so supremely confident that they would win, and win by a crushing margin, that they didn’t feel any need to trouble themselves with making any concessions to Scotland. Yet here we are, seven years on, and Labour’s Paul Sweeney is insisting that there can’t be a referendum unless there’s a question about federalism on the ballot paper. You’d almost wonder whether Paul thinks that if there’s a binary choice like there was the last time that he’d lose.

Perhaps we might take Labour in Scotland’s proclaimed enthusiasm for federalism a tad more seriously if they hadn’t sent Gordie Broon intervening all over the place in 2014 promising to implement federalism if Scotland voted no in the referendum that year. Gordie promised that he personally would hold the party leaders to account, and the second the no vote was delivered he vanished into the lucratively paid lecture circuit, leaving the federalism fairy to die a lonely death. Just like 2014, there are no detailed plans, no route map, nothing beyond vague aspirations. And absolutely no mechanism to ensure that federalism actually takes place in an England which has shown zero interest in the idea.

The federalism fairy is however Labour’s fall back in a constitutional crisis. Labour in Scotland had the rug pulled away from underneath it this week after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that Labour wouldn’t block another independence referendum. Paul’s resuscitation of the Federalism Fairy has quite a lot to do with the panic that now infests what’s left of the ranks of the Labour party in Scotland. But still, you do have to love the irony of Labour in Scotland being outraged because their bosses in London are making decisions which Labour in Scotland doesn’t agree with on the very topic of Scottish outrage about our bosses in London making decisions which Scotland doesn’t agree with. There they are, campaigning for Scotland to be told what to do by Westminster but when Westminster tells them what to do they get all huffy about it.

Of course, Paul isn’t about to concede that there should be a referendum any time soon. He thinks that there should be another independence referendum only if the SNP secures a majority for one in 2021, only if it’s written in the SNP manifesto IN VERY LARGE LETTERS on the front page, only if him and his pals get to determine the format of the vote and there’s also a question about federalism, and then if there’s a yes vote to independence then it will need to be put to another confirmatory referendum after independence negotiations are complete. So it’s not like he’s putting preconditions on anything, oh no, not at all. And definitely not giving Westminster licence to negotiate in bad faith so there’s a deal that the people of Scotland would reject. Heaven forfend you might imagine such a thing.

Paul speaks like a man who believes that he’s in a position to dictate from a position of strength. That would be the strength of coming his party coming in fifth place in the most recent elections in Scotland, and judging by the opinion polls quite likely to see its Scottish seats in the Commons wiped out at the next General Election.

Meanwhile Labour in Scotland continues to tie itself in knots. The branch office manager Roger Leotard, who is opposed to another referendum, was furious that a group of MSPs released a statement to the press saying that they’re opposed to another referendum after the previous statement from branch office manager Rupert Leopard that he opposed a referendum was slapped down by the Shadow Chancellor who is opposed to independence. This is the level of clarity we’ve come to expect from the Labour party.

The game plan, such as it is, from all the anti-independence parties in Scotland right now is to deny that a mandate currently exists for an independence referendum despite the fact that the SNP was elected in 2016 with a mandate for an independence referendum should there be a change in circumstances such as Brexit. There’s precious little harmony within the Labour party these days, but Paul Sweeney and branch office manager Rudolph Legwarmer both agree that existing mandate doesn’t exist at all, because it wasn’t written in a large enough font in the SNP’s 2016 manifesto.

Paul and branch office manager Ranulph Lawnmower are singing from the same songsheet as David Mundell who didn’t resign. In between admitting that he won’t actually vote to bring down Boris Johnson’s government to prevent a no deal Brexit, the spineless one confirmed that he too was willing to consider another referendum if the SNP win a majority in 2021, but only if the campaign is “explicitly” fought on that basis. And even then he didn’t actually say he’d agree to another referendum, merely that a demand for one should be “listened to”. Which is another way of saying, “Well I have listened but I still don’t agree.” Not that anyone need care about the opinion of a former Scotland Secretary who repeatedly threatened to resign but then got sacked instead. He had no dignity in office, and no dignity in the way he left it.

However this is progress of sorts, in that they are at least conceding that a mandate for a referendum derives from a Scottish vote and shouldn’t be blocked by Westminster. However it’s really just kicking the can down the road in the hope that the SNP will not gain a majority, or that the dog might eat branch office manager Reginald Lapdancer’s homework, or there’s a flood or an earthquake, or perhaps that the people of Scotland will wake up one morning and think “Naa, let’s not bother with this independence lark,” and the whole nasty business will just go away. They’re no more sincere in their apparent willingness to agree to a referendum then they were in their willingness to implement that federalism that they promised us in 2014. Because if none of their contingencies come to pass they will just continue to insist that there’s no mandate for a referendum like they’re doing at the moment.

The anti-independence parties can continue to deny it all they like, but there is currently a pro-independence majority in Holyrood, the SNP was elected on a manifesto which promised a referendum should Scotland be taken out of the EU against its will – which the British government is committed to doing by 31 October – and the Scottish Parliament has already voted in favour of another referendum. Ignoring this or denying it is simply gaslighting the people of Scotland. No amount of waving the federalism fairy’s magic wand will distract from that reality. There is almost certainly going to be a Westminster General Election before the next Holyrood elections, that election will render the opinions of the likes of David Mundell, Paul Sweeney, and branch officer manager Raymond Lipsmacker even more irrelevant than they are at the moment.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

It doesn’t take a generation to change your mind

ianmurray
These days the favourite sound bite of politicians opposed to Scottish independence is that the 2014 referendum was a “once in a generation” event.  They tell us that means that there should not and cannot be another for at least another decade or two.

This is a profoundly anti-democratic stance to take. Effectively those who espouse this argument are saying that the electorate should be deprived of any means to hold the winners of the 2014 referendum to account – while at the same time they insist that the losers must respect the result. Yet really, it’s more important that it’s the winners of a vote who must respect the result, by respecting the promises and commitments that they made in order to win the vote. Democracy can only function if the electorate are able to hold the winners of elections to account. Those who won the referendum of 2014 are seeking to deprive the people of Scotland of any means of holding them to account for their failure to abide by some of the key promises and commitments that were made by the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland within the UK, not the least of which was the claim that it was only by voting no that Scotland could remain a part of the EU.

Both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon were clear that they were offering personal opinions when they described the 2014 referendum as a “once in a generation opportunity”. There certainly was no firm commitment on their part that the question should never be put to Scotland again until the present generation has died off. What was really meant by the phrase was that the vote in 2014 only came about because of the unprecedented circumstances of an SNP majority in a parliament and voting system which was designed to produce minority governments.

There was nothing in the Edinburgh Agreement about it being a “once in a generation” vote. It was the Edinburgh Agreement which set the political parameters for the referendum. If the referendum really was intended to be a once in a generation affair, you’d imagine that this crucial document might have mentioned that fact. Equally there was nothing on the ballot paper to suggest that it was a “once in a generation” vote. I voted in that referendum, the question was “Should Scotland become an independent country?” not “Should Scotland become an independent country and if the result is no then do you agree to surrender your right to ever have the question asked again in your lifetime?”

In the white paper Scotland’s Future, Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, which was published by the Scottish government in the run up to the referendum of 2014, there are two mentions of the phrase “once in a generation opportunity”. On page 3 it says “If we vote No, Scotland stands still. A once in a generation opportunity to follow a different path, and choose a new and better direction for our nation, is lost.” On page 10 it describes the referendum as “a once in a generation opportunity to chart a better way.” Note the exact words there, “once in a generation opportunity”, not “once in a generation referendum”.

Those are the only two mentions of the phrase in the White Paper, both came in the introduction. Nowhere in the document is an explicit commitment that there will only be another referendum after a generation has passed, for two reasons. Firstly because those who wrote the document were hoping for a yes vote, in which case a second referendum is moot. Secondly and more importantly it’s because the phrase was never intended as a political promise. It was a description of the perceived likelihood of there being another SNP majority government in Holyrood.

It is widely known that the voting system used for Holyrood elections is designed to produce minority governments which require coalition partners. This was the result of a deal done behind closed doors between Labour’s Donald Dewar and the Lib Dems’ Menzie Campbell. The plan was that Holyrood would in perpetuity be governed by a coalition of Labour with the Lib Dems. It was designed to freeze out both the SNP and the Conservatives. And the plan worked well enough for the first ten years of the parliament. The SNP won a minority victory in 2007, much to Labour’s chagrin. Labour was expected to win the election of 2011, but much to everyone’s surprise, including the surpise of the SNP leadership, the SNP didn’t only manage to win the election, it managed to win an outright victory with a majority of Holyrood seats. No one had ever expected such an outcome to be possible, and reports in the aftermath of the election described the SNP as having broken the system.

This is the context in which the “once in a generation” comment must be understood. No one in the SNP expected the party to win an outright majority in 2011, and before that election no one had believed that the party would be in a position to deliver its promise to hold an independence referendum.

Remember that all this was taking place before the referendum of 2014 broke the mould of Scottish politics forever. The SNP, and just about everyone else back then, believed that losing the referendum would see the end of the SNP’s independence plans, and would most likely result in the party failing to remain the largest party after the next Holyrood election, never mind securing an absolute majority. It was believed that the independence referendum was only possible because of the highly unusual circumstances of the SNP’s shock majority victory in the election of 2011, a set of circumstances which were thought to be unlikely to be repeated any time soon.

The only reason that this “once in a generation” statement has become a political issue now is because there is a demand for another vote, there is a majority in Holyrood for another vote, and because that vote is highly likely to produce a yes result. Opponents of independence know that their best hope of preventing independence is to prevent the question ever being asked, and they will grasp at any straw that helps them to do so, no matter what damage it does to the fabric of Scottish democracy. They know that the people of Scotland will not judge them kindly for their failure to live up to the promises and commitments that they made to Scotland in order to secure a No victory in 2014. When politicians cannot be held to account for their failure to abide by their promises, democracy dies.

But even if it were the case that there was a firm commitment that the 2014 was “once in a generation”, so what? If a Westminster government cannot bind its successors, then why should that same rule not apply to Holyrood? If circumstances change then another referendum is perfectly justified, indeed it becomes a democratic necessity. Democracy is not an event, it’s an ongoing process. A democracy which refuses to acknowledge the right of the people to change their minds when circumstances change is no democracy at all.

Labour MP Ian Murray, that’ll be the Ian Murray who is currently banging on about how the referendum was “once in a generation”, said on Channel 4 news on Wednesday evening that there shouldn’t be another independence referendum because the people had spoken in 2014. Then he asserted that there definitely ought to be another EU referendum because the first had been won on fear and lies. Sauce for the goose, meet sauce for the gander. This is also the Ian Murray who told the House of Commons on 8 April 2019, “A democracy fails to be a democracy if the people are not allowed to change their mind. That is exactly what the people have been doing.” Indeed Ian, indeed. And they don’t need to take a generation to do so.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The arses who run what was the union

JohnMcDonnell
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has upset a lot of people within Labour in Scotland by remarking that the Westminster Parliament should respect the democratic choices of the people of Scotland. In an interview during the Edinburgh Festival, he said that Westminster shouldn’t block a second independence referendum if it had been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

Richard Leonard, who had previously called on Westminster to block any independence referendum, took the huff. There he was, desperately trying to raise his profile higher than a limbo dancer, and his bosses from London only go and show up how irrelevant he is. He’s beelin and he went on BBC Scotland news to do a spot of harrumphage. Although to be fair, you’d think that Richard was used to being irrelevant by now. That’s what happens when you have less public recognition than the manager of a mid sized Morrison’s.

Kevin Schofield, the editor of Politics Home, reported on Twitter that a source within Labour in Scotland hadn’t taken long to inform him of the branch office’s reaction to John McDonnell’s remarks. It wasn’t flattering. The source said, “He’s a fucking imbecile and has just given our opponents all the ammunition they need. We will now be perceived as pro Brexit and anti union. Well done the arses that run what was the Labour Party.” Actually, I’d have thought that a Labour source calling their own Shadow Chancellor a “fucking imbecile” was giving their opponents all the ammunition they need, but maybe that’s just me. Watching Labour in Scotland ranting is like watching Mr Bean having a steroid rage.

It’s not quite true to say that Labour is regarded as pro-Brexit. It’s not regarded as anti-Brexit either. It’s really regarded as having its collective head up its collective brexhind. That’s the real source of so many of the party’s difficulties. The problem with trying to be all things to all people is that you end up being nothing to anyone.

What’s truly remarkable here is that the simple statement that it ought to be up to the people of Scotland to decide on Scotland’s future is so explosive within the Labour party in Scotland. Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray claimed that the Shadow Chancellor was “betraying our party’s values”. And there we were thinking that democracy and the right to determine one’s own future was a core socialist value. It is quite astonishing that McDonnell’s comments should be in any way controversial in a party that claims to uphold a socialist or social democratic tradition when his comments merely reflect a basic principle of that tradition. But obviously not for viewers in Scotland. In Scotland, the Labour party’s understanding of solidarity is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories.

A politician saying that politicians in a democracy should respect the mandate given to them by the electorate should never be controversial. A politician recognising that people in a democracy have the right to change their minds when circumstances change should never be controversial. The fact that prominent figures within the Labour party in Scotland regard a statement that Scotland’s future should be for the people of Scotland to decide to be politically beyond the pale tells you all you need to know about their concept of democracy and their understanding of Scotland’s place within this so-called partnership of nations.

The incident even provoked Ruth Davidson to come out from where she’d been hiding ever since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, relieved to find a distraction from her own difficulties. Amazingly she had managed to find internet access in her bunker somewhere deep underground beneath a shed in a forest in Aberdeenshire. The erstwhile darling of the Tories tweeted, “I feel for those Labour voters that stood side by side with major figures of their party and against the forces of nationalism in 2014. Know that the Scottish Tories will always stand up for our United Kingdom.”

Which is interesting, because the most dangerous forces of nationalism in British politics are those within the Tory party who are pressing for a no deal Brexit. But apparently forces of nationalism don’t count when they wrap themselves in a union flag and pose for a photo op on top of a tank. It’s also interesting because just three years ago Ruth herself said pretty much what John McDonnell said this week, that the British PM and Westminster shouldn’t block an independence referendum if the Scottish Parliament had voted for one. Wouldn’t it be nice if Ruth’s statements lasted for a generation? Hell, it would be great if they lasted until the end of the week.

The overwhelming attitude from the political opponents of independence in this issue as in so many others is that it is within the gift of the Westminster Parliament to “grant” the people of Scotland the right to decide their own future. John McDonnell made a slip of the tongue during his interview in Edinburgh, when he said that the “English Parliament” shouldn’t block a Scottish referendum, but his slip of the tongue was unintentionally revealing.

Westminster may be theoretically and legally the parliament of the whole UK, but it comprises 650 MPs, of whom 59 represent Scotland, 40 Wales, and 18 Northern Ireland (including those represented by Sinn Fein which doesn’t take up its seats). The remaining 533 represent English seats, 82% of the total, more than four times the total for all the other nations combined. Now you might say that’s simply because England has over 85% of the population of the UK, and is actually underrepresented in the Commons, and you’d be correct. However the practical implication of these demographic realities is that a requirement for Commons approval for a Scottish referendum means that English MPs wield an effective veto. It means that within the UK Scottish democracy will always be subordinate to the political needs of politicians who do not represent Scotland.

The patronising attitude of the English political establishment came across loud and clear in an article in the Guardian by the Blairite apologist Jonathan Freeland, who argued that John McDonnell had offered the SNP more than he had to on independence. He didn’t need to offer another indyref as the SNP would never vote down a Labour minority government in any case because allowing the Tories to gain power would be unacceptable to Scottish voters. The proper place for Scottish democracy is to be subordinate to English political calculations.

In the UK nowadays, being “pro-Union” means preventing the people of Scotland from debating whether to leave that union. Now if you don’t want Scotland to leave the UK, that’s perfectly fine. That’s your opinion and you have every right to it. You have every right to argue your case, to make your points, to persuade people to your point of view. What you don’t have is the right to prevent the question ever being put to the people of Scotland, and you most certainly don’t have that right when the people of Scotland have explicitly voted for a majority of parties in the Scottish Parliament which have pledged to hold a referendum should the circumstances which held in 2014 materially change. Those within the Labour party in Scotland who espouse this deeply undemocratic view ought to consider very carefully how it’s going to be received by those 40% of Labour voters in Scotland who support independence. Because they will take note.

All that is happening here is that the credibility of opponents of independence is being undermined by their own words and deeds. Ruth Davidson’s flip flopping, and Labour’s refusal to concede that the people of Scotland have the sovereign right to decide their own future, undermine the very basis of the UK. It should not be for Westminster to “grant” the people of Scotland democracy. It is the sovereign right of Scotland. Yet within the UK we are expected to accept that Scottish self-determination should be determined by Westminster. Self-determination which is determined by others is a contradiction in terms. If Scotland cannot have self-determination within the UK, then the union is already dead. We live in a unitary state and are subordinate to the political expression of English nationalism. That’s why there is now a majority in Scotland for independence. Well done the arses that run what was the union.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

The wind in our sails

worktodo
It’s been a long time coming, but in the shape of Monday’s opinion poll showing a majority for yes, we finally have confirmation of the recent slew of anecdotal reports about previous no voters turning to independence. Once don’t knows are removed, 52% of those polled would vote yes to independence. A majority also support holding an independence referendum within the next two years. This phenomenal poll, showing that Scotland’s reponse to Boris Johnson and Brexit is to move towards independence, changes the political landscape. No longer can the Tories and the Lib Dems claim that Scotland doesn’t want another referendum. No longer can they pretend to speak for a silent majority that exists purely in their own imaginations.

Naturally this political earthquake was the lead item on the BBC Scotland news … Oh wait. Probably BBC Scotland is reluctant to report on the poll because fieldwork took place before the British Government opened its new hub in Edinburgh that was named after the Queen. Because a spanking new propaganda office in Edinburgh stuffed with Tory advisors and spin doctors sticking union flags on things will have a massive effect on Scottish public opinion and make us overlook Brexit and Boris Johnson. Yeah. That’ll be it. That’s the reason why this poll was reported on Danish TV before it was reported by Scotland’s national broadcaster.

This poll, carried out by the Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft, blows away the only policy that the Scottish Conservatives have had since 2014. It confirms that most people in Scotland do want another independence referendum within the next two years, and that most would vote yes to independence. This is a landmark moment for the independence movement. It means that we will enter an official independence campaign with the support of the majority. The tide has returned, and it’s running higher than ever before.

However what is possibly an even more significant finding from this poll is that 52% believe that when there is another independence referendum, that it will produce a majority for independence. Only 30% believe that Scotland will vote against independence, with 18% either not knowing or refusing to answer. Once the don’t knows and won’t says are removed, that means that 63.5% of people in Scotland, almost two thirds of the country, expect Scotland to become independent following the next independence referendum. It means that many of those who are going into this campaign with the intention of voting no are also entering it in the expectation that they’re going to lose. A significant tranch of those voters will be susceptible to persuasion to change their minds and vote yes.

In what may be even better news for independence supporters, there are reports that this poll doesn’t include 16 and 17 year old, or EU citizens, both groups which would be able to vote in an independence referendum but which are ineligible for voting in UK General Elections. It is known from previous polling that a large majority of young voters support independence. There is reason to believe that EU citizens living in Scotland have been rethinking their previous opposition to independence, since in 2014 they were told that an independence vote meant that Scotland would leave the EU. Now an independence vote represents a route back into the EU, so EU citizens will be far more likely to back independence than they previously were. We should not over-estimate the numbers of 16 and 17 year olds and EU citizens in the Scottish population, however if those groups had been included in this the poll, as they would be included in the franchise for an independence referendum, then support for yes would have been a couple of percentage points higher.

Another key finding is that 40% of Labour voters in Scotland now support independence. Even though the Labour vote has been in freefall for the past few years, that’s still a significant bloc of the population. Crucially it’s the support of those Labour voters which takes backing for independence over the line and turns it into a majority. The finding that so many Labour voters now want independence has important ramifications both for the Labour party in Scotland, and for the wider Scottish independence movement.

Labour in Scotland will now have to think carefully about its anti-independence messaging, as being seen to be aggressively pro-UK risks them alienating a large segment of their remaining support. The finding may encourage some prominent Labour supporters of independence to come out of the closet and make a public declaration of their support for independence. Were that to happen it would provide a huge boost for independence as it would make it far more difficult for opponents of independence to portray the Yes movement as a purely SNP cause. It would likely cause some of the undecideds or don’t knows to come off the fence and support independence.

For independence supporters the finding that so many Labour voters back independence means that we must always remember that support for independence does not necessarily equate to support for the SNP. Indeed, independence is likely to produce a renaissance for a truly Scottish Labour party. That means that in our own messaging we must ensure that we are making arguments that can appeal to Labour voters too. We must not make the mistake of writing off Labour supporters as unionists.

This finding also has ramifications for the SNP. The party leadership has signalled that its main focus in an early General Election will be avoiding Brexit – assuming that is that there is a GE before Brexit happens and that the Commons can forestall a no deal crashing out. This finding provides evidence that the SNP should make independence front and foremost in its campaign, as independence is now the only realistic way out of Brexit. A strong emphasis on independence is a message which is clearly going to be attractive to Labour voters, especially if the Labour party itself is continuing to sit on the fence on Brexit. The party leadership needs to be bolder about making the case for independence, and for pressing the British Government for a referendum.

We cannot take anything for granted. This growth in support for independence has not come about primarily because people are being persuaded by a positive case for independence. It’s happening because they are frustrated, disenchanted, and in despair at the British state, at Brexit, and at Boris Johnson. They look upon Westminster, they imagine a future in a Brexit Britain, and they see little that’s attractive. For those of us who are already independence supporters and campaigners, that means that we must redouble our efforts to make a positive and compelling case for independence, in order to ensure that those people who are now considering supporting independence become as convinced by its merits as we already are. This poll doesn’t mean that we have less work to do, it means that we have more work to do. We have better work to do. Let’s get working. The wind is in our sails, that means we must make our ship watertight.


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.

What the GERS figures really tell us

arrogance
Possibly the most common reason that people give for opposing Scottish independence is the belief that Scotland can’t afford it. There is a deeply engrained view amongst sections of the Scottish population that this country is an economic basket case which is only kept financially afloat thanks to a massive injection of cash from the British government. Which if true would mean that Scotland is the only thing in the world that Conservatives throw buckets of money at out of sheer altruism. Because the defining characteristic of Conservative governments is their eagerness to fund lavish lifestyles for the poor, said no one ever.

My mammy, who has been a supporter of independence since John Lennon was fresh-faced, has always claimed that if Scotland really was such an economic drain on the UK, we’d have been independent long before the rest of the Beatles went into a huff about Yoko Ono’s backing vocals.

The myth of Scotland’s poverty is reinforced ever year with the publication of the government’s GERS figures. Standing for Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland, the GERS figures are presented as the authoritative statistics on Scotland’s financial position within the UK. Every year the figures claim to show that Scotland receives a subsidy from Westminster, and that without the UK we’d be a financial basket case which would be forced to make swingeing cuts to public services in order to balance the books.

Not everyone accepts that the GERS figures give an accurate assessment of the state of Scotland’s finances, and most especially not the finances of an independent Scotland. Aware that the Conservatives have destroyed anything that might pass for a positive case for the union, pretty much all that opponents of independence have left is the claim that Scotland is subsidised by the UK, so they have come up with a phrase, “GERS deniers”. This is what they call those of us who dare to dispute their claims that an independent Scotland would be an economic basket case.

GERS denier is a nice wee soundbite which attempts to equate people who view the GERS figures with suspicion with people who deny the reality of climate change. But as ever, our anti-independence friends are not comparing like with like. Climate change is based upon multiple scientific works and studies. There is abundant data from many different and independent sources. The GERS figures are a single data set, and moreover they’re a single data set which relies very heavily on figures produced by a body which it is scarcely conspiracy theoristish to suspect may not be entirely neutral in the Scottish debate – the UK Treasury. The difference between denying climate change and denying GERS is simple. One is science, the other is politics. Only a fool is sceptical about a proven scientific reality. Only a fool isn’t sceptical about a political claim.

The GERS figures were instituted in the early 1990s by the then Scottish Secretary of State, the Conservative Iain Lang, as a means of providing the Tory government with ammunition to use against those campaigning for a Scottish parliament. According to a leaked memo, Lang wanted GERS as a tool to “undermine” the opposition. The figures were designed to show Scotland’s deficit, which could then be spun as a fiscal transfer from England to Scotland. This is as good a place as any to explain the difference between debt and deficit. Debt is the total amount owed, the deficit is the shortfall between revenues raised and expenditure spent.

The purpose of the GERS figures was political from the very beginning. That’s the opposite of science. Science seeks data and then develops a theory to account for that data. GERS starts off with the theory of an English subsidy to Scotland and then seeks data to account for that theory. It’s anti-science. It’s politics.

Unionists want us to accept GERS uncritically and without any rigorous examination of the methodology used to produce the figures which are presented in the newspaper headlines. They’re the only figures which exist, we keep getting told. And this would be true. However that’s all the more reason to examine the way in which those figures are produced and the data collected with a critical and sceptical eye. It is scientifically illiterate to accept without criticism a single data set, all the more so when that data set is the only data which exists and it’s data which relies on estimates made by people who can reasonably be suspected of having a vested interest in a particular outcome.

It’s a bit like saying, “Well we don’t actually know how life developed on Earth, but we do have the account in this old book I found in the Barras which claims that the world sprang into being from an egg laid by the primordial gecko, so let’s go with that. My book looks pretty holy. Now give me one tenth of your income. My holy book tells us to tithe too.” And then you call evolutionary scientists primordial gecko deniers and claim that they’re a cult.

The claim is frequently made by GERS fundamentalists that the figures are Scottish government figures. But that’s not exactly true. The Scottish government has a legal obligation to produce the GERS figures, but the statisticians of the Scottish government have no means of knowing how much is spent on non-devolved matters in Scotland or is (allegedly) spent on Scotland’s behalf outwith Scotland. The statisticians of the Scottish government know nothing about say, how much of defence expenditure, or the expenditure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is allocated to Scotland. For those figures they rely entirely upon information supplied to them by the UK Treasury.

A proper economist has had the temerity to look beyond the annual round of headlines predicting economic ruin for an independent Scotland and to examine the figures with a sceptical eye. He has found them seriously wanting.

According to the economist Richard Murphy, with the exception of local government income there are no reliable figures at all for Scottish revenues, and figures for Scottish expenditure are seriously deficient. He points out that it is normal for economic figures to rely on certain estimates, but it’s not normal for 25 out of 26 sets of income figures in a set of accounts to be based on estimates and consumer surveys. He says, “Estimates may be a part of financial life but this is ridiculous.” The former SNP MP George Kerevan, who was a lecturer in economics before entering politics, likewise believes that the GERS figures underestimate Scottish revenues.

The important point is that it would be perfectly possible for the UK Treasury to provide the Scottish Government with more accurate and rigorous statistics. It would be perfectly feasible for them to change the ways in which they collect data and measure expenditures and revenues in order to produce a more robust set of figures. But they won’t do so. And the reason that they won’t is because the existing GERS figures are ideally suited to the political task required of them. That task is to misinform Scotland about its true financial strengths and undermine confidence in Scotland’s ability to go its own way.

Opponents of independence want the GERS figures to do something that not even Iain Lang wanted them to do. They want to use the GERS figures in order to make claims about the financial position of an independent Scotland. GERS tells us, in theory, about the financial situation of Scotland within the UK, but independence means we do things differently. That’s the entire point of independence.

In the most recent GERS figures, revenues from the North Sea oil industry were a paltry few million, but Norway continued to extract billions from its oil sector even though it had been hit by the same decline in oil prices. The difference is due to different tax regimes and regulatory regimes. Unionists assume that Scotland would continue to indulge the oil corporations in the same way as the UK Treasury. That assumption is made across the board by the GERS fundamentalists, their vision of an independent Scotland is one which spends and raises revenues exactly the same way the UK does just now. That’s an obvious nonsense.

According to the financial services company Deloitte, “GERS data is produced for Scotland as part of the UK – it does not model scenarios for an independent Scotland in which the Scottish Government would be enabled to make its own fiscal choices.” And that’s the whole point of independence, to do things differently. To do things better for the people of Scotland.

The GERS fundamentalists make some even more outlandish assumptions. Literally outlandish. There are essentially two parts to Scottish expenditure as recorded in the GERS figures. There is spending in Scotland, and then there is spending for Scotland. There’s an important difference between the two.  Spending in Scotland consists of government money which goes directly to Scotland, which is spent within Scotland, and which consequently generates tax and other revenues within Scotland.

Spending for Scotland is money which the UK government spends on behalf of Scotland, much of which is not necessarily spent within Scotland itself. So for example Scotland is allocated a notional percentage of the UK’s entire defence budget, even though the bulk of this money is actually spent elsewhere in the UK. The rationale behind this is that defence spending benefits the UK as a whole. Scotland is also allocated a percentage of projects which are deemed to be UK national. The economist Richard Murphy estimates that the total amount of government money spent which is spent outside Scotland but which is allocated as spending for Scotland could be as much as £10 billion annually. This accounts for a considerable proportion of the notional deficit which Scotland is constantly being told it has.

So for example, according to the GERS figures the UK spends some £3.3 billion on defence which it allocates to Scotland. It is universally agreed that the amount spent within Scotland on defence does not approach this figure, most estimates place defence expenditure within Scotland at around £1.7 billion, a figure which includes spending on Faslane. Much of the remainder is spent in the south of England where the UK has concentrated the MoD offices and its military bases. No independent country in the world spends over half of its defence expenditure in someone else’s country, especially not a small country like Scotland which has no pretensions to Empire 2.0.

Money which a government spends generates income and revenues. It does so in two ways. Firstly there is the direct tax generated by the spending, for example the income tax which government employees must pay on their salaries. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there is the ripple effect of revenues generated by economic activity which is created by that spending. Those government employees need services, they spend in shops, they buy or rent homes and support households, they run cars. The tasks they perform as part of their jobs require support services, supplies, and utilities, all of which generate economic activity and consequently revenues for the government.

None of the economic activity which is created by UK government expenditure for Scotland but which is spent outside Scotland produces any revenues which are accredited to Scotland in the GERS figures. This artificially decreases Scottish revenues, while increasing Scottish expenditure, giving a false impression that Scotland is dependent on a supposed “subsidy” from the British state.

This is a major reason why the GERS figures cannot be used as a guide to the finances of Scotland as an independent country. As an independent state, Scotland will not be footing part of the bill for an army base in Aldershot or a government office in Whitehall. Government spending in an independent Scotland will be both for Scotland and in Scotland, there will not be the huge disparity between spending in Scotland and for Scotland which we experience as a part of the UK. Monies which are currently supposedly spent on Scotland’s behalf outwith Scotland will instead be spent inside Scotland, and will generate the knock on effects of increased economic activity and higher government revenues within Scotland.

Another large contributor to the GERS deficit is Scotland’s contribution to interest payments on the UK’s eye-watering national debt. A large whack of the deficit which we’re always being told Scotland has consists of the share of interest payments on the UK national debt which is allocated to Scotland. Essentially what happens is that the UK borrows money on the international markets, spends it outside Scotland on stuff Scotland neither wants nor needs while telling us that this represents a fiscal transfer to Scotland. And then we get sent the bill.

We don’t know what the national debt of an independent Scotland would be. What we do know is that there is no financial institution anywhere in the world which possesses a piece of paper saying “IOU squillions of quid, xx Scotland”. The debt is legally the responsibility of the UK government, and during the first independence referendum the UK Treasury issued a statement to reassure the markets making it clear that it would continue to be legally responsible for that debt. If the rUK wants to be the continuator state to the existing UK, then they likewise continue with the debt.

That doesn’t mean that Scotland will start life as an independent nation debt free, although Ireland did exactly that. What it means is that when Scotland becomes independent it will only take on such debt as pertains to the share of the joint UK assets that it receives, and that will be subject to negotiation between Scotland and the rUK after a Yes vote in a referendum. No assets, no debt. It’s that simple. There are certain UK assets that Scotland has no interest in, such as our share of the energy and other resources of the Falkland Islands. Not taking our share of those assets reduces any debt we might need to take on.

There are now signs that the law of unintended consequences has started to have an effect. The GERS figures were always designed for Scottish consumption but the flip side of telling Scotland that it’s poor is telling England that it subsidises us. This has created a deep well of resentment against Scotland amongst large segments of the population south of the border. People in England have come to believe, incorrectly, that Scotland only enjoys free prescriptions and free university tuition because English taxpayers foot the bill. Many of them would be happy to see Scotland become independent, because they anticipate that it would generate public spending in England. They’re in for a big disappointment, but this belief is what lies behind the finding that two thirds of Conservative party members would prefer to see Scotland become independent than make any concessions on Brexit. The reliance of successive British governments on a skewed set of statistics aimed at convincing Scotland that it’s too poor has only weakened the integrity of UK, not strengthened it.

The reality is that GERS tells us next to nothing about the financial situation of an independent Scotland. But even if we were to take the GERS figures at face value, they still add up to something that smells pretty fishy. According to the GERS figures, Scotland has a deficit of £14.8 billion a year. The equivalent figures for Wales and Northern Ireland allocate deficits of £14.7 billion and £9.16 billion respectively. Yet the entire annual deficit for the whole of the UK is £67 billion. The GER figures would have us believe that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a combined 16% of the UK population between them, are responsible for a whopping 58% of the entire UK annual deficit. That figure alone ought to raise suspicions that the methodology of GERS is suspect and invite a critical examination with a sceptical eye. But Unionists don’t want us to do that. They want us to accept Scotland’s supposed £14.8 billion deficit as if it were holy writ.

So let’s do just that. Let’s accept for the purposes of the argument that Scotland does indeed have a deficit that’s considerably larger than that of Greece. Yet Greece doesn’t have Scotland’s resources. Greece isn’t a net exporter of energy. Greece doesn’t have oil, gas, a massive renewable energy potential, the hundreds of years worth of coal that Scotland has agreed to leave in the ground. Scotland is so rich in energy that we can afford to have a national conversation about fracking and whether or not we want it. We don’t need the energy from fracking ourselves. We can afford to leave it in the ground. Most countries don’t have that luxury. Energy is the motor of any economy, and Scotland possesses it in abundance.

Unlike Greece Scotland has fertile soil and no shortage of water. We have enormous fish stocks. We are more or less self sufficient in food, what we import we make up for in exports. We have a tourism industry worth £11 billion annually, a whisky industry worth almost £4 billion. We have a computer games industry, four of the top 100 universities in the world, and a highly educated English speaking population. We have advantages we just take for granted, like the fact that what passes for a national disaster in Scotland is the national football team, we are spared the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tsunamis that strike less fortunate countries – like Greece. Those are disasters that mean entire towns and cities have to be rebuilt. Nothing like that happens in Scotland. This is a lucky country.

But it doesn’t end there. We are in a geopolitically stable and quiet part of the globe. No one wants to invade us, no one has territorial claims on us, and we have no territorial claims on anyone else. Not even Berwick. We are that rare beast, a country that no one hates except David Starkey, and since pretty much everyone hates David Starkey that’s fair enough. Unlike Greece we have government institutions which actually function. Ordinary people pay tax, unlike Greece where tax evasion is a national sport. And we have impeccable democratic credentials, to the extent that we were able to hold a national debate on independence and the only casualty of the independence movement was Jim Murphy’s egg stained shirt.

Let’s face it. If you wanted to list the ingredients for a peaceful, prosperous, stable, democratic country, you’d list what Scotland has. And yet, according to the GERS fundamentalists, Scotland is an economic basket case which is worse off than Greece. That’s not an argument for remaining under the rule of those whose economic mismanagement has produced this lamentable situation, it’s an argument for running away from the clowns who have created this mess as fast as our hairy little Caledonian legs can carry us.

The truth that the GERS fundamentalists refuse to accept is that either the GERS figures do not represent an accurate picture of the financial position of an independent Scotland, or that their beloved Westminster has been criminally negligent in its economic management of this country. They can’t have it both ways.

The clowns of Westminster show no sign that they are aware of the damage they’ve done and are now intent on taking us into the financial catastrophe of Brexit where things are only going to get even worse.

The question facing Scotland is how do we get out of the Brexit mess we are currently in. Do we trust in the selfish arrogant Brextremist fools who caused the mess in the first place and who are bent on continuing the damage and making it worse, or do we trust in our own skills, our own talents, and our own abilities. Do we think it will be easier to repair the damage in an isolationist Brexit Britain, or in an independent Scotland with full access to the European single market and the trade deals that enables? Do we trust those who don’t care about Scotland, or do we trust those who do? That ought to be an easy question to answer, except if you’re a GERS fundamentalist.

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

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


newbook My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.

You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/rants/barking-up-the-right-tree-2019

You can also order a book directly from me. The book costs £11.95 and P&P is an additional £3.50, making a total of £15.45. To order just make a Paypal payment to weegingerbook@yahoo.com, or alternatively use the DONATE button below. Please make sure to give me your postal address when ordering. Orders to be sent outwith the UK will incur extra postage costs, please email me for details. If you can’t use Paypal, or prefer an alternative payment method, please email weegingerbook@yahoo.com


You can help to support this blog with a Paypal donation. Please log into Paypal.com and send a payment to the email address weegingerbook@yahoo.com. Or alternatively click the donate button. If you don’t have a Paypal account, just select “donate with card” after clicking the button.
Donate Button

If you have trouble using the button, or you prefer not to use Paypal, you can donate or purchase a t-shirt or map by making a payment directly into my bank account, or by sending a cheque or postal order. If you’d like to donate by one of these methods, please email me at weegingerbook@yahoo.com and I will send the necessary information.

Please also use this email address if you would like the dug and me to come along to your local group for a talk.

GINGER2croppedGaelic maps of Scotland are available for £15 each, plus £7 P&P within the UK for up to three maps. T-shirts are £12 each, and are available in small, medium, large, XL and XXL sizes. P&P is £5 for up to three t-shirts. My books, the Collected Yaps Vols 1 to 4 are available for £11 each. P&P is £4 for up to two books. Payment can be made via Paypal.