Happy GERSmas day

The annual GERS figures are due out on Wednesday 21 August, but I am off to Dundee to speak at a Roadshow event for The National.  I published a version of this blog post last year, but since we’re going to go through the exact same thing this year as we did the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that, I thought there was no reason not to publish it again – albeit with some minor revisions. It’s not like anything will have changed, the exact same arguments will be trotted out, the same graphs flourished on social media with a Cringing glee.  GERS day is the groundhog day of Scottish politics.

It’s GERS Day, Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland, the Scottish version of Groundhog Day. It’s the day when a certain anti-independence blogger goes around on social media showing off his graphs. It’s the day when the BBC misleads the public by telling us that the Scottish Government has a deficit of £13.4 billion, when in fact much of the deficit that we’re told we have is due to spending decisions made on Scotland’s behalf by a Westminster government which resolutely keeps a vice like grip on most of the levers of taxation and allocates us a share of spending on stuff we don’t want, which borrows and allocates us a share of its debt.

It’s GERS day, the day when a series of British nationalist politicians pop up in the media to gloat about how poor they’ve made Scotland, like that was a good thing.  The GERS figures don’t provide a crystal ball about the likely performance of the Scottish economy after independence, they’re really crystal meth for British nationalists.

It’s GERS day. It’s the day when the rest of us should declare a national public holiday and bugger off to a beach in Largs, in the rain. Cos poking out your eyeballs with a rusty knitting needle while sitting on pebbles in the cold and the wet as the tide comes up the Firth of Clyde and threatens to drown you is infinitely more productive than arguing on social media about the GERS figures with opponents of independence who think that the figures are Holy Writ and questioning them makes you a heretic.

It’s GERS day, when the UK Government’s spending in Scotland and spending which is (supposedly) for Scotland are conflated together to produce a humungous deficit.  Scotland is given the bill for expenditure which we’re told is spent on Scotland’s behalf outwith Scotland, but is credited with none of the revenues or economic activity which that spending generates.  This accounting trick inflates Scottish expenditure at the expense of decreasing Scottish revenues.  It’s one of the reasons why the political economist Professor Richard Murphy said that GERS is “not a meaningful account [of Scotland’s true financial position], but is just a political stunt.”

So the next time some opponent of independence claims that an independent Scotland would have the largest deficit of any European nation, remind them that no independent nation spends a large proportion of its annual budget outside its own territory and doesn’t generate any tax revenues from it, nor benefits from the economic activity which that spending creates.  That is precisely what the GERS figures claim for Scotland within the UK.

Wee point here, the GERS figures are not science. You can’t equate questioning them with questioning climate change. They are estimates of economic activity which are based upon the financial policies of the British government. It has been well documented that they are decidedly political in their conception. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12432586.Gers_was_conceived_as_a_political_exercise/ Unlike science. GERS was designed by Ian Lang when he was the Conservative Scottish Secretary of State back in 1992 as a political tool to be used against those arguing for greater Scottish self-government, a role they have continued to fulfil ever since.  Lang wanted a tool he could use to “undermine the other parties”, who were then arguing for a Scottish Parliament which the Tories opposed.  According to Ian, the GERS figures were “an initiative which could score against all of them.”

So instead, in this blog post, I’ll just leave you with a few wee things to ponder. Like this quote from the British nationalists’ favourite Scottish economic think tank, that one that sounds like a knitwear college in Pitlochry and a leading provider of rusty knitting needles. Yes, it’s the Fraser of Allander Institute. Here’s what they had to say about GERS.

If the very purpose of independence is to take different choices about the type of economy and society that we live in, then a set of accounts based upon the world today will tell us little about the long-term finances of an independent Scotland.

https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/fraser-of-allander-what-the-gers-report-tells-us-about-independence-1-4787843

Here’s some other proper economists, Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, who also cautioned against using the GERS figures to make predictions or claims about the economic performance of an independent Scotland as is so beloved of our media and anti-independence commentariat. They say,

The temptation … is for users to take the results of this type of analysis [ie GERS] and then to generalise the implications, either through time, or to different possible constitutional arrangements. Such a generalisation however, should not be attempted without examining how robust the results are likely to be in the face of changing circumstances. In particular, how robust are the conclusions of GERS likely to be in the face of major constitutional change.

It seems to us that the results of a GERS type analysis are highly conditional on specific constitutional arrangement, and are therefore unlikely to be generalisable in the face of constitutional change.

https://pure.strath.ac.uk/portal/files/41840524/FEC_24_1_1998_CuthbertJCuthbertM.pdf

Here’s the key fact to bear in mind about GERS. At best, flawed and political as they are, they give some indication about where Scotland’s economy is starting from. They tell us nothing at all about where the economy of an independent Scotland can go.

What the GERS figures do reflect is the mess that successive British governments have created of Scotland’s finances. At best, the GERS report tells us where we’re starting from as a part of the UK. If that starting point is poor, that’s not an argument against independence. Instead it’s an argument that we need to get out of the mess.

You could ask some of your favourite anti-independence campaigners what their plan for getting out of the mess is. Where’s their Growth Plan report, where’s their equivalent of the How to Start a New Country book. You’ll be waiting for a long time for a reply, because the only thing that they have to say is that independence is baaaaad. All they can suggest is that Scotland continues to be reliant on the kindness and generosity of Conservative governments which we haven’t voted for, which is rather like expecting the eunuchs in the court of the Chinese Emperor to start a sperm bank.

Then there’s the peculiar fact that Scotland, according to the GERS figures, has a notional deficit of £13.4 billion annually, whereas according to the most recent equivalent figures for Wales and Northern Ireland that I can find, Wales has an annual deficit of £14.7 billion (source https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/15bn-tax-deficit-heart-wales-11131738 ), while Northern Ireland has an annual deficit of £9.85 billion. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-40014685 This page gives the figure per head of population, which can be multiplied by the 1.811 million population of Northern Ireland to give the total annual deficit.)

This means that the three of the four parts of the UK which aren’t England are collectively responsible for £37.95 billion of a UK annual deficit which according to the Office for National Statistics is £46.9 billion. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland together contain a population of 10.3 million, as compared to the UK population of 66.5 million. England on the other hand, with a population of 56.2 million, is apparently responsible for the rest of the deficit, a mere £8.95 billion. Which means that according to the published figures, 15.5% of the UK population is supposedly responsible for 80.9% of the deficit.

There are only two possible explanations for this, either the economic and financial decisions of successive UK governments have over the decades reduced the Celtic parts of the UK to penury. As far as Scotland is concerned they have left us reliant on handouts and subsidies despite the massive economic potential that Scotland possesses. This is not an argument making the case for the good government of the UK, and for the life of me I will never understand why opponents of independence believe it to be their best argument against Scottish independence. Stay with us Scotland! We’ve screwed you up and pauperised you! It’s not a great slogan. Or alternatively the figures are not giving us an accurate picture of what’s really happening. You decide.

Neither I nor your average anti-independence blogger are actually economists, but only one of us pretends to be one. So finally, I’ll just leave you with the words of a proper economist, someone who does actually know about these things.

Many thanks to Phantom Power for the video.

And finally, here’s a wee carol for GERSmas day:

It was a GERSmas morning, and all through the land
the scare stories were tickling the naysayers’ glands.
Doom and gloom was published by the papers out there,
to get the wee Scots and Nicola into a scare.
The britnats were nestled all snug in their twitter,
while visions of penury made them all titter.
And yer maw in her Facebook, and Yes Scotland tap,
had just debunked and dismantled all the newspapers’ crap,
When on the Twitters there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my laptop to see what was the matter.
Away to the screen I hurriedly sped,
I launched the app and opened the thread.
The blue light shone with an ungodly sheen
and lit up the text that appeared on my screen.
Then what to my rolling eyes did appear,
but a graph and a bankrupt GERS deficit sneer,
and a Scotland secretary so crabbit and thick,
I knew in a moment he’d sold his soul tae Auld Nick.
More rapid than vultures the cringers they came,
and GERS whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Ruthie! now, Richard! now Wullie and Rosser!
On Beeb! on Herald! on Hootsmon! ya tossers!
To the top of the newsfeed! to each Facebook scrawl!
Now cringe away! cringe away! cringe away all!”
Pursed lips that believe the wild Daily Mail cries,
they can only see obstacles, they won’t even try;
So off to the redtops the naysayers they flew
Nae toys for you Scotland, or that Nicola too—
And then, predictably, I heard on the telly
The Proud Scot whose spine has turned into jelly.
He talked Scotland down, going straight to his work,
and trashed any hope; then turned with a smirk,
and laying his finger aside of his nose,
said you’re poorer than Greece, everyone knows.
He brandished a think tank, gave a Tory dog whistle,
another year’s work of crushing the thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight—
“Rotten GERSmas to all, cos if it’s Scottish it’s shite!”


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Get off my f***ing backstop

vainhope

It’s now clear what Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s game plan is. He’s written a letter to the EU demanding the removal of the Irish backstop but offering no solutions to replace it, all so that he can blame the EU for a refusal to renegotiate the Brexit deal. Then either following a no-deal Brexit, or following the refusal of the Commons to allow a no-deal Brexit, he can call a General Election and blame everyone else for his mess. Just as he does in his personal life, so he does in his political life.

As expected, European leaders have dismissed the letter. It’s “Get off my fucking laptop,” but on a European wide scale – the response to the letter from Europe is the entirely predictable, “Get off my fucking backstop.” How else could they reply? The letter from the Prime Minister offered nothing new, just a series of petulant demands that the EU has already said repeatedly that it’s not going to allow. The EU described the letter as inaccurate and misleading. Which is a kind and diplomatic way of saying that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has been writing diplomatic letters with the same regard to truth as he displayed in his bendy bananas articles for The Telegraph.

The EU points out that the letter doesn’t provide any sort of framework which can realistically replace the backstop that the British Government is so determined not to accept. It does nothing to ensure the avoidance of a hard border on the island of Ireland. It does nothing to guarantee that any of the alternative arrangements – those arrangements which in any event the letter leaves unspecified – would be in place by the end of the transitional period set out in the leave deal agreed with Theresa May.

Some of the points made by Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in the letter are breathtaking in their mendacity even by the standards of the man who invented the lie about bendy bananas. The backstop, he avers, is wrong because Northern Ireland will be subject to a regulatory regime that it didn’t vote for. That’s the Northern Ireland that voted against Brexit there. The Northern Ireland that’s getting a Brexit that only the DUP voted for.

He claims that it’s those who support a backstop, a mechanism for ensuring that the border on the island of Ireland remains open, who are the ones who are really risking the Peace Process. That’s because the DUP opposes the backstop and it would be imposing something on them that they don’t support. That would be that DUP which receives around 36% of Northern Irish votes. The votes of the 64% who don’t support the DUP don’t count. It’s very similar to the claims made below the line in the digital editions of newspapers by those who go on about how votes of the minority of Scots who supported Brexit need to be respected, and to hell with the majority who rejected it. Only this time as government policy. There’s hypocrisy, and there’s Tory party hypocrisy.

The desire of the British government to have mutually contradictory outcomes is all the fault of the EU. It’s Britain which is leaving the EU, but the resultant problems are all someone else’s fault, and every other country in Europe ought to make accommodations to the UK. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s letter has only made a bad situation even worse, and made it even less likely that some sort of deal can be reached.

It should be obvious by now that this government is actively pursuing a no deal Brexit. The plan is to leave without a deal, and then to ensure that the public blame the EU and remain minded MPs and their parties for the resultant mess. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson doesn’t care about job losses. He doesn’t care about the cost to the public purse. He doesn’t care about you or me. All he cares about is making sure that he wins a General Election so that he can stay in Number 10. He’s quite prepared to sacrifice the rest of us in order to do so. We are mere pawns in the game of his ambition.

There’s an article in the Guardian today by Poppy Trowbridge, a former advisor to the previous Chancellor Philip Hammond, which discusses the importance of remain minded Conservatives actively blocking no deal. The author urges them to put the interests of the UK before the interests of their careers. She doesn’t hold out much hope that they will. She’s reduced to expressing the hope that the best chance is for Ruth Davidson to speak out strongly against Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s plans. The entire piece reads like a desperate plea for a miracle from someone about to be executed.

Let’s get real here. If your best hope is Ruth Davidson standing up against the Conservative party, you’ve already lost. Ruth has spent the past few weeks in hiding, only popping out from underneath her shed in a forest in Aberdeenshire when the Labour party in Scotland went into meltdown. She was relieved by the distraction caused by branch office manager Randy Legstretcher getting slapped down by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn. Following the accession to power of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson it took a lot to end up having a worse political time of it than Ruth Davidson, but the branch office managed it. And who said that you could never rely on the Labour party in Scotland?

When all you have left to go on is the wish that there are Conservatives with enough moral fibre to stand up against their own Prime Minister and put their careers on the line, you might as well pack up and go and live in Ruth Davidson’s bunker stockpiled with tins of baked beans. This is however where we are now in the UK. For decades the abiding theme in Scottish politics was the hope that the Labour party could save us from the Tories. We learned the hard way that was never going to happen. Now the very best that British politics can offer Scotland is the wish that the Tories will save us from themselves.


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


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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 Great British whoopee cushion

safetyandsecurity
Politics, like every other specialism, has its suite of technical terminology. For example there’s the sovereignty of crown in parliament, briefing paper, acquis, reserved matter, universal sufferage. To these terms we can now add another, AAAAIIIIEEEEWWWW!!!! This is the screaming sound we’ll all make when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson takes us all over the Brexit cliff. The scream will shortly be followed by a splat that lasts for many, many, months, the sound the UK’s balloon of grandiose imperial nostalgia trip crashing onto the rocks of reality, where it will deflate like a whoopee cushion farting out the blame for its demise upon the EU, remainer MPs for not believing in Britain, Scots for being ungrateful, foreigners, and the Irish.

Over the weekend, a leaked government report was published. Called Operation Yellowhammer, it details the government’s contingency planning for a no deal Brexit. It makes for sobering reading, it’s more dire than Ruth Davidson’s electoral prospects in a snap general election. The government itself believes that there is a very real possibility of food, fuel, and medicine shortages, at least three months of chaos at ports, thousands of job losses, and the potential for serious civil unrest. It also predicts the inevitable hard border with Ireland, and the consequent risk to the peace process which that development entails. There’s taking back control for you.

Despite this, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is pressing on regardless. It’s all just a minor bump in the road to the sunny uplands populated by unicorns and never-ending cherry cake. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and his pals with their strangulated vowels and expensively purchased sense of entitlement will be protected by their wealth, and are looking forward to reaping in even more profit from the disaster that they’re creating. They’ll be fine, and since they’re the only people whose needs matter in what passes for a democracy, there’s really nothing to worry about. Now tug that forelock and doff your cap, hairy legged Caledonian peasant, there are grouse to be beaten. Look, there’s that nice Ruth Davidson doing a photo op on the back of a castrated Highland bullock and telling you that you don’t want another referendum. Oh wait. No. She’s in hiding again. If you live in a forest in Aberdeenshire, check your shed.

Today Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is off to Cornwall, to visit a hospital full of people sick to the back teeth of Brexit. He’s got talks planned later this week with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, and he expressed the hope that they’d compromise. By which he meant cave in to everything that the UK wants, the unicorns, the neverending cake with the cherry, and all the rest. And if they don’t give Britain the exceptionalism which is rightfully the UK’s, then it will only prove that bloody foreigners can’t be trusted and it will all be their fault when Brexit goes wrong. Statesmanship these days is essentially an exercise in blame-shifting, like pass the parcel with a bag of dog shit that’s primed to explode.

This is what an actual bona fide constitutional crisis looks like. How’s that safety, security and stability of the UK working out for everyone? Meanwhile our MPs are still on holiday, despite calls from a cross party group of over 100 of them for Parliament to be recalled. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is not disposed to listen to them. The less time Parliament is in session, the harder it will be for the remain majority in the Commons to block a no deal Brexit and the harder it will be for them to bring down his government before 31 October. Never has Halloween been so scary. This year it promises to unleash real demons.

The real problem here is that although Parliament can agree what it doesn’t want, it can’t agree on what it does want. It doesn’t want a no-deal Brexit, but can’t agree on a deal, can’t agree on revoking Article 50, and can’t agree on a solution to the Irish border question. It certainly can’t agree on who it wants to lead a caretaker government. The Lib Dems claim to be the party of remain, but the one thing that Jo Swinson wants less than Brexit is to see Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10, even if it’s only for a very limited period of time.

It has even been suggested that should the Commons succeed in passing a motion of no confidence in Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s government, that our PM with his fine line in racist stereotyping and lies about the EU might delay calling a General Election until after Brexit has happened. Although he’s obliged by law to call a General Election should the opposition fail to find majority support for a replacement government within two weeks of a successful motion of no confidence, the law is vague about when exactly that election needs to take place. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson could simply barricade himself into Number 10 Downing Street and refuse to budge.

Is this the UK that Scotland was sold in 2014? This is a place of chaos, confusion. It’s a government led by ideologues who treat the people with contempt, where kindness is a weakness and compassion is a sin. Just this week we saw that there are calls from a right wing think tank to raise the retirement age to 75. This is a think tank led by Iain Duncan Smith. It calls itself the Centre for Social Justice, which is a bit like North Korea calling itself a democracy. It has the ear of the Brextremists who now lead the British government. We also learned that the Home Secretary Priti Patel plans to end freedom of movement on day one of Brexit, irrespective of the problems that this will create for travel, or even worse for EU citizens living in the UK or UK citizens living in EU states. All can be sacrificed on the altar of Brexit.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn made his big Brexit speech, promising vagueness. He said there would be another referendum on the EU, but didn’t say whether Labour would officially back remain. He didn’t rule out the Labour party remaining neutral in that referendum. He attacked Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson for his poshness and his wealth, for the way that he governs in the interests of the rich, but without a firm stance of his own on the most pressing issue of the day, he’s only likely to be steamrollered by a Brexit PM who blames the EU for all the UK’s ills and who knows how to deliver a clear message – even if that message is a lie.

Notably, Jeremy’s speech didn’t contain a single mention of Scotland. Our future is being decided by people for whom our existence scarcely registers. That’s the reality of being an equal partner in what we’re always told is the most successful union of nations that the world has ever seen. However there is one question that Brexit has answered clearly and resoundingly, and that is successful for whom? This most successful union of nations isn’t successful for Scotland. It’s successful for the Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnsons, the Etonians, the disaster capitalists, those who rip the social safety net away from the poor, the hard faced, and the cruel, the wealthy, and the well connected.


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


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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.

Questions of identity

passports

For most people who support the idea of Scottish independence, it’s not about identity. Even for those who do prize a Scottish identity, that Scottish identity is not usually an ethnic one. Scottishness is a state of mind. It’s about where you live and how you choose to identify rather than being about where your parents or your ancestors came from. You could say that the difference between the civic nationalism espoused by the great majority of Scottish independence supporters and ethnic nationalism is that the first is about the future, the second is about the past.

Scottish identities are complex and multilayered. A minority of people in Scotland feel British first and Scottish second. A larger group feels Scottish first and British second. Another large group feels Scottish but not British at all. And there’s a segment which feels British but not Scottish. Scottish independence will not force an identity on anyone. Those who identify as British will still be British. Those who choose to travel on a British passport will still be free to do so.

This doesn’t mean that you will have to have a British passport following Scottish independence. It means that you can choose to retain one if indeed being British is important to your identity and how you define yourself. It’s just that independence will also give those of us who’d prefer a Scottish passport the option of getting one. Following Brexit, a Scottish passport will be far more likely to offer the freedom to move and settle anywhere in Europe than a British one will. You could even have both passports, should you choose. Most countries recognise dual citizenship, Scotland will be no different.

Back during the 2014 referendum campaign Magrit Curran – remember her? – went on the tellybox for an interview. The then Shadow Scotland Secretary bewailed how a Yes result in the referendum would make her children foreigners to her because they live in London. The interviewer nodded sympathetically. The trauma. The horror. But had the interviewer being doing their job properly, they would have remarked that Magrit was factually incorrect. Her kids would not become foreigners to her following Scottish independence.

In just about every country in the world, the offspring of citizens are entitled to citizenship through their parents. The children of a Scottish citizen, especially children who were themselves born in Scotland but who later moved to London, would naturally have the right to Scottish citizenship. Magrit’s weans wouldn’t be foreigners to her, because following independence they would like her have the right to claim Scottish citizenship.

But Magrit’s weans wouldn’t be foreigners to her because Magrit would also be entitled to retain British citizenship. Back in 2014, the British government confirmed that it had no plans to change its citizenship laws should Scotland become independent. Changing the laws about British citizenship following independence would mean stripping the likes of Michael Gove and Liam Fox of their British passports. Can you see them voting for that? No, neither can I.

What the current British citizenship laws mean is that everyone who is currently a UK citizen who lives in Scotland, or UK citizens who were born in Scotland but who now live elsewhere, would still have the right to British citizenship following an independence referendum. And so would their children. In order to qualify for British citizenship by descent, you need to have at least one parent who acquired British citizenship at birth by virtue of being born somewhere which was a part of the UK – at the time of their birth. Scottish independence does not change the reality that at the time of birth of every person born in Scotland who is alive today, we were born somewhere which was part of the UK.

Everyone who is alive in Scotland today and who is a British citizen would under current citizenship laws retain the right to British citizenship following independence. This is what happened when Ireland became independent. The children of everyone who was born in Scotland who is alive today, or who will be born right up until the date of Scottish independence, will likewise be entitled to British citizenship by virtue of the fact that they have a parent who was born a British citizen on British territory.

What this means in practical terms is that the first people who won’t have the right to British citizenship following Scottish independence will be the children of the first baby to be born in Scotland following the formal date of independence – assuming, that is, that that baby has a child with someone who isn’t a British citizen themselves. So we’re talking here about the children of people who haven’t been born yet, a generation which won’t be born for some 20 years following the date of Scottish independence.

But even if it were indeed the case that Magrit Curran’s weans would have a different passport from her – so what? Is your love for your children and your relationship with them predicated upon a piece of paper? Surely not. If you really would be estranged from your own kids simply because they have a different citizenship from you, that’s not an argument against independence, it’s an argument that you’re desperately in need of family therapy.

The new Scottish state will need to implement a citizenship law to establish the parameters for who qualifies for Scottish citizenship in the future, and that’s something that can only be determined once Scotland is independent. The British state can’t prejudge who would or would not be the citizen of an independent country, which is one reason why it’s only right and proper that the franchise for the independence referendum should be restricted to those of us who currently reside in Scotland.

In the vast majority of countries, people have the right to citizenship when they are born in that country to people who are legally resident there. Those who acquire citizenship by virtue of being born in the territory of the state generally have the right to pass that citizenship on to their own children when those children are born abroad. It is likely that Scotland will extend citizenship to all British citizens resident in Scotland at the time of independence, to everyone who was born in the territory of Scotland, and to their children who were born outwith Scotland. Personally, I would hope that upon attaining independence, the new Scottish state will also offer citizenship to everyone who is legally resident in Scotland upon the date of Scottish independence – irrespective of their current citizenship. That would be a marvellous gesture to demonstrate the inclusivity of the new Scottish state.

However if you feel British no one is going to take that away from you. At least no one in Scotland. Those who identify as British will be every bit as able to participate fully in Scottish civic life as any Scottish citizen. Independence is not about forcing an identity on anyone. It’s about governance, it’s about democracy, and it’s about giving the people of this country the powers that we need in order to determine the path that this country takes.

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.

Wee Ginger Dugcast – 17 August 2019

This dugcast was actually recorded yesterday, but immediately after recording it with Callum Baird of The National, I had to drive up to Aberdeen where I was speaking at an event organised by Yes North East in the Spin Bar in Littlejohn Street. I didn’t get home until 1.30am, when the dug and I crawled into bed and went to sleep.

In this edition of the dugcast, Callum and I discuss the proposal for a new Wings Over Scotland party, and Jo Swinson’s refusal to agree to the only realistic plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit. We also mention the Aberdeen event, which of course took place yesterday! It was a fantastic evening, the venue was packed out, and we had a great time. Many thanks to everyone in Aberdeen for their hospitality.


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.

Jo Swinson’s shiny ego

The Labour party’s mostly invisible branch office manager in Scotland, Reginald Lapdancer, might once have had the fond belief that being a Corbyn loyalist meant that the Jezza would be loyal in return. He has discovered that he was sadly mistaken. Or not so sadly if you’re not one of the tattered remnants of what’s left of the Labour party in Scotland. The party leader has said this week that it’s not up to the UK parliament to block a Scottish independence referendum. So, that’s you telt then, Randalf Loglauncher.

Jeremy Corbyn thinks that another Scottish independence referendum is a bad idea. He’d campaign against independence. He’d stomp the land along with the rest of them, warning of doom and devastation and deficits. All of which is fair enough. It’s perfectly fine to oppose Scottish independence, what’s not fine is to prevent the people of Scotland from debating it in a national referendum when they’ve elected a Scottish Government with a mandate to bring one about. So Jeremy doesn’t agree with the Labour branch office which wants Westminster to overrule the Scottish Parliament when the Scottish Parliament doesn’t agree with the Labour branch office. My god. Someone in Westminster gets democracy. Well, sort of.

There is of course a bigger picture here. Partly it’s the realistic electoral calculation that Labour’s Scottish contingent in Westminster is expendable. And you only have to look at Lesley Laird to go, “Well, OK. Fair enough,” to that last point. Lesley is apparently the Shadow Scotland Secretary and is supposed to be taking the lead on Labour’s Scotland policy at Westminster. However her sole distinguishing feature in Scottish Labour politics is that she has an even lower public profile and recognition than branch office manager Roderick Lambworrier. That, and she’s not Hugh Gaffney, who is only remarkable for his ability to embarrass himself. Apart from Ian Murray, who pops up on the telly from time to time to be hypocritical about whether there ought to be referendums, even those of us who are dedicated Scottish politics geeks would struggle to name the other Labour MPs who represent Scottish seats. Most of them would fail to make an mark if you gave them a big rubber stamp and an ink pad.

The Labour leadership has clearly calculated that getting the SNP to support Labour budgets is going to be far more important to the stability of any future Labour government than getting more Labour MPs in Scotland. Giving current polling, Labour is going to be extremely lucky to hang on to a single seat, Ian Murray’s. And Ian is as much a thorn in the flesh for the Labour leadership as he is for just about everyone who has the misfortune to hear him harrumphing on the telly.

The reason that he’s made the announcement now is that it is all a part of Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy to get the minority Westminster parties to agree to back him in a vote of no confidence against Boris Johnson. The plan is that Jeremy would become Prime Minister for a limited period, in order to ensure that the UK avoids a no deal Brexit.

Jeremy’s plan has however already been shot down in flames by Jo Swinson. The only thing that remain voting Middle England dislikes more than Brexit is the idea of Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. There’s no way that Tory in drag Jo is going to be seen to back a Jeremy Corbyn government. Not even if it’s to prevent a no deal Brexit. Not even if it’s time limited. Not even if he’s going to be prevented by parliamentary arithmetic from introducing the left wing measures that he’s promised his supporters. Jo has instead suggested that the temporary government be headed by Harriet Harman, because it’s up to Jo Swinson to decide who gets to be the leader of the Labour party.

The reason for the refusal is twofold. Firstly it’s because Jo has her eye on Tory – Lib Dem marginal seats in the snap General Election which is widely predicted, and Jeremy is as toxic with Tory voters as the Lib Dems were with students after they did a U-turn on tuition fees. A U-turn which Jo voted for. It’s going to be very difficult for the Lib Dems to attract the votes of remain leaning Tories, who do actually exist, if they have been seen to prop up a Jeremy Corbyn administration.

Secondly it’s because Jo knows that the price of a temporary Corbyn administration which also requires the backing of the SNP is another Scottish independence referendum, which buggers her career. You can’t be a party leader in Westminster when you represent a seat in a country that’s independent of the UK. It’s only referendums which produce a result that Jo doesn’t like that ought to be rerun. The Lib Dems want a government of national unity, but only with those people that they think it’s politically advantageous to unite with.

So that’s the Lib Dems there, putting the interests of their party ahead of the interests of the UK as a whole. They certainly learned the lesson well when they were in coalition with the Conservatives, didn’t they. “We haven’t got time here to muck about with people’s egos,” said Jo as she burnished her shiny ego.

Time is running out here. If there is to be a grouping in Westminster which can oppose a no deal Brexit, it is only logical that it should be led by the leader of the opposition. Parliamentary arithmetic alone means that Jeremy Corbyn will not be able to introduce any measures which don’t enjoy cross-party support. Even a number of Conservative remainers is willing to meet with Labour to discuss the idea, yet Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems are still set against the idea.

The way Westminster works is that if a government fails to win a vote of no-confidence, then it’s the leader of the opposition who has the right to try to form an administration. If he or she can’t, then there’s a general election, that’s how it works. It’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the leader of the opposition is. It’s not up to a minority politician like Jo Swinson to unilaterally rewrite what passes for a British constitution. But then we’re talking here about a politician who preaches Liberal Democracy but practises neither. Her refusal to countenance doing a deal with Labour only makes a no deal Brexit more likely, and that in turn makes it even more likely that Scotland will turn to independence as the only means of escape. Jo Swinson’s selfish short-termism is yet another nail in the coffin of the UK. Be careful what you wish for, Jo.


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.

Elephants in rooms

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been a new line from the anti-independence parties. David Mundell, and certain figures in the Labour party, appear now to be conceding that a mandate for another independence referendum is indeed produced by the result of a Holyrood election. It’s just that they’re insisting that the mandate can only come from a pro-independence majority in the Holyrood elections in 2021. They still refuse to concede the indisputable fact that there is already a pro-independence majority in Holyrood, that the SNP already has a mandate for another referendum, and that Holyrood has already voted in favour of one.

It’s noticeable that the anti-independence parties are not saying that a win for the SNP in a snap Westminster General Election would produce a mandate for another referendum – even though arguably a win for the SNP in Scotland in a Westminster election would produce a stronger mandate. After all, as we are constantly being reminded, the constitution is a power reserved to Westminster. So if Scotland votes for a large majority of SNP MPs elected to Westminster on a manifesto of support for another referendum, there’s an unchallengeable mandate for one.

But no, according to the likes of the discredited Mundell, it has to be a Holyrood election in 2021.  How Scotland votes in elections to the parliament which actually does have the power to alter the constitution doesn’t seem to count.  It’s not hard to see the reason why, and it’s breathtakingly cynical even by the standards of Scotland’s anti-independence parties. It’s the elephant in the room.  They are hoping that the trial of Alex Salmond, which is due to be held next year, will cause the SNP to implode. They are hoping it is going to be all their SNP bad Christmasses come at once.

Clearly, the trial of a man who was and is a towering figure in the SNP is not going to do the party any favours. The matter is of course sub-judice, so we cannot discuss the nature of the allegations against him, nor speculate about his guilt or innocence – except to note that all those charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

However I do not believe that the trial will have the substantial impact on support for independence that the Tories, Labour, and the Lib Dems are clearly praying for. The reason is the same reason that support for independence has never yet been dented by the constant barrage of SNP bad stories which fill the Scottish press on a daily basis. And that’s because the desire for independence is not primarily driven by belief in the SNP, but rather by a deep dissatisfaction with and alienation from Westminster politics amongst the people of Scotland. No amount of SNP bad stories in the press are going to make the Tories or Labour treat Scotland’s needs and interests with any more respect than they have done to date.  It’s Brexit and that manifest lack of respect for Scotland which are driving the rise in support for independence.  That won’t change irrespective of the Salmond trial.

I also suspect that the political fallout for the SNP produced by the trial will be considerably more limited than the anti-independence parties are hoping for. The closest parallel is the trial and acquittal of Jeremy Thorpe, the former leader of the Liberal party, in 1979. He was tried on charges of conspiring to murder his ex-lover Norman Scott – although until his death in 2014 Thorpe denied he had had a sexual relationship with Scott. Thorpe was forced to resign from the leadership of the Liberals in May 1976 after a series of increasingly lurid newspaper investigations into his relationship with Scott following the shooting of Scott’s dog in October 1975. In May 1979, just a few days after that year’s General Election which saw Margaret Thatcher enter Number 10, Thorpe was put on trial along with three others for conspiracy to murder. Thorpe was acquitted on all charges, although he never succeeded in restoring his reputation.

Thorpe had been a successful and popular leader of the Liberal party, which all through the 1960s had been a minor force in British politics, languishing in single figures in the polls and with a derisory share of the vote in General Elections. The party’s nadir came in the general election of 1970, when Jeremy Thorpe was newly elected as the Liberal leader. In that election the Liberals lost half of the 12 seats they had previously held and were left with just 6.

However once established as leader, Thorpe managed to oversee a revival of the party’s fortunes in the two General Elections of 1974. In the February election, the Liberals won 14 seats, a gain of 8.  This election was characterised by widespread public dissatisfaction with the three day week and the economic management of the UK by Edward Heath.  Under Thorpe, the Liberals were able to reap the benefit and increased their support, largely at the expense of the Tories.  That election produced a hung parliament, there was another General Election in October that year, in which the Liberals lost two MPs but gained one, leaving them with 13.

Despite a looming trial and previous months of sensational newspaper stories about Thorpe’s alleged relationship with Scott and the shooting of Scott’s dog, the Liberals still managed to pick up 11 seats in the General Election of 1979 even though Thorpe himself lost his North Devon seat to the Conservatives. The party lost three seats overall, but gained one. It is arguable that there was a “Thorpe effect”, but it seems to have been very limited in scope. The party had held around 12 or 13 seats throughout most of the 1960s and 70s, and continued to hold that number all the way through the period when the Thorpe Affair dominated the press – although before the matter had come to trial. The party pretty much held steady in opinion polling during that period. There was no collapse in Liberal support either before the trial or after it.

The first general election after the Thorpe trial is not directly comparable because the Liberals did not fight it as a single party, but rather as part of the Alliance with the newly formed SDP. The SDP was a breakaway faction of centrist Labour MPs who were dissatisfied with the leadership of the left wing Michael Foot. The Alliance doubled the number of seats previously held by the Liberals, gaining 12 and ending up with 23 MPs.

However this result does prove that the trial and its aftermath had not damaged the Liberals as a political brand.  That’s the case even though many people continued to believe that Thorpe was guilty despite his acquittal. There was a very strong lingering perception that Thorpe had behaved extremely poorly, and had not adequately explained himself. The trial was felt by many to be heavily slanted in favour of Thorpe, with the British establishment looking after its own, and the judge’s summing up – heavily biased in Thorpe’s favour – was the subject of a scathing parody by the comedian and satirist Peter Cooke.

Voters are grown ups. They are capable of distinguishing between the individual actions of a politician in a private capacity and the overall goals, aims, and philosophy of the political party to which he or she belongs. They are capable of looking at the wider political context when they cast their votes. And so they rejected Jeremy Thorpe as a politician, but they did not reject his party.

Jeremy Thorpe’s behaviour in private was not a reflection of the political ideals of the Liberal party, the public saw that. They will also see that whatever happens in the Salmond trial, it is not a reflection of the political goal of Scottish independence. The anti-independence parties may be hoping that the Salmond trial will prevent independence happening. They’re in for a big disappointment.

It’s not the Salmond trial which has the capacity to cause serious electoral damage to the SNP in 2021.  What has the capacity to cause the party serious electoral damage is if they fail to deliver on their manifesto commitment to push forward for an independence referendum during the lifetime of this Holyrood Parliament. That’s where the potential for damage lies, not the Salmond trial.  That’s the real elephant in the room for the SNP leadership.


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.