Monday, 30 January 2012

Mr Milliband's big day out in Glasgow

The semi-detached Mr Milliband and his wiffly waflly speech in praise and defence of the Union.

The Scots people want to create a confederal union through Devo-max and he has joined hands with his new Tory chums to prevent Scotland this option.

In over 50 years of hegemony in the West of Scotland, Labour has overseen the growth of some of the worst pockets of poverty and ill health in the UK and he wants Scots to sign up for more of the same degredation of their quality of life in a speech which is empty of rhetoric, vision, substance or honesty

Keir Hardy campaigned for Scottish Independence. He, Maxton and MacLean would look to the sole of their shoes to see where Milliband's stink is coming from while reminding Milliband it was Westminster who put armed troops on the streets of Glasgow in 1919 to oppress the people and falsely imprisoned John MacLean, to the detriment of his health, and now try to drum up the spectre of the non existent Scottish National Liberation Army, yet again. The SNLA an organisation whose appearance routinely coincides with Westminster being in the thick and steaming in Scotland.

Here's the disengagement Milliband and New Labour has not understood: Scotland has a deep and centuries long commitment to what is now called 'social democracy', in the 1500's laws were made to ensure parishes not only looked after their poor and sick but ensured a basic education for all. A fundamental truth for a socialist society, one New Labour has turned its back on in its drift to the neo-liberal wastelands of corporate greed and self interest to be 'me too' Tories.

Yet still Milliband believes a story of 'jam tomorrow' will save this perfidious and unequal union - it is now a case of empty vessels make most noise, in this debate, while the SNP will have gained more members and the pro-independence camp more vote share with every pathetic droning word Milliband said with out raising a finger.

The argument in Scotland is at the Ghandi moment of: 'They fight you, then you win!'

(This is an extended piece based on a thread first written in Politics Now - Milliband's Glasgow speech in full)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Response to the Secretary of State for (?) Scotland

Sir or Madam:

I would contest the right of the Scottish Office to interfere in this matter in any shape or form and along with it the Westminster Parliament, the reasons are all legal or pertaining to international charters, treaties or accords:

1. The UN Charter of Human Rights gives all people's the right to a plebscite on the subject of regaining their independence.

As Scotland is already an independent nation state in a seperate relationship with the crown defined by the 1689 Claim of Right, in Scots Law ( protected for 'all time' by the 1707 Treaty of Union) that the people of Scotland are sovereign, not Parliament at Westminster, a condition first entrenched in Scots Law in 1328, reasserted in the 1689 Claim of Right,conceded by the Lord Advocate in res[onse Lord Cooper's Judgement on this particular issue, as President of the Court of Session, in 1953 and most recently conceded by the current Prime Minister during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday 25th of January 2012 in response to a question from the SNP. Given the people of Scotland are sovereign, in Scots Law lend their sovereignty to the Scottish Parliament (resumed from its March 1707 temporary suspension under the Treaty of Union in July 1999) in the first instance (a point conceded by the Supreme Court in AXA vs The Scottish Government in stating the bill AXA were contesting represented the will of the Scottish people) and have elected by a sizeable majority a government committed to a referendum on the subject of Scottish Independence I can not see any contesable legal right or issue for the Scottish Office to interfere or prejudice the sovereign people of Scotland's 800 year old rights and priviledge on this matter.

2. The sovereign Scottish people in two plebescites in May 2010 and May 2011 roundly rejected the current Westminster Government by a large vote share and thus the current government can have no claim to any legitmacy in this matter in Scotland even given that Westminster under section 5 and 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 lays claim to the people of Scotland's sovereignty and constitutional rights, for itself, as a parliamentary democracy. This is clearly at odds with Lord Cooper's 1953 judgement on this issue where he upheld that such a state of parliamentary democracy was contrary to Scots Law, there was no tradition of parliamentary democracy in Scotland, restated Scotland is a representative democracy and much of what passes for constitutional theory in Westminster was by that condition, inapplicable in a Scottish context.

3. The Treaty of Vienna opines that a political unions or any other political arrangement undertaken in duress is unsustainable and while Westminster did not sign up to the Treaty of Vienna, a sovereign Scottish peoples' appeal to the Council of Europe would be likely to be found in favour of the sovereign Scottish people enabling the sovereign Scottish people to unilaterally declare independence.

4. As to other matters:

a) The question proposed by the Scottish Government is concise, literate and to the point
b) To claim the sovereign Scottish people have not the wit, education, knowledge and commonsense to understand the SNP's proposed question is both insulting and inaccurate
c) The issue of FFA or 'Devo-max' lies only in the gift of Westminster and will require a detailed and binding White Paper on this issue to be laid before Westminster, an issue on which all three Westminster Parties have agreed can not be placed on the referendum paper, so is a 'red herring', a jam tomorrow option.
d) The timing of the referendum is outwith Westminster's competence as the sovereign people of Scotland agreed to the timing of the referendum, as laid out in the SNP manifesto prior to the election in May 2011, by electing the party to be Scotland's government, lending their sovereignty and in so doing giving legitimacy to the SNP Government in Holyrood.
e) I see no place for the Electoral Commission having a supervisory role in this referendum given its failure to uphold PPER 2000 and refusal to raise a prosecution against high profile Westminster politicians for criminal breaches of this Act on numerous occasions since it became law. The Electoral Commission cliamed this was because they wished the law to 'bed in' and give MP's time to understand the new regulations - a courtesy the law in either Scotland or England does not give to ordinary people. This does not refelect well in the Electoral Commission being impartial and even handed.  I would prefer the independence referendum was run and observed by members of the Council of Europe and the UN.
f) It is questionable under the UN Charter of Human Rights that the Westminster Parliament has any legitimate role to play in the conduct of a referendum on the subject if independence for Scotland given it has no legitimate claim in Scots Law or constitutional practice as a representative democracy.

Yours faithfully,

Monday, 23 January 2012

A rant against Tory stupidity over housing benefit:

'Its not fair', bleats yet another Tory has been while trousering money left right and centre from the public purse.

'Its not fair' bleat the merchant bankers who, having brought the UK to its knees, are troughing from the same public purse as the politicians.

'Its not fair' bleat Vodaphone as they avoid a massive billion pound UK tax bill.

It is fair to force folk out of their homes because the housing benefit will not cover their mortgage /rent while they seek non existing work in many sectors.

Beveridge stated in his 1942 report, which lead to the 1944 coalition white paper on a fair welfare state, that the setting of a universal level of benefit for the whole of the UK would deliver dependancy in some of the poorest areas because the universal benefit would be greater than the local wage.

For political reasons Atlee's government created a universal rate of benefit - that reason was simply Labour would then control the poorest areas of the UK because to vote 'Tory' could be sold as an end to benefit. The Tory Party as 'Scrooge' is deeply imbedded in the psyche of all parts of the UK.

In the last three decades both the Tories and New Labour have been stewards to the creation of the biggest gap between rich and poor since Dikensian times in the UK - is it any surprise the social democrat leaning Scots want out with their Welsh cousins slowly coming up behind?

Now we are seeing growing resentment in Northern England and the SW of England to Westminster's introversion and within London and the SE the boil of riots is expanding on top of the inner city resentment seen in the rise of the gangs and organised crime.

Westminster and their beloved 'City of London' now have more in common with the Chicago of Al Capone than the mother of parliaments and a UK democracy.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Independence - what are we fighting for?

Independence -
What are we fighting for?
Nothing -UGH! Say it again!

In the scatter gun and scatological debate that is current in Westminster, Holyrood, the MSM and a lot of blogs this would appear to be the case. Westminster and the Unionist Cabal at Holyrood rely on ignorance to win their case. Gerry Hassan on his good days regularly reflects the tribal nature of the public contest, Newsnet Scotland, of late, has been falling into the same trap of righteous indignation while blogs such as Better Nation still try to understand what is going on through the lens of the old fashioned British politics of left and right while failing to grasp that British politics is now about shades of neo-liberal, right wing authoritarianism. I have been equally guilty in my Tarff Advertiser blog of letting my verve for independence miss out the potato and two vegetables. Like or loath Gerry Hassan (and I can do both equally) he is right, the space that is not being addressed by any side is; just what sort of a Scotland do we wish to live in and create for future generations?

A skim through most threads where the subject is being considered, as an aside to the tribalism, says a lot about how the engaged think an independent Scotland should look. Amongst the ire cast upon the Gaderine unionists for their too wee, too poor, too stupid narrative of Scotland there occurs, on occasion, and flash of what it is the pro-independence folk wish and a narrative widely ignored by Westminster and the MSM. It is a civic Scotland centred on a fundamental, deeply imbedded concept of what it is to be Scottish, a concept which means you look out for others both family and outsiders. In the Highlands it historically presented itself in the form of the ‘Clan system’, in the lowlands the same sense was seen at work in the shared closes of the Burghs and the communal building of houses in the countryside. This is the manifestation that we are ‘Aa Jock Tamson’s bairns’ and it lies in the fundamental placing of the Scot, in their own country, as being sovereign.

This sense of looking out for all predates the Scottish Reformation but sees, after that date, a number of rights and responsibilities being laid on parishes in both the provision of education - Sunday Schools were originally just that, places where young of all classes learnt to read, write and have basic arithmetic - as well as the welfare of the poor and the sick. These ‘Christian responsibilities’ were backed up in law by the Scottish Parliaments of the 16th Century and failure of the Kirk elders to carry out these obligations could see them fined or imprisoned - as happened in the early 1600’s when Tranent Parish was visited by a local moderator and found to be wanting in its care of the parish poor. It is in this sense I would suggest that a social democratic polity is deeply imbedded in what Scotland means to its inhabitants both socially and in law.

This hard wired sense of ‘fairness’ is one of the main threads of Scottishness which a neo-liberal Westminster can not grasp and as Labour’s drift to the authoritarian right, in the form of ‘New Labour’, has accelerated over the last two decades is the very connection with Scotland which has been lost by the party founded, in the main, by Scots whose purpose was to make the UK a fair place to live in. The Scottish Labour tradition of Hardy, Moxton and McLean was one of fairness as represented in the Govan Rent Protests of 1916. It is reflected in the anger the issue of the clearances of tenant and tied farmers across Scotland from the 1720’s onwards, reaching its peak in the forced clearances of the early 1800s still causes. It is heard amongst ‘wains’ across Scotland every day - “That’s no fair, mister!”

So what are we fighting for in terms of independence? Is it ‘nothing’ or an idea of a Scotland which is reality as far divorced from neo-capitalism as it can be?

A lot of the articles and threads running in Scottish blogs and online news sources  are still along the 'Its no fair, mister!' line of narrative which is now becoming, for me, as irritating as the too poor, too wee, too stupid narrative. It is time to move the independence discussion away from what Westminster thinks it can stop the sovereign Scottish people from doing to expressing what we want for Scotland.

It is clear from the growing support for the SNP across Scotland (and the increasingly strident denial this is the case by the other side of the debate) that Scots of all political persuasions find a deal of comfort in the SNP's social democratic, easy does it, approach. There are many political commentators who see this as SNP not having made plans or frightened of independence or looking to hedge their bets as there is no rush of announcements by the SNP to feed the MSM's greedy maw. As the SNP have cannily wired themselves into the Scottish sense of fairness they have no need to trumpet to the MSM while making over weaning and  mostly empty threats or promises to create awareness amongst the voters. The SNP's social democrat essentials are felt by ordinary folk every day when they do not pay a prescription charge or have a sense of relief their Council Tax has not gone up again this year and know their child or grandchild can afford to go onto University education if they wish. There is an intrinsic message of fairness in everything the SNP do and a sense they are looking out for Scotland; that deep chime which sounds clear with 'Jock Tamson's bairns'.

Scotland needs independence from Westminster, not for oil or gas or re-useables but because to stay with Westminster will turn Scotland into an anathema of the country it is. A country where everyone who can not afford to pay for health, services or education will become a third class citizen, trapped in their subservience, 1984 writ large.

Over dramatic?

Look at what is already happening in London and the south east and the sense of 'no hope' which gave rise to the riots and the 'free for all' in looting of the summer of 2011. Greater London has only a slightly bigger population than Scotland but is where the divide between rich and poor is accelerating, bringing along with it increasing racial tension reflected in London's politics and its gang wars - Caribbean vs SE Asians vs Eastern Europeans vs East End Gangs.  Let us be clear, compared to the racial and class tensions in London and many other English cities, Scottish sectarianism is very small beer. This increasing  tension is a direct result of Westminster's neo-liberal thinking and policy which no attempt to claim Cameron's 'Big Society' as a cure can attenuate.

It is this deep, underlying social democratic polity in Scotland which I wish to protect and the only avenue open to me is to vote for independence. Forget Braveheart, tartan, shortbread and the rest - we are talking about what it means to be a sovereign Scot being destroyed once and for ever and along with our sovereignty a 1200 year old nation if we vote 'No' this time.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Dear David - How are you saving the Union?

I was chuntering about this to the ex-wife the other day, wondering how could Cameron who claims he is going to save the ‘Union’, could be so effortlessly doing the opposite.

It is not so much that he and his Bullingdon chums are putting both barrels into their feet on a regular basis, as letting loose a chain gun with depleted uranium tipped rounds. Westminster is apparently fighting the 1900 Irish Home Rule Bill all over again with the word ‘Ireland’ tippexed out and replaced with ‘Scotland’ in a child’s crayon and hand writing. An equivalent comparison would be the British Army dusting off their 1914 BEF strategy and planning for use in Afghanistan in 2012.

I should be cheering and whooping over this continuing incompetence by Westminster but with the starting gun having gone off for the referendum vote I remain concerned the real and important issues which need to be addressed in public debate will never see the light of day simply because of the Unionists grindingly negative campaign - as personified by Lamont’s Iain Gray like performance at First Minister’s Question Time.

Ironically, I sense it will take a pro-independence supporter to write a positive case for the Union - so here goes.

What about our shared history?

Here’s the first problem there is no ‘shared history’ I any sense at all until 1707. Prior to that it was a succession of ‘rough wooing‘, attempted takeovers by guile or force but in the main total indifference. England spent time and money building and loosing an empire in France before looking elsewhere for its colonial ambitions: mainly in attempts to thwart first Spain and then France with colonies in the ‘New World’ especially what is now Canada and the USA plus a number of Caribbean Islands. As the 17th Century moves along England starts putting the squeeze on the Dutch and the Portuguese in South Africa, the ’Spice Islands’ and India.

In Scotland the focus concentrated on trade with the Baltic and the Low Countries with Scotland having ‘Warehouses’ in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Stockholm through which a burgeoning trade in fish, hides, salt and coal grew through out the 17th Century while trade with England focused on beef and sheep on the hoof and the illegal tobacco trade with the English Colonies in Northern America which by-passed the West Indian Trading Company’s ‘English merchant’s only’ monopoly.

Post 1707 the shared history of English conflict versus Scottish trade in Europe left Scotland in disarray as by April 1707 France had cut off all trading between Scotland, the Low Countries and the Hanseatic League states as it was at ‘war’ with England. As a result within four years the Scottish economy had collapsed with no benefit of trade access to ‘English Colonies’ as both the East Indian and West Indian Trading Companies ensured their monopolies kept out Scottish traders. A situation  that only began to change in the 1780’s when war with France loomed large courtesy of English expansionist designs. In the interim the average Scot was in demand in the trading houses of England and the administration of the burgeoning ‘English Empire’ courtesy of their high levels of literacy and numeracy and so the Scottish brain drain began. So the shared history of the Union in the 18th century is one of England dominating the Union for its own benefit. In effect this is still the relationship to this day. It looked so promising as a potential positive for the Union when I started writing.

How about the economic benefits of Union - didn‘t it save Scotland from bankruptcy?

First of all the records show that through out the last decade of the 17th century and first decade of the 18th century the Scottish economy was growing, on average by 2.5% per annum. The Burghs were cash rich from trade especially the east coast from Aberdeen to Dunbar. The growing ‘professional’ middle class in the Burghs, as a result of this overseas trade with Europe, also were on the rise and held surplus cash. In 1707 the Scottish economy as a whole was in surplus - a fact recognised in the 1707 Treaty in its machinations over Scottish liability for the English national debt.

Darien failed for numerous reasons, not the least the overt opposition of the Spanish and the English West India Company coupled with poor research and understanding of the conditions to be faced by the settlers. For the Burghs and its middle class Darien was a commercial ‘blip’ which had little short or long term effect but brought the Bank of Scotland into being to manage the surplus cash floating around in the Scottish economy to better to take advantage of future opportunities. Contrast this construct with the Bank of England whose core purpose was all about managing English sovereign debt.  Scotland’s economy stagnated because of the Union and in some economist’s view has never recovered from the destruction wrought on its economy between 1707 and the 1780’s. There is nothing in the joint economic history that demonstrates an independent Scotland would have done worse during the industrial revolution. There is an argument that many of the UK patents which were key to the industrial revolution, as diverse as James Watt’s condensing steam engines and Neilson’s hot blast furnace, an independent Scotland’s economy would have benefited more. To this you can add the income and trade generation by companies such as Jardine and Matheson in the Far East (now better known as HSBC) or Thomas Glover in Japan (a founding board member of Mitsubishi) and you are left pondering how Scotland has benefited from the economic union with England and the wealth generated by Scottish entrepreneurs over the last three hundred years.

The problem with the objective evidence is it indicates no economic benefit accruing to Scotland that Scotland would have not gained if we were outside the Union.

Defence, surely that must be one area where there has been mutual benefit since 1707?

One of the many reasons why the English Parliament suddenly wanted the Union with Scotland had to do with the English military force tied down on England’s northern border just in case France attempt to invade via Scotland. Marlborough, the English Defence Minister, needed them in Europe to thwart French ambitions and the Union would free up this trained force for action. Scotland had, on the other hand, no standing army - in fact the Scottish Parliament had enacted laws to ensure this could never happen. For example it was illegal to ‘barrack soldiery’ on towns people or to force them to provide food or fodder. A Scottish Army could only be raised by an Act or Order in Council of the Scottish Parliament and only for a limited time. The Scottish Navy was more concerned with custom and excise patrols rather than waging war.

Post 1707 and agreed in a codicil to the Treaty of Union any Scottish Regiments raised could only be used for home island defence and were not to be sent overseas. The first mutiny by a Scottish regiment within the UK standing army occurred precisely because Horseguards (as the British Army HQ was long known) decided to send a Scottish Regiment overseas contrary to the understanding of the men when they took the King’s shilling. In the history of the ‘British Army’ there are a number of times when Scottish regiments or soldiers have mutinied - all have to do with broken promises emanating from Horseguards.

The two ‘World Wars’ surely they demonstrate the importance of the Union in the security of the country?

‘Maybees aye, maybees naw’ is the answer. The First World War was triggered by an arms race between the European powers and the British Empire. The tipping point is considered to be the Arch Duke’s assassination but the reality is the stress and strains were there as the European powers scrapped over smaller and smaller extensions to their empires. 

An independent Scotland, out with the ‘British Empire’, could have strategically put England at a disadvantage unless some agreement had been reached to allow the English Royal Navy to use Scapa Flow. Would an independent Scotland have remained neutral is harder to answer. It could have followed its northern trading partners and declared itself neutral yet with France being invaded, would the draw of the ‘Auld Alliance’ have lead to Scotland sending men to France, who instead of dying on the Somme, anyone of three Ypres or Paschendale had died before Verdun or on the Aisne instead?

Did Scottish participation in the British Army between 1914 and 18 make Scotland a safer place to live? The answer to that came a mere 22 years later with the bombing of Clydeside.

If there is ever any such thing as a ‘just war’ then the conflict between 1939 and 1945 is as near as it comes. Given the nature of the conflict I can only see an alliance between Scotland and England having occurred. You could say that Scotland could have taken a similar position to Southern Ireland but the impact of unrestricted submarine warfare on Scottish Trade lanes would have forced us to take sides. The crushing of France would be a major factor in the decision to join or stay neutral.

Again did the outcome create a safe international arena for Scotland to be part of?

To which the only short answer I can come up with is, no.

Since 1945 the British Military has only not been on ‘active service’ for one year, 1968, since 1945. Sadly it may be only in our joint defence of these islands during the course of the 20th Century that there has been any incontestable benefit.

Not much of a positive case for the Union.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

A response to the Scottish Affairs Committee 'investigation' into the Independence referendum

It is clear to this author that Westminster has lost the plot as far as its North Briton region is concerned and the Scottish Affairs Committee have failed to understand the degree to which their ruminations on Scotland are irrelevant. On the issue of ‘separation’ I will demonstrate why the cause of the growing wish for Scotland to return to its natural state for any nation to be sovereign is actually being driven by the Westminster narrative of a too poor, too wee, too stupid Scotland.
             In the decade since the resumption of the Scottish Parliament session temporarily suspended in March 1707 opinion polls in the lead up to the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2007 showed time after time that the Scots wished a new relationship between the nation states making up the current UK Union and the preferred new structure would be one of a federation of autonomous nation states. In the run up to May 2007 many Scots identified the Unionist parties as being resistant on this matter, their too poor, too stupid, too wee narrative grated on the psyche and their policies for Scotland remained controlled by their puppet masters at Westminster rather than making any attempt to relate to the growing Scottish sense of self determination.
In   In  May 2007 Scottish voters sent a message to the Unionist parties, one these parties failed to heed as they started on a campaign which had nothing to do with the people of Scotland or their stated wish but everything to do with irrational animosity towards the minority SNP Government.
      This ‘investigation’ is merely an attempt to shore up the Scotland Act Amendment Bill by conferring legitimacy on sections of a bill that is not yet in law, nor ever likely to be given the requirement of the Sewell Convention which recognises (as did the Supreme Court’s judgement against the insurers), the Scottish Parliament as sovereign, whose Acts are to be respected and the Scottish Parliament has to agree the Scotland Act Amendment Bill in full for it to receive Royal Assent.
           The reality for the Scottish Affairs Committee is it does not hold the people of Scotland’s sovereignty in care because under Article 19 of the 1707 Treaty of Union the independence of Scots Law and therefore Scottish Constitutional practice is protected for all time. In Scots law and constitutional practice, as pointed out by Lord Cooper in 1953, sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland and not the crown or parliament. A reality first recognised by the writing of the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 into Scots Law and further established by the 1689 Claim of Right which stated that King James the VII and II was thrown off the throne of Scotland because he attempted to assume sovereignty to which he had no claim. The 1689 Claim of Right remains in law and unaltered and stands Messer’s Foulkes and Forsyth’s amendments in contempt of Scots Law and constitutional practice in their attempt to subvert the sovereign people of Scotland’s rights and laws. In Scots Law the people of Scotland exercise their sovereignty through the parliament at Holyrood in the first instance as demonstrated by the Sewell Convention.
            The Scottish Affairs Committee should also be cognisant with the Treaty of Vienna to which the Westminster Parliament is a signatory on the rights of any nation state to withdraw from any treaty especially where the treaty could be considered to have been entered in to under duress or pressure by one side over the other (such as the acceptance of payments for ensuring the Treaty would be accepted or the failure to allow the sovereign people a vote).
           The Scottish Affairs Committee also needs to be fully aware of the UN Charter on Human Rights to which Westminster is a signatory which makes clear that the people of a sovereign nation state have the right to undertake a vote to decide whether it remains within a Union, confederation and the like or returns to being an independent nation state.
           In effect the Scottish Affairs Committee has no legal rights on the matter of whether and when a referendum should take place under Scots or International law or Treaty. The Scottish people are sovereign not parliament - neither at Westminster nor Holyrood.
            I would suggest before any further embarrassment is heaped on them, the committee stands down, saves the public purse from any further waste of public money and understand they are the problem. Their crassness, denial and vulgar ignorance is what is driving the ‘separation’ and not the sovereign people of Scotland, their democratic wishes or their democratically elected, majority government.

A Scottish Defence Force? – a leaner, meaner view.

Scotland’s sovereign people do not want Trident nor are they too keen about Afghanistan so in an independent Scotland just what would our defence force look like?

The prime question is what will an Independent Scotland need to be defended against?

To take the view – nothing – is naive. Scotland has a lot of resources that others would wish to hold as their own and would be easily economically disadvantaged by small scale attacks let alone overwhelming force.

To trigger development of this debate I am going to outline what I see as the primary threats to Scotland’s sovereignty, economy and indicate the sort of defence requirement I suggest we need -ignoring any international commitments such as NATO or the UN. The obvious course of action is to look north to Norway and Iceland and look at where their priorities lie and the answer is – their maritime interest.

Many of Scotland’s current and future economic resources are or have a major maritime element – oil and gas, fisheries, renewable power or HDVC power lines.

So how will an independent Scotland ensure the security of these resources and what could the Scottish Defence Force look like?

I would base a Scottish Defence Force on the Canadian Defence Force’s ‘all arms’ structure with a common uniform, common insignia, common central command, common logistics combined with the ability for the serving personnel, with the compatible skills, to mix across the three elements of maritime, air and land - if they wish.

The Maritime section would, in my opinion, need to be the largest element because policing of our Scottish Seas requires the presence of ships in the water. Ships are high cost defence units, if you go for deep ocean capability, but I would argue for Scotland’s needs the ships do not have to have deep ocean capability. I would foresee a maritime section made up mainly of ships like the current Jura ‘fishery / oil rig protection’ class with a hanger and helicopter capability but hopefully of a more stable design. They could be kitted out with a close air defence system, such as Phalanx or its successors, which can also be used in a surface role and carry a section of ‘marines’ for boarding fishing vessels or other surface craft. These vessels could also be fitted for but not necessarily with long range anti ship or air missiles. Its ‘long range’ offensive capability would essentially be delivered by its helicopter, using state of the art air to surface weapons or anti-submarine torpedoes. Using modern integrated command systems these Jura’s, plus their helicopters and the PC3 Orions, could be combined to be a quite potent force - if that was ever necessary – even with out being fitted with anti ship missiles. More importantly they would be very effective in doing what we need them for - oil field, coastguard and fishery protection duties. The number of ships (20) is to enable seven ships to be at sea all the time with another seven on their way to or from patrol areas and assumes six in port for routine or extended maintenance. In peacetime they could be run with a crew of sixteen officers and sailors plus a section of marines. It might make sense two split these ships into two squadrons one based in Aberdeen, Dundee or Rosyth and the other at Stornoway, Machrihanish or the Clyde. The decision then is essentially do you use two traditional Naval base ports or do you invest in new port facilities that reduce the time taken to reach patrol areas. For maintenance considerations Rosyth makes a lot of sense as there is a core workforce used to working on naval craft.

The Air section would clearly need a helicopter wing in support of the maritime section which would be best served by multirole helicopters like the Merlin which can also be used in a rescue role in support of the Coast Guard, anti submarine role and troop transport. To help patrol Scotland’s seas a small number of long range multi role patrol craft would be required similar to Norway’s PC3 Orion squadron. 

The question of whether Scotland actually needs a fixed wing strike and interceptor aircraft is debateable (it is dependent on whether you see Russia re-emerging as a threat or not) but if it was decided that we need this capability to ensure a balanced force capability I would suggest the maritime version of the Lockheed JSF F35. The basic maritime variant of the F35 is superior in every way to the Typhoon, far more flexible, better stealth characteristics, cheaper to purchase and run, easily updateable plus, if it was ever deployed in conjunction with NATO, it would be compatible with the Royal Navy’s new carrier class as well as US and French Carriers.  We would need around 40 of these aircraft to enable to keep 30 in the air. If we inherit any Tornadoes they could be converted into ‘tankers’ for the F35’s. The question is do you then concentrate all the SDF aircraft on one airbase such as Lossiemouth or do you spread the deployment around: F35’s at Leuchars, PC3 Orions and Tornado tankers at Lossiemouth and helicopters at Prestwick that will be a political decision shaped as a force decision.

Then we turn to the thorny problem of land forces, why would an independent Scotland need them and how would they be structured?

 If you follow my argument so far it is clear that at least one of the four historic cadres that make up ‘The Royal Regiment of Scotland’ would need to be full time to support our needs for oil rig protection and support of the ‘Jura Class’ offshore protection vessels. Clearly one of the famous names would need to convert to a Marine / Special Forces Regiment but what of the other three?

Does Scotland really need all the bits and pieces of a standing army such as an armoured and artillery regiment, for example, as we only have one land border and the risk is negligible? 

Again it would depend to what extent an Independent Scotland wished to be involved in panoply and paraphernalia of NATO or the proposed European Standing Army. But for logistical purposes I would see each of the SDF regiments as self contained multi role, armoured style brigades on the German model. I am not proposing that we invest in Leopards or Challenger Mk2 tanks but armoured vehicles that would support any deployment of the SDF in a peace keeping role so we are talking Armoured Personnel Vehicles with a varied light weapon fit from 0.5 calibre machine guns via ‘chain guns’ to surface to air / anti tank missile systems in keeping with the concept of the land force as a defence force. It makes sense that only one of these more traditional army regiments was full time. I would see the other two run as territorial or reserve regiments with a professional core of officers and senior NCOs.

What we get as a defence force will be a function of how much an Independent Scotland would wish to spend of its GDP on this force, balanced against our politically defined needs and commitments.

As to cost, overall defence costs are usually stated as percentage of GDP and I would see an SDF with around 10,000 regulars and between 7,000 and 10,000 territorial style reserves. These sorts of numbers relate more to Eire than Norway so the lowest cost to run the SDF would be in the region of £600+ million annual cost based on Eire’s defence spending in 2009-10. Given I am also including F35’s and just over twice the number of patrol ships a more realistic figure would be in the region of £1 billion based on current defence costs of which around 60% is in pay and pensions. To run a defence force of the size of Norway’s is in the region of £5 billion for 2010/11 which has been assessed at 4.8% of the Norwegian Government’s budget (not the countries GDP) so if we assume the current pocket money given to Scotland as the basis for the future independent Scottish Government budget, defence spending on the SDF will be in the region of 1% on the same basis.

Let the debate begin and the fingers start pointing, I confess I am a ‘fishhead’ who cross decked with the ‘booties’ given the institutional bias of which I am guilty let the debate continue.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Hatred of the Cybernats

As I do my daily trawl across the internet picking up bits of information here, news there and ideas all over the place I come back to Newsnet Scotland and follow the blog threads. It fascinates me why Newsnet is seen as a source of extreme ‘cybernatery’ by sites such as ‘Better Nation’, BBC Scotland and the Hootsmon go with out saying, but considering the nature of the blogosphere it is interesting the disdain shown towards Newsnet Scotland by some other Scottish Blogs.

Yet the reality is there are no slavering, rabid English hating bloggers on the site. Further most folk regularly state the difference between their views of Westminster as opposed to England and the English. Many have spouses and chunks of their family who are English born and bred. So the antipathy that folk like Maddox of the Scotsman try to stir in his attempts to out do Cochrane at the Telegraph are hollow when it comes to relations between the people of these islands. This is opposed to our genuine desire to be governed by our own Scottish Parliament, in a way that best fits how the Scottish electorate in general view our nation of Scotland.

What is lost in these attempts to polarise the debate into yet another Scotland v England bout is the reality of the people who have migrated to Scotland from England, settled in Scotland and a life which they find agreeable.  It is not just our migrant near neighbours who find Scotland a good place to live as a study carried out by the Commission for Racial Equality shows.  The comparison is stark between the study’s findings in the English conurbations versus those in Scotland and says something about our ability to walk our talk of ‘We’re aa Jock Tamson’s bairns’.

In the English conurbations the Carribean and SE Asians born in the UK tended to describe themselves as British Blacks or British Asians. The term ‘English’ is reserved for the white population and is looked upon by these British Blacks and British Asians in a pejorative sense related to isolationist tendencies, superiority, inflexibility and an underlying racial intolerance of anybody who is not ‘one of them’. This was as true in Manchester as in London or Birmingham this sense the non white British felt of ‘English’ intolerance.

The groups interviewed in Edinburgh and Glasgow were very comfortable describing themselves as Scottish Asian or Scottish Black. They do not, according to the study, have the same sense of underlying racial tension their counterparts in Birmingham expressed. They describe their experience as ‘being made welcome’, included, supported, as being Scots who are Asians. One interviewee said he had been born and brought up in Zambia and came to Scotland for University. He has stayed and married, has a UK passport but when people ask him what he is, he says Scottish because this is where he is happy and lives.

There could be many reasons why the native Scots are by and large friendly towards folk from ‘ither pairts’ amongst them the sense of colonisation Carol Craig discussed in her book ‘The Scottish Crisis of Confidence’. An instinctive empathy with the ‘dispossessed’ which lies deep in the Scottish sense of being in the aftermath of the Scottish equivalent of the ‘enclosures’ which threw so many off the land across Scotland.

The influx of Gael speakers to Glasgow to fuel its industry and growth in the face of popular propaganda of the day that they were dirty, poor and stupid must have created tensions as native Glaswegians felt the competition for jobs.  A few decades later the Irish influx and the clear problems this created in Glasgow as the East and West End became polarised on religious grounds which resonate to this day. In Edinburgh it was the influx of Eastern European Jewry escaping pogroms in their homelands in the late 1800’s, in 1940 it was Poles and Norwegians escaping Hitler, later it was Italian POWs who chose to stay and make a life here. Yet Scotland has this track record for taking folk in and holding them close, far removed from the hostile attacks on Scots rabid ‘anti-Englishness’ which still gains expression in the London based media and political sphere.

It is mentioned frequently on Newsnet by posters of the close links between the English and Scots. The reality that many English ‘immigrants’ now stand amongst the SNP’s membership and voters because they see how unhealthy, vacuous and insular the Westminster Parliament of the Union has become, how detached it is from serving the people it claims to represent and how it is no longer fit for purpose. These concerns are increasingly, I would argue, fuelling the growing support for independence across all Scottish voters - a desire for a better Scotland, an independent nation once more, with a people at ease with themselves and their place in the world, no matter where they come from – Ceud Mille Failte.

Since 1979 I have travelled from staunch unionist via federalist to the point I am now at, pro-independence. At no point have I ever felt hatred for the English as a people, I lived in the SW of England for 27 years, my wife is from Yorkshire, my kids are Cornish by birth. I am driven by a realisation the only way the UK can live together is if the tattered remnants of Empire are finally expunged and the currently dispossessed English electorate get their country and parliament back. This can only occur with the end of the Union because nothing else will bring Westminster, its political establishment and hangers on to its senses.  No more fudges, no more wait and see if Westminster will get it right this time (experience says this will never happen), let’s just go.

We will be doing all who live on these islands a great big favour by saying ‘Yes’ to independence when the referendum comes.