Friday, 31 January 2014

Snatching defeat from the Jaws ....

The UK papers and media had set the scene. They had created an entirely negative message around Mark Carney's finely judged speech on a future currency union from the Bank of England perspective. They had successfully drowned out the positives and blasted the Scottish Public with a 'Nyah! Nayh! Eck, you're na goan tae get yer haunds on oor English pund' barrage of Somme like proportions. What could possibly go wrong? This time they had Eck painted into a corner he surely could not wiggle out of. Johann we've pegged oot yer mun now gie him a Timpsoning.

In the background someone had forgotten to brief their Lardships in London as to the 'gemme a foot' so one after the other Lord Lang, then Dame Liddell and finally Lord Steele put both feet in it over the Great War and Rabbie Burns.Worse, their comments did not go unnoticed in their native land and especially not from the sharp ears of Wee Eck's little helpers.

Labour's minions entered the debating chamber at Holyrood with the hopes of better days, this time their leader had an open goal to taunt Eck with, set up by the big boys from London, after weeks of humiliation this was going to be the day of their revenge for Eck's deft politicking and sharp answers. They could not loose today.

Johann shuffled her prepared script, checked her 'key points' top page, looked at her trusty Lieutenants and stood up. The real problems only began when she opened her mouth and allowed what should have been a walk over, slip through her hands. The question remains did Labour bofffins with London's approval think up this 'attack' or did Johann go 'off message'. As with most things to do with Labour it is most likely a bit of both. The problem for Johann is the chunterings about 'time fir her heid' from an increasing number of her Labour colleagues. All who are lined up behind her but none, so far, having the courage to give the first push.

Then misery, upon misery, after all this hard work, Labour's best pal; Prof Curtis, only goes and tells the Guardian readership the majority of the Scots electorate could not give a stuff about the squabble over the pound or the Euro. They were interested in far more important areas of the independence debate and Severin Carrell, the Guardian's Scotch 'expert', was left peddling much shock and horror that the SNP and the Yes Campaign had opened up with both barrels at the hapless Johann in a nasty cybernat attack.

As everyone knows, Johann, it is the 'wee things' that always matter.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Scotland has more than enough self determination.

"Scotland has more than enough self determination."

I came across this stunning statement  (on a Facebook page which seeks to facilitate debate from both sides of the independence debate) as a reason for a 'No' vote. So I thought if Scotland already has 'enough' self determination what does it look like? What is the evidence we have 'enough' self determination?

A tiny scratch of the enough self determination veneer revealed:

91% of Scottish MP's opposed the Welfare Reform Act 2012 on its final reading. That is the majority of MP's from Scotland reflecting the considered will of the people of Scotland at Westminster, a will which according to the Treaty of Union is paramount for all time, where 'all time' means exactly that - but was, as usual, ignored.

70% of Scots in polls since 2006 have stated a preference for a new more autonomous Union, a federated Union more fitting for the 21st Century - the option Westminster refused to address when it thought it would cruise a No result in September 2014. Once again Westminster ignored the considered will of the people of Scotland.

The 80% of Scots and their Parliament at Holyrood do not want nuclear weapons in Scotland but Westminster says we have to have them because they are too dangerous to be stored, maintained and loaded onto the submarines at Devonport. How does either the 'considered will' or 'self determination' work here?

If we had 'self determination', Westminster could not force Bills and Acts on Scotland contrary to the considered will of the people of Scotland as co partners in the UK Union. Here's the problem - a UK constitution does not exist, it is just 'made up as it goes along'. There is no statement in the Treaty of Union which agrees with the popular misconception of Scotland being 'subsumed by England' and therefore only English constitutional norms are applicable within the Union. The lawful case is the opposite because the Scottish realm with its crown, laws, constitution, religious practices and much else has remained separate since 1706 - we only share a parliament with England and a currency.

Holyrood, as a devolved parliament, only took on the responsibilities which were those of the Scottish Viceroy and his staff in Whitehall, also known prior to 1999 as the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office.

Anytime Westminster feels Scotland is getting 'uppity' and not 'toeing the UK line' then they cut our pocket money as Brown did (Peterhead CO2 capture /  DLA reduction of £20 million from the Scottish pocket money), as Darling did year on year in real terms (3% per annum) and as Osbourne is doing by a further £4 billion after 2015 if we are daft enough to vote No and get another five years of Tory Austerity, a policy the people of Scotland rejected in 2010 and are unlikely to buy into it this time around either - even if it is wearing Ed Milliband's off pink Y-fronts with integral 'Teflon' tear off strip, skid mark protection.

So Scotland has very little scope for self determination under the present set up - and none on major issues such as Foreign Affairs, Defence, Fiscal planning, the EU, how the tax it earns is raised or spent or Welfare Provision, bungs to MP's, bail outs of failed banking businesses, over weaning investment in London and the SE to the detriment of the rest of the UK, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Scottish Labour - A pheonix waiting to arise or a damp squib?

The founding story of the Scottish Labour Party is one of socialism in the raw, of people looking out for people, of seeking a level playing field against privilege and the landed rich. It is a story which encompasses the Govan Rent Strike, the imprisoning of John McLean (though technically he was a Communist), Maxton and Hardy's speeches at the mass meeting at Glasgow Cross, Manny Shinwell and the police brutality before Glasgow City Chambers, the Clydeside Reds, Home Rule for Scotland and a panicking UK Government locking Scottish Regiments up and putting English Regiments and tanks on Glasgow's streets. It is a brave story, an inspiring story and heart warming story of a party of the people and for the people. A story the likes of Blair, Brown, Darling and now Milliband seek to play on, in Scotland.

It is also a story of betrayal of Scottish Socialists and their aims and wishes, by an English Labour Party already in the thrall of Westminster and its corridors of power, who played the game by Westminster rules, quickly dis-empowering those of Scottish Labour's impact for change, ducking the Home Rule for Scotland issue, a tale of much 'jam tomorrow'. A Westminster Labour Party that rapidly became an anathema, a disappointment and a sell out to the heroes of Scottish Labour's heady days - Hardy, Maxton and McLean. The part of the story the modern New Labour Scottish region seeks to gloss over at every occasion.

The only time post 1922 the Labour Party ever indulged in 'socialist' change was with the creation of the Welfare State and the NHS. A change which was at the pushing of a 1942 report by William Beveridge, a longstanding Liberal Party Member, the man who persuaded Llyod George to introduce the first stirrings of what is now National Insurance and the basic pension prior to the First World War. A report which became a White Paper in 1944 and converted into reality by 1948.  This is Labour's only great 'socialist policy' enactment, the only Acts which really changed the UK and the view of Westminster responsibility to and for all its electorate. Another great story for Labour but, and there is always a 'but' with Labour stories, it lasted less then three years before Labour started to unpick what they had put in place until, 66 years later, the NHS and Welfare State, a provision which should have been Labour's greatest achievement of the 20th Century is descending into a mockery and empty shell as successive UK Governments, since 1979, have undermined the Policies and Acts that were to make the UK a 'country fit for heroes'. Over the last three decades the hollowing out has accelerated, throwing more and more of both the NHS and Welfare provision to private companies. Companies who are more interested in their shareholders dividends than the service they are contracted to provide. Now it is just not Hardy, Maxwell and McLean who feel betrayed by Labour at Westminster but a wide swathe of the UK electorate.

It is into this maelstrom Labour for Independence (LfI) now pitches itself as it seeks to encompass, once more, the real founding story of the Scottish Labour Party. It seeks to enervate a political credo long soiled by vested self interest and hegemony that reaches Tammany Hall proportions in the Glasgow Council of the brown envelopes where £2,500 allegedly gets you your drinks and entertainment license, no matter the police opposition to you having one. Where the Scottish Police estimate over £2 million a year is spent by the same council on contracts with known organised crime front businesses. A Glasgow Labour Party where, according to the Glasgow Herald, everybody knows Louis Rodden; an organised crime 'insurance' enforcer and attender of Jim Murphy campaign fund raisers who '...likes to hear Dr Reid speak.'

How difficult will it be to prevent this Phoenix of a Scottish Labour Party, in LfI, going off as just another damp squib of lost opportunity for socialist leaning Scots?

The practical problems begin with reforming the current CLPs across Scotland, infused as they are with Blairites; supporting MP's and MSPs of neo-liberal intent. CLPs whose noses lie up Labour in London's backside and do what they are 'telt'. Reliant as they are on London for funding. CLPs whose MSPs toxicity to the SNP blinds them to the opportunities a Yes vote delivers to the people of Scotland. A 'Scottish' Labour Party structure in denial of its own long standing aim for an autonomous Scotland, lead by Scottish MP's whose apparent hatred of their own country has them running Scotland down in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. The hatred and fear of their own people in the words of a Murphy, a Curran, a Davidson or a Sawar ring clear to those with the wit to listen. Their own self interest is far more important than what is best for Scotland to release the potential of its people, long held back by Westminster's economic need to prop up the City of London. A Westminster reliant on the 'Subsidy Jocks' for a large chunk of England's energy, food supply and many other needs.

If the STUC jump ship and fully back LfI just what will be the cost to this new Scottish Labour Party? Will the STUC main backers - Unison and Unite - insist that certain folk are retained (like Unison's Lamont as 'Leader at Holyrood') or Unite's Colin Deans becomes Party Secretary. It is clear that STUC involvement will not come with any free lunches for LfI. What is the plan to winkle out the Blairites and their arch Trade Union rivals from the CLPs to give this new party a chance? Does anyone believe the likes of a 'Jackie Baillie' can change her political spots over night with any level of credence? How long will LfI allow these 'class traitors' with a tale of 'yon big boy made me do it!' to remain in place?

I fear the reality is the same old Labour faces will remain within the new 'Scottish Labour Party' promised by LfI and it will end up business as usual because, without a major blood letting in CLPs and across the party machine in Scotland, I can see no other resolution for folk imbedded in the party machine and whose over weaning self importance is far greater than any sense of integrity or honesty.

If all of this can be resolved between 2014 and 2016 it will be a cleaning out of the Scottish Labour Party machine of Herculean proportions - greater than the task of clearing out the Augean Stables itself. All that before even trying to shift the Scottish Labour Party back from the right of Scottish Politics and seeking to re-insert it between the Greens and the SNP where the LfI supporters wish it to be.

I am a SNP party member, on the socialist wing of the party and the new, post Yes vote, Scottish Labour Party will have a hard job convincing me it is a Phoenix rather than a damp squib. History shows a Scottish Labour Party full of good intentions which in the majority, as a party, they failed to deliver, as they become bogged down and self obsessed with their own beauty parades and internal feuds.

Alan Grogan: please prove me wrong, achieve your vision with and for LfI, create your socialist Phoenix - but I fear the history of your party is against you.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Sovereignty - Where will it lie on a Yes vote?

The case of McCormack vs the Lord Advocate before Lord Cooper in 1953 is important for two reasons. First it established clearly the primacy of the considered will of the people of Scotland is always extant (even under the present UK set up) and secondly the only two bodies which can negotiate the end of the UK Parliamentary Union are the sovereign parliaments of Scotland and England (with Wales and NI). That is the legal and constitutional position.

The only logical way this process can be undertaken is in the 18 months after a 'yes vote' the powers are 'sent back' from the UK Parliament to both sovereign parliaments by negotiation until all powers are completely repatriated in March 2016. Basically the UK Parliament is, at best, an administrative office for this period - serially hollowed out, unable to act on the 'UK's' behalf without the approval of the two sovereign parliaments which are now once more superior to the UK Parliament under the terms of the Treaty of Union 1706.

We are not talking about an independence process as in one of the British Empire's ex-colonies, we are talking about the return to two sovereign parliaments which still exist and in the case of England is currently in temporary suspension. On a yes vote these two parliaments reassert the sovereignty of the Realms of Scotland and England as separate sovereign nations once more.

If  the UK Parliament remains 'sovereign' for this period it could technically prevent Scotland from renegotiating EU membership prior to March 2016 but by this action they would also prevent the resumed sovereign parliament of England from doing negotiating with the EU because either the two parliaments are sovereign or the UK Parliament is sovereign - you can not have both cases.

The same situation arises in terms of Government borrowing post a Yes vote given the UK Treasury can only guarantee UK's existing debt and UK Government borrowing up to a Yes vote. It must be the case the UK Treasury can only guarantee UK government debt incurred to that point because after this point the UK Parliament is no longer sovereign, only the parliaments of Scotland and England are sovereign after this point and then raise future borrowing on their own account.

Scotland's Future can not go into the fine detail of what will happen after a 'Yes vote' because the future English Government is not able to discuss the 'how' (as it is still temporarily suspended) and the UK Unionists who will become this new sovereign parliament are refusing to countenance a Yes vote, are refusing to embark on discussions around this eventuality and are in denial of the actual impact a Yes vote delivers on what is currently the UK Parliament. Cameron has said as much on the UK Government's behalf because he knows as soon as any pre-negotiations commence the UK Union is as good as dead. It is clear though the Bank of England is not hanging around playing the Westminster game with respect to Sterling nor, according to today's headlines, are are the international corporations like BAE over where their main defence plants in Europe will be based on a 'Yes vote'.

I contend that by May 2015 the UK Parliament will exist in name only, having just an administrative function, carried out in Whitehall and Edinburgh by civil servants. Logically the May 2015 election should only be for the new Parliament of the United States of England and Wales(with NI) as the few UK functions on Scotland's behalf currently under taken by Scottish MP's at Westminster, will be undertaken by the sovereign parliament at Holyrood instead.

What will happen prior to March 2016 is complex but will move rapidly, simply because it will be in both parties best interests - rather than the current obfuscation and denial coming from the self interest of the UK Parliament at Westminster.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Jackie Baillie's Baldrickian Plan ... and the big lie it contains.

In response to Peter Bell's thoughtful comment I have done further research on DHP:

For 2013-14,the Scottish DHP allocation is £13.47m. Local authorities can top up their allocation by 150%. Legislation limits the total amount that can be spent on DHPs in any one year to 2.5 times the DWP allocation. Therefore, in 2013 -14 the maximum that could be spent in Scotland on DHPs would be £33.7m.

What Jackie Baillie's Bill is actually proposing is changing the Scottish Housing Act 2003 to remove under occupancy penalty arrears creating 'cause for eviction' due to non-payment of full rent. The proposed bill does nothing to address the real issue causing these arrears - the under occupancy penalty - but shift the burden onto the Landlord who can only issue a small claims order for the outstanding rental as a minor debt. In other words the Landlord has to stand the cost of the debt if they can not get an order for payment or the tenant can not pay for the reason of not just the under occupancy penalty reducing Housing Benefit but also because of reduced income due to cuts in DLA and other benefits as a direct result of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

Under Ms Baillie's cunning plan you could not be evicted for the Under Occupancy Penalty portion of the default but you would have a small claims debt raised against you for payment. As has been demonstrated by a number of charities the proposed new system under the Welfare Reform Act (2012) will seek to reduce DLA and other related ill-health benefits under current ESA regulations and through the introduction of PIP. This leaves the Landlord with ever increasing rental arrears caused by the under occupancy penalty and a tenant with ever reducing ability to pay under the cuts to benefit imposed by PIP. A double whammy for Landlords and their tenants.

You do not have to be much of a thinker to work out this bill of Ms Baillie's is a piece of political shenanigans which is unsustainable in the long term because it neither deals with the problem (rental arrears) or the cause   (under occupancy penalty) or the long term implications on availability of rental housing other than current council funded schemes.

In other words Ms Baillie's claim of '£50 million would fix it' has no basis in either the current DHP rules nor in Ms Baillie's bill itself which, in effect, seeks to shift the rent arrears predominantly onto the social housing sector (aka the Councils and the Council Taxpayers) as a debt unlikely to ever be repaid, given the nature of the clients, the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the recent announcement of a further £25 billion cut in the DWP's budget starting in 2015.

So in fact I am correct to state that putting Ms Baillie's '£50 million' into DHP would require the Scottish Parliament to break the Scotland Act's provisions for matters reserved to Westminster.

In the meantime the Scottish Government has requested COSLA to seek ways of avoiding evictions where under occupancy penalty is the sole cause (the prime purpose of Ms Baillie's Bill). That it is only Labour and Labour / Conservative coalition councils who are continuing with under occupancy penalty arrears evictions rather suggests Ms Baillie's 'Bill' is a Red Herring as it is clearly not supported by Labour and Labour coalition councils in Scotland.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Jackie Baillie wants the Scottish Parliament to break the Law.

The amount paid out between April and November 2013 was almost four times higher than the total DHPs paid in 2012/13, when just under £4m was claimed. 45,000 households have been helped over this period ( April to November 2013) out of the 80,000 households who are 'at risk' of defaulting on their rent solely because of the under occupancy penalty.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "That money  has enabled councils to top up their Discretionary Housing Payments to the maximum amount that Westminster legislation allows - and help hard-pressed households across Scotland. We are also providing a further £20m for next year so that we can continue this vital help."

Labour's social justice spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "The easiest way to mitigate the effects of bedroom tax would be for the SNP government to back my Bedroom Tax Bill and provide the £50m needed to cover the full cost of the bedroom tax."

In other words Jackie Baillie does not understand the legislation which the Welfare Reform Act (2012) put in place on the under occupancy penalty, the application of DHP in such cases nor that the Scottish Government have put in place the maximum the UK Government benefit regulations allow for DHP support in Scotland, for 2013/14, by Holyrood - £20 million.

It is clear the only way to do what Jackie Baillie wants in her bill (the mythical £50 million) is to vote 'Yes' so Scotland controls its own welfare provision and funding. Unless there is a change in the regulations of the Westminster Welfare Reform Act 2012, Baillie's £50 million injection to DHP would be contrary to the Scotland Act 1998 as it would mean Scotland was usurping a reserved Westminster Parliamentary power ( Welfare) in breach of sections 5 and 30 of the Scotland Act. No wonder the SNP are not supporting Ms Baillie's Bill at Holyrood.

The reality is Jackie Baillie's position on DHP and the under occupancy penalty, via her bill at Holyrood, is illegal under current UK Welfare legislation and clearly another example of why Scotland is not better together. Ms Baillie would be better served lobbying the likes of Jim Murphy, Davidson, Sawar, Curran, Darling and Brown to get the UK Welfare Reform Act (2012) changed.

Wait, we know how that turned out - this self serving Labour cabal did not bother to turn up for the vote which could have begun to effect the change Ms Bailie is bleating on about. Some think this was due to another bout of infighting between the Unions and the Blairites for control of Ed Milliband's choker chain.

The poor can suffer while Labour continue their civil war.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Beaker explains the USEW(NI) EU rebate for Gideots.

If I have three United States of England and Wales (with NI on the side) carrots in my hand but give four to the EU and get the fourth one back again (which I never actually handed over in the first place) then I have a rebate of one carrot where as an independent Scotland will have to give the EU all of its three carrots and gets no rebate ....

This here's the tricky bit for Scots to understand:

An independent Scotland will contribute to the USEW(NI) fourth carrot (the one we never actually gave to the EU but got back) and therefore be worse off by at least a carrot shaw. That is how Scotland will be subsidising the USEW(NI) ...

I hope that is cleared up why independence is such a silly idea and Scotland just should not do it, its not worth it for the penalty of a carrot shaw.


Beaker ...

(This is a translation of what Beaker actually said, when lecturing with Dr Vague on Thursday, which was mostly;  "Me,me,me,me.....")

Saturday, 18 January 2014

When you go, will you send me, a letter frae Westminster?

"When you go, 
Will you send me, 
A letter frae Westminster?

Tak a squint up yon wide street,

Frae Whitehall tae Parliament.

Well, When I heard all of your girnin',

Ah spent aa last night thinkin'

Aboot the pish yer spinnin'
An realised yer na winnin'

So aa thocht ye'd best gang hame birlin'.

When you go, 
Will you send me, 
A letter frae Westminster?

Tak a squint up yon wide street,

Frae Whitehall tae Parliament."

(I do not normally copy a political letter in full but in this instance, I feel, there is a need to ensure this particular letter gets to as wide an international audience as possible.)

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities
Nicola Sturgeon MSP

Rt Hon William Hague MP
Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs Foreign & Commonwealth Office 
King Charles Street,
16 January 2014

Dear Foreign Secretary, 

I understand you are in Scotland tomorrow to launch the latest paper in the UK Government’s Scotland Analysis series, which is designed to “inform the debate about Scotland’s constitutional future.” It is in the spirit of informing the debate about whether Scotland should be an independent country that I am writing this letter. Regardless of the outcome of the referendum on September 18, people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be Scotland’s closest friends and neighbours. I also have no doubt that, in the event of a Yes vote, governments of an independent Scotland will work extremely closely with future Westminster governments. In European, international, defence and a range of other matters, our interests will often coincide and we will be able to work together constructively.

However, in relation to your government’s desire to “inform the debate” there are some important questions both about the role of the UK Government in that debate, and about what will happen in the event of a No vote, that people in Scotland deserve answers to. I would be grateful therefore if you could answer the following points to enable voters in Scotland to have as much information as possible about the two futures on offer on September 18.

Firstly, in relation to the UK Government’s role, the Prime Minister has insisted he will not take part in a debate with the First Minister because, he says, it is a matter for voters in Scotland and not him or his government. This position is increasingly hard to sustain given the succession of Westminster ministers continuing to make day trips to Scotland to oppose independence. Therefore, do you accept that the UK Government has a duty to debate the issues rather than engage in a what the Secretary of State for Scotland has described as a "lecture tour”?

Secondly, I have been alarmed and disappointed to read reports that the UK Government has approached other governments seeking their support in arguing against Scottish independence. You will be aware that the Memorandum of Understanding between our two governments commits them to “close co-operation […] with the objective of promoting the overseas interests of the United Kingdom and all its constituent parts”, and that the Edinburgh Agreement similarly commits our two governments to “working together on matters of mutual interest and to the principles of good communication and mutual respect”. If these reports are true and the UK government is seeking to encourage governments around the world to oppose Scottish independence, it would appear that the UK Government is acting in breach of these agreements. If these reports of the UK government seeking to encourage Governments around the world to oppose Scottish independence are true, it would appear that the UK Government is acting in direct contravention to the Edinburgh Agreement and against Scotland’s interests. In light of this I would be grateful if you would detail the extent of the UK Government’s efforts to enlist the support of foreign governments and will you, as Foreign Secretary, give an assurance that such activity will not continue?

Thirdly, as you will know the Scottish Government has set out our approach to independence in Scotland’s Future, the most detailed and comprehensive proposals for a country’s independence that have been published. We have set out a clear and common sense approach to Europe in which Scotland will be an active and productive member of the European Union. That is overwhelmingly in Scotland’s best interests. By contrast, the Deputy Prime Minister has described the UK government’s position as flirting with an EU exit whilst the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has warned it is “unsettling investors and threatening jobs and growth”. It is clear that the agenda on Europe within your government and at Westminster as a whole is being driven by a fear of UKIP which does not exist in Scotland. Any discussion of Europe and foreign affairs by your government must acknowledge the impact of the in/out referendum on membership of the European Union that your government proposes. It seems to me that your paper - to have a shred of credibility - must make explicitly clear that very real risk to Scotland of remaining in the union. I would be grateful for your confirmation that an exit from the EU is a possible consequence of Scotland continuing to be governed by Westminster.

Fourthly, there is an overwhelming public desire for those opposed to independence to set out in detail the consequences of a no vote and the future for Scotland in that event. The Scotland Analysis papers to date have not set out any information on the UK Government’s proposals for changes to the way Scotland is governed if the public choose to vote No In the absence of that information I have appended twelve questions for you to answer during your visit. I hope you will agree that answers to these questions about the implications for Scotland of continuing to be governed by Westminster are necessary to genuinely inform the debate:

  1. Given your campaign for an In/Out referendum on the EU, what will be Scotland’s position if a majority across the UK vote to leave the EU but a majority within Scotland vote to stay in? 
  2. If you cannot renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership to your satisfaction will you recommend the UK’s withdrawal from the EU? 
  3. The Deputy Prime Minister says the Conservative Party is flirting with EU exit due to your Government’s plans to have an in/out referendum on the issue. Is he right? 
  4. Will Scotland continue to receive the lowest farm payments of any country in the EU? 
  5. By how much will support to exporters be cut as a result of the Chancellor’s call for a further £25 billion of cuts and a permanent cut in public spending?
  6. Does the fact that the UK has operated a trade deficit every year since 1997 suggest that the UK’s arrangements for supporting exports needs to be re-examined?
  7. The National Audit Office recently highlighted that: “UKTI and the FCO have not always worked together in a systematic manner, either centrally or at posts” and that this “could undermine close working, coordination of effort and prioritisation of work”. How damaging has this been for exporters and what steps are being taken to rectify it?
  8. Why is the Westminster government harming Scottish exports and tourism by imposing Air Passenger Duty at a level which makes it the highest tax of its kind in the world?
  9. What parliamentary or constitutional safeguards will be put in place to ensure Scotland is never again dragged into an illegal war?
  10. How much will people in Scotland be expected to contribute to the £100 billion cost of renewing Trident despite the fact that the Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly opposed the renewal of these weapons? 
  11. Will the post-study visa be re-introduced in line with the wishes of Scottish universities
  12. What specific account is taken of the specific needs of the Scottish economy when UK immigration policy is being determined?
I look forward to receiving your answers to these questions and to the continuing debate over whether decisions about Scotland should be taken in Scotland or at Westminster.

Nicola Sturgeon

Noo, Hagues back hame wailin' 
Thit yer campaign is nae fairin'

The way is wis supposed tae be 
Cos Cybernats speak free.

And that's no hoo its supposed tae be.

When you go, 
Will you send me, 
A letter frae Westminster?

Tak a squint up yon wide street,

Frae Whitehall tae Parliament."

Mundell nae mair, Roberston nae mair, Curran nae mair, Kennedy nae mair
Alexander nae mair, Steele nae mair, Cunningham nae mair, Broon nae mair,
Murphy nae mair, Sawar nae mair, Campbell nae mair, Darling nae mair,
Foulkes nae mair, Davidson nae mair, Rifkin nae mair, Westminster nae mair!

When you go, 
Will you send me, 
A letter frae Westminster?

Tak a squint up yon wide street,

Frae Whitehall tae Parliament."

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

If it wisnae fir Wee Eck... I'd be votin aye ...

There was a Michelle Mone type post on a Guardian blog from someone who claimed he and his wife were leaving Scotland on a 'Yes vote' so they would not be under the thrall of Dictator Eck and a Scotland going rapidly to hell in an economic hand basket, defaulting on loans while rapidly becoming a pariah state and a laughing stock in the world - as per Better Together propaganda.

In answer, I reflected on how a future English Border Agency, if this Better Together gone mad situation came to pass, would look on them using the current UK Border Agency as a template. I suggested they would be stopped at the border, not being native English they would be moved to an internment camp along with other 'illegals' where they would have to apply for political or economic asylum in England. While there they would have little access to legal advice, no access to benefits, no access to NHS England (accept in a life or death emergency and even then they would be billed) and unless they had a large wodge of English pounds or could prove they would help the English economy by undertaking work not filled by English people they would be sent back to the borders of Scotland and repatriated.

In the real world; if it is a 'No vote' Westminster have made it very clear there will be less, not more devolution in Scotland. Labour's Mr Docherty stated publicly there is no desire at Westminster to give Scotland any greater devolution than at present. This in the face of 60% of Scots stating they wish more not less devolution.

If Scotland wishes to take real control over such issues as taxation, welfare, the removal of nuclear weapons, preventing fracking, ensuring a fairer country for all its residents, maintain a NHS service free, reducing poverty, increasing opportunity, improving access to child care, then all this can only be achieved by voting 'Yes'.

Westminster was asked to put forward a FFA bill to establish what Westminster would do if there was a majority for greater devolution / FFA. Westminster refused and demanded the referendum be a polar 'Yes/ No' because they thought they were in control and would win easily.

The parties at Westminster are still refusing to state what Scotland would look like after a 'No vote', as requested by the UK Electoral Commission, because to do so would give the Yes campaign an unassailable lead.

Here's the reality; you can believe all the nonsense peddled about Alex Salmond wearing the Earl O'Hell's waistcoat, by people who have a vested interest in making him the subject of the referendum as a hate figure, vote No and watch Scotland's NHS crumble, welfare fall to bits, council tax rise exponentially, homelessness and poverty rising - which will all be features of the £4 billion cut to Scotland's budget promised on a 'No' vote by Westminster.

On the other hand you can stop listening to the 'We hate Eck!' lobby and think for yourself.

Given the track record of Holyrood on the NHS in Scotland, seeking to reduce the impact of the bedroom tax, freezing council tax, introducing home care for the elderly and infirm, building one of the world's biggest reusable development centres for both wind and tidal energy, encouraging inward investment to Scotland higher per capita than the famous London and the SE, creating record levels of full time employment in Scotland, leading the UK out of austerity (according to the CBI). Then ask yourself just who is more likely to look after Scotland's best interests and which Parliament, Holyrood or Westminster, is more accountable to the Scottish people on a daily basis?

Under Scots Law and constitutional practice the considered will of the people of Scotland is always paramount. This constitutional reality in the current Union is why the referendum is happening in the form it is, under the control of Holyrood and is why the result is binding, this fundamental constitutional reality has driven Scottish law and politics since 1328 - we the Scottish people are sovereign, our will is paramount. We have the opportunity to reassert our will as a sovereign people in September. An assertion of Scottish sovereignty which Westminster will tell any lies, run outrageous scare stories, poison as many ears as possible and vilify those who are seeking a Yes vote in what ever way they can and scream and scream and scream, like Elizabeth Bott, until they are sick to prevent from happening.

Alex Salmond is not the real issue, in fact he is no issue at all, except in those frightened of their own shadows, hiding behind the curtains or sofa, self justifying their anti Wee Eck position like mad.

What sort of Scotland you wish to leave future generations is the only issue.

A neo-liberal rubbish tip packed with nuclear weapons, debt and poverty or a country of potential and opportunity for all who have the gumption to seek it with out the requirement of a silver spoon in the gob?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Some Unionists do, some Unionists don't ...

I have an ear worm - in an attempt to get rid of it I will seek to write about the thinness of the Unionists' arguments. They have a problem making their mind up - arrgh still that nasty ear worm of a crap European Song Contest 'made up' group haunts my ears, the supposed 'British Abba' and even more annoying, some rubbish champagne pop band, Bucks Fizz - I know, how tawdry.

I suppose comparing Bucks Fizz with Better Together may have some mileage. Both repeat the same facile and meaningless lines over and over again in the hope they maybe 'catchy'. They try to bring Britain together while creating even greater divisions. They both like Eurovision Song Contests, wailing their siren songs, the difference being in a moment of  European cultural suicide Bucks Fizz won while the Better Together funders are actually wanting out and are trying to upset the EU neighbours. Unlike Bucks Fizz they are seeking to achieve 'null points' for their rendition and expulsion for their lack of harmony.

Following today's news in the UK media it has been fascinating watching 'churnalists' try to turn the UK Treasury Announcement on the reality of a Sterling zone remaining in the advent of a yes vote as some sort of major disaster for Alex Salmond while in reality all that is happening is an out break of common sense in the face of growing pressure on UK Government borrowing costs.

The UK Treasury could have done nothing and sat back as Osbourne's borrowing needs courtesy of the failed austerity project (2012-13 the UK economy shrank by another 1.9% according to Reuters) could not be met except with increased borrowing costs. The outcome of this would have been growing fears that the UK Government were in danger of defaulting, a subsequent run on Sterling, seeing it being dumped as a reserve currency which would push borrowing costs for the UK Government even higher as more investors became more concerned about an rUK's ability to service its £1.7 trillion pound debt.

Basically the UK Treasury has said what it can say; up until a 'Yes' vote it will be responsible for all UK borrowing and debt security. After a Yes vote the responsibility for this debt will be shared, after negotiation between the sovereign parliaments of Scotland and England (with Wales). After a Yes vote each sovereign parliament will become responsible for its own national borrowing and debt but to ease market concerns, the current idea is for the new treasury of England and Wales to assume full responsibility of all current UK debt and borrowing until otherwise agreed.

This is just what John Swinney said would happen and Alisdair Darling knew would happen because to keep the Sterling zone intact makes economic sense, to kick out a major earner of Sterling foreign exchange would be an economic disaster for the England and Wales Parliament ability to borrow along with losing the backing of an estimated £1.5 trillion reserves in oil and gas assets for Sterling. All before the overseas earning potential to Sterling of Scottish wind and tidal reusables is factored in.

Yet a read through of the Guardian blog on this issue leaves you stunned by the numbers of anti-Scottish independence posters who still believe it is England which props up Scotland or are in denial about the major economic wreckage Scotland leaving Sterling would leave in England and Wales; as energy and other costs would rise rapidly, with England especially being heavily reliant on importing energy as either gas or via HVDC/ HVAC.

In their desperation to prove this is not so, Scotland and England will share Sterling they seek to pass pro-independence posters comments through ever smaller sieves to try and find fault on no matter how stupid a matter. The other option they follow is ad hominen attacks accusing pro-independence posters as being 'English haters' while their own hatred, fear and anger that the Better Together side is failing shines through.

Some unionists need a lot of lovin' ... and some ... well; what's the point?

In the meantime, the outbreak of common sense on the future of Sterling takes another scare story out of play.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Cameron - Man or Mouse?

Its funny that polls which support the idea that a 'Yes vote' is an impossibility are routinely aired in the Observer / Gruniad and the rest of the MSM / BBC.

Scotland only polls show something very different, the gap between yes and no under 10% with undecideds constantly drifting towards 'yes' and 'no' weakening towards undecided.

Better Together's recent December 2013 Yougov poll sees their preference for the UK status quo clocking only 29% support in Scotland - No Guardian / Observer headlines for that though, are there?

So here's the problem - there is no such legitimate political construct as either 'British' or 'Britain'. The cohesive glue that held the Union together has been leached away by four decades of Thatcherism and its god child, unfettered neo-liberal capitalism. The bits are falling apart and the brown sticky tape of 'Britishness' will not cut it.

It is time the London media woke up to the reality: the Union is nearly dead and they are amongst its prime assassins. Cameron going crying to Putin, Rajoy and other right winger leaders across Europe for help to save 'his Union' is hardly the action of a position of strength. Putin and Obama already fighting over the carcase of the UK's nuclear deterrent while UK Embassies are actively briefing against Scottish Independence. All this from a UK Prime Minister who claims he is not involved in the debate and it is a matter for Scots.

Cameron - a Prime Minister who is too scared to come to Scotland and defend the Union he so believes in - clearly the actions of an already beaten man, clutching at straws.

Tell Scotia I love her, tell Scotia I care ....

Is it not about time the UK and Scottish media held Mr Darling and Better Together to account on what a 'No' vote actually means for Scotland. Apparently the only answer is a sort of Hobson's choice of you'll have to vote 'No', 'jam tomorrow' and then we will tell you or which ever of the Libdems/Labour/Conservatives in Government will decide what you are going to get but currently it will be a mix of:
  • A further massive cut to Scotland's budget
  • Denial of the popular wish for more powers at Holyrood
  • Nuclear weapons stay on the Clyde
  • More London centric policies
  • More sucking the Scottish economy dry
  • More political destruction of Welfare provision and the NHS
  • Bigger divide between the rich and the poor
  • More educational inequality
  • More abject poverty of ideas in pursuit of the neo-liberal wet dream
  • Fracking the UK stupid on the basis of a flawed economic energy model
  • Increasing police state
  • Insidious reduction of human rights
  • Ever increasing government debt to pay for failed neo-liberal policies / fiscal bail outs for the City of London
Is it any wonder the 'No Campaign' does not want to state clearly the future for Scotland as part of a failed UK State.

Yep - us nasty, nasty cybernats pointing up what a No vote means. This is what the likes of Darling are frightened of; reasoned analysis of the current UK State and what that actually means for Scotland if we stay as part of it.

We have had a week of tell 'Scotia I love her, tell Scotia I care, tell Scotia I don't want her to go' in the Gruniad, Observer and other MSM outlets now we have this temper tantrum from Darling, throwing his toys out the pram, trying to look as if he is 'fighting for the Union', his puerile response to accusations he is 'comatose' is to decry the mythical 'cybernat'.

Cameron has gone crying to two extreme right wing politicians in Rajoy and Putin for help to put Scotland down, UK Embassies are actively briefing against Scottish Independence while in the background Russia and the USA are already squabbling about the end of the UK nuclear deterrent and its impact on the nuclear weapon balance between Russia and the USA. Cameron as prime minister of the UK Union can not find the courage to address the people of Scotland on why the UK Union should stay - just what does that say about the UK Union when its own Prime Minister does not have the guts to defend it?

What part of the 'No Campaign' has lost the plot and is now clutching at straws is passing folk by?