Thursday, 16 March 2017

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I am sitting in Edinburgh Airport waiting for my flight to Amsterdam and onwards to Japan.

Behind me Sky News are still trying to sell the idea the Nicola Sturgeon has no mandate to call a second referendum on independence. Speaker after speaker has whined on about how divisive the SNP are being but not one has attempted to address the elephant in the room, "Just why is the UK Parliamentary Union unravelling?"

It appears the London chateratty are completely sold on the architype of the the Scot having chips on both shoulders, a nation which always has a grievance. Thus it is safe to ignore Scotland as, apparently, once we have had our whine and a good whinge we will see sense and do what that nice, kindly Ms May tells us to do as we are so dependent on English generosity to survive.

The problem with this argument is stark. The 2015-16 HMRC gross figures show Scotland only got back 54% of the total tax take credited to Scotland. The problem with this figure is it does not include all the VAT and corporation tax raised in Scotland but paid into HM Treasury from English based HQ's by the likes of ASDA, Tesco, Morrisons to name but a few companies which have high turnover in Scotland. The reality is Scotland is contributing far more to the UK pot than the current figures indicate. The idea that England subsidises Scotland has no basis in reality but as long as Westminster cooks the books we will not find out the true level of Scottish tax income until we are independent but be assured it is a lot higher than the HMRC figures suggest and in real terms Scotland sees only 40% of its actual tax take returned by the avaricous H M Treasury and at that I am most likely being on the generous side.

The real question these talking heads should be being considering is just why is Scotland on the verge of ending the UK Parliamentary Union, what has gone wrong in the Westminster Parliament which leaves an increasing number of the Scottish electorate disillusioned, disenfranchised and seeking independence?

Maybe it is listening to David Davis trying to justify the lack of Brexit planning to a Parliamentary committee by saying the Tories have a plan but it is not detailed enough, yet, to present to MPs or the UK electorate but maybe in a year or so but, honest it is one hell of a plan. This is akin to Eisenhower and Montgomery landing on the Normandy beaches in June 1944 in the hopes the Germans will co-operate and just simply bugger off of their own accord. "Not to worry", Eisenhower is quoted as saying on the eve of D-Day,  "We will have a detailed battle plan by mid to late 1945, in the meantime Monty and me are just going to busk it, it will work out OK, you'll see."

Then there are the claims of "Betrayal", "Traitor" and "Could do with her head chopped off" coming from the usual culprits on the more lunatic fringes of the right wing media in London. Frothing at the mouth hubris from folk who claim their extreme and divisive version of British Nationalism is actually a cuddly wee bunny, if you get to know it. How does calling the First Minister of Scotland, elected by the majority of the SNP membership, supported by 46% of the active Scottish electorate and currently way ahead of any UK leader in terms popularity on these terms help persuade Scotland England is listening to our real concerns, our needs or expectations?

It is not only us chippy Jocks who are getting the hump with Westminster, across in Northern Ireland the idea of a unified Ireland, on Brexit, is looking more and more possible as the impact of Northern Ireland's loss of EU funding becomes ever clearer. You know this is true when Dublin's main parties have started talking about planning for Northern Ireland's integration while Seinn Fein and the rest bicker about which party will be best placed to facilitate re-unification. The weekend saw the long dormant Welsh Dragon have a wee flex of its fire ducts on the issue of ending the Principality's ties to the English Crown and Parliament.

Ms May is increasingly Westminster's Ollie to Brexit's Stan and it can not be too long before she utters the imortal words to Davis, Hammond, Gove and the rest - "This is another fine mess you've gotten me into!"

The military norm is you try not to fight on two fronts at once, May is facing fighting on three simultaneously with a possible fourth as the English electorate take to the streets over the destruction of NHS England or the imposition of fracking.

We live in interesting times.

Friday, 3 March 2017

More Mayhem? Not Really.

I will be honest with you, I did not listen to Ms May's speech for the benefit of the British Establishment media today from a two thirds empty SECC in Glasgow, masquerading as a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party conference.

I did see the polar opposite responses to May's speech on social media. On the Yoon side ranging from "she has put the SNP in its proper place" to the increasingly crude "Sturgeon is flattened" (it was an 'f' word, maybe not flattened) while the Yes side varied from "May has cut her own throat" to variants of "May is flattened" (see "Sturgeon is flattened"). So toys have been thrown out the pram on both sides, hyperbole hyperventillated, angst aired, hatred hooted and any other similar alliterations you feel like making up for yourselves.

The reality is nothing has changed much, no matter what the media say. May has simply peddled the same core points which leaves her sounding shrill, panicked by simply saying what she has been saying for weeks; Scotland does not count and should just do what it is told to do by London. Scotland can not have different view from England because it threatens "Great Britain and the great British exit" along with all the capital gains to be accrued by Tory backers as a result of the economic fall out from Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon has made clear, again, if the UK Government is not willing to seek a solution which allows Scotland to stay in the EU, as part of its Brexit negotiations, then she will activate the Scottish Government's manifesto promise to hold a referendum so the sovereign people of Scotland can decide whether Scotland stays in the UK Parliamentary Union or in the EU, as it is increasingly clear Scotland can only remain in one or the other.

Outside of the media 'yah-boo arena' in both mainstream and social versions, nothing has changed. Neither side of this constitutional argument has struck a telling blow, no matter the fluff and flounce you will read and hear this weekend, all that is happened is the lines in the sand have been even more definitively marked.

What is surprising is the biggest guns on the UK side are firing the same anti-SNP munitions as they did in 2014 and yet the camapign is no where near starting. It is a bit like a military commander in a defensive position firing all his weapons at an attacker who is unlikely to make any attack for weeks, simply to demonstrate he is serious, while giving away all his major dispositions. It makes no real sense and suggests the UK Union's defence is already fairly thread bare if their biggest weapon is to claim the Yes side are 'racists'. A line which has been trotted out a number of times this week to ever increasing disbelief, even within elements of the British Establishment media, and ever increasing derision across Scotland.

On Thursday Ms Sturgeon came close to losing it with Scotland's political answer to Cinderella's Ugly Sisters (pc, feminist hair triggers; remember in the original fairy story the sisters are decribed as 'ugly' for their moral rather than physical demeanour) with her "Buy one, get one free" jibe as the gruesome twosome spun either the "How Now Brown Vow" re run or "The SNP has no mandate for an independence referendum" load of old rubbish.

While the main contestants circle each other in the pre-fight breifing, growling and threatening the worst, nothing can or will happen until Ms May gives notice to the EU, firing the Article 50 gun. Until then we are stuck in a period of phoney war, unsettling because we are certain this political war will go hot by the end of March 2017, unless Ms May blinks and steps back from the brink, an outcome for which you will get very long odds at the "Bookies".

So let us stay calm, not get exercised about what Ms May did or did not say today and leave the Yoons to carry on panicking and hollering, in the process wearing both themselves and their supporters down. All before the UK Government have to start fighting with both the EU and the Yes movement in Scotland simultaneously.