By Paul T Kavanagh
Ever since the independence referendum was announced, Scotland has witnessed a gradual deterioration in the standard of debate, with scaremongering in place of reason and myth masquerading as truth.
This has left many Scots bewildered, and sadly, hopelessly misinformed.
As an antidote to the very many claims put forward by those who would oppose Scotland and her people taking back all of the powers currently reserved to Westminster, Paul T Kavanagh has compiled a humorous but informative A to Z that debunks many of the wild assertions that have made their way into the ‘Great Debate’.
The list is updated periodically and checked for accuracy. We hope it both educates and entertains.
Non-commercial use of this article is positively encouraged. Feel free to copy, quote or share.
Racism: The SNP is just a neo-fascist tartan version of the BNP.
Redistributive union: If we believe in the idea of Scotland as a progressive beacon, why would we turn our back on the redistributive union, the United Kingdom?
Rennie’s Riddle: If 51% vote for independence, but 99% vote for extra powers, independence wouldn’t be the choice of the largest number of people.
Royal Bank of Scotland: The cost of bailing out RBS would have bankrupted an independent Scotland.
Separation: Nationalists want separation.
NEW Terrorism: An independent Scotland would be a terrorist threat.
Togetherness: We’re stronger together than we are apart.
Travel abroad: Independence would prevent Scots from travelling safely in foreign countries.
Trident: Scotland would have to pay for the removal of Trident and the cost of a new base in the rump-UK.
UN Security Council: The UK will lose its seat on the UN Security Council.
Unanswered questions: Too many unanswered questions remain about independence.
The Stewart Lee argument, the rightful role of Scotland is to act as an airbag to help protect non-Tory voters in England from the car crash of the Conservatives. For Scotland it’s a bit like being asked to be a fireman who’s constantly called upon to put out the flames in an arsonist’s house. Even if every single Scot voted Labour, we still couldn’t prevent people in Buckinghamshire from playing with matches. We tried that all the way through the 80s, and a fat lot of good it did anyone then, it was arson a go-go with Maggie Thatcher.
Under the FPTP system beloved by Westminster, Labour, the supposed alternative which is meant to protect us against the Tories, finds that the only way it can get elected is to offer Daily Mail readers free matches and a bonus can of petrol. After 18 years of Thatcher and Major, we got Tony Blair with his American zippo lighter that left Iraq in flames. Tories whatever way you look at it.
However Scotland votes, the electorate in England will still have their Tory car-crashes and a pyromaniac Labour party. Scotland’s chances of getting the government we want get exploded like an airbag across Stewart Lee’s mug. The best way for Scots to help our anti-Tory English friends is to offer them a concrete example of social-democratic government in action. We can only do that with independence.
Alex Salmond: Alex Salmond stirs up divisions.
I’m sure he has his moments, it’s only human to occasionally imagine seeing those who annoy you deep-fried in lard and served up on a platter along with a Mars Bar, and His Eckness has been the object of a concerted campaign of vilification in the Unionist media. But Alex Salmond is not personally responsible for the desire for Scottish independence. This isn’t his show, this show belongs to 5 million of us. Alex Salmond didn’t get to become First Minister of a majority administration because he voted for himself.
The focus on Alex Salmond is insulting to the intelligence of the Scottish electorate. The implication is that we’re too stupid to realise we’re being taken in by a snake-oil salesman. However Scots have already realised we’ve been taken in by snake-oil salesmen – the problem for the Unionist case is that they’re all in the Westminster parties.
The granddaddy of Unionist myths. It’s rather like claiming that the anti-racism movement is motived solely by hatred of white people, women only want equality because they hate men, or gay people only want to get married because they hate Catholics.
This debate is about government and whether Scotland’s interests are served by a parliamentary union which denies Scotland basic democratic control of many aspects of the administration of our country. It’s not about England and the English at all.
There are legitimate, and serious, questions of democratic representation in Scotland under the Union. Although this concept may be difficult for Daily Telegraph readers to grasp, the desire for Scottish self-determination is not about England and the English. Shocking but true. England is not the centre of the Scottish universe, that would be Scotland. Perhaps that’s what they’re really objecting to.
Some would argue not getting the BBC is a good thing. There’s only so much Strictly Come Celebrity Weakest Link the human mind can take. With independence, there’s at least a slight possibility we’d get celebrities we’d actually heard of. And then there’s Jeremy Clarkson, who’s a whole argument for independence all by himself.
Scotland contributes an annual total of approximately £230 million in licence fees to the BBC. Yet BBC Scotland has an annual budget of £120 million, an amount which is being cut. Scotland has 8.6% of the UK population but only receives 3.7 % of the BBC’s programme making expenditure. (See here.) In addition, the BBC makes money from selling programmes to other broadcasters.
After independence Scotland would get its own national TV network. Assuming the licence fee system remained in place, the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation would have double the budget currently received by BBC Scotland. Scotland would also be in a position to sell its programming to other broadcasters and retain the revenues. This would allow the ‘SBC’ to buy in all those BBC programmes we actually like. Dr Who and David Attenborough being cuddled by gorillas would be safe for the nation.
But if you really can’t live without Nicholas Witchell on the 6 O’Clock news gushing on about how maaarvellous Charles and Camilla are, just do what they do in the Republic of Ireland. Those within range simply get an additional antenna and point it at the nearest UK transmitter to receive the full Freeview package. Those outside that range get a satellite dish. Sky viewers in Ireland get the full BBC output. If you prefer not to give any money to Rupert Murdoch, and who could blame you for that, with a generic satellite decoder you can pick up all the free to air broadcasts, including all the main UK channels. You’d also be able to watch Downtown bleedin Abbey even when STV shows something else. And you’d not have to pay a licence fee to the BBC for the privilege either. Of course people would laugh and point fingers at you for wanting to watch Nicholas Witchell, but that happens now anyway.
Benefits: An independent Scotland couldn’t afford to pay the bill for everyone on benefits.
This myth was put about by leader of the Scottish Tories, Ruth Davidson the Action Krankie. Her great strengths are abseiling, kick-boxing and making a face like a lemon whenever anyone mentions “independence” or “Tory irrelevance”. Ruth is deeply concerned about the ability of an independent Scotland to pay its welfare benefits bill, because after independence she’ll be unemployable.
Ruth said that the amount Scotland spends on welfare benefits is greater than the amount we receive in taxation from North Sea Oil. So we wouldn’t be able to afford bus passes and old age pensions.
Ruth can tie ropes together, but either she struggles to cope with joined up thinking or she imagines Scottish voters do. Her statement rests upon the bizarre notion that no one in the country pays any taxes at all and we have no industries, economic activity or employment, except the oil.
The whisky industry alone contributes £800 million annually to the Scottish economy, then there’s tourism, manufacturing, the financial sector, and all the other jobs that have so far managed to avoid the swingeing cuts being imposed by Westminster.
So as you get up out of bed to go to work of a morning, remember that Ruth thinks you don’t have a job at all. Since her own job as leader of a non-existent party is pretty much a non-job, it’s easy to see why she’s confused.
Course the reason that Scotland has a high benefits bill in the first place is because of Westminster economic policies that see fit to dump thousands of Scots on the scrapheap of unemployment. Ruth’s party wants to reduce the benefits bill by forcing people with terminal cancer to go on work experience interviews, where they’ll be told to inform potential employers there’s no problem with a short-term contract. The Tories also intend to force unemployed people work for free for private companies even though slavery is illegal. Ruth forgot to mention those bits.
Scotland receives less from the Union than it contributes, according to the UK government’s own figures: see Subsidies. We more than pay our own way already, we more than pay for the benefits received by inhabitants of Scotland. According to the most recent Government Expenditure and Revenues Statistics (GERS), the annual benefit bill is a lower proportion of Scottish revenue than it is across the UK as a whole. All benefits paid out in Scotland total 40% of all revenues collected from Scotland. Across the UK as a whole, the benefits bill makes up 42% of all expenditure. This means that Scotland can more easily afford to pay decent benefits to its citizens than the UK as a whole is able to. We don’t depend on Westminster to foot our unemployment bill, we only depend on Westminster to create mass unemployment in the first place. That’s something Tories have historically been quite good at.
It needs to be pointed out that in the GERS figures a notional share of expenses for “UK national expenditure” is allocated to Scotland even though these monies are not spent in Scotland. The London Olympics and the high speed railway between London and Birmingham are deemed to be “national expenditure”. Scotland is also allocated a share of the cost of Trident and an overblown defence budget which is wasted on aircraft carriers without planes and the cancellation of Nimrod after spending billions on the project. The GERS figures don’t represent the government expenditure of an independent Scotland accurately, they portray a worst case Westminster scenario. In reality we’d be considerably better off.
After independence we’d have more to spend on state pensions if we choose, not less. We would not have to force terminal cancer patients to go on job training schemes either. We could afford these things because we would no longer be paying for Westminster politicians’ egos and their desire to strut their funky stuff on the stage of world politics doing Tarzan impressions like the Action Krankie swinging from a Trident. (See: Defence)
Sometime in the future, there will be a ceremony to award a bunch of red white and blue sour grapes to the most outrageous and ridiculous scare threat made by Unionists during the independence campaign. Peter Fraser, former Conservative Solictor General and latterly Lord Advocate, has already made his bid for the prize.
In March 2012, Pete claimed that England could be forced to bomb Scottish airports after independence. According to Pete, who was sober at the time, Scotland would be undefended and Glasgow airport would be taken over by evil-doers who’d use it to launch air strikes on England. In order to defend itself, Westminster would be forced to order bombing raids to flatten the Paisley area. Apparently he was being serious, although there were those who believed Pete had been taking lessons on guerrilla comedy from Ali G.
Pete thinks that an independent Scotland would have no defences at all. In fact this is pretty much the situation we find ourselves in under the Union. In December 2011, storms forced a Russian fleet to take shelter in the Moray Firth. In a country with normal defences, naval vessels would have been ordered to shadow the Russkies immediately, but because Scotland has no navy, a ship had to be sent from Portsmouth, leading to a delay of over 24 hours.
Scotland has one of the longest coastlines in Europe, yet due to Westminster defence cuts our sole naval capacity – apart from the UK’s nuclear subs and their attendant protection – consists of two tiny patrol boats and an inflatable crocodile. Scotland has no long range marine surveillance capability, no naval helicopters, no maritime electronic intelligence operations, no means to screen for undersea threats and no way to conduct long range search and rescue operations. We are already undefended, thanks to Westminster.
With independence, Scotland would control its own defence. The money we send to Westminster, where it’s squandered on expensive toys that don’t work, aircraft carriers without aircraft to put on them, unusable weapons of mass destruction, and foreign wars that serve no purpose, would be spent on giving Scotland a modern defence capacity appropriate to the needs of a small northern European nation. (See Defence) Denmark, Norway, and Sweden all manage just fine without being taken over by evil baddies who want to launch airstrikes on neighbouring countries. Scotland would do just fine too, and England has nothing to worry about.
Mind you, it’s quite possible that Westminster would order a bombing raid because it is inhabited by mental giants like Pete who confuse Balerno with Baghdad. But this being the case it’s even more likely that they’d bomb Middlesborough by mistake.
Border controls: There would be border controls and we’d need passports to visit Newcastle.
The anti-independence parties want us to believe there would be an electrified fence, a moat and magic towers with long-haired princesses guarded by a dragons all along the border. Sadly for those of us for whom being strip-searched by big burly men sounds like ideal Saturday night entertainment, this is untrue.
There are no passport controls between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Neither are there passport controls between the UK and the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are not only outside the UK, they’re not even a part of the EU.
The anti-independence parties claim that Scotland would be forced to join the Schengen free travel area after independence, meaning we’d be able to visit Paris and Lisbon without passports, but we’d need a passport to go to the Metro Centre in Newcastle for a Saturday shopping trip.
Membership of the Schengen area is not a precondition of EU membership. Romania and Bulgaria are EU members, but are not members of Schengen. Since Scotland’s only land frontier with the EU is our border with England, part of the British Isles Common Travel Area, we’d continue to remain a part of the existing Common Travel Area.
But if you do fancy being strip-searched by big burly men, well there are nightclubs for that sort of thing.
The short answer to this one is: “No, there won’t” accompanied by a sigh and rolling the eyes. Unlike many nations which don’t have independence, the territorial extent of Scotland is not a matter of dispute. Scotland is the territory to which Scots Law applies, and it’s marked on every map.
Another clue is on every road into the country, where there’s a big sign saying “Welcome to Scotland / Fàilte gu Alba”, with the obligatory gaggle of tourists legs akimbo so they’re in two countries at once, getting a photie taken to show to Auntie Yoko in Kyoto. They can do that because everyone knows exactly where the border lies. Even Auntie Yoko in Kyoto knows.
Scotland is considerably more fortunate than many nations without a state. Basque and Catalan nationalists have the problem that the lands inhabited by Basques and Catalans are divided into a number of regions spread across parts of Spain and France, and even a town in Sardinia in the case of Catalan speakers.
There are no territories or regions outside Scotland which are inhabited by people who regard themselves as Scots and which Scots claim to be a part of Scotland. Many people in Northern Ireland claim Scottish heritage, just as many in Scotland claim Irish heritage, but Scots don’t claim Belfast is a part of Scotland any more than Irish people claim that Glasgow is really a part of Ireland.
The Isle of Man and some parts of northern England used to be Scottish. But “used to be” isn’t the same as “is”. Baldy men used to have hair, as I know from sad personal experience, but no one would say I’m hairy.
There is the matter of Berwick. The truth is that for most people – that would be just about everyone outside of Berwick – the matter of Berwick doesn’t matter that much. It’s ancient history, and no one wants to revisit the 15th century, except David Starkey and he’s only interested in England anyway.
Gibson’s Law, if a Unionist mentions Braveheart in a discussion about Scottish independence, they’ve already lost the argument and you are at liberty to guffaw at such braying nonsense. But for some it’s far more comforting to imagine that Scots are so gullible and easily led that we only want independence because of a Holywood movie that involved lots of people getting stabbed. The same sort of people usually believe that Scots are especially keen on stabbing, so there’s a kind of poetic circularity to it all.
But back in the land of the grown-ups, a Unionist who goes on about Braveheart is behaving like a talking donkey, because they saw one in Shrek.
According to Labour leader Ed Miliband in a speech made in London in June 2012, Scots will lose any sense of a British identity after independence. Ed made these remarks during a speech in June 2012 when he also confessed to resembling plasticene man Wallace of Wallace and Grommit. Ed got it 50% right, he was spot on about Wallace, but sadly wide of the mark in in comments about the Scots and identity. Perhaps it was because instead of the faithful and resourceful Grommit at his side, Ed’s got Johann Lamont. Johann is unclear on the difference between Scottish independence and the Curse of the Wererabbit.
After independence, Scots will transform into 15 foot tall bunnies who steal vegetables. Ed believes the Caledonian Werebunnies will prevent the village of Middle Englandshire-on-Acid from punching above its weight and winning the prize for the largest parsnip that’s shaped like something rude. Apparently this is a terribly un-British thing to do and Scots will never be welcome at the village fete again. So that’s us telt.
Many Scots will react with a shrug to Ed’s claim that it’s only the political union of parliaments which creates a sense of Britishness. A growing number of Scots don’t feel British at all. Most of the rest report feeling more Scottish than British, and for many of these people a British identity is rather like a Latin identity, only with embarrassing self-consciousness when doing the samba. Others say that Britishness should be like feeling Scandinavian
Ed displayed that fine grasp of political history possessed by policy wonks with a politics degree from Oxbridge. He got his history sadly wrong, and while history is done and dusted, in this case history disproves Ed’s assertion. ‘Britishness’ was invented as a marketing ploy by the Scottish king James VI, after he inherited the English throne in 1603. Jaimie decided that instead of being Jaimie the Saxt King o Scots and James I King of England, which didn’t look nice on letterheadings, he’d be King of Great Britain, which was a whole lot shorter plus he got to design a new flag, thus creating endless opportunities for the manufacturers of commemorative tea-towels and ornamental bric-a-brac. All this was 104 years before anyone thought about a Union of Parliaments, that didn’t happen until 1707.
The referendum debate is a debate about the 1707 Union. The Union of 1603 will remain intact. Scots who feel that Britishness is a part of their identity can continue to feel so after independence. Your personal feelings are not for politicians to decide.
Ed’s assertion that British identity depends upon Westminster may also come as something of a surprise to the inhabitants of the Isle and Man and the Channel Islands. The islands are Crown Dependencies, and although British are entirely self-governing. The make their own laws, raise their own taxes, and have their own parliaments. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not even a part of the EU. Despite this, the islanders maintain that Britishness is an important part of their identity.
Ed’s remark that only Westminster can allow people to develop a particular personal identity is an example of that same arrogant presumption which allows Westminster politicians to solemnly inform us that our English and Welsh friends and relatives will become foreigners to us if Scotland votes for independence. It takes some gall for anyone to assert that they can decide for us how close we feel to our own families and friends.
Westminster politicians are further up themselves than Jedward’s hair, and display about the same amount of talent. They’re so up themselves that they actually believe they have the power to wave a magic wand and determine how us common folk think and feel. No wonder Westminster has been described as Hogwarts on steroids, but the only similarity between the two is that their magic powers of mind control are equally fictional.
This is the UKIP argument, but it’s often repeated by europhobic Conservatives. Anyone who believes that Brussels would exert greater control over an independent Scotland than Westminster currently does also believes that a person who joins a a darts club loses more personal autonomy than a granny whose arm was twisted into giving power of attorney to an avaricious relative who proceeded to raid the bank account and flog off the family inheritance before putting arsenic in her Ovaltine. The only difference between Scotland under Westminster and a whodunnit is that we already know whodunnit. We don’t need Hercule Poirot to tell us it was Westminster.
Brussels does not collect all UK taxation and then decide how much it’s going to give back. Westminster does that to Scotland. Brussels doesn’t even set the rate of VAT, Westminster does that. Brussels doesn’t have the power to insist we keep nuclear warheads on the Clyde. Westminster does that. We wouldn’t have had to ask Brussels for permission to regulate our broadcasters, but we had to ask Westminster’s permission to set up a Gaelic language TV channel, because Conservative MPs from Surrey need to be consulted before punters in Portree can watch Gaelic soaps. Brussels wouldn’t have been able to commit a Scottish defence force to the invasion of Iraq, but Westminster tells us what countries we’ll go to war with. Brussels doesn’t have the power to tell us how much the state pension for the elderly would be or what administrative hoops disabled people have to go through in order to get benefits, only Westminster does.
If the UK decided to hold a referendum on leaving the EU, there would be an outcry if Brussels decided it would determine the timing and question of the vote, yet that’s what Westminster wants to do in Scotland. Eurosceptics say within the EU we’re dictacted to by an undemocratic superstate. Being dictated to by an undemocratic state is a perfect description of the situation of Scotland under the Union.
There’s a scientific maxim, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. It means that if you want prove something that runs entirely counter to common sense and the existing evidence, you need mountains of data and acres of detail. You must supply sufficent evidence in sufficient detail to remove any doubt, and to rule out all other explanations.
So for example if you wanted to prove that George Osborne was really an alien lizard from another planet, you’d have to come up with, at the very least, a video of him changing out of his human skin and gubbing down a guinea pig pasty whole. Mind you, many perfectly sane and reasonable people suspect Osborne is an alien lizard, so perhaps this is a bad example.
The anti-independence campaign would have us believe that Scottish independence is extraordinary, and a bit like claiming that aliens built the pyramids. In fact it’s the other way about, it’s the existence of the Union which is the extraordinary state of affairs. Normal countries govern themselves.
Proof is simple to find. Ask any Norwegian if they would prefer to send representatives to the Swedish parliament and be governed from Stockholm and you’ll get a big fat nej. Ask anyone in Iceland if they would prefer to return to Danish rule, and they’ll snort derisively. Portuguese people do not hanker for the restoration of Lisbon’s brief union with Madrid.
Normal countries don’t send all their tax revenues and income to a parliament in another country, and then get back the loose change that Westminster finds at the back of the sofa, which we’re told is a subsidy. Normal countries, at least democracies, get the government that the majority voted for. Scotland gets the government our neighbours vote for, despite the fact we returned a single solitary Tory MP. Our governmental system is so warped that we have to take David Mundell seriously, even though he’s a representative of a fringe party of a tiny minority. Taking David Mundell seriously is not normal in any universe.
Maintaining this extraordinary, indeed surreal, state of affairs ought to require an extraordinary standard of proof, yet the positive case for the Union is most notable for its absence. Demands from the anti-independence parties for detailed evidence of the advantages of independence are nothing more than a distraction tactic.
Independence supporters have produced acres of detailed evidence supporting Scottish independence from an economic, political, and cultural point of view. The pages of Newsnet, Bella Caledonia, and other online publications are full of thoughtful, reasonable and detailed articles supportive of independence, but little of it gets reported in the mainstream Scottish media. That doesn’t mean there is no positive and detailed case for independence, it just means that the Union gives Scotland a one-sided media that doesn’t want to tell the whole story. And that’s yet another reason for independence.
The Scottish Government proposes that after independence, Scotland would continue to use the Bank of England as its central bank and would negotiate with the rump-UK to form a new sterling area. This would benefit both the rump-UK and Scotland as it would guarantee financial and economic stability for both parties.
Despite its name, the Bank of England is the UK central bank, and as such Scots have a percentage share in it. As an independent nation we would not be without influence in the central bank, as we are shareholders in it and would be party to negotiations to form a new sterling area. At the moment we only have the influence of George Osborne and Danny Alexander, even a minority say in the Bank of England is better than that. But more importantly we’d have full control over our own tax and spending.
Having your own currency is not the definitive mark of an independent nation. Quite a few independent nations manage quite happily with shared a central bank and a shared currency. Apart from the 17 countries in the Eurozone, there are six independent Caribbean states who share the East Caribbean dollar (EC$), which is currently pegged to the US dollar at the fixed rate of US$1 to EC$2.70. The British territories of Anguilla and Montserrat also use the East Caribbean dollar. All eight share a single central bank. In Africa, eight nations share the West African franc and a single central bank located in Senegal. Another six African nations share the Central African franc and a single central bank located in Cameroun. Four southern African nations, South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho, share the rand as common currency.
The key is sovereignty, not an independent currency or an independent central bank. The point is that all the independent nations who share currencies have the right to decide for themselves whether to continue with the shared currency or to leave it. They can remain with a shared central bank or they can set up their own if the shared bank no longer suits. They can make these decisions based upon their own economic and political needs. Scotland does not currently have any choice, we’re stuck with Westminster’s policies whatever our needs may be. With independence, we’d have the choice.
Continental shelf: If Westminster retains control of Shetland, Orkney and Rockall, Scotland will have no oil resources.
If Scotland becomes independent Westminster won’t be able to hang on to Shetland, Orkney, Rockall or any other part of Scotland (see: Shetland and Orkney).
However, even under the hypothetical circumstance that this occurred, Westminster wouldn’t be able to retain control of the oil fields anyway, so ya boo sux. These matters are regulated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which the UK is a signatory. International law specifies that a state controls the continental shelf and associated mineral and fishing rights up to 200 nautical miles (230 miles or 370 km) off its shores. When another state possesses an island within the continental shelf of this state, special rules apply.
The continental shelf off the Atlantic coast is Scotland’s to exploit and develop, even if Westminster clung on to Rockall like a plook on the face of an adolescent sociopath. According to the Law of the Sea: “rocks which could not sustain human habitation or economic life of their own would have no economic zone or continental shelf.” Westminster could pauchle its way to keeping Rockall, but as far as oil and fishing exploitation rights are concerned, they’d be entitled to rockall.
Neither would Westminster gain much by holding onto Shetland and Orkney. When an island belonging to one state sits on the continental shelf of another state, the islands are treated as enclaves. This matter was discussed in detail in a legal paper published by the European Journal of International Law: Prospective Anglo-Scottish Maritime Boundary Revisited
Most of the rights to the continental shelf would remain Scottish, Map 2 on page 29 of the legal paper shows the most likely sea boundaries. Westminster would be entitled only to a small zone around the islands, and the waters between Orkney and Shetland. This area contains no oil fields. If Shetland and Orkney were to remain under Westminster’s control, Shetland would no longer have an oil fund. The map is reproduced here, so you can do a reverse Jeremy Paxman and sneer derisively at Westminster’s pretensions.
Westminster’s Shetland threat is a bluff. Westminster knows it’s a bluff. They just don’t want us to know too.
This scare story is based upon a single article in the Financial Times. It’s all based on the unresearched opinion of a single guy in a trading room somewhere in the City of London, that noted hotbed of pro-Scottish independence sentiment. It was a guess, as was reported in the original report in the Financial Times. We could just as legitimately “guess” that Scotland would have a secure AAA rating but what’s left of the UK would be downgraded to a ZZZ. Zzzz is the best response to these scare stories.
Credit ratings are based upon the market’s assessment of whether creditors are likely to get their dosh back if they lend it to a government. There are many countries of Scotland’s size which have a triple A credit rating, most of which are not blessed with Scotland’s embarrassing abundance of natural resources, a healthy tourism industry, the whisky trade, an English speaking populace with easy access to European markets, and a budget surplus over the past five or six years – despite the financial crisis.
The recent news that the UK and the Bank of England have been put on a negative outlook by the credit ratings agency Moody’s shows that the much prized AAA rating is by no means secure within the UK.
Cybernats: There’s a concerted and organised campaign of vitriol and hatred from cybernats.
There is no organised campaign from “cybernats”. It’s just that there are thousands of individuals who feel strongly enough about independence that they take it upon themselves to comment online, to share information on FaceBook and to Twitter their way to Scottish independence. We don’t get paid, we’re not party hacks, and no one is orchestrating us. We are a cloud of Scottish midgies, devouring Unionist arguments.
The anti-independence parties have to discredit these private individuals any way they can, because there is no similar mass outbreak of pro-Union sentiment. It gives the lie to their claim that most Scots resolutely oppose independence. If that were true, then where are all the Cyberunionists? The fact is that most Scots who claim to support the Union really don’t feel that strongly about it, and that in turn means they’re open to persuasion.
Instead the Unionists have to cherry pick the ravings of a tiny and extreme minority, the kind you find in any unorganised mass movement, and use them to attempt to discredit the vast majority who argue for independence with logic, facts, reason and wit. It’s a Unionist distraction from the fact they have no arguments of their own.
Some people dislike the term cybernat, considering it a term of abuse. But let’s adopt the Gaelic strategy with this word, let’s take it from the Unionists and use it against them. The name Gael, from Gaelic Gàidheal, wasn’t originally a Gaelic word. It comes from the Brittonic language of the Romano-Britons, who regarded themselves as civilised Romans with a taste for Italian stuff, like pizzas that aren’t deep fried and wine that wasn’t made in Buckfast Abbey. They looked down upon their Celtic cousins beyond the borders of the Empire, who scoffed at olive oil and thought low-fat milk was blasphemy. The Romano-Britons called their neighbours Goidel, a word meaning ‘those of the forest’ or ‘wild’. And the Celts beyond the Empire went “Wild? Naw – livid. We’ll show ye wild.” And they did just that, they started to call themselves Gaels, ganged up with the Picts to end Roman rule in Wales, Cornwall and Northern England, and then founded the Kingdom of Scotland.
Let’s show the Unionists what cybernat means, and make Tam O Shanters out of tinfoil just to annoy them. I’m a cybernat, and so’s ma dug.
Scotland wasn’t bankrupt in 1707. But even if it was, so what? Norway was a basket case in 1707, Finland was a poverty stricken remote forgotten corner of Sweden, and Switzerland was a collection of remote mountain valleys with an economy based on cheese and yodelling. The state of the Scottish economy over 300 years ago isn’t relevant to our economic potential in the 21st century. Bringing up Darien just goes to show that the anti-independence argument is stuck in the 18th century.
Even if this Unionist claim were true, are we supposed to base our decision on the future of our country because of a good turn done to us over 300 years ago? We’ve repaid that debt many times over. But the truth is that Scotland was not bankrupt in 1707, we did not need England to bail us out. They didn’t bail us out, Westminster just bribed some lords, the ‘parcel o rogues’ Burns wrote about.
Scotland in 1707 was doing quite well for itself. According to the historian Michael Lynch, the Scottish economy was growing at 2.5% annually – a rather more impressive figure than we’ve managed these past few years under Westminster. Scotland, like other countries in Western Europe at the time, was beginning to develop a middle class and an urban working class. The towns and burghs of Scotland were cash rich, and were beginning to agitate for greater political power. This went down as well with aristos of Scotland and England as a Craig Whyte and Neil Lennon karaoke double act would go down at Gers fans night out.
The Darien colony was largely bankrolled by Lowland lords. However the idea that Scotland might embark on some colonialist adventurism off its own bat was anathema to Westminster, which believed it had a monopoly on imperialist ambitions. England sided with Spain and blocked Scottish access to all English colonies, as a result the Darien scheme was doomed even before it even got started.
Failure of Darien left the Lowland Lords in financial strife, and they were threatening to default on the bills they owed to their mainly English creditors. With war looming between England and France, Westminster was determined to secure its northern border. The infamous ‘English gold’ was sent north. The money paid by the English Parliament was in the form of bribes to private individuals to vote for Union, it was not a payment to bail out the Scottish national exchequer.
Scotland would inherit her share of the UK national debt. However if Scotland is expected to carry a share of the UK’s liabilities, then she would also be due a share of the assets. Westminster can’t have it both ways, they just want us to think they can.
Scotland owns 8.6% of all UK assets, other than fixed assets located within the territories of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That means that we own over 90% of the oil, because it’s located in Scottish waters. We own 8.6% of all UK embassies, 8.6% of the Falkland Islands, 8.6% of the Bank of England (which despite its name is the UK’s central bank) and 8.6% of the Royal Navy. We also own 8.6% of Jeremy Paxman, but we’re likely to pass on that.
If we were to believe the Westminster parties, after independence the Scottish defence capability would consist of a freefone number and a recorded message saying “We surrender” in six languages. We’d be defenceless against the Faroese hordes invading Muckle Flugga.
There’s a chasm between an independent Scotland’s approach to defence and Westminster’s approach. It’s a conceptual difference Westminster is unable to grasp, and it explains Michael Moore’s recent plaintive whine that an independent Scotland would not be able to go off on its own bat and invade some Middle Eastern country, like that would be a bad thing. An independent Scotland only requires a defence capacity, Westminster requires an attack capacity.
Scotland’s notional share of Westminster’s Department of Offence spending amounts to around £3.5 billion annually. Less than £2 billion of that is actually spent in Scotland. Even if we were to maintain defence spending exactly as it is now, we’d still have an extra £1.5 billion to play with. The savings we’d make by no longer coughing up for Westminster’s pretensions to Great Power status would alone pay for investment in Scottish jobs and industry which would more than compensate for any loss of defence sector jobs.
Jim Murphy claimed recently that the Clyde shipyards depend on the Royal Navy for orders, and after independence “thousands” of jobs would be lost. In fact the main defence employment casualty of independence is likely to be Jim Murphy. Jim’s defence expertise extends to a faultless grasp of the fine military art of camouflage, he makes himself invisible whenever Labour get into a spot of bother in Scotland. According to an independent report by a professionally respected defence analyst, the defence jobs in the Clyde would continue to flourish after independence, and in fact could do rather better than they do just now.
Not if David Cameron gets his way you won’t. The Tories have described the discredited Scotland Bill as a “line in the sand”. Cameron says separate tax and benefit powers for Holyrood are “incompatible” with remaining in the UK. Since it’s quite likely the Tories will form a majority administration after the next Westminster General Election, they’ll abolish the Barnett Formula, imposing swingeing cuts on Scottish public services, and neuter the Scottish Parliament so it can’t ever give them the heebee-jeebees about independence ever again.
The Lib Dems have been supporters of a federal UK for about 100 years. They’re still nowhere near coming up with firm proposals. Menzies Campbell was an Olympic sprinter, but he can only write really slowly. Promises from the Lib Dems have as much credence as the promise of an alcoholic never to drink again which lasts as long as it takes him to persuade you to lend him a tenner.
Labour says that they’re open to discussing extra powers for the Scottish Parliament, but only after there’s a no vote against independence, when there won’t be any pressure on them to pay Scotland heed. Remember that Scottish Home Rule was Labour policy for the best part of 100 years, but it took the threat of independence for them to act on it. Without the threat of independence hanging over them, it will take them another 100 years to get around to granting Scotland more powers. As always, Labour promises jam tomorrow, but they can’t even tell us what flavour it will be. Let’s give them a raspberry.
“What do we want?” “Constitutional tinkering!” “When do we want it?” “When Westminster decides to give it to us!” Not really convincing as a slogan for the No camp, is it?
According to the Unionists, after independence the Lowlands would invade the Highlands, the gulls on Rockall would secede because they’re not on speaking terms with the terns on St Kilda, Glesca would demand a skwerr go with Embra behind the bikesheds after school, and Airdrie would build a wall to keep out Coatbrig. It’s only thanks to those nice people in Westminster that we’re forced to behave like grown-ups.
The truth is that all countries contain regional and other divisions, Scotland is no different. It’s these differences which give us a vibrant national culture. But under the Union all of Scotland’s rich and varied traditions, and our different regional needs, get lumped together as the Jockoland Safari Park where posh blokes from the Home Counties go to blow the buggery out of wee birds every August. Apparently they go shooting as well.
Independence is the only way to ensure that the regions of Scotland get a voice in government that counts. And we might even get that bloody A9 upgraded at last, since it will become a major national trunk route and not just a caravan trail for tourists.
We already own just under 9% of existing UK embassies and contribute the same percentage to the wages of British diplomats. If the rump-UK wishes to act like a toddler who’s never learned to share and retain them solely for itself, it will have to pay Scotland compensation. Alternatively we can all act like grown ups and share embassy facilities.
Embassy sharing between friendly nations is not new. Recently the Visegrad group of nations, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, announced plans to share embassies in Africa, Asia and the Americas, and to share consulates in former Soviet states, in order to save costs and boost efficiency. This allows the four countries to maintain a diplomatic presence in more states than they otherwise might.
In either event none of this is going to cost us any more than it currently does. And Scotland will possess the immense advantage of having its own direct representation with foreign governments instead of having Conservatives like David Cameron telling other countries what Scottish people think.
This all hinges on whether Scotland would be considered a successor state to the UK, or whether it would be considered an entirely new state. Would Germany, which imports much of its oil from Scotland, want to ensure Scotland remained a part of the EU? Or would Merkell and Sarkozy go along with Davie Cameron, who royally pisses them off and brings nothing to Europe except an Etonian sense of entitlement?
Let’s assume that the EU decides to support Westminster in its epic sulk, and demands that Scotland reapply to join the EU but England-Wales-Northern Ireland remained a member. This would mean that Scotland is considered an entirely new state. In that circumstance, international law is very clear that Scotland would not be bound by any of the obligations of the UK. Amongst other things, that means that Scotland would not be required to take on a single penny of UK national debt. UK national debt is a UK obligation. The UK ruined the banks, so the UK can pay for it.
It’s very much in Westminster’s interests to ensure that Scotland is treated as a joint successor state and that Scotland remains a member of the EU, otherwise we get to walk off Scot-free and without any national debt at all. We could leave that mess to Westminster to sort out, and begin independent life as an energy rich debt-free nation. In that fortunate financial circumstance, surviving a couple of years as we apply for EU membership may well be worth it.
Another reason Westminster is blustering on this issue is that the UK was formed by the Union of Scotland and England in 1707. The state formed by that Union signed the EU membership treaties. When Scotland becomes independent, then the UK ceases to exist, and England-Wales-Northern-Ireland are in exactly the same legal situation as Scotland, because the state comprising England Wales and Northern Ireland didn’t sign the EU accession treaties either. This is the opinion of a former Labour Lord Chancellor, who was asked about it by no less a person than Norman On Yer Bike Tebbit, no fan of Scottish self-determination. Tebbit quoted the unnamed Lord Chancellor as saying: “But what about the new state of England, Northern Ireland and Wales? Would we remain members? After all our new state would not have been a party to the Treaty either.”
This opinion is also shared by EU lawyers. According to a report in the Scotsman, the EU would treat Scotland and the rump-UK equally as successor states. Both would continue as EU members, but would have to renegotiate their terms of membership. That puts Westminster’s precious opt-outs at risk, so you can see why they’re keeching themselves on this issue. The matter would be decided by a majority vote in the EU Council, so no country could veto Scottish membership.
No country can be forced into the euro. The Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, after the euro had been adopted as the common currency of the original 11 members of the Eurozone. The Czechs won’t be bounced into the euro, and have consistently refused to make moves to adopt it.
In January 2012, Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas stated that the country did not require a special opt-out in order to retain the koruna as its currency. Mr Nečas said: “No one can force us into joining the euro … We have a de facto opt-out.” Candidates for euro membership must sign up to ERM II for at least two years before adopting the euro as currency, however it is entirely up to the discretion of each individual member state when to sign up to ERM II and member countries can legitimately delay this indefinitely. But Mr Nečas said all this in Czech, so it wasn’t reported in the Anglocentric Unionist media.
This approach has also been adopted by the government of Sweden which has likewise declined to join the Eurozone but has no negotiated opt-out. Sweden says nej to the euro.
In the normal world, children inherit their parent’s citizenship. If you become a Scottish citizen post-independence, your children would qualify for dual nationality. They’ll get to be Scottish if they want, and citizens of their country of birth and residence. The UK already recognises dual citizenship, that’s not likely to change after Scottish independence – just witness the number of people who qualify for both Irish and British passports.
Your English child will only become an alien to you if you disapprove of the latest boyfriend or girlfriend with an abundance of tattoos and metallic face-furniture and say you’re not going to the wedding. No one else can help you with that.
No, we wouldn’t. Our “freebies” are safe, we’re already paying for them. They are paid for out of the pocket money that Westminster deigns to return to Scotland, which in turn comes out of the revenues Scotland sends to Westminster. We get back less than we give. That’s happening now, under the Union, but because Holyrood has adopted a different set of spending priorities from Westminster, we get our “freebies”. Much the same happens in Wales, where prescriptions are also free. England could have these “freebies” too, but Westminster chooses to spend the cash on other things – like introducing privatisation into the NHS in England.
Currently we’re subject to Westminster’s whims, and should the Tories and their Lib Dem hangers on decide to cut public spending even further, then Scottish public services are at risk too. Scotland will have no say in the matter. Do you trust Davie Cameron with your granny’s bus pass?
After independence, all Scottish revenues would accrue to the Scottish Parliament, which would give them a bigger pot than they currently have. We’ll also have a Parliament that is free to make the spending decisions that the Scottish electorate votes for. Only independence can guarantee our freebies.
This myth is at least as old as the 80 year old Tam Dalyell. We should call it the Lodainn an Iar Question. And like its English namesake, it’s a pile of càc or keech. Gaelic and Scots would almost certainly be recognised as official and national languages of Scotland after independence, but so would English. Absolutely no one is proposing to force English speaking Scots to learn Gaelic or Scots against their will. Although there’s a distinct possibility we’d force former BBC presenters to speak Weegie, just because it would annoy them to have to say “Hullawrerr fae Pacific Quay. An here’s ra weather, it’s pure stoatin doon so it is by ra wey.”
According to a recent public attitudes survey, more people in Scotland were in favour of gay marriage and approved of gay relationships than in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. We are in fact more likely to burst into a chorus of the torch-song drag queen’s all time favourite root vegetable song, A Yam What A Yam, than anywhere else in the UK.
Post independence, Scotland is more likely to end up like Denmark, Finland, or Sweden. We have more in common with those countries than we do with Greece. But for some reason Unionists only like to link Scotland to failure. I wonder why that is? Just how poorly does a political class have to perform in order to believe that the only fair comparison of a country with Scotland’s potential and resources is to compare us with nations on the verge of bankruptcy? Either they’re spectacularly incompetent and feckless, or they think that we are. Gotta be one of the other, and I know which my money is on.
Greece’s problems have been caused by rampant corruption and tax evasion combined with a weak economy. Scottish tax offices are considerably more efficient, and the Scottish economy is much broader based and stronger than Greece’s. Greece maintains a very large defence expenditure, having a recent history of war and invasion and territorial claim and counter claim with all its neighbours. Scotland does not have any territorial disputes. Tourism alone counts for 15% of Greek GDP. Greece receives approximately 19 million visits from tourists every year. Scotland receives a similar number of visits from tourists, yet tourism represents just 3% of the Scottish economy. Scotland is blessed with major fisheries, Greece is beside the almost fished-out Mediterranean. Scotland has a surplus of energy to an almost embarrassing degree, Greece has few indigenous energy sources and imports over 99% of its oil and gas. Since the tides in the Mediterrean are almost non-existent, Greece has no tidal energy potential , and since it’s far from the open ocean, it has limited wind energy potential. Scotland sits beside the Atlantic Ocean and has an estimated one quarter of all the tidal and wind energy potential in the EU. Much of Greece is affected by water shortages, which seriously hamper its agricultural potential, Scotland is famously damp and fertile. Scotland has a multibillion whisky export industry. Greece exports ouzo, which is an acquired taste few outside Greece take the trouble to acquire. I could go on, but you get the drift, and this isn’t an exercise in doing down Greece.
But there is a way we’re just like Greece. Greece is a beautiful country full of potential and a talented populace, but it’s been poorly served by its political class. Scotland has been poorly served by its Unionist political class too. In Greece many public officials receive their jobs due to political interference and personal links to politicians. Corruption involving property deals is rampant. We’ve seen a lot of that under the Union in Labour controlled local authorities in Scotland. Glasgow is the Athens of the North of the 21st century, but not in a good way. Scotland’s cities are already like Greece, only without the nice weather. Independence is the only way we have of escaping Greece’s fate.
The reason the anti-independence parties compare us to Greece is because they behave like Greek politicians.
Scotland was the Vorsprung durch Technik of the Victorian age and the first half of the 20th century. Glasgow wasn’t once known as the “Second City of the Empire” because it specialised in the manufacture of Olympic silver medals. Before the oil was found Scotland was a centre of heavy industry. We were one of the UK’s major industrial and trading powerhouses and exported goods all over the world. That’s where our famed prowess as mechanical wizards came from, and the stereotype it created was so powerful we got lumbered with thon Canadian guy with the appalling accent playing the engineer in Star Trek. Every time Captain Kirk said beam me up Scottie he was reminding us of the economic clout and technological prowess of Scotland.
Even before the oil money started to flow, Scotland more than paid her own way in the UK, as this article from a former senior civil servant makes clear. There were never any Westminster subsidies, Westminster spent on Scotland rather less than it took from us in taxes and said it was doing us a good turn. Meanwhile Scotland was blighted by poverty, poor housing and appalling health, but at least we had jobs.
The discovery of the oil coincided with the death of Scottish heavy industry, the UK government embarked upon a deliberate programme of deindustrialisation. Scotland substituted one means of subsidising the UK economy with another. We continue to subsidise Westminster heavily, but now we’ve got mass unemployment as well. Yippee, it’s a Union benefit. Taking all our money then spending a bit of it on us isn’t a subsidy. We don’t owe any favours to a government that treats us like a cash cow.
Westminster continues to milk Scotland in the most shameless and outrageous ways. The most recent revelation is that Scotland is paying £400 million for the construction of London’s sewage system because it’s being paid for out of UK national reserve funds. That’s our future that Westminster is flushing down a London lavvy. It’s no longer mere hyperbole to say that Westminster expects Scotland to pay for Conservative MPs’ crap, it’s quite literally true in a very real and toilet papery sense. They buy the supersoft quilted three-ply with our money, and we’re left with the shiny hard stuff.
It’s only with independence that Scotland can be the Vorsprung durch Technik of the green energy age. It’s not greed to insist that you won’t be ripped off any more, and it’s certainly not greed to demand that Westminster wipes its own behind and stops expecting Scotland to do it for them.
Just how do you throw away history? Put David Starkey in the bin? That idea does have a certain appeal. But history, there’s a clue in the name, is already in the past. The Union will remain a part of Scotland’s history.
Scotland will continue to make history with England after Scottish independence, but we’ll be making history as equals, and not as a semi-forgotten outpost of the Westminster Parliament. Independence is about the future, not the past.
There’s no reason this should be the case. In May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum on independence from its union with Serbia. 55% voted in favour, and Montenegro formally declared independence the following month. When the Czech Republic and Slovakia decided to dissolve their union as Czechoslovakia in 1992, the bulk of the negotiations were completed within a year. Just as in Scotland, many in the Czech Republic and Slovakia feared considerable economic upheaval, but problems proved to be considerably fewer and more minor than expected.
The Scottish Government believes that independence negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster could be completed within 2 years, which is allows for a pretty leisurely pace and plenty of time for tea breaks, we’ll even supply the shortbread.
Independence is a novel concept for many modern Scots, but over 150 nations have become independent over the course of the past seventy years or so. There is already a road map for independence negotiations, there are international agreements and treaties which inform the process. It’s not a massive leap into the unknown, even though the anti-independence parties would like you to think it is. It’s a bit like being warned against taking a cruise on a liner across the Atlantic in case you’ll be at sea for years before falling off the edge of the world, but that’s the flat-earthers of the anti-independence brigade for you.
This myth gets trotted out as often as often as mentions of the London Olympics on the BBC. In the anti-independence parties’ private universe, Scotland is punching so high above her weight that the country has shot off into space and is currently orbiting around Westminster’s Uranus. Back on planet Earth, the Union makes Scotland absent from the international scene.
No one ever argued that being a member of the Soviet Union allowed Estonia to punch above its weight internationally. During the Cold War, the usual colloquial term for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was “Russia”. Equally, in furren pairts the colloquial name for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is “England”. The usual term in German for Scot literally translates as “I think you’ll find you’re really English”.
Scotland currently has zero international influence. Westminster has international influence. Westminster does not represent Scottish interests – it represents Westminster interests. The only way Scotland will have any international influence at all is for us to take up our own party invites to Norway and Finland’s cheese and home-distilled-rocket-fuel parties, instead of allowing Westminster to represent us.
The evidential basis for this story is ‘something told to me by a guy in the pub’. Davie Cameron, George Osborne and Wee Wullie “I’m steyin wi ma maw” Bain have all spent a lot of time propping up this particular bar recently. But none of them were able to name names, possibly this is because they were just making up any auld keech to scare us into line.
Meanwhile it was reported that Amazon, Samsung, Taqa, Avaloq, FMC Technologies, Aker, Ineos, PetroChina, Dell, Gamesa, BNY Mellon, State Street, Hewlett-Packard and Mitsubishi Powers Systems have all recently announced investment in Scotland, to the tune of £400 million. Additionally a recent report tells us a record £26.4m was invested in new business start-ups and early stage businesses in Scotland in 2011, up over 10% on the previous year. Seems like the business world displays a confidence in the Scottish economy which isn’t shared by a Westminster Parliament which is supposed to be looking after our interests.
This argument applies equally to British nationalism, which Unionists would have us believe is the non-nationalist’s nationalism of choice. If nationalism was indeed so unremittingly evil, then these people ought to be arguing for the abolition of the UK and its merger into a European superstate as a prelude to one world government. In the real world we live in, the ‘nation’ rightly or wrongly is the currency unit of sovereignty. It’s only when Scotland has recovered its sovereignty that we will be able to become truly international and be able to trade on our nationhood.
British nationalism is the nationalism of Empire, of the exploitation and colonialisation of peoples in the Americas, Australasia, Asia and Africa. It’s the nationalism of sooking up to the Pentagon in order to keep the flicker of those imperial dreams alive. British nationalism is the insular nationalism of an island with pretensions to global status.
Scottish nationalism isn’t insular. We have borders and we know how to reach beyond them. Scottish nationalism is the nationalism of loving your country because it’s small and harmless and needs people to look after it. Historically, British nationalism has been the nationalism of a feral pack of scavenging dugs. Scottish nationalism is the nationalism of a cute fluffy puppy. Brit-nats hate it because we keep peeing on the Westminster shag pile.
Even when the Troubles in Northern Ireland were at their worst, the violence did not spread to Scotland. Violence didn’t spread to Scotland even during the height of the Irish independence war, and in the early 20th century sectarianism was a far more powerful social force than it is nowadays. If Irish political violence was going to spread to Scotland, it would have done so already.
The reason for this is that the underlying conditions which created the Troubles in the first place simply do not exist in Scotland. The dispute in Northern Ireland is a disagreement about national identity, nationalists regard themselves as Irish, unionists as British. These two identities correlate closely with family religious background, leading to a volatile sectarian dispute where the two sides use religion as a means of telling one another apart.
However in Scotland, we can agree that everyone is Scottish irrespective of their views on independence versus the Union, and irrespective of their family’s religious background. There is no sectarian dimension to Scottish nationalism, and most importantly, there is no modern history of armed conflict either.
Scotland was not a party to the Good Friday Agreement. That agreement was between the political parties of Northern Ireland, and the governments in Westminster and Dublin. There is no logical reason why Scottish independence should alter the agreement in any way.
However it’s certainly true that Scottish independence would profoundly change the relationships between the nations of the islands of Britain and Ireland. This may lead some Northern Irish Unionists to rethink their loyalties to Westminster, it may not. However those are questions for the people of Northern Ireland, not Scotland.
Intriguingly, the most vociferous claims that after Scottish independence Northern Ireland would descend into violence, dragging Scotland with it, come not from Northern Ireland, but from London based commentators. A particularly egregious example was a recent article in The Week magazine by Crispin Black, entitled “Alex Salmond’s ticking time bomb“, as though the Troubles were his fault somehow. The article is a charmless trot through stereotypes and slurs that the rest of us had last seen smeared on walls in news reports of a 1980’s dirty protest.
Crispie is a former British army intelligence officer who now comments for the UK media as a security specialist and expert on terrorism. He may know a lot about the tactics of roadside bombers, but his grasp of Scottish and Irish politics and history leaves much to be desired. Still, we must take pity on him. “Nation achieving independence entirely peacefully” is precisely the kind of event that puts security and terrorism consultants out of a job.
Oil: The oil is running out and won’t last much longer.
When oil companies are asked to estimate the remaining amount of oil, they become a bit like doctors asked to give a patient’s life-expectancy. If a doctor tells a patient they could live for another 2 years, but then the patient drops dead 6 months later, the doctor will be faced with angry relatives demanding explanations. However if the doctor says the patient has only 3 months left, but the patient dies after 6 months, no one is going to complain about it – except greedy Uncle Dave who’s had his eye on granny’s Clarice Cliff teapot and wants to punt it on Flog It in order to pay his pals in the private companies he’s introducing into the English NHS.
Oil companies under-estimate oil resources, they don’t over-estimate. It’s simple business logic. In addition, there are issues of commercial secrecy, so oil companies are loathe to admit just how much is left. However most available estimates claim that the remaining worth of known oil deposits runs into the trillions of dollars. That’s a lot of Clarice Cliff teapots for Uncle Dave in Westminster, or we could use it to create an oil-fund for Scotland to develop our economy for when the oil runs out.
It’s unclear how long the oil will last for (see Oil) but most projections say that it will continue to generate a significant income for Scotland for a good few decades to come, and possibly 50 years or more. As oil becomes an increasingly scarce resource, its market value will only increase. A 50% drop in oil production doesn’t necessarily translate into a 50% drop in revenue.
Scotland’s oil doesn’t currently pay for Scotland’s public services. Scotland’s oil revenues contribute to government expenditure across the entire UK. All the oil income goes to Westminster, along with all the other tax revenues, and Westminster decides how much pocket money to allow the Scottish Parliament. Westminster makes the decisions on how to spend Scotland’s oil money, but Westminster doesn’t choose to spend it on creating an oil-fund for Scotland, it prefers to pay the costs of privatisations, tax-cuts to the wealthy, London’s sewer and railway upgrades, nuclear warheads, and a host of other things an independent Scotland would neither need nor want.
Only independence can ensure that Scotland’s oil revenues are spent on developing a sustainable and broad economy which will guarantee our living standards in the long term. If we continue to allow Westminster to control the oil cash, it will be spent on “UK national” projects like the four billion quid upgrade to London’s sewer system. Scotland’s future is, quite literally, being flushed away down a Westminster lavvy.
If Scotland does not take the opportunity of independence, then after the oil runs out we really won’t be able to afford to pay for public services, which will be privatised by then. Westminster will have pulled the chain on them.
One party state: Under Alex Salmond and the SNP, Scotland would become a one-party state.
The SNP are a democratic party in a democratic country. They don’t require a lecture in democratic values from Unionist parties which appoint relics, failures and convicted criminals to the House of Lords, where they continue to rule over us as the political undead, like Zombie Drunken Dance Foulkes of Zebedee On Acid, Zombie Count Forsythula of Tory Electoral Wipeout, and Zombie Arsonist Watson of I Really Don’t Like Those Curtains. You can’t kill off a Unionist politician’s career, influence and expenses claims. The SNP refuses to accept seats in the Lords.
The SNP doesn’t need to follow the example of Westminster MPs representing Scottish seats who shamelessly vote on English only matters. Only the Unionist parties do that.
The great geological rift in the Scottish political landscape is the division between independence and Union, the Unionist term for this is “Alex Salmond’s Fault”. After independence the political landscape will alter fundamentally and there will be a major realignment of the tectonic plates.
Independence will enrich Scottish democracy and debate. The Unionist parties will become independent too. They’ll no longer be tied to Westminster’s strings and will be free to develop policies and proposals which appeal to voters in Scotland. They’ll get more votes that way. Labour will no longer have to pitch itself like a dockside hooker to the passing ships of voters in Labour-Tory marginal seats in Daily Mail land, and could actually become a Labour party again. The Tories will develop a centre-right style of Scottish politics and become the You’ll Have Had Your Tea Party. And the Scottish Lib Dems will become whatever it is that Scottish Lib Dems stand for; no one is really sure, least of all the Lib Dems.
The SNP will not be immune to the shifts in the tectonic plates. They’ll have to answer the question “Och that wis rerr … Bit noo whit?” It’s unlikely the party would survive long in its current form, but that’s a question for after independence is achieved.
An independent Scotland will discover the normal left-right politics of a normal European nation, and Johann Lamont will be able to get back to making cases for all those things she keeps saying she’d rather talk about than talk about the constitutional status and avoiding questions on Trident. She’ll have achieved her dream, no one will be discussing Scottish independence. You’d think that could put a smile on her face, but that’s a big ask.
Well yeah, Scotland wouldn’t have any embassies or trade missions would it? We’d not be members of the UN or have passports and Scottish renewal energy technology companies would only be able to sell their turbines to the Isle of Cumbrae community cooncil.
British embassies only promote Scotch whisky, one of our biggest exports, because Scotch whisky companies pay the UK Foreign Office obscene amounts of money in order for them to bring out the Ferrero Rocher. We can reasonably assume that Scottish embassies would promote Scottish business, because that’s what we’d set them up for. We already own 8.6% of all UK embassies anyway, so office space shouldn’t be a problem.
Everyone knows partition ends up in disaster, the famous examples being India, Cyprus and Ireland – all disasters Westminster had a direct hand in creating. But Scotland is not a possession of Westminster for it to dispose of as it sees fit. Westminster doesn’t get to call the shots in Scotland’s independence referendum. Scotland does.
The United Kingdom is not a normal unitary state, it’s a union, the clue is in the name. In this case the union refers to the pooling of sovereignty between Scotland and England (plus England’s associated bits – which would be Wales and Northern Ireland). The United Kingdom consists of two sovereign units. Scottish sovereignty rests with the people of Scotland, we just allow Westminster to exercise it on our behalf. When as a sovereign people we tell Westminster that we’re withdrawing permission, they don’t get to keep the bits of Scotland they’ve taken a fancy to. It would be a bit like cancelling a contract with a cowboy builder after the new roof fell in, only for him to tell us he’s going to keep working on the bedroom extension because he’d not screwed up there.
In 2009 when Montenegro held a referendum on independence from its union with Serbia, 55% voted in favour. In the north of the country there were many towns and districts where a majority of people voted against independence, yet they still became independent along with the rest of Montenegro where a majority voted in favour. The referendum result was accepted internationally. No one supported calls for partition.
In the exact same way that the majority party gets to be the government of the whole country, not just the bits that voted for it, the entire country becomes independent if a majority in the country as a whole vote for it. The unit of sovereignty is the nation. The nation is the whole of Scotland, not bits of it. We’re aw Jock Tamson’s bairns, including those of us who decide to vote no.
If the anti-independence parties had spent a fraction of the time and energy finding a positive case for the Union as they have telling us scare stories about how Scots would all die of the plague the day after independence, we’d probably not be having this debate now. But in reality a positive case for the Union is the biggest myth of all. There’s more evidence for the existence of monsters in lochs than there is for the existence of the positive case for the Union. Photies of nuclear submarines in the Firth of Clyde count as evidence for monsters, in case you were wondering.
All the anti-independence parties have promised that they will make a “positive case” for Scotland remaining under Westminster government. It’s always that they’re “going to” make a positive case for the Union, or that they’re “about to”, or “watch this space it’s coming”, or “those nats better watch out because we’ll be doing it really really soon, honest”. But they never seem to get round to it. They’re too busy making up scare stories to find the time.
The closest we’ve come so far was when Davie Cameron attempted to give what he believed to be a positive case for the Union while on a trip to Embra in February 2012. But as is well known north of the Border, Davie struggles with the Scottish vernacular. When yer average Scottish punter says “positive case for the Union”, what is meant is that Westminster politicians spell out in detail exactly how Scotland benefits from being ruled from the banks of the Thames by a Parliament dominated by Tory MPs.
But what Davie thought the phrase meant was spelling out how Westminster benefits from having control of all of Scotland’s resources and economy. But we all know that already, and it’s because we can see how Westminster benefits at our expense that we want to know what Scotland gets out the deal. Tory Prime Ministers are incapable of articulating that, because there is no positive spin that can be put on the situation.
What is occasionally presented as a positive case for the Union falls into one of three categories: 1. The irrelevant 2. The outright falsehood, and 3. The delusional.
1. Irrelevant: There are legions of examples, like waffle about fighting Hitler together. We didn’t fight Hitler in order to keep George Foulkes and Michael Forsyth in well paid jobs where they can influence legislation despite no one voting for them. Also irrelevant are claims about family and cultural ties – we have those with Ireland too – Irish independence didn’t break them. We don’t need Westminster to tell us who our nearest and dearest are. And Irish people still speak English.
2. The outright falsehood: There are legions of these too. Subsidy junkie myths, alarmist scaremongering about defence, challenging those is what this A-Z is all about.
3. The delusional: Anything uttered by Michael Forsyth.
There’s no sign of a substantive positive case for the Union coming along any time soon, nor indeed, ever coming along at all. Let’s be honest here, if the positive case existed, we’d all know all about it by now. BBC Scotland, the Scotsman et al. would have been sure to mention it, repeatedly. It would in fact be given about as much publicity as the London Olympics.
The silence speaks volumes.
Oh my God! After independence you won’t be able to bid on that mint condition collector’s edition Darth Vader figurine with working light-sabre! You’ll be outbid by that guy from Wolverhampton who beat you on the matching Darth Sith figurine because you’ll no longer be able to afford a possible few pence more on the postage. Let’s just call this whole independence thing off then.
It’s entirely possible that the postal services of Scotland and the rest of the UK will negotiate a postal union after Scottish independence. As the only independent country with which England shares a land border, there’s no reason for postal charges to increase.
But no one knows what’s going to happen to Royal Mail postal charges over the next few years, except it’s a safe bet they’ll go up. They’re likely to go up even more if the Conservatives get their way and privatise it, something which may equally well occur under Labour anyway. In an independent Scotland, the post office will not be privatised. We might not be able to prevent the privatisation of the Royal Mail in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but we can at least prevent it in Scotland.
Plus we’ll get lots of lovely new Scottish stamps and you can collect those instead of Star Wars figurines. They take up less space, and can sit on a bookshelf in an album, which won’t scare off a prospective girlfriend like your life sized model of Chewbacca did.
The pound sterling will remain the currency of an independent Scotland until the Scottish people decide otherwise. The pound is our national currency just as much as it’s the currency of the rest of the UK, and Scotland owns a proportional share of the central bank, the Bank of England, which underwrites that currency. As an independent state, Scotland would have just under 10% of a stake in the Bank of England, and 10% of influence. At the moment any influence Scotland has is exercised by George Osborne. 10% of influence is a damn sight more than the influence we have just now.
In any case there’s no way that Westminster could prevent Scotland from using sterling. It’s a fully tradeable currency, and as such any country could adopt it if it felt like it. However if Westminster did somehow force Scotland out of the pound, they’d wreak havoc on the economy of the rump UK as Scotland would march off with about 10% of the Bank of England’s reserves.
Ireland used the pound sterling as its currency from independence in 1922 until the Republic signed up to the ERM, the precursor to the euro. The Irish punt was worth exactly the same as the pound sterling. It was in fact the pound sterling, only in a prettier wrapping.
Scotland is a rich country, yet many Scottish people are poor. Scotland has a surplus of energy, yet many Scottish people struggle to heat their homes. Scotland produces an educated workforce thanks to our tradition of free education for all, yet Scots are forced to emigrate to find work. Why is that if the Union has been so great for us?
People who say Scotland is too poor are confusing cause and effect. The poverty and social blight which disfigure much of our country is a product of the Union. Under the Union the role of Scotland is to provide raw materials and skilled manpower to bolster the economy of the South East. Scotland must be the only country in the world where emigration is described as a “benefit”.
The Union has had 300 years to tackle these problems, yet inequality is getting worse. Meanwhile the Scottish Parliament is denied the power to do something about these problems itself. Only an independent Scotland can tackle the problems produced by the Union.
If Scotland really was so poor, a basket case dependent on hand outs, then just why is Westminster so desperate to hang on to us? Remember, the words “Tories” and “altruism” only appear in the same sentence when they’re connected by a negative.
The proportion of Scots who work for the public sector is broadly comparable with the proportion in other comparable European nations. It’s actually lower than it is in many countries, and only slightly higher than the figure for the UK as a whole. In the last quarter of 2011 there were 586,600 people employed in the public sector in Scotland out of a total of 2,464,000 people in employment, that’s 23.8% of the workforce, compared to 21% of the workforce of the UK as a whole. Full details are here.
In other countries, a significantly higher percentage of people work in the public sector. They also have much better public services than we do, which is probably not a coincidence. In Sweden 33.87% of workers are public servants. In Denmark the figure is 32.3%, while in Norway 29.25% and Finland 26.31% of employees work for the public sector. (Source) All those countries seem to manage their economies quite successfully, despite being “overburdened” by public sector workers.
Of Scottish public sector workers, 490,400 (19.9% of the total workforce) are employed by bodies devolved to the Scottish Parliament and 96,200 (3.9% of the total workforce) work for departments controlled by Westminster. This is the same as the UK as a whole, according to official statistics 4% of the UK workforce is employed by the UK central government. These figures don’t include members of the armed services, who are counted separately.
So there is no question of Scottish civil servants losing their jobs after independence. Scotland will need staff to fill departments currently controlled by Westminster, but will perhaps not need quite so many staff in some departments currently located in Scotland but dealing with UK-wide matters. These staff can be redeployed. The total number needed across all government departments is approximately the same as already work for the UK central government in Scotland.
In fact the chances are that the new Scottish government would recruit more staff. With independence we can reasonably expect to demand better public services than Westminster would foist upon us, and better public services mean better staffing levels. If Finland, Denmark and Sweden can afford it, there’s no reason we can’t. Unlike Scotland and Norway, they’re not tripping over energy resources.
The Union of Crowns and the Union of Parliaments are two separate issues. This is a debate about the Treaty of Union of 1707, the Union of Parliaments. By 1707 Scotland and England had already shared a monarch for over 100 years. Scottish king Jaimie the Saxt inherited the English throne from his maw’s cousin Liz in 1603. Liz had played happy families with Jaimie’s mammy Mary and had her beheaded. Soap operas have nothing on royals, as the Windsors continue to demonstrate.
The present Queen is head of state of the UK. She’s also head of state of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belize, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent. All are independent states with their own seats in the United Nations. All can decide for themselves whether they want the monarch to remain their head of state. Malta retained the Queen as head of state when it became independent in 1964. It became a republic in 1974. Becoming a republic doesn’t mean leaving the Commonwealth, Malta remains a member.
Scotland will retain the Queen as head of state, and we’ll continue to be viewers of the Windsorenders soap opera until we decide otherwise. One possible scenario is a referendum on what happens when we’re faced with the prospect of King Chairlie and Queen Camilla. That’s a choice you can guarantee that Westminster wouldn’t give us.
This is possibly one of the most evil of the Unionist myths. It’s not only untrue, those who make the slur know it’s untrue. (Ian Davidson MP, we’re looking at you.) The SNP is resolutely opposed to fascism and racism in all its forms, just like the overwhelming majority of Scots. The SNP promotes a civic nationalism which has nothing to do with race, genes, or ethnicity. Scottishness is inclusive not exclusive, it is open to all the inhabitants of Scotland, whatever their ethnic, religious, linguistic or family backgrounds.
I can’t do better than to quote the late Bashir Ahmad of the SNP, Scotland’s first Asian MSP, who said: “It isn’t important where you come from, what matters is where we are going together as a nation.”
Mr Ahmad was born in India, he had no Scottish ancestors. Yet he was 100% Scottish. David Cameron has Scottish ancestry, but he’s not Scottish at all. Scottishness is a state of mind.
Ed Miliband asked that exact question in a speech at Labour’s Scottish conference in March 2012. Ed must be living in a different Unionverse from the rest of us. Under the last Labour government, the gap between rich and poor increased and more children were left living in poverty than when Labour came into power in 1997. The UK now has the fastest growing gap in income between rich and poor of any country in western Europe, thanks to Labour and the Conservatives. According to a study carried out by the OECD, in 1985 the richest 10% had 8 times the income of the poorest 10%. By 2008, under a Labour government, the richest 10% had 12 times the income of the poorest 10%. The OECD said that this growing disparity was due to a trend in labour and social policies that had helped the wealthy. Those were Westminster policies.
Nearly 4 million children are living in poverty in the UK. The proportion of children living in poverty was 10% in 1979, today 30% per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty. The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world. This situation arose under the Conservative and Labour tag-team. It’s not going to get any better. The only way we can protect our children is to ensure that we have a government which puts their welfare first. We can’t do that with Westminster, we can only do it ourselves. Ed Miliband doesn’t want Scotland to have the economic powers that allow our beacon to shine brightly. Under Westminster, Scotland’s progressive beacon is snuffed out.
Scotland continues to have appalling health statistics and in parts of Glasgow men have a shorter life expentancy than men living in the Gaza Strip. We have the scandal of rampant fuel poverty in an energy rich nation. Under the UK governments own figures, Scotland receives less in government expenditure than it pays in taxes. Redistribution is certainly going on, but wealth is not being redistributed to the poor and needy of Scotland.
The United Kingdom is very efficient at redistributing wealth. The problem is it redistributes it to the rich and powerful, and Labour is just as guilty of that as the Tories.
There are no binding referendums in the UK. All referendums are advisory, that’s what the “sovereignty of Parliament” stuff Westminster keeps harping on about means. That doctrine doesn’t apply in Scotland anyway. According to the Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Cooper, passing judgement in a case back in the 1950s: “the principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish Constitutional Law.” Legally, the people of Scotland are sovereign, and we have every right to decide our own future for ourselves. We don’t need Westminster’s permission to make it legal.
Holyrood doesn’t need the permission of Westminster to hold a “legal referendum” any more than a marketing company in Aberdeen requires Westminster’s permission to carry out a survey asking whether we prefer Hellmann’s Mayonnaise to supermarket own brand. It’s not illegal to ask people for their opinion. That’s what this democracy and freedom of speech lark is all about. But perhaps we could be kind to Westminster and rewrite the proposed referendum question so it reads like a marketing questionnaire:
Do you agree that Scotland’s own brand sweet and creamy independence is tastier than Westminster’s (1) invisible carrot (2) flavour austerity jam (3)?
1. Health warning: This product line contains nuts.
2. The manufacturer reserves the right to delay delivery of this item indefinitely.
3. Contents of this product may differ substantially from the packaging.
Politically however, Westminster would be obliged by the results of a referendum on Scottish independence, and that’s the point. If Scotland votes in favour of independence in a ballot conducted according to internationally established norms, Westminster would be bound by it. That’s why they’re desperate to wrest control of the referendum from the Scottish Parliament, because they want to give us another of the referendums they’ve given us in the past, like the 1979 referendum where the votes of the dead counted as a no. The reason they’re complaining so loudly that Holyrood would rig the referendum is because that’s precisely what they’d do themselves. It’s called psychological projection.
This all rests on the bizarre idea that if everything in an independent Scotland went completely pear-shaped, the Westminster parliament would be the people to turn to to sort it out for us. It would be a bit like going back to the cowboy amateur builder who wrecked your house after you ran into problems organising the repairs yourself.
When Ireland ran into financial troubles recently they didn’t say: “Oh let’s ask Westminster to rule us again, because that worked out so well the first time didn’t it?” Icelanders didn’t beg to rejoin Denmark when their banks ran up debts. Both those countries took responsibility for their own problems, and started to work on their own solutions. Both are achieving that pretty well.
But really, this is a version of the “too wee, too poor, too stupid” myth. The underlying assumption is that alone out of the countries on this Earth, Scotland isn’t capable, only Westminster is capable.
Scotland is not uniquely incapable of governing itself. We are not too wee. We have a larger population than the Irish Republic, Norway, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, or Slovenia. We’ve got approximately the same population as Denmark or Finland. In area we’re larger than Slovenia, the Irish Republic, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, or Lithuania. We’re approximately the same size as the Czech Republic or Austria.
And we’re certainly not too poor. According to figures from the OECD, Scotland would be the sixth richest country in the world. Westminster knows that too, and that’s why they’re so keen to hang on to us. They don’t want us for George Foulkes’s and Johann Lamont’s good looks and charming personalities.
However if your views on Scotland come solely from watching Reporting Scotland, you could be forgiven for thinking we’re too stupid. But thankfully we can expect to get proper news on telly after independence.
Wullie’s argument rests upon the dubious notion that independence and extra powers for Holyrood are two incomparable things. That might be true from a Westminster perspective, but from a Scottish perspective what we’re talking about here is the transfer of powers from Westminster to Edinburgh, whether that’s some of Westminster’s powers or all of them. It’s our referendum, so it’s our perspective that counts.
The powers Westminster wields on Scotland’s behalf are a cake. It’s really a Dundee cake although Westminster insists it’s a Victorian imperial sponge. Victorian imperial spongers is a good description of Westminster, so let’s run with it. In a multi-question referendum Scots would be asked whether we want the whole cake – that’s independence, half the cake – that’s extra power for Holyrood, or would we be happy with a few stale crumbs and a glacé cherry. That’s the Scotland Bill.
If 51% say they want the whole cake, we get the whole cake. The fact that 51% have said that in the event a majority doesn’t want the whole cake they’ll accept half a cake instead doesn’t make half a cake the most popular choice. The 48% percent who only want half the cake are out-voted. That’s how democracy works.
99 minus 51 is 48, Wullie. The only riddle here is why anyone takes Wullie Rennie seriously when it’s clear he struggles with simple sums. He couldn’t be trusted to work in a cake shop.
Scottish GDP in 2008 was an estimated £145 billion. The cost to the UK of the RBS / HBOS bail out in 2008 was £88 billion. However the actual Scottish share on a per capita basis was £8.8 billion, and on the debt accrued by the Scottish registered banks which would have been an independent Scotland’s liability is estimated at £2.4 billion. We’d only have had to cough up even that much assuming that Scotland implemented the same slash-and-burn approach to regulation of the financial sector as Westminster.
The Unionists would have us believe that we’d be bankrupted by the price of a £1 bus fare out of a London riot zone, even though we’ve got £75 in our pocket. And we can reasonably hope to get a refund on that bus ticket at some point in the future.
It wasn’t Scotland that allowed bankers to run riot, it was Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Brown and Darling and their ilk are effectively telling us we can’t be independent because they’re so bleedin’ incompetent. But we already know that, which is why we’re not so inclined to vote for them any more.
As Andrew Hughes Hallett. Professor of Economics at St Andrew’s University, put it, speaking on Radio Scotland.
“The real point here, and this is the real point, is by international convention, when banks which operate in more than one country get into these sorts of conditions, the bailout is shared in proportion to the area of activities of those banks, and therefore it’s shared between several countries. In the case of the RBS, I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but roughly speaking 90% of its operations are in England and 10% are in Scotland, the result being, by that convention, therefore, that the rest of the UK would have to carry 90% of the liabilities of the RBS and Scotland 10%. And the precedent for this, if you want to go into the details, are the Fortis Bank and the Dexia Bank, which are two banks which were shared between France, Belgium and the Netherlands, at the same time were bailed out in proportion by France, Belgium and the Netherlands.”
Separation: Nationalists want separation.
Independence is a state of being and a state of mind. Separation is a short process you go through to attain independence. Calling Scottish independence ‘separation’ is a bit like calling a month long holiday in a luxury hotel in a tropical beachside paradise ‘a visit to Glasgow airport’.
In any case, Scotland and England are already separate countries, moreover they are countries which are increasingly distant from one another in their political cultures, which is precisely why we’re having this independence debate.
No he wouldn’t. The UK already allows Commonwealth citizens to serve in the British armed forces. That would continue after Scottish independence, Scotland would be a Commonwealth member. Irish citizens may also join the UK armed forces. According to figures from a couple of years ago, Irish citizens from the Republic make up over 14% of those who join the British Army through recruiting centres in Northern Ireland.
In any case Scotland would be able to offer jobs to Scottish service personnel. Scotland already owns some 9% of all UK defence assets, as UK taxpayers Scots already pay our fair share of defence spending. In fact Scotland is significantly over-charged for defence, as over one third of our contribution to UK defence does not directly benefit Scotland. After independence we’d have a better funded and resourced defence force which is appropriate to our needs, and would be better positioned to offer personnel a fair reward for their service.
After independence, members of the British armed forces who qualify for Scottish citizenship will be offered the choice of joining the new Scottish Defence Force, with pay and conditions equal to or better than those they currently receive, or remaining where they are.
It’s estimated that around 15% of service personnel are Scots, a figure substantially greater than our proportion of the UK population as a whole. The British armed forces are already experiencing difficulties in recruitment, so the very last thing they want would be having to sack 15% of their employees.
Shetland and Orkney: Shetland and Orkney aren’t really Scottish.
Westminster’s interest in self-determination for small islands is directly related to power and money. Westminster wasn’t terribly interested in the right to self determination of the people of the Chagos Islands. The Chagos islanders didn’t have anything Westminster wanted, except their land. The islanders were cleared out of their homes and dumped in slums in Mauritius because the UK decided to give the islands to the USA to use as a naval base.
However all of a sudden the national rights of Shetland and Orkney islanders are of immense concern to our Westminster masters, even though most Conservative MPs believe Up Helly Aa is a sexual practice which is still illegal in most US states. Cannae be anything to do with that oil eh?
Orkney and Shetland became a part of Scotland in 1486 when Christian I, King of Norway and Denmark, pledged them as security against the payment of the dowry of his daughter Margaret, who was betrothed to James III of Scotland. All this happened long before the Scottish Parliament entered its shotgun marriage with Westminster in 1707. If we want to pursue the marriage and divorce metaphor, Orkney and Shetland became Scottish from a previous relationship. When we divorce Westminster, it doesn’t get custody.
Fortunately for Scotland, and the Shetland and Orkney Islands, we are not a colony which Westminster can dispose of at will. Scotland is an equal partner in the Union of Parliaments, and if a majority of Scots decide that Union no longer serves our interests, all of Scotland becomes independent. Westminster doesn’t get to pick and choose the bits it would like to keep.
The independence of any nation is beyond party politics, or at least it ought to be. It’s something that directly concerns us all, including those who are not remotely interested in politics, which is probably most of us.
Independence is a key policy of the SNP, but it’s not solely an SNP policy. Voting for independence doesn’t mean a vote for an SNP Scotland. The Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialists, Solidarity, and the Scottish Democratic Alliance also support independence. Each of these parties has a very different vision of what they want an independent Scotland to be like. And it is widely known amongst politics geeks, who are sort of like celebrity groupies only less attractive, that there are figures within the supposedly Unionist parties who would not be entirely unhappy with Scottish independence.
In the referendum, no one is asking your opinion of the SNP, or of any other party. People shouldn’t vote against independence just because they hate the SNP any more than they should vote in favour just because they hate Labour or the Tories. The question should be answered on its own merits, and the question is whether you want Scotland to retake its place in the family of independent nations, or not.
The referendum is not a question about any single party, we have Westminster General Elections for that. Yet despite regular General Elections, nothing much ever seems to change. If you believe that the political system of the UK is in dire need of change, vote yes. Party politics will continue post-independence, but the parties will be operating within a system controlled by and answerable to the Scottish people, not to the banks of City of London.
The current political debate is about the 1707 Treaty of Union, the Union of Parliaments. The Union of Parliaments is not the only link between Scotland and the other nations of these islands, the term “social union” refers to the fact that these other links would be maintained, even strengthened, by Scottish independence.
We share many family ties and cultural and economic ties with the other countries of this archipelago. I’m an average Scot, I have English and Irish relatives and loved ones. Independence wouldn’t destroy that. Ireland is already independent. I don’t love my Irish nearest and dearest less than I love those who are English. We don’t need Westminster to validate our personal and family relationships, thank you very much. In fact it’s pretty presumptuous and arrogant of Westminster to claim that it does.
The Union of Parliaments distorts the real links Scotland shares with its neighbours and disguises the fact that culturally and socially we don’t have any more in common with England and Wales that we don’t also share with Ireland. Ireland, or at least most of it, has been independent for quite a long time now. The only folk who claim that Irish people are “more foreign” to the Scots than the English or the Welsh probably think 1690 refers to a recent event.
A social union between the nations of these islands means maintaining free travel throughout, and fostering the links between Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland North and South as equal partners. For Scotland and the rump-UK it also means maintaining the pound as a common currency, and keeping the queen as head of state – at least until the Scottish people decide otherwise. Independence means we get to make these choices for ourselves. A social union is a union of equals. A Westminster union is a client-master relationship that belongs to the 18th century.
The official position of the Spanish government was given in January 2012 by José García-Margall, the Spanish Foreign Secretary. Asked about reports in the UK press that Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU, Mr García-Margall replied that the reports were falso; that’s Spanish for ‘bollox’. Mr García-Margall went on to explain that in the view of the Spanish government, the question of Scottish independence has ningun paralelismo to the Spanish situation; that’s Spanish for ‘it’s nuhin like Spain, ya clown’.
Spanish opposition to Catalan and Basque independence is based on a clause in the Spanish constitution which refers to Spain as one indivisible nation. The Spanish cited a similar clause in the Serbian constitution when they refused to recognise the independence of Kosovo from Serbia. Unless Unionists can cite a clause in the UK constitution saying that the UK is one indivisible nation, they should callarse with the Spanish threat. That’s Spanish for ‘shut it’.
Unionists are asking us to believe that Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU in order to discourage Basque and Catalan nationalism, when the Spanish government itself says that the Scottish and Spanish situations have nothing to do with one another. Then there’s Gibraltar, the existence of which means Spanish conservatives aren’t naturally disposed to do Westminster any favours on questions of sovereignty. As a successor state to the UK, Scotland has a share in Gibraltar and we could tell Spain we’d swap it for parts of Benidorm.
It should also be noted that mariscos obsessed Spain, the country with the highest consumption of sea-food in Europe, depends on the access to Scottish waters allowed it by Scottish EU membership in order to keep Mercadona and Hipercor shelves stocked with bacalao, gambas and langosta. They’re hardly likely to put that at risk just to keep in Westminster’s good books and ensure continuing supplies of baked beans and Melton Mowbray pork pies.
A recent study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) think tank, based on official tax and spending figures, concludes that Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas revenues, with other taxes, means it gets no net subsidy from the rest of the UK. And this is based upon shonky Westminster figures, which allocate a notional share of “UK national expenditure” to Scotland even though the money is actually spent in the South East of England. So we’re paying for just under 10% of the bloody Olympics.
But if, like me, your eyes glaze over when you hear talk of balance sheets, budgets and the Barnett Formula, just consider that Westminster could very easily make it clear exactly how much Scotland puts into the Union, and exactly how much we get back in return. After all, it’s Westminster which collects all the money and allocates where it goes. We can assume they know who pays what and who gets what.
If Scotland was indeed hopelessly dependent on UK handouts, Westminster would publish all the figures in glorious technicolour and upload videos to YouTube, and there would be a 10 part BBC documentary all about them. This would pretty much kill the independence debate stone dead, as Scots would be able to quantify those so-called Union benefits in precise detail. But instead finding out how much Scotland pays into the Union and how much we get back takes a crack squad of industrial strength accountants on amphetamines. So it’s a safe bet that we’re not dependent on subsidies from Westminster after all.
According to Labour MSP Greame Pearson, who’s really unbiased, at least according to that bastion of knee-jerk Unionism the Scotsman newspaper, an independent Scotland will become the Buchanan St Bus Station of Al Qaeda. Chechen rebels will barge auld ladies out of the way in the queue for the number 62 to Faifley on their way to conduct drug deals with human traffickers and export Hebridean human bombs to Surbiton.
The GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenues) figures already allocate a notional share of UK intelligence spending to Scotland. That means that Scottish taxpayers annually cough up roughly £175 million on intelligence services already, a figure which is based upon identifiable public spending. The intelligence services tend to be secretive in nature, because that’s part of their job description, so the true figure for expenditure is probably rather more. James Bond’s Aston Martins don’t come cheap you know, and you’ll be shaken, not stirred, by the price of a decent martini.
Assuming the same intelligence budget after independence as we already spend, Scotland would rank amongst the most secret-policed nations on the planet. This is because the UK spends as much on its intelligence services as your average dictatorship, not your average democracy. This is one of those factoids that make you go hmmm. Just why does the UK spend so much on intelligence, with apparently so little to show for it? Dunno about you, but all those security searches at airports don’t make me feel safer, they just make me more paranoid.
A foreign policy based upon “punching above our weight” would seem to be the answer. “Punching above our weight” is what Unionist politicians call invading Middle Eastern countries, selling weapons systems to dictators, and sooking up to the Pentagon. If your foreign policy is based upon alienating as large a number of people around the world as possible, you’re going to need expensively funded intelligence services.
By way of comparison, in 2010 the budget for the Danish intelligence services was 566.8 million Danish kroner. That’s about £61 million. Denmark, despite certain local difficulties with newspapers printing cartoons insulting to Muslims, is not noted as a hotbed of terrorism, Islamic or otherwise.
Norway, which has a land border with Russia, historically has a high spend on intelligence and defence. Russia has important military installations on the Kola Peninsula, close to the Norwegian border which Norway wants to keep a close eye on. Norway spends 930 million Norwegian kroner annually on its intelligence services, that’s about £99.9 million.
Unlike Norway, Scotland has a single short land frontier, and that with a friendly nation with whom an independent Scotland would collaborate closely in our common interests. Our coasts are not across short stretches of watter from unfriendly or unstable nations. It shouldn’t be too difficult for an independent Scotland to keep an eye what the security services term “persons of interest”. Within the UK we’re already spending far more than is required for that task, because the UK intelligence services have other interests which don’t reflect Scotland’s needs.
As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger when the Lone Ranger said together we can defeat the Commanches coming over the hill: “What do you mean ‘we’, whiteman?”
Scotland is not stronger when Westminster gets involved in American adventurism. Scotland is not stronger when Westminster takes an axe to the benefit safety net of the poor and vulnerable. Scotland is not stronger when the Lone Ranger decides to take on the entire Commanche nation, or in Lone Ranger Cameron’s case, decides to decimate the NHS.
Westminster is stronger when it can control Scottish resources. When Westminster says “We are stronger together”, we is an abbreviation for Westminster.
Those shopping trolleys in French hypermarkets are LETHAL I tell you.
One of the arguments I used to make in favour of Scottish independence when I lived in London (mainly just to annoy anti-Scottish Londoners, it must be said) is that independence would help in case I was ever on a plane that got hijacked. Scottish passport holders would be sent off to stand in a corner with the Portuguese and Icelanders and other people from inoffensive small countries, and be released when the hijackers negotiated for some toilet paper and cheese sandwiches. British passport holders would be in the queue to get shot along with the Americans because the sandwiches came without pickle and the bog paper was the hard shiny kind.
I was being flippant, but the BBC’s foreign correspondent John Simpson, who’s always jetting off to war-torn parts, seems to share this opinion. He prefers to travel on an Irish passport. His reason? The Irish look after their citizens who get into trouble abroad far better than the British do. Small countries have more reason to care about individual citizens than large ones.
So said Philip Hammond, Tory Defence Secretary. Sometimes the rank stupidity of a story leaves you reeling, and this one is way up there with the Daily Mail’s belief that immigrants cause cancer or that Jim Davidson is a comedian.
In fact, even if Westminster were to send Scotland the bill for relocating Trident, we couldn’t pay and Westminster couldn’t accept, because of the nuclear non-proliferation treaties Westminster’s signed up to. Because Scotland has not, yet, signed any such treaties, we could flog the missile system off on eBay if we felt like it.
But that’s not going to happen anyway. If Westminster wants to keep its nuclear toys it’s up to Westminster to buy its own Tracey Island Thunderbird Base from Toys-R-Us. None of the former republics of the Soviet Union were required to pay Russia to build new bases for Soviet warheads.
However the ridiculousness of Hammond’s threat is a symptom of Westminster’s very real fear. They know something they don’t want the Scottish public to discover (but too late – ha ha), Scotland’s got Westminster over a Trident barrel. While it’s relatively simple to relocate submarines, there are no suitable storage facilities for Trident missiles and warheads except the Coulport base. It would take about 10 years to build a new base. In the meantime they’d have to bend over backwards to bribe, cajole, pay or plead with Scotland to look after their toys for them. And we’d be perfectly at liberty to scrap them.
The position of the permanent members of the UN was written into the very foundation treaty of the UN itself. The seats can’t be taken away from the countries which occupy them. The seat currently occupied by the UK belongs to Scotland as much as it does to the rest of the UK.
Scotland has no interest in retaining the permanent seat on the Security Council, but an independent Scotland has a theoretical right to inherit a share in it. That gives us a powerful bargaining chip to use with Westminster. The permanent seat on the council will most probably be retained by the rump-UK in return for some serious concessions to the newly independent Scotland in other areas.
Thinking up concessions to demand from Westminster is a fun game all the family can play. Personally I’d demand that Westminster politicians always put their brains in gear before opening their mouths, but that’s so not going to happen.
Unanswered questions: Too many unanswered questions remain about independence.
A recent report, well I say ‘report’, from Westminster listed a slew of questions which they claim remain unanswered, and demanded that the Scottish Government respond to them. Amongst the questions were things like what a future Scottish defence policy would be, and which international bodies Scotland would be a member of. The correct answer to these Westminster questions is “Nane o your damn business.” These are matters for the Scottish people to decide post-independence, and we won’t have to answer to Westminster for them.
Other questions are non-questions, like what share of oil and gas deposits would go to Scotland and what would happen about pension arrangements. These matters are decided by international law and international treaties, which the UK has already signed up to. The answers to these questions are easily available and have been published already. Over 90% of the oil and gas deposits would go to Scotland, and pensions would be safe. So either a) Westminster cannae be airsed to find out. Or b) Westminster is stirring it for the sake of creating uncertainty. My money’s on b.
All these questions were answered in detail in a White Paper published by the Scottish Government in 2009.
According to First Minister Alex Salmond, oil revenues make up 15% of the Scottish economy. Norway’s oil revenues make up 24% of the Norwegian economy and 47% of the value of Norwegian exports. In 2007, oil and gas made up 19.7% of the value of all Canadian exports. Norway and Canada seem to do just fine even though they are more dependent upon energy exports than Scotland, but then Norway and Canada have the power to invest their oil revenues in order to develop their economies in other ways. Scotland doesn’t have that power, we only get what Westminster chooses to give us.
Oil is a finite resource and will eventually run out, but declining oil reserves don’t mean a proportionate decline in revenue. As oil becomes scarcer its price will increase. As well as receiving more per barrel of oil, this also means that oil fields in deeper waters which are presently uneconomic become financially viable.
As our oil reserves decline, it becomes all the more important to use the revenues they generate to protect and develop our economy for a post-oil future. We urgently need to reindustrialise our country in a green and sustainable way. This is why the Scottish government wants to set up an oil fund, but cannot do so because Westminster controls all the purse strings. It’s like we agreed to remove the fence between our garden and our neighbour’s garden in order to grow more potatoes, but then we only get the potatoes the neighbour decides to let us have even though our garden provides almost all the potato crop.
At the moment we have no oil fund, only small potatoes. All the oil revenues go to Westminster which spends them on bailouts for bankers, nuclear toys, and funding the ballooning unemployment benefit bill. When the oil runs out we’ll be left with nothing to show for it. And you can guarantee that Westminster will be quite keen on Scottish independence then.
As an aside, it’s odd that it’s only ever oil which gets factored out as “special” in discussions about the economy. The much vaunted financial sector of the City of London has an equally volatile contribution to the national economy of the UK. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the financial sector of the City had to be bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of billions, but if you listen to the Unionist parties you’d get the impression it was a reliable cash cow. It’s never factored out of discussions about the UK economy.
No one ever wonders how England would cope without the tax income from the City. But musings on a Scotland without oil are a staple of Unionist commentary. Scottish oil exists, it’s real, there’s no point playing a fantasy game pretending that it’s not there. It’s going to be an important factor in our economy for decades to come. However if we continue to allow our Westminster neighbour to allocate all the potatoes, when the oil runs out it will be as though it had never existed in the first place.
World War 2: We fought Hitler together, independence betrays the memory of those who fought WW2.
Our grandparents and great grandparents who fought and died in the struggle against the Nazis weren’t fighting to keep everything the same. They were fighting for democracy, for freedom of expression, for freedom from fear, and for the equality and dignity of all men and women, whatever their origins, race, or background.
Winston Churchill led the UK to victory against the Nazis. The British electorate recognised that. Yet Churchill was fighting for Empire, for monarchy, and for keeping things the same. The British electorate recognised that too, and that’s why they voted him out of power in the first post-war General Election. David Cameron wants us to keep everything just the same, and he’s no Winston Churchill.
Young voters: The SNP want to allow children to vote because they’re more likely to vote yes to independence.
In Scotland, the legal age of majority is 16. At 16 you can get married without your parents’ permission. Getting married is a far weightier choice than deciding which way to vote, except if you’re Brittany Spears.
The Lib Dems and Labour have both expressed their support for votes at 16, except in the Scottish independence referendum where they’re determined to avoid it at all costs, like the cost of making a coherent stand on something for a change. Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland Hermann Moorester said that the franchise shouldn’t be extended for a “one off” vote like a referendum. But Hermann and the rest of the Lib Dem I See Dead People supported extension of the franchise to 16 for the AV referendum. Perhaps they’re hoping that wasn’t a one-off, although Uncle Davie won’t let them hold another one.
The argument is usually that young people more likely to vote for independence because they think that it’s an app for an iPhone. However the only polling done on the question seems to suggest that 16-17 year olds are less likely to vote for independence than the population as a whole, while evidence for 18-24 year olds suggests no significant difference. Speaking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper on 29th January 2012, polling expert John Curtice, beloved of the BBC because of his unbiased (cough, cough) views, said: “we cannot presume that the opinions of younger people on independence are in fact particularly distinctive at all.”