Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Scotland Will NEVER See Independence With The Current SNP!

When I joined the SNP in 1955, I was a 15 year old school boy, about to go up to a senior secondary school to take my highers. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, no ambition to be anything special and no thought about university. In fact, being the eldest in a family of four, with a father who was a bus driver, had I not won a bursary, my parents would not have been able to afford to keep me on at school. In 1950's Perthshire, there was no such thing as grants for further education, but my parents were prepared to make the necessary sacrifice, the extra shifts, to keep a teenager, who ate like a horse and seemed to grow out of every stitch of clothing he had every month or so, in further education as far as he could go. I worked as a message boy and at every opportunity of seasonal work
like tatties and berries, that was available. Despite the determination to get an education, and despite the encouragement at home to "stick in", I still had no idea what I wanted to be or do. The one thing about which I was absolutely certain, was Scottish Independence.

I was an insatiable reader, I devoured books at an incredible rate, particularly military history books, as well as history books in general. I had read T.E Lawrence's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" by the time I was thirteen. I could never get enough of Scottish history, an interest which in turn led me to the SNP. Perth was one of the very few parts of Scotland which had had an active SNP presence since the end of WW11, and a wee shop in Old High Street, which acted as the local HQ. The windows which fronted the shop were always full of SNP literature, booklets, pamphlets and Scottish history books. It was like an Aladdin's Cave for somebody like me, and I haunted the place. It was inevitable, that I should join the party as it was the only political party that had Scottish Independence as its main aim. Indeed, the party had been formed for that very purpose, the restoration of Scotland as an Independent Nation State. The development of my general political thought came later, although not much later. In the early days, I listened and read and questioned when I didn't understand. I cut my early political teeth in the street campaigns, delivering leaflets, listening to older Nationalists, as they debated with our opponents. Perth City is the only town in Scotland, which had a Scottish National Party candidate, at every General Election for Westminster, since 1945, although not always in the same Parliamentary Constituency as boundary changes made that inevitable.

Even as a 15 year old novice, I struggled to try to make sense of some of the arguments frequently advanced by the opponents of Independence; not because of their intricacy nor their need for a much deeper knowledge of politics, both theory and practice, than I possessed at that time. On the contrary, it was because of the superficiality or, on many occasions, the sheer bloody stupidity of many of them. On more than one occasion, I could hardly believe that anyone would advance the following as a serious argument against independence. "Where would we get our pineapples?" I was asked. Taken aback, and unsure if this was a serious question, I hesitated slightly while trying to hide my initial confusion with a grin. "Well", I began, only to be interrupted by a triumphant, "Go on then, tell us, where would we get our pineapples?" Many years later, one of our sons, getting involved in a political discussion for the first time with his future father-in-law, was asked, "Where would we get our bananas?" Obviously, Unionist concerns with the likely availability of fruit not normally native to Scotland, had never been properly addressed by the Nationalist movement. This being Scotland, religion had to play its part. "Home Rule means Rome Rule" was a favourite of the Orange Lodge while, my Catholic relatives in Royston Hill in Glasgow, assured me that Labour's claim, "Get independence and they will shut down Catholic schools" was "evidence" that Catholics wouldn't stand a chance. "Evidence?" I asked, "Aye, we got a leaflet outside Mass last Sunday". The absolute pinnacle of "nonsensical religious reasons for not voting for independence" came during a discussion I had while driving a machine on the construction site of the Turret Dam, just outside Crieff. I was informed - expletives deleted - "The Papes in Rome and the Wee Frees will carve up the country between them and then we'll aw be f..@#~." Naturally, no evidence was presented or even needed evidently. It would definitely happen.

Anyone who has ever been involved in the National Movement will be familiar with similar objections to Independence or the more sinister claims that Nationalism was the same as, or would inevitably lead to, Nazism/Fascism/Totalitarianism of some sort. These claims can still be seen among the more stupid accusations that appear daily among the general tripe we find on social media. Unfortunately, much of it comes from the ranks of the so-called National Movement. I make no apology for calling out those offenders who appear daily on Twitter or other vehicles of social media, purporting to support Scottish Independence, because the stupidity of much of their contribution to the daily exchange of views on Scottish Independence, does little to persuade those Scots who genuinely have doubts about the wisdom of Independence, to re-examine their doubts. There will be those who will never be persuaded to support Independence, anymore than I will ever be persuaded to support Union with either the rUK or the EU. However, in a blog I wrote on 14th October 2014 entitled, "What Do Yes Voters Mean By Independence. Is It Worth A Candle?" I quoted Sir Alexander Malcolm MacEwan, the first leader of the SNP 1934 to 1936, who made two observations that are just as apposite today as they were then. He said, "It is plain truth that no great National Movement was ever founded on caution and half-hearted measures..." and "the objections to Home Rule are not so much reasoned arguments as vague apprehensions, but fear is often more potent than reason and must be dealt with.." A quick trawl through the daily contributions on Twitter by the adherents of Independence in Europe, will highlight just how potent fear of Independence actually is.

The SNP has NEVER debated IF members of the EU, CAN be Independent. 
Discussion about how membership of the EEC would effect Independence, was certainly a hot topic, a very hot topic in the late 1980s among the rank and file of the SNP, largely because Winnie Ewing was our only MEP at that time and certainly earned her title of Madame Ecosse, ensuring the name of not just Scotland, but the SNP, was heard loud and clear in the corridors of power there. Unfortunately, Winnie tended to take any criticism of the EEC personally, causing some senior party members to back off making any criticism at all. The Single European Act, described by its critics as the single biggest surrender of national  sovereignty since the Treaty of Rome, was passed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) at its monthly meeting in April 1988, by 14 votes to 4. I was one of the four. The Single European Act, was NEVER discussed inside the SNP at ANY other level, National Assembly, National Council or Annual Conference. This meant that the party membership was NEVER  given any opportunity to debate whether or not they were prepared to surrender sovereignty to the EEC. In his book, "SNP: The Turbulent Years 1960-1990" the late Gordon Wilson, who was National Chairman at that time, wrote, "the Single European Act did not threaten national sovereignty, posed no problems for existing SNP policy on the EEC and offered opportunities for the Party to avoid association with political or economic separatism."  I took great exception to that, particularly the last part, and told Gordon in no uncertain terms. The adoption of the slogan "Independence in Europe" was thrust upon the party membership without discussion at any level and without prior notification, at the 1988 Annual Conference.

Thus Independence, while a member of the EEC, was given to the party as a policy, which was never discussed and never explained. Those party members like me, who objected to the surrender of sovereignty without any attempt to allow party members to debate the issue, were cast in the role of "malcontents" or members, "not prepared to accept party policy", while ignoring the fact the "policy" had been imposed without any debate or even discussion. Between 1988 and 1990, the influence of Alex Salmond and Jim Sillars grew to such an extent that it was impossible to make any criticism of the SNP's commitment to Independence in Europe and be taken seriously by the party membership, despite the fact there was continuing hostility to the notion that support for the EEC was the one policy which would continue to carry the SNP forward. Since I left the party in 1990, on the grounds that I believe the SNP no longer seeks Independence, there has still been no debate about the realities of membership of the EU. Many of those who follow me regularly on Twitter or read my occasional blogs, are just as regularly offended/irritated by my relentless criticism of the SNP's "Independence in Europe" policy stance. I am frequently categorised as, being "full of bitterness" or "hatred of the SNP" but the one thing my critics never do, and that is debate the issues involved. They assert, they pass opinions and give forecasts, as if they are evidence. Unfortunately, ask them to explain HOW, for example, Luxembourg carries the same clout as Germany or France; or HOW the 19 members of the euro zone can follow independent economic policies and what follows is generally abuse or, silence.

One of the reasons the No campaign found it so easy to ridicule many of the claims made by the Yes side, arises from the way in which the meaning of the word "Independence" has been stretched to the point where there is no circumstance, or set of circumstances, which the SNP does not include in its definition. Thus, if Scots had been permitted to have the Currency Union promoted by the SNP during the Independence Referendum Campaign, and had voted Yes, as far as the SNP was concerned, Scotland would have been independent. However, if we had voted Yes but been denied the Currency Union, as Westminster said we would be, the SNP would have still said we were Independent, despite the two positions being polar opposites. After the failure of the Yes Campaign to get a majority for Independence, suddenly the stupidities of that policy position became the main topic for debate. The plaintive, "It's our pound as well as Westminster's" despite being finally seen for what it was, a piece of childish nonsense, has still been used by Ian Blackford, in some of his regular TV appearances defending the Growth Commission report. When Alex Salmond suddenly threw in the threat that, if Westminster refused to agree to a Currency Union, as demanded by the SNP, and Scots voted Yes, a Scottish Government dominated by the SNP, would refuse to pay Scotland's share of the National Debt, some in the National Movement said, "About time". What Salmond was saying in effect, was Scotland would only pay its share of UK National Debt, IF London continued to control the Scottish economy through a Currency Union. And not a single leading member of the SNP even tried to point out the contradictions inherent in that policy position.

Independence has become a dirty word.
When the SNP published their proposals for Independence, including the Currency Union, John Kay, one of the economists who had been an adviser to Alex Salmond, was moved to say , "It makes one wonder what Independence actually means". Anyone regularly participating on the forums of social media such as Twitter is unlikely to get the answer there, particularly from the Independence in Europe fraternity of the SNP. One of The National's regular columnists, Pat Kane, in his column of February 23rd 2019 entitled, "So what does it mean to be "independent" today anyway?" wrote, "But the semantic truth is that the basic Oxford definition of "independent" (free from outside control; not subject to another's authority") more properly applies to the scorched-earth autarchists of Rees-Mogg and co, than it does to the steady Euro-pragmatism of the SNP". I am told regularly on Twitter that, "in today's interdependent world, no country is independent" My regular sparring partner Peter Bell, assures us, "there is no single definition of independence" but refuses to explain either how many there are or, what those that he claims exist actually say. When I suggested there might be as many as 3 million, he simply called me a liar. Again in "The National" of Friday June 14th 2019, Mr Les Hunter writes, "What those who advocate a referendum question offering independence outwith the EU are implying, whether they realise it or not, is that it might be preferable to remain in the UK as a glorified local authority in a remnant of empire.." In the same copy of The National, a Barry Stewart writes, "I'm beginning to wonder if some of those anti-EU pro-independence folks are a) misguided or b) MI5 plants to "divide and conquer." Again, another regular contributor to "The National", Stan Grodynski, writes on March 27, 2019, asking Jim Sillars and I, "why Scotland's trading future should not be tied to membership of the EU, nor perhaps of EFTA or the EEA?"  I begin to get visions of  "Where will we get our pineapples?" again.

The politics of Independence don't even come into it. One contributor to Twitter posted, "It is impossible to even have a conversation with an SNP clone as they refuse to attribute meaning to words, ensuring all attempts to engage with the SNP results in absurdity and contradiction." The SNP has narrowed down the alternatives for Scotland to either a) part of the UK or b) part of the EU, which it calls Independence in Europe. Each and every arguments it puts forward concerns "threat to 100,000 jobs" - that figure was originally set at over 300,000. Forecasts of how much the Scottish economy will lose, presented as "evidence" are based on figures which assume ceteris paribus, over periods stretching from ten years to thirty years. Every one of those arguments will be thrown back at them by Better Together or whatever Unionist organisation is cobbled together to fight the next Independence Referendum, if there is ever a next time. My critic from The National, Mr Turner writes, "The problem is that he (that is me) has not received the response he wants because there are people at all levels of the SNP who simply do not agree with his views"...and..."there will never be a right answer for him, because he is not prepared to consider that his opinions might just possibly be wrong." What Mr Turner and others who take exception to the arguments I extend ignore, is that much of my criticism of the SNP is not based on my opinions but on the SNP's attempts to re-write the laws of economics.

I couldn't care less if SNP members believe the earth is flat or the moon is made of green cheese (although some of their beliefs are pretty close parallels) neither of those beliefs is likely to effect the cause of Independence. What will, and does effect the cause of Independence, is the SNP's attempts to re-write the laws of economics and their crass refusals to brook any deviation, not just by party members but by the Scottish people. Despite the farce of the Currency Union with rUK equals Independence, monetary policy is not important "in the modern world where fiscal autonomy is now more important" sinking the Independence Referendum in 2014, we are going to get a repeat for the next attempt. The Growth Commission laboured long and hard  and produced a squeak called "sterlingisation". The SNP has now saddled the Independence Movement with an economic policy which is followed by no other advanced economy in the "modern world", the world my critics love to remind me we now inhabit. I have asked repeatedly for someone, anyone in the SNP, to explain how that is Independence or helps the cause of Independence. I have not had a single response. Robin MacAlpine posed 10 similar questions and received no reply, Common Weal has had the same response, as has George Kerevan. We are all supporters of Independence but I for one, have no intention of presenting that nonsense as a rational argument for Independence.

The following statement from Derek Mackay, the current Secretary for Finance sums up the SNP beautifully. In The National, April 6th 2019 (Timing must be right for our new currency) he writes; "We will move to a Scottish pound - but there is no need to set an arbitrary timetable" Does that mean we could have the pound sterling indefinitely? Did the SNP not decide at their Conference that we would have a Scottish currency within the first term of an Independent Parliament, ie with in five years? "The case for Independence is simple. Decisions about Scotland should be made by the people of Scotland". Agreed, but how can that be done inside the EU? "Independence empowers us, gives us choices and allows us to tailor economic policy to suit Scotland's needs" Agreed, but, How can we do that inside the EU, even outside the euro, or under sterlingisation? "Independence...decisions being made for our interests in Scotland, not against our interests by governments we didn't vote for" Agreed. which government will we be voting for inside the EU? As MEPs vote in groupings based on ideological lines and not country and with a potential 13 MEPs out of approx 751, split among various ideological groups, how will Scotland's interests be promoted, let alone protected? Mr Mackay's statement is only a small example of the kind of platitudinous, contradictory nonsense that litters SNP statements on Independence in Europe. If they cannot explain them, how are they going to persuade Scots to vote for them?

The Independence Movement has a decision to make.
Does it allow the SNP to continue to ignore those who want Independence out of the EU and the UK, completely ignoring the tremendous efforts being made by AUOB to keep the cause of Independence to the fore. Or do they tell the SNP to COMMIT to a referendum on the EU, thereby ceasing to CONFLATE Independence and membership of the EU or WITHDRAW SUPPORT? The Independence in Europe fraternity, desperate to remind opponents like me, that we live in a modern, interdependent, world need to be reminded - daily and often - that in this "modern, interdependent world", as a supranational, institution that demands the surrender of sovereignty as a prerequisite for membership, the EU is UNIQUE. There are over 200 independent, sovereign nations which exist and function very happily OUTSIDE the EU. That is where we can get our pineapples and our bananas. It is normal. It is our choice.

ENDS















Thursday, 8 March 2018

Spectator: "The Case For Independence Has Never Been Greater"...

Spectator: "The Case For Independence Has Never Been Greater"...: "It seems beyond human comprehension how those separate and distinct interests can be supported by one Parliament. The Scots deserve no...

"The Case For Independence Has Never Been Greater" - So Go Demand It.

"It seems beyond human comprehension how those separate and distinct interests can be supported by one Parliament. The Scots deserve no pity if they voluntarily surrender their united and separate interests to the mercy of a Parliament where the English shall have so vast a majority... and the 16 Scots Members may dance around to all eternity in the trap of their own making". Fletcher of Saltoun was referring to the Treaty of Union of 1707 of course and he was even more scathing of his countrymen after the Treaty was signed, when, on being asked if he intended to desert his country, he replied, "It is fit only for the slaves who sold it". Scottish Nationalists have aye agreed with Fletcher's take on the Treaty of Union and almost 450,000 of us believe it can be applied with equal force, to the Treaty of Rome and Scotland's membership of the EU. That division of opinion in the ranks of the SNP, which also spilled over to the broader National Movement, played its part in the loss of 21 seats by the SNP, in the General Election of June 8th 2017. The other major issue that caused division was the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the last fortnight of the campaign and the decision of recent converts from Labour to the SNP, to revert to the Labour Party, in the belief that was the way to achieve socialism or, at least a more equitable society in the UK. Independence was not a priority, nor had it ever been; it was simply seen as the best vehicle to change UK society, until Corbyn that is.

The split which led to the loss of 21 seats and almost 500,000 votes by the SNP on June 8th, was some years in the making, the genesis emerging in the aftermath of the General Election of 1979, when the party lost nine of its eleven seats.   And it must be remembered that the party had only 6 Westminster Parliamentary seats until the General Election of 2015, when it won 56 of 59  of Scotland's Westminster seats and 1,454,436 or 50% of the popular vote. A number of factors came into play to explain the jump from 6 of 59 Westminster seats and 491,386 or 19.9% of the popular vote in the General Election of 2010. The most important factor of course, was the Independence Referendum of September 2014, which was lost but which energised politics in Scotland to a far greater extent than any other test of popular opinion, in Scotland's modern political history. No one, least of all the leadership of the SNP, expected the party to record such an astounding victory in 2015 and Nicola Sturgeon, in order to calm the expectations of some of the more enthusiastic SNP members in the days just before the poll, reminded supporters that anything over 11 seats would be a record for the SNP. Under the Old SNP, such a result would have been taken as a mandate to negotiate Independence but under the New Gradualist SNP, it meant, well, nothing very much. Unfortunately, it took only a few weeks for it to become obvious that the leadership had little idea how to make the best use of their total domination of Scottish politics. Instead of driving the cause of independence to new heights, Ms Sturgeon and her chief office bearers have done much to reduce its popularity. The pathetic campaign in the election of 2017, was only partly to blame for the election losses; much greater responsibility must lie with the nature of the SNP, the type of party it has become.

Political commentators tend to talk of the battles inside the SNP in the 1980s as a battle between the "Fundamentalists" and the "Gradualists", a battle which was won by the latter. Traditional Nationalists, by which I mean those who think as I do (fundamentalists or "fundies" was a derogatory name for that group) never saw the argument for independence in terms of economics - we were Nationalists long before oil was discovered - and certainly never saw it as an argument about class. We saw independence as the restoration of sovereignty, dignity, self-confidence, self-respect and an appreciation of our history, culture and languages; in short those things which independent countries see as normal and take for granted. We knew we had to rebuild the nation of Scotland, which meant appealing to the people of Scotland across classes, political allegiances and religious divides. Independence per se, had to be sold as more important than any "ism", after which Scots would build the kind of society they wanted the country to be. Gradualists on the other hand, argued Devolution would offer the opportunity of giving experience of government, however limited, and would allow Scots generally to judge the SNP on performance. They tended to assume they would always be better in government, local or national, than any of the Unionist parties. Despite an examination of SNP policy prior to 1979, showing the party to be more radical and conscious of social issues than Labour in Scotland, those who came to dominate the SNP under Alex Salmond, insisted the party must adopt a more left-wing policy platform. In time, the rhetoric was more evident than the reality.

The resignation of Angus Robertson as Deputy to Nicola Sturgeon, has opened up the opportunity to debate politics inside the SNP, something which has not been done since Alex Salmond became Leader in September 1990. The National of February 14th 2018, carried a piece by Alex Salmond, in which he said, "I always liked internal elections as they are good for debating issues. Deputy Leadership elections in the SNP have been quite significant and in living memory the really significant one that I can remember was myself against Jim Fairlie in 1987 which was basically the classic face-off between the fundamentalists and the gradualists. It was an epic contest which was resolved in favour of  gradualism and myself". Perhaps significantly, Alec did not mention the even  more epic contest which took place four years earlier over the question of the SNP's participation in the Scottish Convention. As Deputy Leader I had led two earlier SNP delegations to preliminary meetings of the Convention, in which it was established that none of the other participants - Unionist parties, TUs, Churches et al - recognised the sovereignty of the Scottish people.I had asked at the first meeting, and it was agreed, that the question of Scottish sovereignty should be on the agenda for the next meeting. It wasn't but I insisted on a roll-call vote, on the grounds that it would be difficult to determine what the Convention could achieve until it was decided who should be making the final decisions- the Scottish people or Westminster. Every single delegate from every institution present, except those from the SNP, opted for Westminster sovereignty.

The SNP Leader Gordon Wilson was a keen supporter of the Convention and had organised a resolution at the 1983 Annual Conference, to the effect that the SNP would play a full part in any Convention that was set up. I moved the direct negative and the resolution fell by a substantial majority. Gordon organised the same resolution for the next Annual Conference in 1984 at Inverness, but this time Jim Sillars carried the flag for the Convention and I again moved the direct negative, warning Delegates that the likely outcome, if they voted to support the Convention, would be to allow Scots to do no more than to talk about how little self-government Westminster would grant us. Jim and I debated the issue in front of hundreds of Delegates and the resolution to support the Convention was passed by only 7 votes, a clear indication of how divided the party was. There was no such division by January 1989 when the delegation of Gordon Wilson, Jim Sillars and Margaret Ewing advised the party to leave the Convention, when, as I had warned it would do, it refused to offer independence as an option. In effect, it demanded the SNP drop independence completely. At the National Council a few weeks later, the vote to leave was passed by 198 votes to 48. The two who had led the clarion call to support the Convention in 1984, Gordon Wilson and Jim Sillars, led the call to ditch it in 1989 and the SNP had wasted five years.

Alex Salmond is right in one respect, 1987 was a highly significant year for the Gradualists because their strategy lost the SNP Dundee East and Western Isles and turned what might have been a significant advance for the SNP into an utter shambles. Enter stage "Left", the idea of the "hung parliament" Salmond's brainchild and highlighted by him in his, "if Westminster is to hang, let it be by a Scottish rope" a catchy, if totally meaningless piece of political pap. A pact between SNP and Plaid Cymru, agreed to support Labour "in the event of a hung Parliament at Westminster", an idea touted for well over a year leading to the General Election of 1987. Margaret Thatcher had been painted as such a "hate figure" that keeping another Unionist party in power at Westminster and anti-Thatcherism, became the sole political aim for the SNP at that time. Some will have seen shades of the same "strategy" in 2017, when the SNP did their best to convince Scots the election "was NOT about independence". In the regular weekly column I wrote for the Scots Independent, I warned against the "hung parliament" scenario as far back as June 1986, when I wrote, "If the SNP continue to hype a hung Parliament, we will be making a present of that vote (anti-Tory vote) to the North British Labour and Unionist Party". That was only one of several warnings given about the lack of political nous over the next year and more in sadness than triumph, I wrote after the 1987 election, "Dundee East and Western Isles were sacrificed on the altar of anti-Thatcherism".

Was the "hung parliament" strategy in any way realistic, from the SNP's stand point? The UK Parliamentary figures tell their own story. In 1983 the General Election saw the Tories returned with a majority of 144 with each party polling as follows (Scot figs in brackets):- Tories 397 (21) Lab 209(41) Lib/Dems 23 (8) SNP 2. The bald figures alone show what a monumental task it would have been to create a "hung parliament" scenario but this was the period when Thatcher was in her pomp and Labour in England, offered no realistic opposition. The whole "hung parliament" idea showed an almost total lack of political awareness, given the strength of Labour in Scotland at that time. The polling figures for 1987 are as follows:- Tories 376 (-21) Lab (229 (+20) Lib/Dems (22 (-1) SNP 3 (+1) giving Tories a majority of 102. The Scottish figures show more clearly what a disaster for the SNP, the "hung parliament" strategy was, the voting figures being as follows:- Tories 10 (-11) Lab 50 (+9) Lib/Dems 9 (+1) SNP 3(+1). Labour's total gain of 20 seats in the UK, included 9 in Scotland, including two from the SNP. The party line became, "the election was a success as we increased our number of MPs by 50%" We had gone from having 2 MPs to 3 and it was in the atmosphere that this "success" had created, that Alec Salmond and I contested for the Deputy Leadership in September.

It is reasonable to assume that had the Salmond/Gradualist analysis been correct, the SNP would have enjoyed far more electoral success than it had prior to 1979, allowing for the internal strife that bedevilled the party throughout the 1980s and which ensured the party paid the electoral penalty. In October 1974 the SNP won 11 seats of 71 and 839,617 or 30.4% of the popular vote in the second General Election of that year.  The party fought four General Elections under the leadership of Alex Salmond; 1992 where it won 3 of 72 Westminster seats and 629,564 or 21.5% of the popular vote; 1997 winning 6 of 72 seats and 621,550 or 22.1% of the vote. Under John Swinney's leadership 5 of 72 seats and 464,314 or 20.1% of the vote were won in 2001. During Alex Salmond's second ten year leadership term, the party won 6 of 59 seats and 412,267 or 17.7% of the vote in 2005; while in his final attempt the party won 6 of 59 seats and 491,386 or 19.9% of the vote in 2010. Thus, on the electoral platform favoured by the Gradualists, under the leadership of Alex Salmond, widely acclaimed as the foremost politician of his generation and highly successful on a personal level, in two General Elections the party polled 400,000 or 10%, less than it polled in October 1974 and in the other two it polled over 200,000 and 8% less than it had in 1974: and in the one election it fought under John Swinney it won 6 seats and 200,000 votes or 10% less. Over a period of 35 years, 1979-2014, the SNP was embroiled in internal disputes for a decade, then totally dominated by the self-styled Gradualist, left wing and where party discipline was ruthlessly imposed, success at the polls amounted to no better than 50% of the successes of 1974. More to the point, throughout that period independence rarely dominated SNP campaigns and on one occasion occupied 10th place in a list of the SNP's top ten priorities.

Much greater success has been achieved in Scottish Parliamentary elections, where a form of proportional representation has ensured the SNP has won the share of Parliamentary seats commensurate with the number of votes won. Without proportional representation, the party would have had only 7 of the 73 constituency seats in the Scottish Parliament as that was the number of constituencies won. but its share of the vote entitled it to another 28 of the remaining 56 seats, giving it a total of 35 out of 129. In 2003 under the leadership of John Swinney the number of  constituencies won was still only 9 but topped up by another 18 to give a total of 27 out of 129, a reduction of 8 seats from 2003. The breakthrough came in 2007, with Alex Salmond back at the helm, the party won 21 of 73 constituency seats, with another 26 added under the top up, giving a total of 47 out of 129 making the SNP the largest party, forming a minority government. For the first time, in 2011 the party won a majority of the constituency seats - 53 of 73 - topped up to a total of 69 out of 129 and a majority government. But did being a majority government bring the prospect of independence any closer? The answer to that question must be a resounding "Yes". But has bringing the prospect of independence closer, made the SNP any more sure-footed, any more in command of the political situation in Scotland? The answer to that question, must be an equally resounding "No".

The atmosphere created by the campaign for the Independence Referendum has never been experienced in Scotland, either before the vote or since. It would perhaps be stretching it to suggest the vote could have been won, had it not been for the debacle of the SNP's insistence on a Currency Union with the rUK, but there is absolutely no doubt that the currency issue, more than any other single issue, lost the vote for the Yes side. Again, this was Alex Salmond's baby and the Yes side allowed itself to be bullied by the SNP, into supporting the CU as opposed to the argument supporting a Scottish currency. I have pushed the idea of a Scottish currency since the 1970's and the most galling part of the defeat for Yes, is to hear so many prominent members of the SNP, now claim they also supported the idea but remained loyal to the SNP's policy. It was put to me at the time, that the Scottish people had to be "persuaded and cajoled" to vote for Independence and, to push the idea of a Scottish currency would "frighten too many who would not want to take the chance". Who were the real fearties, the Gradualists in the SNP, or the Scottish people whose mettle the SNP refused to challenge? The other major issue which has divided the National Movement, is the SNP's total and absolute commitment to membership of the EU. I have written extensively on the EU in this series of Blogs and don't intend to rehearse the arguments here but the SNP refused to listen to how strongly many Independence supporters felt about membership of the EU. They treated those of us who voted Yes/Leave, with total disdain and contempt, paying the penalty at the poll in 2017.

The SNP is facing some of the same issues today, that split the party in the 1980's viz. the means by which Independence can be won, membership of the EU and the place the party should occupy on the political spectrum. Many of the self-styled left among the new recruits from the Labour Party, have no attachment to the cause of Independence and will return to the Labour fold if they feel there is any hope for Labour to form a government in Westminster - or when the SNP decide to run with another "hung parliament" scenario. It doesn't really help when the SNP Leader, along with some of the leading lights in the party, can't wait to decry Nationalism, claiming they support Independence because they reject the "Thatcherite neo-liberal, capitalist policies of the present Tory government" while endorsing the same neo-liberal, capitalist policies of the EU. Over one million Scots voted to leave the EU, we don't take kindly to being dismissed as racists. If the SNP continues to conflate Independence and membership of the EU, they will kill Independence. The Tories won 13 seats and 758,000 votes at the general election in 2017 for a reason. They cannot, indeed should not, simply be dismissed as "scum" without there being consequences. We cannot rebuild a Nation by treating people as if they are of no consequence.

The title of this piece is a straight quote from Alex Salmond - although I added the wee bit at the end. I hope it is not just another soundbite.

Monday, 10 October 2016

THE SNP IS IN DANGER OF KILLING INDEPENDENCE!

The confusion in the ranks of the National Movement over what constitutes "Independence", is such that the SNP and many of its supporters are in danger of killing the whole idea of returning independence and sovereignty to the Scottish people, the aim for which the party was created. When I read the headline in the Sunday Herald of 18th September; - First Minister: "Independence transcends Brexit, oil and the economy", I almost cheered, as it was the first time I had read any statement by Nicola Sturgeon which suggested she was a Nationalist. Oh, there have been any number of mentions of independence; the word trips off her tongue just as easily as any other word (s) in the SNP mantra. But what does she mean by it? In fact, what does the National Movement mean by "Independence", or is it just a word many proclaim without giving too much thought to what they mean by it? When I listen to the enthusiasm with which the SNP and its supporters embrace the EU, hear how many times the party's leaders, spokespeople and leading activists can contradict themselves in a single discussion or statement, I seriously wonder.

This is not the first time I have raised the issue and asked the question. In a previous Blog on 14 October 2014, entitled, "What do YES voters mean by Independence? Is it worth a candle"? I raised it in the aftermath of the Independence Referendum of September 18th, during which the debate over the currency an "independent" Scotland should use proved to be a turning point and is now widely accepted as the real Achilles heel of the YES argument. Unfortunately, there are still those, among the SNP leadership as well as ordinary voters, who still do not appreciate the nature of a currency union and what it would mean for "independence". But before looking at the conditions the UN requires to recognise an "independent" nation state, together with an academic, unbiased assessment of "independence" in the EU, It would be useful to look at a few examples of the confusion that exists in the ranks of those who claim to pursue Scottish independence.

In April 2013, under the auspices of Options for Scotland, I produced an article advocating a Scottish currency as the best option for an independent Scotland. The SNP were pushing the idea of a full blown Currency Union with the rUK, keeping the £ sterling and using the Bank of England as the Lender of Last Resort. My criticisms of the SNP policy were based on the lack of control Scotland would have over monetary policy and therefore, over the Scottish economy. A number of leading members of the YES Campaign, including Dennis Canavan the Chairman, publicly supported my arguments. Dennis was interviewed on TV and argued at some length, how important it would be for an independent Scotland to have control of its own currency and, therefore the economy. The interview went well until Dennis decided to elaborate, by stating the importance of having our own currency meant we would have the freedom to join the euro at a later date. Did he really understand the nature of a currency union?

Mr Canavan is not the only leading campaigner for independence who has trouble with the euro. On Thursday 13th, the first day of the SNP Annual Conference, the party will announce who will be the new Depute Leader of the party. Hustings have been held up and down the country for the past four weeks, as the four candidates have done their best to speak to as many party members as possible - out of the total of 120,000. Each is standing on a different platform, which they hope will impress the membership enough to see them elected. For the first time ever, all four candidates - Angus Robertson MP, current SNP leader in the House of Commons, Tommy Shepherd MP, Alyn Smith MEP and Councillor Chris McEleny - were interviewed together on TV, by Bernard Ponsonby. There was a remarkable degree of agreement on a variety of issues, with no major disagreements on anything, including the best currency option for an independent Scotland. All were agreed that independence had to come but membership of the EU was vital for Scotland, despite the UK, as a whole, having voted to come out. On the currency issue, all were agreed it had posed major difficulties in the Independence Referendum and all were agreed to say nothing more, not a squeak, not a cheep. Pushed by Bernard Ponsonby on the euro, all were agreed it was an option the party had to consider. None was prepared to say if he had a personal preference, not even to dismiss the idea of the euro. Thus, while they all agreed currency was the "big issue" at the last Referendum, that allowing the Scottish economy to be controlled by the Westminster Treasury and the Bank  of England was a "big turn-off" for Scots who wanted independence, they were all prepared to see monetary policy and the Scottish economy controlled by the European Central Bank, the £ sterling replaced by the euro, as an "option", while still claiming it was independence.

Peter A Bell, writing as Berthan Pete, is one of the SNP's most active supporters, writing and blogging at length on every issue. On 10th August 2014, one of his critics, responding to one of Pete's posts, said the SNP was guilty of "dishonesty" attempting to pass off "fiscal autonomy" as independence. Mr Bell responded as follows, "By what authority do you seek to impose a rigid definition of independence? Where is it written that your absolute notion of independence is the only valid one?" He continued, "In an interconnected world, a much more reasonable and realistic definition of independence would be the capacity to freely negotiate the terms on which a nation engages with the rest of the world. Under such a pragmatic definition, a freely negotiated currency union would not impinge on "true" independence at all." As soon as it is accepted that we can each define our own version of independence, the concept is rendered meaningless. Bell's definition totally ignores the fact that membership of the EU, which he strongly supports, expressly forbids member states to negotiate any kind of trade deal with any country which is not a member. It also ignores that once the "freely negotiated" currency union is established, all "freedom" to manage currency and the economy is ended, along with "true" independence.

The following is perhaps an even better example of his utter confusion on the EU and independence. In The National of Saturday, October 1st 2016, he wrote, "How long will we tolerate the British state continuing to withhold from the Scottish Parliament the powers that any other parliament would possess as a matter of right? How do Unionists justify this? How do they explain their preference for having immigration policy controlled by Westminster? If Scotland was independent, would they be urging us to take authority over immigration away from the parliament that the people of Scotland elect and hand it to a parliament in another country elected by the people of that country? Why should we remain in a union that no rational person would ever vote to join?" Why indeed? Has Mr Bell overlooked, forgotten, failed to understand the conditions of membership of the Single Market in his and the SNP's beloved European Union? Has he overlooked, forgotten, misunderstood or just failed to understand, Free Movement of Labour in the EU? If he thinks Scottish control of immigration is so important, why is he so fervent in his support for the EU where members have no control over their borders and must permit free movement of people from other EU member states? Perhaps he is not a rational person?

One of the reasons I raise the issue again is the SNP annual conference meets on Thursday 13th and the First Minister is under pressure to a) hold a second independence referendum b) postpone holding a second independence referendum (kick it into the long, long grass c) at least say when she is likely to consider holding a second independence referendum. Party leaders are said to be split with some like Tommy Shepherd MP urging postponement and ex-Minister Alex Neil advocating grasping the new powers offered as it would be "neo independence". There are others who fear Nicola Sturgeon's natural caution will cause her to miss the boat and fail to capitalise on the alleged "mood" in Scotland that favours independence, particularly in light of the decision of the people of England and Wales to vote to leave the EU and the perceived xenophobic tone of Tory Ministers at their recent conference. Sturgeon's problems however, are not confined to deciding when to call for a second independence referendum; her biggest problem is there is no settled notion of what the SNP's version of independence would mean. Her first major mistake was to tie holding a second independence referendum to the result of the EU referendum stating that IF Scotland voted to stay in the EU while the rest of the UK voted to leave, a second independence referendum would be inevitable. Why should there be an "IF" to holding a second independence referendum? Why tie the "IF" to membership of the EU, which now means Scots are not being given a choice of independence, but rather a choice between two unions, in neither of which would Scotland be independent.

Despite the warnings that have been given about the dangers of tying independence to EU membership, the SNP is to debate independence at its conference this month - tied to membership of the EU. The wording of the resolution is, "If no viable solution to safeguard our membership as part of the UK exists, Scotland should prepare for a second independence referendum and seek to remain in Europe as an independent country." Of course the party means the EU and not Europe and is obviously quite prepared to ignore the one million, eighteen thousand, three hundred and twenty two (1,018,322) Scots who voted to Leave the EU. How many will be prepared to stand logic on its head, as the SNP is doing, and vote Yes, is anyone's guess but the party is making the wrong choice again and, if it pursues this course will run the risk of dividing the National Movement and kill the vote for independence.

When Mhairi Black MP made her maiden speech in Westminster she said, "the demand for independence in Scotland has nothing to do with Nationalism, it is based on a rejection of the neo-liberal, Thatcherite policies of this Tory government." She condemns the current Tory government, stating its mask has slipped "to reveal the xenophobic, often racist, nationalist, ugly face beneath." Like many others in the SNP, Ms Black goes out of her way to eschew Nationalism and in her regular column in The National on Saturday October 8th, she said, "I have never identified with the word "nationalist"..and what irritates me most is I am automatically labelled as such because I am in the SNP. I believe in independence for purely practical reasons...I want Scotland to have total control and power over its own policies, government and direction of travel" Although she absolves the SNP of displaying any of the nastier traits the self-styled Left tend to equate with Nationalism, as a political scientist she should know that Nationalism is not a synonym for racism, chauvinism, imperialism or xenophobia but her confusion does not stop there, she is also an ardent supporter of the EU where the one thing Scotland will not have is "total control and power over its own policies" and her socialism will be sacrificed on the altar of "neo-liberal", international capitalism.

Ms Black is not the only prominent member of the SNP who puts the pursuit of class politics before the pursuit of the re-establishment of the Scottish nation state and one wonders if the kind of society which she hopes to see in Scotland could be established in the UK, would she still favour Scottish independence? Listening to the rhetoric, it would seem to be unlikely and there are a great many of the newer members of the SNP fall into the same category. The mystery is why they are prepared to write off the entire population of the rest of the UK as beyond redemption but are falling over themselves to embrace the people of the EU as fellow travellers, when the entire history of the  member states of the EU shows a far greater tendency to embrace right wing politics, than has ever been shown by the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. One also wonders what would happen if there was any possibility of a pact with Corbyn's Labour Party. Unless the SNP can show why independence is in Scotland's best interests, including the 400,000 Scots who tend to vote Tory, how many of the current advocates of independence will still be there if Labour can work some kind of miracle and become an attractive prospect again?

It is said that if a politician can't ride two horses at the same time, they shouldn't be in the circus. At the moment the SNP is a circus, with its members running in more than two opposite directions. Nicola Sturgeon has her work cut out.


Sunday, 17 July 2016

Who Will Speak For The 1,018,322 Scots Who Voted "Leave"?

Few would disagree that the EU Referendum debate was a disgrace, littered with exaggeration, scare-mongering, distortion and lies but despite countless pleas from those who, in the main, were mere bystanders, that participants from both sides should treat the electorate with more respect, the distortions continue. Enraged that the majority of the UK electorate who voted, voted to leave the EU, leading players on the Remain side still blame Brexit for every fall in share prices, figures for consumer consumption and predictions of economic mayhem 20 years from now. George Osborne, before his removal as Chancellor, had concluded in light of Brexit, he could no longer stick to his promise that he would have wiped out UK's deficit by 2020. His statement had nothing, of course, to do with the fact that he was unlikely to hit that target in any case. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, stated he would reduce interest rates, in anticipation of the economic slump he predicted would happen if the UK voted to leave the EU. Having set up the markets to expect a cut of 0.25% in interest rates on Thursday 14th July, the MPC voted by 8 to 1 to leave the rate at 0.5%.  Sterling has already fallen by approximately 10% against the $ and a cut in interest rates would drop it further, so it has been postponed meantime. Next month is being flagged up as the next opportunity to effect the cut, unless Carney changes his mind again. Someone who was confidently predicting the economic consequences of Brexit for years ahead, has failed to read the markets twice in four weeks.

The blame game will continue, the scare-mongering will continue and the demonstrations to have the decision to leave overturned, will continue, accompanied by surveys showing an increasing number of people who voted Leave, who, it is alleged, have now changed their minds. It is the customary reaction of the europhiles and euro-fanatics when a referendum goes against them, as happened in Eire and Denmark, and we can be sure there will be plenty of EU funds made available to keep the campaign going. Allied to that, will be the constant repetition of the charge that those who voted Leave were "misled", "lied to" or "didn't know what they were voting for". It seems the Remainers, particularly those in Scotland, have learned nothing, absolutely nothing, about the reasons many people in Scotland voted Leave. If they did learn anything of the reasons people voted to Leave, they have chosen to ignore them while continuing to paint a completely false and quite insulting picture of the kind of campaign which the Leave side conducted in Scotland.

The National (Sat: July 2) carried a letter from a Spaniard, currently living in Dundee, while expressing her deep despair at the UK result opined, "the result was a victory for ignorance and xenophobia".."the result was misled by populism and misinformation"...the referendum..."rather than an exercise in popular sovereignty"..it has been.."a symptom of the British people's endemic ignorance...and in many cases of a deep underlying hate for the foreign". Obviously not a fan of irony, she continued,..."I have been insulted countless times these past few months by a considerable proportion of the population of Great Britain".  Alyn Smith, SNP MEP, in his heart-rending, lachrymose appeal to the EU Parliament, to allow Scotland to remain as a member, implored it "not to let Scotland down, as Scotland did not let the EU down". He wanted to tell the EU that, "UKIP does not speak for us". By his own estimation he gave the "speech of his life" pointing out he wanted "his country to be internationalist, cooperative, ecological, fair, European", as if being outside the EU prevented us from being any of those. Of course there was no mention of the more than one million of us who voted to Leave, nor that there might, just might, be reasons other than racism - like sovereignty for instance - that accounted for that sizeable vote. That would probably have been too much to expect, given the SNP sees no need for substantial change to the structure of the EU, believing that other than the odd unspecified tweak here and there, the structure is just fine.

The "little England", "isolationist", "xenophobic" sneers still run like a thread through the complaints of the Remainers, at the result of the vote but I have to admit, some of the hysteria actually makes me laugh. On one televised Remain march in opposition to the referendum result, there were some placards which proclaimed, "Internationalism-I am a Scots European" (like African American). There is a Common External Tariff around the 28 member states of the EU, which discriminates against the countries of the rest of the world and members are denied the freedom to negotiate trade deals on their own behalf, with countries outwith the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy has long been condemned for discriminating against countries of the developing world, denying them access to the EU and despite recent reforms many of the criticisms persist. Terminology like "Scots European" implies a EU state, which is supra-nationalism not internationalism. The Sunday Herald (Sun: July 3) had a Leader which was truly cringe-worthy in its attempt to proclaim Scotland's historical European credentials. "Scots are citizens of the European Union" it thundered (is there any other trading union bestows "citizenship" on its members?)...it is a "democratic abomination "..."Scots forced out of Europe" (not the EU). "Scots..been outward-looking European nation since 16th century" - the Auld Alliance actually dates from 1295. And, if any other proof was needed, "braw" comes from Swedish, "kirk" from Dutch and "ken" from German. Help ma boab, wha wid ae thocht? This surely ranks with George Bush's, "The problem with the French is they don't have a word for entrepreneur" No mention of the English language, much of which has its roots in Latin and which has borrowed extensively from French, but that might have suggested that "Little England" was also a "European nation" - God forbid.

The title of this piece is a serious question and when I tweeted, "If the 2IndyRef includes the SNP devotion to the EU, it will split the Nationalist movement"- I meant it. It received the usual replies from the usual suspects, most of whom completely missed the point. Of the 1,018,322 who voted Leave or 38% of the total vote, an estimated 440,000 were regular SNP supporters. It is not only grossly insulting to suggest that number of Scots electors voted to leave the EU on the grounds of "ignorance and xenophobia", it is sheer bloody stupidity, a level of stupidity we see unfortunately on social media daily. Immigration was not an issue in Scotland, nor in much of the rest of the UK I suspect, unless people want to claim the bulk of the UK population is racist. I wrote my first piece against Scotland seeking membership of the Common Market for the Scots Independent in 1968. Why? - because I had read the Treaty of Rome which laid out the aims very clearly - "ever closer political union". I actually understood what that meant and in the intervening years, during which I have corresponded with academics who shared my views on the Common Market/EEC/EU/Euro, from Eire, Austria, Norway, Greece, France and several other countries, I have seen nothing in the development of the EU to lessen my opposition. I left the SNP, after 35 years membership, in December 1990 because I disagreed fundamentally with its uncritical commitment to the EU, and I could no longer give the party the loyalty it required from a senior member. The EU has developed in exactly the way I predicted it would. There is nothing very special about that, hundreds of other SNP members made the same predictions, as did tens of thousands of people throughout the member states. The only people I know, who believe a country can be a member of the EU and retain its independence, are members of the SNP.

Several commentators, myself included, have suggested the size of the Remain vote in Scotland had much to do with Yes supporters' loyalty to the SNP, notwithstanding the 440,000 who voted Leave. There has never been the level of devotion to the EU in Scotland, as has been suggested by the SNP leadership and, if the SNP continues to trumpet its devotion to a political union, which will shortly be just as incorporating as the UK, it will lose the 2IndyRef so many Yes supporters so desperately want. It has consistently ignored making any kind of political argument for Scots joining the EU (If Sovereignty is in the DNA of the SNP, Why surrender it to the EU-jimfairlie.blogspot.com) eg. what are the political advantages for Scotland in allowing EU law to supersede Scots law, given the defence of the separate Scottish legal system that has been mounted since 1707? The arguments in favour of Remain, as presented by the SNP, have been mainly economic (Economics of The EU-jimfairlie.blogspot.com) and the economic case just does not stack up eg. Scots' exports to rUK are worth four times the value of Scots' exports to the EU. The UK has serious economic problems and an imbalance in the economy, with London domination of the rest of the country now at an unhealthy and totally unsustainable level. That said however, unemployment in the UK at 5%, is half of the average level of 10.2% in the EU, where just over 22 million people are unemployed. The average figure however hides the most serious levels of Spain 21% and Greece - 24%, while 60% of Italy's 11.3% unemployed have been without work for over one year, a fate shared by 70% of Greek unemployed.

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, has said, "the euro is at the root of many of Europe's problems" and "the currency was flawed at birth". He has also said the EU is in danger of falling apart. Now that the UK has decided to leave, the EU has to make one of two choices, it can INTEGRATE further or, it can DISINTEGRATE. Having travelled so far down the road of political integration, the dominant EU elite will do all it can to complete the integration, thus achieving the original aim of a country called Europe. The arguments about introducing fiscal integration in the eurozone have raged for years and many see that integration as the only way to deal with the damage already caused to the economies of Southern Europe. Until the European Central Bank can control the spending and budgets of the weaker members of the eurozone, those members will be a continuous source of difficulty. The determination of the ECB and Germany to prevent the Italian government from releasing the pressure on Italian banks, which would involve breaking EU rules on government subsidy, suggest the pressure to integrate is already underway. Only days ago, the German defence minister said that now that the UK had gone, Germany and France could move ahead with plans for greater military cooperation. With the political and economic integration that has already taken place, together with the recent evidence of pressure to further integrate, the SNP argument that Scotland in the EU would be there as an equal, sovereign and independent state, is just so much nonsense.

Whenever a 2IndyRef is held Scots will be faced with a choice of two political unions, in neither of which will Scotland be independent. The SNP will continue with its campaign for continued membership of the EU, on the false premise that Scotland will be independent and an equal partner. Unfortunately, a great many life-long, traditional Scottish Nationalists, myself included, will be forced to choose the present Union with the rUK, for the following reasons.
1) Opposition to the EU has always been based on the loss of sovereignty. The current situation, the austerity and mass unemployment forced on the countries of Southern Europe, confirms that loss more than at any previous period.
2) To choose the EU will divide the National Movement, with those Yes supporters whose devotion to the EU is unlikely to change, ranged against Traditional nationalists who see the EU as another incorporating political union.
3) No Westminster government could play the Project Fear card a second time, and hope to have the same effect. With the majority of the people of England and Wales having voted to leave the EU, any argument in opposition to Scotland leaving the UK must be weakened.
4) The National Movement will be completely united. I don't know a single Nationalist who would choose to stay in the UK on a permanent basis, whereas many Yes supporters and the leadership of the SNP have already chosen the EU.
5) For the reasons listed above I believe it will be easier to break away from the rUK, at a later date.

In the title of this piece I asked, "  Who Will Speak For The 1,018,322 Scots Who Voted Leave"? To date the answer has been "No one". Hopefully that will change.