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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Vote SNP - And Get Labour!

If there is still a place for such a thing as "Emergency Resolutions" on the agenda of the SNP Annual Conference this month, there should be one which addresses the issue of how the SNP will behave, if they have a substantial presence in Westminster after the next general election. With the latest polls showing Labour in melt-down in Scotland, the problems with Ed Miliband's leadership of the Labour Party and the Scottish "branch office" facing its own leadership contest, the election prospects for Labour in Scotland do not look good. One poll showed their Scottish MPs reduced to 4, losing the other 36 to the SNP. The thought of that actually happening gives me no end of pleasure but, realistically no experienced follower of Scottish politics expects it to happen. However, if the current mood in Scotland continues to the next general election in May 2015, the SNP looks likely to take a substantial number of constituencies from both Labour and the Lib/Dems, giving them anything up to 20 seats in Westminster. That is 9 more than the 11 seats the party won in October 1974 and, depending on the seats won by the other Westminster parties, including UKIP, some commentators, as well as more enthusiastic members of the SNP, have speculated about the SNP holding the "balance of power".

We have been here before, prior to the election of 1987, when the "hung parliament" scenario of Alex Salmond and his infamous, " if Parliament is to be hung, let it hang by a Scottish rope", persuaded the SNP to run that central campaign theme, talking up the Labour vote in Scotland and leading to the loss of Western Isles and Dundee East to Labour. This time the speculation may be a bit more realistic but it throws up its own problems for the SNP, some constitutional, others strategic and tactical which go to the heart of what the New SNP actually stands for. On 2nd November, Alex Salmond said, "I certainly think there is no chance whatsoever of the SNP ever going into coalition with the Conservative Party..." "I think it is unlikely (to go into coalition) with Labour, but who knows?" He went on to say it would be taken on a "case by case basis" if Labour wanted SNP support. Alex Salmond has still not said whether or not he will stand for Westminster, although every man and his dug expects him to do so, therefore making any comment whatsoever, about the likely strategy of the SNP's Westminster group, could cause difficulty both for them and more importantly, his successor Nicola Sturgeon.

Of even more importance, it raises serious questions about what New SNP means by independence, the message it sends to the thousands of new members. Salmond also said, "Labour will not be forgiven or forgotten for a generation in Scottish politics....because of their cooperation with the Tories on the Unionist side in the independence referendum....they will pay a heavy price for many years to come." Not if the SNP keep it in power in Westminster it won't, in return for what? Callaghan preferred to risk defeat in a general election in 1979, to granting any concessions on devolution. He was more responsible for the Thatcher years than ever the SNP was. Will the current Labour party be any different? What is the purpose of the SNP, is it to get independence or make it easier for Westminster and Devolution to work? After a generation of the "Gradualist" approach of demonstrating ability and competence in devolved government, the SNP failed to win independence in the referendum, which was the promise held out, in return for unquestioning support for the gradualist strategy. For the SNP to keep ANY Unionist party in power in Westminster must cause enormous concern and strain among the members, but to keep Labour in power would be to breath life into the one party in Scotland which has betrayed the interests of the Scottish people more than any other. The upsurge in SNP membership is a direct consequence of Labour's perceived betrayal in the referendum and those new members want Labour to be punished, not kept in office.

In his new book, "Scotland. The Battle for Independence", Gordon Wilson, the man who led the SNP for eleven years, commented, he was "struck by the ambition of many delegates who wished to have a career in the devolved parliament now that the list system made this a realistic proposition". In other words, the Ministerial Mondeo syndrome. Gordon was commenting on the period when Gradualism was adopted by the party and independence came TENTH on the party's list of ten priorities. Since Salmond announced he was standing down as both leader of the SNP and First Minister, I have spoken to a number of party members, most of them full of enthusiasm for the future, although bitterly disappointed with the result of the referendum. Inevitably, discussion included the strategy of the referendum campaign itself, as well as hopes for the future. The future obviously included the new leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, as well as the candidates for the Deputy Leader. As usual, I stressed the inconsistencies, to say nothing of the contradictions, in New SNP's policies, some of them of long standing, particularly on the question of the EU.

"Independence in Europe" was always a nonsense and became even more of a nonsense as EU centralisation increased. But the SNP has been nothing if not consistent in its total inability to see the contradictions in its policies on the EU. At its National Council in March 2000, the party agreed to support the euro, with control of monetary policy, interest rates etc passing to the European Central Bank. In the same motion, it also emphasised its support for the EU as a Confederation. That this was an impossibility passed them by, and despite the EU's increasing centralisation, SNP support for the organisation has also increased. The three candidates for the Deputy Leader's post in the SNP, appeared on Scotland Tonight and were asked what their attitudes were to a number of SNP policies which had been highlighted during the referendum. On immigration both Stewart Hosie and Keith Brown favoured controlled immigration  but also emphasised that membership of the EU is "essential". It is inconceivable that two Ministers in the Scottish government do not know that members of the EU cannot control immigration. They also still favoured the currency union which caused so much of a problem for the SNP and the Yes Campaign during the referendum, and which they were told was "incompatible with sovereignty" by none other than the Governor of the Bank of England, as well as numerous other economists.

A large Westminster contingent of SNP MPs will inevitably cause tension if their handling of strategy and tactics there, does not find favour with the leadership in the Scottish Parliament. At the same time, the leadership in Scotland will find it difficult to micro-manage events as they unfold in both Holyrood and Westminster. Keith Brown said he wants to ensure that the new members are allowed to play a part immediately, in policy formation in the SNP. Delegates to Annual Conference will have been decided long ago, by the branches and constituencies, therefore are unlikely to include many new members. A great many of those new members are going to be more than a little disappointed if the campaign slogan for the next Westminster election is to be "Vote SNP - And Get Labour"

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Nicola Was Wrong, Very Wrong To Open Pandora's Box On EU

The timing was unfortunate to say the least, but it merely underlines the fact that short-termism in politics rarely comes without its down side. Unionists have been doing their utmost to emphasise that the result of the referendum should be accepted by those who voted Yes, by which they mean the campaign for independence should be shelved for at least a generation - as Alex Salmond said it would be - or, better still, shelved permanently. There was even a suggestion that it should be written into the constitution that Scottish independence is illegal. That is only one reason why Nicola Sturgeon was wrong to suggest that Scotland should have a veto, if the rUK votes to leave the EU. Her suggestion would mean that irrespective of how much support there was for leaving membership of the EU, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Scotland should be able to stop the exodus in the event that a majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU.

For a party that has spent over 70 years complaining of the lack of democratic control in Scotland, because of Westminster's lack of concern for Scottish interests, to suggest that 5 million people should be able to subvert the decision of almost 60 million, is hardly going to be taken seriously. Ironically, Ms Sturgeon has been let off lightly, both by the other parties and the mainstream media. Of far greater importance, Ms Sturgeon has opened the door for Unionists to suggest a quid pro quo, the next time Scots demand either another referendum on independence, or build up such a pressure for independence, that a majority of seats in Holyrood or of Scotland's Westminster contingent, for parties which support independence, will be considered sufficient for independence negotiations to take place. That was the original policy of the SNP and recent opinion polls show it is perfectly possible in the current climate. Within days of Ms Sturgeon's statement, two opinion polls showed that if there was a general election now, the SNP would have a majority of both the popular vote and seats for Scottish constituencies in Westminster. MORI gave the SNP 54% of the vote and 52 parliamentary seats, YouGov gave them 52% of the vote and 47 seats. Other polls showed that over 50% of Scots want another referendum within five years, while 66% want one within the next ten years.

Why was Nicola Sturgeon wrong to suggest Scotland should have a veto on the result of a UK referendum which says the UK should leave the EU? There are two reasons, both of which are likely to cause problems for the SNP in the future. The first is the assumption Scots will vote Yes to remain in the EU, more of which below; the second is perhaps more dangerous for the future of the independence movement. She has elevated what was no more than a referendum campaign soundbite to be one of the central pillars of the Treaty of Union of 1707. When David Cameron said, "The UK is a family of nations", he no more meant that to be taken literally than any of the other promises that he made of "more powers to the Scottish people". In time, a very short time, the comment would have been dismissed, as it should have been, had Nicola not given it a life of its own. Some Unionists have suggested that like Baldrick, Nicola "has a cunning plan" to disrupt Westminster and to continue to build on the energy in the independence movement, created by the referendum campaign. If making life difficult for Westminster was behind the move, it might have some merit, but Nicola has also said that a majority of seats for independence parties in the next Westminster election, will not be sufficient to declare independence. That suggests that disrupting Westminster is not going to be a serious consideration, as winning a majority of seats has far more validity than allowing 8.7% of the population to have a veto on the decisions of the other 91.3%.

By opening this Pandora's Box, Nicola has given Unionists the opportunity to use it to claim a veto on any future decision of the Scottish people to vote for independence. Cameron and other government figures have initially dismissed out of hand, any veto on the EU for Scots, which is no more than might be expected. If however, the mood in Scotland shifts, as it has done since the referendum, we can expect the veto claim to be resurrected swiftly, but by Unionist politicians this time. A number of letters have already appeared in newspapers, asking if Nicola would expect the rest of the UK, or any part of the rest of the UK, to have a veto on any future decision of the Scots to declare Scotland independent. Of course there has been no reply because there is no reply that could possibly retain the notion of a Scots' veto and at the same time, recognise the sovereignty of the Scottish people. There would be absolute outrage in Scotland at any suggestion that we should be denied the right to independence, on the votes of people in other parts of the UK and if the SNP persists in taking this line we can be certain there will be serious demands for a quid pro quo.

Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are wrong to assume Scots will vote Yes to continued membership of the EU, although the notion of giving Scots a veto is based on that assumption. If Scotland voted NO to continued membership, the veto would not be necessary. A referendum on membership of the EU while Scotland is still a part of the UK, would be a different animal from a referendum on the EU if Scotland was an independent country. Whatever shortcomings exist in Westminster's guardianship of Scottish interests in the EU - fishing is only one example of many - Scots will view the size of the UK including Scotland, as a better bet to fight EU power and bureaucracy, than Scotland on its own. There are currently 751 MEPs in the European Parliament of which the UK has 73 or 9.7% of the total, of which Scotland's share is 8. If Scotland were in the EU as a sovereign state, we would have 13 seats or 1.7% of the total, the same as Denmark, Finland and Slovakia. The SNP has consistently complained about being at a disadvantage in the Commons, how much greater would the disadvantage be in the European Parliament?

As many as 36% of Scots have regularly expressed their desire to leave the EU with just under 50% wishing to stay in, but that is before any campaign on membership has even been conducted. The SNP refuse point blank to consider a referendum on the EU in an independent Scotland, despite 67% of Scots saying they want a referendum on membership. The SNP arrogantly claims a referendum is not necessary and constantly over estimates the support for the EU in Scotland, as the election of the first UKIP MEP and successive opinion polls have shown. The arguments the SNP make for continued membership of the EU are exactly the same as the arguments Unionists make for continued membership of the UK. It is all about jobs, trade, disruption of industry, with a complete absence of any mention of democratic control, sovereignty, bureaucracy and neglect of Scottish interests. Right from the outset, Independence in Europe was an oxymoron and the increase in centralised control in the EU, since the SNP adopted the slogan, makes it even more of an oxymoron. More and more Scots have recognised as much and now view the EU with increased suspicion. The SNP is out of kilter with the views of the Scottish people and if it continues to assume it can push the Scottish people to adopt membership of the EU on their sayso, that will soon be brought home to them. Nicola is coming to office with a great deal of goodwill on the part of the membership of the SNP. She should not waste it by ignoring their fears for the future.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Nicola Will Take Advice - But From Whom?

Even before assuming office as First Minister and leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon has not been short of advice on how she should proceed. Fears have been expressed, mainly by the Unionist press and others who voted No, that the "fundamentalist" wing of the SNP will now hold sway, as disappointment at the Referendum result bites deep. There will be more of that below, but in the main, fear of the "fundamentalists" has been expressed by those who haven't a clue what a "fundamentalist" is. I reacted with incredulity when I first saw Jim Sillars described as "the darling of the fundamentalist wing of the party". Whatever term is used to describe Jim's political philosophy in the context of the SNP, the least accurate is "fundamentalist" but the label has been allowed to stick, which merely reinforces my point.

The Scotsman leader earlier this month said, "Ms Sturgeon is about to become the gradualist leader of a party of nationalist fundamentalists" and "Her natural instinct is to take a pragmatic approach...but this clashes with the more fundamentalist view held by tens of thousands of new party members" and "let her lead by example, finding solutions that suit the majority (those who voted No) rather than play to the unrealistic demands of her new allies." There has been much more of this type of grossly superficial analysis from the Unionist media in general, all of it geared to dampening the enthusiasm and determination of those who voted Yes, to continue to campaign for independence. With the total disarray of the Unionists, both in Westminster and Holyrood, the last thing they want is to see is an organised, determined and growing section of the Scottish people, committed to independence; not the ersatz concoction with which we were presented in September, but the real thing.

Whether we will get that from Nicola is still a moot point and it will depend largely on the advice she both receives and accepts. A useful starting point would be to stop the re-writing of the history of the SNP which has gone almost unchallenged since 1990, the year Alex Salmond was elected leader. The media would also do well to take note. "Fundamentalist" was a term of abuse, used by the '79 Group to describe those members of the SNP who argued that the pursuit of independence was more important than the pursuit of socialism or branding the SNP with a pseudo left-wing image, in order to attract the working class vote. They also claimed "fundies" were not interested in anything other than independence. As one of the "original" so-called fundamentalists, I never knew anyone from the "traditional" wing of the SNP who was disinterested in the social problems created by decades of neglect and mismanagement of the Scottish economy, by successive Westminster governments. As we had all suffered to some extent from them, why on earth would we not want to change them?

The views of the '79 Group prevailed and under the leadership of Alex Salmond, the pursuit of independence was set aside, in favour of a strategy of making the SNP electable by appealing to the working class, hence the visceral hatred of Labour and Labour of the SNP. The reality is that neither the Labour Party nor the SNP is a socialist party, their appeal is based on class consciousness rather than political principle. After twenty-five years of Salmond's strategy, the SNP has become electable - for Holyrood - but the middle classes have been almost totally alienated, something the traditional wing of the party always warned against, and the majority of Scots have rejected independence. On her endorsement as leader of the SNP, Nicola said, "let us build a better country". That cannot be done without the support of the majority of Scottish society and an appeal to only one section of that society, will do little to encourage that support, as the referendum showed. Independence must also come off the back burner and Scots encouraged to embrace it as the only means by which that "better country" will be achieved.

Early reports of branch meetings of the SNP, suggest that many of the new members see themselves as the "class warriors" that made up a substantial part of the foot soldiers of the Yes campaign. They are angry, feel let down by Westminster, even conned but what they are not, are "fundamentalists". Many of them are demanding independence, while denying they are Nationalists, therefore it has to be asked exactly what they mean by independence? How long will their current anger sustain them, will they still be there a year from now, are they prepared for the kind of long haul the SNP's recent strategy makes inevitable? Are they prepared for the machinations of the Westminster parties, as they seek to kick Scottish unrest into the longest grass they can find, hoping to bury the promises that were made until the unrest dissipates? It would be criminal if this was allowed to happen and if it is not, I am convinced a change of strategy will be necessary.

Nicola's "better country" should also embrace an appreciation of Scotland's culture. I cringed every time Humza Yousaf, or some other leading member of the Yes campaign asserted, "this is not about identity" or "this is not about the kilt or haggis..." as if this was the totality of Scottish culture, those things which identify us as Scots. For some strange reason people like Pete Wishart MP, who made his name with the Celtic band Runrig, or Elaine C Smith, a highly successful actress, did not have a word in their ears, pointing out that The Proclaimers, Deacon Blue and more recently Twin Atlantic, have international reputations. We have world renowned artists in film and theatre, art, music and literature, all of them dismissed as "kilt and haggis". Is it any wonder the No side were so disdainful of us when we portray ourselves in such a dismissive manner?

During ten years as Alex Salmond's deputy, Nicola did not break ranks once, but neither did the party in general. Arguments about currency and the EU, neither of which could be sustained, were allowed to dominate, such was the internal discipline of the SNP. Others in the Yes campaign were not, or should not have allowed themselves to be, constrained by SNP membership, but unfortunately did little to counter the more nonsensical arguments on the currency and EU. That will have to change. Nicola is starting with a high public approval rating and, as the only candidate for the leadership, obviously has the support of the vast majority of SNP members. The sell out for her tours is testimony to just how popular she is. Hopefully she will use that personal popularity to good effect, as she pursues her aim of "building a better country". As a true "fundamentalist", I just hope it includes independence.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

What Do Yes Voters Mean By Independence. Is it Worth A Candle?

After the Union of 1707 was signed, Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, known to Scottish history as "The Patriot", was in the act of mounting his horse to leave Edinburgh - and politics - when he was asked, "Will you forsake your country?" He responded, "It is fit only for the slaves who sold it." There has been a bit of that attitude in the aftermath of the Referendum, as fingers have been pointed at "the over 55's" or "Edinburgh" or more generally, "the haves". The truth is even more unpalatable for anyone who has spent years campaigning for independence, because a map of the voting patterns shows in stark detail just how widespread, was the opposition to what was presented as independence. Even in parts of the country which have produced a solid vote for the SNP for many years, the size of the No vote came as a surprise. We were not asked to vote for the SNP but the association of that party with independence, albeit it has hardly been the party's priority since Alex Salmond was elected leader in 1990, led most people, commentators included, to assume that a vote for Yes and a vote for the SNP were one and the same. In Aberdeenshire, Perth & Kinross, Angus and Moray for example, the No vote was either very close to, or in excess of 60% of the votes cast.

It is now generally accepted by the Yes side, that "Project Fear" triumphed and there is no doubt there was a strong element of fear - over pensions, currency, jobs - in many of the stated reasons for voting No. Sir Alexander Malcolm MacEwan, the first leader of the SNP 1934-36, 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...". There has been no shortage of comment since the referendum, much of it made in anger, but there is little sign of any great analysis of either the campaign or the way forward. Candidates for the deputy leadership of the SNP are reported to be split, with Angela Constance claiming her campaign will concentrate on "Independence", while Stewart Hosie and Keith Brown are both reported as being in favour of accepting that independence is lost for a generation.

Some on the Yes side, along with a few on the No side, argue that the majority of Scots really want "Devo-Max" which is apparently different from "Devo-Plus", although quite what the differences are is not explained. Others, including Nicola Sturgeon who wants "control of everything except defence and foreign policy", claim that what is wanted is "fiscal autonomy". It has still not registered there is no such thing as fiscal autonomy because without control of monetary policy, there can be no control of taxation, unless we are prepared to have the same kind of debacle that has been created in the Euro zone. We are still being bludgeoned with assertions of how important membership of the EU is to Scotland, how many jobs depend on that membership. Again there is no discussion of the fears being expressed, that the EU is heading for a "lost decade", as the largest economies enter their third recession in six years. Many of the problems have been created as a consequence of the rigidity of the euro, a currency union not a million miles away from the currency union with the rest of the UK, defended to the death - literally - by the Yes side. As yet, the contradictions in demanding the end of one Union with England while cementing "ever closer Union" with the EU, have been either ignored or glossed over, a stance which UKIP will exploit with a vengeance. There is still little if any understanding of the difference between internationalism and supranationalism, but it is something those who demand "independence" are going to have to engage.

Perhaps the greatest problem faced by the Yes side, and the most obvious problem, is how to get Scotland's middle classes to support independence. I have already said I believe the Yes campaign was a class campaign, from the constant repetition of "we want to create a fairer and more just society" to the concentration on "poverty" to the appeals to "the Labour vote". The rallies which have taken place since the Referendum have continued with the theme, with Tommy Sheridan continuing to play a leading role. Let me get this straight, before I am accused of being anti-working class or of ignoring the social problems in Scotland. I have always been on the "left" of Scottish politics and been recognised as such, but if independence is the priority, and it should be, a successful campaign for independence MAY result in a socialist or social democratic government in an independent Scottish state. A class campaign where socialism is the priority, is unlikely to lead to independence. From what has been said both prior to the referendum and since, many Scots feared the type of government an independent Scotland would produce, as much as feared independence per se. That is not to say the problems of poverty, unemployment, poor housing, health and all the other social ills of Scotland should be ignored but the message has to be tempered in such a way, that the middle classes are not excluded, that they are shown they will have an important part to play in an independent Scotland.

Another Referendum is not just around the corner, unless Scots react with sufficient anger to the "increased powers" Westminster deigns to hand down to us. We now have the time to decide what we mean by independence. There will be any number among us who will claim, "Independence does not mean what it used to mean", without ever explaining what their version does mean, as they settle for some form of devolution. But for those who believe that to be independent, means to have control of our own affairs without interference from outside organisations, the question of membership of the EU must be an issue. In an increasingly interdependent world, sovereign states have accepted specific treaty limitations to their law-making rights but continue to determine their own priorities within the constraints imposed by their external environment. However, at any level of integration or interdependence, a community of people must ask itself how important it is to retain the right to make its own choices between the options with which they are faced. Membership of the EU denies us that right.

Despite the issue of the currency union being raised right at the outset of the Referendum campaign, and warnings being given of the fact that such a union would deny us independence, the leadership of the SNP refused to discuss the possibility of a Scottish currency, without ever explaining why. The Yes campaign fell into line but there is no excuse now, not to have it discussed and papers prepared to explain why it would not only be a possible option, but would be the best long term option for an independent Scotland. I have grave doubts that there will ever be another Edinburgh Agreement, which means independence may have to be won by winning a majority of seats in parliament, the original policy of the SNP. Whatever method is used, we have to be better prepared for the type of onslaught we experienced during the last campaign. The starting point however, has to be what we mean by independence and whether it is worth having.

There was hardly a statement from any of the leaders of the No side, which did not include the words, "I am a proud Scot but..." or "I am very proud to be a Scot but..." None of them ever explained exactly what it was about Scotland or about being Scots, that made them proud. Given the catalogue of inevitable failures that they claimed would befall an independent Scotland, from failure to sell our products abroad, to failure to support our banks, to failure at just about everything, it is difficult to see what there was in which to have any pride. Real pride was reserved for British nationalism and British identity while Scottish nationalism was narrow, isolationist, even racist, while Scottish culture and those things which make up our distinct identity, ware demeaned or mocked. Too many leaders of the SNP and the Yes campaign were only too ready to deny both nationalism and identity, adding to the lack of confidence in the desire to be "just Scottish". Just as devolution and independence are not different degrees of the same thing, Scottish nationalism and a recognition of our distinct identity, have nothing to do with racism, chauvinism or imperialism. If Scotland is ever to be independent, Scots must learn to want independence for its own sake.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

"Where do we go from here?" That is a question much easier asked than answered. Was it the campaign; was it the question? I happen to think it was both, not that the question was wrong but that it was being asked of an electorate that for the past 25 years has become used to having independence downplayed by the supposed "party of independence". That same electorate was not fooled either, by the sleight of hand of the SNP, attempting to present an economic policy that quite plainly told them independence was not on offer. It was easy for the No campaign to highlight the dishonesty of the Yes side, despite their own campaign of blatant dishonesty and hypocrisy. Perhaps now, those dedicated and sincere people who desperately wanted independence, will accept that electoral success for the SNP is not the same as persuading Scots of the benefits of independence, so that however dishonest the Unionists are, independence will become the priority and will be delivered.

Perhaps instead of asking just "Where it all went wrong?" we should also ask "When did it all start to go wrong?" I firmly believe it started to go wrong long before the referendum campaign started; in fact I believe it started to go wrong for the SNP and the cause of independence some time before the 1987 Westminster general election. I realise that many of my critics will stop reading now, but many of them have little or no knowledge of the history of the SNP and how much the strategy and tactics of the party have changed throughout that period. Many others are not Nationalists, therefore the class politics, in which the SNP has indulged, chimes with their own view of what the party should stand for and how it should campaign. The failure of the referendum to achieve independence, should surely make them at least examine if the strategy of the last 25 years was correct.

The SNP did not fight a Nationalist campaign in 1987, it fought an anti-Thatcher campaign and did no more than talk up the Labour vote in Scotland. The 1983 campaign had been a disaster for the party, which spent more time dealing with the problems created by the activities of the 79 Group and the SNG, than it did campaigning. Prior to 1987, the party made a pact with Plaid Cymru in Wales, part of which entailed being prepared to keep a Labour government in power in Westminster in return for constitutional change, but rejecting any deal with the Tories for any reason. It was the first time the party had fought any kind of election on a purely class agenda and under the influence of Alex Salmond, who had been elected VC Publicity, the party talked up the likelihood of a hung parliament in Westminster, under the slogan, "If there is going to be a hung parliament, let it hang by a Scottish rope". There was strong internal opposition to the hung parliament scenario and keeping a Unionist party in power, as there was never any chance of a hung parliament. The strategy was a disaster and I wrote in the Scots Independent after the election, "Dundee East and Western Isles were sacrificed on the altar of anti-Thatcherism".

In his book, "SNP: The Turbulent Years" Gordon Wilson wrote, "...the central belt strategy had collapsed and with the loss of Dundee East in particular, we no longer had parliamentary representation in any industrial area." The vote was increased by 2.4% to 14% from the 1983 vote of 11.8% and the number of MPs increased from 2 to 3, so that the spin became, "We increased our parliamentary strength by 50%". Labour's vote went up from 35% in 1983 to 42.4% and their MPs increased from 41 to 50 (the famous Feeble Fifty). The vast majority of SNP supporters are unaware that the party has consistently failed to achieve the 30.4% of the vote won in October 1974 which returned 11 MPs to Westminster. In 2010 the party polled 19.9% which returned 6 MPs, the highest number elected under Alex Salmond's leadership. No one can deny the tremendous success of the party in the Scottish Parliament but it also has to be recognised that proportional representation gave it the kick start it needed. Under proportional representation for Westminster, the SNP would have returned 22 MPs in October 1974, a result which could have produced a much different outcome for the party in 1979. The class politics, which has been the strategy of the SNP during Alex Salmond's twenty years as leader, has obviously brought success in the Scottish Parliament but it has alienated the substantial number of natural conservative voters in Scotland and it has failed to convert Scots to the cause of independence. YouGov's latest poll shows that only 8% of Tory voters voted Yes while 20% of SNP voters voted No.

The campaign run by the No side was a travesty and was well named "Project Fear" but anyone who has been involved in politics in Scotland for any length of time, should have been ready to counter both that and the solid Unionist misrepresentation of the media, particularly the BBC and tabloids like the Daily and Sunday Mail. The Yes Campaign was hardly helped by the protestations of its Chairman Dennis Canavan, and others, when he proclaimed, "I am not a Nationalist" at every opportunity. He was aided and abetted by SNP office bearers like Humza Yousaf who regularly declared, "It is not about kilts, haggis, identity..." That proclaimed to the world that there was something wrong, pernicious and perhaps dangerous, with Scottish Nationalism and that it was better avoided, despite the fact that even the media was prepared to concede there had never been any hint of racism or sectarianism associated with the SNP and the independence movement, despite the best efforts of George Galloway to insinuate that there was. Ironically his colleagues and fellow Unionists in the Loyalists showed us where the racism and sectarianism could be found, when they attacked Yes supporters in George Square in Glasgow. The No side lapped it up, attacking the dangers of Nationalism at every turn. The Yes campaign was a class campaign, an appeal to the disadvantaged, pure and simple, an appeal to Labour voters, doing nothing to promote the culture and identity of the Scottish nation, the things that identify us as Scots to the rest of the world.

If there was one issue that sunk the Yes campaign more than any other, it was the currency. I have written about it at length and won't repeat the arguments now, as they can be read in several previous blogs. It was an insult to peoples' intelligence to argue that a currency union would give Scots control of the economic levers we need, in order to run our own economy when not just the opposition were pointing out, if a currency union was agreed at all, that allowing another country to control monetary policy, together with agreements on borrowing and spending, would deny us independence. The argument, "it is our pound as well as theirs" was infantile and demeaning. The failure to deal with the currency gave rise to several other concerns such as pensions, debt repayment, the flight of capital and companies to England, the EU and the euro. Supporters were reduced to claiming the currency union was merely a "short term measure", while the leadership was stating they expected/hoped it would last for many years. It is astonishing that the leadership allowed themselves and therefore the campaign, to enter the fight so obviously unprepared for the opposing arguments. The obvious answer for any country renewing its status as a nation state, is to have its own currency, which it can then manage as it sees fit. Why that option was never discussed, even to explain why the leadership rejected it, was never explained.

The one encouraging outcome of the referendum campaign is the energy it has released among the population, particularly the young. I have no confidence that Westminster will keep to the promises of greater powers for the Scottish parliament, particularly now that the English have realised what is happening. The timetable has already slipped and will slip further. I would be more encouraged by the enormous increase in the SNP's membership if I could be sure of the kind of strategy and platform the party will adopt. If it is more of the same, it is likely the result of another referendum will be the same. No nation that aspires to statehood can afford to alienate an entire section of its population by campaigning exclusively for another section, no nation can create a stable and successful society by fighting a predominantly class war.




Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mugged? Or Just Mugs?

Those of us who were around in 1979 have spent the last two years ( and a hell of a lot of years before that) warning the Scottish people to beware the promises they would be given by Unionist politicians. That was a bad time for Nationalists, as they saw the work carried out over the previous five years by the SNP's parliamentary group, thrown back in their faces by the Scottish electorate. This time,we knew, as the electorate should have known, that the Westminster MPs cannot be trusted. Within 24 hours of the poll, the promises made only a few days previously, of greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, were being kicked into the long grass. Increased powers for Scotland are suddenly to be conditional on increased powers for England, together with the resolution of the West Lothian Question. Just to ensure there is "fairness all round", Wales and Northern Ireland must also be given further powers, as yet unstated. So, in answer to the question, "Yes, we have been well and truly mugged". And just to make my position clear, I also think we are mugs.

Alex Douglas Home's infamous request to Scots to reject the Devolution Bill of 1979, as "the Tories would introduce something much better" is so much a part of Scottish political folklore, so ingrained in the minds of any Scot who has an interest in politics and Scotland's political history, it is almost inconceivable that we would fall for it again. Those Labour supporters who have been disgusted by the stance taken by the current Labour Party in Scotland and their coalition with the Tories, should have remembered it was a Labour MP who sunk the 1979 Bill with the notorious "40% Rule". They should also have remembered the Brian Wilsons and Tam Dalyells in the Labour Party, who campaigned against their own party's policy. These are the Labour MPs who are in favour of independence for every country in the world, except their own. This time, it fell to another Labour MP, an ex Chancellor and Prime Minister no less, to sink the knife into the hopes and aspirations of Scots. Step forward Gordon Brown.

I can respect the views of anyone who favours keeping the Union of 1707 for positive reasons, because they genuinely feel British and can make a positive case, without recourse to hypocrisy or the kind of disdain for Scottish aspirations, history, culture, mores and values that we have come to expect from the "British" establishment. I can have sympathy for those who have a genuine concern or fear for their future prospects, whether it be pensions, health or education for children or grandchildren, even if that fear is groundless and has been manufactured by a series of distortions, half truths and out and out lies. Unfortunately the SNP and Yes Campaign did little to assuage those fears, through a combination of incompetence and distortion that left them wide open to charges of the same kind of dishonesty that haunted the No Campaign. (I will cover the campaign in the next blog.) What I really despise is the rank hypocrisy of the Wilsons, Davidsons, Labour and Tory establishments in general, the Scottish media but particularly the BBC and Daily Mail.

Gordon Brown was regularly vilified and openly despised, with the kind of racist taunts at his Scottishness that would have been prosecuted had they been leveled at any other minority but which the Establishment tolerated in Brown's case, by the very same people who have deified him for his performance in the Referendum campaign. He is the man who destroyed the pension industry in the UK, during his term as Chancellor, who allowed the banks to cheat, steal and thumb their collective noses at their own customers, to the point where they almost destroyed the UK economy. They have paid millions in fines for corruption and billions in compensation to those they cheated and from whom they stole, using the legislation he introduced, but not a single banker has been prosecuted. In his Mansion House speech in 2007, to the Financial Services industry, Brown said, I congratulate you on those remarkable achievements, an era that history will record as the beginning of a new Golden Age for "the City of London....." The economy collapsed within the next year. He had the gall to tell the Scottish people their pensions would be threatened if they voted Yes.

The part played by the BBC and Daily Mail will not be forgotten, as their bias became more blatant with every day that passed. The BBC surpassed even its own hypocrisy levels, when it failed to report the riots in George Square for what they were, a show of sectarian racism and thuggery by Union Jack waving toerags. They tried to present it as "a clash between Yes and No supporters", rapidly disproved through use of the internet by those who were attacked. Alistair Darling has tried to disown them, although he was quick enough to condemn the entire independence movement because someone threw an egg at Jim Murphy. We have heard nothing from Ian Davidson. Sorry Messrs Darling, Davidson et al. they are your thugs, they are Unionists to a man and when they spewed all over George Square, they defiled the Scottish nation on behalf of the Union. For more than a fortnight the Daily Mail reported the on line abuse of J K Rowland on a daily basis, abuse that was condemned by every leading figure in the Yes Campaign. True to form, when Andy Murray revealed he would vote Yes, the Mail not only participated in his abuse, they attempted to justify it.

With the appeals for Scots to come together to work for the common good still ringing in our ears, the timetable for the reforms Brown promised, has already slipped, "English votes for English laws" has become the new mantra in England, reform all round has appeared on the agenda and Jack Straw wants the Union of 1707 to become indissoluble. In other words, another referendum on Scottish independence would become illegal and the main aim of the original English Unionists would finally be fulfilled; the end of Scotland as a separate country and political entity. The English MPs have a point; it is obviously unfair that the English people have been ignored during all the discussions about independence, but the time to raise the issue was before the Edinburgh Agreement was signed. Several leading figures have warned the Westminster government that any attempt to welch on the promises they made would not be forgiven, that Scots would never forgive them. I wish I was that confident. The main parties have been wlching on promises for the whole of my life and if you read history for a lot longer than that. In fact, the UK establishment has welched on promises since 1707 and couldn't care less if Scots don't forgive them. Until we vote for independence, there is nothing we can do about it and they will continue to break promises. Those who voted No will just have to get used to it.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

"The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself"

When Franklin D Roosvelt, said, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself", during his first inaugural address in 1933, he was speaking to a nation which was in the depths of the Great Depression. Unemployment was 25%, with another 33% working part-time, which meant 50% of the work force was unused. Farm incomes had fallen by 50% and out of a total of five million mortgages, 844,000 were foreclosed. Banks were closed and savings lost, no unemployment benefit and no social security. The soup kitchen, riding the rails, hopelessness and abject poverty passed into American folklore with songs such as, "Buddy can you spare me a dime". When, in a recent blog I suggested that Roosvelt's, "the only thing...." was far more applicable to present day Scotland than to America in 1933, it was the comparison of the relative levels of poverty and economic activity that I had in mind.

Roosvelt, went on to say, "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyses needed effort to convert retreat into advance". There is absolutely no doubt that much of the fear of independence we are hearing expressed by Scots, is both unreasoning and unjustified but which has been engendered by the Unionists during the application of their "Project Fear". Their relentless negativity, not just over the past two years of the referendum campaign, but over generations of propaganda, has damaged Scotland and the Scottish people, not just economically or materially, but psychologically. To instill unjustified fear and encourage lack of confidence in a nation, so that it will cease to aspire to create change or challenge the dominant partner, is criminal. I have been just as relentless in stating that Scottish Nationalism, the desire for independence, is about dignity and self respect, not economics and been accused of insulting those who oppose independence. I may have some sympathy with their arguments if they were not invariably couched in economic terms. Where is the dignity and self respect in believing that independence will inevitably lead to economic collapse, or that Scots will be unable to fund their pension, education or health service?

Margaret and Jim Cuthbert, who have produced some excellent work on the Scottish economy, said in one of their papers, "The Union has proved itself incapable of exercising proper stewardship, either of an irreplaceable resource like North sea Oil, or of the UK economy. Secondly the Union has failed to honour the kind of implicit bargain of good faith that should exist in any properly functioning union." That is a serious charge but one that can be shown to be accurate in any number of ways. For people who preface every comment with, "I am a proud Scot but.." Unionists do their very best to show what a useless, feckless, uninspiring collection of subsidy junkies, we are. They are also the only people who argue that Scotland will collapse when the oil runs out - next week, next month or next year. They will never have any credibility on oil after hiding the McCrone report and lying to the Scottish people for over thirty years. They are still lying and deliberately ignoring the other sectors of the Scottish economy which are doing well and with independence will do even better, such as food and drink, tourism, life sciences et al.

Gordon Brown warns us we will not be able to afford our pensions - who pays for them now? - which is rich, coming from the man who destroyed the pension industry in the UK. Standard Life announced yesterday they intend to reduce the pension provision for over 3,000 of their staff but this is just the latest installment of the total destruction of final salary schemes, brought about by Brown's policies when he was Chancellor. The uncertainty created by the currency issue, is said to be causing the finance industry to relocate to England, in the event of a Yes vote, with Standard Life leading the charge. This is the company that made the same threat when Devolution was proposed but is one of the few companies left in Scotland out of the once dominant financial services sector. Where are the great Scottish companies such as GA, Scottish Amicable, Scottish Equitable, Scottish Mutual, Scottish Provident, Scottish Life; all of them taken over and business transferred? When Margaret Curran warns we will lose shipbuilding jobs if there is a Yes vote, has she deliberately forgotten the jobs we lost when Labour were in power for thirty years out of the last 63? One hundred years ago, one fifth of the total ships built in the world, were built on the Clyde. Where are they now? Labour presided over massive job losses not just in shipbuilding but in the railways, mining and steel industries, while Scottish oil revenues were being used to fund the necessary changes in the English economy.

For a nation that produced some of the world's greatest inventors, scientists, engineers and whose working classes were at one time, the most literate and best educated in Europe, to be afraid of governing itself is almost beyond comprehension. Our history in education and medicine and the part played by the great Scottish thinkers such as Hume, during the Enlightenment, is without equal. We have lost almost two million people in the last 100 years and their talents played a massive role in building the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Their talents could have been used here, in their own country and with the exception of Ireland, no part of the British Isles has lost a greater proportion of its people to emigration. Independence could reverse that need to go abroad to realise aspirations while the great Scottish diaspora will continue to give us the international contacts we need.

Roosvelt was later said to be the "man who saved capitalism", although it took World War II to put the American economy really back on its feet. The independence movement's ambitions are less lofty than "saving capitalism". It has been repeated countless times but people seem to need reminding that the referendum is not about voting for the SNP or any other party; it is about deciding who governs our country and that is far more important. It would indeed be a tragedy if Roosvelt',s "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror" was allowed to determine the result.


Monday, 1 September 2014

Does Labour's History In Scotland Justify Trusting Them Again?

This blog is simply an update on the one I wrote in April this year entitled, "If Scots Choose Labour Rather Than Independence, They Can Expect Another Kicking". With only two weeks to go until we make the most important political decision any of us have faced in our lifetime, a long, hard look at the alternatives to independence, is absolutely essential. Shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, issued a statement today, warning Labour voters who might be tempted to vote for independence "to escape the Tories", to remember the "threat to Scottish shipbuilding jobs" that independence would bring. For ANY Scottish Labour MP to warn against independence because we might lose jobs in shipbuilding, really is beyond parody.

Don't be put off by the list of figures below, because they tell an important story about Labour's record in Scotland, particularly how they have rewarded the trust placed in them by Scotland's population. The wastelands that are still there in parts of West Central Scotland - better known as "Labour's Heartland" - tell the story much more graphically than any list of numbers and figures ever will, but the numbers really are important, because they represent the historical record of Labour's betrayal of the people who trusted them and put them back into office time, after time, after time.

Year of Gen Election                    No of Scottish Seats Won By Labour
  1951           Tory Gov                                    35
  1955                  "                                           34
  1959                  "                                           38
  1964           Lab Gov                                      43
  1966                 "                                            46
  1970            Tory Gov                                   44
  1974 (Feb)   Lab Gov                                    40
  1974 (Oct)         "                                           41
  1979             Tory Gov                                   44
  1983                  "                                            40
  1987                 "                                             50 (The Feeble Fifty)
  1992                 "                                             49
  1997             Lab Gov                                     56
  2001                 "                                             56
  2005                 "                                             41
  2010              Tory Gov                                  41

Labour won the general elections in 1945 and 1951, the period where they have to be given credit for the setting up of the National Health Service and the massive restructuring that took place in the immediate post war years, but what followed, at least as far as Scotland is concerned, is massively different. What the figures show is that since the general election of 1964, when Harold Wilson led Labour, the party has never had less than 40 MPs which have been sent to Westminster to represent Scottish seats. That could have been a serious and effective Scottish pressure group but party loyalty always came first. They also show that Labour has held office in Westminster for thirty years out of the last 63, therefore they are as much to blame as the Tories, for whatever has happened to Scottish industry and the failure to deal effectively with the deindustrialisation of the Scottish economy.

In the coal industry, employment in Scotland fell from 89,464 in 1951 to 2,370 in 1991, but the carnage took place in three stages. Between 1951 and 1961, the numbers fell from 89,464 to 80,410 and between 1961 and 1971, the numbers fell from 80,410 to 34,315 and finally to 2,370 by 1991. The Tories were in power for all of the first stage but Labour was in power for seven years out of the ten years of the second stage when 46,000 jobs were lost and the real damage was done. There is a similar story in the rail industry where jobs in Scotland fell from 55,393 in 1951 to 11,870 in 1991. Again, there were three stages when there was a small reduction from 55,393 in 1951 to 53,990 in 1961, then a loss of 31,000 jobs from 53,990 in 1961 to 22,910 in 1971 and finally to 11,870 in 1991. Again Labour was in power when the real damage was done and although the Beeching reports were published in 1963 and 1965, when he returned to ICI, the bulk of the cuts he suggested were implemented during Labour's term of office.

One resource that could have saved Scotland much of the pain associated with the various periods of substantial unemployment since 1945, is oil. Had Scotland had the power to control the rate of extraction and proper management of the resource, in other words had we been independent, there would be no queues for second hand food as we are currently experiencing.The McCrone report on the effect oil would have on Scotland, if we chose to be independent, was written in 1974 for the Heath government but was given to the Labour government on April 23rd 1975. Both governments agreed that it would not be in the interests of UK governments if Scots were told the truth, therefore the report was kept secret, until the SNP were able to get it through Freedom of Information in 2005. There is no doubt Scots would have taken an entirely different attitude to independence, had they been told the contents of the report, which stated that an independent Scotland would be as rich as Switzerland with a currency which would have been the hardest of any in Europe, with the possible exception of the Norwegian Kroner.

In July 1986, with the Tories in government, I attended an unemployment summit arranged by the STUC, as part of an SNP team, together with representatives of the TUs, Churches, Local Government and other groups in Scottish society. This was nothing new as the STUC had called an "Assembly on Unemployment" in February 1972 when unemployment was 85,000; a "Convention on Unemployment" in December 1980 when unemployment was 250,000 and then this "Economic Summit" in July with unemployment at 480,000. Unemployment at this level was a national disgrace as Scotland was the fifth largest oil producer in the world the previous year, 1985. Contributions from the floor suggested that the nature and representation at the Summit, was a clear indication of the "power of Scottish society". Gordon Wilson, then leader of the SNP, pointed out that the Summit was "a sign of weakness rather than power". No one openly disagreed. Jim Callaghan predicted that oil revenues would be around £4 billion by the middle of the 1980s but they were £12 billion in 1985. Dennis Healey admitted on May 19th 2013, that they had quite deliberately reduced the true wealth in the North Sea "because of the fear of giving the SNP a boost."

Scotland has little to thank Labour for, as my previous blog shows in more detail, and when Margaret Curran has the gall to warn us that we will lose shipbuilding jobs if we vote Yes, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Hae Ye Ever Taen A Richt Scunner?

Whenever my mother was really fed up with something, that was her favourite saying. We then knew that what was to follow had really got up her humph. I don't think I have ever been so scunnered with politics in my life and I can't think of any English word that comes anywhere near the depth of emotion evoked by that very Scots word, scunnered. I have been a political animal all my life, joining the SNP at age 15 in 1955,  spending the next thirty-five years involved - except for breaks through army and police service - , taking degrees in political science and economics and going through the highs of the 1960's and early 1970's to the depths of despair in 1979. Leaving the party in 1990 left an enormous hole in my life but the reasons for leaving were, to my mind, perfectly justified, therefore the degree of disappointment was tempered to some degree, by my determination to continue to argue the case which led to my leaving - opposition to the EU and a United States of Europe.

The scunner I have taken now, has nothing to do with my commitment to independence - which will never change - or to my immense interest in politics per se, the theory, philosophy, the determination to argue the case for a decent society; no, the scunner is with the people involved on both sides of the independence debate and the inaccuracies, half-truths and out and out deception, that is churned out daily, by both sides. The recent blog, "£750,000 Of UK Government Lies" covers much of this, contained in the latest UK Government leaflet, while the last blog, "If Scots Vote No, Blame Salmond" covered it in spades. A couple of days before the European elections, Bill Jamieson wrote in The Scotsman that for the first time in his life, he was seriously wondering if he should bother casting a vote at all, such was his level of disinterest. As only 33.5% of Scots bothered to get up off their backsides to vote in that election, the vast majority of Scots obviously agreed with him. As I type this, there is a piece being broadcast on Scotland Tonight, on "celebrity endorsement" and the effect it is having on the independence debate. If there is one thing that really heightens the degree of scunneration, it is to hear what Simon Cowell or J K Rowling thinks about independence and the coverage given by the media to every piece of trivia that dribbles from the mouths of the so-called social elite. Like the vast majority of Scots, if asked, my comment would be, "Who the hell cares?" As for the "Love You Scots, Missing You Already" love letter signed by 200 of that self-styled elite, you know what you can do with that.

Ask me what I think about the fact that another 100,000 Scots are going to be living in poverty, or what I think will happen to those Scots currently living in poverty BUT, who are in full-time employment and are struggling to pay their mortgages NOW, or HOW those Scots are going to be able to pay their mortgages when interest rates are pumped up because of the housing bubble in London and the South East of England? Ask me if I think Scotland needs a rise in interest rates just now, or in six months from now, and what effect that will have on the Scottish economic recovery? Believe me, that is of far greater interest to me and thousands of other Scots, than whether Michelle Mone has moved out yet, or whether she is still trying to make up her mind. She might find a few drunken students living next door, a much bigger threat than independence. Instead of asking Scots what will make the bigger difference, £1,400 of a potential bribe if they stay with the UK or, £1,000 potential bribe if they go for independence, why not ask them which of the two government ministers is telling the truth and why, in the latest spat over alleged taxation proposals.

On Sunday June 29th, Danny Alexander, Treasury Chief Secretary claimed in a letter to First Minister Alex Salmond, that the FM had finally conceded that a currency union with the rUK was now "off the table". He wrote, "Voters can only conclude from this explicit statement of fundamental fiscal divergence that you now accept that a currency union is not going to happen." The "statement" from the SNP, which provoked this letter, was to the effect that in the first three years after independence in 2014, Finance Secretary John Swinney vowed that under an SNP government, public spending would rise by 3% each year. This is in direct contrast to the debt proposals presented by the Coalition, which states that public spending can rise by NO MORE THAN 1% EACH YEAR. Under any currency union agreement, this simply could not be allowed, a degree of divergence which has been explained frequently, as being not just unacceptable, but IMPOSSIBLE. Several top economists and independence supporters have explained on numerous occasions, that a currency union, as outlined by the SNP's own Fiscal Commission AND accepted by John Swinney, as well as the Governor of the Bank of England, would simply NOT allow that to happen.

As always, Alexander's statement was dismissed by the SNP as, "adding insult to injury". That statement from the SNP did NOT mean that Alex Salmond had accepted a currency union will not happen. As far as Salmond is concerned, (did you see the debate?) a currency union will happen,. BUT, a degree of divergence of 3% in the borrowing levels in Scotland and the rUK, is NOT going to happen in any currency union that includes rUK and Scotland. It is that kind of nonsense that led to the crisis in the Euro and there is no way a UK government is going to allow it to happen in the UK. A recent paper produced by Jim Cuthbert for the Jimmy Reid Foundation shows quite clearly that the debt situation which prevailed in the UK at the time of the economic crisis in 2008, has improved only slightly in 2014. In his conclusions, Jim Cuthbert states, "The crisis of 2008 however, did not cure the problem; the emergency measures taken at the time prevented the systemic collapse, but only at the expense of shoring up the financial sector's balance sheet by quantitative easing, and by unprecedentedly low interest rates. In the process, the other sectors of the economy, which had already been weakened by the expansion of the financial sector, were further distorted." This is one of the reasons that Jim Cuthbert, a life-long nationalist, has argued in favour of a Scottish currency.

There was more coverage of the EU in recent weeks, than we are used to in the Scottish press as a consequence of the election of Jean-Claude Juncker to the post of President of the European Commission. As far as some of the UK media was concerned, the most interesting feature of the man is the allegation he is an alcoholic. David Cameron opposed his election from the outset and his failure to gain any support in the rest of the EU - with the exception of Hungary -.is said to have diminished his already non-existent standing in the EU. How that can be managed is still a bit of a mystery. Alcoholic or not, the SNP were convinced they "could deal with this man", despite the fact his main aim is the abolition of the nation state and the creation of a United States of Europe. Ah well, we have dealt with worse, we elected UKIP.

It is pointless to hope that things will improve in the final few weeks of the campaign. My only consolation is that I will be on holiday when the rest of the country has to suffer the second installment of the "THE DEBATE". I don't think I could stand another version of the previous performance without doing serious damage to the TV. When we see what is happening in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Gaza or other parts of Africa, where people are dying in their thousands, striving to build a settled home for themselves, where all they ask is to be allowed to live in peace in a country which is theirs, while we are squabbling about whether a few celebrities will go or stay if we declare some form of sham independence, we really should be ashamed of ourselves.





Sunday, 10 August 2014

If Scots Vote NO, Blame Alex Salmond.

There were numerous critics, many of them quite vociferous, of the early part of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, which was likened to a massive pantomime highlighted by "that kiss" by John Barrowman. The critics were summarily dismissed by the self-styled intelligentsia, who informed us they had missed the whole point of the exercise, which was to parody all the cliches associated with tartanalia, Brigadoon et al and it really was Glasgow humour at its best - edgy, off the wall and far too intelligent for ordinary plebs to take in. If a sizeable section of the Scottish public didn't understand the message being broadcast, what hope did the millions in the Commonwealth have, who had never heard of Brigadoon, had never visited Scotland and barely understood the accent, never mind the humour?

A similar approach is being used by SNP and Yes supporters who try to defend the obsession with a currency union that is on the point of destroying the independence campaign. With a degree in the subject, thirteen years of teaching and lecturing in it and thirty three years in the financial services industry, handling millions of other people's money, I do have some notion of what economics is about, what a currency union is, the advantages and disadvantages of currency unions, how currencies are managed and mismanaged and the various options an independent Scotland would have in handling its currency, in the event of a Yes vote. Despite all of that, I have to admit to being totally unable to understand Salmond's obsession with a currency union, because explanation there has been none.

In my 35 years inside the SNP, I never used the ad hominem approach in debate, it was never my style to attack individuals and since I left the party in December 1990 I have followed that course, despite being a regular critic of what I see as the party's lack of commitment to independence. Unfortunately, I am now going to make an exception to that rule and state quite bluntly, if Scots vote No in September, the person who will carry the blame will be Alex Salmond whose arrogance has now become unbearable. On the question of currency, under his leadership, the SNP has been up more blind alleys than the three blind mice, and no longer has any credibility left. Salmond claimed the pound sterling "was a millstone round our neck", wrote to Fred Goodwin to congratulate him on the takeover of ABN AMRO when wiser heads in the financial world were advising against it, and insisted Scotland should join the euro long after it was obvious to the world at large, let alone those dealing in finance, that the single currency was a disaster for half its members. Now he demands the rUK grant Scotland a currency union and London continues to control the Scottish economy, and we all agree to call it independence, more of which below.

Several of my critics on here tell me I fail to see the "wider picture", that the SNP has devised a ploy so clever, that the whole argument of demanding a currency union is simply a ploy that will leave the government of the rUK floundering in the negotiations that will follow the Yes vote. They tell me the negotiating position the SNP has devised has to remain a secret so that the government of the rUK will be caught out on the day. Of course, since it is a secret, my critics have no idea what it is, in fact, they have no idea if it actually exists, they simply claim it does. Who told them? They can't say, it is a secret, a bit like the "legal advice" that didn't exist. The problem with this scenario of course is, that now the Unionists know there is a crafty ploy to catch them off balance during negotiations, won't they be preparing for all the potential possibilities? We can't say because it is a secret. As a defense of the SNP's obsession with a currency union, it is absolute garbage and an insult to the intelligence of anyone with half a brain. It is also why Salmond's bluster and arrogance will not be enough to carry the argument. In fact, the ploy is so clever and opaque, it is likely to persuade the undecided to vote NO, caught up as they are in a maze of uncertainty.

The debate between Salmond and Darling was atrocious and there have been reams written about who "won", most of it as atrocious as the debate itself. There may be some doubt about who "won" but there is no doubt about who lost- the people of Scotland and the cause of independence. Salmond started at a disadvantage, having said for months he would debate with only the Prime Minister of the UK. On the night, he couldn't even manage the substitute, although Darling, for all the plaudits he has received, missed the golden opportunity to get the one answer to which we are all desperate to hear. So much tripe has been written and spoken about the currency union that people have lost sight of the most important question of all - INDEPENDENCE. The debate is now littered with dishonesty and distortion, none more so than in the relentless, monotonous mentions of the Fiscal Commission. This august body, with its two Nobel laureates has said a "currency union would be in the best interests of both Scotland and the rUK". The two massive caveats which accompanied that statement are NEVER quoted. They are, "in the immediate aftermath of independence" and "it will not give Scotland control of the economic levers". 

In other words, it is not independence. The Fiscal Commission had a great deal more to say on the agreements which would be necessary for a currency union to work, as I pointed out in my previous blog, "Will Scotland Be Independent In A Currency Union?" on 21/5/13, more than a year ago. One of the most important conditions was as follows, "a joint fiscal sustainability agreement is established to govern the level of borrowing and debt within the sterling zone". John Swinney, Finance Minister, is on record several times, as agreeing with the conditions laid out by the Fiscal Commission. None of this was brought up during the debate between Salmond and Darling. One can see why Salmond would want to avoid making mention of any of that at all costs, but what was Darling thinking about? Instead of hammering Salmond with, "What is your plan B Alex?" he should have said, "The Fiscal Commission laid out the following conditions for a currency union to work, conditions which your Finance Minister has accepted,
* The Bank of England will set Scotland's interest rates and control monetary policy, as it does now.
* The Bank of England will set the level of borrowing in Scotland, as it does now
* The Bank of England will set  Scotland's debt management, as it does now
* The rUK Government, as a consequence of the above, will have indirect control of Scotland's fiscal policy, as it does now.
Can you now tell this audience Mr Salmond, how, under these conditions of control of the Scottish economy, Scotland can possibly be independent, how you can fulfill the promises for change you have made, when your Scottish government will not control its own economy? How does that possibly mean independence?"

Not even the Nobel laureates would be able to answer that question and neither would Salmond.

Friday, 27 June 2014

£750,000 Of UK Government Lies

The UK Government is reputed to have spent over £750,000 putting together a small booklet entitled, "What Staying in the United Kingdom means for Scotland", delivered to every household in the country. There was a considerable outcry when the Scottish Government published the White Paper, about the "waste of taxpayers' money", "use of government employees on SNP propaganda" etc. but as always, with the No Campaign, there has been not a single word raised in protest at the "waste of taxpayers' money" for the dissemination of UK Government propaganda. The White Paper produced by the SNP Government in Holyrood, has been widely condemned as being a propaganda exercise and no more than a campaign manifesto for the SNP. There is no doubt there is some justification in the criticisms made but they are as nothing compared to the blatant propaganda which has been produced by the UK Government, in the alleged guise of "public information".

There is a distinction between misinformation and out and out lies and, every political party and every government is guilty of disseminating both from time to time. Supporters and opponents will adopt whichever stand they deem to be appropriate in each case, with each highlighting those statements of the opposition, which are most obviously untrue. As an opponent of the UK Government's and Better Together's campaign for the Union, I regard it as an obligation to point out the most blatant attempts by both to mislead the Scottish people, by providing deliberately misleading information or, as in the case of their latest booklet, deliberately lying. The booklet starts by stating, "It's for you to decide and you should make your choice knowing all the relevant facts". Unfortunately, much of the content is far from being either relevant or factual.

"By staying in the United Kingdom, our economies grow together" That is no more than a statement of the obvious but what is not stated is that over the past thirty years, the Scottish economy has grown by at least 0.5% each year less than the rest of the UK, ensuring that Scottish economic progress has been greatly disadvantaged as a consequence of government policy. The current boom in London's property market is creating even greater imbalance, leading to speculation that interest rates will have to be increased much earlier than expected. Increased interest rates are the last thing Scotland needs at the moment. "Staying within the UK is the only way to keep the pound we have now" That is a lie. The UK Government may refuse to have a currency union but there would be nothing to stop an independent Scotland from using the pound sterling as its currency of choice. There would be disadvantages in doing so and it would not be the best option for an independent Scotland, but that would be up to Scotland, not the UK Government to decide.

"Putting up an international border with the rest of the UK would slow growth". That is not necessarily true as borders, of themselves, do not slow growth. In any case, who is talking about putting up economic borders? English jobs rely on Scottish trade just as much as Scottish jobs rely on English trade, why would either government put up borders? "By staying in the United Kingdom, your money is safe and goes further". Is that meant to be a joke? Did the banking crisis of 2008 not happen? Did the frauds of PPI and CPP not take place? Did RBS alone, not pay out £9 billion in compensation and, unlike the Icelandic Government, did the UK Governments of both Labour and the Tory/Lib.Dem Coalition fail to prosecute a single banker for the billions they cost the UK economy? Wonga and Barclays - AGAIN - are both currently under investigation for financial fraud. Is it just a coincidence that 51% of the Tory Party's total funding is provided by the City of London, that over FIFTY financiers donated over £50,000 each to the Tory Party in 2012?

"The United Kingdom's financial standing helps keep interest rates low. That means cheaper loans and mortgages." That is no more than a snapshot of the current financial situation. If the London property market is allowed to continue to distort the UK economy, the cost of consumer borrowing will rise much sooner than expected. The UK already has a massive balance of trade and balance of payments deficit and, as that gets worse, as it will do, the pressure on sterling will increase, raising the cost of borrowing. The above claim is a total distortion. "Staying in the UK would keep future energy bills for Scottish households up to £189 a year lower" That is an out and out lie. Scotland's energy situation is far healthier than that of the rUK and the greater the development of Scottish resources, the greater the advantages will be for Scottish consumers. Energy companies in the UK are ripping off consumers at the rate of £101 each year for every family in the country, an increase of 1,000% in five years. Ofgem has ordered a full-blown inquiry into the conduct of energy companies and for the UK Government to make such a claim beggars belief.

"State Pensions are more secure because costs are shared by 31 million people." this is another out and out lie because the security of State Pensions rely on a great deal more than the size of the population. Taking the rUK Government's argument to its logical conclusion, China's State Pensions would be the most secure in the world and Norway would struggle to pay any kind of pension at all. It is a measure of how little regard the UK Government has for the intelligence of the Scottish people, and the stupidity of their own advisers to advance such an argument in the first place. State Pensions are determined by not just the resources of a country but the way in which those resources are used. Spending £100 billion on Trident, a weapon system that will never be used, ensures UK pensions will never be as good as they could be. Scotland's defense expenditure is only ONE example of how a change in the use of resources can make a difference in the size of the State Pension.

"In 2008, we were able to provide Scottish banks with support worth more than twice Scotland's national income" Had we not been in the UK, would our banks have been in the disastrous position they were in? UK banking de-regulation in common with those in other western countries, caused the financial disaster, allowing the banks to almost destroy the entire economy. The money to bail out the banks was BORROWED, creating the biggest debt mountain for the UK taxpayers, the UK has ever faced, which is hardly something about which to boast. The banks have learned nothing, they still commit fraud, pay out ludicrous salaries and bonuses to bankers, some of whom should have been jailed, instead of being given seats in the House of Lords, which has become the biggest standing joke of a second chamber in the Western World.

"Staying in the UK is worth £1,400 every year to each person living in Scotland". Why not £1,600 or £1,900 or £2,500 or any other fictitious figure, in fact, why not just pick a number, double it, then treble it, subtract a banana and add an orange? This nonsense does no more than debase the debate to the point where the majority of people will simply switch off. We are being asked to decide the future of our people and nation on the basis of a piece of tawdry and meaningless arithmetic, presented be even more tawdry politicians who can't even be trusted to count their own expenses. "Scotland benefits from public spending that is around 10% higher than the UK average". Scotland receives an annual grant from the UK Government, a grant that is being reduced, and chooses to spend that grant on public services to a greater extent that the rest of the UK. The fact Scots choose to spend our own money on items such as free prescriptions, is then used by the UK Government to suggest that is another reason to stay in the UK, despite the fact the same UK Government denies those advantages to the people in the rUK. We are to be bribed by our own money.

"An independent Scotland would need to create new public institutions, which would be complex and expensive" This ludicrous argument has already been shown to be a pack of lies created by The Treasury, by Professor Dunleavy of the London School of Economics, the man on whose research the arguments were supposed to be based. The figure of £2.5 billion produced by The Treasury has been admitted as being a figment of some official's imagination and a more realistic figure has been set at £250 million. Many of the departments already exist, others would not be needed and none would be as expensive as those used by the UK Government.

"The UK is more able to protect Scottish interests in areas like agriculture and fisheries". Surely the biggest lie of them all. The Scottish steel and fishing industries were sacrificed by Ted Heath as part of the entry fee to the then Common Market. Previous blogs have given far more detail but the fishing industry alone has lost over 100,000 jobs as a consequence of the Common Fisheries Policy CFP, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of tons of fish which have been dumped at sea in order to meet quotas that do nothing to either protect fish stocks or create a healthier industry. The Scottish steel industry was one of the best in Western Europe and Ravenscraig Mill, at the time of its closure was the most efficient and largest mill in Europe. Its workforce had been reduced from 13,000 to 770 and its closure led to the closure of another four steel factories in the Lanarkshire area, with the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.

This ridiculous piece of government propaganda is currently being pushed through every door in Scotland at the cost of £750,000 of taxpayers' money. It is a tissue of lies from start to finish and an insult to the intelligence of the Scottish people.





Monday, 16 June 2014

Who is Funding Better Together?

On the 8th of May this year, Chris and Colin Weir wrote to The Scotsman and The Herald, appealing for participants in the referendum debate to "respect other views on independence". It was a very dignified letter, and given the nature of some of the recent comments that have been made publicly about their donation to the SNP and the Yes Campaign, it was a damn sight more restrained than their critics deserved. The Weirs wrote of some of the abuse they have suffered at the hands of those who support the Union and Better Together. Since the publication of their letter, hardly a day has passed but there has been further reference to their donation, either in the letter columns of the press or in leader columns in Unionist journals such as the Daily Mail.

The prize for the most snide comment must go to Tory MSP Alex Johnston, who said, "While it's the right of every individual to do whatever they wish with their money, the SNP are clearly taking advantage of these people....It simply leaves me a bit uneasy." His faux concern cut no ice with the Weirs who said, "The only "targeting" has been by an MSP who chose to express his "concern" for us by implying we have been at best naive, and, at worst, duped. Would he, we wonder, have felt the same concern had our contribution supported his cause?" The answer to that is an emphatic "No", and I have searched in vain for Johnston's equal concern for J K Rowling and her donation of £1 million to Better Together. Suddenly Unionists, supporters and media, are concerned about the size of donations - the Weirs have given £4.5 million - that individuals can give to political parties or political causes. The Mail, with equal faux concern wrote, "This is a democracy and it is legitimate to look at matters which may influence our political process." Another of the usual suspects in one of his regular diatribes against Scottish independence wrote, "It is simply not right that one large donor should be allowed to finance in such great part, a political party, or one side in a referendum. In truth it is an affront to democracy."

The fact that this "affront to democracy" has been going on for years, as the Tories have raked in millions from their wealthy supporters, as has the Labour Party from the Trade Unions, has never bothered these people before. There was a similar outcry from the same group when Sir Brian Soutar, Sir Tom Farmer and other wealthy individuals, decided to donate substantial sums to the SNP before the last Holyrood elections in order to create "a more even playing field". The Mail has continued with its "concern", exclaiming, "It is certainly concerning that a random selection of lottery balls may have a huge effect on a referendum that will decide this country's fate." The reek of hypocrisy is quite overwhelming, all the more so because it is so overt and there is never a cheep about the rewards regularly doled out in the annual Honours List _ God, if there was ever a misnomer that is it - for hard cash.

It just so happens there is another "cash for honours" stink in The Mail today, as this guardian of the country's values and morals divulges that two-fifths of Lib Dem donations came from just three men, all of whom have only recently been made peers. Quelle surprise! Businessmen James Palumbo, a night-club owner, made a peer in 2013 has donated £1,004,757 since 2004; Rumi Verjee, owner of Domino's Pizza made a peer in 2013, has donated £1,156,326 since 2010 and Raj Loomba described as a "clothing tycoon" made a peer in 2013, has donated £361,597 since 2008.

In February this year, it was announced that private health firms with Tory links have been given NHS contracts worth £1.5 billion. Circle Health was given £1.36 billion in health service work while its investors gave the Tories £1.5 million. Care UK received contracts worth £102.6 million while its Chairman John Nash was made a Peer and donated £247,250 to the Tories. Circle Health's parent company, Circle Holdings plc. is owned by a series of hedge funds, 29% owned by Landsdowne Partners, founded by Sir Paul Ruddock who gave the Tories £692,592. The list of Tory donors with connections to health care companies and fund managers goes on and on and since the Tory health reforms, profits in Circle Health have gone up from £64.6 million in 2010-11 to £170.4 million in 2011-12. Care UK has allegedly been given a string of NHS deals, including prison health care, worth £62 million and its healthcare revenue soared by 63.2% from £189.7 million in 2012 to £309.5 million in 2013. Fifty City of London donors gave the Tories in excess of £50,000 each and over 51% of all Tory donations come from the City of London.

Since the last general election in 2010, Labour has had £60 million and the Tories just under £45 million from their main donors, with Labour's biggest single donor, the trade union Unite, giving £11.9 million and whose 1.42 million members donate £3 each. On the 10th July 2013, Ed Miliband said, "I am proud that Labour has links with ordinary working people. David Cameron is bankrolled by a few millionaires."  However Len McKluskey, Unite's General Secretary doubted their members would pay £3 each voluntarily, stating, "Milliband is taking a gamble by abolishing affiliation fees. We won't be affiliating 1.3 million members, more like 50,000". In April this year, he threatened to disaffiliate Unite from Labour if Labour loses the general election in 2015. Labour's connection to working people is at best tenuous and in the vast majority of cases, is anything but voluntary.

But what does any of this have to do with funding Better Together? There is an element of truth in the charge that the Yes Campaign is a front for the SNP, despite the denials this is so. There are far too many similarities in policy positions for it to be otherwise, but it is certainly equally true that Better Together is just a front for the three Unionist parties,. Tory, Labour and Lib/Dems. Cameron, Milliband and Clegg never miss an opportunity to attack the idea of Scottish independence and pour scorn on the very notion of Scottish people choosing to end the Union of 1707.. Complaints have been widespread about taxpayers' cash being used to fund the publication of the Scottish Government's White Paper but again, not a cheep has been heard from the same people about taxpayer's money being spent -£750,000 to be exact - by the Scottish Office on its own publication of the case against independence. The entire British Establishment is geared to oppose Scottish independence and the £4.5 million donated by Chris and Colin Weir, pales into insignificance compared to the tens of millions pumped into the Westminster parties by their respective paymasters.

Whatever donations are being given to the Yes Campaign, the few pounds by ordinary people concerned to see their country independent, when added to the donations from the Weirs, will not be buying peerages, either for themselves or for the Weirs. The same cannot be said for the doyens of the British Establishment, the bankers, fund managers, business tycoons, TU leaders who have all trod a well worn path to the House of Lords and who are currently financing Better Together. The one establishment institution not yet mentioned is the BBC. No one, with even an ounce of integrity now tries to deny the BBC has taken a quite overtly hostile stance to Scottish independence. Scotland's estimated contribution to the BBC is £300 million per annum, so that is another sizeable chunk of revenue that has been placed at the disposal of Better Together, for which it does not even have to account. When the column inches from Scotland's hostile press, put at the disposal of the British Establishment for nothing, are taken into consideration, Better Together could not begin to calculate the amount of cash it is spending on this campaign, or that is being spent on its behalf. That it has to make an issue of one sizeable donation to the Yes Campaign, speaks volumes about just how worried Better Together is. And so it should be.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

How Much Will Independence in Europe Cost Scots?

The results of the EU elections were a major disappointment to the SNP as they effectively destroyed the notion that UKIP has no support in Scotland, albeit the poll was a derisory 33.5%. Of much greater importance however, are the results of the polls which preceded the elections, showing that over 30% of Scots would like to leave the EU and over 60% would like a referendum on Scottish membership, whatever the result of the independence referendum. These results contradict the persistent claims by the SNP that Scots are overwhelmingly in favour of EU membership, although the claims continue as the SNP and Yes Scotland make the EU an important issue in the independence campaign.

I am told frequently that the issue of the EU can be decided after the vote on independence,  - as can everything else for those who think nothing should be allowed to distract from getting a Yes vote. Unfortunately issues such as EU membership, currency and a number of others are seen as important by Scots in general and for many, will persuade them to vote either Yes or No. They will also determine not only the kind of independence we will have, but whether in fact that what is on offer is actually independence at all. What follows is not about whether or not membership of the EU denies Scotland sovereignty, I have made my views on that very plain over many years. It is about how the SNP has committed a major error by making the EU such an important part of the independence campaign and an effort to persuade people to recognise that error. The attacks on UKIP were a major mistake and have already been acknowledged as such, but that is only part of the problem. The major error occurred by making false claims about Scots' enthusiasm for membership of the EU, because it has given Better Together an opportunity to attack the concept of independence when it was totally unnecessary.

By making false claims about the ease with which Scotland would gain/keep membership of the EU, the importance of the EU to Scotland in terms of jobs and future economic prospects, in short by stressing the need for EU membership to the point where it can be argued that without it, a Scotland independent of the UK could not survive, the SNP has given Better Together another weapon to use in their battle against independence. As in all its arguments, Better Together has to do no more than suggest an independent Scotland will have great difficulty in gaining membership as a "new" state because other members may raise objections, for the "Undecided" to see yet another "uncertainty", another "problem", another "risk". The SNP has made membership of the EU a "must", an "absolute necessity" for an independent Scotland to be a success, whereas the truth is that Scotland could survive more easily outside the EU.

In its eagerness to show that an independent Scotland would be  a worthwhile acquisition for the EU, great emphasis has been placed by the SNP, on the contribution Scotland would make, in terms of the fishing grounds, the oil and gas reserves and the renewable energy technology we will provide, to say nothing of the fact we currently have a balance of payments deficit with the EU and are a Net contributor to EU coffers. As a Net contributor and a member which takes more goods and services from the EU than they take from us, just what are the great benefits Scotland has received and more importantly, what great benefits is Scotland likely to receive in the future? For a people which seems to be obsessed with "How much will it cost us?" or "How much will I gain from independence?" surely Scots should be asking what the EU is worth to us or how much it will cost us. To date, we have had nothing but some vague notion of the jobs it provides, with not a word said about the jobs it has cost or its total failure to live up to expectations, as the euro has been on the verge of collapse since 2008.

The fishing industry has always been far more important to Scotland than to other parts of the UK and the EU. In 2013 fish landed by the Scots industry was worth £429 million, a drop of 8% since 2012, but accounted for 87% of total UK catch and 37% of total allowable catch in the EU. There was more fish landed in Shetland than in the whole of England and Wales combined. Despite the volume of fish landed by Scottish boats, Scotland receives only 41% of the UK's European Fisheries Fund and between 1.1% and 1.4% of total EU fisheries funding. Fishing has suffered more than any other Scottish industry, with the possible exception of steel, from a combination of neglect and EU bureaucracy. In 1973, just after the UK's entry to the then Common Market, there were 1,800 boats and by 2007, the figure had shrunk to 697, as a consequence of decommissioning, quota restrictions and the loss of fishing grounds, in short the Common Fisheries Policy.

In January 2009, the Aberdeen Press and Journal wrote, "In case any proof were needed that the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy is one of the most damaging political schemes ever to affect a UK industry, some facts about its impact on every single household will help. Pressure group The Taxpayers' Alliance has calculated that the policy costs every family £111 a year in higher taxes and lost business and puts £186 per year on the average food bill. As the north and northeast of Scotland has witnessed, the impact on jobs has been severe. More than 9,000 directly in fishing and up to 90,000 have been lost from onshore dependent industries. This is before the baffling phenomenon of throwing away tons of dead fish has even been considered," in a world where millions are starving and many Scots rely on food banks.

Despite claims that the situation has improved in recent years, in December 2013, The Scotsman carried the following headline, "Scots Fishermen face a tidal wave of red tape". and in the Spring 2014 edition of The Scottish Fishermen's Federation News, Bertie Armstrong, Chief Executive of SFF said, "Paradoxically, if the only consideration for a newly separate Scotland was fishing, the industry would probably be best served by being outside the EU and the tight constraints of the CFP"

When Ted Heath was negotiating entry to the Common Market, the British Steel Corporation was producing 20 million tons of steel a year, with plans to increase that figure to 40 million. He was told by the bureaucrats in Europe that not only would they not tolerate a single company producing 40 million tons of steel every year, they demanded a reduction in the current capacity of 20 million tons, because the anti-monopolistic powers in the Common Market ruled that no single company could produce more than 10 million tons a year. So sensitive was this information that Heath slapped a D Notice on it, so that it could be kept from the British public. From that time on the death knell was sounded on the Scottish steel industry, which in the 1970s was employing over 27,000 directly and many thousands more indirectly. When Ravenscraig was closed in 1992, its workforce had already been reduced from its maximum of 13,000 to a mere 770, but that led to the closure of another four plants and the loss of thousands of other jobs, directly and indirectly employed in steel. At the time of its closure Ravenscraig was the largest mill in Western Europe and the most efficient of the five remaining mills in BSC, expending 2.5 man hours per ton of steel, compared to the average of 6.5 in other BSC plants.

These are only a couple of examples of the jobs that have been lost so what about the current situation and the "massive importance to jobs" that the SNP and Yes Scotland claim for the EU? The Scottish Government's own figures show that in 2011, of the top ten countries with which Scotland traded, seven were in the EU and three were outwith the EU. More significantly however, the value of the trade with the seven EU members was £9 billion while the value with the three non-EU members was £5 billion and the largest single market in the EU worth £2.7 billion was with the Netherlands, which is currently one of the poorest performing economies in the euro zone. The Government figures show that between 2006 and 2011, Scottish trade with the EU increased by 35% whereas outwith the EU it increased by 29% but the crisis in the euro zone, the unemployment levels in Spain (29%) Italy (20%) Portugal (15%) Greece (27%) and even France (10.2%) has reversed that pattern. Given the austerity measures which are likely to continue in order to reduce the chronic debt burdens in those countries, the prospects for the foreseeable future are hardly encouraging.

In 2012 there were an estimated 2,100 foreign owned firms in Scotland employing an estimated 290,000 workers and with turnover of £87 billion. Contrary to the picture painted by the Europhiles, over 60% of those firms were owned by firms not in the EU. In the past five years Scotland has been more successful in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) than any other part of the UK, but in 2012 almost 53% of that FDI was provided by only three countries, the USA, Japan and Norway, none of which is in the EU. Ruth Lea of the Arbuthnot Bank group states, "It would seem that for all the vigorously promoted benefits of being in the EU's single market and Customs Union, they do little if anything, to offset the more obvious attractions for UK exporters of exporting to growing markets rather than exporting to sluggish ones." Ms Lea goes further by pointing out that over the past decade, UK exports have increased by 76%, growing by 45% to the EU but by over 100% to non-EU countries. All the UK's high performing trade relationships have been with non-EU countries, mainly outside any preferential trade deals. The SNP and Yes Scotland cannot simply ignore that kind of evidence, that membership of the EU, which is pushing ahead with closer integration to control the fiscal policies of member states, is hardly the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow which is being presented to the Scottish people.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, the rise of the right wing in the EU must be confronted for what it is. The SNP did much to promote the presence of UKIP at the European elections, then reacted in horror at the thought of "the right" actually winning the largest share of the vote in England and Wales, using that victory to suggest Scots had an even better reason to vote for independence. If the victory of UKIP is a good reason to reject the UK, the victory of the National Front in France and Golden Dawn in Greece, is an even better reason to reject the EU. They are only the tip of the right wing iceberg in the EU, where Fascist politics is never far from the surface, yet the only response from the SNP has been total silence. In the final 100 days of the campaign, there is still time to persuade Scots to take a more realistic look at the EU and what it means to an independent Scotland. The threat that we might find it difficult to get in, is actually no threat at all.

Ends