Monday, 10 October 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 17 July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Economics of EU

"Hold Your Nose And Vote Remain" Aye Right

Having almost totally ignored the politics of the EU, particularly the question of sovereignty, the Referendum campaign has been dominated by the so-called economics of what will happen if we stay in the EU or leave the EU. Unfortunately, the distortions and downright lies have left most people more confused than ever. I spent fourteen years teaching economics and then more than thirty years in the financial services industry. I don't believe economics has earned the title of "the dismal science" nor do I believe that if we laid all the economists in the world end to end, they still wouldn't come to a conclusion, but unfortunately it can lend itself to being misused and distorted by those who seek personal advantage by doing so. Before looking in detail at the Scottish economy and its interaction with the EU, it is as well to highlight certain claims which are made daily and which are presented as self-evident truths which are not to be questioned.

1. Economic forecasting
The most important thing to remember about economic forecast models is that forecasts are based on assumptions and, that given certain circumstances, some of which may be totally unrealistic, there will be a series of outcomes. It is not an exact science because if the assumptions are changed, the outcomes will also change. Indeed, models can produce required outcomes providing the proper assumptions are made. Change the assumptions and the outcomes will also change. No economics lecturer worth his/her salt, would ever begin a lecture without the classic, "assume ceteris paribus" or "all other things remaining equal". In other words, when the Treasury made the prediction that by 2030, every family in the UK would be £4,300 per annum worse off, if we left the EU, what they did not explain, was that this depended on their assumptions AND that whatever shocks may visit the economy during that period, the authorities would effect no change in policy. Of course that is totally unrealistic, as is the claim that forecasts of economic outcomes in fourteen years from now can possibly be accurate. Even more ludicrous was Alistair Darling's prediction that for those children born between 2012 and 2014, there would be a loss of £145,820 over their lifetime (75 years perhaps?) if we left the EU. When Chancellor he could not forecast interest rates six months ahead.

We could perhaps be more sympathetic to those who are prepared to swallow this piffle, if the Treasury, the CBI, the IMF, the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Institute for Fiscal Studies all had exemplary records for accurate economic forecasting - but they don't. A little over a month ago the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast a 2015-2016 budget deficit of £72.4 bn. Less than four WEEKS later the actual figure was £74 bn - a £1.6 bn under-estimate over less than four weeks. In 1989 the Treasury "Red Book" predicted that three years later 1992-1993, the government would have a small surplus. In the event, it carried the largest peacetime deficit on record. All of the above august bodies and the SNP, clamoured for the UK to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which Margaret Thatcher finally did in October 1990. At the SNP's annual conference the year before, the SNP debated a resolution calling on the Tory government to join the ERM. I was totally opposed because I knew it was the first step towards a single currency but, knowing that asking Conference to reject the motion would fail, I successfully moved an amendment to the effect that the SNP would oppose any move towards a single currency. Within two years, the strain of keeping the UK in the ERM caused major problems, including raising interest rates to 15% on 15th September 1992. Despite appeals from the above named organisations to remain in, accompanied by dire warnings of the consequences if the UK left the ERM, Chancellor Norman Lamont was forced to take the UK out of the ERM the next day, 16th September 1992.

Instead of the catastrophe predicted, the FTSE jumped 130 points the next day and by a total of 8% in the first two days after leaving the ERM which survived only another eighteen months before collapsing completely. The next decade or more was one of almost uninterrupted economic growth for the UK. As a IFA, I managed a great deal of clients' money, much of it invested in equities. For some months before the crash of 2008, I began to feel rather twitchy about the markets. Suddenly the money for mortgages began to be less available, there was a slowing down of what had been an unsustainable rise in house prices, certain funds began to look a bit wobbly. I spoke to a number of clients about taking them out of equities, which we did, thereby saving them a great deal of money when the markets crashed.  None of the organisations above saw the crash coming, or if they did, they did nothing about it, no warnings were given, no attempts made to soften the blow. Given their track record - and the few incidents outlined only scratches the surface of their failures - why should we listen to them now, as they regale us with their forecasts of tragedy if we leave the EU?

2. EU Funding Of Scottish Projects
Get into a discussion with any Scottish Nationalist or SNP supporter about how much Scotland is subsidised by the English taxpayer and how impossible it would be for Scotland to afford to be independent and maintain its current standard of living, and you will have a fight on your hands. To traditional Nationalists, the economics are irrelevant but even the economic Nationalists will argue till the kye come hame, that Scotland has the potential to be a prosperous country, well able to provide a decent society, with or without oil. Their reaction to the charge that Scotland cannot afford to be independent, is open derision and frequently, hostility. For some strange reason, when it comes to membership of the EU, the SNP and its supporters adopt the same position as Unionists did in the Referendum on Scottish Independence. Whereas it was argued that Scotland could break up a Union that had lasted for over 300 years, with little or no problem anent trade, currency and so on; leaving the EU - after membership of just over 40 years - will cause absolute mayhem. According to the SNP, over 336,000 Scottish jobs depend on trade with the EU. While it is not specifically stated, the suggestion is there, that to leave the EU would mean the loss of both trade AND the jobs. When that very same argument was made by Unionists during the Scottish referendum, the SNP and independence supporters quite rightly dismissed it as utter tripe.

The Spice Report of 15th October 2015, entitled "The Impact of EU Membership on Scotland", notes that the Scottish Government claims over 336,000 Scots jobs are directly linked to trade with the EU. Several times over recent weeks, as the referendum campaign has gathered momentum, Scottish Government representatives and other Remain campaigners, have stated quite bluntly that in the event of the UK - as a whole - voting to leave the EU, those jobs would be in danger of being lost. Whether or not that would be likely will be looked at below, but the first thing to note is that the Spice Report differs quite radically, in its estimates of Scots jobs linked to EU trade, from the estimates made by the SNP and Remain, of the number of Scots jobs which are linked to trade with the EU. Spice calculates that the number of Scots jobs which can be directly linked to trade with the EU, is 81,000, a figure which almost doubles to 150,000 when the multiplier effect is taken into consideration and jobs indirectly linked, are also included. That is fewer than half the total of the Scottish Government's calculations and the very least that needs to be done, is a comparison of the methodology employed by both parties .

As well as the implied threat of lost jobs if Scotland left the EU, there is the threat of lost funding We are all familiar with the signs which now appear all over Scotland, "Funded by the EU", which suggests that not only are Scots subsidised by England, which the SNP and independence supporters vehemently deny, we are also subsidised by the EU, which the SNP and independence supporters see as something for which Scots should be grateful. While the SNP can produce figures for Scottish contributions to the UK Treasury, in order to boost their case for independence, they are strangely reluctant to discuss or state Scotland's contribution to the EU. They have a great deal to say about what funds are provided by the EU in terms of research at Scottish universities, or how much Scottish farmers depend on EU funds for their annual subsidies, without ever mentioning Scotland's contribution to the EU. In the SNP's EU Website the party claims that Scotland's Net contribution to the EU is £8 per head per annum, but the value of investment from EU companies is worth £1,225 per head. In The National of May 27th 2016, the CEO of Business for Scotland claims that for every £1 Scotland contributes to the EU, we get £20 back. Neither the SNP nor the CEO explain how they arrived at those figures but it is suspiciously similar to the way The Treasury managed to conclude every person in the UK would be £4,300 worse off by 2030 if we left the EU and that calculation was greeted with derision right across the board. Even in its heyday in its relationship with the EU, Eire managed to get only £6 for every £1 spent. The Spice Report shows that between 2007 and 2013, Scotland made a NET contribution to the EU of £1.6 billion. In other words, just to avoid confusion, Scotland paid £1.6 billion more to the EU than we got back.

The claims which have been made by the Remain campaign, on the economic consequences of Brexit have now become so ludicrous, that the bulk of their claims are now simply dismissed by an electorate totally scunnered by the entire charade. The SNP insists they want nothing to do with the Tory-led campaign to Remain, preferring to make what they have deemed to be "the positive, progressive case" for staying in the EU. Unfortunately, there has been little or no evidence of it as we have yet to hear from the SNP, any political case, let alone a positive political case for surrendering sovereignty to a political union which all agree is centralist, undemocratic and corrupt. Despite claiming the EU badly needs reform, the SNP's ambitions for reform are so minimal they could be introduced without Treaty change, which the SNP sees as neither "advisable nor desirable". The SNP website also claims "just under half -42%- of Scotland's trade was with the EU in 2014, which amounted to £11.6 billion in cash terms". It must be the first time that 42% of something has been described as "just under half" of the whole. It should also be noted that only 42% of Scottish trade was conducted with the EU in 2014 worth £11.6 billion, whereas Fig 3 shows that 46% of trade worth £12.9 billion was conducted in 2013. The downward trend of Scottish trade with the EU is therefore continuing and, if the current problems in the Eurozone in particular and the EU generally, are not successfully addressed, that downward trend will continue, whether or not we stay in. Only ten of the EU members accounted for over 90% of the EU's trade with Scotland in 2014 and eight of those ten, are in the Eurozone (see Fig3).

We are reminded daily that the EU is a market of over 500 million people, but over 90% of Scotland's trade with the EU is conducted with approximately half of that number and the economic conditions which exist in the countries which make up the other half, don't offer much hope of any increase in trade any time soon. In fact, those who intend to vote Remain because they fear taking a "leap in the dark" by voting Leave, will find that staying in constitutes an even bigger leap in the dark because the EU has no idea of how it will repair the damage which has been done by the austerity policies forced on the Eurozone members.

Unemployment in the EU.
For trade to take place between countries, there has to be a long term balance between trading partners, each of which has to be able to bring something to the table. In the long term a balance has to be struck so that one trading partner is not constantly disadvantaged. In a large trading block like the EU, most members will have a surplus with some members and a deficit with others but in the EU, 24 of the 27 other member states have a trading surplus with the UK, with a similar pattern with Scotland. Thus, trading advantage is very much with the other member states, which is another reason they cannot afford to stop trading if we leave. As trading in services has advanced very little in the EU, 94% of Scotland's insurance products are sold in the rest of the UK, therefore the threats of what might happen to Scotland's financial sector are largely unfounded.

It is always possible to change trading patterns if a country suffers from a long-term trading imbalance or disadvantage and the balance of payments includes trade in "invisibles" ie services such as financial products. A trade imbalance can therefore be countered by trade in invisibles, which has been the situation in the UK for generations. However, when trade in services is restricted as it is in the EU, new trading partners have to be found, which is exactly what has been happening in Scotland as well as the UK as a whole. Fig 3 shows how the long term trend has been for trade with the EU to diminish over time and while Scotland shows an increase in trade with the EU between 2012 and 2013, the figure for 2014 shows trade with the EU had fallen to 42%. Remain tell us that as we have access to a market of over 500 million, it has to be in our interest to stay but it has already been shown the reality is that only 10 countries, with just under half of that 500 million, take 90% of Scotland's trade. For that to change the economies of the EU members will have to improve.

At the end of 2015 unemployment in the 28 members of the EU was 9.1%, the lowest level since July 2009, while in the Eurozone it was 10.5%, the lowest level since October 2011. Unemployment in the UK in the same period was 5.1% and 5% in the USA. This means that in the EU28, there were 22.16 million people unemployed, 16.935 million of them in the Eurozone (eurostat Jan 2016). Unfortunately, the average figures disguise the real nature of unemployment in the EU, with 14 states with levels over 8.3%, with seven of those with rates from 9% - 12.5% and Croatia - 15.1%, Spain - 21.4% and Greece 24%. Over 60% of Italy's 11.3% unemployed, have been without work for over one year while 70% of Greece's unemployed have shared the same fate. We hear a great deal of the opportunities the EU offers to Scotland's youth (under 25) but it has been noted above, the relatively small number of Scottish students studying in the EU. Unemployment levels for the under 25 age group in the EU, suggest that opportunities for Scotland's young people will also be limited. Youth unemployment in EU28 averaged 20% or 4.6 million, of which 3.2 million or 22.5% were in the Eurozone. Averages again hide the worst cases of Italy - 38%, Croatia - 45%, Spain - 47.5% and Greece - 49.5%.

When it can be shown that perhaps the EU is not quite the land of milk and honey that the propaganda suggests, Remain, the SNP and their supporters take refuge in the claim we need the EU to protect us from the dastardly Tories, who it seems, are set to govern in the UK for all eternity. The claim is that if it were not for the EU, workers' and women's rights would be abolished by the Tories, as an act of revenge and to please their neo-liberal financial backers and, of course, if it were not for the EU, those rights would not have existed in the first place. Not surprisingly, they have little or nothing to say about the way workers' and women's rights were trampled over in Greece, Eire, Spain and Portugal or the riots which have taken place in France, Belgium and other member states to stop their governments abolishing some of those rights. All we hear from the self-styled, alleged "Left" is, "Hold your nose and vote Remain".

Conscious that this is beginning to run on a bit, I will examine the possible consequences of coming out of the EU, with possible alternatives for when we are out, in the next instalment. However, just for the record:- Right to Holiday Pay was introduced in the UK under the Holiday Pay Act of 1938. UK workers have a right to 5.6 weeks holiday, in the EU it is 4 weeks. Maternity Leave:- UK law provides for 52 weeks, the second highest in the EU, where the minimum is 14 weeks. Maternity Pay:- the EU does not give pregnant women any minimum pay level during maternity leave. UK provides 90% of pay for 6 weeks and £140 pw for the next 33 weeks. Equal Pay:- UK introduced equal pay in 1970, before we joined the EU. Discrimination:- UK introduced race discrimination 1965, sex discrimination 1975, before the EU. Wages:- EU has no minimum wage law and only 18 members out of 28 have a minimum wage. UK has one of the highest minimum wages in the world.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

If Sovereignty is in DNA of SNP, Why surrender it to EU?

The following article is the first of two, perhaps three, on the EU Referendum which will take place on June 23, 2016. Although almost every argument presented so far, particularly by the Remain side, is concerned with economics and jobs, the EU is first and foremost a political organisation. Walter Hallstein, the EU's first President put it this way, "..we are a political - not an economic - enterprise. The Common Market has the goal of unifying Europe politically." The first paper deals therefore, with the politics of the EU, to be followed by a paper dealing with the economics, although there will be an element of overlap in both papers.

"The sovereignty of the Scottish people is in our DNA", Alex Salmond, SNP conference March 23 2013. That is a great one-liner but is that all it really is - a one-liner? Sovereignty belongs to the Scottish people, not to Westminster or any other legislature, has been the mantra of the SNP since the party was formed. It is still quoted regularly by committed Nationalists, but is that as far as it goes for traditional Nationalists, as well as the SNP leadership? These are not idle questions. We face having to choose to either stay in the EU or come out on June 23; it is a vote some of us have longed for, for over forty years. The main issue should be sovereignty because from sovereignty, all else flows. A country which is not sovereign, controls neither its politics nor its economics but unfortunately, the EU referendum campaign is simply a re-run of the Scottish Independence referendum campaign, with threats of what will happen to the UK if it votes to leave the EU, becoming wilder and more nonsensical by the day.

While this is a UK referendum, the situation in Scotland is further complicated by the policy position adopted by the SNP, currently the party of government in the Scottish Parliament and, winner of 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in the Westminster or UK Parliament. Although the popularity of the SNP did not give it the expected overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in the recent elections, it still polled more of the popular constituency vote than the Labour and Tory parties combined. Despite that, votes for the Union of the UK were over 100,000 higher than the total vote for independence and the SNP were only two seats short of an overall majority in the Parliament. For that reason, the SNP's total commitment to membership of the EU is more important than the policy of any other Scottish party, particularly as it is riddled with contradictions which are largely ignored by many Yes supporters who are prepared to follow the party line in seeking to leave the rUK while at the same time, supporting membership of another political union, the EU. There will be many Scots who support other Scottish parties or no party, who will want to leave the EU but, I strongly believe that the size of the pro-EU vote in Scotland, as recorded in successive opinion polls, has more to do with the popularity of the SNP, as opposed to the popularity of the EU. In fact, social media has shown that many who will vote to stay in the EU, are doing so in the expectation that England will vote overwhelmingly to leave, Scotland will vote equally overwhelmingly to stay and, a second Independence Referendum will follow. Shallow as it is, this analysis is no more shallow than much of the analysis on which the SNP has depended to arrive at its current policy on the EU - "Independence in Europe" - a classic oxymoron.


If "Sovereignty of the People" genuinely matters, as the SNP and many Yes supporters claim it does, the SNP is duty bound to explain to the Scottish people why it is in their interests to surrender sovereignty to the extent that is required for membership of the EU. The party leadership contends sovereignty is not surrendered but "shared" or "pooled" but a nation can no more be a wee bit sovereign than a woman can be a wee bit pregnant. We are either sovereign or we are not and those who are in favour of membership of the EU, where they argue we would be independent, but oppose membership of the UK, where they claim we are not independent, find it difficult to explain the difference. In 2001, Kenny MacAskill in his "Euro Route to Independence" said, "Leave aside spurious nonsense about surrendering sovereignty to Frankfurt rather than London, as Scotland has no independence to sell" (my italics). He went on, "The inclusivity and opportunities of Europe and the euro, can overshadow the exclusivity and isolation of independence" Warming to his task of selling the 'benefits' of the euro, he went on, "..the economic arguments are substantial and the political case overwhelming", offering Scotland "an opportunity to actively and positively sell independence within Europe". That one of the leaders of a party which is supposed to have "independence" as its raison d'etre and "sovereignty in its DNA", could make such a ludicrous claim unchallenged by the party members, said a great deal about the SNP's concept of independence.

We expect our governments to have not only an understanding of how the economic system works, but also an ability to anticipate the potential hazards. At the very least, we expect them to have advisers with those abilities, both of which were obviously lacking in Mr MacAskill's case. Did anything change in the economic thinking of the SNP leadership after the financial crisis of 2008? One major change was the decision to keep the pound sterling as the currency of an "independent" Scotland, rather than the euro, and to have the Bank of England as the "lender of last resort" rather than the European Central Bank. Unfortunately this was announced without first seeking the prior agreement of the UK government, leading to the utter shambles of the currency policy in the Independence Referendum. At the time, there was little indication that the SNP leadership had any greater understanding of either the euro or any kind of monetary union. On December 14, 2011, Alex Salmond lambasted David Cameron for refusing to sign up to the agreement arrived at by the other members of the EU, with the exception of Hungary, which called for austerity and fiscal discipline in order to "solve" the currency crisis. Salmond called Cameron's refusal, "irresponsible posturing that will damage Scotland's fishing industry and cost jobs". That Cameron's refusal could damage Scotland's fishing industry any more than the EU had already done, was risible enough, but Salmond was arguing in favour of a treaty which called for central control of member states' budgets. So much for "Independence in Europe". Alyn Smith, SNP MEP went even further claiming, "This deal tonight has been good news for the eurozone, good news for the EU and it is appalling news for the UK. The eurozone is getting its act together" Asked by BBC Scotland if the SNP was still in favour of joining the euro, Smith claimed, "Give it six months and the UK will be sinking a lot faster than the eurozone". How much more wrong could he have been?

It would seem that the current SNP leadership's notion of sovereignty differs quite radically from the following. Sovereignty is not simply an abstract concept, it has practical applications. A claim to sovereignty is a claim by some representative authority in the name of "the people" to exercise a monopoly of law-making and law-enforcement within a designated territory. In an increasingly interdependent world, sovereign states have accepted specific treaty limitations on their law-making rights. But the EU goes further by requiring member states to cede a general right of law-making on a permanent basis, to EU institutions. Sovereignty is a legal as well as a philosophical way of describing the right of a people to govern itself, to determine its own priorities within constraints imposed by its external environment. Increased interdependence may change the balance of advantage and disadvantage in any "self-determined" act, but it cannot make the principle of self-determination or self-government superfluous. 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. Is there ANY Nationalist or Yes supporter in the Independence Referendum, in light of the brutal fashion in which Eire and Greece in particular, were treated by the EU, can honestly believe that what was on display was an example of "shared" or "pooled" sovereignty?

In light of the Greek tragedy, the latest definition of sovereignty by Alex Salmond, when he addressed the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Europe Day May 9th 2016, is totally meaningless. He said, "A individual country's sovereignty comes from influence, not force, from soft, not hard power, from enlightened self-interest, not self-interest alone." Mr Salmond's understanding of the concept would seem to be back to front. Without sovereignty, without the right to make laws, to show by example how their system is better than that of others, how can a country exert influence? When countries' own legal systems can be superseded by a supranational institution, when trade, agriculture, fishing, mobility of people, to name only a few functions of government, are all outwith the control of a country's government, where is the opportunity to influence? Since Qualified Majority Voting was introduced, the UK - population 60+ million, 5th largest economy in the world -has tried to stop EU legislation 70 times and been DEFEATED 70 times. Some influence! Mr Salmond also cited the SNP Government's new "baby box", modelled on Finland's "maternity package", as an example of how, through the EU, member states can learn from each other. He somehow missed the irony of the fact that Finland had had the "maternity package" for over 80 years, long before the EU existed and we could have copied it at any time during that period.

All governments lie and the basis on which Heath's Tory government sold the Common Market to the British people was very soon recognised to be a massive con. The "Founding Fathers" were never in any doubt about the long term aim of "ever closer political union" and each new Treaty since the Treaty of Rome, has increased the centralisation of the EU, together with increased surrender of political and economic control (sovereignty) of the member states. This has always been denied of course; even the statements made by "Remain" supporters in the current campaign, insist sovereignty is merely "shared" while some of the most hysterical of them insist there is no such thing as sovereignty in the modern interdependent world, as we will soon learn as the "EU punishes the UK if it chooses to leave." Scottish Nationalists have always complained about the "democratic deficit" in the UK, as Scotland now has only 59 Westminster seats out of a total of 650 and Scots frequently are governed by a party they did not elect. Neither the SNP nor many of its supporters, have any problem with Scots having 6 seats (13 possibly if Scotland becomes a member in its own right) out of total of 751, in a European Parliament with far fewer powers than Westminster. In 1999 Scotland had 8 MEPs, reduced to 7 in 2004 and further reduced to 6 in 2009.

It is necessary to examine the bureaucratic structure of the EU, in order to determine whether or not it satisfies the basic tenets of democracy. With a total of only 6 (perhaps 13) MEPs, is it possible to serve Scotland's interests? Even if we had our own Commissioner, his or her first loyalty would be to the EU as a whole, not Scotland. The Council of Ministers would see an independent Scotland represented by its own Government Ministers but, as there are no European-wide political parties for which to vote in the hope of furthering particular values or interests, "horse-trading" and "deals" are the order of the day. Does even the most fervent EU supporter really believe that 5 million Scots can possibly be an equal partner of over 80 million Germans, whatever the theory says?

"The Impact of EU Membership on Scotland" (Spice Report 30 October 2015)

Fig 1

Fig 1 shows the growth, in terms of the number of members, of the Common Market since the original six member states; France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg first formed the Common Market in 1957. Of more importance, Fig 2 shows the series of Treaties, which have progressively increased the centralising power of the institutions of the EU, at the expense of the power of the governments of the Member States. Germany and France had waged war on each other three times since 1870, with devastating consequences for not only those two countries but the entire world in 1914 and 1939. It was entirely reasonable therefore, for the leaders of the European nations to seek a solution to the apparent need of the major European powers to wage war on each other at regular intervals. Realism dictated that to create a unified European state at a single go would be impossible, particularly as many of the countries which had been part of one European empire or another, had only re-established their independence post the 1914-18 War only to be crushed either by Germany or the Allies during the 1939-45 War. By the end of the 1940s some of those countries were once again under the domination of the Soviet Union, therefore the drive towards European Union was limited to the original Six members, with the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community, at the Treaty of Paris in April 1951. A start had been made with control of production of coal, iron and steel, otherwise known as "the sinews of war".

Fig 2

One of the most often heard complaints from the British electorate, is they did not sign up to the EU when they agreed to join the Common Market. That is certainly true but if they had questioned their political leaders a lot more closely, or at least,  listened more closely to the arguments put forward by those politicians like Peter Shore, Norman Buchan and many others who opposed the Common Market, they would have known what to expect. After WWII, historians were wont to point out that if Europe's political leaders had read Hitler's Mein Kampf, they would have been better prepared for what was to come. Similarly, those who complain they didn't know what they were signing up to when they agreed to the Common Market, would have been left in no doubt, had they taken the trouble to read "The Treaty of Rome". Even so, many who did read it, did not seem to understand what "ever closer political union" actually meant.

The Treaty of Rome 1957 set up the European Economic Community or Common Market, the titles suggesting it was a trading agreement between Member States, with little or no political content or ambition. As much of the early work included the abolition of all tariffs on trade between the Member States and a Common External Tariff placed on goods coming from any country outwith the Common Market, it is easy to see why people were misled. The details of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were discussed in 1957 but it was not until 1962 that CAP came into effect and the 1970s before the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was adopted. The Single European Act (SEA), said to be the largest single surrender of national sovereignty of the Member States, the first major treaty change since the Treaty of Rome, was signed in 1986 and set the objective of creating the Single Market by 1992. The SEA introduced a number of reforms which laid the ground work for the further integration of the EU, particularly in the political field. It removed the veto on a number of issues, increased the power of the European Parliament, and the European Council, extended Qualified Majority Voting to new areas, set the date for the Single Market at 1993, which included the free movement of goods, capital, labour and services, introduced 272 unitary market-mechanisms, as well as setting standards for workers health and safety. The Danish Parliament rejected ratification of the SEA at the first time of asking, because it extended the power of the European Parliament, but a Referendum on the measure was passed by the Danish people, as was the Referendum in Eire, the only other country in the EEC to hold one.

The Treaty of Maastricht 1992 set up the euro but as this will be discussed in detail in the next blog on the economics of the EU, the conditions for membership, the effects of the currency and the economic fallout, will all be discussed then. The political consequences of the Treaty are substantial as it created the European Union and European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) gave the EU unprecedented control of the economies of the members of the eurozone. The creation of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), of which members had to have been a member for two years before entry to the euro, created more stress on the currencies of the members than some of them could handle. The UK was forced out in September 1992 and the entire system was abandoned 18 months later. As Fig 2 shows, Maastricht was followed by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, which incorporated the Schengen Agreement into European Union Law, the Nice Treaty in 2000 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, all of which increased the control of the EU over the affairs of the Member States. The details of Schengen and the recent consequences of the migrant pressure, will be covered in a later piece.

The "acquis communautaire" is the accumulated body of EU law and obligations since 1958 to the present day. It is comprised of all the EU's Treaties and laws (directions, regulations, decisions) declarations and resolutions, international agreements and judgements of the Court of Justice. It also includes actions which EU Governments have taken together in areas of freedom, security and justice and under the Common Foreign and Security Policy. New EU Member States must accept ALL existing acquis and the Court of Justice has ruled that EU acquis take precedence over national law if there is any conflict. There are an estimated 80,000 items which are current. But Remain continue to argue there is no loss of sovereignty for Member States. Despite the predominance of economic arguments in favour of remaining in the EU, there can be few members of the public in the UK who fail to recognise that the EU is not predominantly an economic club. The original aims of the Founding Fathers were political and while economics has played an important role, the European Project is still political. Anyone who still has doubts about the political undercurrents and who wonders why the Americans have taken such an interest, from the President to a rather lengthy line of past Secretaries of State, may like to ponder on the following.

The EU and its supporters love to take credit for every forward movement of European society from keeping the peace in Europe since 1945 to ensuring we all breath "good air". The claim to have kept the peace since 1945 is one of the most bizarre. Each of the original Six, Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg had all been defeated and occupied during WWII. By 1945, Germany was a country divided between the victorious Allies, Italy and France were in no position to defend anything or threaten anyone. Who were the Benelux countries likely to attack? Germany remained a divided country until October 1990 and those Members which had been part of the Soviet Empire until the fall of Communism in 1989-90, had actually taken part in the subjugation of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. So where was the EEC/EU when the Soviet tanks rolled into East Berlin in 1953 or when the Soviet Bloc crushed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968? There is an argument which suggests that the unilateral German recognition of the Croatian Republic, despite the UK's request there should be no unilateral recognition and that the UN should intervene, exacerbated the situation in the Balkan War. Where was the EU when the massacre took place at Srebrenica in July 1995, where over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, "the worst human atrocity since 1945"? Far from having kept the peace in Europe since 1945, the EEC/EU has not even kept the peace within its own current boundaries. Any reasonable person will note that the interaction of NATO and the Warsaw Pact were responsible for peace in Europe, not the EU.

Given the political and social history of the Member States, it is heart warming to see how far society in the EU has progressed. There is no doubt that many of the reforms which have taken place have benefited at least some of the people of Europe. What many of the UK supporters of the EU seem to forget, is that as a bloc, the EU benefits the strongest and punishes the weakest. There is a tendency in the UK for those on "the left" to see the EU as a bastion against the "political right", by which many of them simply mean "The Tories". It may surprise them to know that out of the 28 current EU members, 10 have a history of Fascist or Right Wing government, 11 spent many years as part of the Soviet Bloc and only 7 have an unbroken history of democracy. The vast majority of the population of this much vaunted "market of 500 million" lived under the control of either a Nazi/Fascist or Communist system of government for much longer than they have done under a democratic one. A centralised form of government therefore is much more familiar to them than it is to the people of the UK and unfortunately, in times of crisis, some form of extremism is rarely far from the surface. We have long been familiar with the National Front in France where it now takes 25% of the vote and is considered "mainstream" rather than "extreme" in the French political system.

The current crisis of migration however, has led to a considerable rise in parties of the "Right" from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. In the various state and regional elections which have taken place over the past year, in the Member States of the EU, the Far Right parties all made substantial gains. In Germany Chancellor Merkel lost two of the three states where elections were held, to the AfD which is now the third most popular party in Germany. In Denmark, the Danish People' Party (DPD) took 21% of the vote and is now Denmark's second largest party, while in Italy, the Lega Nord - on a platform of being anti-Muslim, anti-Gypsies and anti-immigrant took 20% of the vote in Tuscany, the historical home of Italy's "Left". In Poland, the Law and Justice Party is in government, Slovakia in March, 23% of first time voters supported the neo-Nazi L'SNS, in Hungary the neo-Fascist Jobbik party, which advocates "ethnic purity", took 20% of the vote and is now the third largest party in the country while in Greece, the neo-fascist Golden Dawn took 7% of the vote which meant over 500,000 people. In Sweden, the openly neo-Nazi Sweden Democrats took 13% of the vote in March making it the third largest party in parliament. The latest polls give its support at 25%. In the EU Parliament France's National Front, Dutch Party of Freedom, Italy's Lega Nord and Austria's Freedom Party won enough seats between them to form a "Far Right" voting bloc, which gives them access to EU funds, which is likely to allow them to campaign even harder for as long as the migrant crisis lasts. However bad the "left" in Scotland think the Tories are - and the visceral hatred that some feel, pollutes social media on a daily basis - the reality is that they come no where near the neo-Fascist Right in Europe. If support for the EU is because it is "not the UK" or to get away from the hated Tories, what is already there in the EU could turn out to be a lot worse.

Finally, President Obama's intervention in the EU referendum debate, was simply a continuation of what has been a strand of American foreign policy since the end of WWII, a United States of Europe. Declassified American documents show that the CIA ran a campaign in the 1950s and 1960s to build momentum for a United Europe and it funded and directed the European federalist movement. One of the documents, dated July 1950 gives instructions to campaign for a European Parliament, signed by General William J Donovan, head of American wartime OSS, precursor of the CIA. An American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE) was formed in 1948 with Donovan as its Chairman, and Allen Dulles as Vice-Chairman. Dulles just happened to be the CIA's first Director. Documents further show ACUE financed the European Movement, probably the most important and active federalist lobbying group since the end of WWII, providing 53% of its funds in 1958. A memo dated 11th June 1965, advises the Vice-Chairman of the European Economic Community (EEC), Robert Marjolin to pursue monetary union by stealth. It recommends suppressing debate until the point at which the "adoption of such proposals would become virtually inescapable." No one can say that things have not gone to plan, particularly the suppressing debate part. Now, what is it about TTIP that angers us most?

I would suggest that before Scots finally put their cross on the ballot paper, they should pause and ask themselves the following:-

1) Is the record of the SNP on the EU and currency such, that you are prepared to follow their line blindly?
2) Do you really believe the political structure of the EU (economics is separate) allows member states to retain sovereignty?
3) Do you really believe that Qualified Majority Voting will allow a Nation of 5 million people to carry the same weight as countries with 50 million, 60 million, 80 million people?
4) To what problem is the EU the answer?