The Chips Are Down

I do love a guilty pleasure…a glass of wine before 5pm, crunchy salt on skinny chips, reading the Press after an English football defeat. Beating them all right now is the sound of British bleating that the Union might actually be working for once and the family of nations voting enthusiastically.

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Indignation! Incredulity! Induced hysteria! Every bulletin in a tight BBC voice – ‘Alex Salmond says he will vote down a minority Tory government’ – and every headline – ‘SNP will sabotage British democracy’ – has me mimicking that Salmond Smirk behind my hand.

What pleasure to see the metropolitan clique flapping like headless chickens and hear them reveal what the Union truly means to them – Jocks in a Box.

They thought they were hammering the lid shut on September 19 but, God Bless Old Scotia, the peasants revolted and came out kicking, rusty claymores in hand, chanting: ‘You want us to stay? Well, here we come.’

And they don’t like it up ‘em. Forget all that stuff about lots of devolution if we stay; this time Scots are not waiting for the Establishment to dispense it, but we are ready to take it from them for once by using the very thing they have used against us – the authority vested in Parliament. They have no defence in a democracy except to wail ‘It’s no fair’ which adds to the fun because it leads them into all that deeply embarrassing and anti-Unionist crypto-xenophobia – exactly the kind of wretched name-calling Nationalists were accused of when we were supposed to be narrow-minded, parochial and anti-English.

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When I hear their disgust at the idea of Scots having influence ‘over England’, I think of Carson, the butler in Downton. He had a way of conveying the haughty disdain of the nobs too polite to say it out loud and he could silence a footman with an arch of his eyebrow.

I’ve always known that the London elite didn’t mind us at table so long as we stayed below the salt but the latest outburst of squaking at the exercise of our rights as British citizens says they’d prefer us just to stay below stairs.

The funniest part of course is that this is what the Union is about with all constituent parts contributing, the only difference being that this time it won’t necessarily be the Big Two (overwhelmingly England) deciding who wins. You couldn’t have a better example of the concept of Union and I doubt if it has happened in the previous 300 years. That the top brass in London give the Scots the clearest message that their votes shouldn’t count as much as England’s is a kind of Nationalist Comedy Festival feeding the idea that, if you have a grain of national dignity left, the Unionist gig is over.

I feel for those who don’t want in power a party dedicated to breaking up Britain, but isn’t that to deny the very result delivered by Scots in the referendum? The SNP lost. They are not heading to Westminster to raise the saltire but to rearrange the existing Union – as expressly required by the No campaign.

And what to Unionists say to the likely addition of the DUP to the existing Coalition partners if the Tories and Lib Dems don’t have the numbers? It’s true they don’t want to break up Britain but they had links to paramilitaries, notably the UVF, who killed British citizens in Northern Ireland. Is the party of Ian Paisley more welcome to influence a British government than social democratic Scots?

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It’s is Pythonesque and it’s a luxury we rarely get to know we have upset them so much and that Labour are floundering so badly. It may not last – who knows – but you can’t deny it’s a lot of fun. I see the time now is dead on noon. Too early for the vino?

(I’m heading off to Edinburgh to interview Alex Salmond for Newsnet and to chair a public meeting about his book. It will appear on the site later.)

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It’s the Stupid Economy

Let’s get this right. Before last September, Unionism decreed that Independence was Bad and devolution was Good – just its limits remained ill-defined. Now, further devolution in the form of Devo Max is Bad and, if anything Badder than Independence.

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Devo Max will variously ‘be unsustainable, destroy the economy, lead to huge service cuts, tax rises’…etc. all leading to Armageddon Two. When we proposed unhooking from the UK, it was a stupid idea because, mainly, we couldn’t afford it. Now that we’ve said OK, we’ll stay but would like to take on a significant amount of responsibility for ourselves within the Union, the response is: That’s (also) a stupid idea. You can’t afford it.

When the oil price is high, we should celebrate the Union and be grateful…no need for independence. When the oil price falls…we’d be mad to go it alone.

This is the double-headed monster that is Britain – we’re the place where fair play was born – except we kidnapped people for torture; we have an independent civil service – except when the Permanent Secretary at the Treasury decrees secretly that impartiality doesn’t apply; we’re the family of nations – where Scots don’t qualify to share their own currency; and now we’re the place where the Prime Minister offers Devo Max and then withdraws it when he gets our votes.

In the context of the General Election however, I think the Unionist attempt to undermine the SNP with the Gers figures and the oil price misfires and may be counter-productive. (I’ll come to the economic issues in a moment). One of the seemingly unlearned lessons of the referendum is that you can’t sneer at your own country without arousing antipathy. Yet all I hear from Jim Murphy, Kezia Dugdale and the trumpeting Jackie Baillie is undisguised glee at Scotland’s predicament, parroting the same words that English trolls use in tweets about low income, not enough resources, reliance on bloc grant (English taxpayers) and a background of whoops of delight that our country would struggle economically. Does anybody think this is good politics? Do they ever listen back to their own words and put themselves in the place of a voter? They don’t, of course, and probably can’t, because their whole raison d’etre is to attack the SNP and any wider perspective like an obligation to the nation, lies mute.

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Surely the defining difference between the campaigns was the optimism and aspiration of Yes and the relentless Ye Canny Dae It mantra that actually lost votes for No. And they’re still at it, reliving the campaign as if it wasn’t over and repeating the same errors.

The time for making a case against independence has gone and the voters know it. This time, they want to deliver a bloody nose and they know for certain it can’t lead to independence, even if many of them, possibly a majority, want it to. This is a zero sum game…by voting SNP, the voters can’t lose.

Telling them that the latest figures show a new nation struggling, makes no difference because it’s irrelevant to an independence that isn’t going to happen (any time soon).

I fear something similar may apply to Devo Max. There is no doubt that on the face of it, reduced revenue would hurt a system built on retaining all taxes. But no matter how hard the Unionist bloc of Labour and Tories shout about it, I think their capacity to scare has evaporated. So many scare stories have been told, so many bogeymen have loomed out of the shadows that the trick has stopped working. That’s why Labour people who once felt obliged to tell others that they would vote Labour whatever their misgivings, are now openly SNP. The subtle community pressures through trades unions, organisations, council employers and the like have broken down and working class Scots now feel the freedom of voting they way they wish – and many are using it to give their verdict on those who have failed them.

Another frothing rant by Brian Wilson, a wheedling Murphy sound-bite and even, if they found it, the calmer analysis of Brian Ashcroft, just rebounds off the wall of resistance as if to say: You’ve had your chance. We listened for years and look where it got us.

I have one theme of my own when it comes to Scotland’s resources. It is this: Whatever state the accounts are in, it is the result of Union.

Our entire economy – for 300 years, remember – has been run by people elsewhere, people, who as we now know from Sir Nicholas Macpherson, twisted the rules to make the civil service a political arm of government against the Scots and against every rule of British government. In other words, these are people who will never – never – have Scotland’s best interests at heart.

Another glaring example is their campaign pleading with us to stay because they loved us – apparently – but now we are going further and actually voting to be part of the government, they treat us like immigrants from the sub continent. Britain took over India, ran it, exploited it, made Indians work for them through enslavement and violent threat and got rich off the back of the Indians. In return the Indians got passports but encountered discrimination and obstacles when they got to Britain. Oh, we didn’t expect you to actually come to live here…

If oil rich Scotland with world class universities and highly developed industries covering tourism, food and drink and life sciences, isn’t able to balance its books and have money in reserve – then whose fault is that, because it can’t be blamed on independence, can it?

I like this section from Business for Scotland.

The Barnett Formula will be lauded by unionists as it does mean that Scotland has more to spend in years where revenues drop. However, the key point is that in the years in which Scotland’s revenues have been far, far higher than the average for rest of the UK, the Barnet Formula has severely limited Scottish spending to an amount close to the UK’s.  Peer reviewed research by Business for Scotland has proven that had Scotland had been an independent country for the past 34 years (as the UK debt mountain grew) Scotland’s higher revenues would have meant that we would not have had to borrow a single penny. In fact Scotland would by now have a cash surplus of at least £50bn. All of the UK debt was generated outwith Scotland, and in the 2013/14 figures £3bn or 24% of Scotland’s deficit was driven by interest on that UK debt and the previous year £4.02bn or 33% of Scotland’s deficit was interest on debt. Let’s be clear, the Barnett Formula helps as part of the UK in some years, but has overall massively limited investment in Scotland’s economy.

And why do the people of limited vision never recognise that it is because Scotland lacks the levers to fully utilise its capacity to grow the economy that we are poorer than we should be? The economic model is not appropriate for Scotland – it is London’s creation and yet they are the ones telling us the conditions are wrong even for full fiscal autonomy.

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Let’s take them at their word then. If not full fiscal autonomy, then what? Where is their suggestion? Do they have an insight or is jeering and name-calling the extent of the Murphy Revolution? It appears so.

However, in stark contrast to Murphy’s vacuum, I discovered a report which looks at these issues, although written some years ago. It examines FFA and concludes that it is probably a better solution for Scotland to have a variant of full autonomy, one which is also conducive to harmony with the other nations by retaining an element of Barnett as a form of equalisation. In other words, whatever works…

The authors declare that Scotland should have a considerable proportion of taxes raised in Scotland returned directly to Scotland – income tax, VAT and corporation tax with a package of other taxes too. That’s already further than Smith on business taxes and Smith only assigns a proportion of VAT.

The report also dismisses the idea that a new system would immediately fall foul of the existing economic balance – the very case that Unionists are making today. They say: In embarking on a fiscal federalist system a needs assessment exercise would have to be conducted in order to tie down the size of any bloc grant provided by the centre. We also argue for some form of transition mechanism that minimises the amount of disruption in the system and maintains the level of revenue initially available to the Scottish Parliament at a time of significant change. We are also of the opinion that any legislation creating tax assignment for Scotland should allow scope for further modification of the Scottish fiscal system – much as on the lines of the Spanish system where regional finances under the law are reviewed every five years. For one thing fiscal federalism is currently evolving worldwide, and in several countries is being allowed to pass through several phases. For another thing, it is very hard to get it absolutely right first time – something that we believe the Scotland Act (1998) failed to achieve.

Hardly scary, is it…more measured and considerate, taking careful account of existing conditions rather than echoing the blowhard bluster of Murphy and crew about impending disaster.

So who wrote this thoughtful account of a clever way to deliver real economic powers within the UK without damaging Scotland? Well, its lead author is arch-Unionist and pound sterling adherent Professor Ronald MacDonald of Glasgow University with special mentions for help going to, among others, Wendy Alexander, Brian Ashcroft, Jo Armstrong, John McLaren and Arthur Midwinter. By my book, that’s a Labour pro-Union roster. They wrote this 10 years ago and it seems to me to be way beyond any thinking going on the Murphy’s Better Together staff room. In fact it looks to me like the basis of a discussion – between a Labour government and the SNP, perhaps?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Paisley Pattern

If you have a memory greater than a gnat – unlike the Better Together propagandists at the Daily Record – you’d have a belly laugh this morning at the paper’s political correspondent berating the SNP over Braziergate. (Remember? Three Renfrewshire SNP councillors burning a copy of the Smith Commission in a bin).

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David Clegg was tweeting – and re-tweeting proudly – a piece saying that the reinstatement of the councillors after their suspension was ‘the SNP’s Militant Tendency moment.’ In Paisley!? If you had been around in the 80s when Davie Clegg was in short breeks, you’d know that Renfrewshire was the stamping ground of one Hugh Henry, now Labour MSP, occasional minister and former self-declared member of Militant Tendency. http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/sleaze-row-hits-mcconnell-s-man-henry-1-587106

That’s right, THE Militant Tendency – the one that was based on the Revolutionary Socialist League, a Trotskyist group working within the Labour Party through the tactic of entryism. Better to break the law than break the poor, they used to chant. The group was proscribed (not just suspended like the Nat cooncillors) and members expelled. Hugh declared once: ‘The ideas of Marxism are becoming more relevant to people in the Labour Party. Marxism is now firmly on the political agenda.’ Better still – and aptly for today’s decrepit Labour Party – he said: ‘I want to counteract the impression that it is the Left who are infiltrating the party. I would argue that the real infiltrators in the Labour Party were the academics and intellectuals who used the Labour Party as a vehicle for their political ambitions.’

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Could he mean Paisley buddy Douglas Alexander?

Now, I genuinely like Hugh. I’ve known him a long time and backed him to be Presiding Officer before Tricia Marwick because he’d have done a good job and made sure the SNP didn’t dominate all of Holyrood. He made a conversion to Labour and good luck to him. But you can’t hide your past and frankly I would think he’s quietly furious that the Labour-friendly Record made the Militant reference which to anyone who wasn’t in school at the time is known as an embarrassing period for the party.

During his leadership (of Renfrewshire Council), the council was divided by furious rows over allegations of sleaze and cronyism which led to police being called to the council headquarters to break up the confrontations, reports the Scotsman. I was at one of those meetings and a real Tammany Hall effort it was with threats and chants and a total collapse of order. As local SNP Councilor Colin Campbell said when Hugh emerged in Jack McConnell’s ministerial team: ‘He was Leader of the Labour Group on Renfrew Council at a time when allegations were made about funds at Renfrewshire Unemployed Workers Centre. He was a leading light in the party during the scandal that beset Ferguslie Community Business and he was a central player in the party when the now disgraced Tommy Graham was endorsed as a candidate. Jack McConnell has to explain how it is that a man who was so immersed in the cronyism and sleaze of the Renfrew Labour Party is fit to be a minister in the Scottish executive.’ Now that’s what I call Militant Tendency…

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Paisley of course is a place where you couldn’t have a better contrast between the ersatz Labour Party of today and its roots in industrial Scotland with the campaigning of the weavers who played a key part in the Insurrection of 1820. From the 80’s onwards Paisley became a graveyard of credibility for the party. The list of Labour failures makes grim reading for a place once represented by Norman Buchan.

For the Record’s education, let’s remember the mighty Tommy Graham.

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Following the suicide of his parliamentary colleague Gordon McMaster in July 1997, a long investigation was launched, since in his suicide note McMaster had accused Graham of smearing him that he had a homosexual affair with a 17-year-old employee of Graham’s. In September 1998, Graham was expelled from the Labour Party for bringing the party into disrepute, despite his categorical denials of any wrongdoing. He became an independent and described himself as a Scottish Labour MP. For a comprehensive list of dodgy Labour Party behaviour try this from the Independent in 1997. A Very Nasty Smell in Labour’s Backyard. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/a-very-nasty-smell-in-labours-backyard-1245183.html

In there is a story I covered myself in Paisley when Jack McConnell was general secretary. The paper reports: ‘Mr McConnell thought he had sorted out Paisley in 1995 when three constituency parties – the two Paisleys and Renfrewshire West, represented by Tommy Graham, were suspended following irregularities in membership records. There were claims of pensioners being enlisted without their knowledge and subscriptions paid for 44 trade union members with a single cheque. The object, according to local activists, was to influence selection ballots.’

It was at this time I discovered that the editor of the local paper and the chief reporter were both members of the local party and yet were supposed to be investigating it. I haven’t even touched on Irene Adams and her alleged involvement or indeed her expenses. The Sunday Post reported in November 2014 that Adams had claimed £53,000 of expenses during a period when she did not speak in debate or submit any written questions.

There’s a nice quote from the Herald around the time of the McMaster/Graham affair. ‘Scottish politics should be captivated by the devolution debate, not mired in an urban Labour enmity which threatens to blow out of the water all the work done to produce an electoral system guaranteeing that the worst kind of old-style Labour cronyism did not dominate the Scottish parliament.’

The Daily Record really should have the nous to take more care if doesn’t want to damage further its political bedfellows. The SNP Three, to be blunt, behaved like a bunch of fannies. They were suspended, did their time, and have returned not via Nicola Sturgeon, but via the votes of local members. If you apply the Record’s logic, they should never return and Hugh Henry should be thrown out of parliament. Brilliant…

But the Record can’t help itself. Instead of attacking the councillors, the Record also conflates it with the rise in SNP membership and the odd loony to construct a crisis for the leadership. (Yeah, Nicola’s in real trouble, isn’t she?) I think you’ll find Militant Tendency – the real one – and the corrupt Paisley Labour Party were what real crises are made of and I bet Record readers know that a lot better than the hacks clearly do.

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And They’re Off

The Tories are a dozen seats ahead or they’re a handful behind Labour; the polling percentages are neck and neck and everybody knows there cannot be a straight majority for either. The race is like two old nags stretching for the finishing line, one nose in front one moment, the second inches ahead the next.

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Amid the controversy about which will be larger and who will treat with whom, there lies a bigger question – why is Labour so far behind? How could a left-of-centre party be fighting for its life against a stridently right-wing budget-slashing government which is missing every one of its economic targets?

The pious welfare minister who lives a life subsidised by his father-in-law is stripping life-saving benefits from the softest of targets, overseeing a regime which incentivises welfare withdrawal and leads to suicide and foodbanks. Yet has Labour landed a serious blow on Duncan Smith? Have they harangued him into reversing his cruel policies and made him a figure of contempt – an emblem of a hard-faced, class-war party that must be removed?

The average reading of the late polls before the 1997 election which brought Labour to power last time was Tories 30 per cent, Labour 47 per cent – that’s a lead of more than 50 per cent of the Conservative total. That was because the Tory Party was a busted flush, divided and incestuous, while Labour were appealing, modern and well-led. (I know there’s more to it than that, but that’s my shorthand version).

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If you’re Labour looking to replicate – insofar as you can – Blair’s appeal, you might start with analysis of what the Tory-led Coalition is getting wrong. For a start, here’s a list.

Tories have axed 576 Sure Start Centres (evidence)

Bankers’ Bonuses rise by 64% in just 1 year (evidence)

Food Bank usage has grown by 700%+ in 3 years (evidence)

1 million are now employed on Zero-Hours Contracts (evidence)

The Disabled have suffered real term cuts of 1.7% this year in benefits (here)

52,701 firms have been declared Insolvent (Q2 2010 to Q2 2013) (evidence)

379,968 persons have been declared Insolvent (Q2 2010 to Q2 2013)  (evidence)

Unemployment is 20,000+ higher today than May 2010 (evidence & here)

Private Rental Homes costs £9,084 to rent (£1,128 up from Apr 2010) (evidence & here)

Tories have axed 5,601 Nurses since May 2010  (evidence)

That’s just the top 10 from a list of 100 Tory failures to be found here

http://www.greenbenchesuk.com/2013/10/list-100-failures-by-david-camerons.html 

Is this the kind of stuff you’re hearing from Labour, because I’m not. I hear the eye-glazing economic targets mantra from Ed Balls and a few stand-alone ideas from Miliband – we’ll freeze energy prices (they’re falling anyway) and we’ll abolish the Lords (honest, we mean it this time).

But I suspect the reason Labour is so poor at campaigning isn’t just Ed’s freakishness but Labour’s policy vacuum. Just how much of this will Labour undo or where appropriate, reinstate? They do want the bring back the successful Sure Start centres for example but while placing a statutory duty on local authorities, they won’t be offering any funding. ‘The Pre-school Learning Alliance welcomed the initiative but dismissed Labour’s suggestion that it could be implemented without any additional public spending.’

On bankers’ bonuses there are similar noises. Ed Balls wants bonuses to be clawed back for 10 years in cases of misconduct – rather than the current seven. Mmm…not very radical, is it? We’ll chase you for longer but only if you’re found guilty of something.

They complain about zero hours contracts yet their own local councils implement them. And so on…

Labour lacks a definitive narrative challenging the basis of the Tory policy framework partly because it knows many aspiring voters side with the Tories and partly because it has locked itself into the austerity mentality which limits spending in popular areas. It isn’t just Miliband who doesn’t wash with the voters. The other one, Balls is a reminder of dodgy economics and bluster from the Gordon Brown era and should have been dumped long ago.

The conditions are different from 97 but on the other hand, Major was struggling with an internal enemy (Europe) while Cameron wrestles with an internal enemy (Europe) in the form of UKIP. After 18 years we were perhaps just sick of the Tories and wanted a change. I’m sick of them again but it looks like a large number of English folk are happy with them and it’s not just the middle class in the south-east. A man delivered a car to my house last week from Wolverhampton – a working class bloke doing a low-paid job. He was unabashed to say he preferred Cameron’s Tories to Labour.

Instead of hearing narrow-minded Labour MPs moaning about no deals with Nationalists, we should be hearing them explaining why after five years of a neo-con, ideological government, they aren’t miles ahead in the polls and destined to win outright. They should be hammering the Tories the way the Tories are hammering the vulnerable.

The truth of that is that they don’t have ideas and they don’t have conviction. They are afraid to be who the people want them to be. They are trapped pandering to two audiences and have no clear path to power of programme for government. As in Scotland, the strongest message is: We’re not the Tories. But that only takes you half way to power. Defining what Labour IS seems beyond them and instead others do it for them and are not charitable.

That Labour is neck and neck with a discredited party is an historic condemnation of their failure. (Personally, I don’t think they’ll need the SNP because I expect the Tories to be the biggest party. I expect there to be nearly enough Lib Dems to continue the Coalition but still in need of extra insurance probably with the DUP. Labour will be the party that couldn’t protect working people from the ravages of Tory austerity while the rich get richer.)

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Patience…

When I first realised I was badly overdrawn at the bank, I was only a kid and a month away from getting married. £50 in the red (it said in my little bank book – remember them?) and I went as red as the account. It was a disaster requiring immediate and painful remedial action – meeting with manager, agreed overdraft, short-term loan and hurt feelings.

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Then I had to ask a fundamental question: How did I get into this mess in the first place? Who’s fault was it? What went wrong? That produced a whole litany of retrospectively obvious answers involving beer, Gitanes, Fred’s steak lunches at the Jinglin’ Geordie in Fleshmarket Close and a wilful refusal ever to check the state of the account.

As I tried to sort it out, I had the light bulb moment that if I wanted a balanced account, I wouldn’t start from here; I wouldn’t have allowed myself to get into debt if I’d been cleverer…I should have been counting my pennies and keeping better company.

My boozy lunches and hollowed out account came to mind when I read the headlines from the GERS report showing Scotland with a public spending deficit of £12bn.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-31831857

Oops…That’s hefty whatever our tax-raising capacity – and that’s considerably higher per head than the UK by £400 – but the national overdraft is what makes headlines because voters don’t like debt, especially if it looks cripplingly high with doubts about repaying and the near-certain prospect of it getting worse next year (when more oil price drops kick in).

No surprise then that the national leader (UK branch) Alistair Carmichael, remember him, immediately pounced to proudly declare that this proved Scotland was incapable of surviving without London’s money. Thanks, Al. It’s the resolute way you champion Scotland’s corner that makes you and your party so popular.

These are figures produced by the SNP government, not fiddled by our chums in the Treasury who give Danny Alexander his winning lines to read. They are a true reflection of the current state of the national bank account. (Although, I have to say I’m never convinced about what is attributed to Scotland and what is left out in the minutiae of actuarial alchemy the UK uses but there we are…we have to live with it.)

Proportionately, the deficit is higher than the UK’s which is scary enough and last time it was this high, Britain had to beg for help from the IMF http://www.debtbombshell.com/britains-budget-deficit.htm

We’re going through a rocky time and hoping that there will be surge in oil prices before March 24 next year isn’t going to cut it. So the baiting over the public finances will continue – albeit ironic on a titanic scale, given the UK’s fiscal desert. Does it matter?

Well the answer is Yes, if you’re politically active and either devise attacks on the SNP or if, from the other side, you have to defend independence. There are answers but it’s a struggle…a bit like me wheedling to the bank manager that a pint of Tennents had gone up to 17p a pint.

But in truth the answer is No, it doesn’t really matter at all. First, because the independence option was knocked from the chessboard by the referendum result, therefore the question of how Scotland’s economy would cope separately has become in that sense academic. The SNP believes in independence but is campaigning for Home Rule, in effect. It is sending a cohort of MPs to Westminster not to negotiate independence – sorry, the break-up Britain – but to ‘hold their feet to the fire’ so they deliver a worthwhile deal for the Scots.

It is, though part of the argument around fiscal autonomy and continuing Barnett and the rest. But having Unionists bang on about a theoretical Scottish deficit only emphasises how they’re stuck in referendum mode and can’t get over it.

The second reason it doesn’t matter is that the independence movement is driven not by profit and loss accounting but by belief. That’s right – Alice in Wonderland, Yellow Brick Road, airy-fairy, unrealistic David Torrance Fantasy Politics.

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Or, to put it another way, conviction. We believe in something and it’s too powerful to be destroyed by transitory budgets and oil prices. In fact, we believe just like the Unionist Britnats believe in the UK.

Britain has survived everything from military attack to Scottish independence, from foreign ownership to the IMF begging bowl. It is currently surviving with nearly £1.5 trillion in sovereign debt. To do that, you must believe and I think they do. Unionists have created one of the world’s most enduring brands in the idea of Britain – despite wars, torture, corruption, dodgy royals etc, ad nauseum…

Everything about the UK since 2007 has been threadbare and mangy. People have suffered terribly while the rich earn more. Hedge fund managers are revered and protected by government while the jobless and disabled get hammered and humiliated. To mitigate the collapse we’ve had circuses like the Olympics.

Yet the question of Britain not continuing is never raised. It is literally unthinkable.

And for me, so is dropping independence.

It doesn’t mean I think everything will be sunny from Day One (note the dynastic capitals). I don’t. I actually think the early years will have serious challenges, but that in those first days the real heart of the nation will be forged because we will find out who we really are when we have to go it alone. In the early struggle, we will find out who are friends are…and discover what we all suspect – that we really can do this and that the foundations will be laid for our children’s children. It will be worth it.

Mad, of course, to the critics with calculators and those for whom a tough decision is when to start a new tea towel in the kitchen.

Just as I realised in 1972 that I had made mistakes and should never have got into the mess with the bank, so it is with Scotland. Remember, our finances, with or without devolution, are not our own. The budget is set at Westminster, our taxation powers are retained there with benefits as are the business development powers and the key levers of much public spending, public procurement, immigration and most borrowing.

Does anybody really imagine that if we had been independent years ago that we wouldn’t have matched up tax receipts and spending and made sure any deficit was within our comfortable borrowing requirement? Would we have drained our accounts with nuclear weapons and foreign wars, closed our factories and mines and prevented oil exploration off the West Coast? Do you think we’d have sold off the public oil company? Would we have allowed the decline which led to our young people leaving and never return? Would we have left post-industrial areas to waste, poverty and ill-health?

And isn’t a downturn in oil prices exactly when we would have turned to our National Oil Fund to support our economy – a fund burgeoning with petro currency and returns from investments worldwide? Where is that fund today…what happened to our natural resources and who spent it all and didn’t save a bean?

Today’s figures aren’t a denial of independence. They make the case for independence.

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All nations must take the long view of history to survive. We have done that in our movement and the day creeps ever closer, while any and every setback – referendum outcome/GERs reports – we take in our stride. In the lead up to last September the abiding quote from the Bard was A Man’s a Man for a’ that to emphasise the democratic nature of Yes. Today as we regroup and grow stronger, his relevant words come from the same tract – It’s comin’ yet for a’ that…(For a’ that and a’ that;

It’s comin’ yet for a’ that)

 

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