Nothing to Say

This is a recent example of the kind of correspondence I get and from which I mostly shield you on the blogsite.

Zero comments? More like an Ongoing Monologue than your lofty claim of an “Ongoing Dialogue”, Derek. If only you could respond that you were simply a voice crying in the wilderness. But sadly you are just an embittered fired hack whinging in the West End, The gulf between your own opinion of your intellect and the reality is larger than that of Persia. Please just stop these pointless outpourings and accept your opinion is of no interest to anyone but your own super-inflated ego, which simply masks an abyss of utter inadequacy. Have a happy September 19th. William Lithgow.

So what? Well, I reprint it here because it exemplifies not just the character of the No engagement such as it is with the blog, but I think encapsulates their attitude to the whole debate.

Here is an intelligent voter (he’s heard of Persia, albeit now an archaic term) who has taken the trouble to read the blog – and thus contradicting his own point that nobody is interested. In order to reach the blog post he is referring to – Know Who Your Friends Are from December – he would almost certainly have to have read maybe 30 or 40 previous posts. Despite this intensive immersion in my writing he has nothing – absolutely zero – to say about the subject of independence or anything else I have written about over the last year.

The particular post dealt with the published list of Better Together donors which I excoriated. Sample: ‘Its mixture of Bertie Woosters and rapacious financiers and bankers, dodgy military types and corporate traitors should be available on my Kindle under Humour any day now. You only have to add in the Ian Taylor money linked to Vitol to complete the picture of a miniscule moneyed elite up to all sorts of dubious activities sanctimoniously bleating about the threat to our mighty country. The threat is surely to their money and status and that’s what this ragbag of grotesques are really worried about.’

It would sting anyone who had for example recently given money to Better Together and was an easy target for a Unionist response, I would have thought. But instead William avoids answering any question or justifying any position. The simplest thing is to sneer, deride and run. It is the written equivalent of failing to turn up for debates and is symptomatic of the whole Unionist case, harnessed as it now is to the single mad question of What’s Your Plan B?

This was a question until the government made it clear there was only a Plan A and to constantly demand there must be an alternative is beyond childish. The polls show Scots unconvinced that currency union will be denied and no campaign can beat the same drum endlessly and pick up points. They have made their point and the voters’ instinct will surely be to say – Move on.

It really doesn’t look as if this ploy has done anything to win over voters. It may have hardened No voters around a single point which they can all use as a group mantra – and I have to say, I’ve never seen Labour activists look happier now they’ve got a simplistic slogan to shout and a finger to jab – but it hasn’t stopped the rise of Yes support.

What’s your Plan B? doesn’t tell us about social justice in Unionist Scotland, doesn’t lay out a vision for higher wages and improved lifestyle, says nothing about national health prospects, harnessing the renewables revolution or defend the elderly and the disabled.

It is the vacuum at the heart of what is essentially a Labour offer that is so scary – no story, no mission, no vision. And that failure to generate a creative alternative to the soaring ambition of Yes is more pronounced each day. To me the email above sums it up – stop complaining, stop trying, don’t bother, nothing will change, give up. It is essentially a sad paean to failure.

*And they lace their words instead with the predictable abuse. In fact, far from there being zero responses to the blog piece, there were 39. William just didn’t take the time to find them.

*Retiring I think is not the same as being fired. The BBC wanted me to stay.

*If I am a voice in the wilderness, it’s a crowded wasteland. There are up to 13,000 readers a day and wide sharing. There are nearly 5000 followers on Twitter. I reach thousands more through internet radio. This week I am speaking at an event every day – including the Fringe yesterday, Business for Scotland tonight.

*If any regular reader can point to high-flown claims about my intellect, I’d like to see them. My correspondence says the opposite, that I talk myself down too much is the common reaction.

However I am bitter – about our national wealth being squandered, about the faces of the people in see up Maryhill Road which I have to explain to my children, about Julie Webster’s foodbank doing brisk business, about the failure of our media to find collective intellect and a backbone. Oh and I’m pretty cross about nuclear weapons too.

But what really makes me bitter is the empty cackle of Unionists with nothing but juvenile taunts when a great national question must be answered. We should take heart from their echoing silence on the issues that matter and remember that the platoon of wealthy spivs and landowners that bankroll their case shows where the true heart of Unionism lies – in London and its moneyed elite.

(Still, I don’t suppose anybody will read this or respond)

 

 

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Radio Latest

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This week’s programme from batemanbroadcasting brings two contrasting characters together. The academic, author and broadcaster Professor Murray Pittock of Glasgow University has a life-long interest in the national question and wrote The Road to Independence? which is a lively account of the origins of the movement and which he updated ahead of the referendum. He is an authority on the constitutional question with unrivalled understanding of the history and culture of home rule. He has keen insights into the progress of the campaign and is both optimistic and critical of aspects. His series on Radio Four dealing with the story of the movement was a critical success. His analysis is invaluable.

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He is joined by Kate of Caskie of Women for Independence, as lively a voice as you’ll hear and whose zest is a reminder that politics need not be as dull as Better Together would like. Have a listen for the other gems in this package which is at batemanbroadcasting.com, is in the iTunes store and on our Twitter ID which is bateman_podcast. Let us know what you think. Happy listening….

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Thank You, Mr President

I’ve been inspired by Abraham Lincoln, or at least by the screenwriter of the Spielberg movie. As he pushed for the 13th amendment making slavery unconstitutional, Lincoln was also offered a peace deal by the Confederacy that would end the civil war but perpetuate slavery in the southern states.

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He wanted both but clung to the belief that ending slavery was the greater objective and if he had the courage – and the cunning – he could win through.

Confronting a rebellious congressman who wants abolition but says America is ‘entirely unready for emancipation’ as it has too many unanswered questions, the President tells him: ‘We’re unready for peace too, ain’t we? When it comes it will present us with conundrums and dangers greater than any we faced during the war, bloody as it’s been. We’ll have to extemporise and experiment with what it is, when it is.’

That’s my view of our independence – that whatever the questions and conundrums, we’ll have to face them. We will find a way – our way – to deal with them and we’ll find our own solutions, the ones that work for us. Whichever decision we make, we don’t escape the challenges of the future and there will be many of those in the coming years under the Union if there’s a No. But we won’t be able to withstand those so well because we won’t have the powers and flexibility.

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It can sound like an escape route from hard choices like currency but it isn’t, it’s just plain fact. Everything is a choice and we should refuse to be frightened out of ours by bullies and blowhards. If there actually is a refusal to work pragmatically on any subject including currency, then we will find an alternative. Through national debate and negotiation we will decide for ourselves which option we prefer. That IS the power of independence.

Later when his own Republican colleagues are arguing for compromise to accept the peace deal and avoid confronting the slavery issue because it’s too difficult to contemplate and has too many consequences, Lincoln slams his hand down on the desk and silences them.

‘We’re stepped out on the world stage now – NOW, NOW – with the fate of human dignity in our hands. Blood’s been spilt to afford us this moment – NOW, NOW, NOW – you heckle about like pettifogging Tamany Hall hucksters. See what is before you! See the here and now, the only thing that accounts…’

It was the nation’s chance to settle the question for all time, he says. It wouldn’t just free millions of current slaves but save ‘millions of the unborn still to come’.

That’s what our campaign is about too. It is creating the beginnings from which to build a better future investing in our unborn still to come. And what Lincoln would call the two-bit hucksters wheedling about compromise and middle ways bereft of detail or credibility are the ones who can’t see that future and whose vision is restricted by self-serving myopia.

We are not slaves and we are not at war. But we are engaged in a noble cause that touches the heart of every world citizen. In every other country the idea of their nation and their identity within it is an emotional impulse for its citizens.

How small and contradictory it sounds for today’s American president and the Australian Prime Minister to chide another country for pursuing its own independence from London. You really do need an irony bypass not to gasp at their ignorance and naked self-interest. You only have to imagine them going home and telling their own people that independence was a mistake and powers were to be returned to Westminster. The only logical explanation for their view is that they don’t honour Scotland with the status of a real country and truly see us only as a region of another – the classic Britnat formulation.

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The words attributed to Lincoln are also a reminder that our opponents are focussed on the pettifogging detail. Of course it will be important, but currency like EU membership and defence and pensions decisions are consequential on the big decision, the one that really matters. ‘We’ll have to extemporise and experiment with what it is, when it is.’ Afraid of your own future? Then vote No.

‘See what is before you! See the here and now, the only thing that accounts…’

The question isn’t about currency – it’s about independence, national dignity and self respect. It’s about taking to ourselves the powers to choose, to select our own route to create our own country in accordance with the wishes of the people, and Yes, to make our own mistakes. But also to share our own achievements and triumphs – just like everyone else.

Our stories may be very different but the core principles remain the same. Lincoln reached beyond the small-minded and the self-interested to grasp the big prize, one that endures today for millions of those who were the unborn still to come…the living proof that he was right. He refused to be corrupted by the political fix, the easy option. It is tempting at the time but Abraham Lincoln showed what belief in a cause can achieve when it is backed by iron will. September is about dispelling fear and finding the backbone that comes from belief in a just cause and, as Lincoln said, it can’t for some future date, it’s for NOW. This is our moment.

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Buy British

It’s hard sometimes to comprehend what we are confronting. When you look at the full array of opposition to self-determination and its mesmerising spangle of tools you wonder if it is in any way coordinated.

The edifice is riven with fissures and contradictions. Daily, sometimes by the hour, the message changes. One moment Labour tells us that women are the biggest victims of the Tory-led Coalition’s austerity measures, the next Margaret Curran tells us advances by women will go backwards if we escape the Tories’ clutches by becoming independent.

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Oil is dangerously volatile with its price veering up and down, the next it is in long-term terminal decline with diminishing receipts.

Oil is a worryingly dangerous industry which requires London’s expertise to husband it – the same London whose Chancellor brought it screeching to a halt with an unexpected tax hike…the same London that hasn’t invested a penny of hundreds of billions over 40 years.

Oil as a golden egg is finished except when the Prime Minister flies to Aberdeen to identify himself with billions of investment by BP or to Shetland for a potentially massive new field discovery. Which is it….?

We will all be poorer if we vote Yes yet the evidence daily is that we are already historically poorer under Union and our incomes are falling further behind prices – except for the super rich whose wealth has gone in the opposite direction.

England loves us –until we vote for independence when they will punish us as hard as they can for desiring to raise our own taxation, run our own affairs and be nuclear-free.

They want to retain Union but when an explicit offer is made to share one of their most cherished belongings, they spit. Not only will they refuse currency arrangements to make trade flow to mutual benefit, their politicians will promise in their manifestoes to vote against it even if it is in the national interest…the politics of stupid.

And for every Ronnie Corbett and…(Christ, I can’t even remember the others…) who plead with us to stay, there are nests of online reptiles hissing hate-filled spite and scorn, willing our destruction and humiliation in anti-Scottish tirades. Anti-Scottish, mind you. Not just anti SNP. These English furies don’t differentiate – they hate Unionist Scots just the same, no comfort here for Labour and their warm words about English people being ‘just like us’.

Of course Labour has to take a lot of the blame for this hostility because for years none of their proud MPs has ever stood up in the Commons and denounced attempts to paint us as anything other than dependants reliant on English tax money. They too have laughed and pointed with the Tories and the Ulster Unionists at the small group of SNP members and dismissed them as cranks rather than duly elected representatives of a legitimate and respectable cause. Their current pantomime of gold chocolate sweetie coins is the most accurate depiction of Labour’s intellectual state – manufactured, artificial, sugar-coated and childish. It is little surprise that English imbeciles think of us as second-rate no-hopers when they look at the majority of MPs we send to Westminster.

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They offer us more powers but refuse to put their option on the ballot paper. They promise to deliver but won’t say what. They cut corporation tax but decry the same policy in the SNP. They favour nuclear disarmament but will renew Trident.

Which is it…?

They pretend not to hear Plan A and demand Plan B but what is their plan for a Yes?

And so it goes on. There is in reality no coherent Union plan. It starts and stops with one objective – Stop Salmond. Beyond that there is nothing but hint, vague promise and suggestion eked it out to give just enough so they can tell people there will be more powers but not their nature and not what might be removed. There is nothing on revised spending which is inevitable in Britain’s bankrupt state.

How will the Union cope with its rising debt mountain?

How will people cope with the cuts still to come and the extra £25 billion now added in?

How high will tax rises be after the next General Election?

What is the Plan B for an exit from the EU? How many business will move, how many jobs disappear?

If Europe is our biggest trading partner and currency is important why don’t any of our European partners use sterling? (It isn’t just that no one complains about exchanging with the Euro – there are 12 different currencies in use in the EU, none of them causing difficulties for British exporters).

Every time you try to pin down what the British line actually is on any specific subject, it moves out of reach. It is amorphous. Its shape is determined by the moment.

I’m coming round to the idea that what hangs all of this together isn’t coherent political narrative at all but something more akin to corporate branding. If you ask a Scot why he believes in Union, there is little more than platitude. It is because Scotland is too small, Britain works, the war, it’s too complicated…They don’t say it’s socially just or there’s even distribution of resources or it has an outstanding record on human rights and social mobility. They don’t say it’s a fair society or it’s democratically run or it looks after its elderly, respects workers’ rights or leads the worldwide green agenda. It’s as if Britain does not need to be explained. It just IS.

This is a kind of revered status that marketing companies kill for. It puts your product beyond criticism into a unique realm where there is no real challenge to its hegemony.

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So it could be Coca Cola, Google or even Kellog’s, something that dominates and has acquired kudos that transcends the mundane. Explaining that it is carbonated water filled with sugar or industrially-cooked corn in a cardboard box doesn’t cut it. It is so much more than that because we have bought into the marketing and allowed it to take over part of our thought process.

We have accepted the promotional message that it is a force for good even against all the evidence – Coke kills through obesity and rots young teeth and almost all the health benefit of eating cereal comes from the milk, not the sugary flakes. But who cares? You can go to any country on earth and say one word: ‘Coke’ and be served the drink (Careful with that in Colombia).

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The word Britain does something similar in many places because of a centuries long story of international involvement leaving even countries that were conquered, controlled and exploited still amenable to the British Crown and Country concept as we witnessed at the Commonwealth Games.

Britons, when they see their state under threat as it is today from Scotland, draw together in defiance and overlook the inequality, the poverty and noblesse oblige and prefer instead the pride of tradition, of flag and a mystical notion of their brave country doing right in the world. They back the brand. They know its faults but when the enemy is at the door, faults are ignored in the interests of the greater good. The Scottish Unionists buy into this and by doing so prove they are Britnats putting the UK first and Scotland second. That is where Labour is currently located – backing Tories and UKIP, applauding the bankers and Duncan Smith welfare cuts and the case of the people of Liverpool and Manchester before the Scots – because they too buy the brand. Like the BBC, Labour is a thoroughly British organisation with Britain at its heart and British interests as its priority. Even when its policies are anathema to everything their party was founded to uphold, they are mesmerised by the brand. They hold the British loyalty card and it is the most powerful motivation left to them.

Personally, I don’t buy it.

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University Challenge

Whenever I mention my respect for academics and how I always think of myself as inferior to their knowledge and intellectual discipline, some of you get in touch to tell me off. I have not to be so doubting about myself and be more sceptical of academia as a title like professor doesn’t bestow common sense whatever else it represents. (I’d best be careful here as I’m interviewing one tomorrow for batemanbroadcasting…)

Well tonight I find myself quoted as part of an academic paper on the referendum. Me…in a proper university study…and I’ve only got a few Highers.

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It’s called Scotland and England from a union of parliaments to two independent kingdoms and is written by Professor Anthony Carty, Sir YK Pao Chair of Public Law at the University of Hong Kong Law Faculty and Professor of Law at the School of Law of the University of Aberdeen and by Mairianna Clyde, Associate Lecturer in Arts at the Open University.

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They challenge the assumption of the British government’s lawyers who asserted that independence means that when Scotland leaves the Union it leaves the rUK intact as continuator state. Those are the same lawyers, Crawford and Boyle who famously said the Union extinguished Scotland and we were absorbed into greater England. I contested that view on the blog and part of my post is used here to provide an initial counter to the government opinion, as you can see on Page Three. I’m the ‘veteran political commentator’.

Here is the link to the article which is published by Oxford Journals on behalf of the London Review of International Law Advance Access

http://lril.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/08/12/lril.lru007.full.pdf

I think you’ll find it not only demolishes the British case but chimes with everyone’s understanding of what really happened at in 1707. I quote part of the conclusion.

In 1707 the Union’s purpose was to secure freedom of trade and commerce in an imperialist, mercantilist age. But today we are managing contraction and decline and free trade and security are provided by other transnational structures such as the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the UN. The Union has served its original purpose and is increasingly viewed as an anachronism but more so a dangerous one, an impediment to democracy, prosperity and security—and no longer an aid to negotiating the opportunities of the modern world as Scotland attempts to re-build her post-imperial, post- industrial economy.

Have a read at the rest because I think this is an authoritative alternative view which makes sense of our constitutional history and has an important bearing on the referendum. (Will it appear in the mainstream?) And no jokes about ProfessorBateman…please.

 

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