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THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER

Dave Simonds cartoon on London's economic dominance

cartoon by Dave Simmonds

The mainstream press in Scotland can still come up with a truth or two. For example;

The Prime Minister talks about the ties that bind the Union, in other words, but heads a government and a parliament that barely seems to register Scotland’s existence, except at those rare moments when we threaten the Union with imminent extinction; and to say that this is no way to run a mature and functioning democracy is to understate the case.

The truth is that over the last generation, Westminster has become increasingly unrepresentative of anyone except a narrow caste of career politicians; has become steadily more dependent on funding by wealthy individuals and corporations; has – as a consequence – largely ceased to offer a real political choice between neo-liberal orthodoxy and other approaches to creating a good society; and has been found guilty of spectacular levels of greed and corruption in relation to its own expenses system.

… there are questions to be asked about how far we should allow our decisions on Scotland’s future to be shaped by the representatives of what is essentially a failed financial system, now propped up only by taxpayer subsidy taken out of our own pockets.

And not only are those structures still in place six years on, but they are still seeking to impose their failed ideology on ever-larger swathes of the planet. The next scheme, courtesy of global corporate lobbying, is the so-called TTIP, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, an imminent EU/US deal which will effectively forbid governments from running public services, and force them – regardless of the views of voters – to open up all services, including the NHS, for commercial exploitation.

And this is the paradox at the heart of the referendum debate, as we reach its final hours. On one hand, we are told of what are clearly real economic risks associated with independence. Yet, on the other, we cannot help but be aware that those risks are often being imposed, and even engineered, by corporations and structures whose power needs to be challenged – thoroughly, bravely and soon – if democracy is to have any chance of surviving and thriving in the 21st century.

To vote Yes next Thursday, in the spirit of the remarkable grassroots campaign for re-empowerment that has swept Scotland over the last year, is to throw down that challenge and to accept the consequences, whatever they may be.

   (http://www.scotsman.com/news/joyce-mcmillan-democracy-will-be-the-real-winner-1-3539203)

Genuine democracy at work is something rarely seen today, when political campaigns tend to be run by lobbyists in the pockets of the ultra-rich. An opinion poll predicts that next Thursday more than 80% of the electorate will cast their votes. Since when did a general election in any Western “democracy” come near to such a figure? This energy has been generated by the Yes Scotland campaign, not by the Westminster politicians currently rushing to Scotland in desperation – behaviour reminicent of lemmings rather than people.

By the standards of any fair society, Yes deserves to win.

RENEWABLE ENERGY AND INDYREF

Oil_reserves_estimates

One of the big questions for an independent Scotland is how its economy will be able to support a centre-left “social-democratic” style of government. The Yes campaign have played the North Sea oil card for all it is worth – and perhaps more – by claiming that there are as much as 25 billion untapped barrels of oil. However Sir Ian Wood, an industry expert, has stated that the reserves are not greater that 16 billion and this figure has been echoed by BP and Shell top management (http://business.financialpost.com/2014/09/10/oil-chiefs-back-u-k-union-urging-caution-on-north-sea-reserves/?__lsa=5434-7c2e).

It all depends on how you look at the matter (http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/9647-scotland-has-potential-oil-windfall-worth-billions-says-ceo). The Woods estimate is of economically extractable oil and takes into account the costs of an ageing infrastructure and has been challenged as an underestimate by other experts. The more optimistic figures include oil fields on the west coast, including those in the Firth of Clyde, the Solway Firth and those such as the Clair Ridge field in deeper water off north-west Scotland (http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/clair-ridge-and-scotlands-new-oil-boom/).

It is curious is that renewable energy has largely been absent from the debate, although not from this blog. Scotland has been credited with an estimated 25% of all renewable energy resources in the EU. This includes wave and tidal power as well as wind. Recently the Scottish government has announced a £20 million fund for subsidising community-owned, i.e. local, wind power developments (http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2360712/scotland-offers-boost-to-community-wind-turbines). On the debit side, an independent Scotland risks losing over £500 million subsidies from the UK earmarked for the development of renewable energy resources (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/may/22/scotland-independence-cost-billions-renewables).

A recent review from the Auditor General of Scotland provides a more detailed analysis of renewable resources . The conclusions is that the Scottish government is slipping from its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020 (surprise, surprise!) but that it is none the less making ambitious and realistic progress (http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/docs/central/2013/nr_130912_renewable_energy.pdf).

To realise the full economic potential of renewable energy the legal framework for land-based and offshore generators and transmission infrastructure will need to be revised to decrease the penalties for generation at a distance from the areas of consumption. The Scottish government has already the responsibility for land reform but licenses for offshore installations are currently the responsibility of the Crown Estate, a Westminster agency. Transfer of the Crown Estate responsibilities to local authorities in Scotland has been proposed but making control over the shoreline a responsibility of the national government makes more sense.

The engineering needed for the exploitation of renewable resources is closely related to the kinds of challenges already commonplace for offshore activities and is already well supported by Scottish engineering and services, centred on the city of Aberdeen. A further future large source of revenue could come from legal expertise spinning off from the oil sector and adapted to the needs of renewables. Offshore engineering will also play an important part in the trend to extend aquaculture installations from small-scale shore-based operations to big business on the high seas (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0040/00408272.pdf).

Renewables and large-scale aquaculture will not make a big economic impact over the next few years, in spite of the bold vision of the Scottish National Party (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/scottish-independence-blog/2014/apr/08/scotland-scottish-green-energy-taxes). But as oil reserves dwindle and eventually become uneconomical – in twenty, thirty of fifty years time – renewable resources will be available in to help heat homes, power industries, stimulate exports and put food on the table.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE FROM GORDON BROWN?

The most recent TNS poll confirms the YouGov poll result that “Yes” and “No” are now neck-and-neck, the 1-2% differences between the polls being statistically insignificant. Both sides are stepping up their grass-roots activities as the polls leave no room for complacency from either side.

The “Yes” camp seem to be carrying on “business as usual” while the supporters of “No” have been proposing uncoordinated last-minute counter-attacks. Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown last night made public a “plan” to get new Devomax measures passed by Westminster, starting on 19th September immediately after a “No” vote (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/brown-takes-charge-cameron-backs-his-plan-scottish-home-rule). According to The Huffington Post, he said:

“On September 19 we will start bringing into law the new, stronger Scottish Parliament, and to secure the change we want we will work with the other parties. The Scottish people will expect nothing less, not only because that is the right thing to do, but because we need an agreed timetable with deadlines for delivery and a roadmap to our goal.”

 While Brown himself is emerging as the one leader who just might be able to deliver such a promise, his plan contains only proposals for a timetable but no substance on political measures. Voters will rightly ask themselves, if this is so important and such a good idea, why does he propose it with only 9 days to go to the vote? It will take more than just references to St. Andrews Day and Burns Night to convince the electorate that this is a genuine delivery of Devomax.

Right-wing MPs are now trying to drag the Royal family into the campaign. No matter what her private views may be, Royal aides and independent constitutional experts deny that the Queen would depart from her role of public political neutrality, (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11083204/Scottish-independence-The-Queen-is-urged-to-intervene.html), a view also expressed by Alistair Darling.

The public announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge in England is pregnant again has also been touted as a straw to save the Union, which shows the desperation of some Better Together supporters (http://www.theweek.co.uk/uk-news/royal-baby/60317/royal-baby-the-perfect-plot-to-foil-scottish-independence). Alex Salmond’s twitter congratulations to the Dutchess of Strathearn, as Kate Middleton is known in Scotland, was scarcely better. Taking a broader view, there is no doubt that Her Majesty would be welcomed by most Scots as their Monarch but clearly her reign must be drawing to a close. The popularity of her successor could be an entirely different matter.

 

CAMERON PUTS TWO SHOTS IN HIS FOOT ON SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

When Prime Minister David Cameron refused to allow a third option of “Devomax” on the ballot for IndyRef, he was sure that “No” would win. Now with even YouGov reporting the possibility of a “Yes” vote on the 18th (http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/yes-takes-lead-in-bombshell-indyref-poll.25254394) the media are beginning to speculate if Cameron would survive the secession of Scotland from The United Kingdom. Cameron himself has said he will not go but in critical times that decision rests with the hidden power in the Conservative party (http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/cameron-faces-calls-to-quit-if-scotland-votes-yes-30569191.html).

One sliver of hope for Cameron is that an independent Scotland would leave a post-independent Westminster with a comfortable right-wing majority, but it would also pose the threat of a UKIP surge to recruit Eurosceptic Conservatives (see earlier post).

The way the issue of currency has been tackled is also likely to be the subject of massive post-Indy criticism. The pro-Union position, both within the government and in the “Better Together” campaign, is that no currency union with an independent Scotland will be allowed. As the likelihood of a “Yes” vote increases financial markets are taking up positions that weaken the pound (http://www.cityam.com/1410155884/pound-plummets-scottish-independence-fears). This is likely to continue until a clear position on the future of the pound has been established. This could take months or it could be resolved quickly by an admission in principle that iScotland could use the pound with the Bank of England as a lender of last resort (http://www.thedrum.com/news/2014/09/08/pound-droops-will-london-parties-talk-salmond-about-currency-deal). However, as the currency issue was seen to be the strongest argument for Better Together, that card has not been dealt so far, regardless of the risks of political and economic fall-out.

NU! NU! NU!

1410093958756_wps_15_Surge_in_yes_vote_graphic

För första gången i kampanjen har Ja-sidan tilldelats ledningen av en opinionsundersökning . Den är knapp men den bekräftar en stadig trend under hela den senaste månaden (http://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/should-scotland-be-an-independent-country-1#line).

Samtidigt har ”Better Together” hamnat i fullständigt panik. Löften om ytterligare utökade maktbefogenheter haglar (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/westminster-prepares-offer-further-powers-scotland-it-too-little-too-late). Men det är “för lite, för sent”.

1979 blev skottarna lurade på självständighet: Westminster dolde McCrone rapporten som visade hur mycket inkomster från Nordsjöoljan skulle tillfalla ett oberoende Skottland och dessutom ogiltigförklarade 1979 års “Ja” på grund av en teknikalitet (se tidigare post).

Nu är skottarna är trötta på tomma löften. De vill ta sin framtid i egna händer trots svårigheter och risker hellre än luras en gång till.

Ett Ja-resultat den 18:e innebär stora konsekvenser för rUK, Europa och i förlängningen också Norden.

“.. A FESTIVAL OF DEMOCRACY, AN EDINBURGH TATOO OF ARGUMENT”

This is one view, of many similar, on the current debate over Scottish Independence that is going to climax on 18 September (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/04/scottish-independence-yes-vote-leaner-meaner-scotland?). An amazing 85% of voters are expected to turn out on the day (http://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/on-a-scale-of-0-to-10-how-likely-is-it-that-you-would-vote-in-an-referendum-on#line), in stark contrast to an Independence referendum in 1979, where a majority for independence was turned down on the grounds that the turnout of less than 40% of the electorate was below the minimum required for a binding result (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_devolution_referendum,_1979).

After weeks of heated discussions centering mainly on fiscal and economic issues, the debate has enlarged considerably to include social, health, defence and relations with the European Union. These themes were debated recently by panels of representatives for the Yes Scotland and Better Together, as well as active participation by the studio audience (see previous post). They continue to be discussed in town-halls, trades unions and street meetings around the country and may be a strong reason for the recent surge in the polls for a Yes vote. Whatever the outcome, the real struggle will come after the vote when campaign promises will have to be transformed into political realities.

It is surely telling that the joint leaders of the current Coalition government in Westminster, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, are invisible in the debate. The leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, together with ex- Prime Minster Gordon Brown and other heavies from the party, have begun campaigning in Scotland for Better Together (https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/pipe/336102/labour-to-wheel-out-big-guns/?). In order to make a credible message they are having to distance themselves from their Conservative and Lib-Dem “allies” in the movement, opening Miliband to the charge of campaigning for the next General Election rather for or against Scottish Independence (http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/salmond-miliband-is-blind-to-the-real-fight-in-scotland.25245155?). An independent Scotland would result in the removal of approximately one sixth of Labour MPs, leaving the Westminster door open for a major shift to the right. This would be warmly welcomed by Euro-sceptic Conservatives and UKIP (see previous post).

At a time when the political future of Ukraine is the subject of armed conflict and with the still fresh memory of years of fighting in Northern Ireland and the Balkan region, the Scottish people have shown the world that it is possible to conduct an intensely democratic yet non-violent discourse on the future of their country. That is an all-too-rare victory for the democratic way of governance.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?

The Better Together campaign is unenthusiastic about the prospect of UKIP and Orange Order activities in Scotland just before the referendum vote on 18 September.

Orangemen_parade_in_Bangor,_12_July_2010_-_geograph_-_1964645

The Orange Order is an inclusive name for a number of Protestant, pro-Union “lodges” with their base in Northern Ireland. They have also some representation in South-west Scotland, from which region many of their ancestors moved to Ireland after it was subdued by British forces during the seventeenth century. The values of the Orange order has been the major cause of the “The Troubles” that culminated in Northern Ireland from the late sixties until the end of the last century – although sporadic clashes still occur. It wants Scotland, like Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. To the rest of the world the Orange Order tries to promote an image of Protestant cultural affinity with Britain but most observers see it as a bunch of provincial bully boys who use religion as a cover for preventing Roman Catholics from enjoying equal rights and opportunities in Northern Ireland. This takes the outward form of provocative marches with orange regalia and music through Catholic areas, to “commemorate” the arrival and continuance of British rule. On September 13 the Scottish lodge will march in Edinburgh (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/03/scottish-republicans-orange-order-parade-yes-campaign). The republican grass-roots James Connolly Society has asked its supporters to stay away from the coming march in Edinburgh and to ensure that they are not involved in any violence with the Order (http://107cowgate.com/2014/09/02/jcs-statement-on-orange-orders-independence-referendum-march/).

This blog has previously reported how the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) has made major political gains in the election to the European parliament and how the Conservative party is being forced into a more Eurosceptic position by Conservative MP defection to UKIP. Only one has done so so far but there are speculations that a number of others are only waiting for the right opportunity (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ukip/11065058/Eurosceptic-Tories-accuse-Douglas-Carswell-of-betrayal-after-his-defection-to-Ukip.html). Although UKIP has a strong base in England, as shown by recent European parliament electoral returns, this is not the case in Scotland, (23 MEPs from English constituencies, 1 from Scottish). None the less the UKIP leader Nigel Farage plans a UKIP rally in Glasgow in support of the Union on 12 September (http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/concern-at-farage-scottish-visit-before-orange-march.25192378), bringing in people from other parts of the UK. Better Together have officially denied any support for the rally. If it helps tip the currently delicate balance over to a Yes result then in 2016 Westminster will lose a block of 40 out of the current 257 Labour MPs. This could create space for UKIP to fight a head-on battle with the Conservatives for the Eurosceptic vote in rUK.

Yes or No for Scotland, there are big changes ahead in British politics.

BETTER TOGETHER WELL-REPRESENTED ON THIRD AND FINAL TV-DEBATE

Yesterday evening (2 September) a third and final TV debate on the subject of Scottish independence was held in Edinburgh. The format was different, with each side represented by three prominent politicians, Bernard Ponsonby again in the chair, and a larger number of questions from the select audience directly to the panel. You can watch it yourself on this link: http://player.stv.tv/programmes/yes-or-no/

Thanks to the change of format a greater variety of topics were covered than in the previous debates, including EU, employment, oil revenues, defence and Trident, social justice, gender equality, local government financing and youth unemployment. It was also refreshing to hear a wider range of voices supporting the respective positions. One has to observe that the lead speakers for Yes Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, MSP (Deputy First Minster of the Scottish Parliament) and Better Together Douglas Alexander, MP (Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary) both presented more reasoned, yet still engaging, arguments than expressed in previous debates by their respective leaders. Questions from the public were mostly well-informed and well-expressed, resulting in a genuinely informative debate climate.

The second section of the debate was on social justice and welfare, conducted between Kezia Dugdale, MSP (Scottish Labour shadow education secretary) and Elaine C. Smith, MSP, (Chairperson of Scottish Independence Convention). Elaine Smith got off to a better start as Kezia Dugdale spoke so rapidly that few could follow what she was saying. However, when she slowed down a little Kezia came across as better informed and as equally engaged as her opposite number. None the less, according to my notes, Elaine Smith received three rounds of “heavy applause” from the audience against none for Kezia. I thought it surprising that the audience didn’t respond more strongly to Smith’s observations on the increasing threat of UKIP to the Conservative position on EU – this should be a Yes Scotland winner.

The third section of the debate, on defence and foreign affairs, was conducted between Ruth Davidson, MSP (leader of Scottish Conservatives) and Patrick Harvie, MSP (Co-convenor (språkrör) of the Scottish Green Party). While Ms. Davidson spoke with authority and conviction, Mr. Harvie ranted and raved more like a lunatic than a politician, giving us his own wildly unrealistic views on unilateral nuclear disarmament and a refusal to engage on topics such as NATO and the current threat from Russia. Mr. Ponsonby kindly referred to this as showing the breadth of political opinions within the Yes campaign. On a positive note, Mr Harvie did make the point that an independent Scotland was the only way to keep it within the EU and received heavy applause for his claim that the UK was “trying to punch above its weight” geopolitically and this cost money that would be better used on social justice at home.

After an extensive Question and Answer exchange between the public and the panel, the debate was rounded off by closing statements from Ruth Davidson and Patrick Harvie. Ms. Davidson made the point that independence, if won, was irrevocable but her claim that Better Together would offer further opportunities to improve one of the best countries in the world range hollow. Mr. Harvie had by now cooled down a bit and claimed that Yes Scotland represented a way out from the inequality and exploitation of Westminster and offered a new model for society. His final statement “We deserve better” was greeted by prolonged and heavy applause.

As before the audience was hand-picked to fairly represent both sides and included a number of undecided voters.

OLLI RHEN: iSCOTLAND MUST HAVE CENTRAL BANK ARRANGEMENT TO JOIN EU

Olli Rhen was the European commissioner with responsibility for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro. He left this post in July. There is no reason to think that Mr. Rhen has any personal position on independence for Scotland. So any statement he makes on the currency issue for an independent Scotland has to be given credibility.

According to the Guardian, Mr. Rhen has written to the Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Danny Alexander, to make clear the currency position of an iScotland applying to join the EU. He claims that iScotland must either have a currency agreement with rUK, i.e. the Bank of England, or else it must have its own central bank. To use Sterling without a formal agreement with Westminster would not satisfy the entrance requirements (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/02/indepdent-scotland-not-join-eu-without-central-bank?).

TrackerIndyRef_2_sept

This must be a heavy blow to the Yes Scotland movement, which has been on a massive upswing since its leader Alex Salmond trounced Better Together leader Alistair Darling in a second debate broadcast nation-wide on 25 August. A YouGov poll published yesterday (2 September) showed that a swing of only 3% would bring the two sides neck-and-neck (http://research.yougov.co.uk/news/2014/09/02/support-scottish-independence-jumps-47/) and claimed that support for No had “collapsed”. The Yes Scotland campaign to win over women voters is expected to have gained from a heavily-criticised Better Together videoclip (see previous blogg) and there is a groundswell of pro-independence reporting in the media.

All is not lost for the Yes Scotland position, which is that a currency union is in the best interests of both the rUK and iScotland. Such an agreement would make the Bank of England also the central bank of Scotland. However, the political price of such an arrangement has gone up.

Currency agreement in exchange for Trident, anyone?

NOTE: as this blog is aimed at Swedish people, it has so far been published in Swedish. Articles have been checked for grammar by native Swedish speakers. As the rate of the debate increases, this is no longer feasible. Given that all Swedes interested in this subject can read English, I believe that the change to English will not cause them any difficulties. I would like to publically thank Maj Hasselgren and Lars Jannerdal for thier generous help.

WHEN THE NEW STATESMAN PUBLISHES A “YES” PLEA, YOU KNOW “THE TIMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGING”

“… because “Yes” offers a way out from a status quo that is destroying the fabric of our society, that more than ever in living memory, supports the rich and powerful at the expense of the weak and the poor (regardless, I think it is fair to say, of whatever Westminster party is in power.) To ignore the possibility of changing this, to not at least consider taking that risk of independence, is at best shameful and at worst a disgrace to future generations”. Kev Sherry/Attic Lights (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/08/i-hate-bagpipes-i-hate-kilts-ive-changed-my-vote-no-yes)

I couldn’t have put it better myself, so read it for the real message about Independence!