Monday, 30 January 2012

Straight from the horse’s mouth, or what Mr. Ed really said in Glasgow.

Ed Miliband was in Glasgow on the 30th of January, supposedly outlining the Labour case for keeping Scotland in the Union. Between Ed currently being in charge of Labour party policy at UK level, and this event being the first major case made for the Union by a UK party leader since the referendum announcement, we waited with bated breath for the Positive Case.

Finally, Labour UK with its presentation of The Positive Case. Furthermore, what tantalising details could Labour Scotland add? The tension across the nation was (almost) palpable.

Mr. Miliband started out with calls over curbing executive pay. You know, employees sitting on company boards and deciding their managers or owners compensation packages. This policy could only be described as a relocation incentive package for any business owner. To be able to know who should be paid what, those employees would require full access to the books in order to know what can be afforded, and which company is going to reveal this sort of ammunition to mere plebeians? This is an unenforceable waffle-policy that is designed to make the uneducated feel good. The original Mr. Ed at least had horse-sense.

The Glasgow speech then rolled over into the area of more responsible capitalism. Since it was Labour, his party, who were the major driving-force behind dismantling protective legislation, subverting the monopolies commission in order to create super-banks, and were the proponents of “light touch regulation”, it was most interesting to hear Mr. Miliband try this overtly hypocritical angle. Significantly, the detail on how "responsible capitalism" was to be achieved was missing. That’d be more waffling then.

Red Ed then marched into the Union, pounding the message that we stand or fall by our ability to work together. That is why he is making the case for Scotland to stay in the UK, he says. After centuries of failure from Westminster, what was specifically lacking in his oratory was precisely how this would suddenly change, and how Scotland would now surprisingly benefit by remaining within this malfunctioning union and “working together”.

Ms. Lamont’s boss did say he came to Scotland with "humility" because of Labour's performance in the Scottish elections last year. He showed his humility alright, by attempting to legitimise his right to be involved in Scotland’s referendum debate because of his father’s military record during WWII, claiming “He fought in the Navy and served off the Forth of Firth. He did not come to England; he came to Britain”.

Whether the error was by Ed or The Guardian is immaterial. Either way it was another anecdotal example of Londoner’s just not bothering to learn or understand the nuances of Scotland's language.

However, what Ed didn’t reveal was what his father, a refugee from Nazism in Europe, really thought of the England. An excerpt from his diary dated 1940 states, “The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world .... England first. This slogan is taken for granted by the English people as a whole. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation.” Prophetic words from Mr M snr.?  Link

It is certainly arguable we Scots are almost the last bastion of that now dead empire, and that our inclusive Scottish nationalism may well be utter anathema to its relation south of the Tweed.

The next thundering statement from Mr. Ed was stunning, only because it was so blatantly obvious, “If Scotland separates, all people living in the four nations of the UK will be affected”. What wasn’t clarified for any listener was how it would impact the individuals concerned – or if indeed, the impact might be more limited to the political classes. The tone and context of delivery inferred England, Wales and Northern Ireland couldn’t make it without Scotland, and consequently we should voluntarily submit our nation to ongoing exploitation.

Subsequent to Thursday’s affirmation of the Claim of Right at Holyrood, there was little option available to him but to agree that the people of Scotland should decide the timing of the referendum. He didn’t disappoint. Whilst he is now singing from the same hymn sheet as his arch ally David Cameron, he was a little more diplomatic about the referendum question(s) saying simply, it “should” and not “must” be based upon "one clear question". This One Clear Question approach affirms and confirms that without unfettered control of Scotland’s resources, Westminster simply doesn’t want to deal with the Scots.

Ed confirmed the basis of that argument as he continued by stating he does not want Scotland to stay in the UK because he thinks it is too weak to flourish on its own.

At last. Something of substance from the Labour leader; Scotland is a strong country and will, in his opinion, succeed as an independent nation. Perhaps the Positive Case for the Union was about to begin to unfold.

However, what followed was a bit of a let-down: “I support Scotland as part of the United Kingdom, not because I think Scotland is too poor or too weak to break away. But for a profoundly different reason: Because I believe that Scotland as part of the United Kingdom is better for the working people of Scotland, and better for the working people of the United Kingdom as a whole”.

Oh, dear, what we have here is totally contradictory hogwash. Scotland is acknowledged as being in surplus. Ed Miliband even acknowledges we’re strong enough to succeed, yet he says Scots and then English, Welsh and N. Irish are better together, especially the working class. Definitely something is missing in this argument, because the working class create the wealth of a nation. And here is the Labour leader telling us that Scotland’s working class will be better off if they give a ton of their hard earned wealth away to support the folks in other countries.

It is undoubted that Scotland will help her neighbours after independence, as we have done in the past. It’s just that in future it will be called what it really is, “foreign aid”. However, we’ll decide when, what or how much we can afford, although it is likely to be more limited than in the past. That is, until our own areas of incredible child poverty and deprivation, which were engineered under the Union, are cared for.

Continuing his speech, the Labour leader said, “The real divide in the UK is not between Scotland and England but between the haves and the have-nots. Here Mr. Miliband appears to miss the fact that it was under Labour that this great gulf, which had been narrowing, saw a very dramatic re-opening. It also appeared to create no embarrassment to the erstwhile champion of the red rose that here was a “have” being utterly condescending to the “have nots” whose support he was bent on gathering. Irony obviously escapes Mr. Ed.

Ms. Lamont’s star import then proceeded to wax lyrical about the history of “social justice” in “this country”. Again the irony was lost that he, one of the elite, was speaking of social justice in a city where the life expectancy can often be less than that of the Palestinian West Bank population. He also chose to blissfully ignore the fact that during the last decade his party had set in motion the dismantling of “social Britain”. Not the Tories, they are merely continuing the process begun by Labour.

He then reminded us it was a Scotsman, Keir Hardie, who founded the Labour party one hundred and twelve years ago. Importantly, Ed omitted to inform us that one of Hardie’s main goals was home rule for Scotland.

Going on to reference the Equal Pay Act and the minimum wage as “British achievements”, he appeared to be implying that an independent Scotland couldn’t implement its own “living wage” policy. However, the “British Achievement” of the current minimum wage which doesn’t allow the recipient any escape from the poverty trap, can’t in reality be expected solve many of society’s woes.

As leader of the party who dismantled much of the UK legal safeguards to prevent rampant capitalism running amok, Ed Miliband espoused that building responsible capitalism is "the true project for social justice in our United Kingdom". He may be incapable of recognising it, but this was irony incarnate, and he appears to have a talent for it.

The remainder of Ed’s speech continued in waffle feel-good mode without any single item of hard backed verifiable substance. Tackling climate change was one aspect where he did refer to a need for cooperation. All that sprang to mind was “fine Ed, catch up”.

One interesting and fairly important question from an individual in the audience came later, “Is there any economic data about what might happen to Scotland post-independence?” It’s an unambiguous question, fairly asked. You would expect Miliband being leader of a Whitehall party to be in the perfect position to know exactly what Scotland contributes, i.e. her net balance sheet. In spite of this, it was answered by Johann Lamont, saying the question illustrated an important issue. Her response continued in a stunning fashion stating that when people pose questions like this they are accused of "talking down Scotland". Ms. Lamont, how is asking about Scotland’s accounts “talking down” the nation? Or was this a question too far? Would the truth have proven to be so utterly harmful to the Unionist cause as to be fatal?

The only word that can describe today’s Glasgow utterances from one of Westminster’s key politicians is – vacuous.

From his Scottish leader, it was far, far worse.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

January 28th 2012 – Cameron tacitly acknowledges the Union is dead.

At least the Union he was elected to lead is dead. Furthermore, it was only one day after any assertion of Westminster’s sovereignty over the people of Scotland was essentially vetoed by the fully representative parliament of Scotland - Holyrood.

Thursday the 26th of January, at around five past three in the afternoon, heralded what was potentially the most masterful stroke of politics ever seen in these Islands, and almost nobody noticed. Nobody except perhaps Holyrood and Westminster, and neither was sending out the town criers, although for completely different reasons. While Alex Salmond was in Edinburgh Castle, Nicola Sturgeon changed the face of the independence debate.

Most of us were too enthralled by the ongoing “busy wee period” in Scots politics. Between Tankerness tanking on the Beeb, Nicola giving a strong showing, no identifiable positive case for the Union and Alex Salmond delivering masterly oratories at the Hugo Young, in Holyrood and in the great hall of Edinburgh castle, our attention was diverted.

Amid these speeches, the First Minister had an “audience” with Jeremy Paxman which couldn’t have gone better as an independence recruiting tool if had it been stage managed by Angus Robertson. Discussing other interviews, there was also Willy Hague tossing out nonsense about the usage of British Embassies. We later discovered that charges for Embassy services are levelled against Scots organisations, but not UK/English ones.

A short re-cap of the week had the Sovereign Scots leading the Westminster Wastrels by at least 6-0 before the masterful stroke at Holyrood. It took place as daylight waned on Burns' Night. In its rawest form, that Holyrood parliamentary home run requested all MSP’s to pledge to uphold the centuries old Claim of Right.

The Claim of Right fundamentally declares that ordinary Scots citizens are sovereign; not their representatives, parliament or any monarchy. Either each individual MSP goes on record acknowledging they are simply the voice of the electorate, or they state quite publically that the voice of those they represent isn’t worth squat.

The lead in to passing the motion was significant: “All we ask today is that other members of this chamber affirm or reaffirm a principle that many of them, or their fellow party members, were proud to uphold when Scotland’s Claim of Right was then signed in 1989.

“The Declaration of Arbroath famously states that if a Scots ruler were to act against the nation’s interests, the people would “drive him out as.. a subverter of his own rights and ours.”

“Presiding Officer, that basic principle of democracy and popular sovereignty is far more true today. The best guarantee of the integrity of this referendum is the certain knowledge that the people of Scotland, using the ballot box, would be merciless in driving out anyone who tried to conduct it unfairly”.

As the motion passed it formed a chain from 1320 to 2012. It also encompassed the previous parliamentary affirmation in 1689 and the unofficial but no less poignant voice of a disenfranchised people in 1989.

The claim of right is fundamentally entrenched in Scotland. On Thursday the reconvened parliament of Scotland at Holyrood effectively affirmed and averred that Westminster has no binding sovereignty over the Scots.

Such a parliamentary reaffirmation of sovereignty has uncountable and highly interesting future ramifications. Basically, it’s Holyrood exercising its democratic right and informing all and sundry that the only power they have over Scots is what Scots elect to lend through the ballot box and it’s only a loan.

This was Holyrood informing Westminster it must now essentially trample democracy to illegitamise the referendum. Holyrood effectively ensured the field of play will now focus upon Edinburgh, not London. The timing was impeccable in that it was fundamentally an unspoken yet de-facto expression of independence; after three centuries the Scottish people will not be denied due process in expressing their sovereign wishes.

The UN charter is very clear on sovereign rights, it’s a fundamental tenet.

We know The Claim of Right is now re-entrenched, but how Westminster would view the action and where the “legitimacy” discussions on the referendum would go from here were anyone’s guess. The SNP preference would have simultaneous acts putting it beyond doubt, but don’t regard it as a requirement.

We know that constitutional specialist Prof. David Walker opined that Holyrood, irrespective of the means of creation, as a reconvened Scots parliament would have a substantial authority in law to alter, amend or strike the Treaty of Union in total, or by article as it saw fit. This is a power that the Union parliament in Westminster apparently lacks as such authority was not delegated to it except by name in certain articles of the Union Treaty. In effect it will be a largely one sided negotiation.

The Telegraph’s article citing “MoD sources” that Royal Navy chiefs have decided Westminster’s nuclear “deterrent” will stay on the Clyde, regardless of any referendum was something of an anti-climax after the Holyrood motion. It made it initially appear that Westminster would attempt to ignore the Claim of Right.

The nuclear deterrent issue did make it at least 8-0 for the Sovereign Scots in just one week.

The devo max debate then began to get underway with “Civic Scotland” setting forth its intentions, with Monday, 30th of January being mooted as the kick-off day.

David Cameron was faced with Hobson’s choice. Kill the devo max debate and formally proclaim Westminster’s position, or be seen to endorse it through lack of opposition. After the euro-veto Holyrood was close to betting on a sure thing as to which way the UK PM would eventually jump, and he didn’t fail the Scottish government.

Within hours of the Civic Scotland announcement, David Cameron had told Scotland “No” – it’s a take it or leave it offer, “in or out” as far as Westminster’s concerned.

Score keeping became rather irrelevant with that press release.

What was most pertinent in the Cameron statement and what bypassed many was that for the first time the message was a simple one, "Nobody is pretending that we can make people stay in the Union.”

The legality aspect wasn’t mentioned after the restatement of sovereignty, it’s now a simple “in or out” and it’s Scotland’s choice.

Fundamentally the battle is now being joined for Scotland’s resources.

Do not expect Alex Salmond to acquiesce and rule out devo max or FFA, there is still substantial advantage to be had from that argument. A principle benefit for the SNP is that it will move the opposition to fighting two fronts. It will also make the Scots themselves look much more closely at the arguments with the strong probability that when they are examined in light of day the short steps from “No” to “FFA” then “Yes” will allow many more Scots to embrace the bright future that beckons.

As a strategy it can only be argued as masterful on the nationalist part – drop a few hints, let the Unionists grab the ball and run for touch just to have the captain of the team tell them they’re not allowed to play.

Westminster has now reaffirmed on several occasions that she doesn’t want devo-max or FFA on the ballot because they are only too well aware that without a controlling fiscal union, there is no union at all. This is the first time they’ve acknowledged it plainly, and without strings.

In essence David Cameron has told Scotland, simply, clearly, succinctly and almost in words of one syllable “you contribute mightily to Westminster’s balance sheet, and without that unfettered contribution we have no need for you”

There really is no other clear interpretation.

That the PM has drawn the line in the sand at such an early stage may be the only thing that caught Alex Salmond by surprise. Moreover, judging by Ruth Davidson’s reaction she was also certainly blindsided.

Scotland’s first minister could be in no doubt whatsoever that this announcement would come eventually. He’s a canny enough political operator to know that no matter what Cameron’s own preferences, he’d never be able to sell devo max or FFA to Westminster’s back benchers.

The euro rebellion would have been but a fleabite for Cameron. Accepting FFA in Scotland would require re-writing the constitution, or perhaps more actually just writing a constitution for the UK, as now we’d be in a Union that is unarguably voluntary and federal in global eyes. Wales, Northern Ireland and England would rightly also demand the status Scotland is accorded in such a Union.

Westminster as it now exists will be an anachronism.

No matter how the issue is viewed, history is likely to recognise Saturday, January 28th 2012 as the day the UK died. It is the day the Prime Minister of the now dis-United Kingdom acknowledged by his actions a federal solution wasn’t a winnable situation for Westminster and fragmentation was preferable. By ruling out additional powers beyond the anaemic Scotland Bill, fragmentation is virtually assured.

Cameron also killed Devo max or FFA because it has an aspect about which there is a myth requiring dispelled; the myth that it is Westminster’s gift. It can be that, but only if we Scots choose to make it so. David Cameron could not take the chance that Alex Salmond would remove devo max from his control.

Devo-max becomes a viable option for any constituent nation in the current UK governmental union, as long as all who vote in that manner are aware that it is a demand and not a request of Westminster.

It is no different than accepting a marriage with a cast iron pre-nuptial agreement. Either the agreement is accepted or there is no marriage. The proposal would then be for Westminster to accept in a given timeframe.

Devo max or FFA must mean “We’re going with our own fiscal policy, but we’d like a federal union on defense and foreign policy, where we both have right of veto”. Scotland puts in a default response time for agreement, or its goodbye anyway.

For anyone who was looking, the First Minister gave the Prime Minister his default timeframe: sometime before the 2016 Holyrood elections, about a year after the referendum vote it needs to be all ironed out. The Con-Dems must agree to Scotland’s requirements for ongoing Union before the deadline, or the vote will simply default to independence.

Perhaps Alex Salmond wasn’t that surprised by David Cameron’s reaction, after all he did put him into a place where options are severely limited and the only action is reaction.

Sovereignty of the people, check and mate to Holyrood.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A United Kingdom and Northern Ireland wide referendum.

An issue raising its head again, but being somewhat downplayed in the media, was a proposal for a fully UK wide independence referendum. A referendum across four nations instead of just being limited to Scotland is being mooted at both Westminster and elsewhere.

Commons backbenchers are threatening action while lords are tabling Scotland Bill amendments; all appear clamouring for this franchise expansion.

Although inconceivable it will be allowed, any advocate of democracy must accept this as a superlative suggestion.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland all deserve to have their individual voices heard as to their preference of the status of this current Union and their places within it. Do they want out, more devolution or in England’s case any devolution, or are they simply content with the status quo.

The question of “Englishness” is in part achieving a higher profile recently after Westminster was warned by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) that it faces a backlash in its Home Counties and shires because it is ignoring “Englishness”.

The IPPR report simply confirms the findings in other polls taken over the last few years that “Englishness” now far outstrips “Britishness” in the way our cousins south of the border view themselves.

THE UK government dilemma from the expanded franchise referendum is basic; until now Westminster has successfully denied the English a representative democracy at national level but is now seeing that perceived right of denial in jeopardy. This arises from both media fed perceptions and Union scaremongering emanating as a consequence of the debate about Scotland’s, and thereby the UK’s, constitutional future.

When this is coupled to Cameron’s own Euro sceptic back benchers, a group flushed with success after forcing the PM to play their veto card, the tide of English democracy may ultimately be hard to deny.

Scots should encourage this voice which we can be certain Westminster will try to silence.

We can work towards and hope for an expansion of democracy in England. It is to everyone’s benefit that Westminster’s suppressive tendencies fail.

A rebel group led by Stone MP Bill Cash and reportedly supported by fellow euro sceptics John Redwood and Bernard Jenkin, appear to be readying to launch an all-party group on “preserving the United Kingdom”. This focus group is reportedly arising from widespread anger, particularly on the Tory back-benches, that the referendum will be limited to people living north of the Border.

What’s interesting is that the United Kingdom itself is under no present threat, just the Union of Parliaments, something we might all do well to remember.

Mr Cash said the new group at Westminster aiming to save the Union would look in detail at issues such as defence, the economy, North Sea oil and energy, as well as international treaties. The principle point in this statement is that Westminster is now beginning to either understand or perhaps simply acknowledge it is in actuality dealing with international treaty law.

These backbenchers have already been somewhat pre-empted by the House of Lords where efforts like that of former Labour chief whip Baroness Taylor of Bolton, born in Motherwell, inserted an amendment to the Scotland Bill calling for expat Scots to get the vote. She is not the first and will undoubtedly not be last to seek to expand the enfranchisement of the referendum.

International law and Scots opinion is reasonably clear on this point, she doesn’t have a hope. At least she won’t be able to expand the franchise with regard to Scotland’s vote, but she can certainly call for one in England.

Then there was the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who had to publicly slap down his own party’s deputy leader at the time of the IPPR report entitled “The Dog that Finally Barked”, after Simon Hughes also called for English devolution.

Possibly the most significant yet underreported aspect of the IPPR paper is that support in England for the constitutional status quo has fallen to just one in four of the electorate.

That figure needs highlighted; just one in four in England want the status quo, but 75% are being denied any input whatsoever. David Cameron is effectively disenfranchising 75% of our English neighbours; over 30 million voters are being denied democracy.

Why are we Scots not seeking to engage this massive suppressed support for constitutional change?

The upper level concern over the possibility of a divided Union tactic by the SNP was additionally highlighted when Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Scottish Secretary and Edinburgh Pentlands MP dismissed the idea of a UK-wide vote as “absurd” confirming “it should be a vote for people in Scotland only.”

Former Liberal leader and Holyrood presiding officer Lord Steel is also on record that Westminster politicians should keep out of the independence debate. Cameron and the Scottish Office are others singing from the “Scotland only” hymn sheet.

There’s a very clear division at Westminster, primarily between party leaders and backbenchers with backbenchers appearing to have the backing of the electorate. Scotland should exploit this in an attempt to benefit the English people.

Party leaders at Westminster are certainly trying to walk the only narrow path that gives them any possible hope at all in maintenance of the status quo. However, as Richard Wyn Jones, professor of politics at Cardiff University and co-author of the IPPR report argued, attempts to promote Britishness by former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, as well as by Mr Cameron, had failed.

With self-evident failure of the “Britishness” experiment, the current Holyrood stance can appear to be somewhat baffling to an unbiased external observer. While the Scottish government’s view that it is “Scotland’s referendum” is completely accurate it appears rather inappropriate for Holyrood to be setting aside the fact that three other nations also have a stake in the UK government.

It may be of far greater benefit to the Scottish Government, which has full autonomy and complete restoration of sovereign rights as its primary goal, to also at least peripherally engage an area that Westminster’s leadership is determined to avoid. Especially as Holyrood already appears to have willing foot-soldiers amongst Cameron’s back benchers, go for an expansion of the referendum franchise.

Let Scotland have her poll, but let England also have one, independent of the Scots. Perhaps Westminster would expand the franchise to the other nations who were not signatories to article 3 of the 1707 treaty but who will be undeniably impacted by events.

That each impacted nation should vote is without doubt the right and proper thing to do. It is called democracy.

Holyrood should argue for all those impacted to have a voice, to be enfranchised. Each nation should be given the options, autonomy, devolution max (constitutionally define) or the status quo. Let the entire peoples of these islands who are presently bound to Westminster make a choice.

Each land should decide for its own nation – again, it’s called democracy.

Westminster will be firm in its determination to prevent this; the powers in London are very well aware they can’t fight and win four simultaneous battles in four nations, all of which have every appearance of requiring separate and frequently contradictory messages from the current establishment.

Westminster politicians knows they can’t broadcast “subsidy junkie” to one populace while hoping the other so-called subsiding nation won’t hear it and will still vote to keep up fictitious subsidies. Human nature is simply not that benevolent, such contradictory message will fail.

With four nations involved perhaps each one will have a reasonable opportunity for a fairer, less biased debate.

Westminster knows the individual peoples may just wake up and smell the coffee, and all it would take is another scandal at just the wrong moment to make any one nation decide that enough is enough. London is well aware it will take only one nation to demand change through democratic means to end its perceived right of diktat.

It would mean 2015 dawning with only those preferring London rule voting for a new parliamentary union, under probably new federal rules. Westminster knows even the English regions might start demanding devolution after that.

London is rightly terrified of an expanded franchise.

Friday, 20 January 2012

In defence of the [Scottish] realm.

There has been much hysteria and scaremongering in the mainstream media the over future “defense” of Scotland recently. Combine that with the waffling utterances emanating from Westminster about who pays to relocate various military establishments, principally Trident, and the strong rhetoric from Holyrood about who pays for clean up after MOD abuses of our land and there are some potentially interesting situations brewing.

It is interesting because the division of assets between diverging nation states is now reasonably clearly laid out in international law. This is a fact which is also is clearly being ignored by Scotland’s mainstream media, who seem to prefer scare tactic headlines.

The disintegration of totalitarian USSR and the restoration of the peripheral states gave us some relatively clear examples of how the process should work. Scotland’s mainstream media again obtains a failing grade for not even bothering to look into such situations.

In simple plain English, and although there can be literally thousands of articles in a final treaty of settlement it fundamentally works like this. Assets of the original nation state devolve to becoming assets of the new states.

Who then gets what is generally determined by the geographical location of the asset. So in its most basic terms Scotland keeps Holyrood and England keeps Westminster, they’re both well within the geographic boundaries of the restored states. Land boundaries remain static, sea boundaries are by agreement or international convention.

Horse trading comes into play with such items as debt and foreign held assets. It is by no means a legal or moral requirement for a nation restored to sovereignty to assume any debt; Ireland leaving the UK being but one example of this principle in action.

Although an argument exists for assets and debts to be divided up based upon territorial area, the norm is for these items to be divided up by relative population. Scotland could expect around 8.3% of extraterritorial assets to accrue to its national ledger.

The more interesting part is when an asset is in one resurrected nation state and remains the desire of the other resurrected nation state. In the present case in point, Trident.

The simplest resolution to this issue is for the UK government to move these weapons prior to the vote and effectively resolve the issue. Holyrood would rightly demand the sites restored to virgin territory, acceptable civilian or military use as required to suit Scots purposes.

That Westminster can’t afford to either move Trident or buy aircraft for two new aircraft carriers is self evident, so Trident will stay where it is and Scotland can expect a massive bargaining chip in the upcoming talks. In fact Westminster projects being so broke by the time these aircraft carriers are commissioned it won’t be able to afford the diesel or the crew to run one of them, so it’s being sold.

The restoration of the aforementioned European states showed us clearly that it is incumbent on the state which wishes retention of items such as this to fund the relocation and new installation costs of any repatriated items.

Basically if Westminster wants Trident, Westminster pays for it. If Westminster were to refuse to accept such a precedent it would then be up to Holyrood to decide the disposition of the weapons.

A likely outcome in such a scenario is that Westminster will “repatriate” Trident to a newly created deepwater port in England and pay for the clean-up and value of the system as a condition of handover. Most likely that payment would be in exchange for any voluntarily assumed debt load by Scotland. Westminster could take an alternative viewpoint and scrap the idea of having an independent nuclear deterrent. Holyrood could then flog it off.

In reality Westminster scrapping its deterrent is unlikely in the extreme as that body appears to place a premium on having a reasonably permanent and often vocal stance in many of the world’s top councils.

The consequential loss of the nuclear capability and its associated expenses might substantially enhance life in England, Wales and N. Ireland, but this rarely appears to enter into London’s equations, especially when there’s pre-independence option to bill the entire replacement cost against Scotland’s budget.

It now becomes time to look at the overall UK defense budget; Whitehall data puts it at £43.6 billion in 2011.

Based upon population, Scotland should have seen around £3.62 billion in current defense spending.

Scots should clearly understand that although their nation’s defense contribution to Whitehall is about £3.62 billion, the defense spend in Scotland is reducing in both actual and real terms. According to the UK parliaments strategic defense review document, it dropped by 68% over 6 years. In 2008 it was down around £1.57 billion.

Scotland therefore effectively subsidizes the rest of the UK defense budget by over 2 billion a year.

This a situation where there is no room for argument; London the SE of England, which enjoys a massive defense overspend is certainly financially stronger, by using Scotland’s money.

This effectively means, by Westminster’s published data, an independent Scotland could maintain defense spending as it stood before the current reductions and base closures. Scots could pocket over £2 billion to invest into infrastructure, social programs or reduced taxation.

A nation of 5 million can do a lot with an extra £2 billion. In one year that could pay for the new Forth Bridge, buy out a lot of Labour’s PFI debt and build a couple of new schools or hospitals. What we’d do in year two with this independence dividend would also be up to us.

In reality there would still be a Scottish Defense Force, and the First Minister has recently intimated the SDF would likely now maintain one air base, one naval base and one land force. But what would that really mean and what’s it likely to cost our newly restored nation state?

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, research director at London-based Royal United Services Institute, an independent military think-tank, gave us an idea as he quoted a £2.2bn price tag for an SDF. The number is reasonably in line with other non nuclear estimates and has now seen use in national media.

Research indicates the £2.2 billion proposed budget, would get everything the First Minister referred to, and substantially more. This would be an increase in real terms on UK under-spend of £500 million each year, available for direct injection into the Scottish economy.

It also appears enough to ensure a world class rapid deployment land force with specialist divisions for highly technical missions, several air sea rescue stations, and an ability to reverse the Westminster coastguard cuts.

In addition we might choose to look at resurrecting our military shipbuilding for vessels designed to protect our oil and fishing interests, also making these ships available for export. Although we might have one central naval port, like Portsmouth in England, there would be secondary bases.

We also had a situation where Westminster’s defence secretary Desmond Hammond said, the thought of Scotland’s remaining three regiments forming the spine of a new land SDF was ”laughable” and that no one can “break off a little bit” of the UK’s armed forces and hand it to Scotland.

Actually Mr Hammond, That’s pretty much what happened right across Europe over the last two decades as states restored their sovereignty.

Professor Chalmers’s figure of £2.2 billion, as an estimated requirement for Scotland’s security needs still represents a significant under spend against what we now send to London for “defense”.

The extra £1.4 billion plus, currently going to London would also remain in Scotland in some fashion, either in our own pockets or put to the use of the common weal.

A simple summary could describe the current situation like this; in an independent Scotland to match today’s Whitehall defense contribution we could if we choose increase our national defense spending within Scotland by close to 50%.

Once we have done this and obtained better equipped, paid and trained Scottish forces we could take the remaining money that would have gone south and by using Holyrood’s published 2012 budget we could double our national spending in housing, sport, marine and fisheries, transport projects and ferry services.

After that with a somewhat nonchalant shrug we could give every person in Scotland a £100 tax rebate and spend what’s left on a heck of an independence party.

Defense, it’s a massive independence dividend.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Nae Limits

Far be it for me to Blaw My AinTrumpet, but pass all the spare brass instrumentage lying around please...for here I go!

 I was on Newsnet Scotland one evening last week, perusing the latest stories - don't remember which one it was - but someone had put a wee poem in the comments section. I liked it and several others commented on how good they thought it was. 
It immediately struck me it would make a great wee song. So I left a message in the comments for the author to contact me via this blog if they were interested. Just proves the anonymity of these threads.. cuz right up until they contacted me, I thought SHE was a HE!
Anyway, long story short, after too-ing and fro-ing with lyrics between myself and Margaret Todd .... this is the result. I don't know if the tune's original, it is probably an amalgamation of every wee folk song we've ever heard over the years, but the lyrics are entirely original. 

I hope you enjoy Nae Limits, for we are only limited by the restrictions we permit others to put upon us. 

For Scotland, NAE LIMITS!

Nae limits he said, nae limits at a'
Fae the weans in their pram, tae yer canty auld Maw
We'll hae nae mair limits in this land o' oors
For when we vote AYE we'll tak a' the poo'ers

We’ll nourish oor weans in the way that we ought
An' cherish the auld wi' them wantin' for nought
Oor poorly an lame can a’ bide an no fleg
We’ll fend fur them a’, an’ they’ll no hae tae beg

Wae courage we’ll build up oor country fae scratch 
Ither nations will seek oot oor standards tae match
Tae oor freins an oor kin wur hauns we'll haud wide
This land will prosper, an we’ll dae it wae pride 

Weel, this is the way oor nation will be
Staunin tall oan oor feet, an’ no bent at the knee
When ower oor heids’ the Saltire she goes
They'll be mony that's greetin' or blawin their nose

Nae limits, Nae limits, Nae limits we'll shout
So them that wad swither are left in nae doubt
Wi the sweat oan oor broo an' stripped tae oor semmits
We'll shout wi' wan voice FOR SCOTLAND NAE LIMITS

The biggest con in history.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness while discussing the legality or in his learned view illegality of the Scottish government applying democratic principles without Westminster’s permission, stated law should and must prevail.

Significantly his perspective was one of outlawing, or stopping democracy as being unlawful, at least with respect to a Scots poll.

For many reasons Holyrood can never allow the precedent of Westminster deciding this. It might be difficult if not impossible to undo.

We must agree with Jim Wallace, the rule of law should be paramount. In this the ermine clad Lord was undoubtedly correct, but there is a significant exception in any functional democracy.

The sovereign will of the people must take precedence over the law of the land, for in its most basic terms the law exists only to serve the sovereign will. That expressed will should also operate within international law.

This is where Scots and English exist under two entirely different systems. This difference between individual and parliamentary sovereignty is so significant, so fundamental it amounts to a square peg being bashed into a round hole.

In using the rule of law to challenge the Scottish Government’s plans Lord Tankerness gives every appearance of walking on quicksand. There are various degrees of law, with UK law decidedly subordinate to international law. Westminster has affirmed this by agreeing to multiple treaties.

Arguably UK law is subordinate to Scots law; the Union Treaty is, after all, sworn to protect it.

The question to be examined is a simple one indeed, does domestic law or international law hold force majeure or domain here and can we easily define the reasoning behind the arguments being used by either side.

International law is very clear about national territorial integrity, it’s also very clear about the rights of peoples to self determination. The Wallace and Cameron interpretation appears to be that Scotland falls under domestic territorial law, like Yorkshire or Sussex. They have failed to publish evidence for this assertion.

The Scottish government and the EU appear just as clear that the poll falls under international law.

The fact that the EU is effectively siding with the Scots government on this issue may be an indicator for Wallace and Cameron, except they seem incapable of understanding even language as direct as “an independent Scotland would need only a simple majority to enter the EU”. Europe certainly isn’t entering the fray directly yet, but it does appear to be lacing up its gloves in preparation.

The clear inference here from the EU is that Scotland’s referendum is Scotland’s right as an ancient nation. The fact it might also reveal some of the machinations of internal EU politics regarding certain vetoes is simply a happy all round coincidence, unless your name is David Cameron.

The legality aspect above also has a fundamental bearing on the upcoming referendum in the autumn of 2014, for many it’s about Independence or Union. One side is determined to have it, the other initially to stop it, now to control it.

There are stalwarts on both sides, trying very hard to sway as many to their cause as can be managed. These issues are also both tied into the domestic-international argument.

In the referendum campaign it’s relatively simple to eliminate these polarized positions and eliminate the need for a referendum on independence or union at all. It simply takes the effort of those concerned to realize that there’s only one reason a constitutional poll is upon us.

It’s because of what happened in 1707. We all agree on it, but few among us seem to understand it fully.

What happened in 1707, then again in 1999 settles the national / international aspect of the legal argument. It also clarifies the stance of adherents or antagonists to either cause.

In 1707 we had the bilateral Treaty of Union. It was between two nation states.

International law clearly acknowledges that bilateral treaties can be ended by either signatory with proper notice. If they couldn’t it’s highly unlikely any country would ever sign up to one.

The Union treaty contained twenty five articles, condensed and summarized here.

Article 1 was specifically about the name of the new kingdom, to be Great Britain. Article 1 is worth noting because the name has been changed more than once, this original amalgamated kingdom no longer exists. The Union parliament also had no clear authority to change the articles of Union, only the constituent nations could do that.

Article 2 provided for the succession of the House of Hanover; however it is void because the House of Hanover is defunct.

Article 3 provided for the creation of the one, unified, parliament of Great Britain. Article three is the crux of the matter; it must be repealed, reaffirmed or renegotiated.

Articles 4 through 15 and 17, 18 gave subjects freedom of trade and navigation as they equalized taxation and duties, if we’re both members of the EU or EFT it’s automatic.

Article 16 required the introduction of a common currency for Great Britain, subsequently realised through the 1707-1710 Scottish recoinage. Leaving article 16 in place, Osborne’s attempts at scaremongering over usage of the pound are somewhat irrelevant.

Article 19 provided for the continuation and protection of Scotland's separate legal system. Article 19 appears to be fine right where it is.

Articles 20, 22 and 23 provided for the protection of offices for life, parliamentary representation and the rights of peers of the realm. These articles certainly appear to give every indication of irrelevance without article 3, though possibly not to such as Lord Tankerness.

Article 21 simply provides for the protection of the rights of royal burghs.

Article 24 provided for the creation of a new Great Seal for Great Britain.

Article 25 provides that all laws of either kingdom that may be inconsistent with the Articles in the Treaty are to be declared void. Again it hinges on article 3.

Summing up there’s only one significant area needing attention.

Article 3.

This clarifies for us a situation which is perhaps one of the biggest con’s in history. That for almost three centuries Westminster has managed to convince many, if not most Scots that the nation, Scotland, effectively ceased to exist in May 1707.

It didn’t, Scotland simply ceased to have independent global representation. It devolved statehood, as did England. It did not relinquish nationhood.

The treaty noted above simply created one new state from two existing nation states, there is nothing in the treaty about abolishing the constituent nations. The nations therefore continued although the states were suspended.

The critical aspect is that for Scotland at least, the individual independent functioning of the state was adjourned or suspended, not ceased for all time or closed permanently.

That is the functional legal difference between Scotland and Yorkshire or Sussex.

As a nation, Scots were always at liberty to resume the condition of nation state. They simply had to discover a voice.

That was made clear when Winnie Ewing re-opened parliament in 1999 with the words “The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened”. These words were not contested by Westminster.

The first significant part of the restoration of Scotland to statehood arguably took place in 1999.

“Reserved” in the Scotland Act is therefore simply a word, a word that has no worth in international law. Under international law, in theory, the Scottish Government could at any time and with proper notice withdraw from such sections of the Treaty of Union as still have relevance, namely article 3.

That the Scottish government are looking to do this by additional democratic mandate is beyond fair and reasonable, that they are being threatened with prevention is a self evident contravention of international law and policy, a breach of the United Nations charter to which Westminster is a signatory and a breach of the Vienna Convention on treaty law to which Westminster is also a signatory.

The fact that the treaty was implemented prior to the convention does not remove Scotland’s ability to revoke or re-open it. It simply means any amendment must be in accordance with current international law regarding international treaties.

The Scottish Government, couching this poll in the language of an independence referendum seems ridiculous, in its most simple and basic terms it’s an international treaty renegotiation or termination.

The only beneficiary of the independence referendum terminology is Westminster; it improperly legitimizes the claim of dominion in the minds of many.

The Scottish constitutional poll should be about the 1707 treaty, specifically article 3. It should perhaps be a three option referendum; it just might be the questions now proposed are the wrong questions.

If it were to be a three part poll, it should ask if we strike, amend or affirm the current status of the Union Treaty with regards to section 3.

To strike article three of the Union Treaty would inherently restore all sovereign parliamentary powers to Edinburgh. Everything else opens for negotiation afterwards.

Such a question would force examination of the history of the Union, current benefits and detractions, but most importantly it would be clear, concise, lawful, and democratic, dealing directly with the reason Scots find themselves in the situation they do today.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

NO is such a small word.

But for all its diminutive stature it is very powerful indeed. It can decide the fates of nations.

It’s a word we use all too often, normally it has a set meaning, and it’s a denial – plain and simple. In many cases it’s an appropriate word to use because it has a very specific meaning.

The problem with the NO word comes when it is to be used broadly, when it will not just be a case of “no, you can’t buy that specific food”, but is changed to “no, you can’t buy any food”. NO is something that must always be looked at in context.

That brings us to the opposite of NO; YES, we know what a yes vote will get us in the upcoming referendum, it will get us independence. The campaign for Union acknowledges this but then throws out all types of questions. Defense, health, retirements, social security, the list goes on.

The campaign for Union appears unable to accept that decisions on these aspects of our lives will still have to be made irrespective of the outcome of the referendum. The campaign for Union, for using that little NO word refuses to accept that the only ultimate outcome of the referendum is simply the geographical location of the building where those decisions will be made.

Will it be Edinburgh or London?

Tied to that geography is another little bit of cartography; namely where the people making the decisions live, because where they live will influence how they vote on all these issues with regards to Scotland.

Why should anyone expect someone living in London to care deeply about what happens in Aberdeen or Arbroath? They don’t and won’t. They’re focused on their own problems. Arbroath and Aberdeen don’t even make their evening news. Most Londoner’s probably couldn’t find either on a map unless they were marked. These northerners certainly aren’t looked upon as close family. Historical actions give the fact to this.

Therefore in a time of Austerity, when there isn’t enough to go around, you protect your own – that’s simple human nature.

Accordingly, we know what yes will give us, it will give us the opportunity to make our own decisions – whatever they might be and wherever they might take us, for good or ill. Then again, what of NO?

Westminster needs to answer what NO means in the up-coming referendum.

Does NO mean more cuts to Scotland’s meager budget, meager to what flows south by all comparisons.

Does NO mean proper and fair accounting from Westminster, an accounting where items like Trident’s almost 100 billion are no longer counted billed against a Scotland that doesn’t even want it.

Does NO mean an end to free higher education, because a nation running in the black gets it pocket money cut and can no longer afford to properly educate its talented youth.

Does NO mean an end to the Scottish NHS, an NHS that isn’t presently being privatized like its English sister, because we simply can’t afford it anymore. We know that health care will be paid for privately in future if that happens, or we do without medical care?

Does NO mean there will be a loss of free travel for the elderly and infirm?

Does NO mean no more free prescriptions?

Does NO to independence mean Yes to nuclear weapons on the Clyde?

Does NO mean we will lose the right to stop new nuclear power stations being built beside our major cities?

Does NO mean no more test policies like the poll tax?

Does NO mean more stimulation for Scottish business rather than tax raids on our industrial sectors?

Does NO mean a proper allocation of the defense dividend, not just today’s perpetual billions in under spend?

Does NO mean an end to asset stripping Scots lotteries for London’s benefit?

Does NO get Scotland a guarantee of increased investment?

Does NO get Scots more devolution, more freedom, more impact – exactly how?

Does NO mean no more meddling in Scottish sports, teams or heritage?

Does NO mean that as a proud and ancient nation we have our own Olympics team?

Does NO mean no more meddling with our culture, laws and rights?

Does NO mean you will enshrine the above promises in a constitutional document before the referendum? If that is NO, we will understand it to be YES to more empty promises.

We know what yes means, it means decisions being taken by the people who live where the decisions will be made. We know it’s not a cast iron guarantee that they will be the right decisions, but we know they will be decisions taken by people with a vested interest in their own land. They will be taken by people who live in Scotland. That means there will be a far better chance they will be the right decision.

Westminster needs to answer the question before they can credibly ask any Scot to vote NO, just what, exactly are they voting for.

If Westminster can’t bind future governments to those guarantees, then they must acknowledge there is no difference other than location and vested interest between the yes vote and the no vote. As an example, if there is only money for one new school and the choice is Purley or Peterhead, where London will go for Purley, Edinburgh will choose Peterhead.

Westminster and all its supporters must give us concrete details of what a NO vote gets us or acknowledge that everything they put forward is smoke and mirrors, scaremongering and panic inducing drivel.

Given that there’s one thing we know as Scots, this present union doesn’t work. It has lurched drunkenly from scandal to scandal, crisis to crisis and war to war. We need guarantees that NO simply doesn’t get us more of the same, that NO gets a new beginning.

If Westminster can’t tell us what NO stands for, the only sane alternative is YES.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dissecting the McCrone Report, the official secret of Westminster

It appears appropriate to put this report into plain English, highlight its significant areas and make it very straightforward for the average person to understand the main thrust of this “official secret”.

The McCrone report is a document often referred to by
Nationalists or those generally in favour of the restoration of Scotland’s sovereign powers as something of a mystic Holy Grail with regards to proving Westminster's lies and deceit.

For those who have read it, it’s shocking. The reaction to its draft by Westminster is even more so. The report was buried in the Whitehall’s vaults for 30 years under the auspices of the “Official Secrets Act”.

As we all know, the Official Secrets Act is there to protect The State form prejudicial interferences which may affect National Security. Therefore, we need to understand exactly what that is and how anything gets that designation. Was it appropriate in this instance?

Fundamentally a document can be classed as an official secret, if it contains information which is construed to be prejudicial to the State, basically the implication is the information could be used by enemies of the State, most often such classification would be seen in times of war and applied to military aspects of the State. A democracy really should not have official secrets of a civilian nature, especially during periods of peace.

Therefore, in the UK almost any official article prejudicial to the perceived security or interests of the State can be designated an officially secret document, and an individual could apparently have been prosecuted based upon character alone if it were even suspected they might have been thinking about discussing or disseminating it. Talk about character assassination.

Every appearance is that the UK government is substantially abusing its authority by invoking this heavyweight power against a peacetime document, which simply asks questions surrounding the implications of a mineral deposit discovered within one of its constituent nations.

It is clear this report was classified as an “official secret”, for to release it would have ended London rule. The pretext was it endangered the state as controlled by the UK parliament, and it had to be crushed prior to any distribution. The reason being, if it became public knowledge then attempts at suppression could easily be argued to violate UN charters on the rights of indigenous populations.

At a minimum, it could/should have lead to an entirely different Scotland today.

In reading the report it is obvious the Westminster government of the day put London before Scotland and chose, in time of peace, to enact legislation designed to protect the state against antagonistic foreign interests.

The only available interpretation here was that the London government viewed Scots knowledge of the report as an inimical foreign interest.

Reading the report it becomes clear why there was a cover up and why confusion, confabulation, lies and misdirection remain the apparent order of the day for many in the London establishment even as we head for another Scottish independence referendum – having won the first in 1979.

The report commissioned by Ted Heath in 1974, was written specifically to assess the implications for Westminster with regards to both the SNP and the EEC following the discovery of North Sea Oil. Heath lost the October general election to Harold Wilson. Both Labour and the Conservatives could have come clean and revealed this report. Neither did.

The paper began by acknowledging that “the whole framework within which the economic implications of nationalism were argued has indeed been altered”. Fundamentally the opening paragraph says it is a whole new ball game and Scotland’s just been gifted an unassailable 5-0 lead.

The document continues by highlighting the underlying causes of discontent in Scotland and acknowledges “these problems have not been overcome, nor do they look as if they will be in the foreseeable future”. McCrone is basically stating that under the political status quo, Scotland can only anticipate the status quo of poor health, deprivation and relative economic stagnation.

We can assume any government would not wish this for its electorate, no matter how small a portion. Westminster evidenced this is not the case in London. The only clearly available interpretation is that Scot’s don’t matter.

McCrone therefore concluded the opening overview with the statement “The importance of North Sea oil is that it raises just this [economic] issue in a more acute form than at any other time since the Act of Union was passed”.

In plain English – the discovery of the oil is a game changer and not one Westminster can defend against, it threatens the very existence of the British State more than anything else has in almost three centuries.

Fundamentally that statement put it into the realms of the Official Secrets Act. The report, if released, had every expectation of undermining the establishment within the British State.

The inappropriateness of burying this document was irrelevant in the eyes of the ruling government of the day; to make this an “official secret” was a fundamental requirement for Westminster. It did not matter that they were lying to an already deprived populous, who were no external threat. It had to be buried, before a strong campaign of disinformation could proceed. This led to the 1979 referendum which the Unionists still lost.

As the report progresses McCrone acknowledges that Scotland’s main impediment to national economic success is Westminster and its London-centric policies. He states it is “partly a question of the scale of the Scottish economy, but more of the extent to which it has been integrated with the rest of the UK [England] over the last 270 years”.

In his next paragraph he ties both unemployment in Scotland and migration from Scotland to the effect of the Union and its policies before stressing three ways an independent Scots government could prosper. 

He recommends protection of Scotland’s existing and new industries through taxes and tariffs, but indicates that there may be repercussions from the EEC; though he describes that what may come from the EEC is likely to be insignificant in comparison to the reprisals from England.

Basically he’s saying an independent Scotland shouldn’t expect Westminster to play nice.

He then suggests a Scotland implements a self directed fiscal policy, one which benefits Scots, not London.

McCrone makes the case that this independent Scotland could afford policies that England could not match. He’s basically warning Westminster at this point that they should expect to have an economic powerhouse as a neighbour, small in relative size but wielding far more power in this present world.

He then proceeds to discuss the Kilbrandon Commission and its ramifications, where Scotland was shown to need English subsidy. However, Kilbrandon had ignored oil revenues, and consequently showed the need for a reduction in an independent Scotland’s budget, a subsidy from England or significant borrowing.

McCrone disagreed with Kilbrandon, noting even then without oil, it would be feasible for an independent Scotland to balance the books. Achieving this end primarily by no longer contributing to the extremely high UK defense budget and by implementing a modest devaluation of the Scots pound. Other potential implications were viewed by McCrone, but none were seen as “deal breakers” on the path to independence. He noted that with the advent of oil, the Kilbrandon Report was a dead duck; however, Westminster used it most effectively.

In the report, McCrone went so far as to suggest without considering the discovery of oil, that the above measures would be enough to stimulate the economy, provide jobs and growth and put the nation on a firm footing.

With the discovery of oil he noted, it might be difficult to contain the rise in value of the Scots pound.

It’s useful to understand that Scotland under UK fiscal policy has seen more than a 100% currency devaluation since the McCrone report. Under Westminster’s stewardship our current high point in Scotland is that we’re now stumbling into “Austerity”. No one can predict what might have happened had we the control of our own fiscal levers for the last thirty five years, but we can safely say it would have taken several administrations exhibiting unforeseen levels of gross incompetency to take us anywhere close to the area Westminster has us today. 
Effectively in the time since this report was written nothing has changed.  

McCrone then concludes his opening gambit by saying that for Scotland to succeed, Scotland requires economic sovereignty.

Economic sovereignty is what our upcoming referendum is truly about.

McCrone then proceeded to discuss the oil issue in greater depth – making it clear he was simply referencing Scotland’s “traditional” industries to this point as he clearly states “the analysis in the last section is based upon the situation as it appeared before the discovery of North Sea Oil”.

McCrone begins the section on oil’s implications by stating the department of trade and industry is hiding the revenue data from the public, the values he assigned have been removed or redacted from the original report by the UK government, it was apparently done with a black marker.

The document concludes that paragraph by saying the “significance of this [omission of true value] has probably not been appreciated by the public”. Or in other words “I believe the public has no idea of how much you are lying to them by omission”.

McCrone then attacks Westminster for rubbishing SNP claims about values and mismanagement of resources without making available documentary evidence, but acknowledges the government’s case was being bought by the Scots voting public who were being led to believe the SNP figures were “pretty wild”.

He then alluded to how Norwegian policy supported the SNP claims of Westminster incompetence. He went so far as to use the phrase “This has shown the total inadequacy of government arrangements to secure revenue…” before concluding the section with the clear and unambiguous statement “all that is wrong with the SNP estimate now is that it is far too low”.

So, the SNP grossly underestimated the oil revenues, Westminster used the media with all its might, convinced the Scots that the SNP estimate was “pretty wild” on the high side and that it would “run out soon” while all along, London was fully aware that the SNP was grossly underestimating as only Whitehall had the real data.

That’s on top of the fact Scotland already had a viable economy even without the oil.

The report then advanced into the realm of oil revenues on Scotland’s balance sheet, concluding that she could fundamentally be in better position than Norway presently discovers herself, with the statement “What is quite clear is that the balance of payments from North Sea Oil would easily …. transform Scotland into a country with a substantial and chronic surplus”.

This is worth repeating. Scotland would have no deficit, Scotland would have no debt.

McCrone went on to state that these numbers and statements were based on estimates that were already very conservative and consequently, the true picture for Scotland was much brighter than that painted above.

Interestingly the document then goes on to discuss the ability of England to claim a proportional level of North Sea Oil based upon a UK asset claim and demand disbursion based upon population ratio, effectively giving England over 90% of North Sea Oil reserves. The report threw this assertion out with both the baby and the bathwater. It stated “Dispute on these matters might well occasion much bitterness between the two countries, but it is hard to see any conclusion other than to allow Scotland to have that part of the continental Shelf which would have been hers if she had been independent all along.”

McCrone concludes this section of his report with the following summary, a summary as accurate today as it was over thirty five years ago.

“lt must be concluded therefore that large revenues and balance of payments gains would indeed accrue to a Scottish Government in the event of independence provided that steps are taken either by carried interest or taxation to secure the government ‘take’.

“Undoubtedly this would banish any anxieties the government might have had about its budgetary position or its balance of payments. The country would tend to be in chronic surplus to quite an embarrassing degree and its currency would become the hardest in Europe with the exception of perhaps the Norwegian kroner”

McCrone hypothesized that a Scots pound would be worth 20% more than Bank of England issue within two years, with little to no downside in the Scots economy. 

“Just as deposed monarchs and African leaders have in the past used the Swiss franc as a haven of security, so now would the Scottish pound be seen as a good hedge against inflation and devaluation and the Scottish banks could expect to find themselves inundated with a speculative inflow of foreign funds”.

Effectively this can be taken to read that there would have been no banking collapse or credit crises in an independent Scotland, whereas what happened under Westminster’s guiding gauntlet is now a matter for the historians.

The McCrone report concludes with a reasonably detailed examination of steps the Scottish Government could take to ensure Scotland’s prosperity over the longer term; there were surprisingly few negatives or cautionary aspects.

If this 1707 Union were a private contract, Scotland would carry none of the UK debt and in the upcoming negotiation for independence, Westminster would be open to severe penalties for fraud and deception.

George Osborne – It’s the money, stupid.

The Union Scaremongering has started. We knew it would, and amongst the predictable opening salvoes is the money aspect.

It was certainly foreseeable this would be a base chosen scare area from the Union, after almost 2/3 of Scots recently said they’d dump the UK for around a tenner a week. Not much British loyalty there then.

Mr. Osborne went on record saying that a future independent Scotland might find itself forced into the Euro. With the current negatives surrounding that monetary system, it’s hardly surprising the inferences were used in a fashion amounting to what could easily be construed as a veiled threat.

The UK’s Chancellor also strongly implied that Scotland may find itself unable to use Sterling after a yes vote in the upcoming poll. The inference was that this is Westminster’s decision.

No, it’s not. It is, and will be, a mutual decision or unilateral decision by Scotland.

In its most fundamental terms, the only present way Westminster could stop Scotland using Sterling would be if Whitehall and the bank of England voided the currency themselves. If the Bank of England abandons the pound it could lead to a position where Scotland has issues with using that particular currency.

That’s not such a far-fetched scenario as it at first appears, they almost did it to join the Euro and right now they’re looking at the potential of national bankruptcy as the pound plummets on the international exchange tables, having lost over ¼ of its value in the last four years alone.

Referencing the chancellor’s comments, there were rather substantive issues underlying these words that were apparently ignored by both number 11’s current resident and the mainstream media.

The first, and most fundamental is that without Scotland there is no UK. UK in the media appears to be largely interchangeable with “England” or “Westminster” – it isn’t. Most fundamentally the UK came about through the unification of two separate kingdoms into one, by treaty, therefore the term, United Kingdom.

Wales and Northern Ireland were never independent kingdoms, therefore if one of the two original kingdoms ends the 1707 treaty, irrespective of which kingdom chooses to do so, semantically and legally there is no more UK.

This is not just ancient history, it impacts our daily lives and creates severe issues with governmental utterances such as Mr. Osborne’s.

Part of that 1707 treaty of Union was the creation of a single currency; it was very like the Euro of its day. We jointly agreed to create a single monetary system. Article 16 of the treaty specifically reads:

“That from and after the Union the Coin shall be of the same standard and value, throughout the United Kingdom, as now in England, And a Mint shall be continued in Scotland under the same Rules as the Mint in England And the present Officers of the Mint continued subject to such Regulations and Alterations as Her Majesty Her Heirs or Successors, or the Parliament of Great Britain shall think fit”.

It is worthwhile noting it was not England’s currency that was to be used, but an entirely new currency, although it would have the same standard and value as that then used in England. One might also wonder where the Scottish mint is located these days; after all we’d minted coins in over twenty five towns until the Union stopped it in the 1830’s.

The currency therefore belongs to both realms, absent a legal ruling otherwise which is highly unlikely.

This gives a similar situation to the Euro, and for England to require Scotland to cease and desist use of Sterling is as likely to hold ground in international law as Greece telling Germany it’s got a problem so would they kindly quit the Euro.

Scotland could, and well may withdraw from Sterling, for no sane nation would wish to be tied to such a poorly performing fiat system.

Scots might elect to go for the Euro, which is still a far better relative value than the pound in this last decade, but those are not the only choices. Any sovereign nation can elect to enter into a mutual treaty agreement to share or use any other nation’s currency, or they can develop their own.

A second issue which is integral to the first and shows value to the pro-monarchist stance of Holyrood is the agreement, wish or declaration to retain the monarch – at least for now.

Retention of the monarch means simply that the clock is wound back to 1603. Although there was never a formal treaty as such then and therefore no legal Union of the Crowns as is often taught, it was a de-facto union of the crowns.

As there is no present proposal to end the monarchy the clock isn’t being turned back to 1600, it’s being rewound to 1700, when there was a de-facto United Kingdom with two nations, two parliaments, each reportedly acting in the best interest and common weal of the individual nations, and doing so under one monarch.

The United Kingdom will still exist until either Scotland or England elects to remove the monarchy.

As the United Kingdom will still exist, all aspects of the 1707 treaty will continue in force until negotiated out. This includes the monetary system in both nations.

We will not suddenly wake up the day after a “YES” vote and find ourselves living in a different country under a different set of rules with everything from border posts to money magically appearing or disappearing at the stroke of midnight.

There will be a period of some years, as in the original monetary union from 1707 to 1710 where things will be negotiated, aligned and re-distributed to the best benefit of both nations.

Apart from scaremongering to retain an outdated, one sided, colonial style dominion this is undeniably the only sensible path for both nations to take.

It is sensible because it is what Scotland wishes, and Westminster is aware that Scotland is far better placed in resources, industry and tangible exports to withstand brutal upheaval than England.

If there is a sincere wish to preserve this union by Westminster then it’s time to stop the Scaremongering and engage their best case, a case so far apparently well hidden, and to do so in fair, reasonable and balanced debate.

Fair, reasonable and balanced debate does not equate to politicks shows or media coverage involving one person from each major party putting a case again the full restoration of Scotland’s sovereign rights and only one individual submitting the case for it.

This Union and media tactic is no different than putting a single boxer in the ring to face against his opponent, his seconds and his manager, all of whom are allowed to trade punches with him.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Referendums, who can call them.

There is ongoing confusion for many over the legality of the upcoming independence referendum, who can hold it, when, what the question(s) should be and will it be binding or advisory. This confusion is perpetrated by widespread dis-reporting in the mainstream media without full verification of all the underlying facts.

There is certainly an issue now that Westminster claims it has the “legal authority” to grant Scotland a referendum, with David Cameron speaking of ‘legally binding”, control of content and “sunset clauses”. The only definite thing that can be said of the last week is that the Union and its supporters have elevated the rhetoric. 

Being clear, Westminster certainly has the authority to call a referendum in Scotland; it has done so in the past. Holyrood also has the authority to call a referendum. In theory, anyone can call for a poll in a populous, it's called Democracy.

Stepping back one can understand where Cameron is getting his legal input. The Union case for interference comes from sources such as professor Tomkins, an expert on constitutional law at Glasgow University, who largely echoed Aiden O’Neil’s earlier comments by informing the Scottish affairs committee in Westminster that “any referendum should be run by the Electoral Commission and, for it to be acceptable, the questions, their meaning and effects should be "crystal clear".

The only part of the statement which is unarguable is that “the questions, their meaning and effects should be crystal clear”. As to the remainder it’s quite normal for an independence referendum, or in Scotland’s case a restoration or repatriation referendum to be the province of international or external authorities.

Professor Tomkins is described as a leading academic in the field of constitutional law; therefore his views certainly deserve merit as does his warning that there is a "very strong" argument in constitutional law that the Scottish Government will be exceeding its statutory powers by staging an independence referendum.

The Scottish affairs committee at Westminster is certainly exceeding its remit, as it is limited to commenting and examining the affairs of the Scottish Office, not Holyrood, but is Holyrood also exceeding its remit as the good professor would infer and have us believe.

Alex Salmond has rejected this and all previous claims that the Scottish Government lacks the powers to hold an independence referendum. David Cameron who previously referred to the referendum as being for Scotland to decide has now apparently changed his views.

Immediate indications are that the proposed poll is legal from the standpoint of both leaders and that what is proposed by the Scottish affairs committee and its quoted expert is without basis. Professor Tomkins does throw out credible arguments, similar to those used by others before him as they try to deny Scotland a voice.

In his paper as submitted to Westminster's Scottish affairs committee, Professor Adam Tomkins put forward the argument that there was a "strong constitutional case" for the UK Government, and not Holyrood, to legislate for the referendum. He stated "If the question is 'Should Scotland remain in the United Kingdom?' that is a question on a reserved matter and should therefore be asked (if at all) by HM Government under the authority of an Act of Parliament”.

The use of his wording, “if at all” gives an exceedingly strong indication as to Adam Tomkins personal leanings with regards to dependency or self determination.

The submission to the committee continued "Were the Scottish ministers to seek to ask such a question in a referendum held under the authority of an Act of the Scottish Parliament (ASP), there is (at the least) a very strong argument the ASP would be outwith competence and, therefore, 'not law' under section 29 of the Scotland Act 1998, and that the Scottish ministers would be acting outwith their devolved competence if they sought to exercise powers in pursuit of such an ASP.

"If the question is 'Should the Scottish Government seek to renegotiate with HM Government the terms of the Union?', my view would be the same: this is a reserved matter, even if the referendum question somehow made clear that the renegotiation was not intended to end the Union and that the proposal was not that Scotland should leave the United Kingdom."

Professor Tomkins views are therefore crystal clear; Holyrood doesn’t have the power under the UK constitution to hold a referendum. This is only under an alleged UK constitution, uncodified, unwritten, never voted upon.

Offsetting the opinion of this constitutional law expert appears the previously mentioned views of both Alex Salmond and David Cameron with the Scottish government also firm in its commitment and belief that it both has the legal remit and authority to bring forward a referendum bill followed by a constitutional poll in the second half of the current Scottish Parliament.

Who’s correct and who’s obfuscating?

A spokesman for Alex Salmond previously said "Professor Tomkins needs to catch up", before adding: "Everyone else, including the Prime Minister, accepts the right of the Scottish Government and Parliament to hold the referendum - we are entirely confident of our legal position."

Professor Tomkins and his predecessors apparently chose their words most carefully; under UK law Holyrood doesn’t have the authority to legislate for a constitutional referendum. UK law is very clear on this in that “the constitution” is a reserved matter, per Westminster.

The professor therefore hangs his hat on a peg by stating “it would be preferable for the United Kingdom Parliament to legislate on the matter”.

Interestingly Professor Tomkins doesn’t say “Only Westminster can legislate on this subject”, simply that it would be “preferable”. The issue again is why the use of the word “preferable” and preferable for whom?

In his statement the professor calls for any referendum to be held as quickly as possible, another voice to the constant Union generated bedlam. The use of his word “preferable” is not so quickly explained and as the trails are unravelled it’s clearly demonstrated that it is only preferable from a Union perspective.

Tomkins is apparently viewing the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a single country, which it is not. The “UK” in its present form is a state, not a nation, and has only existed under its current name and verifiably compound status since 1926. Constitutional rights in Scotland are different from those in England; therefore that “constitutional argument” is on a shoogly peg indeed.

The original Treaty of Union of 1707 was between two independent nation states, setting aside the legality questions surrounding that agreement there is an indisputable fact that Scotland and England are not “one country” but two nations co-existing as one state with a presently unified “supreme” government.

Effectively under that treaty both Scotland and England devolved their government to Westminster. The Union treaty made no mention of suspending Scotland’s constitution or laws – in fact it promised to “forever uphold” them.

To suggest that Scotland can never withdraw from such a treaty is ludicrous under international law. Even the Foreign office has Scotland listed as a nation with whom it can conduct treaties.

This brings the Vienna Convention on Treaty law into play, with the UK being a signatory. Any bi-lateral treaty can be ended unilaterally with appropriate notification by either party. Scotland in lacking a recognized parliament for some centuries could arguably have been said to have been without the voice that allowed it make such a declaration, absent a declared will of the people.

That situation where Scotland lacked self government has now been rectified, and as Westminster is in agreement that international law trumps national law they are effectively bound by the Scottish Government’s decision in this matter. This could be diluted to state only as long as such decision follows the expressed will of the people. The referendum will give a clear expression of will.

The second player in the referendum arena that Westminster must be mindful of is the United Nations. The UK is a principle member of the UN and signatory to almost every treaty of relevance within its sphere of influence at the UN. The UN position is clear.

The UN charter reads, quite specifically, and was re-affirmed on 10th November 2011 as

“..the Assembly reaffirmed that the universal realisation of the right of all peoples — including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination — to self-determination is a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee, observance, preservation and promotion of human rights.

The Assembly also declares its firm Opposition to acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, since those have resulted in the suppression of the right of peoples to self-determination and other human rights in certain parts of the world”.

In effect, if the Scottish government were to poll the Scottish people on independence they might contravene Westminster’s interpretation of what’s legal internal to the UK but they should anticipate the backing of the United Nations and the Vienna Convention, both of which the UK is signatory to and bound by under international law.

Fundamentally both Holyrood and London are correct in their assertions.

London is using what it describes as “UK Constitutional Law”, apparently forgetting that we are separate nations bound only by an ancient treaty, many times violated and often effectively amended, most recently in 1926 to include Northern Ireland.

Holyrood is apparently using international law, the Vienna Convention and the stance of the United Nations. In an ideal world Holyrood would therefore set out all aspects of the referendum and Westminster would agree and support – that is democracy at work.

As Westminster is signatory to both the Vienna Convention and the UN charter, and supported the November 10th reaffirmation, with international law usurping national law there is every present appearance of Alex Salmond holding the better hand.

The best that London could hope for is a delaying tactic, which with incessant screams of “referendum now” and a demand for the referendum to be in 2013 would appear to go against current Westminster policy. Any legal delaying tactic by Westminster would also have a strong potential of driving a mass of undecided voters to the pro-independence side of the argument as the SNP would rightfully clamour deprivation of democracy.

Should Westminster choose it can ignore any referendum result as “advisory”, however “the mother of parliaments” would then be in a position of arguing before the UN that the democratic will of a people in its most basic sense, isn’t worth squat.

That is not an argument Westminster will win, meantime one could expect Scotland to chart her own course – hold her referendum on her own schedule and implement the will of the people of Scotland irrespective of Westminster’s wishes.

For the UN to fail to support this would be a most basic, undesirable alteration to international law.

The international community would fundamentally enshrine a precedent in law that the will of a people has no value and that powers once gifted by any state may never be repatriated by that state alone, through peaceful means.

UPDATED@17.17 local time:

Following the announcement by Alex Salmond of the Autumn 2014 date for the referendum, it will be interesting to watch David Cameron's reaction.

Will he indeed remove any possibility of challenge for this and ALL FUTURE Holyrood polls, or will he continue to try to impose conditions, qualifications, addenda or limits?

In the interim, will Westminster work towards a better path for Scotland?