Thursday, 18 October 2012

A single question, but we still get three choices.

I have spent a month back in the company of my fellow Scots, and a wonderful month it was, sadly like everything else in life it is over, for now. 

During the visit I witnessed Alex Salmond sign the accord with David Cameron, an accord which on the surface betrayed democracy in Scotland. The Holyrood Consultation results haven’t even been announced, and those who might have expressed a desire for a third question were being discarded.

The key is on the surface.

Scots will still have a multi option referendum, it’s simply that none in the UK Westminster centric “national” media care to investigate, or highlight it.

As Scots go to the polls in 2014’s referendum there is every possibility that they will do so not simply to decide upon Union or not, but which Union. Westminster is hoping the additional air of uncertainty surrounding what will then be our times coupled with the disgusting celebrations earmarked to herald the start of a war will scare the nation into keeping the existing “pocket money” set up.

What’s not trumpeted is that so far, referencing OMB (Office of Management and Budget) and media reports, over 80% of the cuts that are required by Cameron’s “austerity” have still to be enacted. They’ll bite between now and 2016. Westminster is holding off and praying for a miracle. Someone should tell Mr. Cameron, Scotland is a long way from 34th street.

What else isn't trumpeted is the Euro-sceptic Tory mindset. In recent days we’ve seen several major cabinet players come forward with such positions. It appears most of the Tory front bench are lining up behind Teresa May; a person quietly tipped as possibly the next Tory leader.

Where this leads us, and not just on the Tory benches, is to a probable referendum on EU membership, a referendum where once again Scots stand to have their wishes subordinated to that of England in our “democratic” system. Bet on it. We will either stand united with England’s electorate, or be trampled divided. Our voice will count for little other than a distant barely audible OK, or simply be drowned.

It will happen, believe it.

It will happen because the EU Euro nations are being forced into tighter unity. Merkel and the Bundestag want a federal Europe, a United States of the Euro.

Note the difference, there will be a two tier EU, and it will come about inside the next five years. Already there is talk of what amounts to full fiscal Euro zone integration coming on line in January, that’s this January, with the ECB bond buying and backstopping shoogly economies.

When the Euro zone begins direct intervention there will be a de-facto United Sates of the Eurozone, leaving nine nations, including the United Kingdom simply peering in from the outside. We will have no say.

This is because the vaunted veto isn't really worth diddly, as we've seen. David Cameron played the trump card and achieved a small delay, substantial ridicule, was shunned in Europe and received accolades from his back benchers, but not a lot else. The rest of Europe basically set up in another room and did their deeds anyway.

Laughing stock doesn't even begin to describe what took place following that action.

The markets are pressing for Eurozone integration, the member nations are largely pressing for Eurozone integration, even David Cameron is pressing for Eurozone integration. Everyone appears to acknowledge it’s about the only way the Eurozone can sort itself out. Integration.

There are calls for a unified foreign policy, police and armed services, each made up from constituents of the Eurozone countries in the first instance no doubt. Ms. May is already calling for “repatriation” of laws and another look at the EU arrest warrants. The blackout blinds are being pulled down in London.

Where this leads us to is the fact that the already largely worthless but much vaunted veto will become effectively redundant. Since the Lisbon treaty much, most, of EU voting is done by QMV, Qualified Majority Voting. This means alliances come and go, the sands shift, and on most days every constituent nation is happy enough with what it gets.

The issue with a formal Eurozone bloc is that it will hold a perpetual majority in QMV. There will be no further need of alliances, the sands will be scorched until they become a solid immovable block of glass, and that glass will bear the word ‘Eurozone”.

Within five years, the Eurozone will either fracture and disintegrate or rule the EU. With Germany, France and Holland backing the Eurozone, Westminster can already see the sands solidifying; the groundwork is being prepared to take the UK out of the EU to protect the City of London.

No one has yet hazarded a guess as to what the few states like the UK that are not presently in the Eurozone will do when the bloc solidifies its voting structure, but one can expect most to simply join the bloc. Those that don’t can either leave or live with the multitude of diktats that emanate from Brussels while having no true say in their formation.

This is something akin to Scotland in our current Union. Westminster appears to find that option unpalatable in Europe, yet believes Scots should be browbeaten into acceptance of such a situation.

Scots will therefore have a choice in 2014, not about Union or not, but about which Union.

A “No” vote gives them what they've had these last three centuries, a short spoon and a distant seat at Westminster’s table.

A “Yes” vote gives them the opportunity to see for themselves where they would rather be, they can enter into a more loose form of Union with England should they desire, a form outwith the EU.

They could opt to remain within the EU but tied to Sterling, effectively replicate the current situation but within a bigger, safer more cosmopolitan union than Westminster could ever provide.

They could opt to join the Eurozone, because with fiscal integration the Euro will be here to stay, and backstopped by Germany, France, Holland to which would be added Scotland’s resources it will become the currency of choice.

Or our fellow countrymen and women can opt for an independent Scotland, standing aloof but ready to assist.

Four choices, two boxes, one referendum.

Only one box opens up all the choices to every Scot.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Either Holyrood or Westminster must go.

That’s the problem with devolution – it just doesn't work. It’s either got to be an all or nothing scenario for any state, or some type of federal set up where the nations run their own affairs but contribute to a joint “Uber-administration” in which each nation has an absolutely equal say, like the US senate. 

Johann Lamont and her London bosses know this also, as do the Tories and Lib-Dem’s. If we understand that 2014 is ultimately, in Westminster’s eyes, an either / or referendum we can begin to understand the recent labour speech in Scotland, it was designed to bring our nation into line with England. If we vote no, the signal is strong, devolution is dead, there actually will be no need for devolution, and we’ll be just like England.

In the event of a “Yes” vote, Ms. Lamont’s speech of last Tuesday is irrelevant, we all know it.

If the insanity of a “No” vote comes to pass, we will simply be informed that we were very clearly told what to expect. Do not doubt it. It will come to pass.

This will happen because the UK and EU are not federal institutions; they don’t even pretend to be. It is therefore baffling why any small nation would sign up to either, effectively volunteering for a jackboot across the jugular.

Proportionate representation across nations just doesn’t work – folks don’t mind in the good times, but when the bad times bite the coin flips to a “who are they to dictate?” type scenario. Fractures erupt.

That either Holyrood or Westminster must go is self evident. As a glaring example, and there have been many from the Megrahi affair to planning permission, and not including Ms. Lamont’s apparently insane speech last week, please look at just one headline in the latest Sunday Herald concerning the amalgamation of Scotland’s police forces.

More important for the purpose of this article is the lead in sentence from the headline.

“SCOTLAND's single police force is facing "horrendous" cuts worth £300 million over the next three-and-a-half years, according to official figures leaked to the Sunday Herald”. 

Wow, now that’s an attention grabber and no mistake, thousands of jobs must go to make that type of saving possible. The implication, wrongly, is that it’s Holyrood’s fault.

Frankly the cuts to the police force where services are duplicated can only be a good thing, it saves the taxpayer money. Accelerating the cuts is a very bad thing, John Swinney knows this, but he can’t avoid Westminster’s diktat.

In this amalgamation every reasoning Scot must surely applaud the Scottish government. A single police force for a nation of five million is eminently sensible.

The speed of the cuts and their human consequences is certainly not a good thing; that is a direct result of devolution.

With the austerity measures being forced upon us by decades of Westminster bungling, corruption and ineptitude, resulting in Holyrood budget cuts, John Swinney was put into an impossible position. His budget has been reduced; he has to make efficiencies and cuts.

The problem is that there’s a human side to these efficiencies and cuts, and it can and will have dramatic individual consequences. Take the USA for example, the recession/depression hit in 2008. They do counting tricks like Westminster, if you’re not actively looking for work, you’re not officially unemployed. If you give up, you don’t count.

This has allowed the US to keep its official unemployment figures from reaching outlandish levels; meantime for young adults suicide has just passed vehicular accidents as the leading cause of death for the first time ever.

There is always a human cost.

John Swinney has been put into a position where he has to pass the human cost onto Westminster, to hope that they take care of it, because he simply can’t. With devolution he doesn’t need to worry about social security, Westminster simply won’t allow him that luxury.

These thousands of newly unemployed, from the police merger alone that will hit the dole must still be cared for in the greater context of our societal obligations. Or not, but the “or not” is not John Swinney’s concern – it’s not his budget responsibility.

This is a glaring example of why devolution simply doesn’t work, why anything but a partnership of equals simply doesn’t work.

Conversely, this is why independence does and will work.

Under devolution we now have a situation where the governing Westminster party’s ineptitude and ignorance is forcing cuts. Swinney can impose cuts of this scale simply because it’s not his budget that has to underwrite them.

Really, really think about this for a minute, it’s devolution in action.

Westminster is incompetent.

Westminster forces Holyrood to enact savage cuts as a direct result of Westminster’s incompetence.

Holyrood, which has absolutely no choice, passes along these cuts. The police forces [in this case] are merged at a grossly accelerated rate and thousands are unemployed.

These thousands become unemployed so fast the private side can’t accommodate.

There’s a labour glut which gets worse, this helps drive salaries backwards in real terms.

Holyrood meets its budget as imposed upon it by Westminster.

This is a devolved settlement. This is Westminster control. Holyrood has no options.

However, what isn’t obvious is that the responsibility for these thousands doesn’t go away and as private industry can’t absorb that many that quickly, what exactly is their fate?

Under devolution the answer is simple, they go on Welfare, support, buroo, social, call it what you will. These multitudes have just become Westminster’s responsibility.

It’s why devolution doesn’t work and independence must happen. Westminster just forced Holyrood to meet its budget.

Except in forcing Holyrood to meet its budget, Westminster just ensured it can’t live within its own budget.

Westminster must now cut benefits or borrow more – either way it’s doing things a nation or the impacted individuals can’t afford. London’s kick-started a vicious cycle, the casualties will be many, but is acceptable in London because their voices are small.

What existed under devolution was hidden in the times of plenty, but when famine strikes the cracks yawn wide.

Westminster is well aware of the situation, so is Holyrood. One government or the other must go, there’s no option except mutual bankruptcy unless devolution consists solely of a puppet administration.

As there is no longer a puppet administration, neither Westminster nor Holyrood wishes to see bankruptcy. Both are banking on 2014. Both must secure Scotland for themselves. That is the truth of referendum 2014. Only with Holyrood is there an opportunity to ensure we will look after our own interests.

In an independent Scotland as with any prudent nation, budgets would be somewhat controlled; it is probable we will not be as heavily impacted by fortune’s variables. Irrespective we know one thing. If Holyrood had to make the choice between a slower more orderly and better managed draw down of surplus staff, or be faced with the welfare bill for those it had just made unemployed, we could expect any sane administration to opt for the more orderly draw down.

The current police amalgamation is providing a snapshot of the reality of devolution; it doesn’t work. The only point to suffering the ignominy of a devolved or supported administration is if that administration is but a step on the path to a rightful reassertion of statehood.

If the path leads anywhere else, it’s pointless.

Holyrood or Westminster – 2014 will be the year of decision, the choice is that simple.

Unless you are advocating the end of Holyrood as anything but a parish council, unless you want an end to Scotland’s parliament, there’s only one option.