This is the first blog posting I have done, although not new to the interweb, I decided to start writing a blog for the simple reason that I have lots of thoughts, ideas and opinions and I needed somewhere to put them down or my head would have exploded. Also, I got the impression I was boring people on Facebook with my posts. So if you have followed a link from Facebook to here then you must be a glutton for punishment.
This post will mostly be about the current hot topic in Scottish news, the independence referendum. Hopefully I can cover both sides of the argument but if not then please feel free to comment.
So what’s the Referendum mince all about???
If you don’t know, where huv ye been fur the last year! In September of this year (2014) the people of Scotland will be asked to vote on the referendum, “Should Scotland be an Independent nation?” Being Scottish, I’ll be voting. I’ll say from the off, I’m leaning towards a ‘yes’ vote currently but there are many questions than need answered first, I’ll hopefully cover these questions in this post.
That, in my opinion, is the problem…..the questions are not getting answered. Simply because they are not getting asked. I read, with interest today, an article from the huffington post, titled “Scottish Independence: It’s about trust” by Ben Acheson.
My initial thoughts were that this would finally be a well balanced article, however my hopes were dashed with this simple line “You could argue that the SNP has been in power since 2007 and the country has not imploded but you could claim that total implosion is unlikely as it is propped up by the UK government”. This line suggests that ‘arguing’ that the country has not imploded is surprising as the SNP are crap, and furthermore, it is only through the underpinning of the UK government that this has not happened. Funny…last I heard the Scottish economy was improving faster than the rest of the UK.
Mr Acheson then covers the most recent topics of currency union and European Union Membership. Firstly, described as a “fiasco” by Mr Acheson, was the currency union. George ‘Gideon’ Osbourne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has stated that on advice form Mark Carney, there would be no currency union between Scotland and the rest of the uk. Also, that Scotland would not be allowed to used the pound as currency. Essentially, “Torpedoed” Alex Salmond’s plans, by anyone and everyone that matters in UK politics. Mmmm….I’ll come back to this later.
Mr Acheson……I’ll call him Ben, after all I’ve been talking about his article for the last few paragraphs, after all we’ve been through it seems too formal. Anyway, Ben continues through the piece stating different points decrying independence and how his points would be dismissed as “Scaremongering” and that “That is always the first defense of someone who doesn’t like your argument but can’t provide a suitable rebuttal”. By not providing any other viewpoint or link to an article or website that could refute the points Ben put across, and they do exist, is he not actually doing that very thing using these points to “Scaremonger”? I’ll give an example by going back to the point about currency union.
A blog post on the website Bella Caledonia called supple minds provides some valid points for a short term currency union, essentially that usage of the pound is not up to the UK government and that many Latin American countries use the US dollar, sometimes replacing their own currency, therefore, a de facto currency union can be created. This post also states that the real issue of currency union is a”banking union: do Scotland’s bloated banks inflated under a UK-wide regulatory consensus, still benefit from UK-wide protection? Or are they left to fail alone?” Obviously the UK government does not wish to carry the can, should the banks fail, nor should they…however, the can was filled by decisions taken in Whitehall, not Edinburgh. Essentially, a short term currency union, with an Independent Scotland eventually exiting the UK pound would allow the Scottish banks to shrink down to a useful size. I would urge anyone to have a read at the post and if I’ve mis-read or misinterpreted anything in it, please do inform me.
Ok, how about another of Ben’s points. He references an interview that Nicola Sturgeon had with Andrew Neil. The interview is thought by many to show Nicola having her arse handed to her. The interview had Andrew repeatedly asking Nicola what the SNP’s plan B was now that currency union had been ruled out. Nicola didn’t answer. Choosing to state the reasons why she believed currency union was the best option, not just for Scotland but for the whole of the UK. Andrew now badgering Nicola to answer the question, still she wouldn’t answer.
I wouldn’t consider this to be a mauling by Andrew Neil, he asked one question repeatedly that wasn’t answered. Now, had it been several questions that elicited no response, then YES that WOULD have been a mauling. Very much like Nicola Sturgeons TV debate with Alistair Carmichael where several questions went unanswered. So why did Nicola not answer the question, what is the SNP’s plan B. Well its quite simple…in fact its so simple than anyone who has an idea how to run a campaign should already know this. The question wasn’t answered because when you are fighting a campaign, one in which one of your main points of contention is controversial and of significant importance, that your opposition fight against it tooth and nail, YOU NEVER GIVE THEM ANOTHER TARGET. If the SNP had disclosed their plan B, the opposition would have taken aim and blown holes in it. They could then win the campaign by saying “Look!!! the SNP’s plan B is so bad your economy will collapse in the first month, their plan A wont get off the ground, you’re better voting ‘No’.” It’s that simple. But while we are on the subject of refusing to answer questions, I happened to watch George Osbourns speech and press conference regarding currency union. The very first question he was asked, he didn’t answer…..why???? for the very same reason as above!! The question was regarding the positives from the advice given George Osbourne on currency union. There were some positives but voicing them would go against the campaign initiative that its a non starter and ALL BAD!!
We then go onto the European union. Recently, President of the European Commission, Jose Manual Barosso, stated that Scotland gaining membership in the EU would be very difficult, if not impossible. Ben reported this as an astoundingly bad week for the SNP regarding this message from the “De facto head of the EU”. However, there’s a slight problem with the message Mr Barosso. Firstly, his intervention in the debate was a tactical maneuver, hoping to curry favor with UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Currently, Mr Barosso’s desire is to become Secretary General of NATO, according to French MP Axelle Lemarie. Secondly, The president of the European Commission, while a very important position, has ZERO power to say who gains Membership of the European Union. Any proposed new member is put to a vote by the rest of the members, a democratic decision. Finally, and probably most daming, is the news in just the past few days that the words of Mr Barosso were sought by Westminster and also reported as being misinterpreted. So there we have it. News trumpeted by the no campaign about Euro membership being impossible for an independent Scotland, from a very important person, whom ultimately has no power to either grant nor deny membership, was allegedly asked to give a negative spin for the benefit of the No campaign, and the fact that it could help Spain keep Catalunya as part of their nation then Mr Barosso was only to willing to oblige.
Shared Energy Market. At this point in Ben’s article he cover’s Ed Davey stating that a shared energy market would end with Scottish independence. This is, for me, where Ben should have focused his arguments. Consumers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, would no longer subsidise renewable energy in an Independent Scotland. If as Ed Davey has said, the shared market ended then this could very easily see a rise in prices for Scottish consumers and as we all know, energy prices are a major political topic at the moment with Ed Miliband pledging to freeze energy prices should Labour be elected in 2015 .
However, Ben neglected to mention that as part of a shared energy market the UK would still benefit from meeting its clean energy targets. Ending the shared energy market would mean the rest of the UK would lose out on what…..almost 800 miles of Scottish coast where wave power is generated, a rather substantial chunk of clean energy targets gone. Ben thought it better to focus on the fact that wind doesn’t always blow. He could have focused on funding for renewable energy as it is set to increase from £2bn per year to £8bn per year by 2020 (see ft article) . Surely this is a more salient point, that Scotland could lose out on a potential £8bn per year?
Ben finishes off his piece with his own opinions, that now is not the time for ‘your word vs my word’ politics and ignoring reality helps no one. He’s absolutely correct here, but where is his balance here? He asks “What is Plan B if there is no currency union?” They won’t tell you! Ben, being the parliamentary adviser to Stewart Stevenson MEP, you’d think would know this! most politics students would know this!
“What are the implications if Scotland has to apply to join the EU?” This one is easy, as the President of the EU commission’s opinion is totally irrelevant, Scotland would apply for membership of the EU, it would be put to a democratic vote by all members of the EU, then either Scotland would be accepted or denied.
“How will energy security be achieved if there is no shared energy market?” Good question.
“It is Alex Salmond, the SNP or Yes Scotland who must answer these questions. If they cannot, the can they really be trusted to run a country?
The answer is a resounding ‘No’.”
This article is a good example of campaign politics. It’s a dirty fight played out in the press in order to give it the correct spin, to keep the electorate misinformed and confused. As the eminent Labour politician Tony Benn once said “a healthy, educated and confident nation is harder to govern”. This seems to be the no campaign’s strategy. Keep the electorate unsure and they will vote no, or not even vote at all.
The yes campaign, their tactics seem to be, keep banging the drum about the currency union and Osbourne’s speech back firing. (hardly surprising given most Scottish peoples natural belligerent attitude, tell them “No you can’t do that” and watch them defy you). Also, for Alex Salmond to keep demanding a TV debate with David Cameron, knowing he will keep refusing. This allows the yes campaign to say, Cameron is a coward and hiding the fact that an Independent Scotland would prosper without England and that a currency union would be agreed to in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote. All of this stops the important questions being asked.
The people of Scotland face a choice, independence, or not. It is my belief that every choice when reduced to it’s basic level, is a moral choice. Some people will choose their vote based on national identity, that being British is part of who they are, and I respect that. If you feel you are British and should show loyalty to that then that is your democratic choice and I would defend anyone’s right to do that. However, might I ask you to consider this, Ben said that this was about trust. Can the SNP be trusted to run an independent Scotland, a fair question, but how trust worthy have Westminster Governments been towards Scotland? The McCrone report, commissioned in the 70’s by the then Conservative Government into growing Scottish nationalism and the economic implications of oil revenue in an independent Scotland showed that Scotland’s wealth would be equal to Switzerland. A Kuwait of the North. Yes…it would have to have been an independent Scotland but this report was buried and only came to light in 2005. Does a trust worthy Government bury reports of this importance? How about the Poll tax of the late 80’s early 90’s. A tax imposed on Scotland 15 months before anywhere else in the UK…..is that not a violation of the Treaty of union of 1707? Still a trust worthy Government? Ok, how about the war in Iraq? Where are those weapons of mass destruction? How many Iraqi civilians killed? how many British troops killed? are they still trust worthy? Banks deregulated during the 80’s and 90’s that eventually lead to the credit crunch and recession, and is now being paid for by the tax payer, while the bankers keep their bonuses. How about now, still trust worthy? MP’s claiming expenses. Now, still trust worthy? £25bn in unpaid corporation tax or tax avoidance schemes, that the tax payer has to make up for. Do you still trust them? Lets not forget, the bedroom tax. Still trust them?……….ok how about the company ATOS, they are the company who run the Work capability assessment for the department of work and pensions…..why would I mention this? well are ATOS a medical company?…NO, they are a French IT company. YES you read that right, an IT company……an INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY COMPANY. Trusted to assess those on disability for their capability to work. You STILL trust them?? (incidentally, as an IT person myself, I’m looking forward to my new post as chief neurosurgeon at the Southern General hospital as going on this logic I’m more than qualified!). It is not nor would I ever question the loyalty and patriotism of the people of Scotland whom consider themselves British. Their loyalty, in my opinion, is without question. Can the same be said for Westminster Governments? Could it not be said that in this Union, Scotland are very much unequal partners. Maybe even second class British?
For those reading this, yes this last paragraph very much shows my leanings towards a ‘yes’ vote. I won’t deny that. If anything I have written here is incorrect then I am open to being corrected. please do so. I would only ask those reading this who would cast their vote based on National identity, please consider, while you are loyal to our/your country, is the Government loyal to you? or is there loyalty towards their wallet, where it should be to the ballot……
I’ll finish with this as it’s supposedly good to end with a quote and with both sides playing the campaign game and not answering questions and never the twain shall meet, I have this for them –
‘If you are blind to the merits of those you oppose or the arguments you disagree with, then you start to die intellectually, and if you are a political party you begin the long – or sometimes not so long – slide to electoral defeat. You only win power if you face up to the reality which has kept you from it, and you only sustain power if you renew. And renewal involves honesty, curiosity and courage.’ – Philip Gould