Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Lamontable leadership: is Cowardice the best the Union can offer?

Johann Lamont was elected in December 2011, not even three months ago, and she’s now averaging in excess of at least one example of cowardice per month. Cowardice is the primary verb one would use to indicate failure to take a stand, accept responsibility or act on a situation through apparent fear of consequences.

We have been informed that Ms. Lamont is the Labour leader, that she has responsibility for all Labour in Scotland. Ms. Lamont therefore has the duty to lead her party; it is a duty that so far she has shirked.

The lack of backbone exhibited by Labour leadership in Scotland makes it clear; the Union in Scotland is in utter disarray.

It is credible that the largest of the Union parties should lead the way in the upcoming fight over independence, but based on current performance who will lead that party, because at the present time, London influence excluded, it is most definitely leaderless.

Leadership is about traits and attributes, a state of being, Johann Lamont to date has been prominent by her lack of leadership traits, by her silence, rather than exemplifying characteristics we should admire, support and wish to emulate or follow.

With Labour being the recognized opposition to the governing party, this is representative of an extremely worrying situation. An opposition party is supposed to provide a check and balance, it should offer alternatives, it should be constructive in debate and it should contribute to policy development.

Under the reported leadership of Johann Lamont, rapidly fading beyond gray, it has demonstrably exhibited none of those characteristics.

In the case of Stirling Council the Labour party joined forces with the Tory’s to defeat the minority SNP budget. In so doing they voted against their own Labour amendments and scuppered a national Labour party policy of standing against council tax cuts. There was no response from Ms. Lamont. Silence is not a mark of leadership. Silence when faced with promotion of a policy that is inconsistent with your stated goals is simply incomprehensible. Stirling Labour just ridiculed Scottish Labour.

In the case of Falkirk MP Eric Joyce, now awaiting disposition of charges for assault, in addition to being the first MP to claim over 1,000,000 in expenses the lack of leadership action is stupefying. Ms. Lamont was officially given responsibility for all Labour in Scotland. Mr. Joyce is a representative of Labour in Scotland. Mr. Joyce is Ms. Lamont’s responsibility. That Ed Miliband had to take matters into his own hands regarding a Scottish MP is deplorable. That the Labour leader in Scotland took no action and made no statement relegates her position to sham puppetry, fear or cowardice, not leadership.

There was a recently reported comment in national media, attributed to the Labour party, from a senior party official that Labour would rather have a “nutter than a Nat” in the Falkirk seat, and therefore strongly inferred that there would be no by-election. A leader, a real leader, would get help for the individual concerned before events reached the stage they are at, allowing that the local party attempted de-selection because of “concerns”. Leadership in the political arena would acknowledge the constituents desires come before any party.

In failing to act prior to the situation exploding leadership can still be effective, it can offer support, treatment and counseling for one who has lost their way. In a public case it should do so publically, and acknowledge the errors made in leadership. It cannot force the individual to accept help, but it must be offered as the organization demonstrates what procedures are being put in place to stop a repeat performance. That these measures are not being announced are additional examples of less than poor leadership.

Glasgow council is in meltdown; any stand Johanna Lamont was considering there has melted away. There has been no response from Labour’s non entity, for such is the only realistic way to describe one appointed to lead and who then does so by absence. Glasgow needs leadership until the Council elections, not just after them.

Referencing Glasgow once more, there has been an allegation of bullying and improper pressure against specific council members, yet the member making alleged threats is remains a candidate when others do not, all without any inkling of an enquiry. This only lends credence to the allegations that the Scots Labour leader is but a puppet, with strings being jerked in London. This is not leadership in Scotland; it appears simple cowardice, a fear of the potential issues that might be uncovered in a well executed investigation. Cowardice is not a generally accepted leadership quality.

There was an instance regarding rape allegations made in the chamber at Holyrood, allegations that appear to be contrived, aged, prior to the administration presently in office and fundamentally misdirected. As Alex Salmond showed when quoting erroneously supplied data in the same chamber, mistakes can happen but true leadership is about acknowledging these issues at the earliest possible opportunity and offering apology with acceptance. That is a cost of leadership. Scotland is still waiting for the apology in the above case; Scotland is still waiting for that acknowledgement of leadership. We are not waiting for more silence.

Scotland has asked the Labour leader for her position on Trident, again silence.

Our government has asked the Labour leader for her support in its budget, a budget amended at her organisation’s request, we still failed to see that support.

The Edinburgh legislature has requested input on legislation, bills like the upcoming or soon to be discarded Scotland bill, Scotland gets refusal, abstention, obstruction or obfuscation.

Silence, refusal, obfuscation, obstruction, cowardice, these are not leadership qualities we either need or want in Scotland. We saw a prime time example of cowardice last year, involving another Labour leader hiding in a sandwich shop, Ms. Lamont has had so many allegorical examples it’s barely worth keeping score.

Our nation needs a voice that supports her, that defends her, that will fight for her. It needs that voice; it needs that clarity of purpose in far more than one political party.

Examining the above with respect to the upcoming referendum it is hardly surprising the Union parties, fronted by Labour in Scotland have so far failed to promote a positive case for the Union. Before they can present any positive case on an ideal they reportedly hold dear to their hearts, they must first be able to present a positive case for themselves and their leadership.

Labour needs to decide, does the leader change, does the leadership change, does the party change or do they simply continue an apparently inexorable march to electoral oblivion.

The other Union parties should consider well Labour’s plight, it is also theirs.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Everything Is Connected – to London.

Everything’s connected, especially when it comes to the Crown Estates, Westminster and Ofgem. These entities recently announced that they view the feasibility of a new subsea “around Britain” interconnector to be used for the transmission of electrical energy, as self evident.

The Crown Estates report, “East Coast Transmission Network: Technical Feasibility Study” confirmed the practicality of an offshore transmission system to move energy from as far north as Shetland to London, from where it could be sold on to European states.

With peak oil having arrived and global economies under strain under of diminishing resources, we can increasingly expect more items to switch from fossil fuel to electricity as their base energy unit. This will apply to everything from home heating to transportation. Electricity will become the primary lifeblood of tomorrow’s economies.

The cost of this Crown Estate’s proposed transmission line alone would be just shy of £5 billion by 2020. It would have a capacity to transmit up to 10 giga-watts, or about ¼ of the total UK electrical requirement down the East coast alone.
 This is only 1/6th of Scotland’s potential renewable output. 
Potential Inter-Connector Route - Destination London

The Crown Estate findings are largely concurrent and consistent with Ofgem’s workshop report of May 6th 2011, but not with Ofgem’s policies which heavily discriminate against peripheral generation of electricity. Ofgem provides significant subsidies to power producers in London and the South East; subsidies that are paid for by penalties imposed upon generators in Scotland and to a lesser extent Wales.

The first item of note is that Ofgem’s policy would require alteration if the lines are to become financially viable, a review is currently underway. Ofgem’s current discriminatory policies were largely implemented during the last period of UK Labour government.

There is also a proposed East-West interconnector from Ireland, through Wales to the South East. According to Deloitte this part of the project already has several hundred millions in investment funds committed.

The West coast offshore wind grid currently under consideration may easily be tied to the East-West interconnector. The West coast grid is primarily in Scottish territory.

The potential ring could eventually carry over 75% of the UK electrical requirements directly to a distribution point just outside London.

The only logical conclusion, supported by Ofgem’s data is that London is preparing the way for itself to become a major European power hub; a hub from which it will derive substantial revenues and royalties.

Essentially the UK government gives every appearance of positioning itself to tax Scottish and Irish resources while having something of a stranglehold over EU power supplies.

It would be an effective method of ensuring future influence. Energy does largely equate to power in many different ways. What we have seen in Scotland as a result of oil is largely insignificant when viewed alongside our renewables potential – and that will not run out.

The aspect that previously cast a shadow on the entire issue was the UK Governments lack of commitment to renewables. Recently Westminster was forced to backtrack on reductions in solar power subsidies, and currently other aspects of the renewables industry are waiting on Westminster to end their regulatory uncertainty so they can get either get to work, or go elsewhere.

To have one arm of government effectively walking away from renewables while the other is investigating new grid ties and transmission lines seemed at cross purposes. The voracious pit of energy demand that is the SE needs fed. Scottish renewables appear fit for supply purpose.

One certainty arising from these proposals is London expects energy generated in Scotland to be available for her use; the method of generation is largely irrelevant. Scotland needs less than 5 giga-watts, leaving up to 60 giga-watts of her abundant green energy for export.

However, the proposed transmission lines can hardly carry 20% of Scotland's potential green energy output; it would seem a classic case of under investment.

There was a meeting last week during which London and Paris reached agreement on future defense spending; this included a small section where London would become a co-op to French nuclear power technology, for implementation in the UK.

The message can only be interpreted in one logical way. Westminster can use the future transmission links to supply energy to the SE for sale on to Europe. That energy can just as easily be nuclear energy as it could be green energy. The current UK administration, as with past administrations in London shows a decided preference for nuclear. The nuclear lobby is potent indeed in Whitehall.

If Scotland should vote No in the independence referendum, it appears not unrealistically that she can expect imposed changes in the constitutional settlement to require new nuclear power plants to be built in Scottish territory. Anticipate green energy being put on the compost pile.

Then again, irrespective of how Scotland votes, it is Westminster’s intent to have a stranglehold over what will be one of Scotland’s main exports, energy. It will be no different than Ukraine’s ability to stop the Russian gas supplies from reaching Western Europe.

In other words, Westminster is readying itself to profit from Scotland’s resources whichever way Scotland votes.

It is appropriate for Edinburgh to be able to sell our surplus energy to London, or wherever else it may be both required and profitable. What is not required is a London stranglehold on Scotland’s ability to perform even after she votes “YES”.

If the proposed grids go ahead without any alternative to allow Scottish renewable energy production to be independently exported, London could literally hold the balance of power over not only Scotland but much of Western Europe.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

News International’s hold over Cameron.

What we have been waiting for has finally happened, Rupert Murdoch as a policy director of main stream media, has broken ranks and tweeted support for Scots independence.

The media mogul is currently facing difficult legal inquisitions into his affairs on both sides of the Atlantic. Under such circumstances a lessening of pressure from any area would be a welcome reprieve.

For a man like Rupert Murdoch it all comes down, historically, to applied or implied pressure. Applied pressure is what politicians fear from the media, it causes anything from mild consternation around Westminster’s water coolers through to resignations and even jail time.

Political leaders do not like applied pressure, from wherever source, that is why they so avidly court those with the ability to quickly spin a story into harmlessness or extend it to being a saber stroke through the heart.

Rupert Murdoch, his family and friends have been under extreme pressure from the UK government. He has lost a title, News of the World and its revenues. He has also lost a takeover, for now, and his media have been rabidly anti independence, until now.

The Sun carried the infamous noose picture on Election Day, 2007, and although supporting the SNP in 2011 it did so under the banner of it being the best option on the table while stating it firmly opposed independence.

What has changed is Westminster’s actions; it’s lifting the carpet on Fleet Street through the Leveson inquiry. There’s a feeling abroad that the investigation is still only grabbing one corner of the rug, and if it ever takes it outdoors into the sunshine for a good beating there’s no telling what might drop out.

The head of NI has now finally realised Westminster’s open goal that’s been staring him in the face for years, Scotland.

Rupert Murdoch knows that David Cameron will do anything short of sell his soul to keep the UK together, and even that hasn’t formally been taken from the table.

This media mogul knows that he personally holds the fate of the Union in his hands. He can ensure that Alex Salmond’s probable 2014 “YES” becomes a landslide of monumental proportions.

NI is well aware that all they need do is run a weekly set of stories that tell the true, unvarnished, un-spun facts and the un-decided will jump to the “Yes” camp, that many of the “No’s” will jump in large part to the un-decided. The rump-UK vote will be but a shadow.

Rupert Murdoch also knows that David Cameron is aware of this, and that once the Genie is out the bottle, there’s no putting it back.

The only question remaining from the UK PM’s viewpoint was would Murdoch’s enterprise actually use this most potent of weapons in its arsenal, this Scotland of ours.

That question was answered with a tweet from Murdoch himself, and reports in the Scotsman Newspaper and on the BBC, one praised First Minister Alex Salmond, and the other told Westminster to “Let Scotland go and compete. Everyone would win”.

There’s only one viable interpretation, it’s a message from Rupert Murdoch to David Cameron, “you’re attacking my family, you’re trying to destroy my family, and I care about my family. Stop, or watch the same being done to what you claim is yours, for I can, and I will see you go down in history as the last Prime Minister”.

These are tweets the media has ignored, even as they give voice to so many others that are comparatively irrelevant. None except NNS even thought it worthy of comment, this is almost unheard of. When someone as significant as Rupert Murdoch speaks out on any constitution it is often viewed as a “game changer”. Instead we get media silence, even from his own tabloids.

The stakes have been quietly raised, but the endgame has not yet started. These tweets can be viewed as a personal opinion; News International’s empire can still continue to support the UK juggernaut. Everything is now on the board and its Cameron’s move.

We will know the outcome of the game, even if the very existence of the game is denied. Leveson will be neutered, the NI empire will go on and no executive of significance to Rupert Murdoch will be impeached. None of significance in the NI world will get more than a knuckle rapping, quickly forgotten after much sensationalism to “show” the wheels of justice have turned.

Or we will see the NI media empire turn its focus fully on support for independence. This would have a secondary benefit for Murdoch’s organisation in that it should also see its sales increase. In this circumstance truth will win, Scotland will win.

The only question still needing answered before the game properly begins, will David Cameron blink, and will he capitulate before the action really starts.

Expect him to; in either scenario we will have our answer as events unfold.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Ultimate Trolls.

What is a Troll? In the classical sense it is the big bogie man from the frozen past of Norse mythology, a mythology we in Scotland also partly share thanks to the internationalist aspect of our mutual histories.

In more modern mythologies is the version of the troll as portrayed in the recent Harry Potter films and books. This took the thought process a step further. Who stuffed the metaphorical wand up the nose of our latest itineration of a Troll, the Unionist? Who, or what, has irritated it enough to make it venture forth?

The version of troll now being referred to is described by the urban dictionary as “One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark off such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks ... with no substance or relevance to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue”.

The origin of the word also can refer to a corruption of “Trawling” where a boat somewhat randomly fishes the ocean, hoping for a catch of anything productive and marketable in its nets, often directed to appropriate “grounds” either by knowledge or electronics. “Trolling the internet” has in some ways replaced random wanderings in cyberspace as a preference to “surfing”, although trolling has a decidedly more nefarious undertone to it.

On Sunday the 19th February 2012, there was a tweet at 12:16pm from one George Foulkes, Lord, currently resident at Westminster. The good laird tweeted “CyberNat myth that devolution was forced on the Labour Govt.by EU or Council of Europe (stories vary) is akin to Holocaust denial”.

The essence of the message was simple – Tony Blair, out of the goodness of his heart, despite being very opposed to devolution, just decided to let the Scots “go for it”.

Not required in the tweet was the flagrant and rather ubiquitous reference to the Holocaust – that was trolling for reaction.

Not required in the tweet was the phrase “CyberNat myth”, this is, again, trolling for reaction.

Lairdy Foulkes got his reaction on both counts as the “twittesphere” briefly lit in localized areas responding to this outrageous provocation.

The troll got his reaction, he was fed. Job done!

The troll aspect is additionally re-enforced as the tweet under discussion came about less than forty eight hours after a Newsnet Scotland article on the forces behind devolution. Coincidence? That is a possibility, but then again there is that old Scots double affirmative, “Aye, right!”

This is not the Labour Peer’s first foray into the realm of the internet and social media utelising inflammatory comments and oblique references to actual events. He’s also a frequent user of the coin “CyberNat”. In this turn of phrase he’s been ably aided and abetted by one Tom Harris MP, also a denizen of the halls of Westminster, and some would say erstwhile troll.

Lord Foulkes is in an envious position; he can stir the cauldron at Westminster with no fear of electoral consequences. He has his face firmly in the trough for life, getting more in a day’s allowance than he expects many others to live on for a month. We can’t kick him out. Nor can we get rid of Lord Forsyth even though in 1997 Scots gave the biggest ever electoral thumbs down to the man, he has now been “elevated” without a “by your leave” after we rejected him and also gets to sup at our expense.

Lords Foulkes and Forsyth are the chief Scots trolls in the House of Lords, although they do appear to have their hands full keeping just a nose further ahead than either Tankerness or Sutherland. In case any of the front runners start to slack in their trolling at the trough, Hamilton is pushing from up behind as he reminds us his ancestors were unjustly vilified simply because they found themselves bankrupt after Darien and chose to become a member of the group no known as the “Parcel ‘O Rogues”.

Trolling through legislation at Westminster is no different than trolling the internet. Acting as a Troll at Westminster, where like Hogwarts there are halls and bathrooms through which to prowl, is no different than entering chat rooms or social media sites when your primary result is to cause consternation, upset and strong reaction without a meaningful contribution to the debate.

This is just as obvious at Westminster as it is in cyberspace; the various amendments dragged to the legislative table after being dredged from Westminster’s trough by relevant snouts have no hope of becoming law. They will never be part of any finalized Scotland Bill, as the bill requires assent through both parliaments. That is a political reality.

These amendments, sham protests at vilification, infantile attention seeking and media grandstanding are therefore designed only to produce a reaction without adding to the matter surrounding the constitutional debate. What they achieve instead is muddying the waters and confusing the issues. That is troll work.

The allocation of the term “Cybernat” is one to be worn proudly; it is a badge of honour and pride. The “Cybernat” of which the lifelong benefits claimants of the Lords live in fear, actually represents the nemesis of those benefits.

The “Cybernat” disseminates and refutes the stories of trolling, of deceit, of obfuscation, of betrayal, and these “Lords” no matter their elevated station in life, no matter how rightly or wrongly they attained such station, no matter the fawners, the lobbyists or sycophants that swarm around them, they acknowledge every day they voice their opposition, that they are no match for the truths espoused by the Cybernat.

The Cybernat appears to be a Scots phenomenon, but they’re everywhere, they’re found in every corner of the world, they’re the expats and pats, they’re the average Scot who will no longer be lied to or deceived. At day’s end the Cybernat is a simple phenomenon, it is a representation of Scotland’s voice, muffled for centuries, at last having an avenue of expression.

London’s ignorance of the Cybernat is ignorance of Scotland. This lack of engagement with credible message is the same treatment Scotland has seen for three centuries. Ability to talk, to be open, to be honest and to engage; these are just some of the deficiencies that Westminster and her denizens exhibit when it comes to dealing with the Cybernat. These are the same issues that have made it necessary to gag Scotland since the inception of the Union.

Fundamentally, Scotland and the Cybernat are one and the same; they are proud, independent, loyal, caring and compassionate. When Westminster understands these qualities and puts them before avarice, dominion and gluttony, then its inhabitants will not just have a means to speak as equals to the Cybernat, they will have found a way to treat properly with Scotland herself.

There is an exception, Scotland and the rabid Cybernat are at distinct odds. Our vision of a future land of opportunity and equality has no room for such bigotry. In fact, it appears at such odds to the goal of independence one could be forgiven if caught wondering, do we have modern day Daniel Defoe's amongst us?

Until that time is upon us we should try to minimize the impact of this Troll breeding ground we seem to have disturbed, as if we had poked a hornet’s nest with a stick. The great echoing halls of Westminster seem to be such a den. The near incessant rumblings of Lords Foulkes, Forsyth and others give blunt testimony to this fact.

Today we can recognize this and stop feeding the trolls. In 2014, we can even remove the trough.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Union Jam on sale 2015 - at a supermarket near you!

David Cameron visited Alex Salmond in Edinburgh this week; pro-union national media trumpeted a softening of the rhetoric, heralded by a promise of more powers if Scotland votes down her natural right to self determination.

This is the “Jam Tomorrow” promise of Alex Douglas Home in 1979. Just Jam? Scotland even had the toast hidden from her for umpteen years and more by one Westminster administration after another since the discovery of North Sea Oil .

The first question this proposal for more powers sparks is “why should we believe you this time?” The answer, just as clearly and from David Cameron’s own mouth was, “You shouldn’t”.

There was no other interpretation because Cameron didn’t actually promise anything; he said “consider”. We might as well ask the local bank if they’d consider putting a few million extra in that Super Saver Account we all have. You know, just so it might actually resemble the name. The bank will also consider the deposit you’re asking for, most likely for about a nano-second before kicking you out the front door. The bank pondered your request and pondered it well.

Nothing tells us Cameron’s period of contemplation will be any longer, or deeper than the Bank’s. This is because nothing stops him putting his proposals forward now. Let us consider what flavour of jam is on offer, and then we can decide if we like the taste.

It’s not Jam Tomorrow; it’s not even a promise of Jam Tomorrow. It’s a promise of a consideration of a proposal of a little Jam Tomorrow - after we gift him sufficient ingredients, consisting of the keys to our nation, which will supply him enough to ensure we can all eat cake. But then we know where Scotland’s choice ingredients are destined, the same place they already go in large part, to London and the South East.

Let’s consider that David Cameron was to keep his word, turn his considerations over a while and solidify them into promises, and that the promises actually make their way through Westminster’s echoing halls and into the legislative books.

What flavour of Jam might we expect?

The sensible money would be on soor ploom, made somehow without sugar.

We will buy it and we will consume it even as it makes our jowls hollow and our eyes water, our bellies cramp as we head with haste for the commode. We’ll do this because we’ll have no other immediate option. We’ll do this because we will have voluntarily voted away our own recipe book.

It will taste so bad for we’ll be supping knowing it could have been so much better had we not been so insufferably obstinate, stupid and voluntarily blind to uncovering the arguments we will afterwards wish we had not turned a deaf ear to. Arguments that would have made us aware the YES vote was our only option.

We will get Extra Powers, which might become a reality, but it is semantics. We might get the power to set our own speed limits or regulate air-guns. These will be our Extra Powers. However, expect to lose control over University funding, over our NHS and over much of our budget. But we will still have Extra Powers.

Also expect Holyrood to be completely neutered in some peculiar fashion, and the media will spin this in an effort to make it acceptable to the international audience, while at the ballot box we will be rendered powerless to impact our future, our children’s future or our national destiny. Yet we will still have Extra Powers.

We can expect this because Westminster has had the fright to end all frights, and Westminster does not like frights. Those in power in London have demonstrated time and again they will react ruthlessly to anything that causes them fright. For a recent example, just look at the sentences against the rioters last summer. With the Olympics approaching riots gave Westminster a fright and Westminster struck back - hard.

We can expect our welfare system, our community values and national sense of compassion to be obliterated. Social programs stand to be decimated as each cut in England transfers to a respective cut in Scotland. This is allowing that even Barnett survives the reprisals to come.

Our soor ploom jam will be on the shelf at Tesco’s, and as we put it out to be scanned at the checkout we might find ourselves looking into our mothers’ eyes, eyes that can hardly remain open after her last bout of chemotherapy. Mother may not even be able to stand properly, or may be incontinent, but she’ll be on that checkout or lose her right to sustenance - unless we can prove she’ll really be dead in a few weeks. It won’t matter that these inhumane policies will be what kills her – she’ll be scanning our soor ploom jam.

Before you get to the checkout you might walk past your child stocking shelves. She’s got a degree, she worked hard for it, but now she’s forced to work for her benefits because Westminster policies which decimated four nations to protect a city, means there are no jobs. You might pass her in the aisle knowing that your spouse, the only one still working in your family, is paying her wages through their taxes, because Tesco aren’t. Tesco are just giving her the bus fare to get to work.

Part of the recipe for tomorrows soor ploom jam appears to be making certain that big business makes more money as we subsidise them through our benefits system. It is Westminster passing these inhumane laws; it is often the result of these businesses lobbying London.

The recipe also seems to include protections for the City, the bankers, bonus schemes and more light touch regulation. It also includes isolation in Europe, more wage freezes, austerity, lower living standards, higher fuel bills and the weakest in our society being targeted and vilified. This soor ploom jam which London’s offering has a recipe most sensible folk might want to steer clear of. 


In 2014 it appears there’s an alternative on offer, if we like Westminster’s soor ploom jam we can fire up the toaster. However, if we think our own recipe has even a chance of being a wee bit tastier we should dig through our ingredients and perhaps throw a few raspberries at London for its bigger jar.

Then, we will get busy making something fit for a real nation to enjoy.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

If you want Independence; plan to take a neighbour.

There was a rather interesting tweet from Humza Yousaf on the 31st of January, “presenter tells me Peter Robinson urging Ulster Scots get to Scotland for no vote” presumably referring to the lead person in Northern Ireland’s assembly instructing Northern Irish unionists to travel to Scotland and make sure they were eligible to cast a “No” vote in 2014.

This attempt to subvert democracy has a potential to call into question any possible outcome involving a vote against the Scottish government’s proposed question.

If the comment is factual, and we’ve no reason to believe it isn’t, why are the supporters of the Union giving Holyrood a cast iron reason to call down any failure to pass their primary motion; independence. What has unionists panicking at this very early stage and how is it that they appear to be already expecting to lose?

We understand that David Cameron basically threw in the towel last weekend with his “in or out” ultimatum; with the appetite for increased enfranchisement and democracy that’s self-evident in Scotland, the UK PM’s action has no other interpretation. This followed by the blatant slight of Alex Salmond by the BBC over an appearance before the Calcutta Cup, the Union is destroying its own cause.

Let us be very clear, “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country” is a question being asked by a sitting government of its electorate and it’s there because we asked for it. Democracy in action has been a rarity in this Scotland, and the taste is rather pleasing when a democratic deficit has been the norm.

Incidentally, another interesting point for those who argue semantics about Holyrood being a Scottish Executive is the wording of the 1997 poll “I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament”. A Scottish parliament is what was voted on by the electorate. It was the will of the people, it was democracy; anything else is confabulation.

The 1997 referendum also used the word “agree”, to find fault with that terminology now would be ludicrous. It is Westminster’s nit picking its own electoral commission’s approved phraseology, period.

The thoughts engendered by the tweet and Cameron’s actions required looking at the polls again, but looking at them in a different light. It’s been an interesting 2012 so far. Barely a month in and the polls for the independence referendum are showing a reasonable surge for the yes campaign.

It’s not the surge that’s so important, or the polls, but who will actually turn out and vote. Who will that 60% to 70% of the populace represent? For if they’re primarily independence supporters, Westminster’s position is justifiably in trouble.

This may be what lies behind Salmond’s confident smile.

Polling for independence around the time of last year’s Holyrood elections had support for a full restoration of Scotland’s rights in the low 30% area. From there it took a little spike after the election and has now settled into a slow upwards creep.

January 2012 saw the anticipated flurry of polls around the time of the announcement of the consultation document. While most show independence neck and neck with unionism, in some cases it is actually nudging slightly ahead for the first time in years.

Since the advent of approval for a parliament at Holyrood there has been a significant fluctuation in independence support, a Scotsman ICM poll on June 5th 1998 showed 52% in favour with only 41% against and 7% undecided. These heady heights were balanced by another poll, the Telegraph’s Yougov survey on March 1st 2010 showing support for Holyrood’s motion down to 27%.

The low support poll was a potential aberration, it was taken in the middle of a Westminster election and it was done by Yougov who have a distinct track record of inaccuracy in Scots polling numbers, so much so, that they’ve actually had to acknowledge their errors themselves.

Working on the fact that the low Yougov result in 2010 is a reasonably pessimistic estimate of the bottom end of hard core independence support and that hard core support will walk through Hades itself to cast a ballot, the Scottish government can conservatively expect some 25% of the electorate to endorse its motion for independence.

We know there are about 4 million voters in Scotland.

It’s reasonable to estimate using polling and prior referendum results, which about 25% or 1 million are hard core nationalists upon whom Scotland can count to actually vote for her march to restoration.

In 1997 we know that 74.3% believed there should be a Scottish parliament and that 63.5% of those who turned out thought it should have tax raising powers. Both are almost 10% above where many polls had the numbers. We also know that almost 26% didn’t like the idea of a Scottish parliament at all, let’s call these 26% the hard core unionists of 1997.

An interesting poll that’s not been done, perhaps because our mainstream media wouldn’t like the result, is one asking the 1997 referendum questions of those who have become eligible to vote since then. It would certainly help identify the hard core “no” vote.

It is a reasonable hypothesis based upon polling demographics, that if the same questions were to be posed today the relative numbers would be over 80/20. With many of our younger generation who have known nothing other than Holyrood shaping their lives not being able to conceive of life without a Scottish parliament. We may therefore have a hard core 20% no vote.

In 1997 there was a turnout approaching 2.4 million, it’s reasonable to postulate we’ll see the same again, perhaps a hundred thousand more with our population increase.

Based upon 1997 data, on a referendum taken before the SNP had fully begun embrace social media and wrap its arms around the most comprehensive voter demographic identification system in these islands, quite possibly anywhere, those favouring home rule still managed to swing a 3:1 victory.

3:1 is a quite incredible result in any democracy for any question.

2014 will see Scotland in a potentially simpler place for nationalist aspirations as the party holding the core tenet of Scotland’s restoration is now the democratically elected party of government. Couple this to Westminster’s knowledge that it lost heavily in 1997 under a several month old popular Labour administration that Scots had voted for in substantial numbers. Consider next that 2014 will see a vote taken after four years of Con-Dem austerity forced upon Scots by a party with a severe democratic deficit and the convergence of fault lines appears nearly complete for destruction of the Union cause.

Round off the argument with the knowledge that Holyrood and Westminster are now diametrically opposed governments with fundamentally different core values. The first is socially democratic and the latter is capitalistic, avaricious and appears determined to undermine the social structures of these islands.

The government of Scotland is still very much aware that 2014 will be a harder sell because now its autonomy and not devolution that is sought. None are presently proposing Westminster’s hard sell of a perceived UK safety blanket be maintained after any “yes” vote.

Conversely 2014 will also see an easier sell by the Scottish government due to the utter lack of any political mandate in Scotland by the present UK government and the four years plus of austerity. Between the two areas it’s reasonable to expect a near balance with what happened in 1997.

Holyrood has a right to be optimistic, and to project that optimism. Based upon historical trends the cause of Scotland restoring her rightful place in the world is a simple game of numbers. That numbers game was only helped by a recent poll which did something other’s had not. It asked if Scots, knowing that they’d be better off would then vote for independence.

The significance of this wasn’t what was portrayed by the media, that of mean spirited, penny pinching rapacious Scots. It was far more reasonable to view it as another type of question, one which asked “If you knew the financial scare stories were rubbish, would you vote for independence”. The “ayes” had it by almost 2:1.

2:1, oddly that’s about the same as 1997’s vote for tax raising powers. The same percentages still wish to reap our own harvest and ring our own till.

In the last year or so Westminster has finally been acknowledging that Scotland isn’t “too poor”, although that argument still gets regularly trotted out. By referendum time it should be well buried. It will take the full two years to deprogram many Scots and for some, sadly, a lifetime may not be enough.

If our elected government’s motion is to pass, it must have somewhere above 1.2 million Scots endorsing it. At a low estimate there are already 1 million plus who will literally crawl to the polls to give that affirmation. Even when allowing for a population rise since 1997 that puts the proposal only 250,000 votes shy of passing.

Working with these numbers it’s possible to acknowledge that the hard core unionists now account for some 20% of the vote, the vast majority of them will show up to the poll. Effectively this means there may be somewhere over 750,000 “no” votes are in Cameron’s swag bag.

These union focused minds can be considered closed to argument; they can also be taken as already having been identified by the “yes” campaign. It can be acknowledged resources are unlikely to be wasted trying to convert them.

This means there are some 2.2 million “open” votes. The Holyrood has only to get 12% of these to the poll as a “Yes” vote and it should see its motion passed. It will take work to achieve the desired result but careful consideration says it really must be Edinburgh’s referendum to lose, not Westminster’s referendum to win.

It’s important to realise that it is not 12% of the electorate which the Scottish government needs to convert from a “no”, just 12% that need to show up, most if not all who might be inclined to vote yes anyway. Expect double or triple number that to be duly identified and ferried to the poll if required.

Add to these numbers the typical demographic where the highest support for independence is found. These are the more moderate earners who typically don’t see the high pay/bonus culture union rewards that those with elevated incomes do. Consider also they are often not hard targets of the pollsters, and the real situation may be even more skewed towards supporting the Scottish government motion than it first appears.

Westminster’s present policies are also dramatically enlarging the demographic from which independence is drawing much of its support; no change is expected in that trend before the poll.

Nothing is certain, and even a week can be a long time in politics, but Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the incumbents at Holyrood certainly seem to have good reason for the optimism being evidenced.

Now, well now it’s our turn to support the government we elected in realizing one of its key policies. If only half of the individuals convinced of the benefits of their government’s motion converts or firms up just one additional vote, and if just half of them make it to the poll then Holyrood has every reason to be confident.

Take a neighbour.


Thursday, 2 February 2012

Politics of Fear

“I’m a feartie.

And I’m going to project that fear onto you, people of Scotland.”

This is Westminster’s foundation towards winning a referendum and binding a sovereign people.

Fear.

The Westminster fear is that there aren’t enough gullible Scots to bite; there never have been as the Home Rule petition with its 2 million signatures in 1952 showed and the “Yes” responses in the 1979 and 1997 referendums confirmed.

This is why fear is now palpable in Westminster, fear for its very existence, its authority and its standing in our world. Fear that it will become the global laughing stock which that babbling cauldron so richly deserves to be.

Fear is based either in ignorance or as a result of real danger, often mortal. Fear frequently causes acts of irrationality or real desperation. The fear emanating from Westminster since May 5th 2011 has been quite palpable – not acute point of causing paralysis, but well into the realm where we have observed several acts of desperation.

The latest of these acts was another attempt to disenfranchise the Scots yet again, an attempt by George Foulkes to “outlaw” a devo max question. All informed individuals are aware that as the debate about our nation’s future progresses the potential need for this question may well reduce to the point of irrelevance, but just in case it doesn’t that door of democracy shouldn’t be closed.

January’s affirmation of the claim of right in Holyrood certainly appears to have altered the dynamics of the devo max question. Within 48 hours of the declaration David Cameron took the option off the table. Cameron probably did this because he then knew that it was also now a vote for independence, although only fiscal independence. He also knew, and truly may have feared, that the Scots might wake up to the fact that devo max was no longer “his gift”, but Scotland’s right.

Westminster believes it will lose a devo max option. This creates fear of imminent demise, and that fear begets rash acts. The removal of devo max from the ballot was such a rash act, because David Cameron is gambling that he still has enough time to recover from this blatant disrespect and perhaps squeeze a “no” vote from the Scottish electorate. Confabulation, scaremongering and disinformation will be the Westminster stance for the next two years.

George Foulkes backing up Cameron was a rash act, engendered by the now very real fear of loss of a place at Westminster’s cash laden trough, cash laden because we’re forced to fill it.

In the final analysis the questions, manner, wording and number are now up to the Scots. We will decide. Cameron acknowledged this with his “in or out”; he didn’t say there couldn’t be extra questions, just that he wouldn’t agree to them. The difference in tone was noteworthy. The essence of the UK announcement was “without Scotland’s resources, we don’t want Scotland”.

If we as a nation choose to have a third question or a thirtieth on the ballot paper, we will put it there. We have affirmed again it is our sovereign right to act as we will. The only thing that should prevent Scots from placing a third option on the ballot is our own sovereign will, or lack of need. Fear should never enter the equation.

We have a right to require an amended Union. Westminster has a right to accept or terminate the Union. We have a right to set a timeframe for Westminster’s response.

The fundamental logic is as linear as it is simple.

In 1707 a treaty was created where two sovereign nations unified their parliaments. This was done by what was at the time recognized as the representative will of the respective peoples.

Article three of that treaty created a single parliament. It effectively robbed the Scots and the English of a sovereign parliamentary voice. That newly created parliament had no authority over the Union Treaty unless given leave to amend it in certain specific articles. In other specific articles it was banned from amendment options. Some sections were left open.

With the independent parliaments of Scotland and England suspended, or adjourned, the majority of the treaty could not be changed. This situation lasted for almost three centuries; it was why Westminster lived in fear of Scotland ever having a functional democratic voice, a parliament, because it would have control over the Treaty of Union where Westminster did not.

In 1997 there was a referendum in Scotland; almost 75% of Scots supported the question “I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament”. It was not an executive, it was a parliament, and it should have tax raising powers.

Westminster’s politicians and the Union machine went into overdrive to convince Scots again that they were too “wee, stupid and poor” to achieve this. The fear campaign failed. It took two years to bring forward a relatively toothless legislative body with a voting system designed to keep Westminster parties, the proponents of Union, firmly in charge.

Proportional voting, with three London based parties combining to split Scotland’s vote and prevent any parliamentary declaration of sovereignty seemed designed for Westminster success. This system would take a perfect storm of political mishaps to converge, simultaneously, for there to be any upset to Westminster’s status quo.

“Reserved powers” became an illusory reality. Westminster couldn’t stop the annulment of article three of the treaty of Union at the option of the Scots in 1997. Article three read simply “III. That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same parliament, to be stiled the parliament of Great Britain”.

The illusory reality aspect, we’re no longer under the Parliament of Great Britain, but a successor, that’s notable as it inherited the powers, however there’s now no longer one parliament, there’s two of significance to this issue. Westminster’s problem is that one has control over the Treaty of Union where the other doesn’t. The hard reality is that Holyrood as a Scots parliament has control over the aspects of the Union treaty which Westminster does not.

The second aspect to the illusion is that “reserved” only had meaning as long as Holyrood allowed it, as we’re now so ably demonstrating. In reality there is no reserved because Holyrood now controls the 1707 treaty. London knew this in 1997. It was the reason for the shenanigans whereby Westminster forced a voting system on Scotland that she herself would and will not accept.

Since 1999 and Winnie Ewing’s carefully chosen opening address we have had our destiny in our own hands. Since that date we have had control of the Treaty of Union again, with all the fear engendering aspects of reality this situation holds for Westminster.

Since May 5th 2011 we have had a government who might be willing to use these powers. That is why Alex Salmond rightly informed London that its days of diktat were over. He chose his words carefully and came from a position of knowledge and strength. Salmond was right to a point, because Westminster can still dictate if we go to a poll and give it the authority, but he’s effectively stopped it grabbing back power without a poll.

This means that because “reserved” is now a useless illusion Scots can impose a new reality. If we choose to place devo max, FFA or any other verbiage on the ballot, and it passes for implementation, then that is how we choose to amend the Treaty of Union.

It is no longer Westminster’s gift, it is Westminster’s choice to accept or reject Scotland’s terms.

Should Westminster reject the terms Scotland places before her, and she will if it is anything less than an incorporating monetary union where London keeps control of Scotland’s wealth, its independence anyway. In this case it is simply independence created by reaction rather than chosen by action.

Holyrood doesn’t, and can’t simply declare a unilateral position on the constitution; because that’s not the premise we elected our government on. We elected them to play by the rules as they exist until we have our say in a referendum as promised.

The affirmation of the Claim of Right puts that shackle as firmly around Holyrood as it does around Westminster. That affirmation puts everything back into the domain of the individual Scot, a domain it should never have been removed from in the first place.

In a basic sense, we’ve been marching towards a point since 1952 where anything except a “no” vote means the marriage is over. Devo max in any incarnation is an offer of a new marriage but with a “pre-nup” on Scotland’s terms. As these yet unspecified terms have already been summarily dismissed as unacceptable by Westminster, there will be no new marriage.

As we walk to that poll we should remember that the future is never certain, and that if our choices on the day are limited, we will understand those limits are engineered by Westminster’s fears.

We also know that we should not fear, because that will influence our decision. We should not fear because our adversary wishes us to. We should not fear from a position of ignorance or lack of knowledge. We should not fear because it will give another the opportunity to exploit us.

We should not fear, we should walk forward with knowledge, for in knowledge lies the certainty of the right decision, not the panic or haste of the wrong one.

As we walk to the poll in 2014, we will leave the fear behind; we will leave the fear in London.