Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The new McGlashans

When reading the fulminations of cybernats, Union Jock can't help but be reminded of McGlashan, from the brilliant early 90s Channel 4 sketch show Absolutely (incidentally, a Scottish/English/Welsh collaboration). Twenty years ago, McGlashan was an absurd caricature of a rabidly Anglophobic Scottish nationalist. Do today's cybernats think they'll be taken any more seriously?

Monday, 26 March 2012

On Schengen

Now Theresa May isn't someone that Union Jock usually takes too seriously. But yesterday, she might have had a point when she raised the spectre of a closed Scotland-England border. The Schengen Agreement is now part of the EU acquis, and hence can be considered a prior condition of entry for new applicant states, as is joining the ERM II as a precursor to entering the Eurozone (but that's a matter for another post). Of course, the SNP's presumption is that a separate Scotland would be treated as one of two successor states to the current UK, but, frankly, these are uncharted waters and no-one can say what settlement would be reached with the EU, until and unless Wee Eck and his friends actually attempt to negotiate them.

So what if the EU did demand Schengen membership of the new state? In that case, a UK government that took immigration and border control seriously would be compelled to close the border and install checkpoints, otherwise its opt-out from Schengen would have been in vain. This would obviously throw a seriously big spanner in the works of independence.

The SNP's retort to this is typically facile. According to Pete Wishart, "The reality is that an independent Scotland will be part of the common travel area which already exists within and between the UK and Ireland". Well, actually, the reality is that the Common Travel Area Arrangement is a bilateral agreement that exists between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. I very much doubt it mentions Scotland at all. What would happen in the event of Scottish separation, both in relation to the UK and the EU, is pure conjecture, not reality.  Ireland's opt-out from Schengen was specifically granted in order to preserve the Common Travel Area, and is conditional on it remaining in place - would the EU let it happen again?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

On SNP scaremongering

Yes, you read that right - SNP scaremongering, not unionist scaremongering, for a change. As I have discussed before, the fundamental problem with Scottish nationalism is that there aren't any of the usual motivations that drive secessionist movements. Scotland just doesn't have the distinct ethnic identity of, say, the Basque country, or the distinct cultural and linguistic identity of Catalonia, or the distinct religious identity of the Irish Free State (as was). Without these things, you don't have real nationalism; you just have politics.

The rhetoric from the SNP of late tacitly acknowledges this. And this is why they have resorted to creating the absurd bogeyman of the Tory Thousand-Year Reich in order to justify themselves. At their conference last week, Salmond's oft-quoted soundbite was "Home Rule with independence beats Tory rule from Westminster". Today, Kenneth Gibson parroted the same line: "When the people of Scotland are given the choice in 2014 between home rule with independence or Tory rule from Westminster, I am confident they will trust themselves and vote Yes for independence." What about Labour rule from Westminster? Is that a negligible possibility, now and forever? I seem to remember, not so long ago, we actually had a Labour government at Westminster - with Scotsmen at both No. 10 and No. 11 Downing Street and at the Ministries of Defence and International Development, to boot! Not bad for the UK's "surly lodger". But the SNP must cast the UK as a perpetual Tory single-party state, as their only remotely tenable argument is that Scotland is just too socialist to ever be politically reconcilable with the rest of the UK.

But that's just politics, not nationalism. Politics is an ever-changing landscape - let's not forget that the 1955 general election was a landslide victory for the Conservative-aligned Scottish Unionist Party. And the fact that a Conservative currently has a five-year lease on a house in Downing Street is not a good enough reason to rip up a 300-year-old constitution.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

More Nonsense from Nicola

The Wicked Witch of the West has finally been cornered on the often-asked question of what would have happened to RBS in 2008 if Scotland had been independent.  She admits that the UK would still have ended up bailing it out because "90% of its activity is in England" but that Scotland would have "paid its way". Hmm, exactly how far would that way go, with a GDP somewhat less than that of, say, Portugal? (and yes, that does include the notional oil & gas revenues that the SNP always like to include). I think another way of putting that would be Scotland having to go cap in hand to Westminster - another illustration of how independence really means dependence.

And I'm not sure where she got that "90%" from - in the latest annual report, 38% of RBS's income was outside of the UK, with the US accounting for 20%.

She points to the similar case of Fortis, where, she claims, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg "came together to save the Fortis Bank". Actually, no, Nicola, what really happened was that they came together to carve up the rotting carcass between them. The Dutch portion is now part of the new ABN Amro; the Belgian chunk is now part of BNP Paribas. So, presumably, what she really means is that the UK would have bailed out and assumed control of 90% of RBS, which would then be UK property and no longer contribute to the Scottish GDP. More likely, the UK, US, Ireland and the Netherlands (and possibly others) would each have been obliged to take control various parts of the defunct bank, just like Fortis. Either way, what would the People's Republic of Scotia have been left with? Not a lot - a parochial little retail bank, much like RBS was in the 70s, in fact.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Not a clue, pt.3.

Further evidence that the SNP are out of their depth when it comes to defence matters: now the word on the street is that the SNP high command are thinking that NATO membership might be a good thing after all. In a poll of SNP members, the subject of NATO membership was fairly evenly split, with 52.7% in favour, so this is obviously a great source of controversy within the party. Remembering Salmond's outburst thirteen years ago, when he notoriously accused NATO of committing "an act of dubious legality, but above all one of unpardonable folly", I'm guessing there may be some entrenched positions here.

Apparently the SNP's delusions of Scotland as a Scandinavian country have led to comparisons with the military of Norway and Denmark, both, of course, NATO members. However, let's not forget that NATO membership brings certain obligations. NATO members are expected to spend at least 2% of GDP on their military. In 2009, Denmark spent $4.3bn on defence, and Norway $6.2bn. Norway and Denmark, being, like Scotland, rather small countries, both have conscription-based armed forces. Are the SNP going to tell that to the 16 and 17-year-olds they want to vote in the referendum? And of course, NATO has been instrumental in some of those "unjust wars" that Salmond keeps promising a separate Scotland would have nothing to do with.

And how exactly would the SNP's proposed nuclear-free zone sit with NATO membership? Would a separate Scotland have to retain HMNB Clyde as the price for defence co-operation with the UK?

Looks like at least some of Salmond's promises might prove to be somewhat empty, if he was ever called on to keep them.