Friday, 29 November 2013

Sturgeon's gran.

Soorploom Sturgeon said something interesting in last night's Question Time that, I think, illustrates nicely the intrinsic conflict between nationalism and socialism:
"My gran was from Sunderland, and that part of England, I'm sure doesn't like Tory governments any more than we do… well, my gran I think, would've if she was still here, would've probably argued that we should include them in the referendum. Anyway that's a different story. We are a nation and we have the opportunity next year to assert that and to be independent and to take our own decisions and that's what it's about. Y'know, I believe passionately in the social, cultural family union we have with the other parts of the UK but I want us to be politically and economically responsible and we only get that if we're independent."
So, let's get this straight... a senior politician who claims to espouse progressive socialist ideals is not interested in anybody else who shares those same ideals, if they're not part of her nation. Solidarity be damned! Clearly, nationalism comes before socialism (and even family!) in her world. Sharing social and cultural stuff with those outside her tribe is fine by her (she says), but she draws the line at politics. Rather ironic for a politician, don't you think?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Seen on a web forum today.

The idea that a decision that will potentially have repercussions for hundreds of years will be based on how browned off the people of Scotland are at the time with the current PM, or at the immediate political "promise" of being £500 a year better off (less than £10 a week) is profoundly depressing - and no doubt a perfect illustration of some of the worse aspects of human nature.
Couldn't have put it better myself.

Monday, 25 November 2013

A Natural State of Affairs?

As the much-heralded SNP manifesto Scottish Government White Paper is due to be launched amid much alarums and excursions tomorrow, Union Jock thought it's time he got back in the blogging saddle and limber up a bit...

So, how about this. According to one of the SNP's Scottish Government's propaganda tracts, independence is a natural state of affairs. But what's so natural, in this internet age of the global village, about carving up (once again) an island such as ours into separate nation states, when there isn't even the usual excuse of ethnicity or religion to justify it?

To me, it seems pretty unnatural to combine a mawkish fixation with a medieval kingdom that ceased to exist more than three centuries ago, with contemporary left-wing political sentiment - especially when the latter is shared by many outside the borders of said former kingdom.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Local decisions for local people?

"The Scottish Government believes that decisions affecting Scotland are best made here, by people with Scotland's vital interests at heart." - Introduction to the Scottish Government Draft Budget 2014-15.
There are a couple of problems with this often heard, yet facile, SNP warcry.

Firstly, quite a lot of decisions affecting Scotland are made here, and have been since 1999.

Secondly, this argument is rather susceptible to reductio ad absurdum. If the decisions affecting Scotland are best made in Scotland, then surely it also follows that the decisions affecting your town are best made in your town, the decisions affecting your neighbourhood are best made in your neighbourhood, the decisions affecting your street are best made in your street, and the decisions affecting your house are best made in your house? Why do we draw the line at a border created by long-dead medieval kings? Apart from the fact that the argument is being made by a political party who intrinsically and explicitly attach themselves to that border?

For instance, shouldn't the decisions affecting Glasgow be made there, and not in that parliament in Edinburgh? After all, Greater Glasgow has a population about the same as that of Estonia, and nobody would say Estonia is not a viable independent country, would they?

Of course, the reality is that there is a balance to be struck between letting everyone get their own way, and collectivism. In return for sharing some aspects of government with the other inhabitants of these islands, we get the manifold benefits of being part of the third biggest country in Europe, a member of the G8, the top-rated country in the world for soft power, and a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Who is Alex Orr?

Regular readers of the letters pages of the Scotsman, Herald, Edinburgh Evening News or Courier (among others) may be familiar with the frequent and numerous pro-separatist missives written by a Mr Alex Orr of Edinburgh. But who is this Mr Orr?

Is he perhaps just an ordinary man-on-the-Bruntsfield-omnibus, writing in a purely personal capacity, who just happens to be a rabid nationalist with too much free time on his hands?

On the other hand, could he be the same Alex Orr who...
  • Is the Managing Director of an Edinburgh-based PR company
  • Ran the media campaign for Scotland Forward in the 1997 devolution referendum
  • Subsequently joined the SNP in 1998
  • Stood as an SNP candidate for Edinburgh Council in 1999, and for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011
  • Was a member of the SNP's National Executive Committee in 2011?

But of course, you won't see any of that mentioned on those letters pages!

It has to be said, I'm not the first to point this out. But I think it's worth repeating, especially in light of recent events...

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The EU referendum: a no-win situation for Salmond.

Wee Eck's speech in Hawick this week had the theme of the EU, and of course mention was made of the UK "sleepwalking out of the EU" following David Cameron's proposed referendum in 2017. But what if Salmond's scaremongering actually came to pass? If the UK left the EU, where would that leave a newly-separate Scotland in the process of joining the EU? Surely that would throw a sizeable spanner in the works of separation?

One European think-tank head certainly thinks it would at least scupper a Sterling monetary union; in his words “It is difficult to envisage such an arrangement, as a clash between two sets of rules could occur, creating legal uncertainty.”

So, to summarise... if the UK stays in the EU, then there is no need for separation for Scotland to also stay part of it; but if it doesn't, then the very feasibility of separation is called into question.

Friday, 19 April 2013

More defence disingenuity.

This week's Sunday Politics Scotland included an interesting interview with Franklin Miller (around 41 mins into the programme), a former special assistant to Dubya Bush, senior director of the US National Security Council, 20-year veteran of the US Department of Defence, and a member of the NATO nuclear policy committee, in which he poured scorn on the SNP's schizophrenic attitude to NATO ("totally inconsistent" and "illogical").

Of course, the SNP's Field Marshal Robertson was given the chance to respond to Mr Miller. His opening gambit was to cite Norway and Denmark as non-nuclear NATO members. But the only strategic nuclear weapon facilities those countries ever hosted was a US Air Force base in Greenland (established with the tacit approval of the Danes) which was wound down in the 1960s due to US defence policy changes. Quite frankly, there is no precedent within NATO for the eviction of strategic nuclear forces against the will of their owner.

Regardless, he went on to mention US tactical nuclear weapons being withdrawn from Canada and Greece. Perhaps Mr Robertson is unaware of the not-so-subtle difference between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. Tactical ones are intended for use in battlefield scenarios and do not form part of a nuclear deterrent. They also tend to be smaller and more portable than strategic ones. In Canada's case, most of these were actually located with Canadian forces in West Germany, and the last Canadian nuclear weapons weren't withdrawn until the aircraft that carried them had become obsolete. None of these weapons required facilities on the scale of HMNB Clyde - facilities for which there is no viable alternative, either now, or in the near future.

This fact he then implicitly acknowledged by then suggesting that a separate Scotland would "play its part" in NATO's pledge to work towards nuclear disarmament. But NATO's disarmament strategy is explicitly multilateral; in its own words, "as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance". How would forcing the UK to disarm unilaterally play a part in that, Angus?

In passing he also remarks that "no other country of five million has nuclear weapons". This is true. But who said anything about the UK passing ownership of its nuclear deterrent to a separate Scottish state? That would never be on the cards, for obvious reasons, not least of which is that it would contravene the Non-Proliferation Treaty. What exactly was his point there then?

A shame, then, that Mr Robertson and Mr Franklin weren't given the opportunity to debate directly. I think the results would have been most entertaining.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Separation anxiety.

So Pete Wishart today told us that the word "separate" (adj., being or standing apart; distant or dispersed; existing or maintained independently) is, as far he is concerned, "silly" and "pejorative". I know the SNP tend to be a touchy lot, but this is just ridiculous. Perhaps someone from the SNP would like to clarify which words they deem to be sufficiently politically correct to describe a hypothetical independent Scotland. Here's a few to consider:

  • abstracted
  • apart
  • apportioned
  • asunder
  • cut apart
  • cut in two
  • detached
  • disassociated
  • discrete
  • disembodied
  • disjointed
  • distant
  • distributed
  • disunited
  • divergent
  • divided
  • divorced
  • far between
  • free
  • in halves
  • independent
  • isolated
  • loose
  • marked
  • parted
  • partitioned
  • put asunder
  • removed
  • scattered
  • set apart
  • set asunder
  • severed
  • sovereign
  • sundered
  • unattached
  • unconnected

I'm guessing "free" and "sovereign" might be okay by them; "divorced, "set asunder" or "severed", probably less so.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Timetable for a ghost train

The SNPland Government published another thinly-disguised propaganda tract today, grandly entitled Scotland’s Future: from the Referendum to Independence and a Written Constitution. Following their current strategy of implying that separation is a forgone conclusion, it consists of two sections, one extolling the virtues of an independent country with a written constitution, the other, a risible attempt to justify their March 2016 deadline for a declaration of independence.

In the first section it's asserted that an independent Scottish Government will be better able to sustain a stable economy ... and ensure that all of the people of Scotland have the chance to reach their full potential. So a small country of five million would be better at sustaining a stable economy than one of 63 million? And how exactly would turning the rest of the UK into a foreign country enable Scots to reach their full potential?

Independence is the natural state of affairs for countries across the world. An odd assertion, even for the nationalists. Surely to be independent, you need something to be independent from first?

Another good one: Many countries around the world place constitutional controls on the use of military power. That'll be the ones that had their constitution imposed on them after losing a war. You know, like Germany or Japan...

Moving on to the second half of this magnum opus, we have an interesting factoid presented to us: Of new states which have become UN members since 1945, 30 became independent following a referendum on independent statehood with the average length of time between the referendum and independence day being approximately 15 months.

As the BBC have helpfully reported, those 30 countries are largely third-world former colonies, places like the Central African Republic, Niger, Chad, Upper Volta, Tuvalu, Kiribati and South Sudan. So that's the kind of countries the SNP are going to model their independent state on. Somehow I doubt their independence process involved dealing with quite the same amount of infrastructure and bureaucracy as the formation of a new European state in the 21st century would.

In addition to discussions with the UK, negotiations will be required in advance of independence with the European Union to agree the terms of an independent Scotland’s continuing membership. They may be required in advance if an independent Scotland isn't to spend several years outside of the EU, but will the EU agree to negotiate with a government that does not yet represent an independent state? I'm not sure Mr Barosso would affirm that assertion.

The second half of the paper talks a lot about a "constitutional platform" and the need to have one in place before the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. This appears to be an attempt to bundle various legal matters not currently devolved in Scotland into a nice neat package - a country to go, ready to hit the ground running in March 2016. If only it were that simple. There's no mention of defence and national security, foreign relations, regulatory bodies, provision of social security, or scientific research funding, to name but a few. Obviously all that tedious bureaucracy will take only a matter of months to have sorted out. But there will at least be a Scottish Treasury, even if there will be no central bank or lender of last resort.

And, naturally, there's no mention at all of how much this "platform" is going to cost and how many civil servants will be needed to work on it.

Of course, the real reason for the self-imposed March 2016 deadline is to prevent the Scottish Parliament elections in that year becoming a second independence referendum and a last-minute chance to stop the juggernaut. Clearly, the nationalists would want things to be well beyond the point of no return before then.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Your Scotland, Not Your Referendum.

So, King Eck's Prime Minister has taken it upon herself to inform European foreign ministers that SNPland would like to distance itself from those nasty English Tory Europhobes. Apart from the sheer chutzpah of it, yet again the nationalists are showing their true colours by extolling the virtues of one union, while ignoring the same virtues in the other.
Following Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on Wednesday I would like to make the position of the Scottish Government clear as regards the European Union and Scotland’s place in it.
As you know, a referendum will be held in Scotland in the latter part of 2014 on the question of independence for Scotland.  The Edinburgh Agreement signed by the First Minister and the Prime Minister on 15 October last year sets out an agreed path towards that referendum which will be adhered to by both the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments.  That agreement is important in the European context as it provides reassurance to Member States that the outcome of the referendum will be respected by both sides and that in the event of a vote in favour of independence the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments will work together constructively to implement the democratic will of the Scottish people.
Actually, your so-called "Edinburgh Agreement" (no, not that one) says that the two governments are committed to continue to work together constructively in the light of the outcome, whatever it is, in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom. Perhaps La Sturgeon needs reminding that the Scottish Government also promised to work constructively after the democratic will of the Scottish people has rejected independence?
Like all other nations in the EU, Scotland benefits greatly from the peace and security provided by membership. Our citizens enjoy freedom of movement and the right to work and study in other Member States. The ability to trade within a single market of 500 million citizens is a central aspect of our strategy to stimulate growth by increasing international trade.  The European Union continues to be Scotland’s top overseas export destination, our exports to the EU are up by around 15 per cent to over £11 billion according to figures released this week.
And of course, Scotland also benefits from the peace and security provided by its membership of the UK.  Our citizens have even more freedoms and rights in the other countries of the UK.  And the rest of the UK is Scotland's top export destination, full stop. In fact, more than twice as much as the rest of the world put together.
However we understand that those reform ambitions can only be achieved through dialogue with Member States from within the EU.  That is why we do not support the holding of an in/out referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership.  We have no intention of leaving the European Union.  On the contrary we will seek to be a constructive member of the Union working with other Member States to maximise the benefits we have enjoyed as members for over 40 years.
Is Cameron not trying to reform the EU through dialogue with Member States from within the EU before having his referendum? Would we enjoy the same benefits as the 20th largest and newest EU Member State as we have done as the third largest and one of the oldest? And how about seeking to be a constructive member of that other Union, working with other member countries to maximise the benefits we have enjoyed as members for over 300 years?
I sincerely hope that if the Prime Minister comes to hold an in/out referendum, by that time Scotland will be an independent Member State and will be playing its part as a valued and active partner within European Union.
"The people who live in Scotland are the best people to make decisions about Scotland's future." That's what the Scottish Government said in Your Scotland, Your Referendum.  But obviously Scotland's future in the EU is a matter reserved to party ideology, so we won't be needing a referendum on that.