Sunday, 14 September 2014

A view from the East

Another guest blog... this time from our Hong Kong correspondent:

I'm going to pitch in on the referendum.....watching it unfold from afar is proving to be a pretty difficult and frustrating affair, and  Alex Salmond may well have taken my right to vote, he will never take my voice!

I don't believe in Scottish independence, nor do I want it. But I have read and listened to as much as I can on both sides and everything I have read and heard points to it being a massive risk and damaging to the most important things in day to day life: the economy, jobs, the quality of our national security are only three examples. The SNP calls this scaremongering (I do wish Salmond would dip into the dictionary and widen his vocabulary - Chambers was first published by an Edinburgh based publishing house for his likely issues with the Oxford one). I don't think that's fair, often it's been a case of pointing to the reality of arguments tending to be overloaded with emotion and hyperbole. The No campaign has naturally been pulled into the more defensive position of playing devil's advocate but that doesn't mean there isn't passion within us for a strong and successful Scotland.

The issues aside, for me it comes down simply to the fact that I am proud to be Scottish, to be British and a part of the United Kingdom. As pieces of music, Flower Of Scotland and I Vow To Thee, My Country are, personally, equally rousing, equally moving. Unlike many around the world who awake every day to conflict and trouble, I am fortunate to have never had to worry about the consequences of the fabric of my country changing. In the face of this uncertainty, I can't help feeling that there is strength in unity and that this whole debate has been foisted upon many of us as a result of a completely uninspiring set of MSPs in the Scottish parliament - turn out at the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election was just 50.6%. I can only hope that sense prevails among those with a vote next Thursday and the legacy we awake to on Friday morning is one of greater engagement and better representation in Scottish politics, rather than a tattered union.

If like me you are worried about the reality of the latter prospect, then I would recommend reading this article by Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian politician who reflects on the Quebec referendum.

"This is the moral sin of separatism. Separatist politicians, desiring to be presidents or prime ministers of little countries, force their fellow citizens to make choices that they should not have to make between identities that they have combined, each in their own unique way, and now watch being ripped apart – one portion of themselves flung on one side of a border, a damaged remnant on the other. If Scotland does secede, there will be many torn souls the day after."

A day of reckoning?

A guest blog today from one of Union Jock's fellow campaigners:

Listening to the extreme language from Jim Sillars, about a 'day of reckoning' for certain companies after a yes vote on the 18th, is a reminder of the famous words from pastor Martin Niemoller in Germany. Must they be updated? "First they came for the banks and I did not speak out, because I was not a bank. Then they came for the executives of the supermarkets and oil companies and I did not speak out, because I was not an executive of a supermarket or oil company. Then they came for those who had spoken at public meetings in support of the United Kingdom and I did not speak out, because I had not spoken at public meetings in support of the United Kingdom. Them they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me". Let us all hope there is no day of reckoning.

One of the achievements of the Scottish economy in recent years has been to encourage investment from overseas partners in key sectors of our economy. How can we possibly encourage such investment when a senior SNP leader, Jim Sillars, uses such intemperate language about 'a day of reckoning' for those companies which have warned about the dangers for the Scottish economy of a Yes vote. A shiver ran down my spine as I read his words “What kind of people do these companies think we are? They will find out". How business unfriendly that is! Imagine how a senior businessman in a foreign country will think of Scotland after this episode, words which will lie on the internet for years to come. If you are undecided, please vote No, for the safety of so many Scottish jobs.

Referendum Trumps No.8: Robin Harper, former Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party

Referendum Trumps No.7: an unnamed senior executive in the Scottish financial sector

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Referendum Trumps No.1: Barack Obama

Introducing the first card of the Referendum Trumps pack. Collect the set!

Monday, 28 April 2014

A separatist disinfographic dissected.

This little (dis)infographic seems to have been doing the rounds lately. 

Hardly a shining example of separatist propaganda though. Let's have a look at those bullet points...

1) Erm... London isn't 600 miles away from Edinburgh, and of course, since 1999, we have been represented by parliaments in both those cities.

2) I may or may not get the government I vote for. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't. That's democracy. Countries don't vote, people do.

3) And you'll get more than your fair share back thanks to the Barnett formula.

4) If the fact that Faslane is 30 miles from Glasgow ever became a serious problem, then it wouldn't really make much difference if it was 30 or 300 miles.

5) Health and education are devolved and have always been devolved.

6) Many other countries got "dragged into" Iraq and Afghanistan. Even Ireland.

7) Austerity is a temporary measure. Many other countries, even the "arc of prosperity", have had to do the same, if not worse, since 2008.

8) If RBS had been based in an independent Scotland in 2008, the economy would have been brought well past the point of collapse.

9) Ah, you seem to be confusing England with the 2010-2015 UK government here. Believe it or not, David Cameron hasn't always been PM, and he won't always be PM either.

Really, nats... must try harder!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

George Orwell was bang on the money.

George Orwell, perfectly (and prophetically) describing 21st century Scottish nationalists back in 1945:
"A nationalist is one who thinks solely, or mainly, in terms of competitive prestige. He may be a positive or a negative nationalist – that is, he may use his mental energy either in boosting or in denigrating – but at any rate his thoughts always turn on victories, defeats, triumphs and humiliations ... But finally, it is important not to confuse nationalism with mere worship of success. The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also – since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself – unshakeably certain of being in the right."

Saturday, 1 February 2014

On some wee things.

Yes Scotland (or maybe the SNP masquerading as Yes Scotland again, for all I know) recently issued this minor propaganda artifact after something Johann Lamont said.

So let's just have a look at these "wee things"...

Removing weapons of mass destruction

Would that be removing to somewhere else, or removing altogether, ie. forced unilateral disarmament? In the former case, the only big difference that would make would be to the UK's defence budget. In the latter, forcing the UK to abandon its nuclear deterrent would hardly do much to ingratiate ourselves to our newly-estranged neighbours, would it? Especially when the new state of Scotland would be dependent on much goodwill from the continuing UK for many things.  It could also be argued that unilateral disarmament would be squandering the potential to contribute to future global multilateral disarmament initiatives.

Abolishing bedroom tax

Something the Scottish Government could effectively do now, if the current incumbents' monomania with separation wasn't taking priority.

Transformational increase in childcare

Again, something that could be done now, if only there was the political will.

Increasing minimum wage

I think you'll find Evil Etonian Tory Toff Lord Dave Snooty thinks that's a great idea too.

Staying out of illegal wars

Whether you consider the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan illegal, dozens of countries all over the world got involved, including Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and even Ireland (in it's own small way). Why would a hypothetical separate Scotland (and a NATO member to boot, if you're gullible to believe the SNP's current position on that) be any different?

They might not be "wee things", but where's the "big difference"?

Friday, 31 January 2014

Who are Business for Scotland?

One of the more vocal anti-UK groups recently has been Business for Scotland. Perhaps more accurately called Bullshitting for Scotland, they have been quite prolific in their output of specious and disingenuous arguments and general statistics abuse. Their chief exec, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp, is becoming a familiar name in the debate, but who are the rest? At least some of them are brave (or foolish) enough to have their names publicly associated with BfS in the "Member Profiles" section of their website, so I thought it might be interesting to put together a handy summary of these separatists and their businesses.

Name Company Business Location BfS Director
Adam Davidson BoConcept Furniture retail Glasgow
Alex Grant (retired) Air travel Edinburgh
Andrew Richardson TaxAssist Accountants Elgin Accountancy Elgin
Andy Lamb ECCS Group Construction services Armadale
Andy Lythgoe Lythgoe Property Consultancy Property Glasgow
Ben Rogers GFI Software IT Edinburgh
Bruce Alexander Xeroshield Insect control Midlothian
Catherine McLean (freelance) Management consultancy Edinburgh
Chris Chirnside 6 Degrees Networking Business events Edinburgh
David Dwyer Inspire Web Development IT Perth
David Morrison Broxburn Properties Property Dundee
Donald Maclean Business Cost Consultants Management consultancy Glasgow
Doug Norris Datec Technologies Electronics recycling Kilmarnock
Ekaterina Zelenkova Glasgow Translate Translation Glasgow
Eunice Olumide Enigmatic Production & Promotion PR Glasgow
Gary Sutherland EmployEasily HR Services and Glasgow Business Hub Business services Glasgow
Gerry Wallace GEM Lift Services Elevator services Glasgow
Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp Intelligise Digital marketing Glasgow *
Helen MacDonough Kennedy + Co Hairdressing Glasgow
Iain Taylor e-corporate Legal services Aberfeldy
Ian McDougall McDougall Johnstone Accountancy Glasgow *
Ivan McKee Greenfold Partners Management consultancy Leigh, Lancs *
Jamie Rae Jamie Rae Associates Management consultancy Falkirk
Jim Osborne (retired) Insurance

John Cooke Mobile Operators Association Telecoms Aberdeen
Ken Cairnduff Cairnduff Developments Property Glasgow
Ken McNeil McNeil Stevens Financial Planning Financial services Glasgow
Les Meikle Wise Property Care Property services Glasgow *
Malcolm Wadia PlySim Software Edinburgh
Mark Lister Lister McDonald Management consultancy Edinburgh
Martin Jack Think Different Events Event management Glasgow
Michelle Roger Tartan Cat and Bloom VC PR and crowdfunding Glasgow
Michelle Thomson Your Property Shop Property Stirling *
Paul Fletcher Enabling Innovation Partners Management consultancy Glasgow
Peter Syme Splash White Water Rafting and Perthshire Paintball Leisure Aberfeldy
Philip Stewart Kangaroo Print and Advertising Printing Dundee
Rachel Homes Napier University Academic Edinburgh
Ricky Nicol Commsworld Telecoms Edinburgh
Sarah Jane Walls The Residence Glasgow and Transdynamic Leisure Glasgow
Sheila McLean (freelance) Project management Glasgow
Susan Robertson Write Word International PR Glasgow
Willie Wilson Thistle Pharmacies Pharmacy Glasgow

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Certainly the preponderance of Weegies shows BfS to be a very Glasgow-centric organisation. Not many could really claim to be "captains of industry". There are also more than a smattering of PR agents and those who could be termed "management consultants" (definition: someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time, and then keeps your watch), people who are presumably quite adept at slick patter and "talking the talk". These, of course, are exactly the people you would want in a political pressure group, regardless of what variety of axe you have to grind.

Oh, and the eagle-eyed among you will notice that Ken Cairnduff is still listed as a member. Even after announcing he had become an undecided voter last September. How odd.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

SNP and Nato: the view from 2002.

Stumbled upon this letter to the Herald from 2002 today. Responding to an article speculating about the possibility of "an accommodation on Nato membership" following John Swinney's election as leader of the SNP, the convener of the Brussels branch of the SNP wrote:
For many of us in the SNP there are no grounds for accommodation with an organisation that continues to espouse nuclear weapons and in particular a first-strike option. To suggest that a country can be a ''non-nuclear member'' of an organisation based on nuclear deterrence is hypocritical and morally indefensible. [...] For a party that campaigned tirelessly for the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland to sign up to the ultimate nuclear club will be a betrayal of ideals. [...] I believe a majority of party members understand that a principled stand against nuclear weapons and nuclear power cannot be squared with Nato membership. The SNP has nothing to gain electorally from being accommodating on Nato and much to lose in terms of the principles on which the party has been built.
What a difference a decade makes, eh?

Saturday, 4 January 2014

"Who wins the economic argument will win the referendum"

So the FT have asked a varied panel of economic experts about their predictions for 2014. One of their questions to the panel was
How would a yes vote for independence affect the Scottish economy and the rest of the UK in 2014?
Here's some of their responses...

My suspicion is that for Scotland to have to maintain its own fiscal and monetary institutions would be very onerous; it is also possible that Scotland would see some of its finance industry migrate south of the border. I would also be concerned that independence could cause skilled labour to leave the country. - Richard Jeffrey, Cazenove.

There would be great concern that a notably stable group in the UK had taken leave of its senses. Such a vote would leave the UK on the edge of a new spiral of falling confidence. [...] The Yes vote would be a disaster for the UK as a whole not just for Scotland.  - Prof. Nick Bosanquet, Imperial College.

It is going to make a lot of foreign companies think twice about investing in the UK and competitor economies in Europe are not going to be slow in pointing this out to potential investors. - James Knightley, ING.

Higher taxes on income would push many wealthy individuals and some companies they work for south of the border, harming Scotland’s economy. More interventionist policies also appear likely and this could easily stifle the creative capitalistic tendencies that ultimately drive growth. - Philip Rush, Nomura.

It is difficult to see how an independent Scotland bound by the Bank of England would work. Not only would the end of the Union damage the valuable economic and social integration across the nations involved with untold consequences, but the raft of economically incoherent policies being proposed by Alex Salmond would be disastrous for Scotland specifically. - Ruth Porter, Policy Exchange.

Oil revenues are likely to fall over time and someone will have to bear the costs of decommissioning, so it is not the one-way bet which Mr Salmond is telling the Scots. A fiscally independent Scotland will – at least initially – be dependent on monetary policy set in London suggesting no guarantee of monetary and fiscal co-ordination. - Peter Dixon, Commerzbank.

It would reduce the rate of growth of Scottish GDP due to lower capital investment and increase the share of Scottish GDP spent by its government on welfare and administration. It would give Scotland an even more unsuitable monetary policy than at present as monetary policy would be set for UK which would have a higher rate of inflation than at present due to the removal of lower Scottish inflation from the present UK average figure. It may also result in higher migration to UK. - Prof. Mike Wickens, York University.

I think it would substantially disrupt the Scottish economy and Scottish business confidence as economic policies in Scotland seem to be essentially socialist in approach. - Patrick Minford, Cardiff Business School.

It would create huge uncertainty, which is bad for investment, in particular, but demand in general. - Tony Dolphin, IPPR.

It’s hard to be positive about a Scottish yes vote economically, in spite of oil revenues, which is the whole case in favour. In fact, viable Scottish economic independence is a bit of an oxymoron, as the terms of secession would reveal, so what’s the point? - George Magnus, adviser to UBS.

A yes vote for independence for Scotland would likely damage the Scottish economy. - Peter Westaway, Vanguard.

With an economy so dependent on oil, it will have to live with the fact that overall it will be on a slow growth path, given that official projections of oil and gas output are flat over the medium-term. - Philip Shaw, Investec.

It would not be good for either, especially the Scottish economy. - Prof. Chris Pissarides, LSE.

On economic grounds it does not make sense. - David Owen, Jeffries.

An independent Scotland would find itself more constrained on fiscal policy as implicit subsidies from south of the border would cease. England would probably be the main beneficiary of a vote for Scottish independence! - Andrew Sentance, former MPC member.

It would create major uncertainty about the viability of the country as an economic unit. Growth would be hurt. - Brian Hilliard, Société Générale.

For Scotland it creates narrow energy dependence and uncertainty. - Malcolm Barr, JPMorgan.

On fiscal matters the negotiating position of an independent Scotland is weak, and as a result arrangements if they keep Sterling will be tough. - Prof. Simon Wren-Lewis, Oxford University.

It would be a big economic shock and would produce a huge number of uncertainties. The subsequent untangling could take more than a decade to complete and would be a significant drag on business confidence, perhaps sufficient to knock the recovery off course. - David Goodhart, Demos.

If there were a Yes vote, there would be an utter panic – with the Scottish fund managers heading for the border in droves. - Andrew Hilton, Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation.

This would be an unmitigated disaster for Scotland - Gavyn Davies, Fulcrum Asset Management.

A disaster for Scotland, a shrug of the shoulders for everybody else. -Stephen King, HSBC.

I believe the process would be extremely disruptive for both Scotland and the UK, due to the unanswered questions surrounding monetary policy and the division of the UK’s existing national debt. I also believe a “no” vote could be good economically for the UK - Ryan Bourne, Centre for Policy Studies.

If Scotland was to vote “yes” the issue may not be whether Scotland keeps the pound but whether the pound keeps Scotland. One lesson of the euro area crisis is that if markets sniff a risk of currency redenomination in a currency union, cross border capital flows can verge on the economically catastrophic until or unless the authorities state they’ll do “whatever it takes” to ensure that redenomination doesn’t happen. - Neville Hill, Credit Suisse.

It would have a negative effect on Scotland and the UK. Scottish debt would face a larger risk premium because of being a smaller and more volatile economy (as it is resource based). - Prof. John van Reenen, Centre for Economic Performance.

A Scottish “Yes” to independence would clearly drive some businesses south – people too in all probability, often the most able ones - Jamie Dannhauser, Lombard Street Research.

Scotland might be more damaged. It has 5mn of the 63mn inhabitants of the UK and is more reliant than the rump-UK on a declining source of income: oil. And the post split monetary arrangement do not seem well worked out. - Rob Wood, Berenberg Bank.

Rather unfortunate then, that Soor Ploom Sturgeon chose the same week to opine "I firmly believe who wins the economic argument will win the referendum"...