Friday, 18 April 2014

Shaping the Future


The video shows individual members of various trade unions talking about the role of trade unions in the Scottish independence referendum debate and how it affects workers:
Susan Rae - Unite, member of voluntary branch sector
Carol Fox - equal pay lawyer
Bob Thomson - general member of the STUC council
Ian Robertson - teacher, Educational Institute of Scotland
Mike Dyer - member of Unite regional committee and shop steward.
To what extent might it be said that what used to be understood to be the political arm of the trade-union movement actually represents the views and aspirations of the STUC in the referendum debate?
"It was notable that her answers to referendum questions on reserved Westminster policy such as Trident, employment rights, public-spending cuts and Labour's support for the Coalition's Benefit Cap, appeared insufficient to convince our delegates that the current policies of the UK Labour Party will be sufficient to achieve our social-justice ambitions for Scotland should there be a No vote in the referendum.
Johann's expressed preference for a separate Scottish currency under independence was interesting. While a separate currency may offer considerable economic freedom longer term, it would inevitably mean a period of austerity at least as severe as that currently being pursued by the Coalition."
Enough said, I venture to suggest.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mars Attacks

The latest from Project Fear
(Click on image to enlarge.)
Hysteria rises as the Yes campaign gains ground, and credulity is strained again by the creeping horror of the No campaign, in the Scottish independence referendum:
"Top Tory Philip Hammond left an audience stunned yesterday by claiming an independent Scotland would be open to attacks — from SPACE.
The Defence Secretary issued the stellar warning on a disastrous visit north of the border, where he was also accused of holding MoD [Ministry of Defence] staff to ransom.
[...] there surely must come a point when those trying to save the UK realize they are alienating Scots by continually making threatening, offensive and downright daft claims." (The Sun, April 16th 2014)
Must there come such a point? No sign of it so far:
"In the entire global history of the political campaign, has any been more misconceived, wretchedly executed and potentially self-defeating than the one designed to keep Scotland within the United Kingdom? [...] With every week that passes, the No campaign's once lavish and seemingly impregnable lead evaporates. And, as it dwindles, its scare stories continue to deluge the debate in the curious belief a) [...] that Scotland [...] is a wee, timorous beastie; and b) that, if you double down on a tactic of transparently counterproductive idiocy for long enough, it will metamorphose into one of purest genius. [...] As so often in smug and tone-deaf England, her hearing still distorted by the echo of Empire, rampant arrogance drowns out an obvious fact. It is not the Scots who have the faintest reason to fear leaving the English. It is the English who should be on their knees in terror begging the Scots, though God alone knows why they would give a damn, not to forsake us." (Matthew Norman, The Independent, April 15th 2014)
More dire warnings for Scottish voters any minute now. As the French say, c'est du cinéma . . .

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Taking the Future


"The Westminster establishment is fighting hard to maintain its grip on Scotland. David Cameron's government has produced edict after edict opposing independence. Members of the House of Lords have given us their unelected, distilled, wisdom from beneath their ermine robes, all of it designed to tell Scots how impossibly difficult it would be to run our own country.

[...] this referendum will be won when we, as a people, no longer feel the need to ask of others: 'Tell me what will happen to us.' It will be won when we, as the people of Scotland, say: 'We are going to take our future into our own hands.'
The eyes of the world will be on Scotland in September – watching, intently, to see how we will vote. When the polls are closed and the voting has been done, let's resolve this. Let's keep the eyes of the world on Scotland, not to see how we are voting but to watch in admiration at what we will be building, building a new and better Scotland.
Let's take all our ideals, all our talent, all our commitment and our energy. Let us build a nation that carries itself with pride and humility in equal measure, that looks to its own but which gives of itself to the world as much as it possibly can, which yields to no one in compassion and to no one in ambition, and that, come independence day, walks tall among the nations of the Earth - on that day, and on every day thereafter.
This is our moment, to be a beacon of hope, a land of achievement.
Our country, our Scotland.
The full text of the First Minister's speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen can be accessed by clicking here.
Don't let your country down. Vote Yes on September 18th.

UPDATE, April 13th

The well-crafted Salmond speech (which the Labour Party in Scotland is so upset about that it has predictably vented its spleen by sputteringly spitting out the word drivel at it) has attracted attention overseas, as one might expect. A small sample of international media coverage taken at random: Le premier ministre écossais vante une « Ecosse aux mains des Ecossais » (The Scottish First Minister hails a "Scotland in the hands of the Scots") in the French newspaper Le Monde and Salmond vol crear un grup amb partits i experts de fora d'Escòcia per negociar la independència (Salmond wants to set up a group of parties with experts from outside Scotland to negotiate independence) in TV3 Catalan television news.

Meanwhile, in the land of the free, the administration has not yet gone to DEFCON 1 following the Robertson forces of darkness warning which was apparently intended to scare the pants off them, although realization has dawned in Washington that the result of the Scottish independence referendum could go either way:

"While a vote to break the bond with Britain was seen as a remote prospect just months ago, it has become a real possibility." (The Washington Post, April 12th 2014)

The US think tank Foreign Policy in Focus, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies, agrees:

"If one takes into account its North Sea oil resources, there is little doubt that an independent Scotland would be viable. Scotland has a larger GDP per capita than France and, in addition to oil, exports manufactured goods and whisky. Scotland would become one of the world's top 35 exporting countries.

The Conservative government says that, if the Scots vote for independence, they will have to give up the pound as a currency. The Scots respond that, if the British follow through on their currency threat, Scotland will wash its hands of its portion of the British national debt. At this point, there is a stand-off.

According to the British—and some leading officials in the European Union (EU)—an independent Scotland will lose its EU membership, but that may be bluster. For one, it would violate past practice. When East and West Germany were united in 1990, some 20 million residents of the former German Democratic Republic were automatically given EU citizenship. If 5.3 million Scots are excluded, it will be the result of pique, not policy. In any case, with the Conservatives planning a referendum in 2017 that might pull Britain out of the EU, London is not exactly holding the high ground on this issue.

If the vote were taken today, the Scots would probably vote to remain in Britain, but sentiment is shifting. The most recent poll indicates that 40 per cent will vote for independence, a 3-per-cent increase from the previous poll. The 'no' votes have declined by 2 per cent to 45 per cent, with 15 per cent undecided. All Scottish residents over the age of 16 can vote. Given the formidable campaigning skills of Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister and leader of the SNP, those are chilling odds for the London government." (Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy in Focus, April 8th 2014)



Thursday, 10 April 2014

Convergence and Divergence

New Poll: Yes 47% - Strong majority would vote Yes in #indyref if better off.
Evidently the Yes camp is still apparently gaining ground in the Scottish independence referendum campaign, steadily narrowing the gap between Yes and No voting intentions at the very moment when the President of the Irish Republic is making a state visit to the UK and the Irish Times has been referring to "the subject of England's condescension to its Celtic neighbours" with reference to the Scottish independence referendum, while taking the opportunity to explain why Irish independence was and still is necessary:

"After the Treaty of 1921 the Irish poet and mystic George Russell ('AE') pointed out, with his habitual shrewdness, that the reasons why Ireland had to separate from Britain lay in 'the psychological factor' rather than oppressive government – which was, by the time of the revolution, no longer an issue. But history and psychology made the Irish regard any kind of government by the British as 'a tyranny inflicted on them by aliens' who were incapable of understanding their aspirations to a less material, complacent world than the model of Anglicization on offer. The same message can be read through the Anglophobic reactions of many of the revolutionary generation; independence was necessary, one of them remarked, so the English would have to stop talking down to the Irish with their 'damned superior smiles'. The subject of England's condescension to its Celtic neighbours, currently back in focus as the Scottish referendum approaches, is a rich one. But as regards Ireland, the current state visit by President Michael D Higgins puts the seal on the end of an era." (The Irish Times, April 10th 2014)
"Talking down to the Irish with their 'damned superior smiles'" is a striking phrase which draws attention to the fact that the relations between the centre and the periphery of the anglocentric UK state took a form which resembled the relations between an imperial power and its colonies in the colonial era. Hence the term internal colonialism, whereby in the UK as constituted economic resources and power were and indeed still are concentrated in England, to the advantage of which Scotland is still subordinated, with the consequence that culture, values and ways of life characteristic of England tend to be favoured above those of Scotland, which are habitually dismissed as less developed, as were the culture, values and ways of life of Ireland prior to Irish independence:
"One of the defining characteristics of the colonial situation is that it must involve the interaction of at least two cultures - that of the conquering metropolitan elite (cosmopolitan culture) and that of the indigenes (native culture) - and that the former is promulgated by the colonial authorities as being vastly superior for the realization of universal ends: salvation in one age; industrialization in another. One of the consequences of this denigration of indigenous culture is to undermine the native's will to resist the colonial regime. If he is defined as barbarian, perhaps he should try to reform himself by becoming more cosmopolitan. Failure to win high position within the colonial structure tends to be blamed on personal inadequacy, rather than any particular shortcomings of the system itself. The native's internalization of the colonist's view of him makes the realization of social control less problematic. Conversely, the renaissance of indegenous culture implies a serious threat to continued colonial domination." (Michael Hechter, Internal Colonialism)
Even seemingly complimentary generalizations about the Irish national character could, in the Victorian context, be derogatory. Thus, with reference to a work by Ernest Renan, La poésie des races celtiques (1854), it was broadly argued that the Celt was poetic, light-hearted and imaginative, highly emotional, playful, passionate and sentimental. These were, however, characteristics which the Victorians also associated with children. Thus the Irish were regarded as immature and in need of guidance by others, more highly developed than themselves. No prizes for guessing who that might be. Irish emotion was contrasted, unfavourably, with English reason, Irish femininity with English masculine virtues, Irish poetic attributes with English pragmatism. These were, of course, all arguments which conveniently supported anglo-rule in Ireland, in accordance with the time-honoured anglo-imperial practice of denigrating subject peoples to justify their subjection.
In diverging from England in the present day, devolved Scotland appears to be converging with the Republic of Ireland in terms of its perception of the nature of the relations which are possible with England within the framework of the anglocentric UK state, which offers a certain "model of Anglicization" which is arguably as much at odds with Scottish identity and aspirations as it was with Irish identity and aspirations.
The current No campaign of scaremongering and intimidation can be said to present the lamentable spectacle of a last-ditch desperate anglo-endeavour to make "the realization of social control less problematic" by reinforcing "the native's internalization of the colonist's view of him" as quite unable to manage his (and indeed her) own country without the paternalistic protection and guidance of the anglo-state, without which the sky can be confidently expected to fall in as the ground opens up and swallows the tartan lands whole in one fell gulp . . . or words to that effect more or less.
The fact that all this cumulatively implausible apocalyptic anglo-scaremongering is proving to be so cataclysmically counter-productive for the anglo-unionist cause may be taken as an indication that an era is ending in Scotland too, as the scales fall from people's eyes as a result of the cumulatively effective efforts of the Yes campaign, which is why the levels of support for the Yes and No camps are converging to open up the prospect that Scotland may soon be in a position to establish a relationship with the residual UK state which will be characterized by the equality and mutual respect which the Republic of Ireland values and has clearly no intention of ever giving up, come what may.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Another No

Yesterday the lower house of the Spanish parliament, the Congress of Deputies, debated a Catalan Government motion requesting that the power to hold a referendum on the constitutional future of Catalonia be transferred to the Catalan Parliament on the lines of the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012, whereby the UK government devolved to the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a constitutionally binding referendum on Scottish independence. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy stated that his government's view is that the Spanish constitution does not allow for this, as it explicitly defines the sovereignty of the Spanish people as 'indivisible'. The result of the ensuing vote was a resounding 299 against the motion, with 47 in favour and 1 abstention.
The Catalan Government has indicated that it will now proceed to establish what it refers to as its own legal basis for a non-binding referendum or consulta to be held on November 9th without the agreement of the Spanish government (and contrary to the Spanish constitution, according to a recent ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court on the subject of the Catalan Parliament's resolution anent sovereignty).
Artur Mas, the pro-independence First Minister of Catalonia (President of the Generalitat) made the following defiant statement after the result of the proceedings in the Spanish parliament became known:


"They are afraid to let the Catalan people vote. Some would like to present this as the end of the matter but, as President of Catalonia, I say to them that it is not the end."

Any possibility of an amicable resolution of the Spanish constitutional crisis having been rejected by the Spanish state, Mr Mas and his 'seditious' administration in Barcelona are now stepping out on to very thin ice . . . unless, upon mature reflection, they decide to take Mr Rajoy up on his dubious invitation to bring forward a proposal to reform the constitution, for which no sufficient majority would be very likely to be available to them in either chamber of the Spanish legislature.
UPDATE, April 11th
The Catalan Government has made the point that, as two-thirds majorities are required in both chambers of the Spanish legislature for any reform of the Spanish constitution (also known as the Carta Magna), it is for the two main parties in that legislature to bring forward proposals for constitutional reform. Whereas the opposition Socialist Party of Spain is in favour of reforming the Carta Magna along federal lines, the governing People's Party has made it clear that it has no intention of reforming it along any lines whatsoever.
Consequently, the Catalan Government is pressing ahead with preparations for passing a Catalan law authorizing a non-binding referendum or consultation, on the basis of the result of which First Minister Mas would hope to enter into negotiations with the Spanish government. This would be a two-question consulta, asking voters if they want Catalonia to be a state and, if so, if it should be independent.
Unfortunately, both the consulta law of the Catalan Parliament and the consulta itself can and will be referred to the Spanish Constitutional Court by the Spanish government, and both will be suspended while that court prepares its ruling, which will doubtless be that both are unconstitutional. This means that Mr Mas will probably end up falling back on relying on a plebiscitary Catalan parliamentary general election to establish the majority Catalan view on statehood and independence, as he has conceded himself. Here he is in an interview in French today on the French radio station France Info:


Monday, 7 April 2014

Happy Birthday


Today marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Scottish National Party, which has governed Scotland within the dire constitutional limitations of the current devolution settlement since 2007 and which, on securing an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011, successfully negotiated an agreement with the Blighty regime to hold an independence referendum on September 18th of this year on mutually satisfactory binding terms.
On April 7th 1934, three years after the abortive proclamation of a Catalan republic and two years after the Scottish Daily Express newspaper ran a straw poll in 35,000 homes in which it found 113,000 people in favour of Scottish self-government and only 5,000 opposed, the National Party of Scotland amalgamated with the Scottish Party to form the Scottish National Party. SNP founder members included RB Cunninghame Graham (who set up the home-rule Scottish Labour Party with Keir Hardie in 1888), the novelist Compton Mackenzie, the poet Hugh MacDiarmid and John MacCormick, who was a lawyer. Its first leader was Sir Alexander MacEwan.
"The first annual conference of the Scottish National Party, which was brought into being by the fusion of the National Party of Scotland with the Scottish Party, was held in St Andrew's Mid Hall, Glasgow, on Saturday, when the new constitution was approved and office-bearers were appointed. Sir Alexander MacEwan, Inverness, was appointed chairman of the united body. [...]
Sir Alexander MacEwan, in opening the conference, it was reported, said that it was an historic day in the Scottish national movement. The fusion of the two parties was not brought about by pressure or by personal intrigue but was a spontaneous movement resulting from the desire of people of different shades of opinion to work together for the cause of self-government. The more they came together the more it was borne in upon them that, whatever their differences might be, they were differences of detail and not differences of principle. The fusion of the National and Scottish parties marked a new stage in the national movement. They had decided to take a big step forward towards their real objective, which was self-government for Scotland.
Any differences that might still exist between the members of the former parties were differences arising from point of view or particular environment and did not affect the one quest on which they were all centred. There had been complete agreement between the two parties as to the personnel of the new offices and as to the general policy which they were to pursue. On both sides there had been a disposition to sink all minor personal questions and to concentrate on the task of working out a programme of national reconstruction. They believed that they had not only to convince the people of Scotland of the need of self-government but they had to present them with a practical programme of reconstruction. The policy which had been formulated showed that the new Scottish National Party was embarking on its task in a broad spirit and with a determination to make a practical contribution to the industrial, agricultural, economic and social problems of their country. [...]
The conference adopted a revised constitution which states the object of the party as being 'self-government for Scotland, as a partner in the British Empire with the same status as England, to develop its national life to the fullest advantage'.
The delegates adopted as an outline of the economic policy of the party a pamphlet entitled Scottish Reconstruction, prepared by Sir Alexander MacEwan, Mr JM MacCormick and Mr TH Gibson. The pamphlet states that 'the establishment of a Parliament in Scotland which shall be the final authority on all Scottish affairs, including taxation and finance,' is rightly declared to be the first principle of the party's declaration of political faith. The party believes that questions like the development of industry and agriculture, unemployment, hours and conditions of labour, housing, health, town and regional planning, land settlement, fishing, banking and finance, liquor laws and other matters must be dealt with fearlessly and with the sole object of the greatest good of the greatest number.
Dealing with industry and unemployment, the pamphlet states that the first necessity is a scientific survey of Scottish industry which would take note of the following matters:- which industries are suitable to the country and fully organized according to modern ideas; industries requiring re-organization; stimulation of new industries particularly in rural areas; how to arrest the 'drift south'; finances for industrial development; effect of tariffs, quotas, etc.; marketing, both home and export; effect of rating and taxation on industry; scientific research generally in relation to agriculture and industrial development [...]" (The Glasgow Herald, April 9th 1934)
Just five years after the Scottish National Party came into being the powers of the Secretary of State for Scotland were extended, and St Andrew's House, which is one of the buildings now occupied by the Scottish Government, was built to house the Edinburgh offices of the Scottish Office.

Little by little the UK has given ground since then, grudgingly and insufficiently, which is why we are where we are now, on the brink of Scottish independence . . . unless a generous settlement involving extensive secure autonomy is credibly offered before September 18th. Not very likely, I hear you say, but nothing should be ruled out, as we are, after all, in uncharted territory . . . thanks to the SNP, which, as I began by noting, is 80 years old today. Happy birthday!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Scotland Is on the Way


Sincere condolences to the family of pro-independence MSP Margo MacDonald, whose death has been announced, and whose victory in the 1973 by-election in the Westminster constituency of Glasgow Govan, with 41.9% of the vote, caused "repercussions affecting the future political life of Scotland":
"The Scottish National Party came back to life today by winning the Govan by-election from Labour, and stealing the thunder of the mini-election.
Repercussions affecting the future political life of Scotland can be expected to follow the SNP triumph in Govan - beginning with an overhaul of Labour's woeful election machine and, in the wake of the Kilbrandon report on Home Rule, a reinforced commitment by the Government to press on with devolution plans.
Amid scenes of near-hysteria by supporters, Mrs Margo MacDonald, a 29-year-old former teacher from Blantyre, was declared the winner in Govan.
When the result was announced, just after 1 a.m., it showed that in an extremely low poll she had wiped out the Labour majority of more than 7000.
She said: 'It's champagne for us right now. Scotland is on the way and Govan has an MP.'" (The Glasgow Herald, November 9th 1973)

UPDATE, April 6th

Scotland is indeed on the way, if the latest opinion-poll findings are anything to go by. Click here.