Monthly Archives: May 2014

Euro election – winners and losers

Now that the dust has settled a bit, and we have recovered from the media hysteria around UKIP and the Front National in France, we can begin to try and make some sense of the results across Europe. One should never try to read too much into the results of these elections for two reasons. One is the relatively low turnout. While in some countries the turnout was over 50%, across Europe this amounted to a rather poor 43%, almost identical to five years ago. Secondly in all countries the campaigns are more about national or sub-national issues than about the EU itself. So with these caveats, some things stand out.

There was no great anti EU surge across Europe

This may at first sight seem an odd observation to make, given the media coverage of UKIP and the FN in France, but in truth, as a certain Professor Curtice would say, these were very isolated results. Though the anti EU vote did go up, this was no earthquake. Especially as most of the explicitly anti EU parties seem to hate each other at least as much as they hate the EU. Even the much talked about “success” of UKIP and the FN are not all that impressive when compared with other parties in other countries. The FN got 25% of vote in France, while UKIP pulled in 27% of the votes in the UK. However this latter “success” was matched by Syriza, a left alternative party in Greece, which also garnered 27% of the votes. Both were way behind other parties elsewhere. If the 27% of UKIP is such a “success” how are we to describe the 31% achieved by the Socialist Party in Portugal or the incredible 41% achieved by the Democratic Party in Italy. The latter in particular seems to have gone almost unmentioned by our unenlightened media. Yet the Democrats are the party of government in Italy and are an unashamed pro EU party.

The Left is going nowhere

This is perhaps for many of us the most disappointing aspect of these elections. Once again the left, however broadly or narrowly you look at it, has failed pretty miserably. Notwithstanding some excellent results, such as those mentioned above in Italy, Portugal and Greece, the the combined share of the vote for left and green parties remained stationary at 38%. There was not even much change within this very broad grouping. There is of course serious doubt as to whether any of the parties that make up the traditional or mainstream “left” – Labour, PSOE, SPD etc – merit the description of left wing anymore. Wherever you want to place them on the political spectrum, in aggregate they have made no progress whatsoever since 2009. Much the same can be said for the Greens and the various alternative left wing parties. The Greens declined by about 0.5%, while the alternative left, known as the GUE/NGL group, gained around 1.4%. Most of this is probably due to the success of Syriza in Greece. While it is not altogether surprising that the traditional left parties have made no progress, it should be very worrying that the rest of the left has been unable to make any significant impact considering the dire economic and social situation across the EU.

The traditional centre-right is in decline

If the traditional left parties are marking time, then it is relatively worse for their counter parts on the right. The main right wing grouping in the European Parliament is the European People’s Party, and this groups saw its share of the vote decline by almost 7% to a not very inspiring 28.5%. Even if you include the British Tories and their allies, this conservative vote only goes up to a grand total of 40%. This would seem to confirm that most of the votes for the far right parties have come from the traditional right. However 40% is still higher than the combined total for left parties. And of course if you include the untouchables of UKIP and the FN, then the right of the political spectrum is far in the ascendant. Even more so, if you regard the various Liberal parties in Europe as essentially of the right, then around 60% of the new Parliament is made up of parties from the right. Of course most of these parties have very little in common and it is difficult to see them co-operating on any issue, let alone working together as a bloc.

What Next?

Given the predominance of right wing parties in the new Parliament, we should not expect this body to offer much in the way of resistance to the neo-liberal/austerity trend of the member states. The one possible conflict on the horizon may be the election of the new President of the European Commission. The governments of the member states get to nominate someone for this post, but the Parliament now has to confirm this choice. Or reject it altogether. Before the elections, all the main party groupings agreed that the new Commission President should be the person who was the lead candidate for their respective group. As the EPP is still the largest party, that should mean that Jean-Claude Juncker from Luxembourg will be the next Commission President. Alas the member states are not keen on this power grab by the Parliament and may well nominate someone else. Will the Parliament stick to its guns and refuse to elect anyone? At least it may offer us a bit of light relief for a spell. Anything to take our minds of yet another failure of the left.

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Why did UKIP do so badly in Scotland?

This should really be the big question for our political pundits in the media. Given the astonishing success of UKIP in England and Wales, why did they poll so poorly up here in Scotland. For make no mistake about it, a miserly 10% in a 30%+ turnout is very poor. Across the UK, UKIP came first with nearly 28% of the votes cast, and in Wales the party won 27% of the votes to finish a narrow second behind Labour. While in Scotland UKIP finished fourth and only narrowly won the final seat. This seems to me to be a quite remarkable differential. In England and Wales, UKIP’s share of the votes was almost three times its share in Scotland. Surely there must be something that explains this significant difference? You would have had to look long and hard to find anything in the way of analysis of this differential in our not so wonderful media. Our dearly beloved BBC Scotland chose to lead its phone in programme with why did Scotland vote UKIP?, not why did UKIP do so poorly, or even why do the LibDems continue to face wipe-out in Scotland? No, once again the BBC decides in its wisdom to give even more free publicity to UKIP, which remember finished a poor fourth in Scotland.

The roll of the media, and in particular the BBC in promoting UKIP before and during these elections is yet another nail in the coffin of that once well respected organization. We had to endure almost blanket exposure to Nigel Farage and his motley crew. This may or may not have been justified in England and Wales, but there was simply no excuse for this free publicity in Scotland.  Would UKIP have even come close to winning the sixth seat in Scotland if the Scottish Greens had been given the same amount of airtime? There is indeed something rotten about the power of the BBC in Britain.

As for the other results in Scotland, no great surprises. The SNP did win the popular vote, less that is forgotten is all the media coverage devoted to UKiP. The SNP’s success in remaining the most popular party, even after seven years in government is a remarkable achievement and worth of more than passing note. While Labour has recovered from the very poor showing last time around, there is still little sign of them making a serious challenge to the SNP in any national election. The Tories stood still, quite an achievement in a way, given the success of UKIP and the decline in the Tory vote elsewhere. And of course the poor LibDems continue on their seemingly endless decline into obscurity and irrelevance. The Greens increased their share of the vote by  only 1%. Very disappointing for them, but perhaps understandable given the way UKIP were allowed to dominate the airwaves.

Where does all this froth leave us with regard to the independence referendum? Not much the wiser really. An election with a turnout of only 34% can never be much of a guide as what might happen in the referendum where the turnout is expected to be double or even higher. The votes cast in this election only prove two things in my view. One, that Scotland really is different from the rest of the UK. Secondly, only a minority of people care the proverbial 4XXXX about the EU. This above all, perhaps should be the key lesson from these elections. Harping on about the EU, and how dreadful it is, does not seem to generate much response from the majority of the public.  A Yes vote is still there to be won.

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Scottish Independence Day – 7th May 2015?

While we await with bated breath the outcome of the European Parliament elections, time for a little indulgence into the realm of speculation. In this case the date of Scottish independence if we vote Yes this year. The common assumption is that this will be in May 2016. This is what the Scottish government are proposing in their White Paper and most people seem to just go along with this timetable. But Alan Trench, an academic who specialises in devolution matters, begs to differ, and he has written an interesting article on this subject for the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. You can read his piece here.

As Mr Trench points out the May 2016 date is very convenient for Scotland as it fits in perfectly with our electoral timetable. It also has the advantage of allowing around 18 months to complete most, if not all, the negotiations around independence. However, this date is not at all convenient for the rest of the UK. Primarily because a UK general election is due in May 2015. This will throw up all sorts of complications and distractions for the UK side of the negotiations. There is also the not inconsiderable matter of what to do with MPs from Scottish constituencies during the period between May 2015 and Scottish independence in May 2016.  Mr Trench’s proposal very nicely cuts away all these complications and distractions.

While Mr Trench’s proposal is primarily aimed at making this easier for the UK government, it also has in my view much merit from a Scottish perspective. Independence in May 2015 doesn’t affect the Scottish elections planned for 2016. The only argument against a May 2015 date for independence is that this is far too short a period for completing the negotiations. But is this either true or more important, relevant?

I suggest that whatever date is chosen for independence, it is primarily an arbitrary one. If the idea is to wait until all the negotiations are completed and signed off, we could be waiting a very long time for independence. Certainly May 2016 is no guarantee that everything will be signed off. Since any date for independence will be an arbitrary choice, why not go for the earliest date possible?

For a bit of perspective on this, let us look at the experience of Montenegro, the most recent country in Europe to become independent. The independence referendum in Montenegro took place on 21st May, 2006. On 3rd June, 2006 the parliament of Montenegro declared the country independent. Now I cannot imagine that any negotiations between Montenegro and Serbia took place in that short period, let alone were completed. Yet Montenegro became independent within a fortnight of its referendum. This early declaration of independence does not seem to have caused Montenegro any particular difficulty or damaging consequences. The EU recognised Montenegro as an independent country on 12th June, 2006, the UK did so on 13th June, 2006 and even Spain did so on 16th June, 2006. Montenegro was admitted to the UN as an independent country on 28th June, 2006. By the end of that same year, Montenegro had been accepted as a full member by most of the international and regional organizations.

So the case of Montenegro shows that independence can be declared almost immediately after a successful referendum. However I would caution against such a very early declaration for Scotland. The greater integration of Scotland in the global economy and its membership of the EU for example all point to the need for some kind of agreement with the rest of the UKK in order to make the transition to independence as smooth and seamless as possible. However, there is no need for most of these issues to be completely resolved before independence. The key will be to establish a framework and to carry out any negotiations with goodwill. Agreement will need to be reached on a few matters prior to independence, but not many. Surprisingly, currency is not likely to be one of them. If the UK government agrees in principle to a currency union, then the details can be worked out over time and a transitional package can be put in place to cover the early months of independence. If on the other hand, George Osborne sticks to his guns and absolutely rules out a currency union, then there is little if anything, to negotiate about. Scotland can make whatever arrangements it wants to continue using sterling, while we can decide in the long run what currency option to go for. Much the same will apply to the EU. Since it is inconceivable that the EU would or even could expel us, they will reach some kind of arrangement with us, more or less on the current terms, pending a full agreement in due course.

Perhaps the one issue that will need to be sorted out prior to independence will be over taxation. The Scottish government will need to be assured that all taxes due from individuals and companies based in Scotland do in fact got to Edinburgh and not to Westminster. Revenues from the North Sea for example. As the UK operates an integrated and rather complex, not to say inefficient taxation system, this could prove a bit of a hassle to resolve by May 2015. Again it may not be necessary to have everything sorted out by then. They key will be that both sides are satisfied that they can trust each other. Some kind of transitional mechanisms will need to be in place whenever independence comes.

The bottom line is that it can be done in time for a 7th May declaration of independence. As Mr Tench points out all that is needed is “a very rough-and-ready negotiation of independence”. This may or not be “horrendously difficult to accomplish”, but it will concentrate the minds of the negotiators wonderfully and most of all removes from the equation the uncertainties that holding a UK general election in May 2015 will throw up. Let’s go for 7th May 2015 as Scottish Independence Day!

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European Parliament Elections 2014

A few comments on the elections for the new European Parliament. For the UK and the Netherlands these take place today, Thursday, while our Irish neighbours will vote tomorrow. Most countries hold the election on Sunday, but the results will not be known until Monday. So we will have to face endless claims and counter claims about whether UKIP have managed to somehow win the infamous sixth Scottish seat up for grabs. The other seats are not expected to generate much in the way of surprise, with the SNP and Labour likely to hold on to the two MEPs they currently have. The Tories hold the fifth seat and will probably do so again, thought there is a slight doubt about them. The big question is who will win the sixth and final seat – SNP, Greens, Tories and of course UKIP all claim to be in with a shout. A long wait till Monday!

Whatever the final result, both here in Scotland and across the EU, the campaign has been mostly invisible and where visible, pretty uninspiring. Partly this is due to the even more pressing vote coming up in September on independence. Not surprisingly, this has engaged voters in a much more meaningful way. The media as usual have been of little help in trying to explain the importance and significance of the European Parliament and its elections. However the main blame must go to the political parties themselves. All of them have approached this election as if it were yet another national election. It has been primarily about what each party would do for either Scotland or the UK and how bad the others have been. And in Scotland of course, we have had the added ingredient of independence, which has become a key battleground in all of the debates I’ve had the misfortune to hear or see.

Not that Scottish, or for that matter, Catalan independence is not an important matter for these elections. Far from it, as the European Parliament will have a decisive say in whether Scotland and Catalunya become full member states of the EU. This is because the European Parliament now has the power to veto any agreement governing accession to the European Union. Negotiations over Scotland’s (continuing) membership of the EU will be led by the Commission and any agreement will have to be approved by the member states in the European Council. This agreement will then have to be approved by a majority in the European Parliament. The Parliament may also be asked to formally approve the beginning of these negotiations and to approve the mechanism to be used for these negotiations. So, though our MEPs will not be directly involved in the negotiations, they will play a crucial role in any outcome.

Therefore an absolutely crucial question for our would be MEPs is, How will you personally vote when any of these three motions come before the European Parliament? As a supplementary, they could have been asked how will their party vote on these motions?  But nothing like this seems to have been put to any of the condidates. Instead they were asked the usual and predictable nonsense about what Messrs Barroso and Van Rumpuy did or did not say or mean. All a waste of time as the only thing that matters when electing someone is what they will actually do when they have the chance to vote on something. Not what others might or might not, do or think.

Good luck to whoever does emerge as elected come Monday, though I fervantly hope that UKIP remain unelected in Scotland. For a bit more on these elections from an independence perspective, Thomas from Ark of Prosperity has an informative article here.

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More Danish-Norwegian lessons for Scotland

David Cameron has just made another of his fleeting visits to Scotland to lecture us on the benefits of staying in the UK. Benefits which are so vague as to be almost invisible. He is however rather good on extolling the past. He tries to wax lyrical about how the UK is the greatest and most successful union in history. Clearly Mr Cameron did not learn much history at school or at university. For there has been at least one other long lasting and successful union. The union between Denmark and Norway. This particular union lasted for 434 years. A pretty long time by anyone’s standards. It was on the whole a peaceful and stable union. At least compared to the bloody imperial aggression of the UK. The Danish-Norwegian union ended in 1814.

The Norwegians wanted the end of the union with Denmark to lead to independence, and to this end they developed their own constituion. Today, 17th May is Constitution Day in Norway. Not just any constitution day, but the 200th anniversary of the proclamation of Norway’s constitution. What is most interesting from our perspective in Scotland and the rest of the UK is that to celebrate this historic 200th anniversary, the Norwegians invited Mogens Lykketoft, the current speaker of the Danish parliament, to come to Oslo and give a speech in the Norwegian Parliament. Only the second non Norwegian to be so invited. The other was Winston Churchill.

Mr Lykketoft’s speech is a wonderful expression of how the relations between two countries that were once united can improve and blossom with the independence of both. Moridura has kindly provided a translation of the speech, which you can read in full here.  I just want to pick out a couple of points from this speech which I think are most relevant to us, not just in Scotland, but to our friends in the rest of the UK.

  • Today – 200 years after our divorce – Danes and Norwegians have at least just as much in common as we did back then when we were a common realm. Our mutual relationship is far more equal. (Note that Mr Lykketoft does not shy away from using the divorce word)
  • We hold no mutual mistrust and we make it a premise that the people of the sister country think, believe and act as we do ourselves. This immediate understanding, a stronger case of which is unlikely to be found between other nations in the world….
  • (this immediate understanding) is based on
  1. that we so easily understand each other’s speech,
  2. that we are deeply shaped by the common history and  culture,
  3. that we socially, economically and politically has so much in common and
  4. that we trade a lot more between ourselves than with the rest of the world.

Mr Lykketoft in his speech on behalf of the Danish people to the people of Norway shows all of us the way forward. There is little, if anything, that unites the people of Denmark and Norway that does not also apply to the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK. Yet as Mr Lykketoft makes abundantly clear, this relationship has prospered with independence and is now a more equal one. Let us hope that when Scotland does become independent, we do not have to wait 200 years for the speaker of the Westminster parliament to come to Edinburgh and say to all of us: Congratulations Scotland!

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Remembering the Nakba

While most of us in Scotland are engrossed in the small matter of our own independence referendum, we must never loose sight of the struggles of others for justice. Today is one of these days. 15th May is the day when Palestinians worldwide remember with sadness the great Catastrophe (al Nakba) that befell their people in 1948. This was the year of the founding of the state of Israel as a state for Jews. To create a state for Jews the nascent Israel had to indulge in a bit of ethnic cleansing. This they did with gusto and ruthless violence. The residents of whole villages were massacred and around 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes. They have never been allowed to return, against every tenet of international law and UN resolutions. The newly established Israeli state was not content to forcibly and violently expel Palestinians, they then destroyed their villages. Over 500 Palestinian villages were flattened and erased. Israel and its Zionist friends in the west have tried for decades to hide this massive ethnic cleansing from not just Israelis, but from the rest of the world. In this at least they are failing.

The brutal and violent reality behind the creation of Israel has become more and more difficult to deny. Palestinians throughout the world use Nakba Day to remind themselves and the rest of us of what really happened in 1948. Even in Israel itself Nakba Day is forcing more and Israelis to confront their culpability for the crisis facing Palestinians.  Jonathon Cook has a very good article on this which you can read here. The tragedy of the Catastrophe of that year is still alas all too alive in Palestine today. Ever since then Israel has used every opportunity to fight wars of aggression against its neighbours, all with aim of securing yet more land for Jewish only settlements. With the whole of Palestine, including East Jerusalem, under Israeli occupation, there is nothing to stop the israeli authorities from continuing to expropriate Palestinian land, to demolish Palestinian housed and to expel Palestinians. The Nakba is a continuing tragic reality for most Palestinians, who can only watch with horror and amazement at how the west remains silent in the face of constant Israeli aggression.

IMG-20140515-WA0000-1Though it is the Americans who are the current bankrollers of Israel, we must never forget the inglorious role played by the UK in the foundation of Israel. The UK has to bear most of the blame for the current tragedy in Palestine. From the infamous Balfour declaration of 1917, in which the UK promised to give away somebody else’s land to Jews.  It is almost incredible that less than a century ago, one of the UK’s most distinguished leaders could blithely and arrogantly sign away the birthright of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. People who had never done any harm to Britain. Yet in 1917 our great leaders could with a stroke of a pen effectively sign their death warrant. It is most appropriate on Nakba Day for us in Scotland to be reminded not only of the tragedy of Palestinians, but also of the iniquity of the UK. Truly there is nothing “great” in Britain. While we cannot absolve ourselves of what was done in our name a hundred years ago, we can make sure that the aggression and arrogance that lies behind the UK and the Balfour declaration will no longer be a part of the future of Scotland. For an independent and peaceful Palestine and Scotland!

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Unionists after a Yes vote – Politicians

As the referendum day approaches more and more people are beginning to think about what happens after, particularly what happens after a Yes vote. This is certainly true of the wider Yes campaign. Radical Independence among others has already started this new phase in the campaign. But what about the Unionist side? There does not appear to be much evidence of any kind of thinking beyond September 18th. Mainly it seems because they lazily assumed there would be a massive No vote. Even the UK government has apparently made no plans for what to do after a Yes vote. So much for Westminster competence? But what future awaits the leading players in the Unionist campaign after a Yes vote? This post takes a brief look at how a Yes vote might affect some of the politicians.

MPs at Westminster

There are currently 59 MPs elected from Scottish constituencies. With a Yes vote these 59 individuals face political extinction. By May 2016, their parliamentary careers at Westminster will have come to an abrupt and permanent end. All but the current six SNP MPs will regard this as an unmitigated disaster. Some, for example most of the LibDem MPs are unlikely to survive the next election anyway, but most, especially the Labour contingent, will be anticipating a long, if rather uninspiring career on the backbenches at Westminster. For most of this lot, a Yes vote will pretty much mean the end of their political careers, either due to age or to their proven record of invisibility among the Scottish electorate. They will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to find a winnable seat for the Scottish Parliament. While the Tories can be ignored at this level, there will still be a considerable number of ex MPs from the Labour and LibDem ranks who will want to continue in active politics, even in an independent Scotland. I am thinking of the likes of Danny Alexander, Michael Moore, Jo Swinson and even Charles Kennedy from the LidDems. From Labour I imagine people like Douglas Alexander, Margaret Curran, Cathy Jamieson and Anas Sarwar will also want to continue to play a prominent and leading role in politics in an independent Scotland. The big problem they will all face is how can they achieve this after a Yes vote? Pretty much the only way is to get elected to the Scottish Parliament. But this may prove more difficult than appears at first sight. In addition to the problem that they will be perceived as having been on the wrong and losing side in the referendum, they will have to secure a winnable seat or winnable place on a regional list to have any chance of getting elected. To get that far they will have to overcome the sitting MSPs and a possible backlash of the johnny come lately syndrome. While both Labour and the LibDems can expect to do better in 2016 than their dismal showings in 2011, there is little evidence in the polls so far of any significant bounce back. One can understand why all the Unionist MPs are so personally committed to a No vote. They have everything to lose and almost nothing to gain.

Our Noble Lords and Ladies

This is another group of individuals who will face an uncertain future after a Yes vote. In this case it is not at all clear what will in fact happen. I haven’t been able at short notice to find a definitive list of how many members of the House of Lords are resident in Scotland. Residency in this case I am sure will be the crucial issue. There are many Scottish members of the House of Lords, such as Baroness Kennedy, but as she has been resident in England for decades, I imagine she will continue her work unaffected by the result of a Yes vote. Those at risk will be the likes of Lords Roberston, Wallace, McConnell et al. What future awaits them after a Yes vote? They will probably be able to keep their titles, a fairly meaningless gesture. But will they still be able to turn up and speak and more importantly vote in the Lords? I imagine not. Here the residency test will be applied. Only those Lords and Ladies normally resident in the rUK will be entitled to vote in the House of Lords. Which will leave many a Scottish Lord and Lady with even more time to spend with their families or whatever else they do with their time. It will be particularly galling for this lot, as there is pretty much zilch chance of an independent Scotland creating its own little House of Lords. Even a second chamber is most unlikely. Our Scandinavian neighbours manage quite successfully without the need for one. As most of these Lords and Ladies will be failed or retired politicians I imagine they will bow gracefully or ungraciously out of politics altogether. Some may fancy their chance as a political commentator, but the demand for their wisdom and insights is likely to be of limited appeal in an independent Scotland.

We need not fret too much over the future of Unionist politicians after a Yes vote. Most have contributed little to the betterment of Scotland and their disappearance from the political scene will be scarcely noticed. A few of the more enterprising among them will no doubt somehow secure a foothold in our own Parliament. Which will be to our advantage – the more diverse voices in Parliament the better. However the loss of a 100 or so politicians will be a net gain to the rest of us. One of the many, if smaller benefits of a Yes vote. A not inconsiderate sum of taxpayers’s money will be saved and who knows, some of them may even find more useful and productive ways of earning a living.

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Norwegian Lessons for Scotland?

20014 is quite a year for anniversaries. One that is likely to pass more or less unnoticed in the UK is the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution. Not of course in Norway itself, where there are various exhibitions on this momentous event. The anniversary is later this month – 17th May to be precise. What is of particular significance about this constitution of 1814 is that it was meant to be the constitution for an independent Norway. Independence alas, only came briefly for Norway in 1814. The country’s desire for independence was swiftly crushed by the Great Powers of the day. Any lessons for Scotland in 2014?

The Great Powers tend to oppose independence movements

This is one of the main lessons for Scotland today. The hostility shown by the larger powers to the possibility of Scottish independence is par for the course. In 1814 it was Norway which faced the force of this hostility. At the time Norway was part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Unluckily for Norway, Denmark had ended up on the losing side of the bitter Napoleonic wars. The future of the Kingdom was decided by the victorious sides in that war in a deal known as the Treaty of Kiel. As part of this deal, Norway was to be given to Sweden, in part to punish Denmark, and in part to compensate Sweden, which had lost Finland to Russia during the wars. See how principled the great powers were! The ownership of whole nations could be exchanged at the drop of a hat, without as much as a by your leave. Has much changed?

The Norwegians were not much impressed by the way their country was being treated and decided to go it alone and create their own, independent Kingdom. A constituent assembly was elected which drew up the famous constitution. All, alas to no avail. The right to self determination was not much in vogue in those days. The great powers acted in concert to thwart Noway’s independence. Sweden invaded, winning a short war and Norway became effectively part of Sweden. Our own UK was unsurprisingly one of the strongest opponents of Norwegian independence. Which may partly explain why there will be little if any coverage in the UK of this particular 200th anniversary.

The constitution survived

Another important lesson from Norway was that though it was denied independence it was able to secure self government. The Union with Sweden was a personal union with the King of Sweden and the new Norwegian constitution became the basis for government in Norway. This was of crucial importance in the years to come. Norway developed its own national institutions and by the end of the century the country was ready to take the next step.  The years of running their own government gave Norwegians the confidence to campaign for full independence. This came in 1905 after a bitter dispute with Sweden over international representation.

This is of course of particular relevance for Scotland. We now have our own parliament and our own government which is responsible for most of the decisions which determine our lives. What we need is not just our own international voice, but control over our economy. With our own government, the next step to full independence is not such a large step as it would have been 20, 30 or more years ago.

The international consensus can change

When Norway did finally become an independent country in 1905, it did so with the support of the UK. The same UK which opposed Norwegian independence in 1814 had by 1905 become one of the most vociferous supporters of Norway. The UK had not suddenly become converted to the right of self determination, but the international situation had changed. Germany was now the rising European power and Germany had very good relations with Sweden. By 1905 the UK, fearful that in any war Germany might use Norway’s ports, as did happen in the 2nd World War, was predisposed to welcome Norwegian independence as a counterpoise to German influence over Sweden.

By 1905 of course the demand for independence came from not just from the elites, but from most Norwegians. The Norwegian government proposed independence and this was massively supported by the people in a referendum. It will be similar for Scotland in 2014.  Independence has been proposed by the Scottish government and the final decision will be up to us, the people who live in Scotland. In September’s referendum we get the opportunity to peacefully vote for independence.

Scottish independence will come about through a negotiated and legal referendum. As such a Yes vote will significantly change the international situation. Countries that currently oppose Scottish independence will be faced with a new reality, one they can do little about. While those countries that at present remain neutral, for fear of intervening in the internal affairs of the UK, will be free to express their support for our independence. Norway has shown that independence can come, that it can come peacefully and without any difficulties. Norway also shows that independence can lead to a more prosperous and fairer future. Happy Constitution Day to all Norwegians on 17th May. May Scotland soon join you as another independent country!

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