Monthly Archives: September 2014

How we lost

Very thorough and personal reflection on the Referendum campaign. I don’t agree with all of his points, but it is well worth reading and reflecting on for the future.

Aye Scotland


Before starting I’d like you to look at the above image. No one knows exactly what reality really is. Is it possible we’ve come the closest we’ll ever come in our lifetimes to an independent Scotland? Can we go further? This article is premised on the assumption that there are still opportunities to gain independence for Scotland, if we learn from where I believe we went wrong.

I’d like to make four points early on in this article. The first is that it is long. The second is that although there are a lot of negative points in it, it is not intended to criticise or dishearten. I admire everyone who made an effort in the campaign. The third is that it is my own personal view. The fourth is that when you get down to it, campaign or no campaign, the people of Scotland had a very simple question put…

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Nova Scotia – a model for Devo Max ?

With independence off the table for the medium term future,Yes supporters need to turn our attention to Devo Max. This is where the real battleground will lie in the short term – up to and possibly beyond the 2015 UK general election. The Unionists made solemn vows that a No vote would lead to greater powers for the Scottish Parliament. Some even talked about Home Rule and a Federal Britain. We must hold them to account on this.

Put forward a credible model now

However we must do more than just sit back and wait for the UK government to come up with something. This would be a great mistake. Whatever Westminster comes up with, however little and insignificant it amounts to, they and their friends in the media will present it as wonderful, powerful and unprecedented. If we are to counter this we cannot wait and then complain. We need to get in our counter proposals now. The key here is that it is the No voters that the Unionists need to convince with their offer. We still want independence but we are, let us not forget, the minority, so our views are of little import to the UK government. We need to get out into the public domain examples of what devolution of real powers looks like. This way all of us, including No voters will have a meaningful marker against which to judge the UK government’s offer.

Nova Scotia as a working model of Devo Max

There are many possibilities for Devo Max all the way to full fiscal autonomy. But as long as they remain theoretical, academic options, they are not likely to capture the interest or the imagination of the general public. Especially No voters. Instead I suggest that we put forward real life examples from other countries. I would propose the Canadian system as a good example to recommend. I have chosen Nova Scotia to illustrate this for obvious reasons, though the basics apply to all Canadian provinces. This has the advantage that most people in Scotland and the rest of the UK will be pretty familiar with Canada. Not the details of course, but Canada as a friendly, successful and stable country. One that used to be part of the British Empire to boot. This makes it that bit harder for Unionists to reject outright the Canadian system. If it works for Nova Scotia and for Canada why not for Scotland and the UK?

What powers does Nova Scotia have?

Very substantial powers is the short answer. The following brief summary is taken from the Nova Scotia Finance and Treasury Board. You can access the page here. Basically Nova Scotia raises revenues from; income tax, corporate tax, sales tax, taxes on petrol, user fees and royalties from offshore petroleum production activities.

In the case of income tax, corporate tax and sales tax, both the federal and provincial government set their own rates. The Harmonized Sales Tax for example in Nova Scotia is 15% – a federal portion (5%) and a provincial portion (10%). It is also interesting to note that most taxes in Nova Scotia are collected and administered by the Canada Revenue Agency. So there is no need for unnecessary duplication of beaurocracy.

Just to be clear, we do not need to become advocates for any particular form of devolution. But I do believe that we need to do all we can to ensure that the wider public is aware of how extensive devolution is in other successful countries. Canada is just one example. It does have a nice ring to it though. Why should Scotland not have the same economic powers as Nova Scotia?



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Post referendum – some initial thoughts

The final result was a disappointment. There is though, no need to get too despondent. The opposite is indeed the case. We on the Yes side have much to be proud of and though we failed in our objective this time, there are many encouraging signs to be found in the campaign and the vote.

A great triumph for democracy and voter participation
Not everyone gets the chance to vote for independence. Just ask the Catalans! The referendum campaign inspired hundreds of thousands of Scots to get active, get involved and get better informed. This was shown in the voter registration and the high turnout. The Yes side contributed massively to this achievement.

Historic high for Independence
With 45% of the electorate on a very high turnout of 84% this is a massive step up for the pro independence movement. Considering where we started from, in the mid to high 30s this is great progress. The other gain is that many of these voters will remain activists in future campaigns.

Most age groups voted for independence
This is some more excellent news for the future. Only two age groups, the 18-24 year olds and the over 65s voted No. Unfortunately the 65+ group is both a very large group and a group that tends to get out and vote. This time 73% of them voted No. However not to put too fine a point on it, this group is not the future of Scotland. I am part of this age group and only too aware of this. If we can keep the other age groups on the Yes side the momentum is towards a majority for independence.

No significant gender gap
This was one of the major themes throughout the campaign – women were much less likely to vote Yes than men. Much was made of this, but when push came to shove there was only a tiny difference – around 3%. Perhaps in the future we can put this one to bed.

Working class areas boosted the Yes vote
This is one of the stand out features of the results. The four council ares that return a majority for Yes are all predominantly working class areas – Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and my own Dundee. Well done to the fabulous four! However many other councils with large working class populations came very close to delivering a Yes majority. In Inverclyde for example the Yes vote was 49.92%, while North Ayrshire recorded 49% for Yes. Other councils where the Yes vote was above the 45% overall score included South Lanarkshire, Renfrew, Clackmannan, East Ayrshire, Falkirk, Highland and the Western Isles. Apart from the last two, all the others are predominantly working class areas.

A good night for RIC
Much of the credit for the higher than average Yes votes in these councils must go to the work of RIC. Regular canvassing paid off in Yes votes. Though RIC initiated and pushed this part of the campaign, the success was not due just to RIC. The Greens, Socialist party, unattached individuals and let us not forget many members of the SNP, including MPs and MSPs also played their part.

Very bad night for Labour
Difficult for Labour to try and deny this, the results in the councils mentioned above were a disaster for Labour. Large swathes of Labour voters have decided in favour of independence. They no longer trust Labour on many key issues, and the party will struggle to win these voters back. This is a constituency that the pro independence side must retain. Which can only be done with a clear left wing alternative.

Not too good for the SNP
While the overall result is good and a new high for independence, the high Yes votes were not in the traditional SNP areas, with the exception of Dundee. Areas where the SNP have done well in Holyrood and local elections all voted No, often by quite large majorities. This will cause some consternation in the party. The SNP still seems to be most voters’ first choice as the government of a devolved parliament in large parts of the country, the North East for particular. However there is little sign that this success is translating into votes for independence. If we are to win independence the other non SNP voices will need to play a more prominent role.

Lots still to do
The last minute panicking by the Unionist parties has opened a veritable can of worms for the UK. Making solemn vows to the people of Scotland will soon come to be seen as the easy bit. Delivering anything worthwhile may prove not just difficult, but almost impossible, to quote the not much missed Senhor Barosso. With English MPs likely to say No to everything and the Welsh and Northern Irish governments wanting more, Unionists may come to regret winning the referendum. We on the other hand must keep holding them to account and exposing the contradictions at the heart of their vows. As the Catalan activist Maiol Sanaüja commented, either the UK becomes a real federation or it implodes. Let’s help it implode!

Keep going
Life is full of disappointments, so we must let this one hold us back. I hope most, if not all the wonderful pro independence campaigning groups keep going in one way or another. A fairer and better Scotland is still to be won.

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Why do they want us to stay?

It is always a wonderful sight to behold – the British establishment in one of its periodic bouts of panic. And none surely come greater than the current one. The sight of Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Milliband downing tools at Westminster to hurry north, separately, mind you, to save the union is one that will become a classic.

A couple of opinion polls show the referendum on a a knife’s edge and all hell breaks loose in London. Panic stations does not do justice to the disarray among our Unionist friends. Promises and timetables appear all over the place, as if this was a referendum on a new railway system. On even a cursory glance these so called promises turn out to be nothing more than cauld kale. Though journalists in London seem prepared to take it all at face value. Which just confirms how out of touch they are with developments in Scotland.

The only really interesting question is why? Why is the British establishment so determined to keep Scotland in the UK? They say they love us, but the reality of the No campaign gives the lie to this claim. The one constant message from Unionists is that an independent Scotland would quickly become a basket case. Kicked out of the EU, denied NATO membership, oil revenues soon to disappear, without a currency and armed guards on the border. According to Better Together it is only the goodwill and financial subsidies from England which keep Scotland afloat. Yet they are so, so desperate for us to stay. It does not make any sense.

Simon Heffer has a wonderfully vitriolic anti Scottish rant in the English edition of the Daily Mail. In it he pulls no punches in his disdain towards Scotland, and quite openly calls for us to shove off. In its Scottish edition the Mail’s headline is Cameron’s plea for us to stay. You could hardly make it up. The schozofrenia at the Mail is just the most visible sign of the dilemma which is destroying the No campaign. Is Scotland a burden or an asset?

Simon Heffer’s fact free rant is squarely based on the subsidy Jock theory of “the most successful union in history”. He even manages to come up with a figure for this. Apparently we Scots get subsidised to the tune of nearly £18 bn per year by our oh so generous friends in England. I guess it is just England which provides this largesse, as I doubt even Simon Heffer believes that the Welsh and the Northern Irish generate this kind of surplus. However even if we dismiss Mr Heffer as a bit of a buffoon, the official No campaign is happy a to peddle this notion that Scotland is subsidised by England. How else can we explain their constant refrain that an independent Scotland would face a gaping hole of £6bn In our budget? Presumably we only survive at the moment due to the English kindly picking up this tab.

So once again we have this conundrum – if we are a burden to England, why are its leaders so determined to keep us? £6bn per year is a tidy sum, even for rUK. It will in practice be even higher. According to the No campaign when Scotland becomes independent we will lose many of our largest companies,including the banks and other financial services providers. They will relocate to rUK, thus providing another tidy boost to the economy of rUK. Furthermore we have recently been assured that independence will result in a massive capital flight out of Scotland, again to the benefit of rUK.

All of the above is the ongoing message from the No campaign. Scotland is too poor to survive on its own and needs the rUK, read England, to pay for all our goodies. Yet here we have three Englishmen touring Scotland and pleading desperately for us to stay in the UK. Have they told their English constituents that  Scotland is apparently costing them tens of billions of pounds every year? Would the good people of England not prefer to keep these billions for themselves to spend on their NHS, rather than subsidising us Jocks?

They cannot love us that much and they cannot all have a Scottish granny living somewhere in the Highlands. Though some of them probably do own a fair chunk of our land. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is something more at stake for the British establishment. This is an establishment not known for its magnanimity when it feels its power is under threat. The kind of panic we are witnessing today does not come out of love. It comes out of fear. Will our three gallant musketeers dare to tell us and the people in rUK what their fears are? Is Scotland, far from a subsidy junkie, a net contributor to the UK? Far from running out, are we facing the prospect of an another oil boom, with massive revenues to come for decades ahead? Revenues that the UK cannot do without? Not to mention that a rUK much diminished in size might find it impossible to maintain its great power illusions. In particular its prized permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

All in all it may be that it is rUK that has most to lose as a result of Scottish independence. But will our three front men for the British establishment dare to tell us the truth?





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Labour’s shaky grasp of history

A recent article by former Labour MP, Maria Fyfe shows how desperate the No campaign has become as the polls seem to be turning in favour of Yes. Writing in the Sunday Mail, Maria Fyfe makes great play of the past achievements of Labour governments at Westminster in passing reforms which have benefitted women.  None of this is to be denied. It is however her interpretation of this which is misleading at best, and bordering on lying at the worst.

First of all let us note that once again the No campaign is reduced to extolling the past. When it comes to the future though Maria Fyfe is on very shaky ground. The core of her argument for voting no is that a vote for Labour is the only way to ensure the further delivery of progressive legislation. Let us leave aside for the mement that the current Labour party does not sound very progressive. Recent history manifestly shows Maria Fyfe’s claim up for the lie that it is. In the UK general election of 2010 Scottish voters did massively vote for Labour. But what happened? We ended up with the current nasty Tory led government. The same result happened in the 80s and 90s. Scotland votes Labour, yet we ended up with Tory governments. Nothing in the least progressive about that! Instead we got the bedroom tax and the poll tax. Yet this is what Maria Fyfe and Labour wants to continue! Progressive change in Scotland will remain forever dependent on the electors in England voting the same way. What can one say? No thanks!

The other major problem with Maria Fyfe’s analysis is that it is based on the assumption that the progessive policies she refers to would not have happened in an independent Scotland. This however is the worst kind of history. As Maria Fyfe is at pains to point out thes reforms only happened under Labour governments. And in each case, Scotland also voted Labour. So, for Maria Fyfe to argue that these reforms would not have happened in an independent Scotland, she will have to argue that the Labour Party in Scotland would not have supported these reforms! For almost certainly Scotland would have elected a Labour government in the 60s, 70, 80s and the 90s.

So either Maria Fyfe is telling us that Labour in Scotland is not and never was a progressive party, or she is somewhat economical with the verity. Either way the only way to ensure a fairer and more progressive future for Scotland is to vote Yes for independence.

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