Tag Archives: Scottish Independence

Without Boris – some clarity, but more questions

Well, who saw that one coming? The rise and fall of Boris in just over a couple days. Boris must have an awful lot of enemies, both within and without the party for this to happen so quickly. From the words of Michael Gove and his wife, it seems that Boris was not reliably Brexit enough. After all Boris was always a bit of a reluctant Leaver, and his vision of a post Brexit UK sounded too close to the current position for many. Too many as it turned out.

The key divide, post Brexit, it seems to me, is between those who will reluctantly accept the result of the referendum, provided the UK stays in the Single Market, and those who want completely out. Without Boris it looks like the outers have won. All the four remaining candidates for the Tory leadership are committed to taking the UK out of the EU. Even Theresa May seems to have come down on the side of leaving the EU completely. The sticking point for her appears to have been the need to control immigration from the EU. Something that is incompatible with the Single Market.

This is potentially momentous. It does clear this aspect up quite considerably. The negotiations with the EU should be simpler, if not easier, and over sooner rather than later. Some arrangement will be needed to ensure access to the Single Market for goods, but it will be almost impossible to get more, access for services for example, without accepting the free movement of people. Which all the candidates have more or less ruled out.

This has made life a whole lot trickier for lots of people, including Scotland’s attempts to remain in the Single Market, let alone the EU. But not just Scotland, the two Irelands and even tiny Gibraltar will feel the impact of the UK leaving the Single Market.

In the case of Scotland this will both clarify and complicate matters. Staying in the Single Market, but leaving the EU, while not optimum, would nevertheless be an acceptable outcome for many. You get most of the benefits, trade and the free movement of people, which most Remainers value highly. It also and most importantly means that there will be no land border between Scotland and England in terms of trade. The downside for those in favour of independence is that this option might well make independence less appealing to some of those No voters who are reconsidering their position.

If, on the other hand, as now seems likely, the UK leaves the Single Market, this makes the choice very binary. The only way for Scotland to remain, not just in the EU, but in the Single Market, would be to become independent. However, with the rest of UK no longer in the Single Market, the trade and other links with rUK would become crucial. England will almost certainly remain Scotland’s most important trading partner. Can we ensure open access to England if Scotland remains in the EU? The question of a hard land border rears its ugly head again. Even those most in favour of remaining in the EU might baulk at independence if it meant restricted access to England.

However these questions are just as important for the republic of Ireland, perhaps even more so. Ireland has always been closely tied to the UK. Ireland has effectively been part of the British Single Market for decades. The Common Travel area ensures hassle free travel across the British Isles. Ireland only joined the UK when the UK did, and may never have done so, if the UK had not. Now of course as an established member of the EU, Ireland will face some very difficult choices if the UK does leave the Single Market. Can the Common Travel Area survive? Will there have to be a hard land border between Northern Ireland and the republic?

Paradoxically, this could help Scotland. If Ireland manages to successfully adapt to the UK leaving the Single Market, while remaining in the EU, then there is no reason why Scotland could not also do so.

The withdrawal of Boris will also impact on the Tory party itself. It is most strange that the Tory party does not have even the option of electing a leader who is in favour of remaining in the Single Market. Remember, most of the cabinet were in favour of at the very least remaining in the Single Market. While some have clearly changed their mind on this, can the same be said for all Tory MPs? This must be dreadful for the likes of Ken Clarke, John Major et al. While they are the old guard, presumably some of the current crop of Tory MPs share their view that leaving the Single Market will be disastrous for the UK. After all around 40% of Tory voters voted Remain. if, even 30% of Tory MPs are opposed to leaving the Single Market, it may prove impossible for the new PM to get this through Parliament. Whilst most people, at least in England and Wales, accept that the UK has to leave the EU, it is less clear how many people will be prepared to accept leaving the Single Market. As the Chinese saying has it, we live in interesting times, and they only look like getting even more interesting!


Filed under European Union, Politics, Scotland, UK

Brexit – Will it happen?

A week is a long time in politics, someone once said. Well that was ancient history, as it seems that now, even a day is a long time in politics. At least as far as Leavers are concerned. Barely had the result been announced before we had the hilarious spectacle of leading Leavers more or less confirming that their whole campaign had been a pack of lies. There will be no £350 million coming to the NHS, this was just campaign rhetoric. Even the central campaign claim that leaving was the only way to bring down immigration from the EU has been shown to be a big fat lie. Daniel Hannan on BBC Newsnight stated loud and clear that there would be no reduction in EU migration. Not only that but the free movement of labour within the EU would continue. Hannan told presenter Evan Davis: “Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed.” Well, I think going to be disappointed will turn out to be a bit of an understatement.

However things might get even worse for all those who voted to leave the EU. Will it actually happen? Before the UK can leave, the UK government has to invoke article 50 of the EU treaty. Once invoked this sets off a two year timetable, at the end of which the UK will be out of the EU. Having just voted in a referendum to leave, why has the government not already invoked article 50? It seems that the government has no intention of invoking this article, perhaps ever. Even the leaders of the Leave campaign, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, have stated that the government should wait. For a new Prime Minister to be elected by the Tory party? Longer?

Why all this delay? Tom Short posted on Facebook this comment from the Guardian, which may explain why Boris et al are backing off from taking the UK out of the EU. “And as the day wore on, the enormity of that step (leaving the EU) started to sink in: the markets, Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market, re-issuing passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legistlation to be torn up and rewritten … the list grew and grew.”

Faced with this prospect it is no wonder that the likes of Johnson and Gove prefer to do nothing and wait and wait. David Allen Green, who blogs as Jack of Kent, has an excellent post in which he details just how significant article 50 is to all this. Or rather, how the failure to invoke article 50 effectively means there will be no Brexit.
How will this go down with all those who did vote to leave, expecting that this would in fact mean leaving, and leaving as soon as possible, preferably immediately? Not very well I imagine. As Green notes, “This will not please Leave campaigners, and rightly so. It means the result of the referendum will be effectively ignored.”

Could something like this actually happen? I have my doubts. Firstly the other 27 member states may try and force the UK to either invoke article 50 or to publicly ignore the referendum result. I cannot see the 27 being willing to just sit around waiting for the UK government to make up its mind. I also do not see the 27 being willing to engage in informal negotiations prior to invoking article 50. I suspect they will want to get this over and done with as soon as possible.

As will those who voted Leave on the basis that leave meant leave. To try and ignore the result in any way would be an enormous affront to democracy. All coming from a group that claimed that the EU was undemocratic! The damage a delay or any attempt to circumvent the result would cause is likely be catastrophic. It would probably make most of those who voted to leave feel even more alienated.

The fact that leading members of the Leave campaign can even consider any of the above, whether it is postponing starting the leave process, or staying in the Common Market, which would include the free movement of people and all these regulations that they claimed were so damaging, just confirms that the Leave campaign was run by a bunch of charlatans, unwilling to take responsibility for what they have unleashed.

Luckily for us in Scotland it matters not a jot what they do or don’t do. If they try to somehow delay or circumvent the result they simply expose themselves as undemocratic and untrustworthy. A perfect reason for leaving the UK. If they go ahead and leave the EU, this provides another justification for Scottish independence. Well done guys!

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Filed under European Union, Politics, Scotland, UK

And Denmark?

Today could have been Independence Day for Scotland if there had been a Yes vote in 2014. Alas there was not and we are still trapped within a sclerotic and ever nastier UK. However this has not stopped Unionists for using this (non)event as an excuse to yet again try to rubbish the whole notion of Scottish independence. Too wee and too poor. It seems that as an independent country there would be a black hole of £15n or £10bn, depending on who you read. Whatever the amount it is clearly something very, very bad. And without the generous largesse of England we up here would be facing disaster.

I am always bemused by these so called analysis and reports as they never seem to include any kind of a) international comparison, nor b) any kind of analysis as to why Scotland is in such economic poor shape. After all to the extent that the Scottish economy is in such a poor state, this must have something to do with the UK. There is no separate Scottish economy at the moment. We remain part of the UK. So any failings, economy wise, must be, at least in part, due to the incompetence of successive UK governments.

The lack of international comparisons has always seemed to me to be an ongoing weakness of the debate about independence. For this post I will concentrate on Denmark. Another relatively small north west European country. Slightly smaller in size than Scotland, with a slightly larger population. Hardly anyone disputes that Denmark continues to be an economic success story. It does not need to rely on anyone in order to pay its way in the world. Its GDP per capita remains higher than the UK’s. Its budget deficit is less than 3%, while its national debt represents just 47% of its GDP. All this without the blessing or curse of significant North Sea oil revenues!

So why is Denmark so consistently successful, while Scotland is apparently so consistently a basket case, unable to survive well on its own?  I can think of only two reasons that might account for Denmark’s success and Scotland’s relative failure. One is that Danes are simply genetically more intelligent, more enterprising and generally just better than Scots. A bit of a stretch this one, and not obviously true. Not sure that Unionists would want to push this line anyway. Not only are we too wee, too poor, but also too stupid!

The other possible explanation for Danish success it that Denmark, the land and its waters, is inherently more productive than Scottish land and seas. Now, not being either an economist, nor an expert on Denmark and its economy, this also seems a bit of a stretch. Not aware of any natural resources in Denmark that could even begin to explain its economic success.

The only other difference I can think of is that Denmark is an independent country and can thus tailor its policies, economic, financial, social etc to suit the needs of Denmark. While poor Scotland remains tied to the Westminster straightjacket, both in terms of overall taxation policy and spending decisions.

It would be helpful if some of our Unionist friends could explain to me just why Denmark is so successful and clearly manages very well as an independent country. What is it that Denmark has that Scotland has not? After all the whole thrust of the better together argument should mean that Scotland is economically more successful than Denmark. Why is it not?

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What’s the point of a pro-indy majority at Holyrood?

Quite a lot has been written, and no doubt will continue to be written, about how best to achieve a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament. Should independentistas vote SNP on both the constituency and the regional votes? Or should they give their regional vote to one of the other pro indy parties – Greens, RISE, Solidarity? With the SNP still riding high in the polls, some argue that a regional vote for them will be wasted. So it would be better to vote tactically for one of the other pro indy parties. Others argue that tactical voting for the regional seats is just impossible. No one can really know in advance, and certainly not at this stage, just how well or poorly the SNP will actually do in the constituencies.

I find most of this to-ing and fro-ing a tad irritating. Just for the record I will cast my regional vote for the Greens. Nor out of any attempt at tactical voting, but because I am convinced by (most) of the policies offered by the Greens. On the other hand if you prefer the SNP, you should vote SNP both times. What is missing from all of this is just why a pro indy majority in the parliament is so important?

Again, to be clear, a pro-indy majority is important as only a pro indy majority can initiate another referendum. However is that all there is to it?  Another referendum may be a necessary requirement for independence, but the main challenge in the meantime is to persuade as many of the 55% who voted No, to change their minds. Having a  parliamentary majority to hold a referendum is not much use if we have not at the same time succeed in persuading a majority of the electorate to vote Yes.

My concern is that none of the pro indy parties are coming up with ideas on how to move forward. What can the next Scottish parliament and government do to move the debate forward? I would suggest there are at least four key areas in which the parliament can take the lead – a constitution, the transition to independence, the economy and international recognition.

An independent Scotland will need its own constitution. There is no reason why work on this cannot begin now. In Catalunya, their new parliament with its pro indy majority has established a study commission on a constitution. We could follow this line and set up a select committee of the parliament to prepare a draft constitution. An alternative would be to set up an independent Commission to develop a constitution. In both cases, an essential part of the remit would be to involve the public as actively as possible in the generation of the constitution. Any final decision would be taken by the parliament as a whole and then by the public in a referendum.

The transition to independence following a Yes vote in a future referendum will involve significant legal changes and some intensive negotiations with Westminster over important matters such as the national debt etc. The White Paper for the referendum outlined the range of issues that would need to be resolved. However the White Paper, necessarily, was just the proposals of the SNP. There is a broader pro indy movement, and it would be good to see all of this movement involved in discussing and preparing for a future transition to independence. Again this could be via a select committee or an independent Commission.

The economy was by broad agreement the area were the YES movement made least progress. This covered worries about the affordability of pensions, the importance or not, of North Sea revenues and the currency issue. Too many voters were unconvinced by our arguments and were more inclined to be swayed by the assertions of doom coming from the No side. Before any second referendum we must have first convinced a clear majority of the soundness and long term stability of the Scottish economy. Work needs to begin now. And this work needs to involve as many people as possible. Parliament and the government need to establish how this work will be done and to oversee it. This will ensure the work has credibility. Much preliminary work has already begun, but it needs to be brought together in one process.

International recognition was another area in which the YES side failed to convince a majority. Doubts about Scotland’s continuing membership of the EU in particular dominated much of the campaign. What I found most surprising was that the YES side had not managed to get any significant support from EU bodies nor from other member states. I find it hard to believe that everybody in the EU parliament or in all the governments and parliaments of other countries were adamantly opposed to Scottish independence.  After all in 2006 all the EU member states, including Spain, recognised the independence of little Montenegro, after its independence referendum. Not only that but newly independent Montenegro was almost immediately accepted as a candidate for EU membership. Unanimously, which means that Spain also voted to accept Montenegro.  It still seems incredible to me that we allowed to go unchallenged this notion that the EU would welcome Montenegro with open arms, but would reject Scotland. We need to find a way of establishing and maintaining formal and informal links with the EU parliament and the parliaments and governments of the other member states. The objective is to get at least some of the other states to publicly state that an independent Scotland would be welcomed within the EU. Similar links should also be established with other countries, especially with the USA and Commonwealth countries. It should not be too difficult to persuade the many countries that have become independent from Britain to support the wishes of the people of Scotland as expressed in a referendum.

I am strongly of the view that the new parliament, if there is a pro indy majority, needs to quickly get moving and establish select committees, Commissions or whatever, to carry out the necessary preparatory work for establishing an independent Scotland.


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A Year On – Still Yes

With the first anniversary of the referendum upon us, it is as a good a time as any for a bit of reflection. Like just about everyone who participated in the Yes campaign I found it an exhilarating, exciting and rewarding experience. We failed to convince a majority of our fellow citizens, but we did convert hundreds of thousands and the momentum was clearly with Yes. This momentum has continued and it is the pro independence side that remains the more buoyant, determined and optimistic.

I share in this determination and optimism. I remain convinced that independence is the right way forward for Scotland. My reasons remain the same. Basically that the key decisions about the future of Scotland should  be taken by the people who live here. It’s all about democracy and taking responsibility for our future.

I reckon that a majority of Scots also share this position. Alas, we did not convince enough of them that Scotland was economically viable as an independent country. Worries about our long term economic viability were expressed in many ways. Fears that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford the pensions for older people. The fear that many businesses would leave the country. Allied to this the fear that if Scotland was out of the EU this would damage our economy. The worry that Scotland was too dependent on (declining) revenues from the North Sea. Finally, fears about the currency of an independent Scotland – what if Westminster said no to us using the pound?

All of the above factors were influential in creating a climate of fear about the economic prospects of an independent Scotland. They were together the main weapon of the No campaign. In this they were ably abetted by our very biased media, who kept up a constant barrage of scare stories and fears throughout the referendum campaign. So I agree with those who believe that it was the failure to convince more people about the long term economic viability of an independent Scotland that lost us the referendum. It is many ways a wonder that we managed to convince so many, given the hostility to our campaign.

Where I part company with many on the economy factor is that I do not believe that the currency was in itself the crucial factor. A factor yes, but for me, no more important than the others mentioned above. From my perspective, currencies are just not that important. Just about all the independent countries in the world have their own currency. Yet the economic performance of these countries ranges from the abysmal to very good. Equally there is no clear pattern to discern from among the few countries that either share a currency or just use someone else’s currency. Greece, Ireland and Portugal have all had economic woes, but so have lots of other countries with their own currency, including our very own UK.

What was damaging in relation to the currency question was the uncertainty that surrounded it. Would Westminster agree? How strong or weak would an independent currency be? But this was the same with all the factors around the economy.  There was uncertainty about the EU, about just how rich and viable Scotland was. Uncertainty is the name of the game.  Uncertainty applied as much to the UK and staying in the UK. But nobody in the media was prepared to pose these questions or rigorously challenge the Unionists on the long term viability of the UK in either economic or social well being terms.

My central point is that we still have much work to do to convince No voters that Scotland has the resources to be a stable and successful country. I am disappointed that we did not do better on this score. I still feel that we should have done more about international comparisons. No two countries are the same, but Denmark and Scotland do have a lot in common in terms of geographic location, size and population. I am no economist and no expert on Denmark, but I find it impossible to work out just what natural advantages Denmark has over Scotland. Yet nobody, not even in the No campaign would suggest that Denmark is not one of the most successful countries in the world. Nobody ever suggests that Denmark should not be an independent country on the grounds that it is too small and too poor. So why did we not challenge Unionists to demonstrate with evidence why Scotland, unlike Denmark would not be similarly successful?

The economy has to be the key issue for winning a second referendum. Independence will only come when a clear majority of Scots have confidence in the wealth and resources of their country. The perilous state of the UK economy and its uncertain future should offer us fertile ground for building the general case that Scotland has all the resources needed to be a stable and successful country. This will not be about specific policies, but about the basics of the economy – the rich range of natural and human resources at our disposal.


Filed under Independence, Scotland

Another Referendum?

Lots of people it seems are getting quite excited about the prospect of another independence referendum in Scotland. In large part this is due to the double outcome of the recent UK election – a massive win for the SNP in Scotland alongside the return of a Tory government at Westminster. Some people are keen to start a campaign to put pressure on the SNP to hold another referendum in the near future. I think this is unwise. First of all because the SNP made it clear that this election was not about another referendum. For them to suddenly change their mind on this would be severely damaging to their own credibility with the Scottish electorate. But more importantly to call for another referendum without the confidence that we will win would be disastrous for independence. To lose another vote close after the first would set back the prospect of independence decades or more. It is jut not worth it. We need to take a bit of time and think carefully about when and how we can demand another referendum.

55%+ This was the winning share of the vote in the last referendum and just about everyone has regarded this as a clear victory. Particularly those on the No side, who have made much about 55% being a substantial and clear result. 55% was also the target set in the Montenegro referendum in 2006.  Independence was achieved with 55.5% of the vote. Interestingly the rest of the world recognised this result, including Spain! This then should be our minimum target for a future referendum. I know that 50.1% is legally a win, but we should aim for much more. 50.1% can hardly be claimed to be the settled will of Scotland. Independence is not something to be taken lightly. I want a clear majority of my fellow citizens to be convinced of independence. That way we can all confidently move forward. 55% should become our base line. No talk about another referendum until we are convinced that we can get over this figure.

60%+ In any future referendum we can expect once again the whole might and machinery of the British establishment and their allies in the media to be thrown at us. Project Fear will be resuscitated and if possible doubled in resources. We must be prepared for some people to be swayed by this fear factor again. Hence the 60%+. We need to have the support of well over 60% of the population before thinking about calling another referendum.

Consistent support will also be a requirement. I would want polls to show over 60% in favour of independence for at least a year and preferably longer. This lead also needs to be stable. It is no good if polls fluctuate widely with some over 60% and others much lower. Remember, losing another referendum is not an option.

The above outlines my views on the level of support for independence we will need for another referendum. This will determine when that referendum could be held. There is also though the not so small matter of who has the right to call another referendum and on what basis. It would be nice to just call a snap referendum when you are 99.9% certain you will win, but that is almost impossible to do. Other than expecting to win, there has to be some kind of justification for holding another referendum.

The SNP has raised the notion of “material change” into the debate. This is suitably vague, but the actual material change that is deemed serious enough to give rise to another referendum would need to be accepted as sufficiently serious by a clear majority in Scotland. Otherwise there is the risk that many voters would be alienated enough to vote No again. Voters do not look kindly on being asked to vote on someone else’s whim. This means that there is a second hurdle for us to overcome before calling for another referendum. The justification for the referendum has to be accepted by a majority.

There is one final hurdle to overcome before another referendum. That is who can legally call one?  The SNP long argued that the Scottish Parliament had the right to call one. This interpretation of the Scotland Act was vigorously challenged, and not just by Unionists. When the last referendum did come about it was by virtue of an agreement with the UK government and legislation passed at Westminster. The fact that the SNP agreed to this, leads me to believe that the SNP had themselves come to the conclusion that Holyrood does not have the legal right to call a referendum on what is still regarded as a reserved matter, i.e. the constitution.

Our new masters at Westminster have made it pretty clear that they will not allow another referendum in the lifetime of the current UK parliament, which is due to run until 2020. It does not look likely that either Labour or the LibDems would favour another referendum either. Though both these parties are so weak and likely to remain weak well after 2020, that their views are not that important. While things change and we cannot rule out the possibility that the Tories might agree to another referendum, I doubt it very much. They only agreed to the last one because they were super confident they would  win and win by a mile. They got a bit of a shock. The next time, another referendum would only be called when the SNP was super confident of winning.

In these circumstances, with polls consistently, over a number of years, showing a big, big vote for independence, the UK government might, just might, realise the game is up and concede gracefully. I wouldn’t bet anything on it though. UK governments are not known for acting gracefully. At least not until after the event. If the UK government were to stubbornly refuse another referendum against the clear wishes of an overwhelming majority of Scots, what then? The only option I can foresee is that the next election, UK or Scottish, is turned into a plebiscitary election. If a majority of the electorate vote for parties in favour if independence, and this vote is over 50%, preferably well over 55%, then the Scottish government declares independence.

This would work, both domestically and internationally, provided that there was a large enough majority for independence in Scotland and the UK government was seen as denying Scots their right to a democratic vote.  At present we are a very long way off from this possible outcome. As I have outlined above we are also a very long way off the conditions for calling for another referendum. We need time to increase support for independence so it becomes the clear and settled will of well over 60% of all Scots. Much work to be done.


Filed under Scotland

Yes and No are not over

Gerry Hassan has an interesting article for the Scottish Left Project entitled Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes? In it he lists and comments on some of the myths of the indyref which he claims are still held on to by some and which need dispelling. It is an interesting piece, but not very illuminating, which you can read in full here. The Wilderness of Peace blog has done an excellent job of refuting Hassan’s many points, and you can read this riposte here.

I want to pick up on one of Gerry Hassan’s so-called myths which needs dispelling. According to Mr Hassan, Yes and No are over. They are not the future. There is no future in them. They belong to the past – and died on September 18th. The Yes/No binary has to be lost to allow the emergent new voices, spaces and movements which came forth in the referendum to grow, be set free, and find a place to flourish which is not dependent or related to the independence referendum.

Now, strictly speaking this is not really a myth. There is a Yes/No binary, it is just that Mr Hassan wants us all to leave it behind and let it die. Now this is exactly what Unionists have been calling for ever since the referendum. So it is a bit surprising to read Gerry Hassan endorsing this Unionist call. Particularly as he gives no convincing reason as to why this should happen. The various emergent new voices which came forth during the referendum all seem to be doing a very fine job of growing and finding places to flourish. It is a pity that Mr Hassan did not seem to think fit to ask any of these new voices for their opinion on the relevance of the Yes/No divide. As far as I can make out, they all seem to be quite explicit on which side of the divide they lie.

For,contrary to Mr Hassan the Yes/No binary is still relevant. More so than ever I would argue. Though the Unionists won the referendum it was never made clear just what kind of UK we were asked to endorse. This is not just about the infamous Vow, which came very late in the day. Throughout the campaign, Unionists of all sorts made it crystal clear that a No vote was not a vote for no change. It was just that their assorted promises were extremely vague.

We still do not know what kind of Union will emerge post referendum. In this respect the Smith Commission has done Unionists no favours at all. Their proposals are underwhelming for most Scots, while the mere mention of additional powers for Scotland seems to arouse some rather unedifying responses from most English MPs. Not to mention that the Smith proposals say nothing about Wales or Northern Ireland.

The point that Mr Hassan seems to have missed is that for the time being the Yes/No divide is as much about genuine constitutional change for the whole of the UK. Can the UK transform itself into a federal or near federal state? One that gives proper recognition to all the component nations that make up the UK. One that at long, long last begins to transfer power, both political and economic, away from London to the rest of the UK.

Those in the No camp are still, judging by their contributions to the Smith Commission unwilling to even contemplate such a transformation of the UK. So Yes and No remains an accurate and useful dividing line. While most of us on the Yes side will continue to put forward the case for independence, in the meantime we are more than willing to join forces with others across the UK in arguing for genuine constitutional change. The UK state in its current form needs to be broken up and reconstituted. You are either in favour of this transformation or not – Yes or No?

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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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