Category Archives: The Referendum Letters

The Referendum Letters: 26/07/14 (To Pamela Nash MP)

To: Pamela Nash MP

Dear Ms Nash, 

I am contacting you to seek clarification of a number of issues which have been raised at various points over the course of the referendum debate. As a constituent of yours I have many, many concerns to do with Scotland’s future. Some of these I have raised before on your website, however none of these had any response and I now see that your website is closed to all comment, so I will raise them here by email. You have campaigned regularly for the Better Together campaign, so I am sure that you will be able to fully answer my concerns. 

1. Does Scotland – including its oil revenues, of course – contribute a larger share of the UK’s income than the share of UK spending it gets? (And I mean the SHARE, not the AMOUNT – debt which has to be paid back doesn’t count as “spending”.) 

2. Regardless of whether YOU think it would be a good idea or not, is it true to say that an independent Scotland could continue to use Sterling as its currency if it chose, no matter what happened? 

3. Your campaign keeps saying that independence would make our family and friends in the rest of the UK “foreigners”. Even if we accept that’s true, what’s wrong with foreigners?  

4. In your view, would the rUK really build and patrol a 100-mile long physical barrier of some sort across the border if an independent Scotland had a different immigration policy? (Because obviously road checkpoints alone couldn’t stop illegal immigrants, who’d simply cross on foot.) And if so, what would you estimate as the construction, manning and maintenance costs of such a barrier? 

5. The McCrone Report was kept from the Scottish public by successive Labour and Conservative governments for 30 years to prevent them knowing how rich Scotland would be if it were independent. Are you aware of any similar documents relevant to the independence debate which are currently designated secret? 

6. If I vote No in September, can you guarantee that in five years’ time Scotland will still be in the EU? 

7. If I vote No, can you guarantee that in 10 years’ time Scotland will still have a fully publicly-funded NHS? 

8. If I vote No, can you guarantee that the “Barnett Formula” used to calculate the Scottish Government block grant will still be in force by 2020 and set at the same proportions? 

9. What will be the approximate set-up/annual costs of the tax-collecting bureaucracy your party plans to implement in the event of a No vote? 

10. In the event of a Yes vote, will the UK government have an obligation to pay the pensions of everyone in Scotland who has ALREADY qualified for the UK state pension, as would be the case if current pensioners emigrated to (say) Spain or France or Australia? I’m not interested in the Scottish Government’s position on the matter, I want to know what the UK government’s responsibilities are. 

11. In your opinion, is Scotland a country or a region? If it is a country, why should it not have the rights and responsibilities of any other sovereign country? 

I look forward to your replies, 

Regards, 

James Cassidy

 

No response was ever received…

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The Referendum Letters: 06/08/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

This week Unionist politicians appeared in Glasgow to sign a pledge declaring that Scotland would be given more powers in the event of a No vote in the forthcoming referendum. One of the signatories was Nick Clegg who as many will recall, has form for signing pledges in public and acting differently when push comes to shove. It has already been stated by some Unionist politicians that the Scottish Parliament only operates because Westminster permits it to do so. They tell us what powers we can have, and what powers we cannot have. Sometimes they even sneak powers back under their own control.

In December 2013 the unelected House of Lords voted to remove the Scottish Parliament’s powers over renewable energy by way of amendment 54 to the Energy Act 2013. This gave the UK Government a free hand to completely bypass the Scottish Government and in July 2014 they announced a free for all on licences for fracking, something the Scottish Government was categorically against. Even our national parks weren’t kept off the target list. The Scottish Wild Land Core Map, which the Scottish Government had agreed to respect was bypassed at a stroke, and there isn’t a thing that can be done about it. While it was still to be seen if the Scottish Government would keep their word, there can be no doubt about what Westminster has done. It has stuck two fingers up to the people of Scotland, and said that if our legislation is a stumbling block to the UK national policy then they shall scrap it. We may have limited powers, so long as it suits Westminster, and when it no longer suits those powers will be taken back.

As someone who supports independence but opposes windfarms that concerns me greatly. With the Tories and the Lib-Dems both supporting “respectful fracking”, the Lib Dems and Labour supporting more wind turbines, and the Conservatives vowing to scrap onshore windfarms in future while supporting them today, it seems as clear as crystal that on examination there is absolutely no likelihood that a No vote in the independence referendum or a change of Scottish Government from the SNP with end the industrialisation of our wild places. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the order of the day where renewables is concerned.

I truly believe that the battle against windfarms has been lost. There are no doubt victories still to be had. Small windfarms with a good amount of reasonable objection, grounded in fact, can be defeated. I know this, because I have helped defeat such developments. But the larger developments, and these are generally the ones which occupy larger areas, are harder nuts to crack, and due to the sheer amount of money involved are likely to succeed. Should Scotland vote No in the forthcoming referendum it will be a signal to Westminster, not for more powers for Scotland, but to draw more power from Scotland. The National Planning Act which applies to England and Wales could quite easily be extended to cover Scotland. If we currently have any safeguards in Scotland against development they can be removed by Westminster to fall in line with those south of the border, and which will make a presumption in favour of large developments which are deemed in the national interest, the HS2 rail link being a case in point. Our own system is by no means perfect, but at least we had some mechanisms of protest, if not prevention. We need to protect this system just as strongly as we would like the wild land itself to be protected, and that will not be be done within a union that cannot be trusted to keep it’s word on which powers it permits us to have.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

 

The Referendum Letters: 01/07/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

On Sunday 29th June my daughter and I attend a peaceful protest outside the offices of the BBC in Glasgow. The protest was good natured and very well attended, a real family affair with all age groups in attendance. The reason for the protest was a simple one, to ask that the BBC act in accordance with their charter and report the referendum coverage fairly. It was addressed by Professor John Robertson, who has carried out a year long study of referendum coverage across the major channels, and found that the BBC was rather one sided in it’s reporting. I won’t bore Advertiser readers with the details, they are all available online, suffice to say that Professor Robertson’s research backed up what many people already suspected, that there was considerable bias in BBC reporting towards the unionist case. We attended this rally to ask for fairness and equality from the BBC, nothing more. Yet within hours Labour MP Jim Murphy was being quoted as saying that independence supporters were trying to “bully the BBC”. That is to be expected from him. What people didn’t expect was what happened next. Kathy Wiles was selected on Monday to be the Labour Party candidate for Angus at the 2015 general election. On Monday she posted a comment on twitter in response to comments from her Labour Party colleague Duncan Hothersall about a group of small children who attended the protest, in which she used a picture of Hitler Youth under a Nazi banner to describe them. Her attempts to cover up her actions were laughable, almost akin to Luis Suarez’s claims that the other player “fell onto his teeth”. Within 24 hours she had been forced to resign, and rightly so.

Two weeks ago I wrote to the Advertiser regarding the drip, drip, drip of Nazi smears that have emanated from Better Together and the Labour Party. I pointed out that this was a policy emanating from the very top, and here we are today seeing resignations from the lower ranks, yet Alistair Darling, Johann Lamont and Coatbridge’s Elaine Smith have all used this type of language and are currently getting away with it. If it is not Nazi slurs, we have them resorting to good old fashioned thuggery, where Iain Davidson, when not threatening fellow MP’s with a “doing” talks of a post referendum “bayoneting of the wounded”. It is no surprise therefore that new candidates such as Kathy Wiles follow the examples of their masters. I wonder how comfortable Ed Milliband, the son of a refugee from the holocaust is with these people on his team? When his own father was horribly attacked after his death by the press he said that it was for the people to judge whether this reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate. As to his party’s contribution to the independence debate, I could ask him the very same question.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 13/06/14

Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

Alistair Darlings Nazi smear attempt on Yes voters everywhere could almost be described as gutter politics, were it not for the fact that Better Together sank far below that level a long time ago. Sewer politics would be more apt. Reporting of his outburst may have gained a bit more traction had it not come in a good week to bury bad news, with the mainstream media focusing on Lallygate, when the BBC and the unionist media went into overdrive about the actions of some Yes supporters individuals comments. I have to ask myself if the world has gone stark, raving mad. Some keyboard warriors said some pretty despicable things, however we are talking about individual views here, not the views of Yes Scotland. Compare that with Alistair Darling’s leaked conversation where he states that the Scottish Independence movement is not based on civic nationalism, but he agrees with his interviewer that it is “Blood and Soil” nationalism, a phrase used by the Nazi party to describe their racially pure, aryan vision of Germany. Hardly applicable to the nationalism we have in Scotland. If you live here, you have a vote, regardless of race or ethnic origin. Mr Darling is not alone in his Nazi jibes though. Elaine Smith MSP has regularly thrown Nazi references in to her columns and letters, referring to fanatical nationalism and the lessons of history. In one of the worst quotes of all, in September 2013 the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, Johan Lamont described nationalism as “a virus”, the very same term Hitler used to describe the Jews. Can these people sink any lower? To liken your political foes as to nothing more than a virus which must be wiped out is abhorrent, yet this is not the lone nutter in the bedroom speaking. This is the leader of Scottish Labour! If it’s not the Yes supporters themselves they are attacking its Alex Salmond. Each week I call full house on Better Together’s “Alex Salmond Dictator Bingo”. Mussolini, check. Hitler, check. Stalin, check. Kim Jung Un, bingo! Talk about playing the man, not the ball! Alex Salmond may be dead and buried in 10 years time, yet the unionists make out that a vote for independence is a vote for a Scotland ruled by him in perpetuity. What we have from Better Together is a top down campaign of hatred and bile. On September 18th, the people of Scotland will, for one day, have the power to decide the future of Scotland. Some of us will be able to look ourselves in the mirror afterwards and be proud of our actions. I do not think the Better Together leadership will fall into that category. 

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 30/05/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

The success of UKIP seems to have finally roused our local MP Pamela Nash into action. Having seen her party roundly spanked across England and Wales she is now drawn into a battle on two fronts, requiring her and her party to tell different stories to different groups of the electorate north and south of our border. In her column in this weeks Advertiser it didn’t take long before she once again tried to pass off the now well worn lie that patriotism is somehow different from nationalism. She claims she is a patriot, and infers that her brand of flag waving and protecting her nations interests is warm and fuzzy and cuddly, while people like me who wave Scotland’s flag and want to protect Scotland’s interests are nasty and narrow minded. She claims that nationalism is about a sense of superiority. It’s the UK who continually tell us we are too poor to succeed, that we are too stupid to manage our own resources and that we are too small to go it alone! If there is a sense of superiority from anyone it is from her and her ilk who think we are put here to do as they tell us, no questions asked. It’s equality we want! She tries to equate people who support independence with those who support UKIP. Yes Scotland is about giving control of decision making in Scotland to the people who live in Scotland, irrespective of where they were born. I can only assume that she is willfully trying to smear Yes voters, tarring them with the same brush as UKIP, who would close our borders, withdraw from Europe and whose leader has stated that he wouldn’t like Romanians living next door. This isn’t of course to be confused with the current UK government (who we are repeatedly told we are better together with) who instead had vans with billboards driven around London spreading the message that Johnny Foreigner should go pack up and go home.

UKIP’s massive success in England and Wales is a political earthquake, so much so that BBC observers have said that Essex is where Britain’s political future will be decided. If Essex man says we leave Europe, then as part of the UK we will leave, whether we want to or not. This comes in the week that a Westminster panel finally conceded that an independent Scotland will be allowed to remain in the EU, after all the bluff and bluster that came before. Labour and Conservative alike are now making plans for Nigel, and that involves pandering to a UKIP led agenda. There is now more chance of Ed Milliband delivering pizza than there is of him delivering the powers he promised Scottish voters a few weeks ago. There will be pigs with wings over Scotland before Mr Milliband gets a sniff of power, and we can be relatively certain that the UK political map will not be Labour red any time soon. The future is instead to be Tory blue, with a hint of UKIP purple, and that cannot be good news for any right minded people in Scotland. Vote No at your peril, and don’t say you weren’t warned.

Can I just say a final few words to my great fans, David Smeall and John Love. David, I’m not a member of the SNP, I never have been and don’t intend to join. I support Yes Scotland, which draws support from across the political spectrum, including Labour supporters. John, rather than take up another page of the Advertiser, prompting rage from Mr Smeall, who would rather people didn’t know and vote no, I have put links to Philip Hammonds “danger from space” quotes and George Robertson’s “forces of darkness” speech on the Advertiser’s Facebook page for everyone to see. Happy reading! 

Yours Sincerely, 

Jim Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 11/05/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir,

I feel I must reply to Sam Daly’s letter in this weeks Advertiser. As Sam says I have known him a long time. I served in the same regiment, support the same football team and work for the same company. However as I was responding to a public letter, in a public forum, I used the formal term when referring to him. After all, whether I know him personally was not something the Advertiser readers were aware of, nor needed to be, although they are now. It just detracts from the debate in my opinion. However if he wishes something less formal, I’m happy to do so.

As regards the principle of “if you have to say something to someone, say it to their face”, I think Sam has perhaps forgotten that he emailed his letter to me two weeks before it was published, and we debated it by phone and email at the time. I told him at the time that I would probably write in response, but wouldn’t immediately do so for two reasons. One, I was at the time writing a response to one of David Stephen’s letters. Two, I couldn’t very well write to respond to a letter which hadn’t been published yet!

Sam seems to think there is a problem with my arithmetic, however after double checking my facts it looks like he still misunderstands the tax system. The Scottish NHS is funded through the block grant, not council tax. His offer to pay more tax to fund the NHS wouldn’t affect council tax in any way.

Sam also states that my assertion that free prescriptions for all can be obtained for little more than was already being paid for a means tested system is a baseless supposition, yet provides nothing to support his claim. I do actually put in a bit of research before making any claim, unlike some of the more prominent members of the No campaign who make public statement about numbers which fail to stand up to any reasonable scrutiny. The figures I have show that free prescriptions cost Scotland around £57 million a year, but a system of means testing is estimated to cost over half of that, and depending on which source you read would be anywhere between £30 and £50 million pounds. The difference between the two systems is barely the cost of an average premiership footballer. Considering that in 2007, 800,000 people in England and Wales failed to collect all or part of their prescription because they couldn’t afford to pay for it, I’d say the difference is well worth paying.

On the subject of football, Sam mentions a conversation which took place while at a football match. I won’t refer to anything Sam has said in private conversations, as I do not believe that this is an appropriate place to do so. Having said that I would like to clarify one thing. Regarding the Bedroom Tax, I think I’ve always been pretty clear on this. I fully agree that social housing is a resource of the state, not the property of the tenant, and that some sort of system should be in place to make sure that it is used to the full. However to say to a tenant that they are being penalised for not moving into a one bedroom house when there are no such properties available is just completely wrong. Given that the editor has requested letters are kept short and I’m already failing miserably, perhaps I will return to this at a later date.

If Sam is happy with the union, fair enough. That is his entitlement. Some people have done well out of the union, such as our MPs (and their colleagues in the cash cow for elderly politicians that is the House of Lords, the Holy Grail of the gravy train). I would expect them to defend it to the last, irrespective of whether it is bad for the country as a whole. But for working class people to defend it, knowing that the cuts yet to come will be deeper and harder than before, irrespective of who gets in to Westminster simply defies reason. A no vote is a vote to set in motion a process which will emasculate Scotland and reduce us to regional status. Scotland isn’t a region. I’m not North British, I’m Scottish, and it is my view that we should be able to take our own decisions as to what goes on in this country. Just like any other country. The ever more influential Nigel Farage wants to see the Scottish Parliament scrapped. The Tories want our MPs reduced. Labour wants to scrap the Barnett formula by the back door. Both Tories and Labour are focussed on stripping the NHS to the bones, and will turn their sights on Scotland’s NHS if given half a chance. Strip away the union flag waving and the 300 years of shared history rhetoric, and that’s what is waiting. There will be a heavy price to pay if we cling to the UK comfort blanket, and it’s a price not worth paying.

Yours Sincerely,

James Cassidy

The Referendum Letters: 23/04/14

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Dear Sir, 

This week Gordon Brown came out of retirement to lecture us all on the pensions timebomb that awaits us in an independent Scotland. According to the media one of Britains worst ever Prime Ministers, if not the worst ever is now “a well respected political heavyweight”. Gordon Brown is to pensions what David Moyes is to managing Manchester United, so it was no surprise that he dished out a few facts and ran off before they could be questioned, much as George Osborne did a few months back. Never mind the quality, feel the gravitas…

Mr Brown’s decision to talk at us, rather than with us leaves us to interpret things ourselves, or rely on other political heavyweights such as Ian Gray to interpret things for us. Mr Gray, like Tom Clarke a few weeks back on tax, manages to muddy the waters rather than clarify them. In a television interview he said that bigger nations are in a better position to manage pensions, yet the UK pension was reported in the English editions of some newspapers as being the 4th worst in the developed world and when you actually look at the figures, they show that some of the largest countries have some of the worst pension systems.

Which makes you ask, where did Mr Brown obtain his statistics? Apparently, from a leaked government document. Why is there no inquiry into the leaking of this? Is it because it wasn’t leaked in the traditional sense, it was simply supplied to Mr Brown by his Tory chums so that he could do their dirty work for them?

In any case Mr Brown should have paid more attention to the facts and figures in the secret report which we cannot see, as it would appear the figures don’t add up. That is to be expected, as he has previous for that, having raided pension funds and sold off the UK’s gold reserves to balance the books in the past. According to Mr Brown 259,000 pensioners in Scotland receive on average of £20 a week disability support, at a cost to the taxpayer of £1 billion a year. Yet 259,000 multiplied by £20 a week is only £269 million pounds, nowhere near a billion. Similarly he claimed that £700 million is paid in credits to 248,000 Scots per year at an average of £25 a week. 248,000 multiplied by £25 a week is £322 million! With arithmetic like that it’s no wonder he left the economy in tatters. It seems that his tactic is to take the actual figures and then double or treble them, before shouting it out and running away before anyone gets a chance to question it.

And here was me thinking Better Together were going to be more positive in their outlook. Two weeks ago George Roberston was warning that the “forces of darkness” lay in wait for an independent scotland. At the end of last week it was Philip Hammond claiming an independent Scotland was at risk from an attack from space, this week they are trying to frighten us with killer pensions. 

The affordability of pensions comes not from the size of the country, but how wealthy that country is. Scotland has the chance to takes it’s wealth and make it work for it, and provide a decent pension system which will pay something more than what is forecast in the United Kingdom, a less than minimum wage pittance topped up with food banks and charity.

When Mr Brown, and Mr Clarke and Ms Nash and their ilk warn that jobs and pensions are at risk, they are correct. What they fail to tell you is that the jobs and pensions they are referring to are their own. An independent Scotland means the wheels come off their taxpayer funded gravy train forever. Is it any wonder that they will try any scare story in the book to keep their gravy train on track? 

Yours Sincerely, 

James Cassidy