Letter to The National, 06/10/16
On Thursday night I went to bed comforted by the sight of Nigel Farage conceding defeat in the European referendum. I awoke on Friday to find that Nigel had been a tad hasty and that the Leave campaign had indeed snatched victory. Within a few hours David Cameron had announced that he wouldn’t be staying to clear up the mess he had created. Shortly after that Nicola Sturgeon had announced that a second Scottish independence referendum was now very much on the table.
Previously I had noted that the EU referendum had never really got off the ground in Scotland. I myself saw it as England’s referendum; England’s arguments about by and large England’s problems. Front and centre was the immigration debate. The polite argument about being able to control borders, about being able to plan for services and housing was a fig leaf for an undercurrent of racism, and that fig leaf dropped off on Friday when a Leave victory was announced. In the days that have followed the racism and hatred that was hidden spewed forth. Messages posted on doors and lamp posts that “Polish Vermin should go home”. T-shirts worn proudly calling to “SEND THEM BACK”. A gathering of right wing English patriots in Newcastle waved a banner calling for an end to immigration and for the start of repatriation. The message was clear. Migrants, immigrants, Muslims, foreigners, call them what you will, aren’t welcome.
The message given out in Scotland was, like the vote itself, completely different to the vote in England and Wales. Scotland is your home, and you are welcome. Personal experience and the experiences of other Scots in England shows that in many quarters the Scots are viewed in the same light as any other foreigner. We are as unwelcome and as hated as the Poles and the Romanians. More so if the Daily Mail comments section is anything to go by.
The links between the hard line unionists in Scotland and the right wing in England are strong. The sharing of Britain First imagery, the emphasis on the union flag, the poppy, “our boys”, and the monarchy, these are common links, strong common bonds. So it’s no surprise to see that some of the most vehement opposition to the EU in Scotland has come from this quarter. I’ve heard the arguments about how undemocratic it is to have another country ruling over us, about how undemocratic it is being ruled over by an unelected elite, and about how undemocratic it is to have an unelected EU President.
Yet these same individuals will see no wrong in being ruled over by an unelected monarch. They will see no wrong in our political system now comprising more unelected Lords than elected MP’s. They see no wrong in having a Parliament in another country set the laws in this country. In fact not only will they see no wrong in these things but they will actively argue for these principles, while failing to recognise that principles cannot be dropped when they don’t suit. In the words of Groucho Marx “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others”.
If democracy is your principle, defend it.
If unelected politicians are an affront to democracy, stand up against them.
If unelected heads of state are incompatible with democracy then campaign to have an elected head of state.
If you agree that the people best placed to make the laws in a country are the people who live there, then fight for their right to do so.
And if you think that all those things should apply across the globe except in Scotland then you are neither principled nor democratic. You are British, you are a hypocrite, and you aren’t a Scot.
Letter to The National, 31/05/16
Jim Sillars has been received much coverage in recent days for his anti-EU views, most recently where he stated that the SNP’s position doesn’t add up. In my view it is some of Jim Sillars claims on the EU which simply don’t add up, and I suspect that he is being given column inches and airtime on the basis of the position in Scottish politics that he once had in order to attack the SNP and by extension the independence movement.
Mr Sillars claims that if an independent Scotland were to apply to join the EU they would be rebuffed, and I quote “as they were in 2014”. Call me Mr Pedantic but while various bigwigs within the EU said that that would be the case (Mr Barroso springs to mind) the EU as an organisation was never asked the question directly, because that privilege is retained by the UK government. They refused to ask it out of fear of what the answer would be, so Scotland was never rebuffed at any time, and the question remains unanswered.
Mr Sillars also claimed that a BREXIT vote was not a trigger to a second independence referendum as this was not specifically stated in the 2016 manifesto. I’m pretty certain that the term “significant and material change in circumstances” kind of covers that, unless Mr Sillars believes Scotland being taken out of the EU if it votes to remain is insignificant and immaterial.
As someone who has voted for the No2EU party in the past I am more than receptive to arguments about why the EU is failing and about why it may be virtually impossible to reform it from within. However I would like those arguments to be honest arguments, and not inaccurate ones which are voiced for short term gain which will no doubt be used both now and in future by those forces opposed to Scottish independence.
“Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”
George W Bush
So David Cameron is looking to make it two wins out of two with his latest wheeze: The Vow Mk11 or EuroVow.
A cobbled together series of allowances, clarifications and distractions that will do for now, long enough to help him over the finishing line with an In vote. All of which can be removed at some point in the future.
The Scottish Independence referendum in 2014 saw us asked to vote on whether Scotland should or should not remain part of the political union that is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For the best part of two years the debate was on the merits or otherwise of independence; the principles of either self determination of having decisions made on your behalf. It was only at the 11th hour that the third option was introduced, the infamous Daily Record insipid inspired Vow offering a new, shiny arrangement. As we’ve seen, it’s yet to be delivered, and isn’t binding on future arrangements.
I’m as yet neither for In or Out in the Euro Referendum. I see merits and weaknesses to both arguments. But I’ll say one thing; Cameron’s EuroVow is a sideshow, a distraction, a political squirrel designed to distract from the real question: In the long term are we better off in or out of the EU? That’s what we should be debating. The contents of Mr Cameron’s deal are a diversion, valid on one day only and not binding on a European Union which is constantly evolving. Don’t be distracted.
Letter to The National, 14/10/15
George Kerevan (National, Monday 12th October) greatly emphasised that Scotland remaining part of the EU was right and correct when he put forward the case for the UK (and if possible an independent Scotland) remaining in the EU. He then highlighted what he felt was wrong with the EU, and how to fix those faults. The EU is no more a self critical reformer than Westminster is, and the many faults it has are unlikely to be solved from within, especially when you examine its track record, and its conduct during the independence referendum where it was no friend to the Scottish interest cannot be overlooked either. Over recent weeks and months we have heard that Scotland’s railways cannot be publicly owned, that Caledonian MacBrayne must be run by the private sector and that part of Scottish Water must be handed to a company who are run for the benefit of shareholders and not the nation. In each and every case EU legislation has been cited as the reason these actions have been taken. One might think that the only way to defeat such legislation and start with a clean slate would be to leave the EU, and this is a tempting prospect, for while membership opens the door to trade it closes the door on public ownership of national assets for the national interest.
The idea that Scotland will vote differently from the rest of the UK to trigger another independence referendum is an interesting one, but one that will ask many Scots perhaps to deny their instincts and vote to stay in the EU when they feel Scotland would be better off outside it. It would be doubly sickening if having done so the other countries in the UK also voted to stay in the EU. This would mean that within three years Scots would have voted to remain both in the UK and the EU. Where then for independence?
I was almost open mouthed as I read Roger Smith’s viewpoint in the November issue of TGO. Roger stated that the referendum result was the best option as Scotland would have been out of the EU for 5 years and revenue streams would have been lost. I cannot disagree more. For starters the figure of 5 years has been plucked from thin air. Why not say 15 years and make it a complete whopper? What is a fact is that Scotland is a member of the EU, and had 18 months in which to negotiate membership to an organisation of which it is already a member and already compliant. Another fact that was ignored is that the EU has no means to remove EU citizenship from its citizens. It bust a gut to ensure that the bankrupt Greek economy was retained, the idea that it would throw an energy and resource rich Scotland out is laughable. The real threat to continued EU membership is now looming on the horizon, with an in/out EU referendum and a possible Blue Tory/UKIP alliance. What is possible is not a mere blip in funding, but a complete end to it. In any case the point is now moot and a distraction from what is to come.
Roger is mistaken when he states the environment was rarely mentioned. Perhaps in the mainstream media it wasn’t, but at the public meetings I attended it certainly was. The Yes campaign was consistent in its message of wanting a cleaner, greener, nuclear free Scotland. This may be one reason why the Green Party in Scotland have seen their membership rise by over 4000 since the referendum.
I personally am no fan of windfarms and the industrialisation of our wild places, and Roger is correct when he says that the SNP’s record in this area is far from impressive. The present Scottish Government were however being pushed in the right direction, and while the overall battle against onshore windfarms has been lost, there have been successes, and the Scottish Wild Land Core Map was one. How successful this will be remains to be seen, but this will become apparent soon enough. While having a pop at the SNP, Roger fails to address the other parties and their intentions. The Tories and the Lib-Dems both support “respectful fracking”, the Lib Dems and Labour support more wind turbines, and the Conservatives are vowing to scrap onshore windfarms in future while supporting them today. It seems to me that the alternatives are more of the same, or slightly worse. There is no radical alternative out there, unless of course you consider UKIP, and they are radical in all the wrong areas.
Roger also asserts that the Scottish Government is set to receive more powers, while in the same issue of TGO he writes about the problems and benefits of fracking. Roger should know then that in December 2013 the unelected House of Lords voted to remove the Scottish Parliament’s powers over renewables by way of amendment 54 to the Energy Act 2013. This gave the UK Government a free hand to completely bypass the Scottish Government. Ten months later and there also seems to be a free for all on licences for fracking, something the Scottish Government was categorically against. Even national parks have not been kept off the target list. Westminster 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. “The Lords giveth and the Lords taketh away” would sum up the powers we may receive.
Scotland’s natural resources should be in Scotland’s hands, and I doubt very much if the new powers Roger speaks of will come anywhere near fulfilling his wish list, as they seem to be more about backtracking than backpacking. In any case they may be overtaken by the Westminster elections next year. One thing is for certain, there will be no conclusion anytime soon.