IT’S TIME TO EXPAND THE SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE CONVENTION

This idea originally came from Gordon Wilson in an article in the Scots independent. I think it makes logical sense. It may be that it has already happened but if not then it needs to happen soon.

There were a number of Yes supporting organisations that sprung up during the referendum. The most effective were probably National Collective (ie Artists for Independence), Business for Scotland and Women for independence. As well as this there were all the individual Yes supporting groups which sprung up all over the country.

To achieve independence in a short timescale we need all these groups to work together. The existing parties which support independence (SNP, Greens, SSP and Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity) all worked together during the referendum. There is also the new party RISE which has sprung up since then.

We desperately need all these organisations to work together to achieve independence. The most logical way to do this would be to expand the independence convention to include delegates from all these parties and groups. Some of the Yes groups have continued to exist independently. I know there is still a popular Yes cafe in Gilmerton which is still active and Yes Edinburgh North and Leith is also active for example. Hopefully all the other Yes organisations can be re-activated as well.

Independence First worked well as an organisation because it did not take any political line whatsoever. It was purely about campaigning for a referendum and nothing else. It organised two successful (for the time) march and rallies in Edinburgh and united every pro-independence grouping which existed at that time. It wrote to the British Government and the then Scottish Executive and organised a petition which was debated in the Scottish parliament. It linked up with the Scottish Independence Convention to promote the ‘Let Scotland decide’ petition.

The white paper was an impressive document however it assumed that everyone supported SNP Government policy. While the Greens and SSP diverged from it during the campaign the white paper by it’s existence suggested that everyone wanted the monarch to remain as head of state and that everyone supported the EU. This is not the case and there are real political disagreements on these issues within the wider yes movement.

Alex Salmond appeared to think that the UK would act in a statesmanlike fashion and would support his shared currency plan because it made logical sense for both Scotland and the rUK. Similarly it was obviously felt that NATO would welcome Scotland even as a non-nuclear state.

Instead the UK Government rejected the shared currency out of hand, the EU made diplomatic noises that it didn’t in fact support Scots independence and NATO in the shape of George Robertson claimed that the world would fall apart if we became independent.

In my opinion we should have had a much shorter paper which said ‘the powers currently held by the UK Government should be returned to Scotland’. That way every Scot who supports independence could support this document. Similarly the only way we will get agreement on a written constitution for Scotland is to write one now. An inspiring declaration of independence that all Scots can agree on. That could provide the backbone for a future independent state.

If we prepare these documents now then we can be ready for an independence referendum to happen at any time. It is clear that most independence supporters want this to happen sooner rather than later. The SNP have not yet made it clear whether a second referendum will be in it’s next manifesto. If they don’t then one of the other pro-independence parties surely will.

The SNP won the general election in my opinion because the Scottish people saw through the rhetoric of the unionists. They claimed to be proud Scots but were happy to campaign with the Tories against Scottish interests. These parties are now of no relevance to Scots.

Nonetheless they still hold us in Westminster’s grip and we won’t get out from it until we use all the forces which rose during the referendum campaign to work together to free us from it.

SILLARS PREDICTS TORY VICTORY IN 2020

sillars

           – Jim Sillars –

SNP MEMBERS MUST WRITE TO STURGEON TO DEMAND A STRONGER LINE ON INDEPENDENCE

At a packed public meeting in the Jewel Miners Club in Duddingston yesterday former SNP Deputy Leader Jim Sillars signed copies of his new book ‘In Place of Failure Making it Yes Next Time… Soon’ and delivered a rousing speech which was met with a standing ovation.

Sillars declared that the Conservatives were set to win the next general election claiming that around 50 extra seats in a reduced House of Commons would go to the Tories after proposed boundary changes.

He also advised SNP members to write to Nicola Sturgeon directly to pressurise the party into taking a stronger line on independence. He also revealed that he no longer did interviews with the BBC and recommended that party members and other Yes supporters should read G A Ponsonby’s book which explained in detail how the BBC had been biased in it’s referendum coverage.

Sillars said that the poor state of the current Scottish Labour party was indicated by the election of Kezia Dugdale “who has little life experience”. Dugdale has went from student politics to being a researcher for Lord Foulkes to being an MSP then leader of the party. “All of the people in this hall have more life experience than that.”

Mr Sillars said austerity would hit the working classes extremely hard over the next few years and he predicted that many people would bitterly regret their No vote in the years ahead. He also said that a specific ‘pensioners unit’ needs to be set up in all areas to explain to older people that their pensions would not be affected by independence. [Sillars himself put an advert in the Sunday Post to advise this during the Yes Campaign as well as touring the streets of Scotland with the Margo Mobile.]  

He advised that Yes campaigners must continue to campaign in the housing schemes or the momentum from the Yes campaign would be lost. “Working people realised during the referendum that their vote counted for something and they were walking with their heads held high.”

He also said that the abilities of working people were always underestimated but “we are the largest grouping in society and we have the power to change it.”

Mr Sillars also promised to attend a future pubic meeting in the same venue where he would explain the situation in the Middle East. He said Britain had committed a number of crimes in the area which explained why they are so distrusted in the area. “We might have forgotten about it but they havenae” he declared.

WHY I AM SUPPORTING DR BILL WILSON FOR EDINBURGH NORTH AND LEITH

Bill_independence_1st

I first met Bill Wilson when he challenged John Swinney for the SNP leadership. This was something which took a lot of guts and it could well have killed his political career stone dead. However Bill saw the need for change and was willing to do something about it. Similarly when I and others were involved in the referendum campaign Independence First and Bill was an MSP in the Scottish parliament he was one of the first people to declare his support for the organisation and he spoke at a number of our events (see attached photos).

Independence First was very successful in bringing in support from across the entire independence movement. We organised two successful marches and rallies in Edinburgh. Without any official SNP backing that task would have been more difficult. Bill was willing to support us and he saw the value of this initiative which was a precursor to the later Yes campaign and showed that strong cross party support for an independence referendum existed.

Bill was a very hard working MSP in his time in the parliament. He is a fiercely talented and tough debater who takes no prisoners and wins his political arguments. He is on the radical left of the SNP but he listens to other’s opinions as well. I have lived in this constituency for ten years. There is a lot of poverty and a lot of crime in our area in Granton/Wardieburn and a lot of good people who deserve something better. We need someone with principles and political guts to argue our case in the Scottish parliament and I personally think Bill is by far the best person to do this.

I say this as a friend as well because Bill has always been supportive of myself when ever I have had any problems in life.

In the future the SNP will need to design a coherent international affairs and defence policy which encourages the general public to support independence. With Bill and his political nous in the Scottish parliament I think we will be better able to create exciting policy initiatives in this area and many others.

Please visit Bill’s website http://www.billwilson.scot/ for more information and links to his articles and twitter account. If you want to send him a message of support or join his campaign you can contact me: joe.middleton@blueyonder.co.uk and I will pass any message on. If you live in our constituency please vote for Bill and encourage your friends to do so.

If you support Bill please also share this post through social media by clicking on the links below.

WHAT WERE MISTAKES IN YES 2014 CAMPAIGN?

I was reading Alex Salmond’s book The Dream Will Never Die today. It’s an excellent enjoyable read (you can buy it on Kindle) and I would highly recommend it. Alex has always been a clever and witty communicator and this book is a moving and detailed account of the last 100 days of the referendum campaign.

Salmond blames the infamous ‘vow’ (which totally went against the spirit of ‘Purdah’ rules) and the last minute intervention of Gordon Brown ultimately for the loss of the campaign as well as the gap closing in opinion polls slightly too early.

There is no doubt that Yes fought a superb campaign from intensive grassroots traditional campaigning through extensive use of social media. I thought we had done enough to win and I thought we would and no doubt like many others I was shocked and dismayed to see the negative results flow in from across the country.

Post referendum the Yes campaign’s zeal has pushed the SNP into extraordinary political dominance at this year’s General Election with the unionists all but wiped out and the stage set for a similar thumping for them by the SNP in the next Scottish parliament elections.

Now that some time has passed and the dust has settled I think it is appropriate to look back at the 2014 referendum and consider whether there were any tactical mistakes which we can avoid in the future.

I would say there are a number of areas of concern which need to be addressed.

The main reason for achieving independence would be that it would give Scotland the chance to set out our own stall internationally. We would also be able to control all tax and spending decisions and be able to set our own welfare and defence policy.

The point that we could cancel Trident and spend the money better elsewhere was made during the campaign. The point that we could not prevent future Tory Governments was also made and we pointed out that a squeeze on spending on the NHS in England could adversely affect our block grant in Scotland.

I’m not sure however that any distinctive international policy was articulated. What we did say was that we would remain in NATO and contribute to it’s efforts around the world.

This raises problems not least the fact that recent NATO actions have been unpopular in Scotland and in fact one of the reasons for becoming independent would be presumably to avoid the quagmire of Iraq and Afganistan and the ‘war for oil’.

Simultaneously the idea we could join an international organisation under a nuclear umbrella while at the same time taking a unilateral position on nuclear defence was a mixed one at best. It may be that this is technically possible but the political reality is that it is extremely unlikely.

It also meant that our policy internationally in terms of military intervention would probably be roughly similar to the current one pursued by the British Government! In which case why become independent?

I have noticed a disturbing tendency amongst senior pro-independence politicians that when international questions come up they seem to slip into ‘British MP mode’ they say things like ‘this country’ when they mean the UK and talk as if the imperialist position is the only game in town.

The UK is not a country and we need to point it out at every opportunity. The policy of world imperialism is not in Scotland’s interests and it never has been yet it seems that people think it might be impolite to raise such an objection on Question Time and that it might not go down too well in England.

The problem is that it doesn’t help us in Scotland. When Alan Cumming and Alex Neil at different times said that they were comfortable with Britishness and the British flag they inadvertently handed the moral high ground to the likes of Michael Forsyth who had to point out that independence would actually end the British state.

Cumming is a fine actor but this intervention made us look quite absurd as did the time Alex Neil claimed to be proud to be British. (He was a lot more honest when he was calling George Robertson Lord Haw Haw!) I suspect that both of these efforts were intended to try and position the Yes campaign to gather No supporters to our ranks but I don’t think it helped our credibility one iota.

As Britain’s third party the SNP will be constantly appearing on Question Time. While it might be nice to be highly regarded in England it is not the purpose of the party. No-one joined the SNP because they liked Britishness and it’s not what I have campaigned for since 1987!

At every debate in the Scottish parliament and at the UK parliament independence supporting representatives need to point out that Scotland is a separate country with separate political objectives. If we don’t do that then people will simply not see a requirement for independence even if the economic arguments are all in our favour.

We should always mention the United Nations but more importantly we need to craft a defence policy and international policy which suits our status as a small country in the north of Europe and then argue for that.

While I understand that Alex Salmond is a supporter of the monarchy I also feel that the rigidity of the Yes campaign on this and the EU potentially lost us more votes than it gained.

I’m sure the Queen is a decent woman and I must admit that I wouldn’t particularly like to live in a museum or attend interminable official functions or live in a goldfish bowl existence so I don’t envy her either her existence or her huge financial fortune (I’d prefer to just win Euro Millions!).

My problem isn’t with the personages of the royal family (Charles also seems like a decent man) it is with the fact that republican views are constitutionally barred from representation. Most republicans would I’m sure mumble the words of the oath and think of it as a compromise worth taking if it means they can represent their constituents. I can understand the pressures and if I was ever elected as an MSP no doubt I would feel forced into doing the same thing.

The problem is that it’s simply morally wrong to start of any MSP’s career on a lie and a humiliating ragman’s roll type experience. They should declare an oath to serve the people of Scotland and if they choose to add a declaration of support for the monarchy that should be entirely optional. If not we aren’t a functional democracy just like Westminster which uses the House of Lords to subvert the electoral process as well as provide a cushy retirement package to every MP that reaches cabinet level rank.

While I have never been overly concerned about the European Union the facts are that it quite obviously represents some level of threat to the sovereignty of all states. Is it worth sacrificing some power to gain influence in the EU? It may be but there is a legitimate argument to be had about it. Simply imagining that all of Scotland is happy to join the EU doesn’t recognise the diversity of our country’s opinions.

We need to make a grown up choice on both the EU and the monarchy and we could only make those choices if we have a referendum on them post-independence. It doesn’t have to be immediate but the principle should be there just as the oath should be removed as a democratic principle whether the present Queen remains our head of state or not.

I think we need to seriously consider all these points if we want to win a future referendum on independence and the first thing is that we should never, ever think like a British MP. We might be in the place, but it’s on a temporary basis until we’re somewhere better. Similarly being British is a choice not a geographical quirk. The word British itself comes from the ancient Roman term for England and if the English are offended on occasion by the fact that we want to leave their fond embrace that is a price worth paying for our freedom from a political state which has never represented our views properly as Scots and never will.

Promises of more powers must be kept

To [All Papers]

Dear Sir/Madam,

The independence referendum is now over and I think many people will agree that Yes Scotland fought a strong campaign. Yes was a massive grassroots movement which included a huge number of diverse groups and made the logical argument that the best people to rule Scotland are the people who live in it.

On the other hand the No campaign was a tidal wave of scaremongering and negativity with big business and the British Government uniting to claim that Scotland was well governed within the UK state despite all the evidence of extreme and increasing poverty in a country which is the fourteenth richest in the world.

Better Together made the argument strongly during the campaign that a No vote was not a vote for ‘no change’ and that there would be substantial new powers delivered to Scotland. It seems that 25% of the public voted No on that basis.

If these powers are not delivered by the unionist parties then it would mean that the vote is invalid as it was achieved under false pretences.

In Scotland the people are sovereign a fact admitted by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats when they signed the 1989 Claim of Right.

If the unionist parties ignore the will of Scotland for more powers for our parliament then in such circumstances the Scottish Government would have legitimate cause to hold another referendum on independence as the only way to guarantee the powers that the people want.

Yours for Scotland

Joe Middleton

What being British really means

Well the 2014 independence referendum is over and we lost. We could have had Alex Salmond appearing with his One Scotland banner declaring  independence and accepting the congratulations of world leaders on our behalf. The steets of Scotland could have been filled with dancing joyful Scots.

Instead we have Glasgow’s George Square filled with violent Neo Nazis burning saltires and waving Union Jacks and a relieved David Cameron celebrating his continuing right to rule us from London.

So what went wrong? I think it’s obvious that the media played a large part in the campaign. Almost every paper was vociferously against independence and we were not helped by the TV coverage either. Unionists were allowed to get away with statements that they are just as patriotic about Scotland as the Yes campaign. It would have been impossible to stop this but perhaps it should have been explicitly challenged more.

So what does Britain really mean and is it true that people can be Scottish and British without any contradictions? This was a central message of the Yes campaign so let’s take the time to examine it in detail.

IF Rally - 30/09/2006

“I’m an English nationalist and never you forget it”
Mrs Thatcher told James Naughtie in 1986

The British unionist campaign in the Scottish independence referendum was called Better Together but the question needs to be asked Better Together for who? There are four countries in the British Union Scotland, England, Wales and Cornwall (and the disputed area between UK and Eire known as ‘Northern Ireland’) but there is only one of them which seems to dominate every aspect.

The Flag

If one considers the Union Jack the symbolism is obvious. The St George’s Cross dominates in the centre, its cross is the thickest and both the flags for Ireland and Scotland are hidden behind it.

Union Jack

The Union Jack. Britain’s flag is not being used by the official No campaign, they prefer a distorted Saltire suspiciously like the Scotland youth football team logo..

Britain

The name of Britain chosen for the new state which was created in 1707 by the Union of Scotland and England (Wales was not mentioned) clearly references back to Britannia which was the Roman name for the area they occupied which is largely made up of England. This area (see map below) did not include Scotland which was then known by the Romans as Caledonia.

roman_britain

“Caledonia: historical area… beyond Roman control, roughly corresponding to modern Scotland…. the frontier between Roman territory and Caledonia was fixed south of the Cheviot Hills by the emperor Hadrian”
– Encyclopedia Britannica

The ancient Britons after various invasions would end up pushed into Wales and Cornwall. They were ancient Gaelic Celts though a different branch to those in Scotland and Ireland.

The British identity then has no real currency in respect of Scotland and has dubious relevance to England either since the Anglo-Saxons had very little connection with the ‘ancient Britons’ apart from being the force that pushed the Celts out of Britannia and created the nations of Wales and Cornwall. Nonetheless in terms of the area described by the term Britannia this could be seen as an ancient name for the area known as England (if you discount the existence of Wales and Cornwall).

For much of English history that is precisely what has happened and while today Westminster has grudgingly provided a parliament for Wales (with less powers than Scotland) the ancient country/Duchy of Cornwall has no political power whatsoever.  Prince Charles uses the ‘Duchy of Cornwall’ as a useful source of income, in fact he requires no income from the Civil list because all his spending is provided for by the vast estates which he has taken ownership of in Cornwall.

At one point however Cornwall was a distinct entity (it is often noted that at the time of the 1707 British union Scotland gained the same amount of MP’s at Westminster as Cornwall and ancient documents indicate three distinct people in England [sic], being the English Welsh and Cornish).

In the same way as ‘Greater Caledonia’ would be a term which could not seriously include England it is also the case that Great Britain does not linguistically or historically represent the identity of Scotland and never has done.

The Queen

QE2

Queen Elizabeth II of England.

At the Coronation the Queen was officially named as Elizabeth II and in England she was dressed as above. In Scotland she was dressed very differently when she received the Scottish Crown. In official documents from that time it was emphasised “there should be absolutely no question of a second coronation in Scotland.”

Since there was no Queen Elizabeth I of the UK and given that precedent had previously been that the King or Queen of the two Kingdoms changed their official title to reflect this fact (Scotland’s James VI became officially James I of the ‘United Kingdom’). The Queen’s title seemed to reflect that she was the Queen of England only. Queen Elizabeth I is an important figure in English history (for various reasons) and it is clear that this action was an obvious slap in the face to the Scots. It was recognised as such at the time and there was a brief letter bomb campaign to destroy all letter boxes with the EIIR symbol. To this day there are no letter boxes in Scotland with those letters on them as they were all removed after this protest.

The National Anthem

Post 1745 and the failed Jacobite rebellion the following verse was added to the ‘national’ anthem God Save the King which gives us a good idea of what the feelings were at the time:

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,

May by thy mighty aid,

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

and like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush,

God save the King.

The post 1745 version of the ‘national’ anthem ‘God Save the King’

It is worth noting that this song is sung at English Rugby matches but Scotland and Wales both have their own distinct national anthems.

Rule Britannia

The traditional song ‘Rule Britannia’ which refers to Britain ruling the waves (and never being slaves) doesn’t really reflect on any other country apart from England and it’s Navy a fact made quite evident by the British naval flag (below).

'British' navy flag.

‘British’ navy flag.

Westminster Parliament (based in London, England)

Since England has 82% of Britain’s MP’s Westminster could legitimately be claimed to be as good as and in fact a lot better than any devolved English parliament.

Britain means retention of the Scottish Oil Fields under English political control and the use of that money in capital projects like the London Olympics, or duelling the A1 or indeed the Channel Tunnel. It also keeps the pound as a credible currency and magnifies British importance in Europe. The Scottish fishing grounds have been used as a ‘bargaining chip’ in the past.

The Bank of England is effectively Britain’s central bank. The inclusion of Scotland and Wales’s GDP keeps Britain in the G8. Historical prominence means that Britain has a seat in the UN and also has the added boost of being a member of the security council.

If we consider England’s state interests then England gets every advantage from the Union and very few disadvantages. A small amount of Scottish or Welsh MP’s might vote in a different way to English MP’s but in reality any party who gets into power in Westminster has to have huge support in England by definition.

The Trident Nuclear Deterrent means Britain/England can boss other countries around and interfere in their domestic policy while sonorously declaring that no-one else should have nuclear weapons. They are unpopular in Scotland of course, but it’s handy to keep them somewhere.

Retaining Britain means that England also retain control of little outposts like the Falklands or tax havens like the Channel Islands which means that the rich can still work in Britain while avoiding paying tax there.

Do we want or need these? David Cameron certainly sees them as important.

Unfortunately all these additional benefits for England come at a cost. Wales and Scotland (and Cornwall) have to pretend we don’t exist internationally. (3) David Mundell (Scotland’s lone Tory MP) doesn’t have a problem with that but Better Together can’t count him as very representative of the general viewpoint!

The truth is ‘independence’ for England would mean an actual reduction in power not an increase and England would have to accept that their imperial dream was finally over.

This is something that no English MP will ever countenance voluntarily (though they will be forced under international law to do so after any democratic vote for independence) which is why every London-based party is 100% against Scottish independence. It is not in their national interest.

The United Nations

This was very clearly illustrated in a BBC interview with the former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw from 2006:

Jack Straw Q & A online for BBC Question Time

Jack Straw Quote

The original link to the full interview is here (the comments re Scotland are at the end):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/5388078.stm

Note that Straw claims the British seat at the United Nations security council actually belongs to England!

Scotland Extinguished

As if that’s not bad enough it appears that Straw is not alone and in fact his viewpoint is representative of the British Government’s official view. Their recent legal advice says:

“It is not necessary to decide between these two views of the union of 1707. Whether or not England was also extinguished by the union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger into either an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state.”

The real legal position is possibly somewhat different. This quote is from the judgement in MacCormick v Lord Advocate 1953: “The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law… Considering that the Union legislation extinguished the Parliaments of Scotland and England and replaced them by a new Parliament, I have difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the Parliament of England. That is not what was done.”

What we can see is that the British Government does think like Straw (or is arguing the point because it is desperate to keep successor status, in the same paper it is argued that England is in the same position as Russia was within the Soviet Union!) and the recent suggestion that we would have no right to use the pound Sterling without the agreement of the rUK/English Government and the Bank of England by George Osbourne fits with this point of view.

They are effectively saying that Scotland was politically extinguished by the union, that Scotland leaving the UK would have no effect on its status whatsoever and that every treaty signed by Britain had no connection with one of the main countries that was a part of it.

Logically this means that Scotland has got nothing from being in the union apart from a tenth share in Britain’s enormous national debt and if we had zero status within the union there is no reason why we should accept that either a fact pointed out recently by international legal expert Dr Matt Qvortrup.

http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/scotlandfeatures/4924051/Expert-Scotland-can-legally-leave-the-UK-and-be-debt-free.html

Was the British union a complete fraud?

Many Scots will (despite the above) want to believe that the union has not really been a sham and at points it may not have been. We did work together to defeat Hitler during World War II and there is no doubt that some Scots benefited financially from the British Empire. (4)

It’s important to remember however that most ordinary Scots were dirt poor at the beginning of Empire and just as poor at the end. After the failed 1745 rebellion (which was mostly made up of Scots) the British state cracked down hard on the rebels. Scotland was effectively ethnically cleansed by the Highland clearances and for many years Gaelic, Tartan and Bagpipes were all banned. Invalided English soldiers were even used to colonise areas of Scotland shortly after 1745.

The Scottish enlightenment period is claimed as a benefit of the union but in reality it would have been based upon the educational system in Scotland which was far superior at the time to the equivalent in England.

It is also never mentioned that the enlightenment period was not politically enlightened, quite the reverse! Scotland was effectively a police state with 20,000 paid informers and radicals were sent to Botany Bay (Thomas Muir) or hanged (the 1820 martyrs).

During the empire period the people of Scotland were treated no better than the colonised people’s of other lands and given that the Gaelic culture in Scotland (which in different forms was common to the whole island which we now know as Britain but which may at one point have been known as Albijo or ‘Alba’) was effectively wiped out prior to expansion we can say with some certainty that the ‘culture’ that we were forcing on the world was not our own. (5 + 6)

Given the above I think it is fair to say that although in fact the Scots and English were incorporated into a new state in 1707 (no doubt influenced by an English army on the border and harsh economic sanctions at the time imposed by the English parliament) the reality is that Westminster has acted as an effectively ‘Greater England’ Government since then and still does today.

Westminster

Who controls Westminster? Isn’t it obvious?

In 1997 Tony Blair bluntly reminded us where the power really lay over devolution: “Sovereignty rests with me as an English MP and that’s the way it will stay.” As reported in the Scotsman.

Better Together – Patriotic Scots?

This is perhaps the reason why Better Together have ditched the Union flag for their No campaign (they appear to have nicked the Scotland youth team’s logo without their permission) because they realise that Scotland’s identity is much stronger than the British alternative in Scotland. They have even styled their campaign ‘the patriotic campaign’ an absurdity that at some point will be exposed.

I think this letter is pertinent which I sent to the Scotsman in September 2011.

Sir,

Your interview with former Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy which

was printed today (http://tinyurl.com/3vey85t) was illuminating on a number of points.

Firstly his comment: “We need to be where most Scots are – Scottish first,

British second.” is unlikely to be popular amongst his fellow unionists but

it has the whiff of realism about it.

Unfortunately for Labour they do not have a history of putting Scotland

first and in any contest of patriotism with the SNP they are likely to fall

far short.

Mr Murphy regrets his own lack of input to the last Scottish elections and

according to the article writer appears to suggest that MSPs will never be

left alone again to run their own campaign. This suggestion rather

undermines the supposed plan for operational independence from London which

has been reported recently in the Scotsman.

As far as his own ambitions go it is clear that the future of Labour in

Scotland is not Mr Murphy’s main priority. He prefers to pretend to be a

Defence Minister in London. Being Scotland’s party leader might be of some

interest in the future, but only after twenty years!

So long as Labour sees Westminster as the most important parliament and

their top politicians are openly declaring that their own personal

priorities lie outside Scotland it is no wonder that the Scottish people

will prefer a SNP that places Scotland first.

Yours faithfully,

Joe Middleton

Should we try to co-opt Britishness?

There are some voices suggesting that we should argue that Britishness will somehow be retained after independence (at least as a geographic identity) and some others are claiming that England ‘is not a foreign country’.

This is a logical absurdity and even though those involved may feel this way the reality is that we are planning on breaking up the British union and we won’t get there by arguing for the retention of the very state which is suffocating our own identity.

The views of those who genuinely feel British but are also voting Yes are worth highlighting, as they may appeal to a number of their fellow Scots but claiming that Britain won’t end when Scotland leaves the union is insulting to the intelligence of Scotland’s voters and would be ripped apart by any reasonably skilled debater.

Britain was a construct which amplified English power and the end of this false state is absolutely required to allow Scotland (and Wales and possibly one day Cornwall) to make our own voice heard in the world.

England is already a separate country and by that measure is foreign. What independence would have done is formalise the fact that we are separate countries and restore Scotland’s rightful place amongst the international community which was interrupted by the events in 1707.

(1) Perhaps in retrospect he really became King of England. James certainly saw his new kingdom as more important indeed he is quoted as hoping that Scotland would become ‘like a distant shire’, not a patriotic individual as far as Scotland was concerned. He was also incidentally responsible for Scottish Presbyterians colonising Northern Ireland to more effectively divide ‘n’ rule Ireland.

(2) The ‘Jacobite Rebellion’ is usually described as a British civil war however it was in reality also a war aimed at restoring Scottish independence. Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart, Charles III) actually declared that the British Union was ‘dissolved’. When Charles III reached Derby the British King George III was in a dreadful panic but according to historical sources he assured his followers that he would ‘always remain King of England.’

(3) The British Government used the Westminster parliament to lay legal claim to both the Scottish town of Berwick and Wales as parts of ENGLAND in 1746 after defeating those ‘rebellious Scots’ in 1745.

(4) Churchill referred to Britain as ‘England’ throughout World War II which no doubt reflected the political reality of the time but possibly ignoring the Scots during wartime had an energising political effect on Scotland. The SNP won their first by-election in 1945. There was a two million petition for devolution in 1950 (ignored!) and the SNP has risen (with some ups and downs) since the Hamilton by-election of 1967.

(5) At the time of union many Scots spoke a similar (but different) language to England. Scots. This language has been treated by contempt over the years but has as much historic validity as English and in fact it is mixed with some Gaelic words.

(6) Scotland’s standard of living only improved after 1945 (after rationing) which gives you an idea of how awful the living conditions for people in Scotland before then.

(7) Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2012

When the Question is asked which do you think ought to have most influence over the way Scotland is run?

65% say Scottish Government

24% say Westminster

As a result of independence would Scotland have a stronger voice in the world, a weaker voice, or would it make no difference?

44% say stronger

32% say no difference

22% think it will be weaker

When the question is how confident would you be about a future independent Scotland’s future?

59% say they would be quite (39) or very worried (20)

21% say they would be very (6) or quite confident (15)

From: http://www.scotcen.org.uk/media/1021487/ssa12tables.pdf

Salmond: the people are about to speak…and it will scare the life out of Cameron

Reprinted from the Herald

WHEN The Herald interviewed Alex Salmond in his Inverurie constituency office for our first Scotland Decides supplement a year ago the Yes side were trailing two to one in most of the polls, yet the First Minister showed no sign of panic.
Ordinary people with busy lives not living in the political bubble would make up their minds much closer to the time, he argued.
People are now making up their minds and the Salmond calm of a year ago has turned to bullishness as the No lead in the polls has narrowed dramatically.
Just after an interview in the Marcliffe Hotel West of Aberdeen, a YouGov poll showed the gap narrowing to just six points, an eight-point rise in less than a month, which he was to hail as taking us a step closer to independence.
Then came the weekend’s shock poll for YouGov which put Yes in the lead for the first time and another for TNS which underlines how close the race is.
Mr Salmond says: “The other thing that has moved, which I actually think is more significant, is the spectrum of people who are concerned about this issue – that is to say the spectrum of people who have engaged in politics.
“We are now dealing with a political electorate of 80% not 60%. What has moved is the 20% of people who have never spoken before, never in their life thought Scottish politics important or relevant or productive enough to vote for any politician of any political party. These people are about to speak and when they do it will make the Hampden roar look like nothing at all, and it will scare the life out of Mr Cameron and his party and the entire Westminster establishment.”
So why has this dramatic shift happened? “It’s happened through a great deal of work by a great grassroots campaign, energising and influencing people.
“Secondly, what people are being asked to decide upon is something fundamentally important, more important than any politician or any political party, something defining in the political history of the country. And, thirdly, not because of recession but because of the attitude to how and who should pay the price of recession.
“People understand that in any ordered society not everything goes perfectly. People understand that there will always be difficulties, setbacks, even world recessions along the way. What people don’t understand is an attitude that says devil take the hindmost when we’re up against it. This is huge. It’s the reality. It’s what people will no longer accept, and this is the first actual time to do anything about it.”
The First Minister had already embarked on his 5:2 weight loss programme a year ago and has kept it up, becoming steadily leaner and, as the second televised debate showed, meaner. In his usual way, in the course of the interview he found time to quote Adam Smith, The Corries and the Illiad, the part about Achilles having to choose between a long life and a glorious one.
He insisted: “We now have a situation where that group of people for the first time in Scottish democratic history have the opportunity to speak, and they know it. The empowerment and the energy and the electrification of politics that is coming is something that the No campaign will be ill-equipped to deal with.
“All the conventional nostrums, all the scaremongering, all the fears, all the smears, all the planned, synchronised, targeted approaches to particular sections of the electorate; all the stoking of division, all the trying to undermine confidence – none of this is going to touch this, because it’s based on something much more fundamental. It’s a whole group of people who for the first time have an opportunity to make a substantial difference, and they are going to take it, and it’s going to be massive.”
I expressed doubt. Before Sunday, not a single poll had yet given Yes a lead. “There is no poll that captures the whole population. There is nobody polled who hasn’t been part of the voting class, by definition,” he replies. Where is the evidence for that? He says: “Go to Wester Hailes and have a look round. Do it tomorrow. Draw your own conclusions. It’s quite funny, I was there last week and looking at this mass of posters – as I saw in Leith, as I saw in Garthdee in Aberdeen today – a display of strong, visible, enthusiastic Yes support.
“The registration campaign has been excellent. If I could wish for something right now I would wish for another week of registration. I don’t underrate the determination of some people to vote, even some who have not been at a polling station before.
“You heard it expressed at the second TV debate, the guy who said: ‘If we’re better together, why does it not feel better now?’
“The whole comfortable assumption behind this slogan stolen from the Quebec federalists, Non Merci, No Thanks, involves people who can say that because they are not bothered by the proposition.”
He adds: “I am saying there are lots of people in Scotland who have a fundamental concern for the have-nots, because they realise, as any sensible politician or economist understands that, as Adam Smith once put it, ‘No society can be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable’.
“The Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is saying the same thing. Any rational, sensible person understands that. It’s not Yes who have got the narrow appeal. It’s No who have got the narrow appeal, because they believe there is a narrow section of the electorate in which they can instil fear and foreboding and tell them things are really all right and we will be comfortable and it will be OK if nothing changes.”
He adds: “Take that appalling, sexist broadcast that said here is a segment we have identified through socio-economic analysis, no doubt paid for by the UK Government, and therefore we must wholesale say whatever we think we need to say to say to make people feel frightened or worried.
“Politics works when people collectively, across the socio-economic spectrum get a sense and a feel for what’s right and proper and when they do, they’ll vote for it. Because most of us, at the end of the day, still think things can get better and, if we didn’t believe that, not just for ourselves but for everybody and our children and grandchildren, there are few people in this society who are so comfortable they don’t believe things have to get better for others or for future generations.
“And there are very few people who are so worn down that they don’t still think that’s possible and can feel inspired to vote for it. We have to find the organisation to allow the people who want to vote to vote, and hopefully we will.
“We have to keep our message on that essential offer that things can get better, that we don’t have to ‘rise and be a nation again’ but just believe in ourselves.”
But haven’t Better Together successfully tapped into the concerns of those who are comfortably off and the business community who fear that change could threaten that? “We had a letter signed by more than 200 business people, and the difference between their letter and the letter of the No campaign the day before was not just positivity against negativity. If I had to back a business, I’d back the ones who were positive.
“But more than that, more than the attractiveness of those calling themselves entrepreneurs wanting to seize the opportunities as opposed to stressing the downside, it was the phrase in the letter which said they could see a prosperous economy and a just society, and a fairness in society. It’s the very last thing you would hear from the CBI or out of the mouth of David Cameron.
“That’s the difference between those who signed that letter, who would no doubt be categorised as ABs. In Scotland we have ABs who care about the CDs and Es.”
He adds: “No doubt an important part of our message is to reassure people that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. But there is a category of people, and don’t underrate them in Scotland for they are a group which has never been small, who are comfortably off and who regard the most important thing in politics as being to enable other people to share in that good fortune.
“That has been a message of some of the greatest entrepreneurs through history and it’s something I saw reflected in that letter. I think it’s the prevailing wind.”
Mr Salmond cuts an entirely different, sharper and less hesitant figure than the one who performed so poorly – by his standards – in the first televised debate against Alistair Darling.
The SNP had planned to use the “summer of sport” with the Commonwealth Games at its heart to set the mood music for the final stage of the referendum campaign, tapping into the self-confidence that would flow if the Glasgow Games were a success.
He reveals, however, that this had a downside in personal terms, which explains why he under-performed in that first debate.
“In reality I was tired the first time. By the time I finished the Commonwealth Games I had no idea what a draining process it would be because it’s like a football manager watching a football match, not being in total control of what’s happening on the pitch. But what changed is that I turned up for the second debate.”
Was there a turning point in that second debate when he knew he was going to come out on top? He has already mentioned the questioner who asked why things were not better now, under the Union, and the groan that rang round the audience at Kelvingrove when Mr Darling attempted to re-run his currency Plan B line of attack.
He says: “I have always believed there is a point, and I think I made it a year ago, where it’s like the old Dracula movies – I’m not comparing Alistair Darling to Dracula, incidentally, I’m talking about fear-mongering. What is Dracula? In the genre he is the unspoken fear that something is going to come, when you are defenceless in the night etc.
“The point is that Dracula gets dragged into the sunlight and disintegrates into dust. I have always believed that about bogeymen and about fears, that as they get repeated and analysed and dragged into the sunlight they start to crumble into the dust.”
He also observed: “Alistair Darling claims health spending is increasing while Andy Burnham insists that over the past four years it hasn’t. The Welsh Labour Health Minister says the reason it’s declining in Wales is because of Westminster cutbacks which apparently don’t exist, if you believe Alistair Darling.
“The Jarrow Marchers are marching in vain through England against privatisation that doesn’t really exist or, if it exists, isn’t really important, according to Alistair Darling. Yeah, sure. Aye, right.”
But surely uncertainties over a currency union or the EU must still be hurting the Yes campaign? “On currency, they’ve played it out, as the audience at the second televised debate showed full well. It’s become a massive turn-off because the people understand they’re playing a game.
“On Europe they have scarcely mentioned it in this campaign. Why? Because the new, incoming President of the European Commission has said he understands and will respect the democratic process. Nobody, but nobody, believes that the rest of Europe wants to exclude Scotland and everybody knows that a large part of Westminster wants to exclude the rest of Europe.”
What about the former deputy governor of the Bank of England who called the threat not to pay a share of UK debt a “moral outrage”?
“It’s interesting he says moral outrage. Obviously not a legal outrage because the Treasury confirmed on January 13 this year what the fiscal commission had suggested, that under the terms of their argument the legal liability remained with them, or to quote that day’s Notice to Markets exactly, the Treasury accept the responsibility under all constitutional circumstances.
“So we can just remove the word default because it doesn’t exist. You can’t default on a debt that isn’t yours. You can’t default on a debt that will be paid and that’s what the Treasury notice said. So when a former deputy governor talks about a moral outrage that’s because they can’t talk about a legal outrage because that position is crystal clear. Now that’s unfortunate from their point of view but nonetheless that is the case.”
Mr Salmond adds: “What I think is a moral confirmation is the willingness of the Scottish Government and the Scottish people to say responsibly that, if there is to be a proper share of financial assets, then we are also prepared to have a proper share of financial liabilities, and accept our responsibility for debts incurred largely by George Osborne and Alistair Darling – 60% of the UK’s enormous debt of £1.3 trillion was accumulated by them. I think that’s a highly responsible, some would say generous, gesture for us to make.
“In reality, this is why I think there are good reasons why in the famous words of the anonymous senior Government Minister that ‘of course there would be a currency union’ for two reasons.
“One is this argument about debt, which follows as night follows day. And secondly because of English and rUK interests. What English business wants to pay extra costs for exporting to Scotland? It’s ludicrous. We’re their second biggest market just as they are our biggest market.”
There is another key factor blunting Europe as a weapon of attack for the No campaign and it also explains why many at Westminster have not had a good war in terms of the referendum campaign. Mr Salmond explains: “I think the Westminster system has been absorbed in complacency and, secondly, in other issues.
“The complacency, obviously, is the thought that the Scots would not have the temerity to defy their wishes. The other issue is largely their obsession with withdrawing from the European Union and the arguments around that.
“I wasn’t going to say Westminster isn’t capable of dealing with more than one constitutional issue at a time, but actually I think that’s probably true.
“It’s been an obsession, a total, utter, complete black hole-type obsession with European exit, Britex.”
As we spoke Tory MP Douglas Carswell had just defected to UKIP, resigning his Clacton seat to provoke a by-election, and the bookmakers had installed Boris Johnson as favourite to be next Tory leader. How did these impact on the Scottish question? The FM was visibly excited by the twin spectres, saying: “Just as David Cameron thought it was safe to threaten a harder line on Europe, he finds that the further he goes the worse it will get. He is somebody who is no longer in control of events.
“He thought he could hint at a referendum and that would quell the problem. He thought he could state there would be a referendum and that would solve the problem. He is in the ultimate bad place.
“Danegeld is the wrong phrase. It must be UKIP-geld or Europhobia-geld, perhaps. The more he concedes the worse it will get, so this is a Prime Minister who is a prisoner of the prejudice to which he has been pandering.”
He adds: “I have to say that Prime Minister Boris Johnston would be four words which would galvanise much of the Yes campaign. Prime Minister David Cameron is bad enough. When David Cameron supped his sparkling mineral water in the absence of champagne at the CBI white tie dinner he might have reflected on why Scots see him as the very personification of an establishment that needs to be told to take a hike.”
The choreographed opening to the final campaign phase had taken him to the picturesque bowling club in the shadow of the magnificent ruins of Arbroath Abbey, of Declaration fame and it was there that he mentioned the Greek notion of the choice between a long life and a glorious one, saying he would quit politics in exchange for a Yes vote.
“I love being First Minister of Scotland but if I was given the choice between being First Minister and Scottish independence I’d choose Scottish independence without any hesitation, with not a scintilla of doubt,” he said.
“I love the SNP. I think the SNP, for all the faults of any human organisation, has got a fantastic heart as a political party. So I love the SNP to bits but if someone told me I could have independence if the SNP was wound up in the next 24 hours then I’d wind it up if that was in my power.
“It’s not about a person, party, programme or any politician. It’s about Scotland having the democratic capability to choose a government of its own making. That’s what it’s about.”
If Scotland votes Yes, how does the First Minister envisage the negotiations with Westminster going?
“I believe they will negotiate in good faith but what I have no faith in is what happens if if you leave the Treasury with the whip hand. If you do so, then the Treasury will exert that whip hand. That is surely one of the great lessons in life.
“But we won’t be under the tutelage of the London Treasury. I can’t think of a better place to go into hard but reasonable negotiations than with a zero share in legal terms of the enormous debt, willing to accept in moral terms a proper share in return for a proper share of assets. I don’t thinks that’s a bad negotiating position to be in.
“I don’t just relish going into these negotiations after a Yes vote, I anticipate going into them and I will be taking with me a heavyweight team, including Alistair Carmichael … and, perhaps Alistair Darling.”