Why the Union?

I don’t care! I am aware that GERS is, as whole, is “crap”. I recognise that some bits of it can be of of some use in some circumstances and with the necessary caveats appended. But, as a whole, GERS adds little of value to an economic debate which itself is only tangentially and tenuously related to what is essentially a constitutional issue.

If there was any rational reason to suppose that independence would be economically detrimental to Scotland on anything like the scale that British nationalists constantly seek to imply, then there might be some cause for hesitation. But, hard as they try, the British state has never made anything even remotely approaching a convincing case to support its scaremongering prognostications.

GERS most certainly doesn’t do the job it was intended to do. Nobody can sensibly claim that it isn’t seriously flawed as a piece of economic analysis. It is far less than would qualify it as a consideration when making a decision on the constitutional question. A matter of such fundamental democratic importance places huge demands on the quality of the evidence which is taken into account. GERS just doesn’t make the grade.

That’s why I don’t care about GERS. That’s why I don’t care about any of the economic arguments. They are irrelevant. A nation is more than a spreadsheet. You can’t answer a constitutional question with a calculator.

But even if you insist on shoehorning GERS into the constitutional debate, you cannot get past the issue of standard of proof. If Scotland is to be denied its independence, then there better be a bloody good reason. What was all but totally absent from the first independence referendum was any meaningful discussion of why Scotland should be the exception among all the independent nations of the world. Nobody on the British nationalist side of the debate was prepared to try and explain what it was about this political union that made it worth the sacrifice of Scotland’s rightful constitutional status.

Nobody on the British nationalist side was willing to address the question of why it was better that crucial decisions about public policy in Scotland should be made by a Westminster elite that was rejected by the people of Scotland rather than the Parliament and government that was elected by the people of Scotland.

In the absence of any absolute proof that independence would be the unprecedented catastrophe portrayed by the British state’s propaganda machine,independence remains as the default position. The onus is on Unionists to make the case for their Union. It’s time to demand that they stop propagandising against independence and start answering the hard questions about their preferred arrangement.

GERS is no answer at all. and even if it was some kind of answer, it would be addressing the wrong question. Flawed speculation about the economic cost of independence cannot possibly tip the scales against the known costs to Scotland of the Union. Costs which are counted in more than mere money.

I don’t care about GERS. I care about democracy and constitutional justice.


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Forgive the farmers

Some will find it difficult to sympathise with farmers who may well be said to be the authors of their own misfortune, having predominantly voted to forfeit both the opportunities of independence and the safeguards of the European Union. But even those tempted to regard the plight of the farming community as nothing more than their just desserts should be deeply concerned at a senior minister in the British government openly talking of the ‘need’ to “prevent different systems from operating in various parts of the UK”. And doing so apparently without feeling any obligation to explain why this uniformity should be necessary.

The fact that there exists such a substantial discrepancy between the level of EU subsidies in Scotland and the average across the UK suggests, at the very least, that there is a substantial difference in circumstances. It indicates that farming in Scotland is, in some way and to some degree, distinctive. There must, we are entitled to assume, be some rational reason for the higher level of subsidy. It must be justified by factors I don’t feel qualified to discuss with any confidence; perhaps to do with the size of holdings or the nature of the land or whatever.

But here we have a British politician telling us that the distinctiveness of Scottish farming is less relevant than the ‘need’ to impose uniformity across the UK.

What is the nature of this ‘need’? We cannot reasonably suppose that Brexit alone will so drastically and immediately alter the conditions affecting Scotland’s agriculture sector as to instantly eliminate the necessity of higher subsidies. So, what might explain this urgent desire to enforce a one-size-fits-all system even to the severe detriment of Scottish farmers? What other than the ideological imperative of ‘One Nation’ British nationalism.

Scotland’s farmers are to be sacrificed on the altar of a revived ‘Greater England Project’. It may be argued that they laid themselves on that altar, eagerly offering up their throats to the knife. It would be tragic, however, if we allowed schadenfreude to blind us to the fate which the British state’s treatment of our farmers intimates for all of Scotland.


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A sea of lies

Imagine, if you can, a world in which politicians such as Theresa May are subject to proper scrutiny by the official opposition at Westminster. Imagine a world in which their lies are exposed by the mainstream media. Imagine a world in which political journalists are prepared to challenge the cosy consensus of confected truth even at the risk of being ostracised by the British political establishment.

To be tediously pedantic, May wasn’t actually lying when she uttered those falsehoods about Scotland’s economy. Technically, for a statement to qualify as a lie the individual making the statement must be aware that it is untrue. I don’t for one moment doubt May’s intent to deceive. But I have grave doubts about her ability to distinguish between what is real and what is a product of the British state’s propaganda machine.

In part, May and other British nationalists make such false statements about Scotland because they know they can do so with impunity. They can be confident that they will never be held to account. But it is also the case that they assume this stuff to be true. They are so immersed in the torrent of denigrating and belittling propaganda portraying Scotland as some kind of impoverished hell-hole that it simply doesn’t occur to them to question the myth.

Ask a unionist to make any comparison between Scotland and the rest of the UK and they will automatically assume that Scotland is worse. They take it for granted that Scotland is disfavoured.

That’s why May said what she did. Not only does she implicitly believe that it must always be the case that any slight or slur to Scotland must be justified, she has no cause to be concerned about repercussions should her insults turn out to be unwarranted.

British politics is a sea of lies. And we’re all getting soaked.


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Devolution is intolerable!

“At its heart, independence is the natural extension of the principle that decisions should be taken in Scotland and that doing so improves the lives of people who live here.” – First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

But that is NOT the principle behind devolution. Devolution is NOT about having decisions made in Scotland. Devolution is entirely about withholding decision-making powers which should rightly rest with the democratically elected Scottish Parliament.

Devolution is not an alternative to independence, it is the antithesis of independence.

Devolution is a device by which the power of the British state is preserved and entrenched, while democratic dissent is ‘accommodated’.

The principle which informs devolution is not democratic, as the principle of independence is. Devolution perpetuates the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Devolution is a denial of popular sovereignty.

The ‘principle’ underpinning devolution is that the democratically elected Scottish Parliament, and the duly mandated Scottish Government, can be overruled by a clique of British politicians with absolutely no democratic legitimacy whatever.

To anyone with so much as a modicum of respect for democracy, this is intolerable.


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Our flag defiled

Just over four years ago, as Scotland prepared to vote in the first independence referendum, I wrote an article about flags. It was a rather long-winded piece. Necessarily so, as I was exploring our complicated relationship with flags. I had been prompted to do this by a number of things that happened around that time, when the constitutional debate was at its most intense and the anti-independence effort was becoming increasingly desperate and frenetic.

One incident was a situation in which a Union Flag was displayed in a context which I, and others, felt it was not fitting. Another was the now famous occasion on which Alex Salmond waved a Saltire at Wimbledon as he celebrated an Andy Murray victory. In the latter instance, it was British nationalists who denounced this use of a flag as inappropriate.

The main conclusion of that article was that the use of a Union Flag at a concert was offensive because it is the emblem of British nationalism. It had come to be intimately associated with Better Together/Project Fear and displaying it a mere two weeks before the referendum could not help but be seen as signifying support for the Unionist cause.

Which leaves the question of whether the display of the Saltire at Wimbledon was similarly inappropriate. I don’t think it was. As I explained in that article.

The reason being that the Saltire represents the nation and people of Scotland – nothing more. It is, in any context, a simple statement of identity. The union flag, on the other hand, does not represent either a nation or a people. It represents a political construct. An artifice. A contrivance. It stands for the British state and, of necessity, the union that most people in Scotland want to end or, at least, drastically reform. Like it or not, the union flag is the emblem of a political cause – the cause of preserving the union.

Those who complained about Alex Salmond waving the Saltire at Wimbledon did so largely because, whether they would admit it or not, they saw the Saltire as a symbol of the [Scottish] nationalist movement. They were wrong! The Saltire is quite deliberately not used in this way. But the Union Flag cannot be other than a token of the Union and its display anywhere in Scotland during the referendum campaign cannot help but be viewed as signalling support for the anti-independence campaign. Those who would fly the Union Flag in Scotland should be aware of the fact that they are making a political statement on a contentious issue.

The Union Flag continues to be the emblem of British nationalism. More and more people in Scotland (and elsewhere) find it offensive for that reason. I avoid buying goods and services marketed using this symbol. and I’m far from alone in that.

I was put in mind of this whole issue of flags and what they mean to different people as I attended yesterday’s counter-protest against the Scottish Defence League (SDL) in Perth. A number of people remarked to me that it was the first time they had found themselves opposing a group waving Saltires. It made them uncomfortable. There was something about it that just felt wrong. I have to acknowledge that I had similar feelings. Until It occurred to me that it was not really the Saltire waving above the hate-addled heads of the SDL fascists, alongside the flags of England, Ulster and, of course, the British state.

The Saltires flown by the SDL had been defaced with the symbols and language of their mindless bigotry. They no longer stood for the Scottish nation and people. The Saltire had been hijacked and disfigured so as to represent an ideology that is anathema to the vast majority of Scotland’s people. As evidenced by the fact that the proponents of that ideology sullying the streets of Perth yesterday were outnumbered twenty to one by decent citizens loudly and forcefully denouncing their vile creed of racism and sectarianism and xenophobia.

If there were not already sufficient reason to despise the SDL and everything they stand for, this disgusting abuse of our nation’s flag would be cause enough.


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For tolerance, decency and community

Tomorrow (Sunday 10 September) my home town of Perth will be invaded by people who represent a totally alien culture. The Scottish Defence League (SDL) is bringing its vile, hateful Fascist ideology to the streets of the Fair City.

The pretext for this influx of repellent racists, sickening xenophobes and boak-inducing bigots is a protest against a new mosque, on Jeanfield Road, to serve Perth’s Muslim community which, while still relatively tiny, has outgrown the existing masjid on Glasgow Road.

I don’t have much contact with Perth’s Muslims. I’m a pub person. Most orthodox Muslims aren’t. I don’t know many ‘Wee Frees’ or members of other religious sects either, for much the same reasons. Not only do our different lifestyle choices militate against everyday social intercourse, most religionists wouldn’t much enjoy my company anyway on account of my openly expressed attitude to what I regard as a tragic mental affliction.

But I’m more likely to tolerate, and be tolerated by, even the most devout, hidebound religionist than any neo-Nazi scum.

In a transparently false effort to justify their bilious bigotry to Perth, the SDL are claiming that the protest is about ‘planning issues’. They’re making out that there have been irregularities in the process of granting permission for the new mosque. They’re saying Perth & Kinross Council somehow sneaked a 600-capacity place of worship past the local community and that this is going to cause parking problems.

It’s all lies, of course. Even supposing there was any basis to these claims, we would be justified in asking what the hell a very local planning matter has to do with what is basically the English Defence League with a wee bit of token tartan pinned to its black shirts. But the truth is that proper procedures were followed. As evidenced by the fact that there were five objections lodged. While none of these was upheld, it demonstrates that people were notified and did have time to lodge objections.

The SDL characteristically resorts to emotive language as well as exaggeration and downright lies in its efforts to create division and provoke conflict in our community. Their rabble-rousing propaganda refers to a “600-capacity £1 million mega mosque with only 14 parking spaces”. The reality is that Prth’s entire Muslim community is estimated to be only around 500. The expectation is that no more than about 80-100 will attend at peak times. he relevant authorities have concluded that parking is perfectly adequate. Such problems as may arise would be due to Muslim’s being no less selfish and inconsiderate than other motorists.

But it’s all a pretence. The hate-mongers of the SDL aren’t in the slightest bit concerned with parking on Jeanfield Road. Their target is not irresponsible drivers, but people it is their ambition to violently eject and exclude from Scottish society solely on the grounds of race and/or religion.

They don’t get to do that!

Perth’s Muslim community is part of Perth. These are people who have chosen Perth as their home. They are ‘our people’ in a way that the hate-mongers of the SDL can never be.

I will be out on the streets of Perth tomorrow defending my home town against these intruders. The SDL are coming here intending to spread a gospel of hate that I find even more repugnant than any religious teaching. I am well aware that they will be hoping to provoke violence that they can then blame of those who abhor their corrosive Fascist ideology. I have no intention of obliging them on either count.

My purpose will be to make it clear that I absolutely reject their efforts to infect my community with racial and sectarian hate. I am determined to do so peacefully and lawfully. I’d like to think the vast majority of the people of this fine city feel the same way. I am hopeful that a large number of those decent citizens will be on the streets with me tomorrow.

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Slavering for Britain

So British Tories from constituencies in Scotland demand that the SNP top talking about the sovereignty of the Scottish people and represent constituents by accepting the UK voted for Brexit. Does this even make any sense?

It seems to suppose that the Scottish people and SNP constituents are two entirely different things. But how might it be possible to be a constituent in a Scottish constituency without being numbered among the people of Scotland? Are there any British nationalists out there who’d like to try and explain?

Could it be that these Tory MPs consider a person can only legitimately claim to be Scottish if they embrace rigid ‘One Nation’ British nationalism? Or is the intention simply to undermine the very concept of the sovereignty of the Scottish people in the same way that British nationalists are trying to delegitimise the democratically elected Scottish Parliament and the only administration with a democratic mandate in Scotland?

Do British nationalists even care whether what they say makes sense? So long as it meets the criteria of denigrating Scotland and venting their hatred of the SNP, is that good enough for them?

It may well be. But why should it be good enough for the rest of us?


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