Welcome to Wongaland

By the way, I enjoyed Brian Wilson in the Scotsman today. He really does provide an alternative viewpoint missing from elsewhere. I find it helps me to understand what Unionists see when they look at Scotland and why they work so hard against their own country becoming self-standing like everybody else. But when Brian tries to tie the Debt Monster tag round the SNP’s neck, even I sense we’re moving into propaganda territory. Rather than delve into the detail where the Unionists want to keep the debate, I’ll take the chicken way out and invite you to click here for the real cause of debt in Britain. http://www.nationaldebtclock.co.uk

Happy counting…

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Pick A Card

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m no economist. When I listen to the conflicting stream of drivel so many of them spout, I’m proud of that. However, I am a thinking voter and like to judge for myself in as far as I can with out a BSc. I’ve also learned to think of Paul Daniels whenever the British Treasury tries to tell me something. It’s amazing how they make things appear and disappear at will while wearing a fixed smile.

Today we’re told for example that the SNP plan of cutting corporation tax will take money out of the national account and will lead to tax increases or cuts to services. (Take your eyes off Debbie. She’s the distraction). That seems plausible enough…cut the tax rate and get less cash in. Our other glamorous assistant, Danny helps to convince us by saying the same methodology that led to this deduction was used by the Treasury, so it must be British copper-bottomed, fair and accurate.

But here’s where they pull the silk cloth away and, hey presto, what you thought was true isn’t.

It’s only two weeks ago that the Chief Magician Osborne pulled his magical stroke by declaring that he had put in place a quiet revolution by systematically cutting corporation tax to one of the lowest in the western world, from 28p to 23p, next to 21p and down to 20p over the next two years. But surely, you ask, the Treasury says to Scotland that cutting this tax rate will lead to budget cuts and loss of services, so why doesn’t that principle apply to London’s Magic Circle, too?

The answer is that it originally did. Analysis by HMRC only considered the direct effect on the public purse without taking into account the wider economic impact.

When they were factored in it was realized that the cut led to higher investment, economic growth and wage rises, according to the Chancellor. So he told HMRC to change its methodology to suit him. Asked why he ordered HMRC to change its methods at this time, Mr Osborne said he “wanted to begin a quiet revolution in how people think about these things” and they would apply the same principle in future to other measures like raising personal allowances and scrapping fuel duty rises. He calls it “dynamic modelling”.

It’s what the rest of us call “common sense”. There is a consequential effect which compensates for the cut. If you are a retailer, you cut the price in order to sell more. Simple.

So it’s sleight of hand for the same Treasury not to apply this so-called dynamic modeling to Scotland’s tax cutting plans while using it for their own. But that would be mature and intelligent and aid the debate and we can’t have that when the game is to lie, lie and lie again to keep Scotland in the British state. How I’d love us to pull a rabbit out of the hat next September.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Know Who Your Friends Are

I thought it was a spoof at first until I read it myself but the list of donors to Better Together should be published as an ironic joke book (The Bumper Book of Greasy Palms). Is it too late for Christmas?

Its mixture of Bertie Woosters and rapacious financiers and bankers, dodgy military types and corporate traitors should be available on my Kindle under Humour any day now. You only have to add in the Ian Taylor money linked to Vitol to complete the picture of a miniscule moneyed elite up to all sorts of dubious activities sanctimoniously bleating about the threat to our mighty country. The threat is surely to their money and status and that’s what this ragbag of grotesques are really worried about. This is vested-interest Britain doing what it does best, stuffing dirty fivers in an envelope to defeat the people. “Can you fix it for me, governor? Know what I mean?” Then drop a bundle in his Lucy Locket. Sorted.

I was one of those who prickled at suggestions after the Radical Scotland conference claim that the No’s were the rich Yes were the poor. On this evidence I’m wrong. No is funded by the wealthy, the greedy, the seedy and the undemocratic. I loved the statement from Donald Houston who more or less own Ardnamurchan, an iconic peninsula in our country’s history. It’s the location of Castle Tioram, symbol of windswept resistance, which was burned down deliberately by the Macdonalds in 1715 to prevent it falling again into British Hanovarian hands. Sadly Donald is made of softer stuff. “We have spent 300 years building up a Union between our countries that has achieved so much”, he says. You can almost hear his incomprehension.  It certainly has achieved much for him since he can afford to give £100,000 and half a million via his companies. The killer line though is: “I hope that other people in the same position as myself are also willing to contribute whatever they can.” I’m sure that Labour voters all over Scotland with their 50,000 acre estates and castle hotels, deer herds and distilleries will even now be calling their broker to sell some blue chip shares  in the morning and release some readies. “Maybe convert it into dollars at the preferential rate, Rupert. Now excuse me, I’ve a Food Bank to open with Johann.”

There’s is inevitably a stockbroker in there (with £200,000) as befits this squalid self-interested cartel of Brit-nats, and he’s a major Tory donor (over £1m, joining Ian Taylor as another one of Labour’s new social democratic friends). Apparently this individual ignored warnings about the activities of Nick Leeson while at Barings Bank where Leeson lost over £800m. Better Together should feel really comfortable in such typically Unionist company.

One of the big donors is Alan Savage of a recruitment company, adding £150,000 to his previous £100,000. (Is he getting nervous?) He already has plans to move his business out of the country if there’s a Yes vote. Now there’s the kind of patriotism that made Britain what it is today.  “If I don’t get my way, I’m leaving.” To be honest, Alan, while I feel for you employees, you’re exactly the kind of corporate cut-throat  we don’t want in our new country. Anybody so devoid of patriotism and care for his own people that he would ditch it to save a few quid, I don’t regard as a proper Scotsman let alone an individual with personal dignity. I think there will be new Scottish companies and others from elsewhere who will have the foresight and the business balls to back Scotland. You have given me yet another reason for voting Yes. I do truly hope you have wasted your money. (What does Labour make of the fact that all the big donors are Tory donors? Comfortable, Johann? What about the unions…happy with your new pals, comrades?)

Then there is the “private intelligence company” owner, a former solider who may or may not be involved in spying. Could you get a more pantomime bunch of self-serving nincompoops with more money than sense? Only if you were remaking the Wild Geese with cartoon business types and land owners bankrolling a dodgy enterprise in a foreign country with rich mineral assets led by ex military types without scruples. Oh, hang on…that really is it. This is a plot to land an expeditionary force and take over control of Scottish assets with an elite squad of cigar-chomping marines bursting into Holyrood and spraying them with lead.

Well, maybe not. But if you’d told me two years ago that our constitutional debate would involved Labour getting into bed with this motley crew of millionaires and military cowboys, I wouldn’t have believed it. Whoever wins next year, the battle honours of Scottish Labour, once the proud vanguard of the working Scot, will be hung for ever with the names of these carpetbaggers and charlatans to whom the working class are mere commodities.

PS Blair McDougall is going into psychosis mode believing his own propaganda. “Alex Salmond has shown he is willing to spend hundreds and thousands of pounds of taxpayers money on propaganda for his campaign”, he says. Who’s paying for the 30 reports of the British Government and parliamentary reports of every single Committee at Westminster and the Secretary of State’s department, I wonder?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

It’s No Fair

Murdo Fraser wants to change the world. Or at least he wants to change the world’s statistics. Just as he wanted to change the name of his party, but didn’t want to change its essential nature, so Murdo is now re-interpreting the figures that show Nordic countries are more equal societies than Britain. If you’re reaction is: Norway  – fairer that Blighty, the country that gave the world fair play and stiff upper lip?! – stop reading now and find another website.

Try this one – oecd.org – home of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development where governments share official information to find ways of doing things better. I tried matching Murdo’s assertions about the UK being a fairer country than Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark with the data held by the OECD and it’s like looking for information on how Scotland could be a better place to live on the Better Together website. The proof isn’t just missing, it is flatly contradicted.

For example I came across how the in-kind benefits from public services in all OECD countries impact on household income inequality based on the same Gini coefficients used by Murdo and factoring in education, health, social housing and care services. It shows that when the public services are added in, the first three least unequal nations are…Sweden, Norway and Denmark and the only large nation in the first 10 is France – all the others are smaller nations. The UK was at 18, behind those economic basket cases so beloved of Jim Murphy and other British state apologists, Ireland and Iceland.

Next there is the share of top incomes increases – covering the top 1 per cent of pre tax incomes showing the highest percentage rises for the top earners to be in the USA and the UK. Out of the 19 nations in this comparison, four of the last six nations – those with the lowest rises for the top one per cent – were Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

It goes on to warn that income inequality creates economic, social and political challenges by stifling upward social mobility (even your old leader Major agrees, Murdo) and intergenerational earnings mobility is low in countries with inequality in the UK, the US and Italy but much higher in Nordic countries where income is distributed more fairly. (That’s stopping people from getting on in life, Murdo, leaving the field for the privileged like Tories. Shouldn’t you be backing policies that  lead to a meritocracy?)

Government transfers – both in cash and kind – have an important role to play in guaranteeing that low-income households do not fall further back in income distribution – especially after a recession, according to the OECD. But that’s exactly what Tory policy is doing, impoverishing further those on low incomes and benefits. (Interested in taking advice from influential western economic thinkers, Murdo or happier treating them like Communist troublemakers?)

OECD says access to sustainable jobs is key. (I know this sounds like it’s lifted from Common Cause, but honest, it’s not). Recent trends towards higher rates of in-work poverty indicate that job inequality has become a concern for a growing number of workers. (That’ll be those Zero Hours Contracts and other employer fiddles which treat people like workhorses. Whose party best represents those employers?)

Then instead of low-paid, no rights jobs, the OECD recommends investing in human capital including training and formal education. It says access to tertiary education is important for improving the prospects and living standards of lower skilled people. (That indicates that free education, if it can be afforded is the right way to go, not charging students a mortgage just to learn).

Murdo is the latest right wing revisionist to traduce the success of Scandinavian people. Try the Institute of Public Affairs website for the latest “inequality equals happiness” mythology. Rather than closing his mind to the blatant success of Nordic society, wouldn’t he and Conservatives be better trying to develop a new narrative from their North Atlantic experience? The Right is making headway in some of these countries so it’s not a left wing nirvana. Why do British Tories insist on sticking themselves on the fringes of every idea?

Get on a flight to Norway, Murdo and smell the pine needles or drop in on Copenhagen and find that nearly everybody is just like you – well-heeled, well-educated and middle class living mostly stress-free lives, certainly compared to Food Bank Britain with low levels of child wellbeing.

There is no instant solution for Scotland’s problems to be found in Scandinavia or anywhere else but there are lessons to be absorbed and adopted to our own use and I think the overwhelming majority of Scots either know this or are gradually learning it. That leaves the doom-sayers like Murdo moaning and isolated while – yet again- the ground moves underneath them. What puzzles me is why anyone of any political colour would strive so hard to deny the advantages of greater equality and to undermine the evidence accepted by the rest of the world.

Sorry, Murdo but denying the growing tide of opinion may be a common and comfortable place for Conservatives to find themselves, it’s just that, as ever, the rest of us have moved on. Try to catch up. On second thoughts, forget the OECD website (too much data), try this instead: http://theflatearthsociety.org/forum/.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Brussels Spouts

The anti-democrats in Brussels have been ramping up their offensive against self-determination in direct contradiction of their once-pervasive mantra of subsidiarity. Instead of trumpeting the policy of making decisions at the most appropriate level, both the Commission and the Council are now joined in a resistance to the small nations and regions demanding recognition and equal status with the big boys in the club of member states.

Manuel Barroso’s dismissive comments – and deliberate snub to the Scottish government – have been reiterated by Hermann von Rompuy, the president of the Council of Ministers, the body that will actually decide on Scotland’s membership. Previously there had been a background turf war between Commission and Council with the latter letting it be known that the Commission’s hardline was not a unanimous view within the institutions. So it seems now that the two key bodies are aligned behind the united front of the member states who feel threatened by democracy in their own countries, fearing an independence contagion which uses Scotland as a precedent.

This is a hardening of the opposition to democratic independence which makes it harder to convince voters about Scottish membership and will turn attitudes in Scotland against the EU itself. The reason I say this is that these opinions are statements only, not legal opinion. They are the statements of politicians which is what both men are. It means they are of course deeply relevant and cannot be dismissed. Further, they are the antithesis of the constitutional role of both institutions which have no place interfering in the domestic affairs of a member state, a position which Barroso continues to aver while at the same time making a political statement implying Scots would be thrown out of the EU on independence, thereby contradicting himself.

Barroso has been obliged to find a formulation that pleases the members and appears to relate to the treaties because there is a constant pressure across Europe to get clarity on what happens when a member state splits democratically. The irony here is that he could indeed request a legal scenario from the EU lawyers if he was interested in treating the issue with the respect it deserves. He is not and neither is the UK as member state. The combined weight of the EU institutions is now directed squarely on persuading the Scots – and down the line the Catalans – to turn against self determination and subsidiarity in a direct interference in political affairs of a member country.

But let’s look at the wording they have chosen to defend the status quo against the wishes of a democratically elected European government with a mandate in Edinburgh.  It is: “If a part of the territory of a member state ceases to be a part of that state because that territory becomes a new independent state, the treaties will no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply any more on its territory.”

Read the first phrase again. If a part of the territory…ceases to be a part of that state because that territory becomes a new independent state…then at the end…the treaties would from the day of its independence…”

That is exactly what won’t happen on September 19 next year the morning after the referendum. Scotland will not become independent overnight and therefore the above statement is meaningless to the referendum. Scotland will remain in the UK and in the EU. It will remain there for as long as it takes to agree a termination deal with London which will end with both capitals recognizing the other as representing the two new states. Throughout those disaggregation discussions, Brussels will be present, guiding, advising and maneuvering so that the deal complies with the treaties – and the interests of the institutions. They will after all have to make sure it is watertight and that it can be sold to the other 27 members. It is only after an agreement between Edinburgh and London that Scotland becomes independent and that agreement will have been conducted in the full knowledge of and in consultation with the European Commission. Will they turn round when the ink is dry and point Scots to the exit door? Part of the deal will be mutual support between Scotland and rUK in which each will back the other’s continued membership because it is in their joint interest to do so. (I also expect London to immediately endorse Scottish membership of the UN as a mark of ongoing partnership).

What the Barroso/Van Rompuy anti-democrats are saying really saying is: Please don’t vote for independence because it will make life tricky for us and our political masters in the big nations hate the idea of losing power as sparky and wealthy parts of their countries break away. We can’t control things if they do and we’ll struggle to adjust to a changing world. Everything is fine as it is. And if you don’t play our game, we’ll threaten you.

This is political interference in a member state’s affairs and do you find it interesting that it hasn’t brought a single complaint from the British government? This is the anti-European Tories, remember, playing to the Little Englander gallery who threaten to come out of the European Convention on Human rights, who objected to the rules of justice applied to Abu Qatada and who want to renegotiate the terms of membership because of EU “meddling” in Britain’s affairs. So why no warning to the eurocrats about Britain’s internal affairs?

Perhaps because they are part of an orchestrated campaign to deny the truth to the Scots before they vote. I asked the Foreign Office why they refused to ask Brussels for legal advice which the Commission has stated will be given if a request is made from London with a “precise scenario”. Here is the key part of the reply: “The ‘precise scenario’ referred to by the Commission can only be presented following negotiations on the terms of Scottish independence from the UK, which can themselves only follow a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum as there is currently no democratic mandate for undertaking such negotiations.  The legal position outlined above is in any case clear, and has been confirmed by the Commission.  The UK Government therefore has no plans to approach the Commission further on this issue.”

Note the new position – there can be no precise scenario until after the vote and after the discussions as well! So the Scots will not be informed of the official legal position in advance. I’m aware that Brussels has no reputation for democracy but to watch the connivance of our own government, the one that believes in a family of nations in the greatest Union in history, treat the democratic process with blatant contempt is telling Scots the true value of our relationship. In statement after statement, members of the Commission have said they will only answer questions on the legal process for Scotland if asked by London. None that I can find indicated this would only apply after a referendum vote. That is clearly absurd and is deliberate distortion by London to justify their untenable position in refusing to formally ask the question. The Foreign Office is relying on the Barroso statements – no surprise- and their own legal advice which did not come from EU lawyers who are the only ones in a position to give the advice. This is chicanery from the same people who accuse Salmond of being slippery. The so-called precise scenario is simply this… Scotland votes for independence in a legally watertight referendum and the British government recognizes the result. Scotland wants to remain a member of the EU. What happens next? Is it too much for the combined brains of London and Brussels? They give the impression they’re pretty clever at everything else.

You only have to start from a simple proposition – if the EU legal advice confirms Scotland will be ejected and must reapply from outside, why don’t the Unionists ask the question? It would stump the Yes campaign and move us into different, probably EFTA territory. But they won’t ask. Won’t ask because the legal advice will say no such thing. It will in fact say something very similar to this from Professor Dr Roland Vaubel, an adviser to Germany’s economics department: “The legal position taken by Barroso, (Viviene) Reding and van Rompuy has no basis in the European treaties. Nor is there a precedent in EU law. Nor does the UN Charter envisage dispositions with regard to secession… The treaties are also consistent with automatic succession of both the seceding state and the rump state.”

He went on to argue that the EU institutions had a vested interest in centralisation and were therefore biased against separatist movements while also hoping to gain concessions from an independent Scotland in negotiations. So we are being screwed by Brussels acting in concert with our own British government. Truly we are better together.

For further reading this is a link on the same subject by Angus Roxburgh.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/20/scotlands-eu-bombshell-bunkum-barroso

and this is the full text of my letter from the Foreign Office. I particularly like the opening sentencewhich came as a surprise.

Dear Mr Bateman,

Thank you for your email.

The UK Government is not making plans to break up the United Kingdom.  In order to inform and support the debate on Scotland’s future, the Government is undertaking a programme of analysis on Scotland as part of the UK, and how it contributes to and benefits from being part of the United Kingdom. This work is known as the Scotland analysis programme, and it is examining how Scotland contributes to and benefits from being part of the UK, and how the rest of the UK benefits from its partnership with Scotland. The papers published so far are available to read online here: www.gov.uk/scotlandanalysis.

The first paper in the series, Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, was published on 11 February 2013 and set out the legal and constitutional issues associated with establishing a new Scottish state, based on an independent legal opinion from two of the world’s leading international law experts, Professors James Crawford and Alan Boyle. The opinion states that in the event of Scottish independence the United Kingdom would continue as before, retaining the rights and obligations of the UK as it currently stands. Scotland would become a new, separate state, and this would have significant implications domestically and internationally, including a need to apply to and/or negotiate to become a member of whichever international organisations it wished to join, including the EU.

The President of the European Commission also stated in his written evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into “The Economic Implications for the United Kingdom of Scottish Independence” in December 2012:

The EU is founded on the Treaties which apply only to the Member States who have agreed and ratified them. If part of the territory of a Member State would cease to be part of that state because it were to become a new independent state, the Treaties would no longer apply to that territory. In other words, a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the EU and the Treaties would no longer apply on its territory.

The ‘precise scenario’ referred to by the Commission can only be presented following negotiations on the terms of Scottish independence from the UK, which can themselves only follow a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum as there is currently no democratic mandate for undertaking such negotiations.  The legal position outlined above is in any case clear, and has been confirmed by the Commission.  The UK Government therefore has no plans to approach the Commission further on this issue.

I hope you find this information helpful.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather