Hey, Hey, we’re the Monkeys

I’ve a few things to get through today having spent Friday recording and Saturday at swimming and rugby. First of all I want to thank all of you who responded so positively to my last blogs on what makes us nationalists committed to independence. The reaction was overwhelming with probably my biggest ever Twitter retweet count (I’ve no idea how to assess that). A number of you said I had put into words what you had felt all your life…that is really moving to hear and makes the hours in the Maryhill Bunker worthwhile. I said when I started two and a half years ago that I wanted to add my voice to the national movement and I was determined to be honest and, when necessary, fearless in expressing my views and commenting on others. That has led to cracks in relationships and an uncomfortable sense of being ‘out there’, open to criticism in return and, inevitably, to ridicule from those who don’t share my opinions. I know many of you understandably don’t want to be on the front line but express your appreciation for those of us who take the case forward. Given that we do it for nothing – the Wine Club notwithstanding – as opposed to the Unionist flag-bearers who are paid for opposing self-government, I think it tells you a lot about our motivation. As my pal Billy Kay puts it: It’s the Cause. Not a single email or tweet is wasted – they mean a lot to me.

Amid the messages, as you’ll see among the responses on the right, is one that adds pleasure to the warm glow. It tries to contradict my statement that we don’t want to be better than anyone else, rather we want to be just the same (as other nations) by quoting an old tract of Siol nan Gaidheal! When your opponent sinks to the level of the asinine, it tells you he has already lost the argument. To be fair, I had completely forgotten the fruitcakes of Siol who have fallen off everybody’s radar. SNG to my knowledge, were proscribed by the SNP 34 years ago and, according to Professor Murray Pittock, disbanded in 1985. “Some of these groups were probably riddled with agents provocateurs; the odd one was genuine though all seemed incompetent,’ he writes. There is still a website though if you’re interested with press cuttings back to the 80’s…Just google.

It does show that your organisation can always be defined by its weakest link, no matter how negligible or incongruous. (Didn’t the English Defence League, the National Front, the BNP and the Orange Order all back the Union?)

My reader quotes an STV blogger in his defence who describes you all as paranoid and aggrieved. I suggest there is a certain lack of self-awareness on display here. Read his effort and decide who exactly sounds paranoid and aggrieved? I apologise for this first ever mention of Stephen Daisley on the blog and hope to make it the last. I asked a friend who has spent his adult life in the Scottish media and has written and commented extensively on it what he thought. He said, in so many words, that ‘he was interesting when he started, a good addition to the debate and it was well written. Now it’s descended into the usual smear and agitprop to get more clicks. The trouble is that some of them just can’t sustain it.’ You see? It ain’t easy producing quality every few days over a sustained period. That’s why so much of the scribbling by ubiquitous columnists falls short. (They need something to believe in!)

Insulting someone’s followers isn’t the brightest either. Remember this is the official voice of STV and STV thinks you’ve got mental health problems. That’s your local independent TV news and current affairs station. I checked and Stephen is their digital political correspondent. What a rebuff to journalists like Bernard Ponsonby and John Mackay who’ve upheld real broadcast journalism for years. But if you want to see an example of what paranoia and grievance can do to you, read here. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-499935/Kirsty-Warks-husband-loses-court-battle-judge-frowns-email-hacking.html

The really funny part was that I saw this message immediately after reading an email to the blog from a female academic in New York who, as you’ll see on the right, uses her extensive historical constitutional knowledge to contradict me, very elegantly. That’s the kind of person who does contact me. I’ve just had an exchange with a Scottish university lecturer about my previous blog and an email conversation with someone else who reads me – on of our foremost academics with an international reputation (more later). I guess that’s what STV calls grievance monkeys. Or maybe it’s my Twitter account then? I suppose some among 12,000 will have a grievance. Let’s look through my list of followers. Oh, yes, there’s a Michelin-starred chef, a Hollywood film maker, government ministers (!?), best-selling authors and, wait for it…Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale…both following me. I knew it! People with a grievance. (I think theirs is that the SNP keep winning.)

I think the message is: If you’re going to attack, get some ammo. Don’t march off to war behind the pipes and drums armed with a pea-shooter and a cocktail stick. Still, let’s be glad Stephen’s giving us the benefit of his maturity and experience – our debate needs all the help it can get.

Now…to the point of this blog. The above mentioned email conversation was with an expert on economics who doesn’t want his name appended (presumably worried Stephen think’s he’s paranoid). I asked him a simple question – If Scotland had voted Yes how would we have coped with the fall in the oil price?

His first point acknowledges the serious hit Scotland faces but contrasts it with the money we are losing through the Tories’ austerity programme.

‘At the time of the referendum oil tax revenues were priced into the budget calculations at about $100 per barrel to yield roughly 7bn pounds a year. Since then the price has fallen to $30 per barrel; that is a 70% drop since 2014. So you would expect, absent any other changes, the tax revenues to drop roughly 70% too: to about 2.1bn pounds now. However the implied loss of 4.9bn in tax revenues is about the same (and possibly a little smaller perhaps) than the austerity cuts which the UK government has imposed on us and which we could arguably have avoided had there been a Yes vote. In that sense we would have been no worse off than we are now, and in a real sense better off because the oil price will recover (increased revenues in the future) while it is fair to assume the austerity cuts will be here for the foreseeable future.’

He goes on: ‘Even if we had lost 4.9bn pounds in oil revenues, after a Yes vote we would have recovered the implicit subsidies that Scottish taxpayers pay to rUK (for pensions, housing benefit, bank levies, adjusted debt servicing costs etc). Those would be gains to the budget that could be set against the loss of oil revenues, leaving only a relatively small net loss.’

My economist contact is skeptical too about the accounting involved. ‘We are being told by the Treasury that the oil tax revenues are running at just 700m pounds currently. That is a 90% drop, and comes at a time when the quantities being pumped have actually risen over the past 2-3 years (presumably because the tax surcharge has been lifted, or because the specialist operators have come in to pump in the marginal fields). So where has the missing 20% gone? The fact that there seems to be 20% missing suggests (quite strongly) that the Treasury figures  are wrong, or at least reflect some other activities in the accounting system that would not have been there had we got a Yes vote.’

He concludes: ‘So could Scotland have survived as an independent economy? This view implies we could have, and probably rather more easily than most people suppose. And could we have borrowed? I don’t see why not. The net borrowing from above would be fairly small, perhaps 1% of GDP (it is easier to borrow against oil than against taxes, the collateral is better).

‘The danger I see that the need to borrow might now go on for much longer than we might have expected. I don’t think any of us expected Saudi Arabia to keep pumping and the prices go down for so long, and now Iraq and Iran are joining in. They will have to stop eventually because of the downward pressure on their own budgets, but if the low prices go on for another 5 years then it may become expensive. Diversification in the economy would help, but without independence we lack the powers.’

There you are. The loss of oil revenues would be partly offset by avoiding the Tory cuts, budget shortfalls are covered by borrowing and the oil price will rise in time. I add my own reminder, curiously missing from Unionist critiques. It is that if we have debts it is because they were accrued by the British government not by the Scottish one and virtually everything that can be said to be negative about our economy happened under the Union which keeps strategic economic control away from our hands. The First Minister told Marr this morning that  forecasts for our onshore economy showed it overtaking the loss in oil revenues. But then she’s a believer, like me.

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26 thoughts on “Hey, Hey, we’re the Monkeys

  1. Not forgetting the positive effects of lower fuel prices on the Scottish economy.

  2. You post honestly and from the heart. You use your professional and personal experience, your extensive knowledge of politics and the media all to bring us a unique and useful insight of the world around us.

    What’s not to like? 🙂

    Were you not here, we’d have to invent you along with the wealth of other new media sources now available to us. You know yourself that traditional media gives us no voice and no representation. The likes of WGD, WOS, NNS, yourself and so many more provide a democratic balance that otherwise would not exist in our society.

    In short, you’re needed and appreciated.

    Oh and as for the economy? A business friend once said to me ‘its far easier to turn a tug than a tanker that’s heading for the rocks’, but then I’m one of those awkward squad types who simply believes in independence as a right and a principle for individuals and nations, so what do I know. 😉

  3. Rather a great deal, I’d say, Sam!

    Derek, you were one of the very few I listened to on Radio Scotland. Latterly, a sane voice bringing hope on a Saturday morning.

    • Its never been about the economy for me Jan. One quick look tells you all you need to know about Scotland’s resources. Educated workforce, stable geopolitical environment with good overseas profile, 4 of the worlds top universities, a sea of hydrocarbons, renewables, one of the richest fishing grounds in northern Europe, self sufficient for food and a net exporter. Scotland’s main drawback economically is the system of government in charge its macro economic strategy and its resources.

      The same establishment and system of government which attempts at every turn to convince the Scottish electorate of how singularly incapable they are of managing those resources. Partners? My arse!

      They are friends to no one. Not their own electorate and most certainly not ours. They are locusts, users, greed and self interest personified. They have no flag, no faith, no empathy except that which they manufacture to suit narrative or agenda.

      The people of Scotland are and always have been, more than capable of stewarding their own resources and managing their own affairs and priorities. We are as good as anyone else. All we require is the confidence to go out and prove it.

  4. Westminster and its Treasury has lied to us before [McCrone Report] and they will lie to us again. I can’t understand why so many in Scotland are content to be ruled over by Westminster liars. Why are they so politically gutless?

  5. well a vote of thanks from me anyway , i wonder how many appreciate the personal commitment and probable financial cost of your decision to stand up and put your head above the parapet, just now you probably could be enjoying a reasonable salary and secure retirement prospects from your previous employer ,that said i do believe your quest for a alternative media outlet will succeed and should be supported ,talent never goes unnoticed for long ,

  6. One thing that never gets mentioned is that civil service jobs, now overwhelmingly in London, would have to move north. We already pay for our share of Defence, the Home Office, the Foreign Office and so on, but few of those jobs are based in Scotland. By my back-of-a-fag-packet reckoning, those three departments alone cost Scotland about £1bn in staff costs – about 30,000 jobs – which would all need to be created in Scotland on our declaration of independence. Factor in the savings to our social security spending as we employed so many more people and the actual money being in Scotland’s economy and Scotland’s exchequer rather than London’s with its attendant multipliers supporting other businesses in our towns and cities and you have something like a £2-3bn boost to the Scottish economy from money that GERS shows us as already spending! It’s tough to make accurate predictions about “what we could do differently” and how that would affect us, but these are jobs that would need to be done in Scotland and we know what we already spend on them. THAT should be our starting point for the “Indy Dividend.”

    • dont forget scotlands share of uk assets which according to mark carney is £1 trillion +,far more than our share of national debt.

  7. Another excellent article Derek
    However I have always been frustrated at the lack of comprehensive presentation of economic facts both during the referendum debate and to this date. I am absolutely certain we lost for this reason and we need to be continually building confidence in our economic independence so that this underlies the debate when another referendum happens

    • Agree 100%. No amount of time would be wasted on 1) educating the voters on fiscal/economic potentialities & 2) having a robust answer any time the broad opposition attempt to attack with Fearfactor tactics again when it all comes round.

  8. If we were independent our policy scope would be widened considerably and we could have the free hand to tailor policies to our needs. It’s not just about revenues but also about reducing unecessary costs. Not by cuts, but a smarter and more efficient way of doing things cheaper. Think of the £18 million in VAT owed by Police Scotland since they became a single force because of some absurd UK law. Or the costs of running Longannet because of a ridiculous surcharge imposed for connection charges to the UK grid, also arbitrary. Think about how we would have control over immigration policy to ensure that top graduates could stay and repay something back into the economy. Think of how we could protect the oil industry so that it could revive when the price of oil recovers.

  9. Steve Asaneilean

    Again those who crow about the falling oil prices have missed the point completely.

    And independent Scotland would have dealt with it and mitigated it in a way that had the interests of Scotland at heart.

    In any case we need to start preparing now for a future without oil. Being independent would have put more emphasis on our need to do that and given us the impetus to map out our own future.

    I never really cared about being better or worse off. For me it was about being more equal (which, for a developed country, is what matters more). It was about having available to us all the tools in the toolbox and both hands free to use them according to our needs and the blueprint of the country we wanted to create.

    I have no doubt that in the long run an independent Scotland would be successful and up there with any small western European nation.

    All a matter of faith? Yes, undoubtedly, but if you haven’t got faith in yourself you have nothing.

    Please keep writing and posting Derek – your efforts are very much appreciated by me at least.

  10. Derek you were good enough to take questions from me at a meeting in Luss I high lighted to residents the implication of closure of our local hospital easiest way to counter the ” oil is a burden ” retroic why is Corporation tax not Devolved to Scotland? As in Norn Iron Oil & Gas is still it’s biggest contributor secondly as you said regarding Oil as colateral it’s why the UK is able to secure lending and not be classed as a basket case like Greece Spain when the reality is UK debt is far higher remember Ireland and Iceland those Unionist Scrapgoats are now leading the recovery

    Yet still I hear friends use oil as a excuse for their No vote have they changed there minds or will they in the future for that’s what will decide whether Scotland will ever be a nation again

  11. Thanks, Derek, from someone who no longer reads newspapers other than The National, l because I think we need a paper which supports the independence view, and still buying The Sunday Herald despite some reservations. I pay no attention to BBC news or current affairs; their rabidly relentless, negative reporting of Scottish affairs in their attempt to undermine not only the Scottish Government, but, any aspiration for Scotland, is not only depressing, but, so intolerable it raises the BP .

    We so need our new media even if sometimes we take issue with some opinions/conclusions. The fact that most allow comment/debate about content is refreshing and gives voice to so many erudite and well informed people along with those who speak from experience and apply common sense. We have been lied to for centuries and if the Referendum did anything, it was to expose that betrayal and free people to consider and comment for themselves. That more than a few choose to remain with their heads stuck in the sand is probably because of those centuries of negative propaganda instilling a fear of stepping out on our own path to a different future.

    I never understood the need to explain independence in terms of our economy because it just made so much sense that a country with huge resources and a small population compared to its landmass is just as viable as any other and more so than many. So much is simply self-evident. For me, the oil is not an issue. It is there and it is a bonus. If we controlled our own oilfields, we would have 100% of the tax in our own Scottish Treasury instead of the small percentage Westminster includes in our “grant” or attributes to us.

    We need media which reminds us that we are as good and deserving of respect as anyone else, not a continuation of the treachery which helped create the “Scottish Cringe”. So, thank you and the other independent news sources for being in the vanguard challenging those who would prefer to feed a lack of confidence in our own abilities.

  12. Just to point out, Stephen Daisley is the EDITOR of Politics at STV. His tweets in the last two days.

    “Cybernats sniping at me again. It’s Saturday night. Don’t they have lists of English interlopers to be drawing up?” This was after sharing jokes of a photoshopped ‘quisling awards’ picture by a Conservative Party activist.

    “You moved it next to ‘Fascist Scotland’ by Gavin Bowd just to get a rise out of them, didn’t you? ” It’s funny because SNP supporters don’t like being called fascist.

    “The creatures looked from Ukip to SNP and from SNP to Ukip but already it was impossible to say which was which.” Just utterly bizarre.

    Daisley makes the BBC look like hardcore leftists. Daisley is a shite version of Rush Limbaugh with one difference. If you criticise him on any of this, he’ll claim to be a small bulldog (I am not joking). So we probably shouldn’t to be too unfair on Rush Limbaugh, who’ll at least give you some kind of response to his right-wing rhetoric.

    • I’d save screenshots of as many Stephen Daisley tweets by the way. It looks like Daisley deletes his older tweets (for a reason).

      In the last month, he has called the leaders of the junior doctors strike “Arthur Scargills with a stethoscope” and also called on Jeremy Corbyn to be removed as Labour leader. It is quite remarkable that someone like this would be given an editorial role in Scotland’s only independent broadcaster.

  13. Regarding the economy of an independent Scotland an important factor that I believe is not considered often enough is that the effect on the tourism industry would be remarkable.

    The publicity bounce that Scotland would enjoy could increase employment and income considerably.

    I reckon it would double the tourist economy. We would be famous all throught the world and people (especialy those of a sympathetic ideology from nation states strugling for their own independence) would flock to Scotland to show solidarity and to soak up the vibe.

    Importantly also is that an independent Scotland would be in a position to market the nation as a tourist destination much more effectively than at present without being hampered by the restraints of the current London controlled tourist marketing authority.

    Next time there is a tourism trade fair in your area get yourself along and take a look at the football pitch size and central positioning, of the stand for Ireland and compare that with the Scotland stand tacked on to the end of the Uk stand.

    Of course included in the surge of visitor numbers would be the exiled diaspora such as myself who would retutrn to collect their new Scottish passport.

    I´ll be the one kissing the tarmac and greetin for ma mammy!!

  14. I never miss a post because it always contains facts backed up by research, added to your conviction that supporting independence is not just about money.
    Why is it then, especially with your background in journalism at a senior level with the BBC,that you are never invited on political programmes as a commentator, instead of the usual suspects, mainly from the dead tree press?
    I suspect I know the answer, which is why I always share on FB.
    Keep up the valuable worlk. Its much appreciated.

  15. Ponder on a return to a pre- Derek, Wings over Scotland, Wee Ginger Dug, Lallans Peat Worrier, and many more, …dominant MSM . The Herald with giant colour photos of Stairhead Mags,Murph playing fitba’, and postage stamps B&W photos of Salmond.

    By Jings I tried, I tried to explain the economic case for an independent Scotland. I lost one long term friend and neighbour couple – they were moving to Cumbria if there was a Yes vote. I just couldn’t fathom, nor accept their UK supremacy view. “Still friends?” they asked after the independence referendum. How do you respond other than a mumbled “Aye, we’ll need to arrange a night out sometime”. And yes, they are a two company-pension couple, doing alright…Jack.

  16. Dave McEwan Hill

    Kenny at 3.26 points out the huge hole in the unionist economic arguments about Scotland. A very considerable percentage of what is assumed to spending in Scotland is in fact our share of Government procurement (of which we get less than half of our percapita share) and “national ” (ie London and the South East) expenditure which is assigned to us and produces this ludicrous “£2000 extra” per head in Government expenditure to the sweaty socks.To put it simply we are paying a full share to the renewal of the London Underground and London’s sewer system etc etc and this is considered revenue spent on Scotland’s account.
    I believe the famed “identified public spending” accounts for only about 70% of he actual sums

    • Wings did a piece a while back on “national” infrastructure spending – I think it was called “The Pooling and The Sharing” – where by his reckoning, Scotland was shown in GERS as spending £12bn on the UK National Infrastructure Plan but only £1bn was being spent IN Scotland. That £1bn was on the carbon capture project in Peterhead that’s now been abandoned. I believe the fragrant Kevin Hague has disputed how NIP spend is carved up, but if Stu’s numbers are correct then Scotland is currently spending £11bn on almost exclusively English infrastructure (I think there were a couple of projects in Wales and none in the north of Ireland) while having to find money for things like the new Forth crossing or the Aberdeen bypass entirely out of the block grant. Someone needs to dig into that a bit more. If those numbers are anything like accurate, Scotland is getting ripped off to a pretty astonishing degree.

  17. thanks Derek, all these blog posts very much appreciated

  18. So Mr. D is saying that about half the country’s voters have mental health problems, are paranoid and aggrieved. Does he ever ask himself if this could be possible?

    All out of step but oor Stephen.

  19. Oil! Have you ever known any other country’s natural resources to be treated like a millstone around it’s neck.

    If we didn’t have oil they would say we were skint. We do have oil and we are alleged to be skint. So which is it. I am confused.

  20. I’m not sure why it even matters if we are a little worse off or a little better off in the immediate aftermath of independence. Independence is a long-term decision and the economy at year zero is not going to define us for all of the rest of recorded time.

    Apart from climate change, nobody knows what challenges the future will bring. Nobody knows what Scotland’s economy could be like in 15, or 25 years time – or that of any other country. All we really know is that long-term economic success depends on our ability to make smart investments and smart decisions with the resources at our disposal.

    Independence would bring the power to take decisions in Scotland’s best interests and the opportunity to create a real democracy with much greater equality. A more equal society could bring significant economic benefits. We’d have a chance to try to build something without right-wing governments turning up every few years with a wrecking ball to try to tear it all down.

    Small size may have some disadvantages but also many advantages. We’d be more agile and more cohesive perhaps with a much stronger sense of community. We could try to make up for any perceived lack of clout by expanding our soft power.

    Maybe others will see the future differently. My real point is that the discussion we should be having is about much more than the about pounds shillings and pence on the balance sheet on day one of independence. We know we would start at the same level of prosperity as the rUK, more or less. That’s not the question. The real question is where can we go from there.

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