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I am issuing this joint statement with David Mundell. ‘We are both very happy to have the evident support and love of so many friends in all parties after our recent decision to come out. Living a double life has been Hell and the relief of not having to hide who we really are is immense. We would like to be allowed to carry on with our lives from now on.’

David came out as gay, giving rise to headlines declaring: Gay Man Comes Out as Gay. I have come out as an independence voter with the headline: Scottish Nationalist Admits Voting for Independence.

It’s funny how people react sometimes. Most folk I know didn’t think Mundell was a story at all and its publication betrayed backward thinking rather than liberal acceptance. If public figures were to be judged on their sexual proclivities…

Then last night on the World Tonight on august Radio Four, the BBC news bulletin led with the death of the Eagles guitarist – led the BBC news – in a funereal tone, with music clip and a statement from his family. I’d never heard of him. Honest. To treat the poor guy who wrote jaunty sub-Country songs as if he had the status of cultural ground-breaker David Bowie was ludicrous. But that’s just my reaction.

My blog pointing out that independence was my goal – almost, but not quite, regardless of what follows – brought some comments that made me wonder momentarily if my fingers had slipped on the keyboard and I’d accidentally done a Mundell. There was indeed much love for the expression that independence is the main prize and, crucial as the husbandry of a new country is, that sits secondary to the main objective, simply because there will be no new Scotland to construct otherwise.

But I sensed shock too. I was, said one, at least ‘being honest.’ There was some bewilderment at the idea, as some correspondents put it, of getting independence first and working out the next steps afterwards. Imagine! Such a person has no imagination…I was to one a flag waver ‘and they don’t care about social justice.’ To another I wasn’t to be completely written off because I was sort of interesting – a museum exhibit perhaps.

I do admit to being curious in some ways but I also firmly believe I am something rather more than that – I am in the overwhelming majority.

I know everybody claims support or a personal mandate to justify arguments, even ones they can’t otherwise sustain, but my premise is strong and simple – the Nationalists who turn out massively to vote SNP, work for the party, pay for the party and will back independence to their death, have but one principal objective. They are the believers – to the Unionists, the loons and flag wavers – but to a political movement, they are the beating heart that pumps the lifeblood and who never let you down. Such people used to inhabit the Labour Party. They were passionate too. They gave up time. Sometimes they gave up work. They travelled Britain to campaign. They were bound by shared commitment for a cause. They too were loons to their opponents. But like those of us today who retain a sense of purpose, they didn’t care what was said about them. Their devotion to Labour made them impervious. Nobody who ever truly believed in a cause wavered in the face of scorn. I used to sit in Tory conferences and watch close-up the faces that glowed and the eyes that turned spellbound when Thatcher entered the hall. Don’t talk to me about loons.

And the people I’m talking about are rarely in the news, except maybe when their town gets flooded or there’s a lottery winner nearby. They have little presence in mainstream news and neither do they figure in alternative media. They don’t have blogs, unless it’s part of a community initiative. Mostly they live away from the metropolitan centres and inhabit small-scale urban and rural Scotland. In Portsoy and Fraserburgh. In Portlethen and Johnshaven. In Arbroath and Carnoustie. They’re in the towns that litter the map and whose names we mostly see on motorway signs.

I encountered them as a BBC reporter in the days when journalists actually went somewhere instead of googling. I met Tories in Kirkcudbright, Liberals in Inverurie, Nationalists in Montrose and Shetland Movement men in Lerwick. Away from the Central Belt hothouse where the media fulcrum is, attitudes and outlook are often very different from the obsessions of the chattering classes and the bletherin’ bawbags.

This is where we still find the loyal bedrock of SNP support and they aren’t spending time planning a Workers’ Co-op after independence. I doubt if they’re thinking much beyond a country initially run by the people they already trust to do the job – the SNP. It is the very managerial ability of the party after all that has boosted its support. If they only offered ‘the dream’ but no competence, they simply couldn’t muster enough votes. It’s competence allied to the vision of independence that makes the package attractive. Why would you throw that away as soon as the goal is achieved?

In speaking to those scattered Scots I tried to understand what it was that motivated them – often people don’t know themselves until it is teased out of them. It is, I think, quite simply a sense that they can do things better themselves and have lost trust in the British system. As Britain has become steadily become more unequal, the political class in London less representative – their expenses troughing a low point – and Holyrood more successful, they have seen a better way of meeting their aspirations. Their faith is in the parliament and that has swelled as the SNP has grown into the role of government. Pretty obvious, really.

And I would say they are – very broadly – dismissive of attempts to design too much the architecture for an independent country before we get there. They do need to see a coherent plan before voting Yes which makes sense of currency, the EU and how the split will be managed. But they trust the SNP to construct the framework. That’s why they vote for them. To those for whom independence is the springboard to a socialist state – or some version thereof – this is looks like a mistake because the Nats won’t be radical enough. Good argument. But does it really echo around wider Scotland? Remember we are asking people to do the most radical thing any recent generation has faced – break up the British state. No matter how you oil it, it’s still a massive spanner in the works. And after the scorched-earth business of indyref1, they are left in no doubt how big a task this is and how hard the Unionists will fight. The imperative is to win first, not get lost in debating the aftermath. Why follow the Ally Macleod doctrine? ‘What will you do after winning the World Cup?’ ‘Retain it.’ Maybe get the priorities right and win it first…

And I’m afraid the let’s-get-radical argument has a flaw too. To most Nationalists the SNP itself is radical – because of its primary aim of creating a new country. The British certainly regard it as a fairly radical plan. And within the SNP it’s clear there is a wide range of different characters with varying emphasis in policy areas, left and right. It’s precisely the combination of the two – characterised to a degree by Salmond and Sturgeon – that appeals to them. It allows them to marry what is a nominal right-wing policy of cutting corporation tax with apparently left-wing land reform. (And when they didn’t go far enough on the latter…well you know the story)

This is why the argument of the SNP monolith fails with the majority – they already see their party having different voices encompassing left and right but which are still able to combine in the national cause.

That breath of opinion suits the voters who, contrary to what most of the politically committed like to pretend, are not ideological and don’t see the need to only follow one policy line or indeed the need to follow any dogmatic policy line at all other than What’s right for Scotland. (I’m aware here I’m really just spelling out why the SNP has proved so successful)

Sneering, as some are inclined to, at the foundation of SNP support  isn’t going to win many arguments. If they (we) take any notice at all it will be to use it as a reminder to vote SNP twice.

And the bedrock, if I read it right, is also convinced of a point perhaps wilfully missed by all the media. It is that the very accomplishment of independence will provide an impetus to change. The fact of becoming a new state, of re-writing the relationship with London and the realisation of self-determination will act as an inspiration. The confidence derived from the opportunities of controlling our own country, making new friends and alliances and fine-tuning our tax system to develop the economy, will fuel the new country. At least the theory of fulfilling our true potential will be tested. For them this will be Day One of living in a better country. To the question: What kind of country do you want to live in? their answer is: an independent one.

We will not wake up the day after and ask: What do we do now?

I’m with the people who actually deliver the SNP votes regardless of the fine detail of the blueprint and in spite of the scoffing. Out there they are getting on with the real job. Objective One. And I’m proudly waving my flag.

 

Post Script. In passing can I put in a word of support for G A Ponsonby who has been traduced by some who should know better. There is much personal acrimony in this and some seem to forget he deserves respect for creating Newsnet and helping kick start new media. He scares the pants off journalists (hence the childish response of the likes of Paul Hutcheon). He has worked harder than anyone to expose the Press and, if I don’t accept all his conclusions, his detailed scrutiny of the BBC has had real impact. It chimes with opinion much more than the BBC would care to admit. The indy movement would the poorer without his contribution.

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Friends in Need

Should the SNP and Scottish Nationalists in general be publicly supporting the Kurds?

They aren’t just trying to establish a homeland, they are being targeted by the forces of Turkey – a NATO ally – in a war-within-a-war that includes civilian murders AND they’re on the front line against Daesh, helping in the UK’s number one foreign policy priority.

There is much about Kurdistan that pro-independence Scots can relate to – a powerful sense of identity, the ambition for statehood, attempts against the odds to create a functioning economy and a pride in punching above their weight. Our countries are mountainous, lightly populated with two main cities and a bloody history. Unlike Scotland though, the Kurds really do need help desperately.

There was an army siege on Kurdish towns in southeastern Turkey that claimed the lives of more than 20 while tens of thousands suffer shortages of food, water and electricity. The Turkish army said that 195 rebels were killed in the recent operations in Şırnak. Local people said the Turkish operation is aimed at punishing the entire Kurdish population in the region for cooperation with the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party.

This is no one-sided struggle. Although the Turks are more powerful, the PKK has ambushed and killed Turkish forces in acts of violence that provide a reason for political opinion here at home to stay silent or neutral. We have been here before in Ireland, South Africa and Palestine as well as numerous former colonies in Africa where violent insurgency morphed into constitutional politics once the case for democratic change was made.

Selma Irmak, a Kurdish MP in Turkey, claims President Erdogan, rapidly gaining a despotic reputation, seeks dictatorship.  ‘Erdogan announced earlier that the peace process between Turkish authorities and PKK has been terminated. In fact we do not find any difference between the crimes committed against the Kurdish people by the Turkish army, the terrorist group of Islamic State and the Baathist regimes of Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. They have been trying to obliterate the Kurdish identity for decades.’

The Kurdish military, the Peshmerga, are the most effective force in the Daesh conflict but, despite the donation of mainly light arms, they are hopelessly hampered in the struggle against the superior arms of Daesh who captured massive loads of armaments from fleeing Iraqi forces. There are over 60,000 Kurdish fighters in the conflict including the 10,000 women of the YPJ.

They are the West’s allies and toughest anti-Daesh fighters. They are praised by NATO and Washington yet they are attacked by our NATO friend Turkey who has their political party branded as terrorists because they are terrified of a Kurdish state on their frontier and partly formed from Turkish territory.

This summer the Turks made air strikes on Daesh yet only a few hours later started dropping bombs in Northern Iraq —on the PKK. There are regular reports, and pictures, of murdered civilians, the suggestion being Western nations turn a blind eye to appease Ankara, a tactic that works so long as world opinion remains deaf and blind.

Kurdistan is wedged between Syria, Iran and Turkey. Recognised as a federal entity by Baghdad, whose Iraqi forces have no mandate to enter, Kurdistan holds the world’s ninth-largest oil reserves and control over its territory and its own armed forces, although it is not a full sovereign state.

Iraq is a domineering ally. Those oil reserves which once bankrolled an expanding economy open to western investment, are tumbling in value and restricting the Kurds’ ability to raise the money needed to run their autonomous region effectively.

Tricky, of course, and fraught to attempt direct comparisons, but Scottish Nationalists may at least experience a fellow feeling for a united people whose political future is historically at the mercy of bigger neighbours. The reference to oil will resonate too.

Yet this looks like an area where the Nationalists fear to tread. They do need to pick their fights carefully and no doubt publicly endorsing a people with a complicated relationship with the West would be seen as unnecessary meddling at the Foreign Office. But, given what the Kurds themselves are going through, would it really be too dangerous – too ‘brave’ – to indicate Scottish moral support. If we take at face value the British Prime Minister’s remarks, then the Kurds are laying down their lives to keep us safe. Maybe we could manage a Thank You… The Kurds after all sent an official letter of congratulation to Nicola Sturgeon after the SNP’s win last May

To be fair, there was an early day motion in the Commons last summer backing the arming of the Kurds. It received just 16 signatures, five of them SNP. And the MEP Alyn Smith has a record of support. The persecution of a Kurdish politician drew this response: ‘I find it the height of ignorance that the Foreign Office has shown a reluctance to indicate their strong opposition to the use of Turkish anti-terror laws to target respected Kurdish politicians such as Leyla Zana.’ But that was seven years ago. There are various community initiatives where SNP people meet with Kurds living here and occasional opinionated forays by MPs like Roger Mullin but, despite an undoubted low level backing, you’d be hard pressed to expect the Scottish public to either know what was going on or if their government had a view.

Wouldn’t a backbench debate in Holyrood provide an opportunity to hear SNP ministers rally to the Kurds’ cause as fellow travellers seeking independence? MSPs have the right to discuss any subject they wish and there is no ideological reason why there shouldn’t be cross party support. It might cause mild embarrassment to London but isn’t that partly what devolution was about – giving voice to our distinct view? The SNP has a patchy record in international engagement, usually because we are pursuing economic advantage as with China or Iran, but there is surely space for a social democratic party to express moral support to those engaged on a course of action with which we identify.

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This Way And That

January – named after the Roman god Janus (meaning door) which had two faces. The ability to look in two directions at the same time seems to have had an effect on the Yes blogosphere recently.

We are looking forward to another resounding victory in less than five months time, the SNP taking potentially all constituencies except one, maybe two, an historic achievement which, whatever the questions over Brexit, takes us closer to the goal of independence by embedding the nationalist party as the natural government and further marginalising the opposition.

We also look back and shudder at how things used to be. At the first election in ‘99 Labour swallowed 56 seats. Added to the Lib Dems’ 17, they had their majority with 73. Even if all else had failed in the face of the Nationalists, the Tories on 18 could be relied on to bolster the Union. The SNP with the Green and a Socialist were significant but marginalised. Of 73 constituency seats the SNP had precisely seven. In 2011 Labour got only 37 MSPs and the Liberals five, a combined total of 42 while the SNP took 69, with 53 of them constituencies.

It’s worth remembering how far we have come. Worth remembering too that getting into government isn’t the end in itself as it is for other parties – it is the platform from which to scale the heights of independence.

And I think it’s at this point where a divide emerges in the Yes campaign. For me as, I admit, an old style Nationalist, the attainment of national sovereignty is the ultimate prize. It isn’t just an ambition that would be fine to claim, it is an all-consuming passion to see our country break free from restriction and diktat by others to join the family of nations. I desire independence (almost) no matter what kind of country results. I confess to doubts were we to emerge as a hardline Islamic state ruled by Free Kirk mullahs, for example. But if you believe in the Scots the way I do, then you also believe we will create a country that suits our needs and our sentiments. It won’t meet my every ambition – and I’ll moan like buggery – but I will content myself with knowing this is our country, our home, and we make our own way. To me, that represents dignity, or, if you like, national and personal pride. It is the restatement of the Scots’ ancient rights – the fulfilment of national destiny.

None of this carries much weight for another side of Yes where it seems the objective is to create an equal and just society through the means of sovereignty. I don’t think these are mutually exclusive but they do have a different imperative. One argues that we achieve independence and then decide our route to the future. The other puts the onus on the new society and acknowledges independence as the best route to achieve it. The latter is the point at which the Radical Scotland emergence was key and where RISE sits today. I don’t doubt anybody’s desire for independence but I also recognise a language that is quick to say: ‘I’m not a Nationalist but’…and ‘what’s the point of independence if we don’t make a fairer Scotland?’ I can’t help agreeing with the last point but, if I’m brutally honest, it is secondary to my drive for self-government as an end in itself, perhaps because at that point, I’ll be ready to shut up and leave it to my children to shape our country.

Somewhere in there is the thorn that needles. Old Nats welcome all comers to the movement but don’t embrace distractions. Now I know the ambition for a fair society can hardly be dismissed as a trifle but to some of us, arguing to split the vote in order to get it, is diluting the numbers needed for the immediate and urgent fight for autonomy. If our voting system truly reflected how we vote, as under STV, a strong case can be made that ‘sacrificing’ an SNP member for a pro-indy RISE MSP by delivering them your second vote, maintains the absolute Yes majority and adds spice to the pot, reflecting the Scotland many hard-working, door-knocking people want to see. There will also be a real dilemma in, for example, Glasgow Kelvin, for Nationalists supportive of Patrick Harvie.

But under the mixture of systems at Holyrood, it’s hard to see how transferring votes from the SNP to RISE doesn’t risk the counter effect of propelling another Unionist MSP into a job by default. We think the SNP will get a majority by winning virtually every constituency. You can get odds. But do you know. Even if they do capture their majority from the constituencies, do you want to see Labour bolstered with extra MSPs or, imagine, an extra Tory or two from the list? You can run the numbers and poke around the entrails till the summer solstice, there is simply no way of knowing how the vote will turn out in detail. I don’t doubt the trend is utterly accurate and the SNP will win big but is a majority guaranteed? We expected an earthquake last summer and got one but who believed it would be 56 MPs? I am still shocked at that. Breathtaking as the SNP rise is, to people of my political generation, the even bigger story is the collapse of Labour, something that once seemed an impossibility.

At the same time though, and it seems contradictory, I suspect the actual votes for RISE may be too small for them to collect an MSP. See what I mean about not knowing for sure how people will vote…

I don’t mean to be unkind, but I doubt if a wider voting public have even at this stage heard of the party. Jim Sillars will project it in the coming weeks but there’s little evidence Scotland is waiting to acclaim a Podemos or Syriza. People perhaps aren’t disaffected enough (the UK government did concede an referendum) and the need to make a protest statement is already overwhelmingly voiced through the SNP. The blunt truth is that the rise of the Nats took 30 years or so from gestation and setback, defeat, demoralisation and dissent to the heights of today’s SNP. Voter loyalty is learned behaviour and you have to acquire the right to have people disengage from their usual choice and turn to you instead. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks.

So there’s a complicated equation to be negotiated here for Left or Green-leaning SNP types with doubts over their second vote. You’d cast it for someone else – if the voting system worked that way. But how would you feel if it was clear just enough votes had deserted the SNP and…and…Anas Sarwar got elected!?

In truth though, that’s democracy, British style. It’s PR, but it’s a fudge, combining First Past The Post with the Additional Member System, designed specifically to avoid one-party majorities. The List itself is engineered to counter the effects of a big constituency vote and redistribute seats accordingly. Attractive as it is to back a second favourite, gaming an already contrived process is like trusting a bookmaker. When you see billboards in Ladbrokes window offering 10 to one if Tottenham beat Brentford 3-1, remember that is a multiple gamble. You are predicting who will win. You are predicting goals will be scored…by both teams. You’re actually saying how many goals…to each side. Layer by layer, the bookie hedges his offer.

But, forgive me, don’t let me put you off. A big part of me says that voting is a key part of a civilised society and is the expression of your own free will. You should vote whichever way you want. None of us has a guarantee. Not even Nicola. I never forget that at the height of her powers, towering over a huge majority and an international figure, Margaret Thatcher relied on a majority of 9000 in Finchley. If the equivalent of a crowd at an SPFL game had changed their mind, she was gone. Just like that.

So, if RISE is your choice, go for it. Follow your heart.

I only wish to remind you how silent Unionists are over this wee internal Yes squabble and urge you to ponder why that might be…

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Vote Tory

Some of you may have gained the impression over the last few months that I was ridiculing the idea of a Tory revival in Scotland. Headlines like: You’re a Loser, Ruthie…Aye, That’ll Be Right…and Get It Up Ye, Tory Ba***rds…may have inadvertently given rise to suggestions I believed a Conservative comeback was unlikely. I’m sorry if any of you misunderstood my position which I would like to clarify now.

My considered opinion is that it is entirely possible the Tories will form the opposition at Holyrood after May. Still unlikely, verging on a long shot. But nevertheless, plausible (as I obviously thought all along. Do keep up.)

The latest Survation poll in the entirely trustworthy Daily Record puts the Tories on 16 per cent in the top up section only four points behind a drooping Labour. That means the Tories are up three points and Labour down two. So what? It’s within the margin of error. Well, we’re now only five months away from voting and while still many weeks from the frantic final run-in when many people commit, nevertheless patterns of behaviour are now clear. The SNP block is not shifting. The robots are programmed. Even if Nicola were revealed to be a lizard (the Record’s current investigation project) the daleks will head for the polls with an SNP cross marked on each plunger arm. Labour pollsters will be met with Exterminate.

Crucially though, Labour are stuck. To make an impression, if not actually win, you need momentum. Little signs, wee straws, wetted fingers testing the air, a palpable sense that something is happening. Word comes in from unlikely locations of a positive response. Others report bile spat about the Nats. There is a growing warmth towards the leader, etc. My favourite story about this kind of vote divining was late Labour organiser Jimmy Allison in ill-fated Govan 1988. He said he’d ‘been oot there sniffin’ the air. It’s nae good.’ It is a strange phenomenon that could keep a university going for years. It’s a kind of osmosis in which conversations, the news, the tone of presentation, all create a miasma which seeps into your consciousness and feeds the roots of expectation. And my expectation is that Labour will lose heavily. I don’t want them to. I’d rather people who know they’re supposed to strive for liberal values than the Tories who are slowly killing Britain, but there it is. Voters, already sickened by Labour, have learned they really can give them a kicking and the world doesn’t fall in on them. The habits of generations have been abandoned. Many will never go back but I think many are there to be wooed, awaiting a credible call – that will never come. Not for the foreseeable…

The serious players of Scottish Labour are departed – to obscurity, the Lords, or both. The Murphy experience still elicits the dry boak. Kezia’s carefree optimism sums up the predicament. To core voters and the recently defected she is embodiment of Labour’s failure…too young, naïve, ineffectual and somehow disposable. And then there’s the Westminster branch…St Trinian’s after the sixth form broke into the head’s drinks cabinet.

But would any of those incipient Labour votes transfer to Davidson’s Division? Maybe so. Maybe there are just enough centrist Unionists who want Britain to work better and who have lost all faith in Jeremy’s lot. They want to stop the Nats but no longer see any signs from the Labour leadership that they’re capable of it. Where once they could have slipped easily over the Liberals…nowadays, well, would you? Interestingly, while Sturgeon soars away in popularity, Ruth does better, albeit negatively, than does Kezia. That’s not good.

Ruth as leader is the kind of jolly, no nonsense type who would have led a hut rebellion in Tenko. Liz Smith is a head teacher type worth listening to. Murdo?…well, if he stopped playing the role of landowners’ ghillie, he’s an acceptable sort. And if they can make Professor Tomkins take his tablets every morning, he’ll sound somewhat sensible too. No, if it’s the Union that drives you, you’ve little option really. With the state Labour’s in, you wouldn’t trust them to run a bath, let alone a government.

I was wondering why Kezia suddenly came out with a middle class bribe of using taxpayer’s money to boost the housing market when the need is for affordable accommodation. Is the Tory threat the reason? Her whole pitch has been to the Left of the SNP, painting them as Tory austerity stooges. Then she undoes it with a naked Tory-style market offer her own party derided just a few years ago.

To be fair, it must be a kind of bunker hell to know you’re flatlining (at best) and making no impact on your main opponent – only to discover the hounds are at your own heels. This is the double horror of Labour’s dilemma – floundering against the Nats but now truly terrified of a Tory surge.

Make no mistake, in that unlikely event, it isn’t just the end of Kezia – it’s curtains for Labour. We would be drawing a veil over the funeral party and leaving them to bury their own with dignity. But there would be no way back without the kind of total reform and ruthless self-analysis they have so fair failed to carry out since the first earthquake of 2007. God rest them. Or Hell mend them?

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My Inner Inventive Scot

One of the more illuminating aspects of the drastic oil price plunge has been the spiteful and counter productive reaction of the anti Scots. ‘And they wanted to go it alone. Ho ho ho,’ said one reader in the FT, encapsulating the phenomenon. It’s like a Road Runner cartoon where the crazy bird points and laughs at the Coyote while walking backwards towards the cliff edge…

To the small-minded Unionist this is an unexpected bonus to be relished – just remember to look suitably earnest when mentioning the thousands of job losses. (The implications for the loss of potential tax revenue to their own country simply doesn’t compute as they clearly don’t take pride in their country.) And imagine the irony of taking lessons from a country whose banks crashed and had to be subsidised.

If they take off the blinkers they will see that the fall is so severe and potentially enduring that the damage could be spread way beyond the North Sea and a political argument in Scotland. Although to date removing blinkers hasn’t been a Unionist strength.

A low oil price doesn’t just affect tax revenues, it reduces the rate of inflation which keeps interest rates low. That means savers don’t get a return and the share price of major companies is depressed. The fear now as the oil numbers combine with embedded low inflation from the financial crash is of deflation – when inflation goes below zero which helps our money go further but crucially has the effect of increasing debt, something the UK seriously wants to avoid with public and private sector debt soaring. The UK’s huge national debt heading for £1.6 trillion costs £43 billion or 8 per cent of all income tax just to service. It can never really be paid back so relies on inflation to eat away at the outstanding amount over the years.

Central banks are all struggling to bring inflation to around 2% so as to avoid deflation, but thus far they have failed. If prices remain low for a considerable period of time, it may lead to another crisis with deflation at the core.

Eurozone goods have fallen in price which seems like a bonus but if it turns into deflation consumers stop spending and so do employers. Confidence drops and people save which slows the economy further. This affects us all. We need to be cautious too about the reaction of powers heavily dependent on oil revenues. There could be further instability in the Middle East. The position in Saudi seems volatile with a diplomatic stand off with Iran and its economy being transformed by deliberately letting oil prices fall to damage the US shale market – with some success. Most of the shale oil wells are profitable only when priced above $60 a barrel.  Some have taken large loans to expand production and with prices low, these become unserviceable.  That puts a strain on the lenders, the banks.

Also we may have cause to watch Russian reaction. As the oil slump depletes the economy hard man Putin is not adverse to fomenting trouble to deflect attention.

I know none of this seeps into the one-track mind of the zealots but it’s worth taking their case at face value and asking: If a low oil price rules out independence, does a high oil price do the opposite? If $30 a barrel is too low, how much should it be to guarantee economic stability? Spoiler alert: the answer is no price per barrel will ever be good enough for Scottish independence. Campbeltown Loch could be bubbling with the stuff and it wouldn’t be good enough for independence. The truth is that for the anti Scots we will never be capable of making our own way even if our underpants were made of gold. What they’re rejoicing at is the loss of revenue to their own country which if it continues threatens (another) serious economic crisis and could spark international tensions. Whoopee! Serves you right, Salmond

At the same time, and because I’ll always be a believer, I find my hidden Inventive Scot coming through at times like this. First of all, nothing but nothing demonstrates better the utter folly of letting the UK take control of our natural resources than the failure to invest the oil revenues. Independence in 1970 when the British were hiding reports of how rich we’d be and their agents were lying about oil’s value, would have brought in a Scottish regime to husband the bonanza, create the oil fund that was requested and given us forty years of wealth, a fund to protect us from all seasons and way of avoiding the humiliation of our own money paying for Thatcher’s unemployment cheques. Instead we would have worried about coping with an overhyped currency and searched for ways of diversifying our economy. We could have lent to England at preferential rates.

The question never asked by the Unionists is: If Scotland relies on subsidy, why should this be so after 300 years of Union? How could oil be discovered and £300bn taken in taxes (at today’s prices) and still Scotland isn’t prosperous? That part is presumably down to our own ineptitude, not the incompetence of Westminster who had the control of oil throughout. Indeed, to make sure oil could not be claimed by Scots, the British set up a new economic zone, the UK Continental Shelf in 1964, to which oil income was assigned. That really was Scotland’s clue that we couldn’t trust the Brits.

So the lack of an oil fund today as the price plunges is a standing condemnation of British policy every bit as much as a mark of Scotland’s relative reliance on the black stuff. No Scot should let them get away with sneering at the impact of the oil price when not a bent penny of the windfall has been saved.

But my inner Inventive Scot is also whispering something else. Isn’t this an opportunity to move away from fossil fuels and fully embrace renewables? One reason I don’t vote Green is because I’d be a hypocrite. I endorse all forms of renewables and firmly believe in the need for subsidy. I love turbines. But I have always believed we needed the strategic importance and potentially huge income from the North Sea. If you remove that because you have no choice, you face up to the alternatives – you have to – just like an independent country has to find its way through every headwind and setback.

We already see the benefits of people switching to funds and portfolios focused on environmental sustainability as investors see the volatility of the fossil fuel markets.

Renewables are bigger than nuclear now. We already get 15 per cent of all our energy from renewables and expect to meet the target of a 100 per cent equivalent of electricity demand by 2020. Were being asked to up the ante by going for 50 per cent of all energy from hydro, wind and tide by 2030.

Greens argue for a managed transition away from oil and gas to refocus skills and investment towards sustainable sources. Thousands could be employed by investing in renewables and oil and gas decommissioning, rather than, as Patrick Harvie puts it, propping up an industry whose unburnable assets pose a huge economic risk.

In this of course we are challenged by the UK government which again does not have Scotland’s interests at heart. Subsidies have been cut and the experiment of carbon capture ended for short-term savings. Meanwhile British taxpayers are to be fleeced to pay for Chinese nuclear – perhaps a better target for Unionist scoffing?

The North Sea is far from finished but this looks like the chance to take the leap and transfer our efforts to decommissioning and all-out renewable development. Perhaps that can become the new bonanza.

And here’s a simple accounting point from Alex Russell, Professor of Petroleum Accounting at Robert Gordon University. The lower price reduces the value of the North Sea as an asset in any negotiations between Edinburgh and London. If it is deemed to be unsustainable, Scotland would be seeking compensation for taking over a wasting asset. ‘A low oil price in the aftermath of a Yes vote, I believe would have secured less of a burden for Holyrood with respect to Scotland’s share of the national debt – the change of ownership of the North Sea oil and gas reserves would have been a bargain basement buy. Oil revenue is the icing on the cake of the Scottish economy.  There would have been some manageable short-term economic pain resulting from the current low oil prices. But, oil prices will rise in the future and the North Sea assets would be better protected in an independent Scotland.’

And shouldn’t we take comfort from the obvious fact that our economy hasn’t collapsed in on itself. In a difficult global environment Scotland’s economy is robust and diverse and a magnet for inward investment. We head into what some forecasters warn will be a year of global economic Argmageddon in reasonable health and, I believe, with a united sense of purpose built around the Yes movement. It isn’t zealotry that keeps SNP support high but an informed understanding of the incompetence and corruptions of a Treasury-run economy that is against our national interest, allied to a sense of solidarity built on pride and renewed dignity. We believe we can overcome the short-term difficulties. We are no longer cowed by the metropolitan maisters. We have been made resilient.

And a final thought. It’s only five years since the Unionists did the same sneering routine at Ireland when the Celtic Tiger lay legs aloft. It was a warning to Scotland. This is what happens when wee countries think big.

Well, Ireland’s economy grew by 7 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014. Britain’s grew by 0.5 per cent. There was increasing output in all business sectors and Ireland is now the poster boy for economic recovery – population 4.5 million and they still haven’t properly exploited their oil reserves.

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