Slaving away at a moral case for the Union

It’s been a frustrating few days, I’ve been offline due to computer problems.  To give myself something to do I started on building the new model tram layout I’ve got planned, only to discover that the extremely expensive track system was missing some parts and other bits don’t work.  So after a protracted period of hassle I’ve ended up with a much shorter and simpler layout than I paid for – now I know how Edinburgh felt.  But at least the computer is working again, although the tram track is still giving grief.

A week ago, Daily Mail and former Record journalist Chris Deerin published an extended piece of trolling in which he set out what he risibly described as the moral duty for Scots to vote no in the referendum, as in his view the United Kingdom is a greater force for good in the world than the Fairy Godmother.  The UK is the Magic Kingdom where happy little munchkins gaily skip to zero hours contracts jobs and nothing bad ever happens.

Naturally folk didn’t respond well to the implication that voting for independence is an immoral act, on a par with exposing yer wullie in public, although Deerin was blind to the irony that his list of things that are Great about Britain boiled down to exposing Westminster’s wullie in public.  But he still managed to find time to publish a follow up article in which he complained that horrible cybernats were being nasty to him for exposing his many idiocies.

The entire episode has already been roundly mocked, but I thought it might be useful to examine Deerin’s “moral duty” a bit more closely.  After all, it’s only possible to arrive at a fair assessment of the UK’s morality footprint if we also consider the occasions when the UK trod morality face down in the mud.

Let’s look at just one of the reasons why Deerin thinks voting for Scottish independence is just the same as flashing yer nads.  Does it stand up or is Deerin a flaccid flasher?

The UK, he tells us, led the way in the abolition of the slave trade.  It’s a topic that has been under discussion recently, with the success of the movie 12 Years a Slave – touted by the UK media as an example of how it took a British movie to get the Americans to face up to their legacy of slavery.  In fact in an interview the director, Steve McQueen, the son of Caribbean migrants to the UK, stated that as far as he was concerned in making this movie he is not a “British director”, he’s a descendant of the enslaved not the enslavers.

The UK was very much one of the enslavers.  What Deerin didn’t say is that Britain also led the way in pursuing the slave trade.  The historian Professor David Richardson estimates that European nations transported 12 million Africans into slavery across the Atlantic.  British slave ships carried more than 3.4 million of them, almost 30% of the total.

Only Portugal, which began the slave trade 100 years prior to British involvement and continued 50 years after the UK had abolished the trade, took more Africans from their homes into a life of degredation and suffering.

Sadly, “the UK, it’s not quite as bad as Portugal” isn’t really the ringing moral endorsement Deerin was hoping for.  But it’s the best he’s going to get.

By the second half of the 18th century, the UK was leading the world in slavery – but not in the way Deerin meant.  In the 1760s an estimated 80,000 Africans were transported across the Atlantic annually, British ships carried more than half of them.  Most were destined for the sugar and tobacco plantations in the British colonies in the Caribbean.

Slavery made some people in the UK very wealthy. By the middle of the 18th century Britain was raking in £4 million pounds a year from the West Indian sugar and tobacco plantations.  (In today’s money that works out at close to £1 billion.)  During the same period, the entire combined international trade of the UK from other sources brought in only £1 million. Between 1750 and 1780, about 70% of the government’s total income came from taxes on goods from its colonies, meaning that slavery accounted for 56% of the annual income of the UK Exchequer.

The UK abolished British involvement in the slave trade in 1807, although slavery continued in British colonies until 1833.  But the British abolition of slavery was not motivated by moral concerns.

The vast funds the UK raised from the 18th century slave trade were invested in new opportunities as the Industrial Revolution got under way.  The Industrial Revolution and the financial centre of the City of London were kick started by the capital raised from slavery, and with the growth of factories and industrial production the economics of slavery became less profitable.

The new factories meant Britain had less need for slave produced goods.  Instead of an enslaved workforce, the UK economy began to benefit from mechanisation and vastly greater manufacturing efficiency with free labour which could be hired or fired as market needs demanded.  Unlike slaves, free workers did not have to be fed by their employers when there was little work for them to do.

After the USA became independent in 1776, Britain’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean went into economic decline as the USA could now buy sugar from French or Dutch plantations.  Revenues from Jamaica and the other Caribbean colonies dropped drastically.  It now became in Britain’s financial interests to act against slavery, since the economies of the UK’s European rivals were still dependent upon revenues from slave labour.

Although those individuals who led the campaign against the slave trade had the highest of motivations, their campaign was only successful because of changing economic circumstances.  From being the financial motor of the British economy, changing times and circumstances had gradually turned it into a threat to British financial interests.  Slavery was no longer profitable.  As ever with Westminster, it’s all about the money.  The only morality Westminster recognises is the morality of the pound note.

If you vote no in September on moral grounds, you are voting for the morality of money, the morality of the market, the morality that puts profit before people.  That’s a direction in which the UK’s moral compass has pointed unwaveringly, and continues to point to this day.  The UK doesn’t need slavery any more, it has zero hours contracts and workfare instead.

Slapping Alistair Carmichael with a wet fish

Alistair Carmichael is at it again.  This time he says Spain is going to veto Scottish membership of the EU unless we grant them access to fishing waters where the Spanish fishing fleet doesn’t currently have full access.  But the icing on the cod was Alistair’s claim that Scottish fisheries get a better deal from the UK than they would from an independent Scotland.  Alastair said:

“Spain has long wanted access to North Sea fishing rights for its fleet as part of the Common Fisheries Policy because there are provisions within the CFP, which favour the UK fleet in the North Sea. I cannot think Spain would be very keen to offer Scottish fishermen the deal that they get as being part of the United Kingdom.”

So in other words, according to our representative in the UK Cabinet, Spain will veto Scottish membership of the EU, thereby losing access to the entirety of Scottish fishing grounds, unless we grant them increased access to an area they don’t currently have access to.  Hmmm.  That’ll make the Partido Popular really popular amongst customers at the fish counter in Hypercor.

The peculiar assumption underlying Koalamichael’s fishy threat is that Scottish fishing grounds aren’t Scottish at all.  They’re European, or they’re British, or they’re Spanish.  They’re anything but Scottish.  Claiming that Spain will veto Scottish membership of the EU unless they are given a part of Scotland’s fishing grounds is a bit like saying that Italy would veto Scottish membership of the EU unless the branch of Domino’s Pizza in Paisley high street was declared Italian soil.

Naturally Spain is intensely interested in maintaining the access its fishing fleet has to Scottish waters.  And that’s precisely why they won’t veto Scotland, because vetoing Scotland means that Spain loses access to much of the North Atlantic as well as the North Sea.  And that is politically unthinkable for a Spanish government, especially a Partido Popular one.

However as a negotiator, Alistair Carmichael is clearly more suited to the depths of the toddler pool in Bellshill Baths than the icy waters of the North Atlantic.  In this instance, it’s Scotland which holds the cards, not Spain – because if Spain does not cooperate with Scottish membership of the EU an independent Scotland could veto Spanish entry into Scottish waters, which would have political consequences in Spain that Mariano Rajoy could not survive.  He needs our fish more than we do.

Throughout Iberia, seafood makes up an important part of the diet.  Despite their many other differences, Basques, Catalans, Castilians, Andalusians, and Galicians are all united in their love of fish and shellfish.  The Spanish fishing industry is huge, and as rapacious as the Iberian appetite for its product.  Between 2000 and 2010, the Spanish fishing industry benefited to the tune of €5.8 billion (approximately £4.83 billion) in subsidies from the EU and Spain – far more than the industry of any other EU state.

The fishing industry is particularly important in Galicia, where Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy comes from.  Well over 50% of the entire Spanish catch is landed in Galicia.  The fisheries sector employs 4.6% of the active population in Galicia, a much higher percentage than in any other European country.   It is estimated that 12% of all jobs in Galicia directly depend upon the fishing industry.  In coastal areas, this figure reaches 40% to 50% and the economy of many towns and villages is entirely dependent upon the fishing fleet.

As well as being the home of Mariano Rajoy, who represents the Galician city of Pontevedra in the Spanish Parliament, Galicia is one of the main power bases for the Partido Popular who benefit greatly from their links to the owners of the Galician fishing fleet, many of whom are important donors to the party.  Angering this powerful lobby is not a step that any Spanish Government is going to take lightly.

A Galician friend informed me that 65% of the Galician catch comes from the waters of the North Atlantic off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland.  I’ve not yet been able to find a referenced source for this figure, but it is certainly a large and significant percentage of the total catch.  According to Greenpeace Spain, the Galician fleet in the North Atlantic – excluding those trawlers who fish off the coasts of Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland – consists of 46 deep water trawlers and 194 longliners.

If Spain were to veto Scottish membership of the EU, it would instantly lose all access to a large part of its fish catch.  The effect on the Galician economy would be devastating and the powerful Galician fishing lobby would withdraw its traditional support for the Partido Popular.  Meanwhile shoppers across Spain would be deprived of their bacalao and merluza, and the politicians they’ll blame for that would be the ones who decided to veto Scottish EU membership in the hope of getting a bigger slice of our fish cake.

Alistair’s claim that Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU unless we allow them even greater access to our fishing grounds does not hold water, and neither does his claim that Scotland’s fishing industry benefits from Westminster rule.

Westminster has mismanaged the Scottish fishing industry and used its interests as a bargaining chip to be traded away for benefits to the farming industry in the south.  Tory PM Ted Heath infamously traded away Scottish fishing rights in return for agricultural subsidies for large southern English farmers in 1973, and Westminster has pursued similar policies ever since.

According to figures from the Scottish Government, Scotland receives just 41% of the UK’s European Fisheries Fund allocation despite accounting for 87% of the total value of UK fish landings – 37% of the total EU Total Allowable Catch (TAC).  Scotland receives just 1.1% of European fisheries funding although the Scottish fleet lands 7% of the total EU catch of wild fish and 12% of European aquaculture production.

The only way that Scotland can protect its fishing industry is through independence.  Alistair Carmichael is clearly not up to the task – he’s a man who doesn’t recognise a bargaining chip when it comes in the form of a wet cod slapping him across the face.

Prof Jim Gallagher hits the ground running

Better Together got a new expert recently, who promised to inject a note of substantive academic rigour into the contradictory mess that purports to be the argument for the Union.  Professor Jim Gallagher was formerly the UK civil service’s heid bummer on the Calman Commission which promised Scotland a little bit of devolutionary jam.  Now he’s retired, he’s taken up a new job as a director of a company owned by Swiss Re, the insurance giant responsible for the Gherkin, that very large penis shaped building in the City of London.

The no campaign hopes to persuade Scotland that the fact that Westminster is populated by very big pricks is a good thing.  So combined with his expertise in the contradictory mess of the Calman Commission, working for people with a severe case of penis envy made Jim the ideal candidate as an advisor on policy and strategy for the Better Together campaign.  And just one week into the job, he’s already made a dick of it.

The Herald reports today that in his blog last April, the Prof admitted that an independent Scotland wouldn’t be forced to join the euro or the Schengen free travel zone.  Cue red white and blue faces all round Better Together’s HQ, where they’ve been spending the last year claiming Scotland would have to join Schengen and the euro, apparently simultaneously with being expelled from the EU.  I’ve never been entirely clear on how that’s supposed to work, but then neither is anyone from Better Together.

When it was put to him that his blog comments contradict the line fervently spun by his new boss Alistair Darling, the Herald reports that the Prof said in a statement : “there have been significant interventions from the Prime Minister of Spain and the President of Catalonia, and it is not all clear what terms could in fact be agreed.”

Uh huh, so the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the Catalan President Artur Mas have since made important interventions that have changed everything.  Have they buggery Jim, as you know fine well.

Firstly of course, the Prof didn’t actually say that it was now clear that his original opinion was wrong.  He may very well still be of the opinion that, as he wrote on his blog in April you could take an “educated guess” at the situation, and see that it is “pretty likely that Scotland would be an EU member state, probably after an accelerated set of accession negotiations” and that “requirements to join the Euro or Schengen agreement can surely be avoided.”

That remains the situation, and nothing either Mariano Rajoy nor Artur Mas have said have altered it.  I’ve already posted a piece on what Mariano Rajoy really said, and what he didn’t say.  A few days later Rajoy was asked repeatedly whether Spain would veto Scottish membership of the EU but refused to answer.  All Rajoy said is that a country which becomes independent cannot be an EU member because of the fact that it has not signed the EU treaties.  But Rajoy has been spouting the same simple minded legalism since well before April last year, when the Prof wrote his blog.

Rajoy has never answered any questions about Spain’s attitude to a Scotland which has voted yes, but which is still a part of the UK, and is negotiating EU membership prior to the date of independence.  That’s what would actually happen in the event of a yes vote.  If he had made a statement about that then perhaps there really might have been a significant intervention on the part of Mariano Rajoy, but all Mariano is doing to parroting lines fed to him by the folk who had the meetings with the UK Tories, when they discussed a common response to independence campaigns within EU states.

I’ve also written on what Artur Mas said, and how he was discussing a hypothetical situation which has no bearing on Scotland.  Mas was discussing what measures might be necessary in order to preserve EU membership for a Catalonia whose independence Madrid refuses to recognise.  That’s not a situation which would apply to Scotland, whose independence would be negotiated with Westminster and recognised by Westminster.  Unlike Scotland, where the referendum is legally recognised and constitutional, Madrid refuses to countenance an independence referendum in Catalonia and is threatening to block any vote.  Rajoy’s government has said repeatedly that they will not recognise the result and will not negotiate independence with the Catalans.

All this greatly complicates Catalonia’s path to international recognition, which in turn complicates its path to EU membership.  Scotland faces none of these hurdles.

Catalonia is already part of the Schengen area and uses the euro as its currency, and desires to continue with both.  None of this has any bearing on an independent Scotland which doesn’t use the euro and which will continue in the Common Travel Area with the UK, the Irish Republic, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.  So nothing Mas said can possibly have put an independent Scotland’s position on those two subjects in any doubt.

Given that neither Mariano Rajoy nor Artur Mas have never uttered any statements relevant to the spurious claim at hand – would an independent Scotland be forced to join the euro and the Schengen zone – Professor Jim’s explanation for his change of mind is in the long tradition of Better Together strategy planning.  It’s made up as they go along, hoping that a sympathetic media will ignore the glaring contradictions, the gaffes, the nonsense, the half truths and the outright lies.  Looks like he’s hit the ground running.

The debt we owe to the Union

It doesn’t really matter how often a pro-independence organisation, website, or individual publicly refutes one the many lies perpetrated by the Better Together campaign, the lie continues to be asserted – all too often unchallenged by the supine British media.  Just within the past few days, Alistair Carmichael repeated the spurious claim that Scotland benefits financially from the Union when in fact the reverse is true, and Alistair Darling repeated the multi-refuted Unionist fantasy that Alex Salmond need only snap his fingers and every indy supporter with a keyboard and an internet connection will stop taking the piss out of Better Together and its minions.

Speaking entirely personally, because I am not a member of any political party, I would love Alex Salmond to make a public statement asking people to be nice to Alistair Darling.  I’d take it as carte-blanche to rip seven shades of shite out of Ali, and I wouldn’t be alone.   Not out of badness, well not entirely, but because it would prove that Alex Salmond is not McAstaroth directing his minor demons (my demon name is Weegingerdugaroth and my special power is frying mince).  We could demonstrate once and for all that this is not Alex Salmond’s independence referendum by blythely ignoring him and continuing to mock.  Mind you it still wouldn’t stop Darling from blaming Eck for the extra abuse heaped upon him, nor stop the media from repeating the lie.

But onto the Big Lie, the one that deserves the capital letters.  It’s the oil.  It’s too volatile, and we’re lucky to have Westminster to look after it for us and give us economic stability.

The first part of this statement is true, strictly speaking.  Oil is volatile.  All commodities are volatile, but oil is especially volatile – in the sense that it evaporates away over time, leaving you with nothing but a rank sticky toxic mess and a stain that’s impossible to shift.  Which is also a fair description of Scotland’s Unionist parties since the oil revenues started to flow into the UK Treasury.  But the rest of the claim is utter bollocks which has been refuted more often than it’s been pointed out that Bruce Forsyth wears a wig.  Didn’t they do well.  Well, no, they didn’t.

Norway passed a wee historical milestone this week.  Every Norwegian became a millionaire.  The Norwegian state oil fund is now worth 5.11 trillion krone, or 1 million krone per head of population – around £100,000 for every man woman and child in the country.  Of course that cash isn’t theirs to spend individually, it’s a fund for the country’s future so that generations of Norwegians to come can continue to enjoy high quality public services and benefit from first class infrastructure.

And while the Norwegians were quietly patting themselves on the backs of their expensive knitwear, what was the main topic of discussion regarding the future of the UK economy?  Austerity in wongaland, indebtedness and cuts.

In the independence debate, the latest salvo is that the UK government will continue to guarantee the UK’s debts.  Which in many ways is is merely a statement of the obvious dressed up as news.  But they did also say words to the effect that the UK government would continue to guarantee existing UK debt, including that part which would be inherited by a future independent Scotland.

This is really rather important.  It is in fact a tacit admission that Westminster will accept a currency union with an independent Scotland, and an admission that Westminster cannot force an independent Holyrood to accept a single penny of the UK’s £1.4 trillion debt.   Scotland will of course accept a share of the debt, which will be owed to the UK, but only in return for a proportional share of UK assets.  It helps to smooth the path of future negotiations on independence, and as such is a major advance for the yes campaign.  Not that the media would report it like that.

But the point remains, they were discussing debt, not the vast assets of Norway.  If an independent Scotland had started an oil fund when Norway started its fund, we would currently be discussing Scottish assets, not Scottish debt.  If Westminster had established a UK oil fund then Scotland would now be discussing what share of it was ours.  Instead it’s all about debt.

Norwegians are millionaires, but as part of the UK Scotland doesn’t have an oil fund, we have public debt.  Our public services are bleeding to death, and our straining transport and communications infrastructure cries out for investment.  If we remain in the UK we are screwed economically and face unparalleled cuts in public spending – not so much cuts, as amputations and decapitations.

Monday’s Newsnight on BBC2, the one for grown ups in London not the 20 minutes at the end tacked on to assuage Scotland, spent much of the programme discussing the extent to which the services of the UK state will be axed or privatised.  We live in a UK where all the main parties agree on the need for cuts.  They just differ on the presentation.

Scotland’s oil bonanza was pissed away on Tory tax cuts, benefits to the millions thrown onto the scrap heap of unemployment as Thatcher used people’s lives as a tool to break the unions and destroy heavy industry, casino banking, privatisations, nuclear weapons, and the odd foreign war or three.

Yet we’re supposed to believe that Westminster is a competent manager of Scotland’s economy.  Better Together operates in a peculiar little bubble of parochialism where it imagines that not only are Scots unaware of the news from furren pairts, we’re also unaware of the news from the rest of the UK.  The big oil lie exposes itself as a lie every time we read another headline about austerity.  They want to spend what remains of the oil revenues on more wars, nukes, privatisations, casino bankers and tax cuts for the well off.

And that’s what really gets my goat about Alistair Darling.  It’s not that he defends a system that benefits the few not the many.  It’s not even that he exercises power without responsibility – because mere electoral rejection can’t kill off a Westminster political careerist.  It’s that he expects to be beyond criticism, and beyond mockery.  He’s so eager to avoid being mocked he’s turned Better Together into a joke without a punchline.

A Scotsman, an Englishman, and a Welshman got into debt.  It’s the way you tell them, Alistair.

Cameron, Putin and Scotland – who is scaring who

So has he or hasn’t he?  According to the Sunday Herald, David Cameron has asked Russian president Vladimir Putin for help in combating Scottish independence, as Scotland is less tuneful than Pussy Riot and poses a threat the ex-Soviet voting bloc in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Herald reports that the state owned Russian news agency Itar-Tass recently published a story claiming that the UK was “extremely interested” in gaining the support of the Kremlin in order to prevent Scottish independence.   Russia currently holds the presidency of the G8 group of major economies, and Cameron hopes that Putin will support a joint statement from the G8 that Scottish independence risks the entire future of the universe – or at least threatens the future careers of Westminster politicians, which in their eyes is much the same thing.

According to the Russian news agency, Scottish independence and the situation in Afghanistan are two important topics on which the Tories want to enlist the support of foreign governments, because foreign governments will listen to Tories even if Scottish people won’t.  A spokesperson for Downing Street was quoted as saying that Scotland and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan are the “two main issues whose resolution requires international formats, albeit of different modalities”.  One requires fear-bombs, the other actual bombs.

However the Herald’s report was immediately denied by Downing Street, the Scotsman published a spoiler piece quoting a Downing St spokes-tory who said, “There has been no approach to the Russian Government for help in the independence referendum and there won’t be one.”

Gosh, who to believe?  It is always wise to pay close attention to exactly what is being denied when Westminster denies something.  The spokesperson quoted in the Scotsman denied Westminster had asked Putin for help, but didn’t deny discussing Scottish independence with him, and didn’t deny suggesting to him that a statement from him on the evils of Scottish independence would be helpful to Westminster.

It sounds like the denials from the Conservatives that they’ve been colluding with the Spanish government to put forward the line that the EU would throw an independent Scotland out on its ear.  They’ve not been colluding, they’ve reached no agreements despite the fact that leading members of the Partido Popular have openly spoken about their agreement, they’ve just independently and quite coincidentally arrived at the same lie and only meet regularly to congratulate one another on their good fortune.

However Downing St’s denials that they’ve asked Russia for help were apparently contradicted within the same report in the Scotsman.  The paper tells us that an anonymous source close to Cameron said that the report in the Herald “reflects more the fact that the impact of Scottish independence will not just be felt in the UK but will have ramifications abroad”.

In other words, Westminster has raised the topic at an international level, but they’re not colluding with foreign governments, oh no.  They’ve not asked the Russians for help, instead they’ve helpfully pointed out to the Russians how – in the opinion of Westminster – there may be similarities between Scotland’s peaceful and democratic independence campaign and the assorted internal wars and strife raging in various parts of the multiethnic Russia.  Because a Scottish independence campaigner starting a Facebook group is exactly the same as a Daghestani suicide bomber blowing up Volgograd train station.

So if the Russian government does make some pronouncement which Westminster and Better Together can use to generate some electoral fear, it will be because Putin thought it up all by himself, and nothing to do with him doing Cameron a favour in return for some favour from the UK – like Britain not objecting to Putin’s homophobic legislation, or his war in the Caucasus, or the multiple human rights abuses and rampant corruption that characterise his rule.

These people think we are idiots.

Cameron is quite happy to discuss Scottish independence with Mariano Rajoy and Vladimir Putin, and wants to raise the topic at the meeting of the G8, but he won’t talk about it with anyone Scottish.  It’s a matter for Scottish people to debate within Scotland, he said, except for backroom dealings between the Tories and the Partido Popular and any other obnoxious regimes that Westminster thinks it can enlist in its save the Union campaign.

It is bad enough that Cameron is colluding with the revolting Partido Popular in Spain, but at least Spain is a functioning democracy.  Russia is a pseudodemocracy ruled by an authoritarian kleptocracy – a condition the UK slides closer to with every privatisation and every banking or political corruption scandal that gets brushed under the carpet.  Scotland will note that Cameron is willing to deal with such people, but not with us.  Next week expect an announcement from Kim Jong-un that Scottish independence will be considered a threat to the sovereignty of North Korea.

We have a government in Westminster headed by a man who is willing to enter into dodgy deals with objectionable authoritarian governments in order to screw the Scottish independence campaign, but won’t stand before the people of Scotland to explain to us why we think we should let him keep his job as the Prime Minister of Scotland.

What Cameron, Rajoy and Putin are afraid of is that the 21st century will be the era of the small nations of Europe.  The EU consists of 27 states, but contains many more nations.  Despite shedding the non-Russian Union republics of the Soviet Union, Russia still contains over 140 ethnic groups and languages.  And across the continent stateless nations are finding their voice and speaking out for change.  On Saturday over 130,000 Basques took to the streets of Bilbao to demonstrate in favour of Basque sovereignty and the right of the Basque Country to decide its own future.

Scotland is leading the way in this peaceful revolution.  We’re the first of the small nations of Europe to say – enough, we will not resign ourselves to the fate that our political masters have in mind for us.  We’re making history, and not just Scottish history.

The Catalans, Basques, Galicians and many others look to Scotland as an example of how a small nation can decide its own destiny without violence and without conflict.  Westminster punches above its weight with nuclear weapons and armed might, Scotland does it with ideas of democracy and fairness.  We don’t need Westminster so we can punch above our weight, our influence is enormous.

Une Ecosse indépendante: a French legal view

Earlier this week, a renowned expert in EU law published a paper arguing that it is in the interests of the EU to negotiate with the Scottish government following a yes vote, in order to ensure a smooth transistion into EU membership for an independent Scotland.  Naturally the news was absent from the Scottish media, which only publishes information relevant to the debate on independence if it comes in a press release from Better Together covered in scary Halloween stickers.

Yves Gounin, formerly chief of staff to the French minister for European Affairs, wrote the article for the respected French journal Politique Étrangère.  Gounin is currently a Conseiller d’État, a member of the legal body providing official legal advice to the French Government so his views carry some considerable weight.  The full document is available by clicking the following link, which opens a pdf of the original French language article.  www.ifri.org/downloads/yvesgouninpe42013.pdf  If the link does not work, I saved a copy which you can download by clicking here: IFRI_yvesgouninpe42013.

I understand written French but don’t speak it fluently, so I have not attempted to provide a translation of the full article.  However the excellent Catalan news site Vilaweb has very helpfully published a wee piece in English giving the key points of Gounin’s paper.

Perhaps the most important point is Gounin’s explanation that what he terms “interior enlargement” cannot be compared to the admission of an external candidate state to the EU.

The EU accession process as spelled out in EU treaties deals with the steps to be taken by states which are not currently in compliance with those laws, in order to prepare them for EU membership.  This clearly does not apply to Scotland or Catalonia.  Scotland is already part of the EU by virtue of being part of the UK, and therefore all EU laws and regulations already apply to Scotland.  Likewise Scotland is already fully in compliance with all the conditions necessary for EU membership.

Gounin dismisses the view of the UK and Spanish governments – which insist that Scotland or Catalonia would have to exit the EU temporarily solely in order to reapply for membership – as “unrealistic”.  Which is polite legal code for total nut-jobbery.

In fact Gounin stresses that there is absolutely nothing in existing EU law or EU treaties which covers the situations of Scotland or Catalonia. There is no legal precendent, and anyone who tells you that Scotland would be out on its ear if we dare to vote yes is just making things up.  The fact that the UK Tories and the Spanish Partido Popular and their respective allies and hangers on have jointly arrived at the same made-up conclusion is just a happy coincidence, because conspiring with a foreign power to tell lies to your own electorate is very very naughty.

Gounin also makes another very interesting point.  The inhabitants of Scotland are EU citizens, and there is no provision in EU law for stripping an EU citizen of that citizenship.  Constitutionally, and differently from all other international bodies, the EU is a “union of citizens” as well as a “union of states”.  According to a ruling from the European Court of Justice, EU citizenship is held additionally to national citizenship, it does not replace it, although EU citizenship is also held by the Court to be “fundamental”.

In other words, it is very far from certain that citizens of an independent Scotland would automatically lose their EU citizenship because they’d no longer be living in the UK.  Gounin suggests that this view, frequently expressed by Unionist politicians and Better Together, is not in accordance with EU law.  It would be like getting sacked and having to reapply for your job because the name of your street was changed by the cooncil.

Gounin argues that the political landscape will alter fundamentally after a successful yes vote in independence referendums in either Scotland or Catalonia.  As things stand, no one has voted for independence, and it’s very much in the interests of the UK and Spanish goverments to discourage citizens in Scotland or Catalonia from voting yes, so naturally they portray the process of independence as fraught with difficulties and leading to inevitable doom.

Since the EU Commission is made up of representatives from member states, Spain and the UK have also made full use of their political clout to put pressure on the EU Commission to support their point of view.  This explains the politically motivated statements we’ve heard over the past couple of months from EU figures like Barosso and Van Rompuy – but it must be noted that even these statements do not give unequivocal backing to the positions of the UK and Spanish governments.

Nothing from the EU Commission to date contradicts Gounin’s arguments.  All the EU Commission has said up to now is that a state which becomes independent will no longer be subject to EU law, as it is not a signatory to the EU treaties.  However the scenario they describe will never occur.  In reality there will be a significant period of time after a successful yes vote in the independence referendum and the declaration of independence, and the Scottish government proposes to use this period to negotiate EU membership for Scotland.

After a yes vote however, Gounin believes that the attitude of the EU would change.  Faced with the reality that one EU member state will shortly become two states, Gounin says that it’s very much in the interests of the EU to ensure that the process proceeds smoothly and results in the seamless accession of an independent Scotland or Catalonia to full EU membership in their own right.  Gounin says that this can best be achieved by simultaneously negotiating independence alongside negotiating membership of the EU – which is exactly what the Scottish Government has been proposing all along.

Mind you, I’m struggling to recall reading any “major boost to Salmond’s EU hopes” style headlines in any UK papers this week.

The Bonnie White Feather Club

Just a couple of days ago, former First Minister Jack McConnell said that the referendum campaign should be suspended during the Commonwealth games.  Jack doesn’t want the yes campaign to benefit from any upswelling in Scottish patriotism the games might generate.  But he’s been entirely silent about the UK Government’s intention to host a series of events designed to highlight British patriotism.  Hypocrisy much?

Early in August this year, the UK Government plans to hold a commemoration of the start of World War 1.  Despite the fact that London is the invariable scene of UK national commemorations, David Cameron and the Tories have decided that Glasgow is to be the focal point of the planned commemorative service, which will feature military parades and enough Union flag bunting to string up all the war mongerers who in their eagerness to teach the Kaiser a lesson caused the deaths of millions.

I can’t recall a previous occasion when such a high profile UK national event was held in Scotland.  But we’ve been assured that the decision to hold a mass demonstration of British patriotism in Glasgow is entirely unconnected to the fact that the Scottish independence referendum will take place just four weeks later.  No really, the UK Government has said it’s pure coincidence, and they wouldn’t lie about something like that, would they?  Jist hing oan a wee minute while A dae up the buttons at the back ae ma heid.

The UK has never before held an official commemoration of the start of any war, but the decision to hold one in Glasgow for WW1 has absolutely nothing to do with the independence referendum, and only bitter and twisted secessionists could possibly think otherwise.

The hundreds of thousands of lions who were led to brutal and early deaths by the donkeys of Westminster were told they were fighting for the right of small nations to decide their own futures.  But it was a lie, in reality they suffered and died so that the powerful could maintain their stranglehold on public life, so that the rich could stay rich and the poor remain poor.

Westminster may have been able to rely upon the naivety of the public during WW1, but this is 2014 and we’ve had 100 years to digest the duplicity and habitual lies of the Mother of Parliaments.  Of course these events are nakedly political and a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation.   Despite the official hype they will indeed be a celebration of Britishness, one held at a politically highly charged time when the question of Britishness will be foremost in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Scots.

The Glasgow event will form a central part of the “emotional case for the Union” which Cameron and Better Together say they’re going to make between now and 18 September and as such is a cynical and opportunistic attempt to lay claim to the sacrifice of millions of dead service people and civilians, and co-opt it for the modern political ends of Westminster.  Whatever the noble dead of WW1 sacrificed their lives for, it wasn’t so that Westminster politicians could continue to abuse the trust and faith of their descendants.

During WW1 white feathers were handed out to those who were regarded as cowards by the official propaganda – those who protested against the war, who refused to succumb to the jingoism used to batter the reluctant into compliance.  Westminster’s opportunism gives us the chance to reclaim the white feather as a symbol for the rights of small nations to decide their futures peacefully and without interference from those who glorify war for their own personal and political ends.

The symbol supposedly originates in the belief amongst afficionados of cockfighting that a cockerel with a white feather in its tail would be a poor fighter.  In August 1914, Vice Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather which aimed to shame men into enlisting for the slaughter in the trenches by persuading women to present them with a white feather if they were not wearing a uniform.  He obviously viewed ordinary working class men as some species of creature to be used in a blood sport.

In 1904, 10 years before the War to End All Wars, Fitzgerald wrote an article calling for war with Germany in order to destroy the German navy and ensure the continuation of British naval supremacy.  He didn’t seem to be overly concerned about the millions of deaths which would result, after all he wanted to maintain British naval supremacy so that Britannia could continue to rule the waves and despoil and exploit Africa, India and a quarter of the globe.  That’s the real reason the UK declared war on Germany in 1914.

Fitzgerald’s deployment of the white feather was as cynical and self-serving as Westminster’s decision to hold a commemoration of the start of Fitzgerald’s longed-for war just as Scotland stands at the threshold of a historic referendum on the country’s future.

The only appropriate way to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of a world war which led to the deaths of 16 million and the maiming or wounding of 27 million more is with shame and disgrace.  It was a crime perpetrated by governments and the ruling elites upon the ordinary people who suffered and died for the arrogance of those who believed they had the right to rule.  Westminster politicians ought to have no part to play – they are the heirs to the warmongers of 1914, but they will be central to the commemorative events.  They continue to send young men and women to fight, die and kill in their pointless and self-serving wars.  It’s like commemorating the outbreak of the bubonic plague with an exhibition of pedigree rats and a flea circus spectacular.

So I’m having my own wee protest about the futility of war and to express the hope that we can live in an independent country dedicated to peace, and which eschews nuclear weapons and disavows militarism.  I’m starting the Bonnie White Feather Club.  There are no membership lists or fees, no office holders, and no annual general meetings.

All you need to do is to wear a white feather during the month long commemoration of the centenary of start of World War I this August.  The bonnie white feather represents peace, freedom from the manipulations of a Westminster which glorifies war, and the right of the small nation of Scotland to choose its own destiny.  It represents the wish that never again will our youth perish in foreign lands for the glory and vanity of politicians.

I’ll wear my white feather with pride.

Henry McLeish and wishing for the impossible

Former Labour first minister Henry McLeish is one of the very few associated with the anti-independence campaign who has consistently called upon Better Together to present a positive reason for saying no.  But Henry’s pleas have equally consistently fallen on deaf ears as any attempt to establish a common position between the Westminster parties on further devolution would immediately fall apart due to their overriding need to jockey for position ahead of the only vote that counts for a Westminster politician – 2015’s General Election.

In frustration at the lack of progress in positivity from the official no campaign, Henry has made a brave stab at suggesting what a positive prospectus for the Union might look like.  It’s Henry’s tragedy, and will be a tragedy for Scotland if we vote no, that under Westminster’s brand of politics each of the five key points in Henry’s attempt to write a White Paper on No all by himself is as out of place as a raised toilet seat in a convent, and just as likely to provoke recriminations, accusations, and excommunication.

Firstly he seeks a consensus “built around a positive case for Scotland’s role within a modern and transformed Union: there was a consensus in 1997 when Scotland voted for a parliament, but today the nation is divided, with both campaigns making this worse. We need a cohesive, nation-building campaign.”

The fly in the ointment is that any consensus on Scotland’s role within the Union also depends upon a consensus in the rest of the UK, otherwise it’s just Scotland demanding more devolution again, and not getting it.

But the problem is not the lack of consensus in Scotland, it’s the consensus within the UK.  However the consensus within the UK, which of course means the consensus of Westminster political parties, is that extra powers for Scotland will only be granted grudgingly, reluctantly, and hedged about with more caveats than a promise from Labour to think about considering to abolish the Bedroom Tax.

There already is a consensus within Scotland.  By a large majority Scots want more powers for the Scottish parliament, we just differ on which of the powers currently reserved to Westminster we want transfered to Holyrood.  Independence supporters want all powers transferred to Holyrood, supporters of various shades of devolution want some powers transferred.  There is however already a consensus within Scotland that this nation’s parliament requires greater powers, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this entirely peaceful and democratic independence debate in the first place.

It’s sad that Henry and other Unionist politicians don’t give the people of Scotland more credit for that last point.  We are not a nation at war with itself.  The all too common way in which countries debate independence is with bullets and bombs or with threats of imprisonment, yet here we are in Scotland debating independence and the worst that’s happened is that a few over sensitive sowels have ended up with torn faces after someone said something they found objectionable.  And all this usually happens online, where people make a sport of saying objectionable things.  The peaceful nature of this independence debate is a huge testament to the democratic maturity of ordinary people in Scotland – and we deserve to pat ourselves on the back for that whatever the outcome of September’s vote.  We’re far more grown up than our politicians are.

But the really tricky bit is “a modern and transformed Union”, since there’s absolutely no sign of the Westminster parties getting themselves together on that one any time soon.  This is all the more unfortunate since all Henry’s other proposals depend upon a concrete plan for this imaginary modern and transformed Union.  But if there was a cross party plan for a modern and transformed Union that will settle all questions the future of devolution and the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula and the oil revenues, we’d have heard something about it by now.

Westminster’s track record on reform is not impressive.  We’ve still got the House of Lords, despite abolition being a Labour policy when the party first stood for election over 100 years ago.  We’ve still got the first past the post system which distorts political representation and allows governments with large majorities despite their taking only a minority of the vote despite decades of calls for change.  Scotland only got devolution after we’d been calling for it for more than a century, and it had to be dragged out of Westminster kicking and screaming.

Better Together has less than 9 months in which to arrange a cross party consensus on fundamental constitutional reform within the UK.  It’s safe to say a modern and transformed Union is not going to be on the horizon any time between now and September.

Henry’s second key demand is for the three main Westminster parties to jointly propose a written constitution which abandons the idea of Parliamentary sovereignty.  It’s at this point you realise that you’re reading a belated Christmas wish list to Santa and not a political plan with any sort of plausibility.  The Doctrine of Parliamentary Sovereignty has a totemic place within the Westminster system.  It’s the bollocks on the Westminster dog, and they’re not going to give them up voluntarily.

That just leaves a wee trip to the vet where the unruly mutt can be forced to submit to the prodecure under anaesthetic.  The only way this can be achieved – at least for Scotland – is by ticking the yes box on the independence ballot paper for an independent Scotland where there’s a written constitution guaranteeing that the people and not parliament are sovereign.  This takes Henry back to square one.

Key points 3, 4 and 5 are likewise wishful thinking.  3 is for Labour to spell out the consequences of a no vote, but they’ve got no intention of doing that before the referendum since it would mean revealing their 2015 election manifesto a year early and letting us know exactly what’s going to happen to the Bedroom Tax, and tell us what austerity cuts they’d make.  The Westminster election cycle is the only one allowed in the reserved powers lane.

With 4 he’s again calling on Labour to come up with a plan, any plan, for a modern and transformed United Kingdom, and he’s stressing the need for conviction and enthusiasm about extending the powers of the Scottish parliament and reforming the UK.  Can you imagine Johann Lamont giving a passionate, articulate and compelling speech about the need for Westminster to transfer substantial fiscal powers to Scotland, calling for devolution of the BBC and control of oil revenues?  No, neither can I.  And neither can Henry McLeish, because as he says in his fifth and final point:

“Fifth, above all else, there has to be a credible, not grudging, embrace of new and radical powers for the Scottish Parliament and a new relationship with the Union.”

He goes on to plead for a non-grudging Labour campaign to save the Union untainted by Tories, but isn’t there supposed to be one of those already?  There was thon super-high-profile one launched in a blaze of publicity some while back that we’ve heard nothing about ever since.  The one led by Gordon Brown, the ex-politician that’s still an MP for Kirkaldy.  But you can’t ask Gordon Brown not to be grudging.  Grudging is all he does.

Henry McLeish is not a stupid man.  He knows that he’s asking for the impossible, he knows that there is absolutely no prospect of anything from his wish list coming to pass.  His suggestion that the anti-independence campaign adopt his recommendations is either a supreme example of the triumph of hope over experience, or it’s an attempt to warn them that their complacency will be their undoing – and only something drastic will save the day.  But Henry McLeish writes as though he realises that it’s already too late.

There has already been a steady drip of former high profile Labour politicians coming out in favour of independence, there will be others.  I have it on good authority that at least 3 or 4 Labour councillors in one local authority are privately in favour of independence.  There are certainly many more across Scotland, they’re just waiting for someone like Henry McLeish to stop wishing for the impossible.

The consequences of no

Nicola Sturgeon made a speech on Monday asking Better Together and the naw ye cannae campaign to spell out the consequences of a no vote in the referendum.  We already know what the consequences of a no vote are, asking Better Together to spell it out is like asking Hannibal Lector to publish his cannibalism recipes in the lifestyle section of the Herald.

What we do know is that George Osborne promises another round of austerity cuts after 2015, and he wants the poor, the disabled, the unemployed and the vulnerable to bear £12 billions’ worth of the £25 billion he wants to axe from public spending.  The unemployed are in no position to offer retiring politicians lucrative directorships so there’s little point pandering to their interests.  Anyway,  it’s only fair, the poor and powerless caused the financial crisis by selfishly not having any money to buy things and stimulate growth in the economy.  Besides, they don’t make as much of a fuss as investment bankers faced with a 0.08% tax on their bonuses.

Since the Tories have promised that the benefit cuts will not affect pensioners, that means the unemployed, the sick and disabled, and carers, will cop it in the neck amidst Daily Mail headlines about welfare scroungers.  Welfare is a Tory weasel word which aims to replace benefits in popular speech.  Welfare reeks of alms giving, rich people tossing a few coins at the ‘deserving’ poor in order to assuage their consciences.  Yet benefits is the better term, because a properly run and funded benefits system benefits society as a whole as well as the individuals receiving support.  I want country with a benefits system, not a welfare system.

Meanwhile Labour also promises to cut public spending by the same amount.  They also make liberal use of the welfare word, which is the only liberal thing about Labour these days.  Labour is quite definite that Tory welfare cuts are bad cuts, but they’re keeping very quiet about what they’d cut instead.  Meanwhile Johann Lamont tries to pretend she never described Scotland as a “something for nothing” culture.  This does not inspire confidence that Labour is committed to the principles of universality in the benefits system, nor indeed that we should have a benefits system at all.  They seem quite happy with Tory ideas about welfare and the deserving versus the non-deserving.

I have a direct interest here.  I do not receive welfare, I receive benefits and society benefits from the deal.  I’m a full time carer who had to give up employment in order to look after my partner, who has been diagnosed with vascular dementia.  You don’t choose to become a carer, you do it out of love and commitment.  It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life, physically and emotionally.

I don’t want to use this blog to discuss my partner’s care needs, but life is tough as it is, George Osborne’s plans will make things even tougher.  I have zero confidence in Labour, where the only difference from the Tories and their Lib Dem hangers on is that they promise to make cuts with a sad face instead of with the manaical glee of Danny Alexander.  This is the future the Union offers fulls time carers, no matter how Better Together might dress it up with a promise of devolutionary jam.

In return for a full time job like caring for a person with dementia, a job requiring you to be in attendance or on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, carers get the princely sum of £59.75 a week Carer’s Allowance.  Fulltime carers often work 168 hours a week in stressful and distressing conditions, and receive just short of 36p per hour for doing so.  There is no time off, no set breaks, no holiday pay, no holidays, just 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, working as carers or on permanent call, catching up with sleep when you can.  It’s not an easy job, emotionally or physically.  But we mustn’t grumble, at least it pays better than another Union benefit, the zero hours contract.

The local authority where we live can no longer fund much respite care due to the cuts that have already come in.  Formerly those like me who get no break from caring were able to receive up to 8 week of respite care annually, now the local authority can only fund 2.  Following the next rounds of cuts, it’s quite likely they’ll not be able to fund any at all.

I’m not complaining about having to care for my partner.  It’s what you do for those you love.  I would do it even without the £59.75 per week I became entitled to after I was forced to stop working.  All carers would, we’re not doing this for the money, for career prospects, or for public recognition.  We do it for unfashionable reasons that do not figure in UK Government policy making – love and loyalty.

A recent study from Carers UK found that, at an average unit cost of £18 per hour (the average cost of purchasing care services), the cost to the state of buying in care, unpaid carers save the Treasury £119 billion annually, more than the entire NHS budget across the UK.

The UK government is very much the benefits recipient here.  But making the weak, the poor and the powerless foot the bill for the mistakes and misdeeds of the elite is the politically prudent choice for a Westminster politician.  This will not change no matter who is in power at Westminster.  No further proof is needed that our political system is terminally ill and beyond hope of redemption.

The Union recognises no benefits from us, and there are no benefits from the Union, only welfare.   I dread the consequences of a no vote.  No matter what promises Better Together eventually trots out on what Scotland will get after a no vote, the destruction of the benefits system remains the harsh reality.

There will be challenges and difficult decisions to make in an independent Scotland too, but those choices will be made by a government we can hold to account.  There are no guarantees that an independent Scottish state will do more to lighten the burden of carers, but I don’t believe anyone who says Scotland couldn’t afford it.

I’m fed up with the lies and the scaremongering, of being patronised by idiots.  Scotland is a rich country, if we are facing unprecedented austerity it can only be because Scotland has been badly mismanaged by Westminster.  If we are too poor to afford public services when we are such a resource rich nation, whose bloody fault is that then?

If the Union has been such a grand success, why are we too poor to make it by ourselves, especially since we are positively lowpin with natural and human resources that people will pay money for – oil, gas, renewable energy, whisky, coal, leading universities – and apparently we have shale oil and gas coming out our ears too, but we’re such a resource rich nation that we can afford not to exploit it.  This is not a choice you can make in a resource poor country.

The reason we face unprecedented austerity is because of political choices made by a political class over which we exert no effective control.  So it’s time for new management, a management that can be kept on a short leash and held to account, and which has to operate under constitutional rules that are written down in black and white instead of made up to suit themselves as they go along.

With independence there is the hope that things could change for the better, that we might have a government that believes in a universal benefits system, and recognises the benefits to society that such a system delivers because it ensures all citizens have the capacity to live decent and dignified lives.  I hope and believe that can be achieved with independence.  I’d like to hope it could be achieved in the UK, but I don’t believe it can.

There is no hope anything might change for the better with a no vote.  A no vote promises only austerity, welfare cuts and a privatised dignity services provider staffed by workers on zero hours contracts.  Those are the consequences of a no vote.  They’re not pretty, no wonder Better Together is keeping quiet.

Why Cameron isn’t ready for a close up

Yet again David Cameron has ruled out appearing in a debate with Alex Salmond about Scotland’s future, after he was asked by Andrew Marr on thon politics programme that no one gets out of bed early enough on a Sunday to watch.  Cameron is desperate to avoid the independence debate becoming a debate on whether or not we want the Tories to continue to govern us.  It’s too late, it’s already a debate about the Tories and has been since the days of Thatcher.

But Cameron is insisting that the debate is one for Scottish people to have between themselves, so he won’t be getting involved at all.  Fresh from a meeting with his PR strategists, he uttered the noble sentiment:

“This is not a debate between me and [Alex Salmond]. It’s not a debate between the prime minister of the United Kingdom and the first minister of Scotland … The debate should be between people in Scotland who want to stay and people in Scotland who want to go.”

And all this is exactly how things should be.  Except that they’re not, and Cameron is the one responsible for them not being that way.

Cameron won’t be getting involved in the debate at all, except when he makes a keynote New Year speech pleading with Scotland to remain in the UK, or sends cabinet ministers north of the Border to warn us that cyberterrorists will take over our Facebook profiles and post really embarrassing pics, or plans Union flag waving fiestas in the centre of Glasgow a few weeks before the indy vote, or instructs assorted UK government departments to produce reports showing that independence means all baby kittens in Scotland would be drowned, or offers helpful soundbites to Unionist press outlets, or sends representatives to meet with the Partido Popular to discuss common strategies for screwing independence movements …  but apart from that, he won’t be getting involved.

David Cameron is the Prime Minister of Scotland.  He heads the government which determines the Scottish budget, which decides our benefits and taxation policies, which represents Scotland internationally, which has the power to take us into war, the power to decide what laws Holyrood can make.  He heads the government which is directing the campaign to save the Union.  Despite this, he’s somehow not involved, like Don Corleone isn’t involved with the mob.

But there’s another message Cameron wants Scotland to hear.  Scotland’s not really that important.  Hardly worth bothering about.  This is consistent with the Unionist tactic of diminishing and trivialising the independence debate.  They don’t want people to start questioning the issues seriously or engaging with the idea of independence.  So the very last thing that Better Together needs is for its real leader, as opposed to the figurehead, to be slaughtered live on national telly in a high profile debate.  Voters might see.

Besides, voters in England might also be watching, and that won’t look good at all, especially not if it comes just after UKIP scares the bejeezus out of Tory backbenchers in May’s European elections.  The only election Cameron is interested in is the Westminster election in 2015, being humiliated in a debate about Scottish independence won’t help his chances.

But ye’d think that if this is, as Cameron says, Scotland’s debate to be conducted by Scottish people in Scotland, then that can only mean that people in Scotland decide what the terms of the debate are, and decide who or what is relevant to it.  According to a recent poll a substantial majority of voters in Scotland want Cameron to debate with Salmond, even if for no other reason than there’s really not enough comedy in this independence campaign and we’d all enjoy a good laugh watching seven shades of shite being beaten out of him.

So if Scottish people say that Cameron must put himself up for debate or shut up and cease his backstage meddling, then that’s what should happen.  He’s determined to do neither.

Davie boy says that because he has no vote in the referendum it’s not right for him to debate Alex Salmond.  He doesn’t have a vote in the referendum, this is true, but he’s got a vote in the House of Commons, he’s got a vote in Cabinet meetings, and moreover in these places he’s got the most influential vote.  He uses that vote to decide what happens in Scotland.  Cameron’s vote in Scotland outweighs yours and mine combined, it outweighs the combined vote of the entire population.

Our Tory Prime Minister has the only vote that counts in the normal run of Scottish politics, yet it’s not a vote that he uses with the interests of Scotland uppermost in mind.  He’s got no intention of telling us what he plans to do with his vote, no desire to explain to us why we think we should let him keep his job as Prime Minister of Scotland.  When it’s us who vote, not him, he doesn’t want to know.  Equal partners in the Union?  Aye, right.

We all know why Cameron won’t debate with Salmond.  There’s the obvious reason, he’d get his arse handed to him on a plate.  He’d be seen for what he is as far as Scotland is concerned – a lost tourist who’s confused by the strange ways of the natives, as out of his depth as the programme makers who thought Tom Daley’s Splash would make great telly.  He would come to the debate with the rare disadvantage of making Alistair Carmichael appear well-prepared.  And he’d be up against a man who, whatever your opinion of Salmond, is regarded as one of the UK’s best political operators, on his home turf on a topic he’s spent his life preparing for.  It would be a blood sport the entire family could watch with guilt free pleasure, we’d be self-sufficient in schadenfreude for decades to come.

Avoiding a debate which is going to leave him looking like roadkill is not cowardice, despite what many say.  Cameron doesn’t want the role of the guy in the red shirt in Star Trek who gets devoured by the alien tartan monster on planet Scotland.  He’s a star, not a bit player.  It’s not cowardice, it’s the arrogance of a burned out film star from the silent era.

He’s not a coward, he’s just confused between the Scottish independence debate and the plot line of Sunset Boulevard starring himself as Norma Desmond.  Its main protagonist also spends her time fantasising about glory days long gone, and lures the unwary into an unhealthy dependency, so it’s an easy mistake to make.

He won’t consider a close up with Scotland, because we’re not big stars like him.  The question we need to ask ourselves on 18 September this year is whether we want to stay with the loopy auld bat, and end up face down in a swimming pool.