The problem with fearbomb plumbing

Ouch.  It’s not a good news day for Better Together.  Admittedly there’s never a good news day with the miserabilist ProudScottery that emanates from Project Fear, but their dogged refusal to crack anything that might pass for a ray of sunshine over the benighted land of Scotland has turned and bit them on the bum.   They can’t say they weren’t warned.

A new poll from ICM shows that the yes vote continues to rise, up 2% to 39%, while the no vote has fallen again, down 3% to 46%.  The poll is the latest to confirm the upwards trend of the yes vote, and proves that Osborne’s currency fearbomb and the dam-busters strategy to flood Scotland with uncertainty and doubt have not worked.  News to which any mature, grown up, and articulate observer of the independence campaign can respond only with the considered and intelligent response: Ha ha, get it up yese.

It was bound to happen eventually.  Like the sewage they are made of, there is a limit to the amount of fearbombs that can be handled by any system at any given time.  Try to stuff too much down the pipes of your tame state broadcaster and it causes a blockage and backs up, spraying the Palace of Westminster with keech.  And this is a big problem for Better Together, seeing as how the place was already full of wee jobbies to start off with.

The second of today’s big splashes but not in a good way for Better Together came from a leading economist who has turned his eye on George Osborne’s claims about a currency union. Professor Leslie Young is a board member of the Journal of Economics, and has been tipped as a possible future Nobel prize winner.  He described the Chancellor’s assertions as “misleading”, “unsubstantiated”, “the reverse of the truth”, and “a lurid collection of fact, conjecture, and fantasy”.  Which also describes just about everything that Project Fear have ever said or done, come to think of it.

The Professor ripped apart Osborne’s arguments, pointing out that the problems in the Eurozone were caused by the tensions resulting when very different economies use the same currency, but the economies of Scotland and the rest of the UK are broadly similar.  There just isn’t the potential for the same degree of tension, despite the best efforts of Better Together to create some.  Young summed up the Chancellor’s case as focusing on “non-issues”, calling it a “loose analysis” based upon “inconsistent assumptions”.

You don’t need a PhD in economics to work out that the Professor’s remarks have created a very big blockage in George Osborne’s outflow pipe, and posturing on the currency question has left him standing up to his oxters in the decaying filth of his own intransigence.  So the next time you see Osborne sneering like he’s got a bad Scottish smell up his nose, you’ll know that he does and no amount of spraying with an aerosol of Eau de Barroso will make it go away.

Meanwhile Professor Graham Avery, the expert in EU constitutional law and EU enlargement who has already stated that he sees no reason why Scotland cannot negotiate membership in the period between a yes vote and the formal declaration of independence, has stuck another boot into the downpipe from Better Together’s EU toilet.  Professor Avery says that Scottish membership of the EU would strengthen the organisation, and give it more clout on the world stage.

Meanmeanwhile, Scotland got another lovebomb.  Only this time from Norway, which kinda makes it all the more special, what with them being foreigners and not supposed to know we exist because we’re too wee and insignificant and don’t have any friends.  Norway’s literary establishment have penned an open letter to the Sunday Herald telling Scotland to jump right in, the independence watter is lovely.  They compare Scottish independence to the independence of Norway from Sweden in 1904, which has been beneficial to both countries.   One of the signatories, Thorvald Steen, president of the Norwegian Writers’ Union, says:

“I think Scottish culture would absolutely benefit from independence. The London-based parties don’t seem to understand how independence would strengthen the energy of the Scottish people, of Scottish writers and of Scotland’s economy.

“A majority of Swedish politicians were against Norwegian independence. They said all these bad things would happen, but they didn’t happen. And at that time Norway was much poorer than Scotland is now.”

All this comes as Labour winds up its lacklustre conference and its much heralded commission on devolution has come up with devodiddlysquat and a Red Paper that’s as thoroughly researched and costed as a South Seas cargo cult with Johann Lamont as its prophet.  Vote Labour and magic airplanes will fill the skies laden with a cargo of jobs and equality as presents from Uncle Westminster and Auntie Beeb.  It’s only the wicked Alicsammin with his old fashioned tribal ways that’s stopping the miracle of the Redistributive Union from happening.

So now we know.  The people of Scotland have a choice between taking the future of our country into our own hands, or joining in the ritual chants and prayers for a delivery that’s never going to come.  If the Unionist parties can’t come up with substantive proposals for far reaching reform now, when their gemme is about to be called a bogey, they’re not going to offer them under any circumstances.  Not now, not ever.  Even the most stubborn proponent of devomax has realised that now.

The research on the poll published today was carried out last month.  The backflow from Labour’s devodebacle is still to filter its way through.  Better Together’s going to be covered in a lot more of its own keech before we get to September.

Update 3pm Sunday

I have to add even more good news for the yes campaign.  A debate on Scottish independence was held in Shetland last night, Alistair Carmichael put the case for the no vote.  Before the debate, voting intentions were 58 yes, 57 no, 25 undecided.  After the debate, voting intentions were yes 70, no 48, don’t know 22.  What was all that about Shetland not wanting to be a part of Scotland if we vote for independence, hmm?  Shetland is historically the part of Scotland where there is greatest scepticism about home rule or independence, if Yes Scotland can persuade the Shetlanders of the advantages of a yes vote, the prospects in the rest of the country look positive indeed.

It’s a beautiful day here in Glasgow.  The sun is shining, and the Dug and me are off to the park.  Happy happy.

Labour does the time warp

Labour’s moving left, at least according to the Herald’s politics correspondent who obviously is easily convinced and not a person you’d want on a jury if you were on trial for being a socialist agitator.  The evidence for this leftwards shift lies not in any new socialist policy initiatives originating from the cerebral considerations of Johann and Anas, and more in the fact that the party has spent most of its conference in Perth attacking the SNP as Tartan Tories.  Which is a bit like saying that David Cameron is a Trotskyist because he doesn’t like the Socialist Workers’ Party.

Labour’s moved to the left just like the time warp dance routine in Rocky Horror Picture Show, they put the knee into the SNP tight, take a step to the left, then a jump to the right.  But it’s the pelvic thrusts that really drive us insane, when we’re getting shafted by Labour again.

Labour is still mired in the myth that they are the party of redistribution.  The problem is that they’re relying on voters not remembering the 13 years of Labour government when the party was indeed an enthusiastic proponent of redistribution.  It’s just that in a fit of absent mindedness they got it the wrong way round and gave more money to the rich and to London and the South East.

Labour are like Creationists who refuse to acknowledge the existence of dinosaur bones, only in this case the T-Rex is alive and well and ripping the flesh from the poor and unemployed.  What makes it worse is that the party only wants back into power so it can run Jurassic Park instead of the Tories – ATOS has already bid for the contract.  Abolishing carnivorous dinosaurs isn’t on Labour’s agenda, in fact they’re still leading the party.

This is a party which has spent the last 2 years gleefully citing executives of global corporations, Tory donating oil barons, and financial institutions as proof that Scotland will be a basket case if we vote for independence.  Because whatever you do, you can’t speak a truth that a director in receipt of an obscenely large bonus doesn’t like – that’s bad for jobs and bad for Britain you know.  Since the entire premise of socialism is that company directors are not the best people to make decisions affecting the entire national economy and bring about social equality, this does not bode well for Labour’s supposed reconversion to left wing politics.  The sellers of Socialist Worker newspapers don’t need to worry about competition from Labour’s big issue.

Jim Murphy, in his speech to the conference, railed against the disruption that independence would cause.  Jim losing his job would indeed cause him considerable personal disruption, but the rest of his speech was the same tired old scaremongering and dodgy statistics that have been the hallmark of the Better Together campaign.   Independence is going to cost Scots £1000 annually, Jim said, citing figures he’d pulled out his arse.  Or to be more precise, figures produced by George Osborne, so perhaps arse wasn’t an inaccurate description after all.

Labour may be moving to the left, but that won’t stop them using Conservative statistics or leading Scotland into a future determined by Conservative policies and Conservative spending plans that are enthusiastically adopted by the likes of Jim Murphy.  There wasn’t much in the way of a socialist vision from the Blairite Murphy, but then that would be like expecting the Pope to extol the spiritual message of Satanism.

The proof of the socialist pudding is in the eating.  So what is on Labour’s menu?  On Friday, Anas Sarwar, the Hereditary MP for Govan and scion of the millionaire Governor of Punjab – who’s currently experiencing a little local difficulty after Islamic fundamentalists discovered he made his money flogging alcohol – announced the publication of Labour’s Red Paper.  The large quantity of red ink used in its publication is the only socialist thing about it, but even so, it doesn’t actually commit the party to prepare any meals.   The only thing Labour cooks is the books.   If it was an alcoholic drink the Pakistani Taliban wouldn’t object to it, so it should at least keep Anas’s da happy.  You’d get more of a kick from a nice cup of Ovaltine.

Labour’s Red Paper is full of fluffy statements like telling us that child poverty is a bad thing, but it doesn’t actually tell us what Labour is going to do about any of it.  Far less does it apologise for Labour’s role in creating the current mess.  The Red Paper is a statement of “ambitions”, as opposed to policies.  Isn’t that what Labour criticised the Scottish Government for when the White Paper was released?  It’s not costed, they said, the White Paper is just a wish list.  They must have forgotten that bit as well.  It beggars belief that it took them 2 years to come up with this pseudomanagementwank.

Vacuuous as it is, Labour’s wish list will only come to pass if Ed Miliband is able to persuade a large enough number of Tory and UKIP leaning voters in marginal constituencies in England that Labour deserves to form a majority government.  This severely pits the hems on anything that might be termed leftwing.

Politics is relative.  Labour is a left wing party, relative to UKIP or the French National Front.  Compared to the Tories, not so much.  Yet Scotland’s hopes of progressive government rest entirely upon the chances of convincing Conservative supporters in England that left wing policies are a good idea.  As UKIP continues to make ground in opinion polls and the Tories drift even further to the right, the temptation for Labour to attempt a re-run of Tony Blair’s triangulation trick will become irresistable.  At this stage in a parliamentary cycle, the main opposition party ought to enjoy a substantial and growing lead in the polls, but Labour’s lead over the Tories is already in single figures, and falling.  The latest YouGov poll shows Labour just 5% ahead.  This is deeply worrying for Labour, all the more so since Government parties tend to make up for lost ground during the election campaign.

The question facing Scots Labour supporters is how certain they can be that Labour will commit to left wing policies when it’s right wing policies which will win Labour the 2015 General Election.  We all know the answer to that one.

Meanwhile Johann, in her keynote speech to the party conference in Perth, claimed that “The Nationalists are running the most dishonest, deceptive and disgraceful political campaign this country has ever seen.”  Self-awareness is not Johann’s strong suit.  Presenting new tax powers as a radical extension of devolution when the new powers are designed to be useless isn’t dishonest then.  Even if it is an outright lie.  Calling a proposal explicitly designed to meet Labour’s short term political needs as all the devolution Scotland could ever need isn’t deceptive at all.  Even if it is manipulative and self-serving.  And Johann being interviewed by the BBC’s Brian Taylor and making a cheap point about how Alex Salmond and his wife do not have children isn’t disgraceful.  It’s just nauseating.

It was all on display from Johann.  The full panoply of Labour was in full flow, the spittle flecked tribalism, the hatred, the spitefulness.  It would still turn your stomach even if Labour was actually offering fully costed and detailed plans to overturn the structural imbalances that have led the UK to becoming the most inequal developed country in the world.

Labour want to make Scotland in their image.  They want us to stay stuck in the time warp.  A broken party in a broken system will only ever feel at home in a broken country.  In September we have the chance to fix things.

Strictly come Ed

Ed Miliband is coming to Scotland to stick it intae Alicsammin.  Can you feel the frisson?  Are you getting a thrill?  Is there not just the tiniest wee damp patch in yer knickers?  There is in mine, but I’ve been sitting on top of the washing machine when it’s on its spin cycle.  Ed’s spinning gets no one moist, not even the damp paper bag he can’t punch his way out of.

Ed comes to Scotland fresh from triumphantly making no impression at all after Osborne’s budget promised more austerity, more cuts, more making the poor pay for the avarice of the bankers, and some giveaways for “hard working families and pensioners” – Westminster code for “people who could be persuaded to vote Tory”, and the fact they are so persuadable is also the reason both the Tories and Labour spend so much time courting them.  Ed can only carp about the details, about Johann Lamont’s wee things, because when he’s in power he’s going to implement the same cuts and reward the same Tory leaning constituency.

Ed’s in Scotland to give a wee speech to the demoralised band of fratricidal comrades at Labour’s Scottish conference. He wants Scotland to vote no to honour the legacy of the late John Smith. Perhaps he mean honouring it like Tony Blair honoured it when he went to war in Iraq. Or like Gordon Brown honoured it when he abolished boom and bust and encouraged the bankers to get rich quick. Introducing the bedroom tax on private tenants was honouring John Smith, who knew? Privatising, and PFI, they honoured his legacy too. Giving ATOS loads of juicy contracts was a socialist act that would have made John Smith proud.

If the leadership of the Labour party can’t honour John Smith’s legacy they have no business expecting it of anyone else.  Least of all people who understand what his legacy really was.  John Smith’s legacy lies buried on Iona, and Labour’s leadership danced on the grave.  Ed’s not in Scotland to honour John Smith’s legacy, far less to build on it.  We need no lessons in what John Smith stood for from a man who was a government minister under both Blair and Brown.  Ed danced with the worst of them.

Apart from the unseemly appeal to the dead, Ed’s big idea is to revive the SNP are Tartan Tories trope.  That might have worked back in the 1960s, when my Irish Republican grandfather was convinced that Scottish independence meant surrendering to Presbyterians – who according to him would always be Tories even if they dispensed with the Unionist bit.  But my grandfather has been deid for 40 years.  Even so, he’s not buried as deep as Ed’s chances of reviving the fortunes of the Labour party with his tacky sequins and torn ballgown.

But credit where credit is due, at least it’s not quite as behind the times as the Tories’ Victorian era One Nation slogan which Ed believes best represents the aspirations of the British centre left in the 21st century.   Ed’s catching up, and if he keeps going at this rate he’ll be starting to grasp the real issues around the independence debate about the time that HS2 finally gets to Scotland.

Ed claims that Alicsammin apes Tory policies.  He’d know a lot about that then.  Margaret Thatcher taught Tony Blair the steps of Westminster’s dance to the seat of power.  Ed has every intention of following in their footsteps.   Labour is happy to ally itself with the Tories when it comes to screwing over Scotland, Ed Balls and George Osborne practised the choreography for their currency routine for ages.  But the voting panel of Scotland’s Strictly judges was not impressed.  The dance did not wow the audience and was received with an arched eyebrow and bitchy comments.  They should have got Eric Pickles to do it, the overweight comedy turn may screw up the dance steps but at least it gets the sympathy vote.

Ed’s basic problem, and it’s not really giving succour to one’s opponents by pointing out the fatal flaw in their thinking when the fatal flaw is bleedin’ obvious, is that he thinks Alicsammin is a word meaning “Scottish independence”.  All this time we thought Westminster was personalising the debate and making out that the future of an entire nation is entirely the same as a single individual, but it turns out it’s just Westminster politicians getting confused by the Scottish vernacular.  That’s what happens when you rely on Magrit Curran to translate.

However there are a number of problems with the attacking Alicsammin approach to the independence debate, not the least of which being that a not insignificant number of people who intend to vote yes don’t give a toss what Alicsammin thinks about Corporation Tax, or indeed anything else.  At this stage in the proceedings, we should take it as read that the yes campaign has already hoovered up all the SNP voters that it’s going to get, but the yes campaign cannot win on SNP votes alone.

SNP supporters are unlikely to be moved in their opinions of Alicsammin by anything Ed says.  The very large number of non-SNP voters who have decided to vote yes have already realised that they’re voting for independence, not for Alicsammin, so they are scarcely any more likely to be discouraged from voting yes when Ed attacks Alicsammin.  It’s not going to shift the poll movement back towards no.  But in lieu of any deeper comprehension of what’s happening in Scotland, it’s all Ed’s got to go on.

It wouldn’t be the first time Westminster politicians have been confused by what Scotland is saying.  In 1997 when Michael Forsyth led the Scottish Tories into the General Election and lost every one of the party’s seats, Scotland’s verdict was the most definitive “away you tae fuck” it’s possible to achieve in an electoral system.  But Westminster thought we’d said “Give this man a seat in the House of Lords so he can keep influencing our laws.”  Easy mistake to make.

But it’s not Scotland’s accent.  It’s their ears.  Ed has come to Scotland to make a speech, not to listen.  Westminster’s ears are still not working.

Where does Project Fear go from here?

Despite Jittery January, Fearful February and Monstering March, Scots resolutely refuse to believe the warnings issuing one after another from BetterDaeAsYerTelt.  The no vote has not shown any signs of rising.  Quite the reverse, a new opinion poll commissioned by the excellent Newsnet Scotland has confirmed the pattern from other recent polls – the gap between yes and no continues to narrow.  A three percent swing would see yes take the lead – and yes is already leading amongst certain age groups.

The no campaign’s strategy is clearly not working.  Och the shame.  All those resources, all those Westminster big beasts (incidentally, I’m not sure what is so great about being a big beast.  Cows are big beasts.  They’re still thick as shit.) , all those media supporters, and they still cannae beat a yes movement that relies upon the campaigning of ordinary punters who do it for free.  Which if nothing else conclusively proves that the average Scottish punter is a much better political strategist than the supposed masters of the trade.

If nothing else, Scotland has proven that we don’t need Westminster in order to engage in popular democracy.  In fact Scotland does it considerably better by itself.  Independence movements without political violence are not commonplace.  Scotland has proven it can achieve that, so the Scottish electorate can achieve anything.  Our democratic credentials are impeccable.  Which is more than can be said for Westminster politicians and their backroom deals to screw over the electorate.

After the embarrassing debacle of Labour’s devo-sleight-of-hand, executed with the finesse of a five year old in boxing gloves carrying out neurosurgery, it’s clear to everyone that no Westminster party is going to present substantive proposals for further devolution.  Except possibly media pundits, who’ve already shown that they have their fingers on the pulse.  The pulse in this case being a handful of stale lentils.

Scottish MPs are entrenched in their opposition, since they already have non-jobs and fear that further devolution will only expose their uselessness.  But it’s too late for that, Scotland has already got them sussed.  Episodes like Ian Davidson sticking the knife into his own constituents, the farce of Labour’s role in the Grangemouth fiasco, Danny Alexander gleefully promising ruin and devastation if we vote no, while equally gleefully imposing cuts and austerity, the sheer desperation of just about anything that comes out of Magrit Ma Weans Wull Be Furren Curran … and on and on and on … have shown that none of them put Scotland’s interests first.

What makes today’s poll even more worrying for Better Together’s strategists – that would be George Osborne with Danny Alexander nodding enthusiastically – is that polling was carried out before Johann Lamont announced Labour’s pitiful and incoherent devo proposals and before she did her interview with Gordon Brewer when she demonstrated that she didn’t understand the existing devolution settlement, never mind her new one.

It’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, for the unionist parties to come over positive all of a sudden.  Who will believe them now they’ve spent the past two years doing an impression of Corporal Frazer sooking lemons.  It’s now impossible for the three main unionist parties to present joint proposals – who is going to believe something cobbled together in a panic at the last minute?

There are signs that the Naw campaign is backtracking on some of its more ridiculous scares.  Alistair Koalamichael has gone into reverse on Scottish membership of the EU, but he’s still trying to dress it up as something frightful.  In today’s Scotsman, the UK cabinet’s voice in Scotland asserts that Scotland would get a “poor deal” from independent EU membership.  This isn’t quite what he was saying a few months back, when he was trying to convince everyone that Scotland wouldn’t get membership at all.  He has also conceded that Spain will not block Scottish membership after all, but still claimed that Spain and Croatia might have objections.

He cannae help himself, and was still spouting the moronic threat that Scotland may be forced to sign up to Schengen – the common travel area encompassing most EU states.  Joining Schengen would mean Scots gaining passport free travel to other members of the Schengenzone, but since the rUK and the Republic of Ireland are not members, there would be passport controls at Berwick.  What he hasn’t explained, and can’t explain, is which EU state or states are going to insist that Scotland joins the Schengenzone as a condition of membership.  Alistair has obviously never looked at Hamlin’s Illustrated Atlas for Schoolchildren and Scottish Secretaries of State.  Back in the real world, as opposed to the world of Alistair’s scary bedtime stories, there is no Schengenzone state with a border with Scotland, and no Schengenzone state whose interests would be compromised by Scotland remaining a member of the Common Travel Area with the rUK and the Republic of Ireland.  Geography Alistair, geography.

The scares all rest on the premise that international bodies will treat Scotland the same way that Westminster treats us, with a mixture of scorn, contempt and dismissal, and a willingness to cut off their noses to spite their faces.  Westminster can treat Scotland like that because Scotland is powerless under the Westminster system.  There’s no come back, no consequences, so Westminster can do exactly as it pleases.  And usually does.

But sovereign states must be treated with considerably more respect, and we will be masters in our own home.  Carmichael claimed that Croatia may object to Scottish membership of the EU, forgetting that according to his own standards, Croatia with its population of 4.2 million (one million less than Scotland), and an area of 56,000 sq km (22,000 sq km smaller than the 78,000 sq km of Scotland) cannot possibly have any international influence at all – what with it been even weer than we are.  And they don’t have any oil or Scotland’s embarrassing riches of natural resources either.  Alistair didn’t bother giving any reasons why he thought Croatia might have problems with fast track Scottish accession to the EU.  At this stage in the campaign it’s clearly enough just to cite some random country and hope that no one will notice the Clyde Tunnel sized hole in the argument.

Meanwhile the UK news cycle is dominated by the budget.  It contained nothing to alleviate the poverty into which increasing numbers have fallen.  It did nothing to counter the growing gap between rich and poor.  It’s Westminster’s business as usual.  We got the usual ritual assertions that Scotland would be impoverished, while Osborne presented a budget designed to attract voters in 2015’s General Election.  The poor will still be expected to bear the burden of the UK’s economic strife.  There was nothing there to convince Scotland that we are better together with Westminster’s bunch of wasters and wastrels.

So what’s next for Ali’s Army?  More fear, more scares, more threats, of course.  But don’t be surprised if the polls continue to narrow and we start to hear more of the warnings that a yes vote may not mean yes after all.  The realisation is dawning on Scotland’s Unionist MPs that after September they may have the same employment prospects as a Jimmy Savile impersonator.  They’ve already shown that they are willing to lie, to manipulate, to deceive.  It’s Westminster’s comfort zone after all.  Expect them to retreat further into it as the polls continue to narrow.

The event horizon

Unkind souls – you know who you are – have been describing Johann Lamont’s latest contribution to the debate on Scottish self-government as devo-nano.  This is unfair.  A nanometre is a real unit of measurement.  It may be tiny, it may be invisible to the human eye, but it does actually exist and is an incremental step forwards.  Johann’s proposals don’t even go that far.  They’re more of a devo-event-horizon.

The event horizon, for those of you who don’t devour bad science fiction, is the region surrounding a black hole where the force of gravity becomes so strong that light is not able to escape.  A black hole is what is left after a massive star collapses in on itself, its mass falling inwards into a singularity where the normal laws of physics break down.  To the outside observer, anything falling into the black hole appears frozen for all eternity on the event horizon.  Meanwhile the person or thing falling into the black hole continues to plummet to its doom, and is crushed out of existence.  That’s the final destination of Labour’s devo-journey.

Despite being two years in the making, despite the constant assertions from Johann that she wants to listen to the people of Scotland and engage in debate about Scotland’s future, Labour’s devolution proposals have got nothing to do with responding to the long standing demand from Scottish voters for greater powers for the Scottish Parliament.  Instead they have everything to do with the Labour party attempting, yet again, to score party political points at the expense of the SNP.

Every single one of the increased powers which Labour would grant to Holyrood is motivated by a desire to stick one on the SNP.  What the party describes as all the powers that Scotland could ever want or need are in fact all the powers that Labour hopes it needs in order to make a campaigning point against Alex Salmond.

The much vaunted ability to vary the top rate of income tax exists solely in order to give Jim Murphy and his pals a point to make in interviews with friendly media hacks – to attack Alicsammin and demand he raises the top rate of tax.  It’s an unusuable power, but it provides Labour’s politicians with a few nice sound bites.  That’s its sole purpose.  The ability to vary the other bands of income tax by 15p instead of the 10p allowed by 2012’s Scotland Act is meaningless.  The tax varying powers have never been used because any increase in revenues will be eliminated by a corresponding cut to the Scottish block grant.  Holyrood has no ability to vary the tax rates, or increase the taxes paid by the rich but decrease those paid by the poor.  That’s not going to change.

Anyone who’s been paying attention over the past decade or so knows that Holyrood’s tax powers are cosmetic and will never be used.  Labour knows that better than most since they designed the system.  So you might think that the party could have made the headline catching offer to increase the powers of Holyrood to vary the tax rate by 100p in the pound, safe in the knowledge that the powers will never be used.  But they couldn’t even do that.  It might send the wrong message to voters south of the border, and that would never do.

The powers over the Bedroom Tax are in order to neutralise one of the strongest points of the Yes campaign – that Scotland gets benefits policies imposed on the country even though a large majority of our political representatives are against it.  Labour wants to treat the worst of the current symptoms to make the itch go away, but doesn’t propose curing the underlying condition.  And that’s before we start to consider the mechanics of the process.  Labour has not explained exactly how the new system will work.  It seems they don’t know.

The increased powers for local authorities exist purely in order to transfer power from a Holyrood where Labour can no longer be assured of power, to local councils which remain party strongholds.  The same goes for the powers over the Crown Estates.

There is absolutely nothing here which provides evidence that Labour has engaged with the electorate of Scotland in order to put forward devolution proposals which meet Scotland’s needs.  Instead what we see are the results of Labour arguing amongst itself about the best way to attack the SNP without damaging the status and position of Labour’s Westminster contingent.  This isn’t a devolution proposal.  It’s a security blanket for Jim Murphy.

Labour can’t help itself.  You might have thought that in the lead up to an independence referendum which threatens to bring the Westminster gravy train to a shuddering halt north of the border, that Labour would have raised its eyes from its party political navel and looked at the bigger picture.  But no.  Even when faced with a radically altered political landscape where the concept of independence has been normalised, Labour is still playing the Westminster game.  It’s the only game they understand.

We got the usual cant about the “redistributive Union”, as though the UK existed as a genuine mechansism for equalising the gulf between rich and poor, between London and the South East and the rest of the UK.  Yet when Labour was in power for 13 years under Blair and Brown we saw Peter Mandelson (remember him and his serial resignations amidst assorted accusations?) telling us that Labour was intensely relaxed about a small number of people getting filthy rich.  We saw the gap between rich and poor widen, we saw London and the South East continue to grow at the expense of the North of England, Wales and Scotland.

And now with Ed Miliband at the helm Labour is returning to its centralising instincts.  Ed’s slogan of One Nation – ripped off, without any apparent shame, from 19th century Conservatives – points to the past, not the future.  When the great hope for progressive politics in the UK rests upon aping the aspirations of Victorian Tories, you know that the Labour party has not just lost its way in the desert, it’s already dead from thirst and exposure.  The best we can hope for is a crumb of patronising attention from those who think of themselves as the great and good.  Labour’s redistributive Union doesn’t exist except in Johann’s imagination.

Even Gordon Brewer was roused from the torpor in which he’s spent the past few months, and tried, but failed, to get Johann Lamont to explain Labour’s thinking in a car crash of an interview on BBC 2’s Newsnicht.  Only to discover that Johann herself doesn’t understand Labour’s thinking, or indeed any thinking at all.  When the leader of the Labour party in Scotland doesn’t seem to understand either her new proposals nor the devolution settlement the proposals claim to build on, it’s clear to one and all that we are not being presented with an architectural blueprint for the future of Scottish government.  It’s more of a child’s scribble with a crayon.  But that’s what you get when you let Ian Davidson influence policy.

So now we know.  All those voters who were holding out for devomax, a federal UK, a means of rebalancing the UK to prevent London and the South East devouring the rest of the country – you can forget it.  Labour’s told you it’s not going to happen.  And if it’s not going to happen now, when Labour and Westminster are facing a Scottish electorate for whom the concept of independence has become normalised, when we are in a tightly fought campaign a few months away from an independence referendum that could bring Ian Davidson and Jim Murphy’s careers to a shuddering halt, you know it’s never going to happen at all.

It’s not Scotland which is frozen on the event horizon.  It’s not Scotland which is plummeting to certain doom, crushed by the forces of gravity from Westminster and the City of London.  It’s the Labour party.

The Labour movement remains a force for good and for progressive social change, but the Labour party is not fit for purpose.  There’s only one way in which the Labour movement in Scotland can get a political party that truly represents the aspirations and desires of the Scottish Labour movement.  When you put a cross beside Yes in September, you’re not just voting for the independence of Scotland, you’re also voting to make the Labour party in Scotland independent.  For Labour voters in Scotland, that’s the only way they’ll ever get a Labour party that represents what they believe in.

I’m fed up with crumbs from the table.  I’m fed up with promises of jam that never materialise.  I’m fed up with a Labour party which has collected the cash for my order for sweet and sour pork with fried rice but which delivers a tiny wee bit of stale prawn cracker and tells me I should be grateful.  I’m not grateful.  I want the banquet.  I want independence.

Labour’s devo deception

They’re here.  Labour’s long awaited proposals for devolution have arrived, splashing into the independence debate like the tsunami created by tossing a pebble into Loch Lomond – a pebble conveniently attached to a length of elastic so Johann can howk it back out again, the Westminster crew insisted on safeguards.  Dropping a pebble into the watter might rock Jim Murphy’s boat.  It created such a little splash that it only rated 30 seconds on the BBC lunchtime Scottish Och Aye the News, and Brian Taylor still managed to find time to mention David Bowie.

The proposals are an incoherent mess, but to be fair, so is the Labour party in Scotland so what did you really expect?  Even Severin Carrell, who on Monday’s Newsnicht expressed the opinion that his Unionist rag’s coverage of the indy debate was fair and unbiased, wasn’t able to put much lipstick on the pig.

The headline news was that Labour wants to allow Holyrood powers over income tax, including the power to vary the top rate by up to 15p in the pound, up from the 10p variation allowed by the Scotland Act due to come into force in 2016.  What they’re not saying is whether Westminster would claw back any increase in Scottish revenues by reducing the block grant, which is the case with the unused and useable tax powers granted in 1997.  They’re hinting they won’t, but aren’t making a commitment, so we can take that as a “yes they would”.

Labour will allow Holyrood to vary individual tax bands, but not control over any other taxes which effectively makes the income tax powers unusable.  The unusability of the tax powers is not a bug, it’s a feature.  Labour likes it that way.  It stops Ian Davidson giving Johann grief, which is a far more important consideration than any demands for greater self-government from Scotland.

So we’ll get more unusable powers.  That’s really going to stop the independence juggernaut in its tracks.

Neither is Labour saying why 15p in the pound is the correct figure to, in the words of Johann, “bolster, defend and energise” devolution, and not 20p, or 35p, or 100p.   What criteria did Labour use to arrive at the 15p figure?  I suspect it was “what we can get past Ian Davidson and Jim Murphy without causing too much of a strop”, which isn’t exactly the same as “what is in the best interests of Scotland”.

Labour is also prepared to grant Holyrood greater powers over Housing Benefit, but the remainder of the benefits system will remain firmly under control of Westminster, and Holyrood will not get any extra funding to ammeliorate the ill effects of Westminster’s benefit cuts.  It couldn’t be that they’re only making this tiny wee concession in a nakedly political attempt to neutralise the outrage over the Bedroom Tax now would it?

Labour will also concede some limited control of the Crown Estates – but not to the Scottish Parliament.  They want these powers to go to local authorities.  It keeps Gordon Matheson happy.  They also want to devolve control of the Work Programme to local authorities, giving Labour cooncillors more ALEO boards they can sit on.

We are told that this devo package represents the maximum devolution Scotland could possibly need or want, but what is far longer than the wee list of wee things that Johann is prepared to concede, hedged about with caveats as they are, is the list of things that Labour refuses to consider devolving to Scotland.  Scotland won’t get these powers, not now, not ever.  For a devolution journey, we’re on a very short ride.

• Financial and economic matters
• Monetary policy
• Currency regulation
• Debt management
• Employment law
• Foreign affairs
• International development
• Defence
• The welfare state
• Pensions
• Benefits
• The constitution
• Immigration
• Drugs, drug trafficking and related laws
• Betting, gaming and lotteries
• Broadcasting
• The civil service
• Abortion and analogous issues
• Air passenger duty
• VAT
• National insurance contributions
• Corporation tax
• Alcohol, tobacco and fuel duties
• Climate change levy
• Insurance premium tax
• Vehicle excise duty
• Inheritance tax
• Capital gains tax
• Tax on oil & gas

So forget about getting rid of Trident, forget about control of benefits and taxation.  You can even forget about control of broadcasting – a power granted to just about ever other autonomous administration under the sun.  We can be sure that Scotland’s current affairs will continue to be refracted through the distorting mirror of the BBC, and there will be nothing we can do about it.  Labour prefers it that way.

But there is not even a guarantee that Scotland will actually get the highly limited powers proposed by Labour this week. It depends on whether the party adopts the proposals in full in their 2015 Westminster manifesto. It depends on whether the proposals will not be filleted and gutted in the same way that the timid measures of the Calman Commission were deconstructed – and in some respects the new proposals don’t even go as far as Calman, which recommended the control of air passenger duty and corporation tax. It’s odd that these powers no longer form a part of the maximum powers that Scotland could need or want, when Labour itself thought they should be devolved just a few years ago.

And of course it depends on whether Labour will form a majority government after 2015.  That’s not looking too likely the way the polls are currently going.

Labour’s just blown its last chance.  Too little, too late, a lot of words saying nothing at all.  Vote no and get nothing.  Vote yes and get all the powers Scotland could ever need – for real.

Legal word games

The latest version of the official dictionary of standard Spanish is about to be published.  El Diccionario de la Real Academia Española is now being prepared for publication, and is due to hit the bookshelves within the next few weeks.  You might think that the publication of a dictionary would be of interest to no one but school students, scrabble players, pedants, and people who’ve never got the hang of spell checkers, but the new edition of the dictionary is causing a bit of controversy in Catalonia.

The dictionary lists those words deemed to form a part of the standard written form of the Spanish language and defines their meanings.  I’ve got a copy of a previous edition, which is useful for looking up words that you find in El País newspaper but that no one ever uses in conversation.  So then as a diligent little Spanish language learner you learned them, and used them in conversation, only to be rewarded with a peculiar look from your Spanish friends who were wondering why you’d just swallowed a pretentiousness pill.  Spanish newspapers like their fancy words.

The dictionary is a dictionary of the officially recognised language.  So it doesn’t include a lot of words which people use all the time, but which are considered slang, dialect, or foreign borrowings.  And this can be a problem, especially because foreign borrowings are not always easily recognisable after being filtered through a Spanish accent.  Not long after moving to Spain when I was still struggling with the language, one friend asked if I wanted to visit the “poof” with her.  I wasn’t sure whether to be thrilled at the prospect of meeting other gay life, or alarmed that my new friend was going to require a crash course in “words likely to irritate your new gay friend”.  But she meant “el pub”.  It just comes out as “poof” in a Spanish accent.  But el pub isn’t a word you’ll find in el Diccionario de la Real Academia Española, or at least it wasn’t in it back in the Jurassic when I still went to pubs.

The Diccionario is a dictionary for people writing newspaper editorials and rulings on planning applications.  Its contents are determined by the members of la Real Academia Española, whose membership is chosen from leading Spanish language writers and academics.  The Academia is very much an establishment body, and has been criticised for its conservatism and its elevation of the Spanish of northern Castile, the historic heartland of the language, over varieties of the language found elsewhere – a complaint which is frequently voiced in Latin America.  The members of the Academia come from the ‘great and good’ in the world of Spanish writing and linguistics, and the self-selecting membership is heavily weighted in favour of those considered the establishment.

The Academia has the officially recognised role of the referees of Spanish language usage.  Its dictionaries are deemed to set the official and legal norms for the Spanish language.  It has no real equivalent in the UK, English language dictionaries (or dictionaries of Scots or Gaelic) are descriptive, not prescriptive, and have no legal force.

The Academia’s dictionary is the dictionary that Spanish lawyers and judges refer to when a legal ruling depends, as legal rulings often do, on the precise meaning or range of meanings of a particular word.  And that’s why the Catalans are a bit alarmed by the latest edition of the Diccionario. It makes changes to the Spanish definitions of a range of words and terms, including soberanía (sovereignty), nacionalidad (nationality), estado (state), referéndum (do you really need that one translated? I mean, seriously?), autodeterminación (self-determination.  I’ll give you that one.  Autodeterminación always makes me think of the look on someone’s face when they have their first driving lesson) amongst others.

It is however the new definition of referendum which has raised eyebrows in Catalonia.  The previous definition gave the meaning as “the legal process by which laws or administrative acts which are proposed to be ratified by the people are submitted to a vote”.  The new edition gives the definition: “the legal process by which laws or political decisions with a decisive or consultative character are submitted to the vote.”

According to the Catalan newspaper Vilaweb, lawyers they have consulted believe that the new definition will make it somewhat easier for the Spanish Government to challenge the Catalan referendum in the courts.

Meanwhile, under the heading “sovereignty”, the previous definition of “national sovereignty” – given as “[the sovereignty] which rests in the people and is expressed through their constitutional and representative bodies” disappears from the new dictionary.  Again, in the opinion of lawyers consulted by Vilaweb, this will also make it easier for the Spanish Government to mount a legal challenge to Catalan national sovereignty.

It is unclear when these new changes were proposed.  The inner workings of the Real Academia are not open to the general public.  The last edition of the dictionary was published in 2001, and work on the new edition has been going on ever since.  But Catalans are used to the underhand dealings of the Spanish establishment, and many of them believe that these changes were introduced as a response to the growing demands in Catalonia for self-determination.

The Spanish right has a history of playing legal word games.  The Partido Popular and its allies have mounted a number of legal attacks on Catalonia and her language, including passing laws in Aragon to redefine the Catalan spoken there as “dialects of Eastern Aragonese”, and ensuring that the Spanish Constitution lists the Catalan of the Valencian Community as a distinct language called Valencian.  Given this history, you can understand why suspicions have been raised by the new Spanish dictionary.

Meanwhile, the latest poll shows that 59.7% of Catalans are in favour of independence, with only 30.3% opposed – the remainder being don’t knows or won’t votes.  The panic in Madrid is growing.

Scotland too must beware of word games.  The word games Unionists play may not have legal force, but manipulating language is as much a part of the Scottish campaign as it is in Catalonia.  The word “foreign” has been redefined by them to mean some unspecified bad thing – according to Magrit Curran it apparently means she’d be estranged from her own children.  We see the same games in proposals which have been aired by figures within Labour, which involve stripping powers from Holyrood and giving them to Labour run local authorities under the guise of “greater devolution”.

We have already seen Unionists attempt to define “independence” as something which the Scottish Government is not offering – Unionist politicians regularly claim that independence within a currency union is not “real independence”.  But of course independence means that the people of Scotland are able to choose our own path – and if we choose a currency union we remain independent.  It’s our choice.  With independence Scotland has the ability to make different choices if times and circumstances change.

The Unionists want us to believe that we already have “real independence” as part of “the most successful Union of nations in history”.  The Unionist definition of “real independence” means we surrender control to Westminster.  The “most successful union of nations in history” has produced a Scotland which Unionists joyfully claim is unable to make its own way in the world, and which is chained to a radiator in a Westminster basement.

Independence is what an independent nation wants it to mean – it doesn’t mean what those who fight against independence want it to mean in order to scare us away from it.  Independence means Scotland and Catalonia can make their own definitions.  That’s what we’re voting on in September.

Maltese matters

If Scotland becomes independent, we’d have about the same clout as Malta and have to sit at the end of the table and behave ourselves – at least according to Tory Cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke.  Of course Ken hasn’t noticed that Scotland doesn’t currently have any seat at the table at all, indeed we don’t even get invited to the dinner party.  Scotland gets represented at international buffets by eh, Kenneth Clarke, who presumably doesn’t sit at the end of the table and doesn’t behave himself.  That might go some way to explaining why the UK Goverment is so unpopular amongst fellow EU members.

Mind you you might think that pissing off a fellow EU member state isn’t the best way to make friends and influence people when you’re the last pro-EU member of a political party that’s increasingly making plans for Nigel Farage, but any auld slur will do when it’s hurled at supporters of Scottish independence.  Malta just got hit in the crossfire.

The Maltese Foreign Ministry might get a bit imdejqa (that’s Maltese for annoyed, at least according to Google translate) once it hears of Mr Clark’s assessment of their country’s international standing.  The Maltese may have an impenetrable language which is the outcome of an illicit marriage between Arabic and Italian, but being a small nation they are multilingual and internationalist in outlook and are perfectly capable of telling Mr Clark he’s wrong in English, Maltese, Italian, and Arabic, before going off and having a meeting with Italy to have a wee giggle at the pretensions of the indebted heirs to the British Empire.

Malta has a population of around 450,000 – less than the city of Edinburgh.  The Maltese islands, Malta, Comino, and Gozo, have a total area of 316 sq km, or about 122 sq miles – roughly the same size as South Uist.  I’m not really sure which is worse, Clark’s insult to Malta, or his apparent belief that Scotland is the size of South Uist.  It must be another example of the Father Dougal Syndrome, which is alarmingly commonplace amongst Unionist politicians and designers of BBC weather maps.  Scotland is far away, so it must be small.

But for a small country that’s far away, Malta doesn’t do too badly at representing its interests in the international sphere.  Of course it helps that Malta does actually possess a Maltese Foreign Ministry to represent its views.  Scotland has William Hague instructing British Embassies around the world to brief the local press against Scottish independence.

A quick look at the press releases from the Maltese Foreign Ministry shows that in the past few weeks, the President of Malta has been on a state visit to Germany, on which he was accompanied by the Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, and assorted official and institutional delegations who met with their German counterparts to discuss matters of mutual interest and further develop ties between the two countries.  The same week, the Maltese Foreign Minister met in Rome and had bilateral talks with the Italian Foreign Minister and the Libyan Prime Minister.  The Italian Foreign Minister discussed Italy’s plans for its turn at the presidency of the EU in July this year, seeking Maltese support and stressing the “special relationship” between the two countries.  (Now where have we heard that phrase before?)  There was the announcement that Malta is chairing the Forum for Security Cooperation in Vienna, held under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  Malta hopes to focus on issues affecting the Mediterranean.

And there was a lot more in a similar vein.  Nothing to set the heather alight, you might say, but not setting the heather alight is a good thing in international relations, as it tends to mean that everyone is getting along in a civilised manner.  The point however is that Malta has a voice in international affairs.  It may not be a loud and strident voice.  It may not be the braying voice of a Tory MP.  It may not be a voice that is the echo-chamber of the Pentagon.  But it is a distinctly Maltese voice and it is heard in the corridors of power – although not apparently by Ken Clark.

The islands were once ruled by Britain.  Malta was a British colony from 1800 until independence.  When Britannia ruled the waves or waived the rules – depending upon your political perspective – Westminster was keen to secure Malta in order to control the sea lanes passing through the Mediterranean.  After the opening of the Suez Canal, the islands were strategically vital in ensuring British control of India.

After WW2, Maltese politics were dominated by debate over whether the country, which had been granted a measure of self government, ought to become independent, or whether it should integrate into the UK and return MPs to Westminster.  In 1955, an agreement was reached and the UK Government decided to integrate Malta into the UK, the country would have 3 MPs.  But the UK Government then decided to close down the Royal Navy shipyards which were then an important part of the country’s economy.  It sounds familiar doesn’t it.

In protest, the Maltese political parties refused to form a government, and colonial direct rule was reimposed.  The crisis ended any chance of Malta remaining under British rule, and an independence referendum was held in May 1964.  54.5% voted for independence, 45.5% voted against.  Malta became an independent country with the Queen as head of state.  In 1974, the country became a republic.

The fact that Malta’s voice isn’t heard in Westminster only means that the power and influence of Westminster no longer runs in the Mediterranean.  It’s a sign of the diminishing of Westminster, not the irrelevance of Malta, and speaks far more of the restricted horizons of British Governments than anything else.

The Maltese work to develop their own country, according to their own understanding of their country’s needs and the aspirations of her people.   They’re not interested in punching above their weight, they’re interested in making Malta a better place for the people of Malta.  That’s all anyone should expect from a government.  But Scotland doesn’t have that.  We have Kenneth Clarke patronising us and claiming the he can speak for us better than we can speak for ourselves, while Scotland is denied entry to international forums.

If you asked the Maltese if they’d prefer to be ruled by Westminster and Ken Clarke again, the answer would be a resounding  Le!  which is Maltese for naw.  That tells us all we need to know.

The BBC’s credibility, the big loser in the independence debate

Andrew Marr is supposed to be one of the BBC’s leading interviewers.  It’s true that he is recovering from a stroke, and his mind may not be as sharp as it once was, but that’s no excuse for bringing his personal views into an interview.  That is directly in contravention of BBC guidelines which state that the viewer should not be able to discern the personal opinions of the interviewer when a politician is interviewed.  Yet we see this sort of behaviour time and time again when the BBC’s London Scots contingent present programmes dealing with the referendum.

I met a lot of London Scots when I lived in the city for a decade.  Many of them had left Scotland because there were few opportunities in their chosen careers.  They remain of the opinion that Scotland is a bit of a basket case, and want Scotland to remain a basket case as it validates their decision to leave.  Andrew Marr displays many of the same symptoms.

During his interview with Alex Salmond on Sunday’s Politics Show, Marr asserted that it would be very difficult for Scotland to gain EU membership, saying: “I think it will be quite hard to get back in, I have to say.”

Challenged by Alex Salmond, Marr tried to backtrack, saying this wasn’t his opinion or the BBC’s.  But it was clearly a personal opinion coming from the same man who sat quietly and nodded when José Manuel Barroso made his controversial statement that Scotland would be out on its ear.  The statement was roundly condemned by a diverse range of European politicians from both the left and the right, and dismissed by real experts in EU law, none of whom thought Barroso even had the right to express his opinion in such a way, never mind agreeing with his dubious assertion.

Yet Marr did not even raise a quizzical eyebrow.  Which can only mean that either Marr hadn’t done his research, or that Barroso’s comments chimed with Marr’s own beliefs.  Or indeed both, since these are not mutually exclusive scenarios.  In either event, Scotland was shortchanged and the independence debate was distorted.  And we pay this guy’s wages with our licence fees.

This is also the man, let us not forget, who came to Edinburgh and asserted that anti-English racism underlies much of the demand for Scottish self-determination.  Again Marr distorted the independence debate.  At least on that occasion he did not make the remark in his capacity as a BBC interviewer, but his status as one of the BBC’s leading on-screen presenters ensured that his views got wide coverage in a UK media which is eager to depict independence supporters as swivel eyed racists.

A BBC staff member expressing his or her support for independence during an interview with a Unionist politician would be equally objectionable.  This is not a partisan point here.  However it’s obvious to one and all that the bias expressed by the BBC’s staff is entirely in one direction.  And I don’t mean Harry Stiles.  I don’t think the boyband has ever given its views on the Scottish debate, although if they were against independence you can be sure it would rate a mention on the main news at 6.

The bias on the BBC has now got beyond parody.  It is so bad that when the excellent BBC Scotlandshire site was launched, some people thought it was the real BBC.  Derek Bateman, in his thoughtful and unfailingly informative blog posts, says that there is no conspiracy amongst BBC staff to campaign against independence, and I believe him.  However what there certainly is is an ethos of British nationalism which runs throughout the BBC, and it is written into its DNA.

When that is combined with the fawning nature of BBC Scotland’s management towards its London bosses, and organisation’s clear hierarchy in which London based reporters are considered a cut above mere provincials, you get a toxic mess where those who do have Unionist bias are free to express it.   Especially if you’re a star performer called Andrew Marr, Andrew Neil, James Naughtie or Kirsty Wark.

We are after all talking about a broadcaster that can describe a sewing programme as “Great British”.  If an organisation is prepared to lay claim to needlework for British nationalism, it will have a tendency towards British nationalism in other respects as well.  And when we’re dealing with the Scottish independence debate, British nationalism is pretty much all we see on the BBC.

There are some things which happen above Derek Bateman’s paygrade.  It was reported last year that the Foreign Office had been contacting English language publications in Spain, requesting that they publish items favourable to the stance of the UK Government in the independence debate.  If the UK Government has being doing this with publications in foreign countries, then what exactly has gone on in private communications between – say – the former Tory cabinet minister Chris Patten, currently chair of the BBC Trust, and the UK Government which is the BBC’s sole shareholder?  That’s not something we’re likely to be told for 30 years.  And that’s without getting into the question of whether a former Conservative cabinet minister can ever be an unbiased arbitrer in a highly politicised debate.

Have the top levels of BBC management decided to foster British nationalism and a sense of Britishness as it became apparent that Scotland was going to hold a referendum on independence? There’s certainly been a plague of Great British this and Great British that on the BBC of late.  In the context of an independence referendum, even the title of a sewing competition looks like it is being politicised by the Unionists.  We should be told. we pay the BBC’s bills.  But we won’t be told.

So what to do?  I’m not going to call on people not to pay their licence fee.  Due to my partner’s age and health condition, we get an exemption and don’t have to pay.  It would be hypocritical for me to call on others to take the legal and financial risks involved with non-payment.  That’s a decision that individuals must make for themselves.

When this independence campaign kicked off, we all knew that the independence cause would find precious little support in the mainstream media.  That opinion was however the preserve of those who already supported independence.  Now that opinion has gone mainstream.  Scots are becoming increasingly aware of the bias in our media, and especially the shocking disservice provided by BBC Scotland.  That awareness helps the independence campaign, and we must do all we can to ensure that the awareness grows and spreads.

Whatever the outcome of the vote in September,  Andrew Marr and the BBC are going to be the big losers.  Their credibility is in tatters.   There will be a reckoning with Scottish licence fee payers, one way or another.

Nailing the Common Travel Area to a plank

Theresa May, who presides over the dysfunction that is the Home Office, came to Scotland this weekend to make a wee speech to the geriatrics and the odd middle class student who make up the dwindling band of Scottish Tories.   As she vowed to erect barbed wire fences all along the border, complete with G4S security guards and sniffer dogs specially trained to catch Irn Bru smugglers, the wee bunch of Scottish Tories clapped and applauded.  They were soon joined in their cheer by random Unionists crowing on the interwebbies.  I’ve not seen anyone collude in their own misery with such enthusiasm since having the misfortune to witness a stage show featuring a happy masochist getting his testes nailed to a plank.  But even that evening was less surreal than the Scottish Tory conference.

Onieweys, the substance of Theresa’s threat, such as it was, was that she would consider imposing border controls if Scotland becomes independent.  The foundation of this threat is Theresa’s belief that Scotland will freely open its doors to all and any asylum seekers, benefits tourists, and people who won’t vote Tory, who will take one look at the rain stoating down at Embra airport and enquire if the trams go to Berwick.  Theresa thinks that life on income support in a run down council estate in Tory ruled Britain is more attractive to people who cross the planet in order to better themselves than a decent paid job in Dundee.

Scotland is just a tad further away from Europe than Dover, anyone seeking to use Scotland as a back door into England isn’t going to hitch a ride on the back of a lorry.  They’re certainly not about to stow away on a high speed train, since Westminster has no plans for it to reach Scotland anytime soon.   But perhaps Theresa is planning for the eventuality that a flotilla of canoes may set out from Denmark for Aberdeen, laden with asylum seekers bent on reaching London.  It’s because of forward thinking like that that she rose so high in Tory ranks.

The Republic of Ireland is a part of the Common Travel Area with the UK.  The Scottish Government proposes that after independence, Scotland will remain a part of the Common Travel Area like the Republic of Ireland.  It makes sense.  At least to everyone but Theresa May.

However Theresa is insistent that Scottish independence will undo all the “good work” the Home Office has been doing contributing to the hysteria over immigration, and the only way it could possibly keep doing good work in pandering to Daily Mail columnists would be for the Scottish Government to submit its immigration policy to Theresa for prior approval.

Entry into the Common Travel Area is dependent upon the foreign minister of an independent Scotland offering up his bollocks, or in the case of a female foreign minister the bollocks of a nominated male relative, so they can be nailed to a plank by Theresa.  Following careful consideration by Theresa, the bollocks will have to be displayed on an advertising van round the streets of Birmingham, under a banner headline screaming SHOP A JOCK ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT. Otherwise Theresa couldn’t possibly countenance allowing the border to remain open.

I’m quite sure that Irish government ministers past and present will be thrilled to learn that they are in fact unpaid lackeys of the UK Home Office whose duty is to implement Theresa’s will on pain of bollock planking.  But I don’t recall seeing the bollocks of an Irish foreign minister ever being displayed by Theresa, and that’s the sort of image that would tend to stick in the mind.  The Irish Republic may very well have its fair share of masochists, however begging for more punishment as a matter of public policy is restricted to Scotland’s Unionist parties.

Ireland has its own immigration policy which is tailored to its own needs.  Dublin does not need to get the nod from Theresa before deciding to issue more green cards for those Ireland considers to be suitably qualified migrants.  Perhaps they do in the imaginations of Unionists, where Westminster is a colossus which strides the globe punching above its weight and bowing all the little people to its mighty will.  But in the real world the views of the UK Home Secretary have as much bearing on the immigration policy of the Irish Republic as Prince Charle’s views on architecture influence the choice of venues of the Radical Independence Campaign.

What does exist however, is an agreement negotiated between Dublin and Westminster to uphold one another’s immigration decisions.  This arrangement dates back to the establishment of the Common Travel Area in 1923.  The British were not inclined to impose border controls along the newly established border between Northern Ireland and what was then the Irish Free State, and the Irish were happy not to deliberately sabotage British policy on immigration from third countries in return for the guarantee of freedom of movement throughout the island.

So the agreement that the Unionists claim would mean an independent Scotland surrendering its immigration policy to Theresa May is in the public domain – at least the equivalent agreement between Dublin and Westminster is.  It was revealed in answer to a question in the Dáil in 1980.

A member of the Irish Parliament asked Brian Lenihan, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs if there was any agreement between the Irish authorities and Great Britain “concerning dealings with aliens or immigrants”, and enquired whether the Irish Government was considering changing the agreement.

The minister replied that there was an agreement, and gave the following reply:

Since 1952 there has, by agreement, been no immigration control on the movement of persons between Britain. Northern Ireland and the State. A necessary concommitant is a measure of co-operation between the two immigration services. This is recognised formally in Article 5 (2) (j) of the Aliens Order 1946 (at present inserted by Article 3 of the Aliens (Amendment) Order 1975, (S.I. No. 12B of 1975)) which empowers an immigration officer to refuse leave to land to an alien coming to the State from a place not in Britain or Northern Ireland if he is satisfied that the alien “intends to travel, whether immediately or not, to Great Britain or Northern Ireland and the officer is satisfied that the alien would not qualify for admission to Great Britain or Northern Ireland if he arrived there from a place other than the State”.

The Government have no proposal for any change in the arrangements.

This arrangement quite specifically does not mean that Dublin must submit its immigration policies to Westminster for approval, neither does it mean that Dublin cannot seek to attract skilled and qualified migrants into an independent Ireland.  It means that Ireland agreed to prevent the entry into Ireland of anyone who, in the opinion of the Irish immigration officer (and not, please note, in the opinion of Theresa May) intended to travel onward to the UK, but who would not be legally admitted there.

That’s it.  That’s the onerous condition imposed by membership of the Common Travel Area.  You can see why the Irish Government didn’t see any need to change it.  And note also that both the questioner and the Foreign Minister know that the Irish Government has the right and ability to negotiate changes in the agreement, or even end it, as and when it sees fit.

If Scotland seeks to attract new residents, we want them to stay here and contribute to our economy.  We want them to become a part of the fabric of Scotland.  We do not seek to open our borders to absolutely anyone who might ever have expressed an interest in settling in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and immediately pack them off on their way south, just to annoy Theresa May and the Daily Mail.  We could maybe sell them a packet of crisps and a tin of bru as they made their way to the English border, but other than that they’re not going to do a great deal to help grow the Scottish economy – which is after all the point of encouraging immigration into a depopulated land.

So when we distill away the froth, boil off the alarmism, and chisel away the disgusting wee crusty bits that cling to any Tory statement on Scottish independence, what we find is this:  Theresa May has just warned Scotland that she may have to impose border controls if an independent Scottish Government is even more vindictively stupid than a Tory Home Secretary.

I don’t think we need to worry about that Theresa.  But even in the unlikely event that it was as vindictively stupid, Scotland could always vote it out.  The Union doesn’t give us that option with Theresa.  We’ve only got one way of voting her out.