Goodwill hunting

There’s a misleading article in the Scotsman today – I know, I was as shocked as you are – whose pro-Union spin has already been analysed over on Wings Over Scotland.

Sterling, as has been repeatedly pointed out by the BT crowd, is not a tangible asset. It cannot be divided and apportioned out. Therefore, by a leap of unfounded logic, the rump UK gets to keep it while indy Scotland will have to use cowry shells. Or clappy doo shells, since cowry shells are hard to come by on the beach at Rothesay – which might have palm trees but it’s not that tropical.

As a punter, you trot along to your local megastore, where you a new t-shirt. Some t-shirts cost more than others. But some punters are prepared to pay more for a posh t-shirt from a posh shop, because it looks far better with your trendy Russian czar beard and hornrimmed specs and has a certain social cachet that a cheapo t-shirt from the Barras just isn’t going to give you. At least if you’re someone like my nephew who’ll pay £65 for a t-shirt if it comes with the right designer name. £65, for a t-shirt. Insane. But there ye go. Still, at least he’s avoided the King George V beard.

Onieweys, the company producing and selling the £65 t-shirts is going to have a value that’s considerably greater than a company producing and selling a similar quantity of t-shirts that get flogged off in the Barras for a fiver for a pack of six. The difference in the value of the two companies is due to the fact that punters with more money than sense will cheerfully cough up lots more for the designer name because it increases their shagging chances when they go out for a night on the pull. Unless of course you have been known to find shagging partners in dark back rooms deep within less salubrious bars where no one is going to notice that you’re wearing an unfashionably cheapo t-shirt – but that’s probably Too Much Information. Still, at least I can console myself with the thought that my nephew has far higher standards than I ever did.

The difference in company value, if not the difference in standards of the company you find as pulling partners, is due to the designer t-shirt company’s customer goodwill and reputation. It’s not a tangible asset, but it still has a very real commercial value.

Sterling is the same. It has value as a freely tradable currency because of its reputation and the trust of its customers – the people with Sterling notes and coins in their pockets. That reputation and customer trust is as much a result of the efforts and resources of the people of Scotland as it is of the rest of the UK. The reputation and trust enjoyed by Sterling depends in part upon the contribution that Scotland has made to the Union over the past 307 years. It’s Sterling’s goodwill.

The M&A Dictionary of financial and commercial terms defines goodwill as:

“The amount paid for the company over the book value of the seller’s assets on the balance sheet. Goodwill accounts for the target firm’s intangible assets, such as brand equity, customer relationships, or intellectual property.”

Meanwhile a company dealing in the sale and purchase of commercial organisations, South Florida Business Brokers defines goodwill in the following terms:

“In the practical sense, when selling a business, goodwill is all the hard work and effort the seller has put into the business over the years. When acquiring a business, goodwill is the difference between the tangible assets and the purchase price.”

These definitions apply equally to Sterling as a currency. Sterling is an asset, even though it is an intangible asset, and its reputation does have value, even though that value may be difficult or impossible to quantify. So if Westminster is going to lay sole claim to a Scottish intangible asset, Westminster must compensate Scotland. No assets, no debt.

Otherwise we have a position comparable to two business partners who have jointly worked to build up a business, but later decide to go their own ways. Westminster is acting like the business partner who insists that the company’s debts will be apportioned equally, but they are going to hang onto the company name, reputation, and customer goodwill, only agreeing to a grudging division of tangible assets, while refusing to compensate the other partner for the intangible assets and goodwill they jointly built together. It’s like saying to Scotland, we will continue to supply t-shirts to posh shops, you lot can flog yours off in the Barras for a fiver for a pack of six.

In technical business parlance, this is known as “taking the piss”. And it’s a guaranteed means for Westminster to piss away what rapidly diminishing goodwill it’s got left with the people of Scotland. The asset in question may be an intangible one, but the effects of the debt are very tangible indeed. Perhaps Westminster ought to remember that.

 

Making plans for Nigel

Wee Michael Crick, political correspondent for Channel 4 news, could hardly contain himself. “This could be the most exciting by-election in my entire career as a political reporter,” he gushed, after a Tory MP bearing an alarming resemblance to Ann Widdecombe in man-drag announced he’d be leaving parliament.

There was nothing honourable in the honourable member’s announcement. Patrick Mercer, Eurosceptic MP for the constituency of Toryville in Toryshire, had been caught selling political influence to lobbyists and had been suspended from Westminster for six months in punishment. But he was going to fall on his sword, or rather, stick it into Davie Cameron, and provoke a potentially embarrassing by-election.

But that wasn’t the real dishonour casting shame and disgrace on the entire institution. The really dishonourable bit was that Patrick had got into all this bother for just a couple of thousand quid, and not for the promise of an extremely lucrative six figure career, a directorship and a consultancy. We already knew MPs whore themselves to commercial interests, but they’re not high class sex workers plying their trade in exclusive hotels, they’re dockside rent boys who’ll offer a knee trembler up an alley for a tenner. It’s not the thought that Westminster politicians sell themselves that’s so offensive. It’s that they’re so bloody cheap.

But what was getting Michael Crick all excited was that the by-election would be held shortly after the European elections and the local elections in England, when it’s expected that UKIP will perform strongly and could even become the leading party in terms of vote share in England. Michael thought likely that Nigel Farage, UKIP’s bawbag in chief, would stand for election and could become UKIP’s first MP, inflating the right wing populist bubble even more and increasing pressure on Davie Cameron to hold an in-out referendum on EU membership.

Torygasm upon torygasm, Michael mused about the possiblity that the Tories might respond by sending in the clowns, and put Boris Johnson forward as candidate. Boris wants Davie’s job, because the Tories think that the way to make up for the unpopularity of a posh rich Etonian PM is to choose another rich Etonian who’s even posher.

And that’s what could have been the most important and exciting by-election of Michael Crick’s career. A showdown between a rightwing Thatcherite bawbag and a rightwing Thatcherite clown. One wants to abolish the Scottish parliament and replace it with a glorified Commons committee, the other thinks that a pound of government spending is better spent in Croydon than in Strathclyde.

But by Wednesday morning Nige has announced that he’s not a bawbag, he’s a crapbag, and he won’t be standing in the by-election. It would be a distraction, Nigel said, and he’d look like a carpetbagger. Though why that should worry a man who looks like a spiv wasn’t explained.

The real reason of course is that Nige couldn’t be sure he’d win, the constituency has a huge Tory majority and UKIP would require an unprecedented swing of over 25% in order to take the seat. And if he stood and lost, he’d have burst his own bubble. Especially since Labour has no chance of winning and would not have campaigned too hard in order to give the Tory candidate a better chance, whereas the Lib Dems may not have stood at all. UKIP is a major threat to the interests of the established parties, and they’ll cheerfully plot together to keep them at bay – which is the only similarity between Nige’s inward looking little Englandism and the outward looking Scottish independence movement.

Other Tory commentators had mused that it’s too early for Boris to return to Westminster. Boris is waiting for the outcome of the Scottish referendum, if there’s a yes vote Davie will come under intense pressure to resign, then the blonde clown can do his Bonnie Prince Boris impression and return like the king over the watter.

But although the bawclown facedown isn’t going to happen, the episode is further illustration of both the vast gulf which has opened up between Scottish politics and the politics of England. What place does Scotland have in a Union whose politics are dominated by the Tory party and its mutant UKIP offspring.

Labour doesn’t have the answer, Labour voters are deserting Ed’s mini band for UKIP in ever increasing numbers. Labour is also forced to tack to the right, or more accurately even further to the right, in order to forestall the loss of its support Nige’s band of swivel eyed loons.

Still if nothing else, the weather forecast would be much more interesting if UKIP was in power. We’d have much more to hurl abuse at than a misshapen map. We’d be getting told there was a surge in sodomy in Shropshire leading to heavy showers, and an outbreak of oral sex in overcast Ongar.

But UKIP continues to gain in strength. And that’s not a joke.

They tell us they don’t want Scotland to become a foreign country. But by their own actions, their own politics, they show us that Scotland already is a foreign country. One they neither care about nor know much about.

Better together with this farago of farce? You’ve got to be joking. We’ve got to make our own plans for Nigel, and get away from this.

 

Preparation Hate

I’m sick of this mince. Heartily pissed off, fed up, and growing increasingly angry. A short while back there were reports that the Better Together campaign was having meetings to rethink its failing strategy. A few weeks have passed, and it turns out that the new strategy is the same as the old strategy, just more of it. Fears, scares, slurs, threats, hypocrisy, attacks on alicsammin, and transparent psychological projection. The same as before, just at greater volume and with greater frequency.

Project Fear is not talking Scotland’s language. They’re the stereotypical British tourist abroad, thinking that they can make the natives understand English by speaking in a loud voice. Their blank incomprehension is met with SHOUTING MORE LOUDLY.

Already this week we’ve had Alicsammin being besties with Vlad, the accusation he’s threatening to block international access to Norwegian waters in a fit of pique, wee Wullie Hague warning – again – that we’ll be thrown out of the EU, accusations that Alicsammin is lying about the living wage, an allegation that the Yes campaign is illegally using front organisations to get round campaign spending limits which conveniently merges with the warning that the Yes campaign is funded by homophobes, the warning that consumers in the rest of the UK would boycot products from an independent Scotland, yet another borderline racist cartoon in the supposedly liberal Guardian, and the claim that an independent Scotland will have to implement deep austerity cuts and won’t be able to afford free education or health care.

And it’s only Tuesday. We’ve still got Danny Alexander’s speech to come. He’s due to repeat his warnings of economic meltdown tomorrow. So that’s something to look forward to.

We shouldn’t complain really. It’s still a failing strategy. More of the same will merely guarantee that it fails more comprehensively.

But I’m fed up with it. Because there’s one thing I hate above everything else, and that’s being patronised by duplicitous self-admiring morons who cherry pick facts in order to scare and intimidate. These people, our governors and directors, our leaders and would-be opinion formers, they’re not clever, they’re not big, and they are possessed of less insight than you find between the covers of a Ladybird Jack and Jill storybook.

Tomorrow’s announcement from Danny Alexander will go the same way. See Danny. See Danny wave. See Danny tell off naughty Alicsammin. See Danny warn we’ll all be poor. See Danny ride in a ministerial motor. See Danny fall flat on his smug overpaid over-promoted face.

Will this week’s barrage of fearbombs convert any yes voters to don’t knows? Will it persuade any don’t knows that Westminster and the UK media really have our interests at heart. I wouldn’t bet on it. Westminster is betting everything on it.

When this campaign started, the Union thought it was going to win handsomely. Alicsammin was just a minor irritation, soon to be salved with the balm of Westminster authority and a demonstration of their power. Scottish independence was going to be brushed aside, and everyone could return to business as usual.

I sigh in resignation every time another scarebomb bursts. And I’m actually interested in the debate. Project Fear never considered the effect of their tactics. They thought that a tidal wave of toxicity would deter the less involved from taking the question of independence seriously. Instead it’s made them stop taking Project Fear seriously.

Alicsammin was jut a wee haemorrhoid in the arse of the Union, but the Project Fear couldn’t help scratching it. The more it itched, the more they scratched, and the bigger their piles got. Now they’re impacted and bleeding. If it wasn’t for the Preparation Hate so lovingly concocted by the media, two parts bile three parts lie with a dash of venom in a litre of contempt, the arse would have fallen out of Better Together’s campaign months ago. But their medicine has a toxic side effect. It exposed them for the incompetents that they really are. It exposed their disdain and arrogance. Who wants to be governed by people who know little about us, and what little they do know they hold in contempt?

They’re not sitting comfortably now. We’re getting it up them.

 

Independence podcast

The other day I did an interview with Michael Greenwell for his great series of independence podcasts.  The interview is now online on Michael’s blog, here

Or you can download and save the podcast directly by clicking here.

So that saves me from having to write anything much today.  I hope you enjoy the podcast.  I certainly enjoyed my conversation with Michael.

 

So long, and thanks for all the pish

The Guardian’s golfing correspondent, Sevvie Bull-As-Stories, has been at it again, trying to hit Scottish independence into the long grass with a mighty whack from his Pinocchio nose. According to Sevvie, who is rapidly acquiring a reputation as the Alan Cochrane of Islington Towers, evil alien lizard overlord Alicsammin has threatened to turn his death ray on the poor EU’s fishing rights, leaving Brussels cowering in terror at his shameful piscine bullying.

In the clickbait that constituted Sevvie’s article, Alicsammin threatened to exclude 12 EU member states from Scottish fishing waters if an independent Scotland is excluded from the EU. Sevvie cherry picked parts of the speech Alicsammin delivered in Bruges on Monday in order to make out that he was threatening devastation for the rest of the EU if they don’t grant Scotland membership. It’s possibly the first time that we’ve seen trolling and trawling simultaneously, at least in the pages of the Guardian.

You can read the entirety of the Bruges speech here. It’s remarkably light on bullying and threats, and doesn’t contain any passages along the lines of “Bow before me puny humans.” Of course we may have missed those, what with us being under the influence of Alicsammin’s hypno-ray.

But all that happened in real life, as opposed to the fervid imagining of Sevvie, was that it was quite reasonably pointed out that if Scotland is excluded from the EU, as has been threatened repeatedly by the UK Government and its allies, then the EU deprives itself of access to Scottish fishing grounds – which contain some 20% of EU fish reserves. He also made the point that EU access to Norwegian waters depends on reciprocal arrangements with the UK, which granted Norway access to Scottish waters. If the EU were to exclude Scotland from membership, they also exclude themselves from access to Norwegian waters.

This is considerably less of a threat than “we’re not going to let you use the pound”, or “we’re considering annexation if you persist in trying to get rid of Trident”. However in Guardianland, it is bullying to point out that Westminster’s threats have consequences for Westminster which might be as unpalatable as a two week old fish supper.

Sevvie doesn’t attempt to explain the logical consequence of his own chain of thought – just why should Scotland continue to allow EU nations access to Scottish fishing waters if the EU has excluded Scotland from the EU and won’t allow Scottish trawlers access to EU waters? Should we continue to allow EU trawlers into our waters out of the kindness of our internationalist hearts then?

Sevvie doesn’t attempt an explanation because there is no logical basis to his argument. Except that is, the logical basis of stirring up as much mud as possible from the murky depths in the hope that some of it will stick on the yes campaign. OOOooooh see that Alicsammin. He’s a BAD man who’s going to stop lickle kiddies in England from getting their fish fingers. If you vote for him you’ll be bad too. See that small child plaintively clutching an empty box of Findus? That’s your fault that is, nasty cybernat. That’s the only logic Sevvie needs.

Memo to Sevvie: This hasn’t worked up until now. What makes you think it’s going to start working now that you and your pals have already blown their credibility with currency threats, warnings of alien invasions, and the cataclysm facing Western civilisation if Scotland votes for independence?

I suspect that Sevvie himself neither knows nor cares. He’s struck on a reliable formula which will ensure that the Guardian keeps commissioning more articles from him. Stirring up hatred for Scotland amongst the swivel eyed loons of UKIP who have descended on the Guardian like a purple rash ever since the Telegraph had a bonfire of their commenting rights vanities is a price well worth paying.

I can’t wait until September, then we can tell Westminster, the Guardian, and Severin Carrell – so long, and thanks for all the pish.

 

 

The charge of the shite brigade

Alicsammin loves Vlad, who’s currently impaling Ukraine on a pointy Russian stick. It’s all over the media, so it must be true. Alicsammin just loves Crimean kebabs with a spicy oligarch sauce. Labour and the Tories, naturally, are outraged. Appalled. Shocked. Mortified. Unionist politicians would never do anything like that.

The remarks were made during an interview for GQ magazine, the interviewer was Alistair Campbell. Yes. That Alistair Campbell. He of dodgy dossier fame. Of course Alicsammin’s comments about Putin were hedged about with enough qualifications to keep the dugs out the garden, but that didn’t stop certain yappy wee Labour and Tory MSPs digging their way through the mud and crapping all over the lawn. What he said was that Putin had successfully restored the shattered pride of the Russian people, which had been ground into powder by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He didn’t say he approved of Putin’s methods of doing so, in fact he explicitly said he didn’t. The only gushing approval in his comments was of the Russian people. Not their political masters.

Of course Alicsammin didn’t ask for Putin’s help in the referendum campaign. That would be David Cameron who did that.

First things first. Alicsammin’s opinions on foreign politicians are not relevant to the independence debate. We’re not voting to express our approval or disapproval of Russian policies. We’re voting to express our approval or disapproval of UK policies and the Westminster system of government. Unionist attempts to work a few anodyne comments by Alicsammin about an irrelevant issue into a reason for Scotland remaining under the Tory and Tory-lite governments of Westminster are a symptom of the poverty of their own arguments.

But they can’t help themselves. They rush to criticise Alicsammin because they still believe that the referendum question is “Do you want Scotland to be an alicsammin country?” They’re hoping no one will notice the even more gushing approval of a whole list of nasty dictators, oligarchs, strongmen, and out and out gangsters sprayed like a sewer outfall from the mouths of an even longer list of Labour and Tory politicians. Their attack on Scotland’s First Minister boils down to – see that alicsammin, he’s just as bad as we are so he is. Which isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation of the Westminster system.

But Alicsammin isn’t as bad as they are. He’s never accepted money or favours to promote an oligarch’s interests. Which is more than can be said for certain Unionists. And that is a whole lot worse than highly qualified approval voiced in a magazine interview months before the object of their admiration invaded Crimea.

In 2012, the Guardian reported that Tony Blair had accepted US$13 million from the government of Kazakhstan to whisper good words about President Nursultan Nazarbayev in the ear of Western governments. The Guardian article was titled “Blair’s moral decline”. Which is a bit misleading as it assumes that Blair occupied some moral high ground to fall from. But the man was always in the gutter. Meanwhile Peter Mandelson accepts lucrative fees for giving speeches and presentations to the Kazakh state enterprise Samruk, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Nazarbayev family. And according to the same Guardian report, Blair’s media attack dog Alistair Campbell acted as go between for Blair, and was spotted on a visit to the Kazakh capital of Astana. That will be the same Alistair Campbell who interviewed Alicsammin for GQ magazine.

Nazarbayev’s regime has been criticised by Human Rights Watch for its repeated abuse of human rights, imprisoning political dissidents, torture, disappearances, and closing down critical media outlets.

In May 2012, former Blairite cabinet minister and current BBC director of strategy James Purnell went to a dinner organised by Portland Communications, the Russian Government’s publicists. He was accompanied by Andrew “Lord” Adonis, who now advises Ed Miliband on industrial policy. Adonis had a number of high profile posts in both Blair and Brown’s governments – although he was never elected. He’s a lardy lord. Portland Communications, which is a paid shill for an impressive list of repressive regimes, was founded by Tim Allan, formerly Blair’s media advisor.

John Reid, who has been touted in some circles as the man to save the ailing Better Together campaign, is notorious for his contacts with unsavoury foreign politicians. Now that he’s left politics he’s touting himself as a performing artiste. You can book him for your wean’s birthday party, and he’ll blow up some balloons and advise on how best to get your dogs of war to perfom some tricks for the MoD. For a hefty fee or course.  He infamously accepted a holiday invite from the Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic in 1993. Perhaps we should be kind, and concede that John just isn’t a very good judge of character. A little bit of further reading about John’s own character can be found here and Iain MacWhirter’s opinion is here. You can judge John for yourselves.

George Cataclysm Robertson is a board member of the Cohen Group, a US lobbying organisation founded by the right wing former US defence secretary William Cohen. The group uses its contacts with governments to promote the interests of some seriously dodgy points of view. The Cohen Group has reportedly provided invaluable assistance to the Turkish government in its attempts to deny the Armenian Holocaust – for the reasonable fee of US$100,000 a month.

And that’s just with a bit of light trowelling. I haven’t done much in the way of digging into the numerous contacts between Unionist politicians and people you wouldn’t want to invite round for tea.

Hypocrisy much?  It’s the charge of the shite brigade – into the valley of the death of their careers.

 

Ed’s mini band

Ed Miliband and the Labour shadow cabinet have tried a new variant on the drive-by unionist technique. Not for them the Tory trick of sending up a cabinet meenister to Scotland, spraying a few dud bullets then running away again before anyone noticed they’re there and ridiculed them. Oh no. Labour is different from the Tories. Their entire shadow cabinet came up to Scotland and ran away again without even bothering with the dud bullets. They just went straight to being ridiculed.

Fortunately for Labour’s self destructive visit, the ongoing self destruction of the CBI took most of the headlines. Just today the Sunday Herald reported that CBI’s Scotlandshire director Ian McMillan is to get his jotters. Or rather, he’s taking early retirement, it was planned months ago, no really, and announcing it this weekend so everyone assumes he’s carrying the can is just more poor timing and honest mistaking on the part of the CBI’s bosses.

But back to Ed. According to the ever loyal Severin Carrell writing in the Guardian, Ed made an important speech at a meeting at an undisclosed location in darkest Lanarkshire – which was later identified as a community hall in Muirhouse in Motherwell where Ed was heckled on the way in and on the way out again.

Sevvie Bull-As-Stories lived up to his reputation as the Guardian’s guff correspondent, vailantly pretending that Ed and the Labour party haven’t lost their balls in the long Scottish grass. Although if they lost Ed Balls that might be a good start to finding their way back. Sevvie was keen to show Ed was engaging with the great unwashed, that would be us, and told us that the audience at the meeting was made up of no voters, yes voters and don’t knows. But the only bogie Labour scored was the one dangling from their nose, the one that makes the rest of us feel a bit nauseus to look at them.

Sevvie described the event as a public meeting, which is true and not remotely misleading – but only if you think public means “by private invitation only” and that the Royal Troon is a cooncil golf course which allows everyone to join even if they don’t have a dick. Labour’s leadership would have no problem with membership, seeing as how it’s full of them.

But of course Labour is the peepul’s party and is open to everyone, even those without a penis. Or indeed those without any apparent sense of shame. So any Labour event is public by definition, including the shadowy shadow cabinet meeting later held behind locked doors at a secret secret venue in Glasgow. Shadow cabinet meetings are pretty pointless at the best of times, but making a big deal about taking the shadow cabinet to Scotland – see they’re so in touch with our concerns – then not telling anyone where you’re holding the meeting, not even the tame media, not allowing anyone to ask any questions, and not telling anyone what was discussed piles up enough pointlessness to keep Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman in trading witty banter for at least an entire 45 minute programme.

What wasn’t so clear from Sevvie’s not at all misleading report was that the audience consisted entirely of Labour loyalists, of people who haven’t ripped up their club membership cards after 13 years of Blair, Brown, illegal wars, and the party being intensely relaxed about a tiny minority getting extremely rich and blagging subsidised drinkies at the 19th hole. Yet Ed failed to convince even these long suffering sowels. His performance was distinctly below par. And that’s the last of the golfing references. I hate the bloody game anyway. I also hate the games Labour plays, but you’ve probably worked that out for yourselves by now.

The people in the audience weren’t just any auld punters. They’re the front line troops that Better Together is relying on to go round chapping on doors, handing out leaflets in the streets, and trying to persuade the rest of us of the case for the Union. Reliance upon Labour’s footsoldiers was a core part of their top down strategy. Many of them will be taking an active role in the campaign, handing out leaflets and chapping on doors. Unfortunately for Ed they’ll be campaigning for a yes vote.

So you can understand why Sevvie wanted to stress the publicky public overtly open nature of an internal Labour gathering. Because if a meeting of Labour loyalists is producing an audience of yes voters and don’t knows, Better Together is totally screwed. But that’s what happens when you try to build a national campaign from the top down, the roof falls in on you.

Meanwhile, Better Together’s resident space hopper, Blair McDougall, was tweeting excitedly that there was “big news” in the indy ref campaign. He wasn’t talking about Ed, no one was. He wasn’t talking about the CBI, hoping that particular story would go into early retirement with Ian McMillan. Blair’s big news was that Frank Roy, the Labour MP for Motherwell, was going to be the new campaign manager, and he was responsible for Labour winning the General Election in 2010, at least in Scotland. At least if you believe Blair.

Frankie’s opposed to gay marriage, and even though the matter is devolved to Holyrood, he voted against allowing gay people in England and Wales to get married. He has managed to absent himself from a long series of votes on issues concerning lesbian and gay equality. Including the vote to abolish the infamous Section 28, a piece of Thatcherite hate legislation that criminalised the “promotion” of homosexuality by public bodies. Frankie has had multiple chances to consign hate laws to the bin, but didn’t avail himself of the opportunity. I’m sure I recently heard someone severely criticising the Yes campaign for accepting a donation from Brian Souter who campaigned to retain that homophobic legislation. Perhaps Blair will remind us who it was.

Frankie has truly fearsome powers of persuasion. In February he debated independence with the other other Blair, the Jenkins one, in front of his home crowd in Motherwell. In its report on the event, which members of the public without Labour party membership cards were actually allowed entry to, the Record sniffed that the no campaign really was in trouble if all those apathetic unionists out there couldn’t be bothered to show up. But it’s possibly just as well that they didn’t, as the paper also reported that towards the end of the debate an English member of the audience stood up and announced that Frankie’s woeful arguments had convinced him to switch from nailed on no to supporting yes.

All the pillars of Better Together’s campaign strategy are crumbling one by one. The CBI will not provide firing cover under a camouflage net of neutrality, Labour’s foot soldiers have deserted or mutinied, and the man just appointed to persuade us to switch from yes to no can’t even persuade no voters to support him. Ed’s mini band gets smaller and smaller every day.

The truth is, if it wasn’t for the likes of Severin and his media pals desperately trying to breathe life into the corpse, Better Together would have been cremated months ago.

 

Contractual obligations

May 2011

Dear Westminster,

As an enthusiastic proponent of the privatisation of governmental services, which you have repeatedly promoted as a means to cost savings, greater efficiency and accountability, we trust that you will wholeheartedly embrace the fact that our board members have, after considerable consideration, resolved to take your views to their logical conclusion.

You will appreciate that we have already made numerous complaints via your call centres, which are conveniently open once every five years, to express our disapproval of a number of aspects of your service delivery. However your automatic dialing system permits only a choice between 4 shades of approval – press blue for enthusiastic austerity and privatisation, press red for austerity and privatisation with a sad face, press yellow for a ministerial motor for Danny Alexander, or press purple for swivel eyed lunacy.

Therefore, following intense discussions amongst the 4 million voting members of the board of the Scottish National Cooperative, the decision has been reached to put our contract with you for parliamentary services provision out for tender.

We feel it is appropriate to advise you that the board has received a bid from an alternative supplier, which promises significant cost savings, greater efficiency, and vastly improved accountability.

However, as our parliamentary services provider for 307 years, we hope that you will embrace this opportunity to demonstrate that we are, as you repeatedly claim, better together, and that you will submit a new bid to retain your existing contract. In turn, we anticipate your exciting proposals for service enhancements going forward.

Please rest assured that we will consider your application carefully and sympathetically. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

Scotland

******

February 2014

Dear Westminster,

Thank you very much for the reply from your Chief Executive, Mr David Cameron. We are disappointed that he chose to deliver his presentation to the Olympic Velodrome in London, and did not present it in person to members of our board. Indeed for a number of our board members the subliminal message of being told to get on yer bike by a Conservative in London provoked a reoccurrence of a distressing medical condition – PTSD (Post-Thatcher Stress Disorder).

While we are heartened that Mr Cameron expressed his deep affection for all things Caledonian, we could not fail to note that he did not give details of the improvements to service delivery which had been requested. We are hopeful that you will remedy this omission in future communications.

Please note that we have now received a detailed proposal from an alternative supplier, and look forward to your bettering this offer. We trust that this will not be problematic for your organisation, as we are, in your words, better together. However we cannot fail to note that until now you appear to have interpreted “better together” as “you’ll be doomed without us”. We are sure that this is merely a temporary lapse, and that you will shortly present the positive case for the union which you promised on receipt of our letter of 2011.

Yours faithfully,

Scotland

******

March 2014

Dear Westminster,

Thank you very much for the joint submissions from Mr George Osborne, Mr Ed Balls and Mr Danny Alexander. However you must appreciate our distress that your sales team’s pitch was based on the surprising premise that your organisation has sole rights to a currency and central bank which we were under the impression we already owned jointly with the rest of your service users. This is a situation which we consider comparable to receiving a notification from our electricity supplier that they own our tv set, toaster, and the plug in spa foot bath we got as a Christmas present from Auntie Magrit, which now lives in the cupboard under the stairs along with the last remnants of the Scottish Lib Dems.

It is however regretable that none of the three gentlemen submitted themselves to questions from the floor after making their presentations. We can only assume that they are taking their cue from Mr Cameron and his repeated assertions that he is not getting involved in the debate while telling us we would be nothing without him.

We would also like to express our thanks for Mr José Manuel Barroso’s communication, in which he was so ably enabled by Mr Andrew Marr. We have since discovered that following in the long and venerable tradition of Portuguese right wing politicians, Mr Barroso’s intervention came in response to your offer to write him a letter of recommendation for a lucrative post with another organisation, and we would like to remind you that our board considers that a parliament which goes behind our back to make secret deals with foreign companies is a parliament which is unlikely to prove trustworthy. Indeed we have since received a number of communications from experts in the field of EU enlargement, who assure us that Mr Barroso’s intervention was, if you will forgive our employment of technical EU bureaucratic jargon, a pile o pish.

We have therefore passed on your communications to Edinburgh resident JK Rowling, who is, as you are aware, a leading exponent of the art of fantasy fiction. We believe she may be able to make productive use of them now that she’s killed off Voldemort.

We continue to await your positive case for the union with excited anticipation.

Yours faithfully,

Scotland

******

April 2014

Dear Westminster,

Thank you for the presentations from Mr Gordon Brown, Mr George Robertson and Mr Philip Hammond. They have indeed made a deep and lasting impression on our board members.

Mr Brown has now made three interventions on your behalf, each of which was apparently his first intervention in the discussion. We shall be charitable and assume that he forgot the first two. We must also bring to your attention another memory lapse on Mr Brown’s part – it may not have been a good idea to present a warning on the future of pensions by a man who is perhaps best known for wrecking the pensions of millions of workers and whose moral compass is stuck on a permanent spin cycle. However his intervention does prompt us to put a question to you in return – did you actually think this one through? Indeed, have you thought anything through at all?

We are especially grateful for the entertaining impression of Dr Strangelove provided by Mr Robertson, who we are informed prefers to be known by the name Baron Robertson of Port Ellen KT GCMG FRSA FRSE PC. Mr Robertson warned of an apocalyptic scenario should our board choose to reject your services. Having been told for the previous 2 years that we are an insignificant nothing, poorer than Rwanda and with an international presence considerably less than that of San Marino, it was heartening to learn that our contract with you is all that stands between world peace and the end of civilisation as we know it. Who knew we possessed such influence? However we should advise you that in Scotland, we prefer to refer to Mr Robertson by the name “Psychotic Walter Mitty Wannabe”.

We had not considered the eventuality of an invasion of lizard aliens from outer space, and are grateful to Mr Hammond for bringing this important matter to our attention. However we are of the view that a civilisation which possesses technology allowing it to successfully navigate the vast distances of interstellar space is unlikely to be deterred by a submarine which is incapable of making a successful orbit of the Isle of Skye.

We would also like to point out that, contrary to the impression given by your representatives, lizard aliens from planet Alicsammin are not the rival bidders for your existing contract. We are in fact proposing renationalisation, and intend to supply parliamentary services ourselves.

We cannot escape the impression that you do not in fact have any concept of what a “positive case for the union” might consist of. Please note that given you have now had some 2 years in which to make this presentation, we have little confidence that you will do so before the formal meeting of our board on 18th September.

Yours faithfully,

Scotland

******

26 April 2014

Dear Westminster,

You are running out of time until your contract is up for renewal, and we are running out of patience.

We have now come to the inescapable conclusion that your organisation is not in fact the world beating parliamentary services provider detailed in your glossy but misleading leaflets, but rather you are a bunch of clueless shysters who are only interested in furthering their own careers.

Please be advised that there are now less than 5 months until our full board meeting, and it is now looking increasingly unlikely that we will vote to continue with your services.

However should our board vote to cancel your contract, we are confident that following the market principles which you repeatedly promote, the cancellation will inspire you to remedy the deficiencies in service provision for your remaining customers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We consider this our lasting legacy to the union, a legacy which will have considerably more positive and lasting effects than anything you’ve done yourselves.

Yours faithfully

Scotland, your friends in the north

 

 

CBI: Cannae Be Involved

The CBI’s woes go from bad to worse.   The organisation has now announced that it will seek to have its registration as a No campaign supporter declared null and void, and admitted it was a mistake to have registered in the first place.  CBI’s director general John Cridland told the BBC that the business organisation had made an “honest mistake” in registering.  No honest, they’re telling the truth now.

It was also a mistake for them to pose as a neutral organisation when they’re as neutral as a bare wire in a puddle of pish, which wasn’t very honest of them at all.  No apologies from John on that one, because he’s fervently hoping that the CBI can go back to spraying its urine all over a live debate while posing as a detached voice of authority from on high.   Sadly for Honest John that’s not going to happen – over the past week they’ve electrocuted themselves like a mangy stray dug at a faulty lamp post.  But now they’ve been caught, kennelled and neutered.

Honest John said that the decision had been taken by a very junior staff member who didn’t have the authority and was operating way above his pay grade.   Which isn’t quite what he was saying just a couple of days ago when he assured anyone who was listening that the CBI had fully consulted with its members through the medium of astral channelling.  It’s just terribly unfortunate that their ouija board got stuck between the N and the O.

The ouija board took a sharp shift towards U-turn after the CBI took legal advice from a QC, who told them that their application for registration as a campaigning organisation may be null and void.  Which does kind of make you wonder why the supposed spokespeople for British industry didn’t do that in the first place.  Because if I was a leading business organisation and I was told to register as a campaigning body because of “legal compliance issues”, I’d find out first whether this was actually the opinion of lawyers before taking a step that was bound to create controversy – seeing as how the role of a business organisation like the CBI is to protect its members when they become involved in controversy.  The last thing they’re supposed to do is become an object of controvery themselves.  But they did that anyway.  And now they’ve made it worse.

Worse still is that they may not be able to deregister.  There is no mechanism in place for an organisation to cease registration after having registered.  Which is why the CBI is trying to argue that their registration was never valid to begin with.  Whether the Electoral Commission will accept this argument remains to be seen.  The Scottish public certainly won’t, and as far as the referendum campaign is concerned that’s all that counts.

The CBI wants us all to forget everything they’ve said over the past few days.  They’re not in favour of a no vote at all, how silly of anyone to imagine that.  They’re just not unopposed to not telling us never not to vote no, which is entirely above board and fits the BBC’s definition of impartiality.

Honest John said:

“Although the decision to register with the Electoral Commission was taken in good faith, in order to carry out normal activities during the referendum period, it has inadvertently given the impression that the CBI is a political entity – we are not and never will be.”

Apolitical entity? Forfend!  They’re a fully paid up member of the right wing British establishment.  Nothing political about that at all.  Oh no.  This is the organisation which campaigned against devolution, campaigned against the minimum wage, and campaigned against restrictions on bankers’ bonuses while supposedly representing public bodies and being funded in part from public money.  Of course they’re not political.  And in the exact same way, British nationalism isn’t nationalist and the BBC isn’t biased.  On hearing the news that the CBI managed the impressive trick of simultaneously drowning in its own incompetence while blowing itself out of the water, Patrick Harvie of the Greens said:

“The CBI is clearly not just a business network – it’s a free-market, right-wing lobbying group whose Scottish boss recently described inequality as an ‘abstract’ term. Given the recent exodus of members the question must now be why public bodies and neutral broadcasters ever joined such a lobby group in the first place.”

I’m sure there will be a Newsnicht Scotland special all about it very soon …

Like those other institutions of Britishness, the Westminster parlie, the Unionist parties, the BBC and the rest of the UK media, the CBI isn’t having a good referendum.  All the big beasts and the heavy hitters, the important people and the global players, shown up as a bunch of inadequates by ordinary people in Scotland organising ourselves.  We’re the munchkins on the Yellow Brick Road to independence, and now we’ve seen our political masters are as much a sham as the Wizard of Oz.  We clicked our red heels and saw they were never clever or competent, they were never powerful or potent.

Westminster and the British state are the impregnable fortress which was impregnable until the first time it was beseiged from within, the Colditz castle no one had escaped from until Scotland decided to plan a way out.  And then we discovered it wasn’t a castle on a hill hewn from the solid rock, it’s really a Mickey Mouse castle of cardboard in a Disneyland of deceit.  For generations Scots were taught we were too wee, too poor and too stupid, yet we’ve discovered our masters are weer, poorer and more stupid than us.  And now they’re the ones with the cringe.

So the CBI won’t be campaigning as an official No supporter after all.  In order to prove that they really did make a mistake – no, honest John we believe you – by registering as a No supporter, to avoid any tricky legal issues, and to rescue what is left of the tattered shreds of their credibility, they’re going to have to keep out of the debate entirely.   The CBI has reportedly assured the Electoral Commission that they will take no part in the independence debate.

From now on in, CBI better stand for “cannae be involved”.  Because we’ll be watching.

 

Transformational Generative Glamour

Noam Chomsky has announced his support for Scottish independence. It’s news which hasn’t made much of an impact in the avowedly anti-intellectual UK media, which on the whole prefers to cater for a readership which thinks Chomsky was one of the baddies in Planet of the Apes. However Chomsky’s support for the Yes campaign is highly significant. He’s yer actual heavyweight intellectual. The best the No campaign can manage is the confused meanderings of the lost marbles of Gordon Brown.

Chomsky is perhaps best known for two things – his academic work in linguistics and philosophy, and his criticisms of US foreign policy. In both fields he’s made a reputation for himself as one of the leading thinkers of our day. In the meagre coverage of his thoughts on independence for Scotland, the focus has been on his political views – anti-nuclear, pro-peace, in favour of social equality and freedom of speech. Views which are considered controversial in a warped world.

Chomsky is widely regarded as the father of modern linguistics. He revolutionised the discipline in the 1950s with Transformational Generative grammar, a theory which attempted to explain the mental and developmental processes underlying children’s acquisition of language. Until Chomsky, linguistics had been descriptive, studying the external manifestations of language – the languages, dialects and accents, and the use of language in society. Chomsky’s work opened up new fields in the research and study of the internal manifestations of language, how language works within the human brain, its interface with thought, learning, and psychology. It transformed linguistics from a purely descriptive discipline into a theoretical one and created whole new fields of study. Chomsky is to linguistics what Einstein is to physics.

Chomsky developed his theory on language in response to the work of the psychologist FB Skinner, the man who famously claimed that he could teach a pigeon anything. For Skinner, it was all about positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement, reward and punishment. The mind, Skinner argued, was essentially a blank slate at birth. The child’s environment and rearing were the chalk which drew in the adult, and the child learned by responding to positive and negative stimuli.

Chomsky disagreed, pointing out that children acquire language without being explicitly taught it. Human children acquire language seemingly by accident, whereas animals reared amongst humans fail to acquire language at all.

Dogs don’t learn to speak, even though they’re often reared and live as part of a human family, like the Dug, who’s currently sprawled over the sofa with his head on my lap -getting in the way of typing. Animals learn to understand a number of words and phrases, but often we misperceive their ability to read our body language as an ability to understand our words. Our minds focus on the words, the dog’s mind doesn’t. And we can’t always be sure that the dog understands the same thing we do when we utter a particular word. We call the dog’s name, the dog hears “here’s something interesting”.

With children however, it’s very different. Young children absorb words like sponges. They master complex and difficult grammatical rules – and do so without anyone explictly teaching them. Because very often the adults aren’t even aware of the rules themselves.

Ask your average working class Glaswegian if they can tell the difference between a transitive and an auxiliary verb and if they’re a smart arse, as so many of us are, they might say “Ah jist done it. Ah did so.” Which is just what happened there. In the first sentence done is a transitive verb taking a direct object. In the second it’s grammatically an auxiliary. While you might hear Weegies saying “Ah jist did it. Ah did so.” because of the influence of standard English, you’ll never hear a Weegie saying “Ah jist did it. Ah done so.” If they were using the two in a slovenly and careless way, they’d be just as likely to say one as the other. But they’re not, so clearly something else is going on.

There is a rule in the grammar of Weegie that demands that the past tense of dae / do is “done” when the verb is used as a transitive verb, and did when it’s an auxiliary verb. Far from being taught this rule, its users were told it’s slovenly and incorrect, but it’s not. And when they choose to use the standard English rule, they do that correctly too. It’s complex and grammatically sophisticated behaviour. It obeys rules. Just different rules from standard English. But its speakers don’t know its a rule, and neither do those who criticise them for using it.

It was Chomsky who first pointed out the weirdy weirdness of this. How do you learn rules if no one realises they exist? And that’s the difference between a truly great and influential thinker, and an ex-politician who milks the lecture circuit and whores himself round directorships. The great thinkers ask the interesting questions, and offer the inspirational answers.

Chomsky argued that the only way to account for the fact that children learn these unteachable rules was for the deep structures of grammar to be already hardwired into the human brain – like Windows 8 on your laptop, which like the mental hardwiring of language also has the side effect of causing the occasional outburst of swerrie wurds. These deep structures were transformed by the language or dialect the child was absorbing from its family and community, which is like the programmes you have installed on your laptop. And this in turn generates the child’s production of language – all the stuff you create with your laptop, like the cute photie of the kitten you just emailed to your cousin in New Zealand, the angry Twitter exchange, and your attempt to win £1000 quid in Bella Caledonia’s indy poster competition that turned out not to be such a great idea when you looked at it the next morning.

Chomsky’s ideas did not enjoy universal support, and set off a whole chain of other research seeking either to prove or disprove his views, including the famous experiments to teach sign language to chimpanzees and other great apes – which produced mixed results. It also sparked off investigations into Universal Grammar, and the commonalities behind the rich diversity of human languages. Research and study based on Chomsky’s contributions to linguistics, or research based on critiques of Chomsky, continue to this day.

Arguments rage on, because academics like disagreeing with one another – it’s sort of their job. But in one important sense Chomsky’s once controversial opinion is now universally accepted, everyone agrees that the human ability to acquire language is hardwired into the brain before birth – although there is still little agreement about what exactly this hardwiring consists of. And everyone also agrees that whatever your take on the current incarnation of Chomsky’s theory of grammar, his opinions cannot be ignored.

The point of this over extended discussion of Chomsky’s contribution to linguistics, philosophy, and psychology is to show that he’s not just some obscure academic best known for his trenchant criticisms of American foreign policy. Chomsky will go down in the annals of history as a figure comparable to Sigmund Freud, or Charles Darwin. He changed the way we think about things.

And when you’ve got one of the world’s leading intellectuals on your side, it knocks wee Dougie Alexander’s and Rory the Tory’s attempts at pseudointellectualism in defence of the Union into a U-KOK’ed bowler hat.

But there’s another reason Chomsky’s approval appeals to me personally if to no one else. In older Scots the word grammar came to mean a magical incantation, and then mutated further in sense and in sound to become the word glamour, meaning “enchantment” – which Walter Scott introduced into English whereupon it further shifted in meaning to signify fabulosity. Scotland’s transforming itself, generating new possibilities, and we’re changing the world with words. That’s real magic. It’s the transformational generative glamour of independence.

No wonder Chomsky approves.