Monday 28 May 2012

Will there now be a referendum in 2014?

The launch of the "Yes to independence" campaign on Friday 25th May was generally seen as lacklustre and a bit of a misfire. The emotional endorsement of American based celebrities and the singing of lachrymose "patriotic" lyrics failed to impress, even less persuade, anyone. Certainly not the press or the undecided. The publication of an opinion poll showing that 57% opposed "independence" and even that 28% of those who voted SNP in 2011 would not vote for "independence" revealed the scale of the mountain the Nationalists have to climb. They countered by setting out a strategy to get a million signatures on a web-petition in support of their position.

Yesterday, 27th May, at lunch time, the BBC Scotland's Economics Editor Douglas Fraser published this critique of the "yes" campaign's known positions on a number of vitally important matters in an "independent" Scotland. It was not at all reassuring for Nationalists: a number of their claims on the economy and on green issues were seen to be flaky or at least under challenge.

Last night the BBC ran one of its occasional series of "Big Debate" programmes on Scotland's Future. The result was revealing. Patrick Harvie and Nicola Sturgeon for the "yes" team disagreed on some fundamentals, with Harvie not enamoured with the SNP's certainty that "it'll be alright on the night", he didn't want to join the Euro (the SNP does) nor was he enamoured of their right-wing micro policies, e.g. low-competitive business rates.

The BBC iplayer only runs for 7 days.  I include below YouTube versions Part1 and Part2 of the debate

Part 1

Part 2

Anas Anwar and Ruth Davidson made good clear points but their job was made a lot easier by the contributions from the audience. On the economy Nicola got slaughtered. The continued use of the pound and/or the Euro was dismissed with contempt from many voters. She became more and more defensive and ended up looking peevish and rattled. Ruth Davidson made a very good point when she revealed that the SNP had never even asked the EU for legal opinion on the status of Scotland asking to join the European Union and/or the Euro.

Even on Defence and jobs, Nato membership and Trident, the Nationalist position was not accepted uncritically by the audience. The loss of shipbuilding jobs and the credibility of the Nationalists' military planning were exposed to ridicule. Trident is unpopular, no doubt, but the fact that it could be moved to the north of England was seen as not a real solution to the problem.  

On the Monarchy and the retention of the Queen as the head of state, the SNP's hypocrisy was revealed in all its glory. From full "independence" with a republican stance, elected head of state to "let's keep the Queen, it'll retain us a few Tory votes, maybe", it was emblematic of all the other u-turns on the economy, the Arc of Prosperity, joining the Euro, keeping the pound, pretend progressive while adopting neo-liberal policies and all the other contradictions and contortions that mark the Nationalist journey. 

All-in-all, the programme, and the events of the last weekend, must be profoundly depressing for the "yes" camp. It seems to me that, after the failed ballyhoo of their launch, with the revelation of the basic and manifold weaknesses in their case, they are in a much worse position now than they were last Thursday.

The other thing that occurred to me during the debate was the dread thought that there is 2.5 years more of this stuff before the referendum is actually conducted.

The final batsqueak of a suspicion was: given the disarray of the "yes" campaign and the evident weakness of their case thus early in their endeavour, maybe we won't get the referendum at all. The SNP has run away from the possibility of a referendum before, when Wendy Alexander challenged Alex Salmond to "bring it on" and he failed to do so. 

Maybe the bold Eck will find a reason not to have a referendum in 2014, a referendum which, on current evidence, he will surely lose. And that's the last thing he would want or ever allow to happen.

Monday 21 May 2012

The Spirit Level, the documentary

On 1st September 2010 I published this post about a new book called The Spirit Level which I thought contained a vital message for society and for politicians.

That message was simply that equality matters. Unequal societies are less cohesive and more miserable than more equal societies, the implications for politics being profound but obvious.

On Jan 21 2011 I followed it up with this .. a link to video and presentation material backing up the message of he book.

Now the authors of the book, Kate Willetts and Richard Wilkinson, are planning a film to spread the message. They are looking for support to get the project moving and their website is here.

It's well worth a read and it's a project well worth supporting in any way you can. If not with cash, then with blogging and tweeting and retweeting and in any way you can.

Monday 14 May 2012

Nationalist Inarticulacy

For years I have been debating with Nationalists about their faith in Scottish "independence" as the cure for what ills us as a society. Their arguments fall into two broad categories: Scotland gets a raw deal from London and would be better off without England dragging us down, and Scotland is the 6th (or 4th, or 14th) richest country in the world and we don't need the English to "survive".

It can be seen that these are conflicting positions: either we are impoverished by the Union or we are so well off we can leave tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock with no adverse impact.

It's also notable that, in discussion with Nats you get lots of opinion but not a lot of fact. Emotion is never in short supply but argument and reason and logic are. And you find that the Nationalist appetite for debate fades the more hard facts impinges on the debate.

There is another, extremely popular, Nat position which is designed to remove facts from the discussion altogether:  "I refuse to explain, I don't need to and I will not indulge in any discussion, so there!".
Today, on this thread, I got an almost perfect paradigm of that aspect of the Nationalist mentality.

It was from someone calling themselves jarfun and it is a classic of its kind;

"I support Independence although I perhaps would not vote SNP in an Independent Scotland. I support the SNP at the moment because they are the main party proposing Independence.
I support Independence mainly because I have lived through the last fifty years of rule from London,both tory and labour and I feel,honestly that Scotland has been let down by both of them.
I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way as if you think Scotland has had a fair deal from what has happened over that period then we should just agree to disagree.
It seems to me that doing the same thing and expecting a different result seems kinda silly (as a very clever man once said)
There just comes a time when you have to grow up leave the nest and take your own decisions and ,yes,make your own mistakes and make the best job you can with what you have. Alternatively you could just stay 'safe' with mummy and daddy and not realise what it is to be a grown up person taking charge of your own future.
Don't be afraid 'BRAVEHEART'"
The preamble is common; I vote SNP but I'm not a Nationalist. I'm a Nationalist because everyone else has let me down. Already you can sense the illogic of the position, in fact the first three sentences are by way of being a preemptive defence against the charge of weakness they see coming. Anyone who has really lived through the last fifty years has seen many changes and improvements in British life. No doubt there have been disappointments, but since our Nationalist friends won't tell us what they think they are it's difficult to quantify the impact of these "disappointments". I have certainly seen great changes and many improvements in my life and that of my children. What is unarguable is that both improvements and "disappointments" have been equally and randomly distributed across the UK and are not the result of any malevolence against any country or region. But since these nameless "disappointments" are never detailed, it is not easy to refute them.

One conclusion is that leaps from this approach is that the "disappointments" are internal, they are failings of the individual and that feeling of inadequacy is assuaged and targeted against the "them" that stop us from achieving whatever it is we failed to achieve in life. Better to blame "the English" than blame ourselves.

In the next section jarfun get the heart of how so many Nationalists address (or refuse to address) the constitutional question: "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way as if you think Scotland has had a fair deal from what has happened over that period then we should just agree to disagree". 

Nationalist Democracy

Vote for me, I have no desire to list 
the reasons for asking for your vote. 

This is known as the Monty Python and the Holy Grail argument; when faced with an argument you can't defeat issue the order....  "Run away! Run away!"

The implication is that us Nats, we're too lofty to indulge in mere explanation. We believe in "independence" and that's that. Why should we try to persuade the Scottish people? Who do they think they are to demand explanations? "independence" will solve all our problems and if you don't believe it, we don't care. Look at them with all their questions and concerns. Well, I know the answers they want, but I'm blowed if I'm going to waste my breath actually telling them why I think what I think...

Actually it's an admission that they have no defensible position. At least not any position based on reason and logic. Facts, who needs 'em? says jarfun. I'm convinced and that's good enough for me. I want to get involved in your argument (otherwise why post here), but not to the extent of actually saying anything meaningful. I'm above that (actually, that's beyond me).

Having based their position on illogic and evasion, the next step is to add a veneer of intellectual respectability.... "..It seems to me that doing the same thing and expecting a different result seems kinda silly (as a very clever man once said)"

Einstein did say such a thing (in many powerpoint presentations). But to call the scientific method in justification of "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way" is a grotesque distortion and misunderstanding of the meaning of that method. Einstein, and indeed any scientist, would laugh out of court a petitioner who said ""I have no desire to list the reasons i have for believing that Gravity acts in this way or light does this or that in such and such a situation". In scientific terms it's a pathetic avoidance and a refusal to face the problem. Just as it is a pathetic avoidance in political terms when our Nationalist brethren claim "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way"    It's too tempting to conclude that you have no desire to list the reasons because you have no reasons to list.

The rest is just rhetoric. Of course adults leave the nest. Adults also take responsibility for their actions and beliefs. No self respecting adult would say, apropos an important political and constitutional question, "I have no desire to list the reasons i have for feeling this way as if you think Scotland has had a fair deal from what has happened over that period then we should just agree to disagree".

That sort of avoiding the conflict is the very essence of adolescent barrack-room-lawyer-speak. Ha! Those adults, they think they're smart but little do they realise that they're up against the greatest intellect that ever failed an o-level. They think they can beat me but I'll just give them my enigmatic stare. That'll bamboozle them, and I'll follow it up with my unanswerable broadside...."I have no desire to list the reasons nananananana, see!". Retires to bedroom to play high intellect computer games.

It's interesting that this version of the higher inarticulacy is so widespread in Nationalist circles. It's more interesting that even the most prominent Nationalists, from Alex Salmond down, have no real factual argument in favour of "independence" that they deploy in any public forum that I have seen or heard. 

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Why oh why, what's the point?

My profile states....

"Me, I'm just a sensible, moderate, fellow, who thinks that the Tories have the wrong recipe for a decent society. Even when they correctly identify the problem, they always get the wrong solution. I also believe that chasing Scottish independence is a sad waste of time and energy. It's a great sorrow to me that I have spent so much of my political energy opposing Tory wrong headedness about the Welfare State and Nationalist wrong headedness about the constitution, rather than concentrating on addressing the real problems in our country. Please blog politely and on subject. Anything abusive, obscene or too far off-subject will not be posted."
 Last year I posted this "Ah Luv Ma Cuuntry" ..... In which I bewailed the fact that Labour and the Nats have so much in common but we waste our energies on the futile battleground of "independence". After pointing this out to a Nationalist acquaintance, and getting a nod of agreement, I asked why, in that case, we were always at each others throats. I got the response "but ah luv ma cuuntry".... Depressing is not the word....
I've just seen the BBC report on the fact that Labour and the SNP are to form a coalition to run Edinburgh City Council. The leader of the SNP Group Steve Cardownie said "Labour is a Social Democrat Party and so are we (the SNP), so we should be able to work together".


We don't need "independence" to address the problems that beset our people. We just need to work together in the here and now. Instead we waste time and political energy pursuing the whole pointless idea, while those who need us wait and suffer.

It's a crime, IMO. A disaster which is absolutely and utterly avoidable. If only our Nationalist brethren would give up their obsession with abstract constitutional questions which solve nothing and help no-one. Why don't they realise that if we always work together and concentrate on solving the real and immediate problems which affect our communities we could, and probably would, make real progress to a better society.      

After all that's what we all want, isn't it?

Friday 4 May 2012

Hubris, all uninvited....

The Nats said they would take Glasgow. They said it would be proof of the onward march of "independence".

Eck campaigned for it.

Nicola campaigned for it. 

Political pundits campaigned for it (what a juicy story).

The Sun campaigned for it over tea and tunnocks.

The speeches were written, the limousines were ordered, the tartan bunting was bought, the champagne was on ice and the SNP's ghostly rabbit logo was all but projected onto the walls of Glasgow City Hall. Rupe was invited and the streets were scoured for any other passing American billionaire to add lustre to the celebrations.....
Alas, hubris, all uninvited turned up first.... sorry lads, time to burst a balloon or not you Eck, the thought of that just doesn't bear thinking.
No, the balloon that we have to burst is the one emblazoned "SNP over all control in Glasgow". Let's prick it now, it's getting in the way of that big red balloon with "Labour over all control in Glasgow" thats pushing its way in.... "pop" gosh, hardly a sound...the ghostly rabbit has crumbled.....pffssssssss the air's all out now....

There there Eck, don't cry. You'll still get your chance to lie to, sorry explain all about whether your phone was hacked by your new mate Rupert to the Leveson Inquiry in front of all those TV cameras.

Just ignore those dismal Jimmies who think you should explain yourself to merely elected politicians at Holyrood. What do they mistake you for: someone who cares about the voice of the people?

Oh look, a big balloon with the word "Democracy" on it.... Eck, give me back my pin! Eck!!! 


Wednesday 2 May 2012

The King is in the altogether...

It has been noticeable from Alex Salmond's performances in Holyrod that he (until recently) has had nothing but contempt for his opponents, the leaders of the other parties, the parties themselves, MSPs, Parliamentary processes and the Parliament generally.

I believe that it is this contempt that has allowed him the psychological space to relax and swipe away any question on any subject and give him his dominance over Scottish politics. If you don't respect the the questioner, the question or even the forum in which the question is asked, then it's easy to be dismissive. People of no account asking pointless questions in an irrelevant assembly: who cares? Say anything or nothing. Insult, reject, ignore. Hold me to account will you? We'll see about that, here's the back of my hand? Smack! Which he has been his attitude to all and sundry for a very long time.

But that was then....

REcently, Labour leader Johann Lamont has been getting under the First Minister's unexpectedly sensitive skin.
At today's FMQs, Johann Lamont conducted a forensic dismantling of Salmond's defence of the FM's  relationship with Rupert Murdoch. As well as revealing the SNP leader's too familiar relations with the man declared unfit to run his own corporation, she asked the killer question: has the FM's phone been hacked?

Answer came there none.

Ruth Davidson asked the same question, as did Willie Rennie.

Eck dealt with their interventions more confidently, after all they are even less significant than the puny eected leader of Scottish Labour, but still he didn't answer.

Because he doesn't care. It's only the pretendy Parliament, why should someone as important as the Eck himself have any concern with the petty questions of merely elected Scottish Parliamentarians? After all, he's the Eckus Maximus, the Fat First Minister, the top dog, the law-unto-himself, the boss, the Natfather, friend of Murdoch and Trump and master all he surveys. Who are these elected politicians to question him? Much less why should elected politicians expect any sort of honest answer from the great Eck?

But it no longer holds water. Not only has Johann Lamont punctured Eck's balloon on too many occasions for the myth of the FM's invincibility to be maintained but the confidence of his demeanour is no longer enough to carry the day.

The king is naked and the crowd can clearly see his embarrassment. They laugh. They point. They aren't taken in any more. The crown is squinty and about to be knocked off.

The contempt has been turned around 180 degrees. Now it's pointing at Salmond himself. And the Murdoch-lover is crouching down and covering his nudity and his vulnerable privacy. No longer the crowned head of contempt, he has become the epitome of naked contemptibility.

 Contempt from such  creature is no longer contempt: it's a joke, a fleabite. Laughable .

And when the tyrant's contempt is ignorable he is no longer tyrannical or to be feared.

The Wettest Drought on Record

Neat headline in the Guardian today "The Wettest Drought on Record" (hardcopy, not online for some reason) over an analysis by their Environment Correspondent John Vidal. It highlights the irony of half of southern England being under feet of floodwater while the water companies maintain drought alerts and hosepipe bans.

The exasperating contradiction is too evident to stress, but it reminds me of a conversation I had with an MSP just after Devolution so it must be 12 years ago approximately.

I noted the predictions of climate-change driven weather patterns that there would be more rain in the north and less in the south and asked why we couldn't do something practical to address it.

My suggestion (I'm no expert so it might be nuts) was to put 6 or 8 feet (or whatever) on top of the retaining walls of all Norther English and Scottish reservoirs and to find a way, perhaps some sort of water grid or fleet of tankers) of delivering the excess we had to our southern neighbours.

Would it work?

Huvnae a clue, but nothing else has been done meantime....

Is it too late?

Dunno, but shouldn't someone be asking/trying/doing something?

Just a thought....