It wasn’t Sturgeon who was threatening EU migrants in 2014

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon

I have noticed a lot of British nationalists calling Sturgeon a hypocrite recently.

They suggest that she threatened EU citizens with expulsion during indyref1 and that now she is doing the opposite by criticising Theresa May for her current stance. They base their accusation on this quote.

We have set down a robust and common sense ­position. There are 160,000 EU nationals from other states living in Scotland, including some in the Commonwealth Games city of Glasgow. If Scotland was outside ­Europe, they would lose the right to stay here.

I’ll not spend too much time on this because it is such a weak claim.

Clearly the Sturgeon quote is not a threat and is simply a statement of fact. It says nothing of what the Scottish Government position would have been in regards to EU migrants if Scotland were left out of the EU post independence. That the SNP didn’t mention what their position would be alludes to the fact that the SNP were then arguing that Scotland would transition seamlessly into the EU.

The SNP were trying to discourage any other scenario from happening.

If it did happen then given that our economy is reliant on immigration, an independent Scotland excluded from the EU would certainly have granted EU citizens the right to remain.

Theresa May

Theresa May

The position of Sturgeon differs from the position of May because Sturgeon was talking about a hypothetical situation her actual policy was trying to avoid. Theresa May, on the other hand is currently dealing with a real grave crisis of her own making, and she has the power at her disposal to reassure those affected.

Anyway, while looking back at what the SNP were actually saying about the EU at the time, I discovered a speech Alex Salmond made at the College of Europe, Bruges on 28/04/2014. In the speech Salmond emphasises the democratic deficit in the UK. He confirms Scotland’s will to be independent but to remain at the heart of Europe, and he warns about the Eurosceptisism that would subsequently result in Brexit.

At the time our European friends did nothing to help or encourage the proposed independent Scotland within the EU and now everyone is suffering the consequences of their inaction.

Many people thought that Salmond’s warnings of Brexit were hyperbole. I would imagine many EU dignitaries that heard him speak that night now feel guilty they didn’t pay more heed to his words.

I will leave you with an excerpt from the speech which, with the benefit of hindsight, is both prescient and profound. Not least because Salmond predicts where the real threat to EU migrants was likely to come from.

The case for independence rests on a simple but overwhelming truth – that the best people to take decisions about the future of Scotland are the people who live and work in Scotland. That applies to domestic policy – how we create a fairer and more prosperous country. And it applies to international policy, how useful Scotland can be to the world– including decisions about when we pool sovereignty with others.

Alex Salmond

Alex Salmond

But at present, our ability to take those decisions is constrained by our constitutional position, as part of a state where Scottish members make up less than 10% of the total in the Westminster Parliament. The leading party in the UK Government has but one seat out of the 59 Scottish constituencies at Westminster. In fact, for more than half of my life, Scotland has been governed by parties from Westminster which could not command a majority in Scotland.

That’s a profound democratic deficit. It affects all areas of Scottish life. And because of the rising influence of a virulent strain – not just of Euroscepticism, but of Europhobia – at Westminster, it now poses a real threat to Scotland’s place in Europe.

The College of Europe invited Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in October 1988, to speak about the United Kingdom’s place in Europe. Her speech is known in Britain as the Bruges speech. At that time, it was seen as a deliberate rebuke to proposals being put forward by the European Commission on social policy.

It is a mark of how much the debate has moved that Margaret Thatcher’s Brugge speech seems almost commonplace now and not the radical departure it seemed at the time. But there is no doubt that it helped to inspire and empower a strain of Euroscepticism which has had an enduring and damaging influence over UK government policy ever since.

The consequences of these developments are becoming clear. Every single one of the four prime ministers since Margaret Thatcher has pledged to put Britain “at the heart of Europe”. Yet the reality has been quite different. Today Britain sits at the margins of European influence, and if Scotland remains governed from London, we face the prospect of an in-out referendum on whether to be part of the European Union at all.

Interestingly, it is unlikely that Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister, would ever have endorsed such a course of action. She questioned how Europe worked – not whether to be in Europe. But David Cameron’s proposal is to hold just such a referendum in 2017. It is a position which no politician in Scotland would ever have considered to be reasonable. There is virtually no support for this step in the Scottish Parliament.

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In these circumstances, people in Scotland would almost certainly vote to stay in the EU – but the result for the UK as a whole is much more doubtful. A Yougov poll last week found that in Scotland, voters support staying in the EU by 2 to 1; elsewhere in the UK, there is almost a 50-50 split.

And so because Scotland makes up just over 8% of the UK population, it is conceivable that unless we choose to change our circumstances this September, we could be dragged out of the European Union against our will.

Therefore the real risk to Scotland’s place in the EU is not the independence referendum in September. It’s the in-out referendum of 2017(sic).

That decision on Europe isn’t the primary reason for seeking independence – the main reason for seeking independence is a desire to gain the powers any normal nation has; the powers we need to build a fairer and more prosperous country.

But the contrast we now see – between playing a full and equal role in Europe as an independent state, or potentially leaving it against our will – is an important additional factor in the Scottish constitutional debate. It highlights a fundamental truth: that the best way to make a positive contribution, is as an independent and equal partner to other nations.

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Important BBC news just in: old man has opinion on #indyref2

Ex SNP leader Gordon Wilson

Ex SNP leader Gordon Wilson

I don’t normally watch the BBC news because I’m in my thirties and try to avoid all children’s television except for SpongeBob SquarePants.

However, while waiting for Match Of The Day 2 to start last night I did catch the 10.20pm bulletin and was a bit surprised to discover what the BBC consider newsworthy.

I have never published a blog accusing the BBC of bias.

Those who spend their entire lives criticising them come across as loons and are counterproductive to the cause of independence. However, last night I did find it hard to work out why the second most newsworthy story was that Gordon Wilson thinks that Scotland is not ready for a second referendum.

Fair enough, Wilson is indeed an ex SNP leader, however he hasn’t been so for nearly 30 years.

He hasn’t been an elected politician since 1987. Of the two elections that were fought when he was leader of the SNP the party won less than 2 percent of the seats they ran in.

He is as entitled to an opinion as anyone but quite why the BBC thought that this was of such magnitude is beyond me. He has hardly been the keenest political mind recently. For instance in 2011 Wilson campaigned against gay marriage. He suggested that the SNP plan to legalise it would set back the independence cause.

While the BBC may argue having a quote from Wilson was justified, the actual report is pretty one sided.

A person with no power or particular expertise is given a platform on national television to spout a subjective opinion about a important constitutional issue. There is no attempt at balance or to have a counter argument put across. It’s just a series of doubts, first read out by the newsreader and then Wilson, about Scotland’s readiness to manage its own affairs.

The inclusion of the item so high up the news agenda can only really be explained by one of two things: either BBC Scotland are lazy and inept, maybe on a Sunday they are not capable of doing any quality reporting so just cobble together a story from the scraps of other programs.

Or this was a blatant attempt to influence voters the night before a key meeting between Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May. A meeting that might influence the track the SNP take with regards to another plebiscite.

Either way the effect is the same. The report is bound to sow the seeds of doubt into the heads of many casual viewers.

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Should we relax our Trident plans for #indyref2?

Trident II missile

Trident II missile

There was an article this week in The Herald by Phillips O’Brien who is a Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews. It made me think of our Trident plan from the last indyref. In it he points out how the weakness of the current UK defence force is an opportunity for the Scottish Government.

He writes:

Do not think for a moment that Britain’s Allies in North America and Europe are not aware of the growing weakness of Britain’s defence posture and the impact of Brexit? They have remarked on it widely and, were Scotland to have another independence vote, they would not intervene nearly so much as before to try to convince Scots to maintain the status quo. If the SNP and the Yes campaign develop their policies in a centrist, cooperative way, they could turn what was the biggest handicap in the last campaign into a possible plus. They could run on confirming Scotland’s commitment to European institutions and Nato.

It would mean that, far from using defence issues to try to scare Scotland into voting to stay in the Union, America and the EU would, at worst, stay out of the fray and, at best, might look benignly on what would be a reconfirmation of European unity.

The EU referendum result and the continued decline of the UK as a great power has made the Yes Scotland position stronger on this and many other issues. With that in mind, I think that an argument could be made for not focusing on getting rid of our nuclear deterrent next time:

  • The first reason I say this is that the Scottish public are split on the idea. We discussed this before so I won’t go into too much detail. However, independence should be about having a country that delivers laws that reflect what Scots think. If Scots are divided on Trident, there is no point making removing it a big pledge even if it pleases most previous yes voters. A decision can be made post referendum on the issue.
  • Secondly, Trident is a big negotiating chip. There are no real suitable places to have it other than in Scotland. If the UK wants to keep it then we could potentially let them use Faslane for a time period in exchange for other concessions. Even if we end up keeping the weapons on Scottish soil we shouldn’t show our hand before the negotiations begin.
  • Thirdly, by not proposing to immediately get rid of Trident we silence one of the key arguments against our plans during last campaign. Given the UK military cuts described by the professor in the quoted article above, keeping Trident means we can’t be accused of being soft on defence. As we said in the last blog, we should try to frame the next debate on our own terms. We can eliminate our opponent’s points before they have a chance to raise them.
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I would argue that on issues where the public are divided we need to be less radical in the white paper. There will be lots of other areas where we can be bold and still have majority support. Avoiding contentious issues will make the most important thing, winning a second independence referendum, more easy. There will be plenty of time to deal with Trident post independence.

We would love to know what you think in the comments below.

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We should base the economics of independence on the worst case scenario.

Salmond: Explaining things like a man.

Salmond: Explaining things like a man.

I was reading Kevin Hague’s latest rewriting of his oft repeated “Nat’s don’t understand the economics of independence” blog, this time published in the Daily Record.

In it, the only man in the world who understands GERS explains economic theory to window-licking separatists, in his signature condescending but slightly exasperated style. For the eight hundredth time he lays out just how much of a financial basket case Scotland would be if not suckling from the teat of mother Britannia.

In this instalment he whines about Salmond’s breathtaking arrogance. Salmond had apparently ‘mansplained’ (which to my knowledge is a portmanteau of the only type of explaining men are capable of) GERS to renowned economist Kate McCann of all people. Wee Eck told her that GERS actually hides a rosy financial picture of the Scottish economy, a theory I oft hear repeated by my fellow brainwashed acolytes who join me as I slavishly worship at the cult of self determination.

Salmond suggested that Scotland pays up to £35 billion pounds on UK public expenditure that we wouldn’t do if we were independent.

He argued that the savings we would make post independence by not doing so would dwarf the GERS deficit. Breathtaking stuff indeed although, sadly not breathtaking enough to render Hague incapable of writing his article again.

kEVIN Hague: The only person who understands GERS.

Kevin Hague: The only person who understands GERS.

Anyway, I don’t know who is right and who is wrong here. Probably neither of them. Point is, it doesn’t matter. The debate can’t be won by our side if we play by the opposition’s rules. It looks ridiculous for a member of the Scottish governing party to be rubbishing their own figures. This type of argument is a distraction and only plays into the hands of those who want to keep the UK together. It would be crazy to fight a second indyref and make the same mistakes we made the first time.

Here is the rub.

If everyone supporting independence spends their time arguing about what the finances will look like it will breed uncertainty.

As we learned previously, certainty is what undecided voters crave.

If everyone supporting independence accepts that Kevin Hague’s predictions are plausible, and we all have a plan to deal with that scenario, then we breed confidence.

If half of the country are seen by the undecideds to be accepting of short term pain in return for reaping the long term benefits, we will be in a more persuasive position.

We need to act like the GERS figures are bonafide when we argue the case for independence. We need to say, the first five to ten years are going to be tough but here is our economic strategy. We need to assert that in the long term it is better for us to be a small, independent, representative democracy at the heart of Europe. The economic prospectus should be based on us starting from a crippling position.

This tactic will have several advantages over the message from the previous campaign:

  • As discussed it will pull the rug from under one of the few decent arguments that the No campaign have left.
  • It will actually persuade a lot of level headed small “c” conservative types to vote for independence as they were put off previously by what they perceived as the Shangri la they saw many promote in 2014.
  • If we base our plan on the worst case, the reality can only be better. Not only because GERS may well not be correct but also because one of the only reliable predictors of how an economy will do is that they tend towards the mean. Poorly performing economies are likely to grow and vice versa.
  • The UK economy will also be in trouble when this debate is happening, and the prognosis for the UK economy will likely be poor. Therefore, even if we are selling a tough start to independence, then the choice will be between two rough situations. The safety and surety of union no longer exists.
  • It will either lead to the diversification of the content of, or the ultimate demise of, Kevin Hague’s blog.
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Learning from last time we should look to control the terms of the debate. We should look to nullify the obvious points our opponents are going to make before they even have a chance to make them.

Indyref2 shouldn’t be dick swinging contest about which country has the highest GDP and lowest deficit. It should be about which post referendum reality offers the greater prospects for Scotland in the future. What version of events will make us more like the most flexible, democratic, prosperous and fair countries of the world.

As we have said before, it is not the size of your GDP that matters it is what you do with it.

So, let’s neuter Kevin Hague and his ilk and their one repeated ad nauseam point about how Nats are deluded about GERS. Regardless of the true state of our finances, lets base our case on GERS being correct. Lets tell people our finances look grim, but we have a good plan to sort them out, and we have a good system in place to keep them healthy in the future.

Let’s point out that our finances got the way they are while the economic levers remain at Westminster.

Let’s make it clear that leaving the common market, and having the key economic decisions made by an outward looking, anti immigration, neocon Tory party in London isn’t going make things any better.

The key to winning this debate is to accept that while things may be bad for Scotland, the best remedy if for Scotland to take back more control.

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If we can’t win #indyref2 now then what’s the point?


New SNP deputy Angus Robertson

I don’t know what the best timing is for holding #indyref2. The arguments on both sides are pretty strong.

There are those who say it is in Scotland’s best interest to do it asap, to capitalise on the Brexit chaos, and to give us a chance of remaining within the EU. There are others who take the gradualist approach, who think we should take advantage of the new powers that are set to move from Brussels to Holyrood. Powers we could use to grow our economy so we are better placed to face independence.

Today Nicola Sturgeon announced that a new independence bill will be published next week. This raises the possibility of a second referendum being held before the article 50 process has ended.

This may be a risky strategy from the First Minster but the more I think about it the more an early referendum is appealing. It means for me that I might be able to get closure on an issue that takes up a lot of my time, for a nation unwilling to take control of its fate in the current climate is not one worth fighting for.

The future.

The future

Last time, a no vote was narrowly avoided by last minute promises of more devolution of power, yet at this juncture, the democratic deficit that so many yes voters fought to end could not be more obvious.

We voted to stay in the EU yet we will be forced to leave. The people negotiating our exit belong to a political party that less than 15 percent of the Scottish electorate voted for. That party shows all signs of favouring a hard Brexit which was not something that was actually on the ballot paper and is at odds with the outlook shared by the majority here. The process that will initiate our leaving is called ‘Royal Prerogative’, an antiquated, backward law that stems from the monarch’s sovereignty over the people.

The whole point of independence is that in Scotland the people should be sovereign.

The whole Brexit fallout is a distillation of just how far that is from the case. If we cannot persuade half of the population that democracy is the major issue here, then we might as well just accept our fate as a gangrenous appendage dangling from the torso of a long dead empire. Let’s just scrap the Scottish parliament while we are at it. We could just all sit back and enjoy our perpetual Tory future, as they sell every last iota of the British State to their own private companies, as they complete the job of extending inequality to American proportions.

Could an intervention get it any more wrong?

Could an intervention get it any more wrong?

Some will argue that Brexit is fair when viewed from the context of the UK as a whole. I’m not trying to convince those people. Those who call themselves “unionists” but are in fact not interested in true union at all. I’m interested in those who believe that Scotland is a nation. Who believed in 2014 that our nation belonged to a union of equals and was better off remaining inside it. Those who are deluding themselves if they think that this continues to be the case.

Still, many pundits will continue to inject some sobriety into the thoughts of wistful Nats like me.

I have lost count of how many times I have been told by sensible types that Scotland is a financial basket case or that England is our biggest trading partner. However, talk of surety in economic matters is up there with talk of mind control chemtrails. Good luck making the smug economic argument as the UK continues its self inflicted death spiral.

There are few things at all certain about economic predictions but there are things that we know about independence. The most prescient for this discussion is that our democracy will improve markedly overnight. If you look at any OECD markers for quality of life, the majority of the better off countries are small, EU states with representative governments. They are this way because they have relatively easy to manage economies, they are able to react better to big global events, and most importantly, they have parliaments that are answerable and reflect the will of people.

The only thing preventing Scotland from being like them is our own lack of confidence.

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Our current choice, between an antiquated, declining, backward looking UK and becoming a progressive modern state is so stark in the current climate that it is hard to even believe that we are so divided. True representative democracy should be a fundamental principle of nationhood and progress, but half of us seem to be intransigently fixated on remaining voiceless and ignored. Serfdom in exchange for the chimera of perceived economic stability.

That’s why I don’t mind if Sturgeon calls for a referendum now. If the only way we can win is if people are told by the Institute Of Fiscal Studies that they will be better off, then it won’t be any better than the UK.

However, if we can win based on the ideals of democracy, internationalism, inclusiveness and equality, then we may end up with a country worth living in. Nations are about the beliefs that bind us together, and if we can’t win when our ideology is so much more palatable than the alternative, then what’s the point?

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