Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The Imaginarium of Alistair Darling

I apologise for the rather confusing title.  It doesn’t make much sense no matter how you look at it, yet it reflects the rather nonsensical series of statements of Better Together (no) leader Alistair Darling during the length of the independence referendum campaign so far.

"You'll fail unless you do what we at Westminster tell you," Alistair Darling (probably)

Mr Darling has given us a number of predictions as to what will happen to Scotland if we vote ‘Yes’.  Let’s focus on just three.  Remember, these are unaltered quotes from the leader of Better Together…
"The other thing about currency union is that it would take you slowly and surely to economic and then political union. So what is the point of leaving one political union only to end up coming back to the exact same point several years later." (

“Remember this, we are not electing another government for five years, where if you don’t like it you can kick it out. You are voting on something that - if we decide to vote for independence - is irrevocable. There is no way back. They only have to win once and by one vote. And there is no going back.” (
It’s difficult to know where to start when pointing out the logical failings of these statements, but we’ll pick the most obvious one first; how can we “end up coming back to the exact same point (union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland) several years later,” if “there is no going back”? Those two statements, both of which have been uttered on more than one occasion, are impossible to reconcile and can only be described as being an example of ‘all scares to all men’.

 Official Better Together Badges (probably)

But even when we look at these statements individually they don’t make sense.  Darling's assertion, that currency union usually leads to political union, has little historical precedence.  The Republic of Ireland continued to use the pound for decades after independence and they didn’t go back to Britain.  Indeed, no nation that has declared independence from Westminster, and there are a lot of them, has ever asked to go back, despite many of them using the pound.  This list includes Egypt, Singapore and South Africa, and we can confirm that at the time of writing they remain independent.

The second statement is even more confused than the first.  As we mentioned before, not a single nation has wanted to give up the sovereignty it has regained from Westminster.  But if we’re truly ‘better together’, then why wouldn’t the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland not wish for us to return?  If we believe that they would hurt themselves just to be spiteful to us, then why would we want them to elect our governments in the first place?  (Of course, Mr Darling may simply be suffering from The Goldilocks Axiom).

“Uncertainty will damage business.  Sooner or later, a Scottish firm (the Royal Bank of Scotland) with 90 per cent of its business somewhere else is going to ask itself:  Is staying worth the cost?” (

"Clearly this emphasises, whether we like it or not, Scotland would not have had sufficient funds to bail out RBS or HBOS – and this is an admission from Mr Salmond that this is the case." (
Once again, correcting all the mistakes is difficult.  Even if we were to take everything else as accurate (which it isn’t) the obvious question for Mr Darling that we can take from these two statements is ‘why would Scotland need to worry about bailing out banks if the banks are going to be relocating abroad anyway’?  The always engaging Reverend Stu at Wings over Scotland asks the same question.

The first statement makes the assertion that Scottish businesses with large operations outside of Scotland will leave if we’re not ruled from Westminster.  Evidence of this is very light on the ground, indeed if this were true, then how does any smaller nation retain businesses?  If having part of your business based in a bigger market encourages you to leave, then why don’t Topshop or Pret A Manager relocate to America?

The second statement regarding bailing out the banks prays on misinformation.  Joan McAlpine brilliantly dismantled the ‘Scottish Banks’ argument in a blog back in 2011.  More recently, Business for Scotland smashed the same myth.
“So, as proud Scots who want a better future for Scotland, let’s be confident in saying: Yes, we are Better Together.” (

“Organisers of the ‘United With Labour’ campaign say they’re arguing for a fairer, better Scotland that stands strong within the United Kingdom.  They’ll work with the ‘Better Together’ campaign run by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.” (

“Better Together campaign refuse to work with UKIP in bid to keep Scotland part of union”
Admittedly, the second statement wasn’t from Alistair Darling but from the BBC, which was describing how members of his own party believe he is working for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, whilst the third was a headline from the Daily Record.  Keeping track of who makes up the 'no' campaign is a difficult task.  Perhaps their full name is ‘better together, so long as we aren’t seen with people we don't like or who aren’t very popular in Scotland…’

We could go on and on.  We’ve come across stories saying that we would be saddled with massive amounts of debt and yet not have access to the treaties and assets to which the debt relates to.  There have been scares that we won’t be wanted in the EU and would need to wait years to be allowed entry and yet our laws regarding pensions would need to change immediately after independence due to the EU regulations we would be subjected to as a full member.  The list is endless.

Mr Darling is trying so hard to scare voters that he will say things which he cannot possibly believe.  He can’t believe that future generations of Scots can never form a union with those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and believe that a union will happen.  He can’t believe that the banks will move their operations out of Scotland and that we won’t be able to afford bailing them out should they crash again.  He can’t believe that we’re ‘better together’ and yet won’t be seen with members of UKIP who are having an ever increasing influence over Westminster.

We are seeing the world through Alistair Darling’s imaginarium, and it is a confused and frightening place.

Although he has been unclear about the consequences of voting ‘Yes’, Mr Darling has, to his credit, been much more open about what ‘no’ would mean:
“If you want anything more than a fairly minor change to the constitutional arrangement then at some point you are going to have to ask the rest of the UK which means that all the parties in a general election would have to have in their manifesto what they would intend to do.

At the moment this question has been confined to north of the border but once you go a little bit further then you are going to have to engage with the rest of the UK which is a rather different debate to the one we have had so far..”
Perhaps Mr Darling hopes that a Conservative UKIP alliance will strengthen the Scottish Parliament, or that ‘one nation’ Labour will devolve powers to the four nations.

Or Mr Darling is simply confirming what Reverend Stu has said for months: Vote No, Get Nothing.
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Friday, 19 July 2013

Passenger or Driver?

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be...” Isaac Asimov
The world is always changing.

We like to have stability in our lives, the same home, the same friends, the same job, but eventually the passage of time means that these things change whether we want them to or not.  We can shape these events, or have them imposed on us, but nothing remains the same forever.  In essence, this is what the Independence debate is about.

Scottish voters select 4% of the representatives at Westminster.  This wasn’t enough to stop the privatisation of the Royal Mail, prevent the Bedroom Tax or advance renewable energy targets.  We are passengers who are unable to follow the course we believe to be right.

Look at what you could have won...

Westminster can’t offer stability, because there is no stability.  The world is changing and will continue to change.  Just a generation ago the army of the Soviet Union were occupying Afghanistan, not a single web page existed, and a litre of petrol was 38.4 pence (1989).  The world is unrecognisable and the same will be said a generation from now.  The question to ask is: do you want the people who live in Scotland to make decisions affecting Scotland?

"Oh by jingo, you North Britons can't do with me and my chums!" David Cameron (probably)

Distant Westminster will not put Scotland’s interests first.  Take the EU negotiations that Prime Minister David Cameron vetoed in 2011.  As Ian Rankin tweeted: “The United Kingdom consists of 90,060 square miles.  David Cameron has fought tooth and nail for 1 of them.”  As passengers we cannot stand up for ourselves.  Instead our strength and influence is used to advice the interests of a few.  This isn’t right.
"We need to protect job creators!" Coalition statement (probably)

Independence means that we decide what we should do.  We don’t need to follow a business attitude towards warfare, be at conflict with someone 4 out of every 5 years, and have foreign aid paid directly to a handful of wealthy individuals.

Passenger or driver?  We can 100% control over our car, or 4%.  I know which I consider to be safer.

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

He Who Pays The Piper (Part 2 - Outside Interests)

You can find part 1 here: Party Donations

One of the main reasons for supporting independence is the lack of any prospect of meaningful reform within the UK.  Regardless of which side gets in, there are certain aspects of Westminster governance that simply will not change.  As this blog could conceivably become the longest on this site we’re going to split it into three bite sized parts: donations, outside interests and honours.

Outside Interests
Politicians at Westminster have a tremendous amount of power, from the ability to create and influence our laws and gear them to favour certain practices and individuals, to ordering our troops to go to war regardless of public opinion.  It is important that their focus is to act in the interests of their constituents, and the best way to do that is to remove any potentially corrupting outside influences.

 "Why change?  We've got the best democracy money can buy!" Westminster MPs

Unfortunately we don’t get this protection.  Private interests are rife with 295 MPs receiving some form of income from outside work, totalling a staggering £7 million.  To many this will seem unbelievable but to the British ruling classes this is business as usual.

So why do they do it?  For some it is greed.  MPs at Westminster receive a basic salary of £65,738 per annum.  This compares to £27,000 for registered nurses in Scotland, between £21,428 and £34,200 for secondary school teachers and £31,032 for a police constable.  Compared to most public servants, they do pretty well.  Arguments that they will fall into poverty if they don't receive more are embarrassing and wrong.  If they can’t cope with £65,738, a fantastic pension and numerous other perks then should they be in charge of Scotland’s finances?

But immediate financial gain isn’t the only example of greed.  Social Investigations, a group which looks into political connections to healthcare companies, revealed that many of our MPs stand to make a big profit if the NHS continues to privatise.  The numbers are even starker for House of Lords members (

"Don't be so selfish, think about me!" anonymous Westminster MP (whilst claiming for expenses)

To see why this issue is so important, let’s look at one very famous example: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Being Prime Minister meant that he commanded a very generous salary however it was nowhere near enough to match the lifestyle he enjoyed whilst in office.  Don’t worry too much about the precarious nature of Mr Blair’s finances, after leaving office he found numerous sources of income and a string of companies who for some reason wanted to pay him:

£5m as an advance for writing memoirs.
£2m a year for part-time advice to JP Morgan bank.
£1.2m a year in estimated (minimum) earnings from the global lecture circuit.
£117,500 a year from Combined Prime Ministerial and MP's pension.
£90,000 a year in Public Service Allowance for the costs a former Prime Minister incurs from running an office.
£2m in expected (minimum) income from other private advisory roles.
Total £10.4m

Tony Blair left office on the 27th of June 2007.  By January of the following year it was announced that he would be working part-time for JP Morgan.  Since then, stories in the mainstream media have highlighted the possible conflict of interest that this arrangement created (Telegraph - Tony Blair 'visited Libya to lobby for JP Morgan'). 

The simple conclusion is this – politicians shouldn’t have any other jobs whilst being an MP, and should have a long gardening leave afterwards to prevent corruption.  It seems simple to us and we have a chance of making this policy with independence but the culture at Westminster means that change won’t come from there.

Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party who, according to opinion polls, is unlikely to ever have the opportunity to enact any of his policies, is only proposing a cap on payments from outside interests, not a ban (  Ironically one of the MPs who would lose out under this set up is former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose £1.37 million pound earnings for tax year 2012/13 would have to reduce.

The alternative for Mr Brown would be to resign as an MP, but then the people of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath would need to find someone to take part in 1 debate, ask 8 questions and vote 14% of the time for a mere £65,738.  Is there anyone willing to match this commitment?

Part 3 here

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Sunday, 7 July 2013

Paper Tiger - The UK's failing economy

The ‘no’ campaign has a message which it repeats ad nauseam: a stronger Scotland, a United Kingdom.  You may have seen it whilst online or come across it in debates, but does this argument have any validity?  The answer is no, in fact it is ridiculous to the point of being laughable.

"Why would you want to have a fairer society when we can be strong?" No Campaign statement

The first and most obvious point is ‘stronger than what?’  If they mean stronger than previously then why have they waited 300 years to getting around to making us ‘stronger’, and if they mean stronger than other nations then they are deluding themselves.

The UK is no match militarily to the United States, China or Russia, and that won’t change by maintaining political power at Westminster.  Stockpiles of gold and other precious metals, which can be important in times of crisis, are almost non-existent, and even Britain’s much vaunted seat on the UN Security Council won't last forever

Much of the UK’s dwindling power, be it physical, political or economic, comes from Scotland.  We know that Scotland would be a successful independent country, but the ‘no’ campaign is desperate to keep pretending that Westminster is a global player.

The UK has the 7th largest GDP in the world according to the UN.  This is a massive decline from 1938 when Britain was 1st (see: and and this fall from grace shows no sign of reversing.  The reality that we must accept is that the days of empire are long gone, and former colonies, such as Australia, Canada and India, are moving on and gaining ever more influence and power on the world stage. 

The decline is even more apparent when you consider the average wealth of each citizen in a country.  We consistently see small, independent European nations around the top of the list, with bigger nations trailing far behind.

The International Monetary Fund has 5 small European states within its top 10 wealthiest nations.  The World Bank has 6 as does the CIA World Factbook.  The United Nations puts the total at 7.  At best, the UK stumbles in at 23rd, which is far behind Iceland and Ireland (

Of course, this doesn’t consider the extreme concentration of wealth that successive UK Governments pursue.  The Independent describes the situation very well:
The (United Nations Human Development) report shows that the poorest 40 per cent of Britons share a lower proportion of the national wealth - 14.6 per cent - than in any other Western country. This is only marginally better than in Russia, the only industrialised nation, east or west, to have a worse record.

In an unpublished paper Michael Bruno, chief economist of the World Bank, says: "Reducing inequality not only benefits the poor immediately but will benefit all through higher growth."
Perhaps the ‘no’ campaign is suggesting that an Independent Scotland would be weaker without Westminster.  Militarily this is nonsense.  In December 2011, a Russian Fleet arrived within a few miles of the Moray Firth without being detected.  The Royal Navy sent its nearest available vessel to intercept, however it took days to arrive having travelled all the way from Portsmouth.  Politically this claim is nonsense too, as Scotland has just 6 MEPs to represent us in the EU compared to 12 from Croatia (which has a population around 1 million lower than ours).  We don’t get to attend every EU meeting and we don’t even have a seat at the UN!

But let’s return to the main point of economics.  The Scottish economy is falsely described as being dependent upon oil however this is a strange accusation.  Oil is a commodity which gains value in times of economic hardship: this means that nations which export (which Scotland excels at) do well when petroleum prices are low, whilst oil producing countries gain extra revenue during periods of uncertainty and economic hardship, exactly when we would want extra revenue.  North Sea oil is a fantastic stabiliser for our economy and one which Mrs Thatcher used to fuel her ambitions.

Compare this to Financial Services industry, which constitutes 9.6% of the UK's entire economy.  Unlike oil, which has 100 years of production remaining, is based in our territory and will be required for the foreseeable future, banks and other financial institutions are much more volatile.  Only constant appeasement prevents them from moving elsewhere.

The simple truth is this: if bigger were automatically stronger and better, then the members of the ‘no’ campaign would be pushing for a European Super State.  Their actions, however, are very much the opposite.  Instead they ironically argue that becoming Independent means that we’ll be merged into a much stronger organisation than Britain and that we’d have no influence ( see here - - we particularly like Mr Farage’s admission that MPs at Westminster consider themsevles to be our ‘masters’).

The UK economy is a paper tiger, and advocates of Westminster are trapped by the Goldilocks Axiom.  They can keep pretending that they’re still important, but we, the people who live in Scotland, don’t need to share their delusions.

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Wednesday, 3 July 2013

What voting 'Yes' won't do

A ‘Yes’ vote will change many things.  It will guarantee that the Government of Scotland has the support of her people, something that haven’t been true in 25 out of the last 43 years (since 1970).  Voting ‘Yes’ will also guarantee that an unelected, unaccountable body like the House of Lords doesn’t form a second chamber, removing one source of government corruption.

"History is unlikely to change with Independence," anonymous Doctor

But voting ‘Yes’ will not change certain things.  It will not be a final statement of our position in Europe.  It will not set in stone what currency we use, or what wars we enter.  All of those things will be determined by the Governments we elect, just like most of our neighbours.  Independence will not result in [insert latest Unionist scare story here].  And finally, there is something else that voting ‘Yes’ will not do.
One of the reasons often cited for voting no is the history Scotland shares with England, Wales and Northern Ireland (the last 300 years, not the millennia before).  I have come across those who argue that we need to be ruled from Westminster today because that’s what we did when we stood against Hitler and the Nazis, communist USSR, and countless other nations.  This argument makes even less sense than most for many reasons but let’s focus on the most obvious one: becoming independent will not change history.

"Scotland might miss out on the next war!" No campaign threat? 

Do we think less of the over 50,000 Canadian deaths during the First World War because they subsequently became independent?  Or, would Canada continuing to be part of the empire during the Second World War have made any difference to its outcome?  Such a statement would be condemned as ludicrous and yet this is the level of discourse of many within the no campaign.

There are countless other examples of why this ‘logic’ fails.  What of the 1,500,000 (1.5 million) Indians who died during the Second World War, did Indian independence lessen the importance of their loss?  Was it wrong of Malaysia to become independent when 100,000 of their citizens died alongside ours and those of other countries?  Did Indian and Malaysian independence make the world a less safe place?

"Westminster is the best place for these types of discussions to take place," says everyone at Westminster

The fact remains that the decision to become a sovereign nation should be made by the people based upon their needs and wishes.  Vague hints that doing what’s right will somehow be an insult to the dead are wrong, not only in a practical sense, but in a moral one too.  Modern day wars are often fought by many nations working together yet respecting each others boundaries.  Just as Denmark, Estonia, and the Netherlands have important roles to play in NATO and other international organisations, so would Scotland, however important decisions such as will we go to war can only be made in Scotland if Scotland is independent; otherwise we rely on the judgement of a government in Westminster who may not even have popular support here.

Westminster logic

A ‘Yes’ vote will change many things, one of them being the quality of discourse in our country, but our history will always remain the same.

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