Sunday, 23 February 2014

Not in the paper review - February

Welcome to the second of our monthly series looking back at the stories which the main stream media in Scotland didn't offer much attention to, and comparing them to those that hit the front pages.

Scotland would be 11% better off immediately following independence
Stories regarding Scotland's economic strength have featured prominently online throughout the referendum campaign (with Business for Scotland achieving over 100,000 unique visitors and one story being shared 23,000 times!) however these tend to be dismissed and ignored by our Main Stream Media. Now we have confirmation that it isn't the medium but the message that the BBC, STV and the newspapers are opposed to.
The Financial Times released a bombshell story on Sunday, the 2nd of February which confirmed that Scotland would be far stronger economically following independence, even if we continued Westminster's wasteful expenditure.
"If its geographic share of UK oil and gas output is taken into account, Scotland’s GDP per head is bigger than that of France. Even excluding the North Sea’s hydrocarbon bounty, per capita GDP is higher than that of Italy. Oil, whisky and a broad range of manufactured goods mean an independent Scotland would be one of the world’s top 35 exporters.
An independent Scotland could also expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK." Financial Times, 2nd of February 2014
Even this may be underestimating the economic strength of an independent Scotland, with the full value of corporation tax and VAT being potentially understated.
"Neither do the figures account for companies operating in Scotland who currently pay taxes via head offices in England – taxes like Corporation Tax or VAT for example.  After independence these companies would have to pay taxes on their Scottish operations to the Scottish government, not the UK Treasury as they do at the moment.  It's very difficult to quantify just how much extra this would bring in, but it's certainly a substantial amount." Newsnet Scotland, Guilty of bias by ommission
It's almost as if the BBC in Scotland is biased...

Other stories which didn't make it
Spanish Foreign Minister confirms that Spain won't interfere with Scottish EU membership
Another 'no' campaign scare story, this time regarding EU membership, has shown itself to be nonsense as the Foreign Minister of Spain, José-Manuel García-Margallo, confirmed once again that his government will treat Scottish Independence differently from attempts in Catalonia.
"We don’t interfere in other countries' internal affairs.  If Britain's constitutional order allows – and it seems that it does allow – Scotland to choose independence, we have nothing to say about this." José-Manuel García-Margallo, Monday, 3rd of February 2014
The reality is that an independent Scotland is wanted in the EU. A large number of citizens from different member states live here, many European companies trade within our borders, and we are the largest oil producers in the EU. We add value and unless the 'no' campaign can show otherwise, we can't understand who would block Scottish membership.

The 18 month timescale which the Scottish Government has allowed is plenty of time to negotiate details with both Westminster and Brussels. We know this as another European nation, Estonia, achieved full membership just 9 months after a referendum (and they weren't existing members!)

Glance over the BBC
The BBC took the unusual step of blocking their own news broadcasts from being viewed this month. The reason - well, Reverend Stu at Wings over Scotland has the full story.
Also this month, the BBC had to pick which stories to cover. Whilst happily cheering the news that David Bowie is against independence (although he sent someone else to say this at a pop music award event in London), the story regarding former Prime Minister Tony Blair's 'advice' to Rebekah Brooks, which broke the day before, was deemed to be less important.
He said the inquiry would be “Hutton style” – a reference to Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly – and would “clear” her, but warned that “shortcomings” would have to be accepted as a result of the report.
He said the inquiry would be "Hutton style" - a reference to Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of David Kelly - and would "clear" her, but warned that "shortcomings" would have to be accepted as a result of the report. - Guardian Newspaper 19th of February

He said the inquiry would be “Hutton style” – a reference to Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly – and would “clear” her, but warned that “shortcomings” would have to be accepted as a result of the report.
He said the inquiry would be “Hutton style” – a reference to Lord Hutton’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly – and would “clear” her, but warned that “shortcomings” would have to be accepted as a result of the report.
"Britain could benefit from a Fascist leader," David Bowie (but he didn't mean it!)

Glance over the papers
'SALMOND DUCKS OUT' was the headline in the Daily Mail on the 14th of February. It claimed that the First Minister '(left) his deputy to be mauled on national TV...while he relaxes at home'. The only problem with this is that the night before Alex Salmond appeared on both of Scotland's flagship news programs. You can see his appearance on Scotland Tonight here, and Newsnight here.
Maybe we should describe this section as 'look at how ridiculously wrong the Daily Mail are!'

And now something that was in the papers!
Just not the ones in Scotland. The most glaring example were reports that a Scottish Pound linked to Sterling was viewed as sensible by Deutsche Bank. Our newspapers, the BBC and STV didn't believe this was worth mentioning (which was a bit careless of our journalists, wasn't it?) It's almost as if they didn't want to report the facts. We can only speculate as to why...
Join us again for our next 'not in the paper' review in March!
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Sunday, 16 February 2014

So who else can't use the pound?

Here's just a little sample of the different news articles that have appeared since UK Chancellor George Osborne's speech regarding a Sterling Zone:
"Three main political parties unite to deny a separate Scotland the pound" - The Telegraph
"Britain warns Scotland - Forget the pound if you walk away" - Reuters
"Alex Salmond no longer has the pound in his pocket" - The Guardian
"Scots lose pound if they vote 'yes' to independence in September" - Russia Today
"Scotland likely to relinquish the pound" - Liberty Voice
"Independent Scotland would have to leave pound" - Yahoo! News

Each of these headlines are wrong. The pound is a freely convertible currency which anyone can use. This was the point of our blog 'Ten a Penny - Westminster's Current Currency Threats" and again in "Rule it out!". But to prove beyond doubt that any nation, even those which has declared themselves independent from Westminster, can use the pound if they wish, here is a list of some of the countries which have done just that at some point during the last 75 years.
File:Flag of the Federation of South Arabia.svg
Aden - Federation of South Arabia
File:Flag of Bahrain.svg
File:Australian Flag with Aboriginal Flag.svg

File:Flag of Sudan.svg
File:Flag of the Bahamas.svg
The Bahamas

File:Flag of Cyprus.svg

File:Flag of Fiji.svg
File:Flag of Hong Kong.svg
Hong Kong
File:Flag of Ghana.svg

File:Flag of Iceland.svg
File:Flag of India.svg

File:Flag of Ireland.svg

File:Flag of Jamaica.svg
File:Flag of Nigeria.svg
File:NZflag proposal-dignan.svg
New Zealand

File:Flag of Singapore.svg
File:Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg
Trinidad and Tobago
File:Flag of South Africa.svg
The Republic of South Africa

And here is the list of countries which couldn't: ...none
Of course, this confusion could have be stopped if our printed press or the BBC had wanted to highlight this reality. Unfortunately they feel no obligation to do this, which is why we, the people who will be voting in the referendum, are being forced to seek out the facts for ourselves.
The important question to ask is this: if all of these nations above used the pound (or had currencies which were linked to the pound) without any problems from Westminster, then why is Scotland different? Why, alone amongst the nations of the world, is our use of Sterling such a threat to them?

Senior adviser to Chancellor George Osborne
The truth is that Westminster is engaging in a form of psychological campaigning. They believe that by making us feel worthless, useless and frightened we will allow them to continue holding sway over us. It's a sickening strategy which we've highlighted in the past and although it shows no signs of ending, it is also doomed to fail. No matter how many times our newspapers talk us down, no matter how many 'no' campaign press releases the British State Broadcaster slavishly repeat, no matter how often unelected Lords tell us we can't achieve anything, the self evident fact that we have value will reach enough people.
And people who value themselves don't bow down to bullies.
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P.S For anyone is interested, you can find the Yes Scotland Q&A on this topic here. If what you are looking for is missing, then you can send Yes Scotland a question directly. Just click here to post them a message! Finally, the numerous Business for Scotland articles which highlight the benefits of a currency union to the rest of the UK can be found here.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Showing solidarity?

One of the reasons put forward by those wishing a 'no' vote is the idea of solidarity. This argument appears to be kinder than some that we've had to respond to but nevertheless continues the myth that our only value comes from us being run from Westminster. We'll get to that later, but first let's look at the logic:
'If Scotland were to vote Yes, then the remainder of the UK would be forced to endure perpetual Tory governments.'

In a practical sense, Scotland does not make that much of a difference. We can influence the size of any Labour or Conservative majority, but only twice in the last 70 years has seats from Scotland changed which party formed the government at Westminster, both when we had more representatives. And the number of MPs we are to have will be reduced further from 74 in 1940's, to 59 today, to 52 at the next election, making us less important than we already are.
The First Past the Post system championed by Westminster and the 'no' campaign means that elections are decided in a handful of marginal seats, and because Scotland has been politically stable for so long, and the number of marginal seats here are therefore so few, our significance is further lessened.
"We found that in 195 seats (30% of the total) no money was spent on public meetings by any candidate. In those seats the average majority was four points higher. In five seats nothing was spent on advertising. Of these five seats only one, Knowsley, had any money (£40) spent on public meetings at all.
These figures reflect the reality of a system where your vote counts more depending on where you live. As the loss of safe seats is rare, parties target resources on a small number of floating voters in marginal seats. This means that some voters are much more valued by the parties than others, calling into question the fundamental principle of democracy – that all votes are created equal." - Democratic Audit UK
Another fault of the First Past the Post system is that people tend to vote against who they fear instead of for who they want. This makes both parties (Labour and Conservative) afraid to offer any radical policies, and this stifles debate. Why risk wholesale reform when all you need to do to get in is trash the reputation of the opposition?

Because of this, it does not make that much difference which half of Westminster is elected. There has been much written in recent years about how similar the modern Labour and Conservatives Parties are to one another. Here are links to some of them:
Scottish independence and the English working class
Labour and Tories - two cheeks of the same arse?
UK economy: Tories and Labour now have almost identical policies - be afraid
The no campaign highlights another Tory-Labour pact
"Yet in the midst of what is quite clearly a systemic failure of the economics that Thatcher championed, Labour’s reaction to it – and to the ideology of austerity that is being promoted as the route back to “business as usual”  -remains shot through with fear.  Faced with the effect of cuts, Ed Balls’ response is to promise that Labour will keep the cuts and possibly make more of its own.  Faced with the effective destruction of state education, Stephen Twigg’s response is a near-Trappist silence.
Faced with an unprecedented assault on the living standards of the poor and disabled, Liam Byrne’s reaction is to parrot Tory language of sanction and desert, of “hard-working families” rather than citizens empowered as of right. Faced with a society in which low pay is endemic and living standards in free-fall, it falls back on vague language about “predistribution” which, as far as I can see, amounts to little more than asking big business to play nice (some chance).  This is an opposition that could not get its Peers out to amend the Health and Social Care Bill, but whips its MPs into line to attend Parliament’s tributes to Thatcher." - Neil Schofield (Notes from a broken society)
If our staying with Westminster makes almost no difference to which party gets in, no difference to the voting system, and no difference to the policies of future governments, then how exactly does this kind of solidarity help anyone? And even if that weren't the case, is it right that Scotland forces upon the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland a government which they do not want? Do they not have the responsibility to create a system which fits their needs?

I believe that Scotland can influence the world through deeds. I believe that ending Westminster's wasteful expenditure, from basing military personnel concurrently in over 80 countries around the world, to endless foreign wars, to useless nuclear weapons, will inspire those in the north of England and elsewhere to demand more from their governments. I believe the creation of a codified constitution, written by the people themselves, will guarantee the rights of future generations and inspire other nations to follow suit.
Many in the 'no' campaign disagree with this and suggest that Scotland would lose influence even though we have no direct representation at the UN and countless other international organisations, and the only reasons offered mirror those given against women suffrage in the early 20th century. They believe that we have no intrinsic value without Westminster.
I feel that our unquestioned solidarity with all Westminster policies is misguided. Let's instead show solidarity with Sweden's education system by matching it's level of spending, let's show solidarity with Finland's research and development focus by adopting the same approach, let's show solidarity with Norway on welfare and pensions and let's show solidarity with all the Scandinavian countries when it comes to poverty:
"Let’s look at probably the most important rating for any Western democracy, poverty rates (per Unicef):
United Kingdom – 19.8%
Sweden – 2.6%
Denmark – 5.1%
Norway – 3.9%
Finland – 4.3%
Jeff Breslin - Means to a Referendum"
And most importantly, let's show solidarity with the people who call Scotland home, and not accept those who actively conspire against our interests.

The diplomat and philosopher Joseph de Maistre said: "Every nation gets the government it deserves." It is the responsibility of the people of Wales to get the government they want for Wales, it is the responsibility of the people of Northern England to get the government they want for Northern England, and it is the responsibility of us to get the government we want for Scotland. It is wrong for us to wish to impose on others a government that they do not want just because we think it would be best, just as it is wrong for others to do the same to us. Solidarity is standing alongside others as equals, not meekly agreeing to follow their every command in the hope that somehow they will change.

Let's show what can be done with a focused, representative parliament. Let's vote Yes and display true solidarity with the people of the world.
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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Rule It Out!

One of the favourite tactics of the ‘no’ campaign is to suggest that every and all post-independence proposals from the Scottish Government can’t work.

This approach is laced with half truths and weasel words. Rarely an out and out lie (although sometimes it is), it will often fly in the face of reality and logic. To each one we ask ‘why don’t you end any uncertainty and just rule it out?’ We’re going to look at two examples today: Currency and Shipbuilding.
We already covered this topic in our blog, ‘Ten a Penny - Westminster's Current Currency Threats', but we’ll highlight the main points again.
There are two types of currency union: ‘formal’ and ‘informal’. The Pound Sterling is a fully convertible currency and its usage by non-Westminster controlled nations cannot be denied. It would be like claiming gold would have no value in an independent Wales. The Pound will be used and accepted from day 1 of an independent Scotland, the only debate is whether we gain direct representation on the board of the Bank of England (an example of a 'formal' agreement), or if we look to create an alternative body (probably with a similar function to the Bank of North Dakota).

With that out of the way, let’s look at what ‘no’ campaign members are claiming:
“But if Scotland became an independent country, we would need to put in place our own currency arrangements; new currency arrangements. The bottom line is that a currency union may not be in the interests of Scotland or the continuing UK and it is highly unlikely to be agreed - not because of any malevolence, but because it wouldn't work.” Alistair Carmichael (STV News 13th of November 2013)
It wouldn’t work?  What wouldn't work, a formal or an informal currency union? In either case why say it is ‘unlikely’ to be agreed. Why would you ever agree to something that 'wouldn't work'? Why doesn’t Mr Carmichael state that the Bank of England, which independently of Westminster controls interest rates in Scotland, would simply refuse to continue this function following Scottish independence?

Of course, Mr Carmichael could just ask the Governor of the Bank of England his view on whether or not it can work:
"The Bank of England would implement whatever monetary arrangements were put in place." Mark Carney, 29th of January 2014
The problem with the 'no' campaign's approach is that, contrary to the words of the Secretary of State ‘for’ Scotland, a shared approach is the most likely outcome.
“The pound sterling is not English money, it is British money, and just as with the Bank of England it is owned by the people of Britain in proportion to population. The political union has long ago stopped working in Scotland’s favour, the currency union still makes sense and will be of equal benefit to both Scotland, and the rest of the UK if maintained. What hasn’t yet sunk in is that a Scottish currency could be made to work for Scotland, but the threat to the rest of the UK would be significant if Scottish energy and Scottish exports were removed from the sterling zone’s balance of payments.” Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp (Business for Scotland)
The interesting thing to note from the earlier interview from Mr Carmichael was him stating that "international law is clear: the UK would continue. The UK's currency would continue and the laws and institutions that control it like the Bank of England would continue for the continuing UK.” This would be fantastic news for Scotland as 'no rights = no debts'. Why should we take on debts relating to a currency which apparently had nothing to do with us?
We can definitely rule out Westminster denying the value of a Pound in an independent Scotland. And we can confirm that members of the ‘no’ campaign will continue to hint and suggest otherwise until the 19th of September.

This topic can also apply to the broader issue of manufacturing in Scotland but shipbuilding has been most prominently used example by the main stream media since news of over 800 job loses between the Clyde BAE shipyards was announced.
First, let’s look at what the ‘no’ campaign claims:
"It is worth noting that, other than procurement activity undertaken during the World Wars, no complex warships for the Royal Navy were constructed outside the UK in the 20th Century and the UK Government remains committed to using the strengths of UK industry in this specialist area." Philip Hammond (Herald Newspaper)
Apart from the specific falsehoods within this statement, the overall suggestion that the UK Government would have no ships built in Scotland is highly unlikely. There is a rather obvious reason for this: military contracts are given to BAE systems. They decide where ships are built, not the UK.
"BAE owns the yards and pays the workers. BAE is the shipbuilder. The shipbuilder is  not the state. The state is the client which orders and pays. BAE delivers. BAE has restructured its naval defence business in agreement with the state so that future orders can be delivered on time and on budget. How likely is it that, having reached this agreement, the state would renege and leave BAE with empty yards and unemployed staff? If that decision was based on a political reason and if that had been predictable all along – like a referendum – wouldn’t the state be liable for BAE’s costs (£3bn) and might it not be in breach of contract?
Also, from what Hammond and the procurement minister Philip Dunne have already said – as I mentioned in a previous post – the frigate decision is coming after the referendum and before the establishment of an independent state. In other words, Scotland will still be inside the UK when the contract is awarded. Therefore, technically, no conflict with the aim of building “in the UK.” Derek Bateman (Derek Bateman Broadcaster)
There’s another important point to consider: how well is Westminster managing our shipbuilding industry under there watch? With the added boost of defence contracts, which they assure us will forever take place in the UK, surely our shipyards would be amongst the busiest in Europe, with perhaps only our largest neighbours rivalling our success?
“Yet today the shipbuilders of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, none of which are low-wage economies, still thrive, each pulling in hundreds of millions of pounds of orders annually, with even little Scotland-sized Norway providing 2% of Europe’s output compared to the UK’s paltry showing of less than 1%.” Scott Minto (Wings Over Scotland).
Why doesn’t the ‘no’ campaign rule out, categorically, any UK Navy vessel being even partially built in Scotland following independence? Because the most likely outcome is that some UK warships will be constructed on the Clyde. That is what BAE wants and that is what’s best for Westminster. The ‘no’ campaign won’t rule it out because it would tie their hands and hurt their interests following a Yes vote.

Better Together debate coach
You can extend the ‘rule it out’ response to most Westminster scare stories, including Pensions, the EU and NATO.
If what they say doesn’t mean yes and doesn't mean no, then it doesn’t mean anything.
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