Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dear George

George Robertson
George Robertson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 A wee note to Lord George Robertson in response to his piece in Scottish Review.

Calm down, George! Nobody is trying to shout you down. People are criticising your overblown rhetoric. People are mocking your "Prepare To Meet Thy Doom" shtick. But nobody is trying to shout you down. You yourself claim that many have offered support for your "cataclysmic" prognostications. (Although, somewhat conveniently, these supporters and sympathisers decline to come out from under the cloak of anonymity due, we're told, to fear of the bogeyman.) And it is certain that independence campaigners have no desire to silence you. On the contrary, it suits us just fine when some British nationalist  shoots his silly mouth off. It is always helpful to the independence campaign when British politicians demonstrate their complete detachment from the referendum debate and comprehensive failure to grasp the issues.

You complain that Yes supporters have failed to address what you like to think of as your "material point". I'll take a stab at that. Although I expect you'll wish that I hadn't.

Your "material point", as I understand it, is that the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status will have implications beyond Scotland. You appear to flatter yourself with the notion that you are the first to stumble upon this glaringly obvious reality, and seem convinced that others' acceptance of it as something quite unremarkable is somehow an attempt at concealment.

The truth is that anybody who has thought about the issue for more than a few minutes will surely have realised that the constitutional question is very much more than the little bit of nonsense that unionists tried to portray it as in the early days of the referendum campaign. Very much more than the political project of one party. Very much more than one man's "vanity project". It is unionists who have sought to play down the significance of Scotland and its place in the world. It is unionists who continue to sneer at Scotland's "pretensions" to be a nation like any other with its own voice in the world.

It is unionists who have hosed with disdain any talk of Scotland having a role in international affairs outside the UK. It is unionists who have always insisted that the UK is the major player and that it would continue to be so. The argument has always been that Scotland would sacrifice influence because all of that influence belongs to the British state and the British state would keep it all, leaving independent Scotland bereft.

Had you actually been listening to life-long independence campaigners such as myself, George, you would have heard us insist, repeatedly and as forcefully as we might, that changing the British state was one of the more important secondary objectives of independence. Far from denying that Scotland leaving the UK would alter the British state and its standing in the world, we proclaim this as a worthy aim in itself. Not all of us share your absolute conviction that the British state is an unalloyed force for good in the world. Not all of us see challenging the British state as some form of heresy.

This is because not all of us see the instability and insecurity in the world as something we should be seeking to preserve. The British state, as much if not more than any other actor, has created this world of instability and insecurity. Your plea that the British state serves as a stabilising force, dubious at best, has the ring of the arsonist seeking plaudits for trying to control the fire he started.

You refer to various "hotspots" in the world. What you fail to acknowledge is that the tensions involved are invariably the discordant echoes of past imperialism of the sort that the British state pursued with particular ruthlessness, and to which it still has more than a modicum of pretension.

You, George, are anxious to preserve the very global order that is responsible for all the instability and insecurity in the world. Not least, one suspects, because this global order provides you with a role and status that you find very gratifying.

Here's a thing, George! Why should Scotland be diminished in order to preserve what you imagine to be the righteous power of the British state? Why would anybody who truly has Scotland's interests at heart make such an argument?

You demonstrate your ignorance of Scotland's aspirations when you petulantly assert that "nationalists' entire reason for being is to undermine the United Kingdom". I would suggest that this silly statement tells us more about your own attitude than it does about the perspective of those who seek to restore Scotland to the normal constitutional status of a nation. It is a comment which appears to hold up a mirror to the grinding negativity of the anti-independence campaign.

You demonstrate your detachment from Scotland's politics when you claim that the referendum campaign has "moved the political focus away from poverty, education and health". The reality to which you seem totally blind is that political discourse in Scotland has been enlivened and invigorated by the referendum and is now more rich and diverse that it has been in decades. You make an embarrassingly big issue of your "Scottishness", but you show no signs whatever of being in the slightest way connected to Scotland's politics. You clearly know nothing of a political culture in which progressive, radical thinking is part of the normal, everyday language. A political culture which is increasingly distinct from and at odds with the British political culture that you represent and seek to preserve in the face of pressure for change.

And there we have the nub of it, George. What you fear and hate is not the idea of Scotland as an independent nation. It is change itself which holds only terror for you. The prospect of change terrifies you - as it must always terrify the comfortably complacent - because the odds are that change will affect the comfortably complacent adversely. Driven by your base instincts you seek to defend your cosy status quo by projecting all your fears for that condition onto the world at large. When you say that Scotland's independence will have unfortunate consequences for the world, you're really acknowledging your fears for how it will affect you.

Sorry to have to say this, George, but the status and rewards that you enjoy as part of the British establishment are not the overriding concern that you suppose they must be. To be perfectly blunt, I can very easily live with the prospect of you, and others like you, being diminished as an incidental by-product of independence.

I know full well that Scotland leaving the UK will have certain geopolitical implications. Unlike you, however, I do not quake in fear at the thought. Being more concerned with rational analysis of the situation than with feeding the Project Fear propaganda machine, I see absolutely no reason why Scotland restoring its independence should by catastrophic - or "cataclysmic". Frankly, if international relations are as fragile as you suggest, George, then we can only conclude that you and your kind have done a pish-poor job and it's high time things were shaken-up a bit.

Not that I expect there to be much in the way of the global tremors that you have been trying to scare us with. If every diplomat from every nation was as self-absorbed and fearful as yourself, I'd think there might be cause for concern. But they're not. After a Yes vote, hysterical types such as yourself will be side-lined and more sensible heads will prevail. Scotland will change a lot. The world will change a little. And you, George? You will be left behind.
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Monday, 14 April 2014

Hot air from blimps

Colonel Blimp
Colonel Blimp (Photo credit: psd)
Apparently, a bunch of mothballed military types have seen fit to write a threatening letter to Scotland's First Minister.

Where have these people been for the last two years? Why are they talking about negotiations on currency etc. being "complex and difficult" when the UK Government has already ruled out negotiations? Well, the UK Government except for Philip Hammond who seems not have have received the memo.

Why are they talking about a risk of these these negotiations being soured when they have already been turned rancid by the UK government's belligerent, antagonistic attitude?

Why are they purporting to speak for NATO? Nowhere do I see any of these people identified as having any particular standing within NATO.

By what authority do these people presume to speak for the US? Or France? Or any of the other member nations of NATO? Or, for that matter, the entire international community?

What exactly are these people proposing? Are they suggesting that some kind of pressure would be brought to bear in an effort to force the Scottish Government to allow Trident to remain on Scottish soil? Wouldn't that be illegal?

What kind of pressure do these people envisage being used? Economic sanctions? Military intervention? Wouldn't that also be illegal?

Where, in all of the pompous posturing from these blimpish buffoons, is there any indication that they have taken due account of the value of Scotland to NATO? Are they unaware of Scotland's geopolitical significance? Or are they merely intent on portraying Scotland as powerless in the face of a petulant and spiteful British state? Is their purpose to convey the impression that Scotland comes to the independence negotiations with no bargaining chips at all? Is that down to their ignorance? Or is it wilful dishonesty?

The UK Trident system represents only around 1% of of NATO's nuclear capability. In military terms, it is an expensive white elephant. Scotland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), by contrast, represents a massively significant and increasingly important section of the Northern Atlantic. Is there any doubt that Scotland's strategic position is frequently used by the British state to bolster its position?

Are we supposed to believe that. like our oil reserves, this national asset suddenly becomes worthless when it is no longer administered by a British state which has shown itself to be neglectful and incompetent in this regard? Are we supposed to believe that NATO would not look favourably on the Scottish Government's defence plans relative to the badly managed decline of the U' imperialistic pretensions?

Why would rUK's problems with how to dispose of its WMD be a consideration at all for those voting in the referendum? We know, do we not, that Scotland's problems in being used as a dumping ground by the British state were never a consideration?

Why are these people trying to give the impression that the Scottish Government is making unreasonable demands? The SG has bent over backwards to stress its willingness to cooperate fully with rUK in the matter of removal of Trident, as it has in all other matters. What is unreasonable about declining to host another nation's WMD? Indeed, would doing otherwise not contravene various international protocols?

Are these people claiming that some way could be found to circumvent such protocols? If so, why would Scotland want to start its new life as an independent nation in such a way? Would that not seriously tarnish the nation's reputation and standing with the international community? Arguable more so than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the vast majority of nations which possess no WMD, desire no WMD, abhor them, and will not permit them on their territory?

Who the hell do these people think they are?
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Friday, 4 April 2014

The Cybernat Diversion

CyberBrit abuse?
Project Fear's tactics are not subtle. It's propaganda techniques are pretty crude. The very phrase, "Better Together" is an example of a propaganda technique known as the "Glittering generality". It is a phrase which has a certain primitive emotional appeal but which is ultimately devoid of content. It doesn't represent anything real or present any meaningful argument.

Other propaganda techniques used by the anti-independence campaign need no explanation. "Appeal to fear" is an obvious one. As is "Flag-waving".

"Demonising the enemy" will be instantly recognisable. Alex Salmond is the main target of this.

How about, "Obtaining disapproval by association"? Sometimes called, "Argumentum ad Hitlerum".

When you hear anti-independence propagandists relating the word "nationalism" to the Fascist movements of the early 20th century, that is the name of the propaganda method being employed. You won't hear them talk of the nationalism of Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. Only Hitler.

I could go on. For anybody who has been following the referendum campaign mention of the following will instantly bring to mind examples from the Project Fear playbook.

Quotes out of Context. Exaggeration. Disinformation. The list goes on.

But I want to focus here on a particular form of propaganda - "Ad nauseam". Frequently combined with, "Appeal to authority". I, and many others, have often remarked on the cyclical nature of Project Fear's output. The same issues get raised over and over again. Each time presented as if they were a new argument against independence that has never previously been addressed.

"Appeal to authority" is often used in conjunction with repetition. An example of this would be when some utterance from Manuel Barosso provides a pretext for rolling out the threadbare old "EU membership" scare story.

When awkward questions start being asked about Barosso's authority or motives, or others with equal or better authority start to contradict him, some retired general will conveniently crawl out of the woodwork to mumble something about independent Scotland not being able to defend itself. Cue recycling of all the tired old scare mongering on the defence issue.

When Project Fear starts to come under pressure on this topic, lo and behold! Some economist pops up with doom-laden prognostications for independent Scotland's finances which look curiously similar to the last round of economic scare mongering that went past on the conveyor belt.

I'm sure you all recognise the pattern. You should. It's been going on for what seems like an eternity. An interminable cycle of grinding negativity with not one word or idea that is new. The same stuff over and over again. and every time the issue is dropped as soon as it starts to come under discomfiting scrutiny.

Not from the mainstream media, of course. With a few notable exceptions, analysis of the referendum debate in the almost exclusively unionist British media ranges from the merely lazy and inept through the woefully shallow and blatantly biased to the downright malicious.

If the traditional media was as dominant as it once was, one of the anti-independence campaign's original propaganda exercises would have been vastly more successful. I refer to something called "Bandwagon". The appeal to certain victory.

The days when Better Together could take victory for granted are a fading memory. The anti-independence campaign's early assumption that it need do no more than flaunt its lead in the polls and mock the chances of a Yes vote look pretty ridiculous now. But the truth is that, in the beginning, that was all they had. Project Fear was cobbled together later and with it the scare mongering script that has been repeated ever since.

One of the problems that the No campaign has is that they have never figured out how to defend the union because it has never occurred to them to question it. Unable to advance a positive case for the union, they have been obliged to resort to entirely negative campaigning - with no redeeming features at all. Just unremitting negativity - smears and fears.

Where the mainstream media has failed abysmally in its duty to properly scrutinise the No campaign, the online community has stepped in. It is news websites that provide reliable information it is bloggers who supply in-depth  analysis and pertinent commentary. The mainstream media is being sidelined in a way and to an extent that few would have believed possible when the referendum campaign began.

This has obviously caused problems for Better Together. The mainstream media is, for the most part, still a reliable ally that the British establishment can count on. But it is not the overwhelmingly powerful ally that they assumed it would be. The entirely predictable response has been to attack the alternative media. To turn some of the vitriol that had previously been reserved for Alex Salmond and the SNP on those who carry the banner of the independence cause in the virtual world.

It is a truism among propagandists that you must label the thing you are attacking. Something short and catchy is preferred. The word "Cybernat" had been kicking around for a while. David Torrance suggests it was Baron Foulkes of Cumnock who first coined the term. This seems to credit the pompous wee  puddin' with rather more imagination than I have ever seen evidence of. But, given that it is intended as a puerile insult, it's just possible that Torrance may be right.

Dictionaries define "Cybernat" simply as a supporter of Scottish independence who is active in social media and online. Many people the Cybernat label with pride. But there can be no doubt that the anti-independence campaign regard it is a pejorative epithet. A term of abuse.

Which is a bit ironic, really, as the epithet is most commonly deployed against those who are supposedly guilty of abuse against the opponents of independence.

I say "supposedly" because, for all the endless whining about "Cybernat abuse" actual evidence of the phenomenon is exceedingly sparse. George "The Red-nosed Baron" Foulkes was repeatedly asked to provide examples of the "Cybernat abuse" that was the subject of his own pathetic bleating. By the time I gave up waiting for any such examples, none had been provided.

David Torrance does no better. Back in October 2010 he wrote a blog piece under the title, Cybernats – a Scottish political phenomenon, which purported to be an expose of Cybernat abuse directed at him following the serialisation of his biography of Alex Salmond in Scotland on Sunday - the newspaper which so shamefully replaced the St Andrew's cross on Scotland's flag with the swastika. I, for one, will never forgive them for that.

But the comments that Torrance cites to back up his claims of abuse turn out to be no more than rather feeble criticisms of his book. or rejections of some of the claims he makes about Salmond. If this counts as abuse then even the mildest uncomplimentary review must read to poor wee David like a veritable torrent of vituperative vilification.

Fast-forward to the beginning of this year and we find that bastion of truth and moderation, the Daily Mail, running a series of high-minded tirades against Cybernats. But it too had some difficulty coming up with examples of the "vile abuse" they claimed was everywhere online. The stuff they cited would hardly have raised an eyebrow at the most sedate soiree far less offend seasoned politicians or political activists.

And there's the point. This is politics. It's going to get pretty robust sometimes. To suggest that political debate be conducted in language appropriate to a church tea-party is patently ridiculous. And to suggest that the kind of things David Torrance and the Daily Mail call abuse are inappropriate in the context of political debate is, frankly, just plain silly. some growing up is required.

So, what is really going on with the regular bleat-fests about "Cybernat abuse"? In part, as mentioned earlier, it is propaganda. an attempt to undermine the credibility or respectability of the online news sources and commentators who are proving to be a thorn in the side of the anti-independence campaign.

But there is another aspect to this.

It's not difficult to see what is behind the latest ranting from an increasingly panicked and incoherent Alistair Darling as he berates unidentified persons for unspecified "online abuse". He is facing crippling, career-ending humiliation over the threat to abolish the currency union and so he is, perhaps understandably, trying to divert attention from the currency issue.

It would be easy to dismiss Darling's whining about "Cybernats" as nothing more than a diversionary tactic from a seriously beleaguered politician. But there is something rather more sinister here as well. There is an attempt to silence dissent.

Darling is arguing that people such as Bill Munro, boss of Barrhead Travel, should be allowed to spam employees email inboxes with lies and idiotic scare mongering in an attempt to intimidate them into voting No and do so with complete impunity.

He is saying that people like Munro should be allowed to say whatever they want - however dishonest or demented - while others are deterred, if not actually prevented, from challenging the lies. Dissenters are to be bludgeoned into silence with name-calling and unfounded allegations of "abuse".

Basically, Darling wants free reign for Project Fear.

According to Darling and his ilk, it is perfectly acceptable for "business leaders" to threaten people's livelihoods in pursuit of a self-serving political agenda, but it is outrageous if ordinary people threaten private profit in pursuit of their perfectly worthy aspirations to create a better, fairer society.

Where there's a unionist bandwagon, there will always be some numpty trying to jump on it. enter stage left, British Labour MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray.

Taking his cue from Darling, Murray tweeted that his constituency office had been vandalised by Yes campaigners. As we now know, there was no vandalism. At most, a sticker or two may have been put on the doors and windows. Although there isn't even any evidence of this. And certainly no evidence that the culprits were in any way connected with the independence campaign.

Make what you will of all that. Far be it from me to suggest that the whole thing was a malicious smear attempt. A form of abuse, if you like.

The lack of any facts to support Ian Murray's accusations makes a delicious irony of the headline on the blog in which he attempts to justify his behaviour.

"Let’s have a reasoned debate based on fact!", he pompously intones. what follows is an object lesson in obfuscation, evasion, distortion, misrepresentation, insinuation and blame-shifting. It really is a remarkable piece of work. What is more even remarkable is that people actually voted for the author of this atrocious missive.

But perhaps we should be grateful to Ian Murray. whatever he may have done to whatever reputation he might have had, he has done us a service by revealing the vacuous maliciousness of the "Cybernat abuse" propaganda. Aware of the true dishonest and nefarious nature of these attacks on independence campaigners, we are better armed against the insidious effects of this vicious propaganda. We know who the real abusers are.

This is a longer version of a piece originally broadcast by Aye Right Radio
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Blind to the obvious

Every once in a while the behaviour of the Better Together mob is so infantile that one just can't help being embarrassed on their behalf. A report in yesterday's Herald was one of those occasions (No campaign pounces over MP's claim on currency union). We all know that Blair McDougall and his maudlin minions are incapable of rational, objective analysis, but do they have to flaunt their shortcomings quite so flagrantly?

What Angus MacNeil has said is no more than what was already obvious to anyone who had thought about the issue of currency union at all. It is patently obvious that monetary union tends to become untenable if and when the economies of the participants diverge to some significant degree.

What makes Better Together's bone-headed bluster all the more ludicrous is the fact that Angus MacNeil is referencing one of the arguments that the British parties use in an effort to rationalise their reckless and irresponsible threat to abolish the currency union. They bang on about the eurozone and the difficulties which arose because of - or were exacerbated by - the divergence between the economies of, for example, Greece and Germany.

The trouble is that, being interested only in anti-independence propaganda rather than reasoned analysis, Better Together present this as if it was directly and immediately relevant to the situation of Scotland and rUK. And they make bloody fools of themselves in the process.

The reality is that there is no meaningful comparison between Greece/Germany on the one hand and Scotland/rUK on the other. To suggest that there might be is quite preposterous.

But it is perfectly right and sensible to recognise that the economies of Scotland and rUK might diverge at some point in the future to an extent that currency union is no longer the best arrangement. In which case, isn't it better that the two countries should be free to find an arrangement which is more suited to the new circumstances?

Economies move slowly. And, with goodwill and good sense on all sides, monetary union can cope with a considerable degree of economic divergence. It could easily take decades before the two economies diverged enough to make currency union unworkable. The governments of both nations would be able to see this coming well in advance and so take appropriate and timely steps to deal with the situation.

None of this is a cat that has ever been in a bag. It is plainly obvious to anyone who reflects on the matter to any extent at all.

But the position of the British parties gets even more ridiculous. They are busy trying to persuade us that the British state will conceded significant powers to the Scottish Parliament if the independence campaign is defeated. Nonsensical as it is to imagine that a triumphant British state would concede the very thing it had been fighting to hold onto, let's take the "more powers" not-quite-promises of the British parties at face value for the moment.

What British Labour and their Tory/LibDem alliesare trying to deceive the people of Scotland into believing they will get in return for a No vote is something akin to full fiscal autonomy (FFA). That expect us to believe that the Scottish Government will be handed a substantial amount of control over the levers of the economy. But using those levers differently in Scotland and rUK is the way in which the economies will diverge. If measures are put in place to prevent this divergence by limiting the Scottish Government's ability to follow its own fiscal policies then the devolved powers become meaningless.

So, the British parties' plan - to the extent that they have one - is to create a situation in which Scotland's economy is free to diverge from that of the rest of the UK, but keep us locked into monetary union. Even if the offer of further devolution was not just a ruse to dupe us into handing over to the ruling elites of the British state the power that will be in our hands on 18 September, what is being proposed would be disastrous. It is with devolution that we would be put in the position of having divergent economies with no option to rectify the situation this would cause by ending currency union. It is devolution that threatens to create a eurozone scenario.

That is one of the reasons why devolution is dead. It's time to move on. It's time to bring Scotland's government home. Devolution is not an option. We must vote Yes.
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Thursday, 3 April 2014

Journalist or propagandist?

Ben Riley-Smith, posing as a political reporter in The Telegraph, appears to imagine that "wriggle room" is a terrible thing. However, if we were to use less pejorative terminology we'd see that what he is actually talking about is "options". And options are among the most valuable commodities in politics.

Ben Riley-Smith actually seems to take pride in the fact that Osborne/Balls/Alexander appear to have left themselves with no options whatever. (Although he has to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to Alistair Darling's recent back-pedalling when he said,
"I think it is ALMOST CERTAIN that the political parties would make it
clear in their manifesto that they do not want Scotland in a currency
[Emphasis added as an aid to the terminally blinkered.]

A less woefully shallow analysis would have noted that it is right and sensible for the Scottish Government to keep its options open on the precise timetable for removal of Trident. Were it to apply a rigid timetable then it could easily be accused of being prepared to compromise safety for the sake of political posturing.

What is certain is that Trident will have to go. The attempt to suggest that this could be up for negotiation is the kind of nonsense we get from British politicians and journalists who know nothing of Scotland's politics. At most, there may be some leeway on the time-scale - but only if this can be justified on safety grounds. And the rUK government may have to pay a price even for this small allowance.

Ben Riley-Smith#s analysis is vacuous in other ways. For a start, he seems to imagine that a "categorical" commitment from Osborne and his cronies is worth more than the spittle that dribbled down his chin as he spoke the words. More intellectually acute observers fully expect that the UK/rUK government will do a U-turn on this after a Yes vote such as will seriously discomfit those who so naively take the word of British politicians as gospel.

Then there's the idea that Scotland needs the currency union so desperately that the Scottish Government might even consider reneging on its promise to rid the country of Britain's obscene WMD in order to secure it. Rubbish! As Professor Anton Muscatteli pointed out in the Financial Times yesterday, abolishing the currency union would do far more damage to rUK than to Scotland. And Scotland has plenty other options.

Perhaps Ben Riley-Smith isn't actually as inept an analyst as this article makes him appear. perhaps if he was less concerned with peddling Project Fear propaganda and more focused on doing his job he'd be able to at least ask some of the awkward questions of the anti-independence campaign that should come naturally to a professional journalist. He might even grope his way to some of the more obvious answers.
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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Silencing the proles

It's not difficult to see what is behind the latest inane rant from an increasingly frenzied and incoherent Alistair Darling as he berates unidentified persons for unspecified "online abuse". He is facing crippling, career-ending humiliation over the threat to abolish the currency union and so he is, perhaps understandably, trying to divert attention.

It would certainly be easy to dismiss Darling's whining about "cybernats" as nothing more than a diversionary tactic from a seriously beleaguered politician. But there is something rather more sinister here as well. There is an attempt to silence dissent from the "approved" British nationalist line in the referendum debate.

Darling is arguing that people such as Bill Munro should be allowed to spam employees with lies and idiotic scaremongering and do so with complete impunity. He is saying that people like Munro must be permitted to say whatever they want - however dishonest or demented - while others are deterred, if not actually prevented, from challenging the lies and/or throwing a spotlight on the inanities.

Basically, Darling wants free reign for Project Fear.

All of this is, of course, rationalised by those distasteful notions of British exceptionalism that pervade the anti-independence effort. Anything, no matter how objectionable under other circumstances, is justified in the name of preserving the British state and defending its ruling elites. This is clearly a very dangerous philosophy. It is the unhealthy mindset which feeds religious and political fanaticism.

What Darling is really objecting to is people having power - and being prepared to use it. He and his unionist cronies are delighted to have business people threaten employees and communities and the entire nation of Scotland with dire, if wholly imaginary, consequences should they have the temerity to challenge the established order. He actually encourages such intimidation. Better Together quite literally begs business people to join in the inane scaremongering of Project Fear.

But when ordinary people choose to use what little economic power they have to give force to their views, Darling and his ilk go into fits of righteous indignation.

According to the servants of the British state, it is perfectly acceptable for "business leaders" to threaten people's livelihoods in pursuit of a self-serving political agenda, but it is outrageous if ordinary people threaten private profit in pursuit of their perfectly worthy aspirations to create a better, fairer society.
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Desperate Darling

Alistair Darling is looking increasingly beleaguered and desperate. When he rants about how his Project Fear is winning the economic argument, (The Herald), he sounds increasingly like he's trying to convince himself and his little band of British nationalists rather than the people of Scotland.

But Darling has never seemed to be talking to the people of Scotland. Shouting at us. Lecturing, hectoring and threatening us. All of that. But never has he simply addressed us with a reasoned argument informed by consideration of what might be best for Scotland. Always, he argues from the perspective of what is in the best interests of the British state and, not at all incidentally, British politicians such as himself.

The threat to abolish the currency union was an act of political desperation, not economic calculation. Following through on that threat would be, as economist, Professor Anton Muscatelli writes in the Financial Times, "tantamount to economic vandalism".

Alistair Darling was the architect of this disastrous political ploy. He will pay a price for his hubris and gross ineptitude. I feel no shame in finding satisfaction in Darling's discomfiture. This is a man who has shamelessly lied to the people of Scotland, about bank bail-outs and much else. This is the man who has taken what should have been a reasonable, rational and constructively passionate debate about Scotland's future and contaminated it with lies, smears, scaremongering and his rancid personal resentment of the SNP.

But we should not make the same mistake that the anti-independence mob has made. We should not seek to personalise the campaign as they have sought to do. As despicable as Alistair Darling's conduct has been, we should bear in mind that he merely reflects the rottenness in the heart of the British state. Darling is a symptom of a malady that can only be cured by voting Yes.
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Now's the day...

A story in The Scotsman (New tax-raising powers for Holyrood on the horizon) suggests that Scotland might be in line for more tax powers. Sort of. Maybe. Are we supposed to be impressed by this latest bit of legislative fiddling designed to give the appearance of meaningful reform? However much tinkering the UK Government does, devolution is still about power for Westminster not power for the Scottish Parliament.

Why should we settle for less than we might have? Why should we resign ourselves to having a little bit of control over certain aspects of taxation when we could have control of it all?

Above all, why should we continue to allow British politicians to decide what powers our parliament should have? Only the people of Scotland have the legitimate authority to determine the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

And what next? The original devolution settlement was portrayed as the best that Scotland could wish for. It wasn't long, however, before the British parties, under pressure from the SNP and Scotland's voters, admitted that it wasn't good enough. So we got Calman - another exercise whose overriding priority was, not finding the best arrangement for Scotland, but the arrangement which best suited the ruling elites of the British state.

The Calman "reforms" were supposed to make the devolution settlement ideal. Those reforms haven't even come into force and the British parties have already acknowledged that they are not satisfactory. Now they want to put a few more patches on the devolution settlement in the hope that doing so will fend off a Yes vote.

I can guarantee that whatever the British parties cobble together by way of a "more powers" offer, (a) those additional powers will not be delivered as advertised; and (b) even if they were delivered, they would not be enough.

Why continue with this ludicrous process of independence by a thousand increments? Why not end it now? The referendum isn't a choice between independence and some other option that is workable in the long term. It is a choice between independence now and independence in a few year's time. Let's do it now while there is still a chance that we can end the political union amicably and negotiate a new, lasting relationship between our two nations. A relationship founded on parity of status and mutual respect.

Unionist mindset

I had an interesting exchange with a unionist on Twitter recently. No! This is not an April Fool thing! It really was an interesting exchange. Allow me to explain why.

It started when the unionist in question tweeted the following:
Nicola Sturgeon is now telling the rUK that they cannot have a say on a currency union.
An obviously lie, I immediately thought, not only because Sturgeon would never be so stupid as to say such a thing but also because there is no way she could have authority to prohibit a referendum in rUK on a common currency - something Alistair Darling had earlier said would be required. I pointed this out to the unionist in question with as much patience and good grace as a mere mortal might muster in the face of such blatant dishonesty.

The exchange then took its usual course. The unionist insisted he was right and, somewhat strangely, posted a link to something Alex Salmond had said supposedly to "prove" what he claimed Nicola Sturgeon had said. They're kinda quaint that way, these amateur propagandists for the British nationalist cause.

I then pointed out that Salmond (the unionist troll seemed to have forgotten all about Nicola by this stage.) had actually said, "a referendum would not be required". I went on to remark on the fact that said unionist had evidently looked at these words but read "I will not allow a referendum". Which is a bit odd.

But my unionist interlocutor persisted, saying:
That it would not be required in rUK. Meaning? He wants the rUK to not have a say,
I pondered for a moment the usefulness of informing the unionist about something Lewis Caroll had written regarding words and their meanings,
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
But I figured this would just set him off on a tedious whine about nasty cybernats calling people names and making "fatist" comments, so I didn't bother. I pretty much left him to steep in his own delusion after that.

That's not the interesting bit, however. Although I guess you'd already worked that out for yourselves. What made this individual's inane comments considerably more intriguing than they otherwise would have been is the context provided by a piece on the front page of the Financial Times. Now, I don't subscribe to the FT, so I had to rely on a very low quality image somebody had posted and what little I could glean from news aggregators. The headline, however, pretty much tells the whole story:

Darling disowned over sterling union 'plebiscite'

The first paragraph explains that Downing Street had been forced to disown comments from Alistair Darling after he suggested there could be a second vote on sharing the pound. But what piqued my interest was the reason given.
His comments undermine a central argument of the anti-independence campaign – that Scotland would not be allowed to enter into a currency union with the rest of the UK if it votes for independence.
This is very revealing. Partly for the fact that our unionist friend - remember him? - had actually managed to turn the truth on its head, maintaining that it was Nicola Sturgeon (or maybe Alex Salmond) who was preventing the people of rUK having a vote on currency union when, in reality, it is the UK government.

But it is mainly interesting for what it tells us about the attitude of the UK government to democracy. Downing Street is effectively saying that the UK government will abolish the currency union even if the people of rUK want to keep it. They are saying that there is no point in giving the people of rUK a say, because the ruling elites of the British state have already decided.

Darling is slapped down by his Tory bosses. No surprise there. He's only David Cameron's stooge, after all. But this little episode exposes how inept the man is. He shot off his mouth about a referendum on currency union because, as the bluff that he had engineered crumbled around him, he wanted to bolster the credibility of that bluff by calling in aid the people of rUK. Even if the politicians backed down on their threat to abolish it, he says, it would make no difference because the people of rUK would step in to make sure that the currency union was scrapped.

Characteristically, he hadn't thought it through. A referendum would necessarily require a debate and an in-depth examination of a policy that was already being shown to be, at best, ill-advised. Cue panic in Downing Street!

The last thing the UK government wants is that people in rUK should find out what abolishing the currency union would cost them. They'd likely lynch George Osborne, with Ed Balls and Danny Alexander dangling from adjacent lampposts to complete the set.

The British state is terrified of a debate about currency union for precisely the same reasons it was in dread of the independence referendum. Basically, it doesn't want people to think. And it sure as hell doesn't want them asking questions.
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