Saturday 3 November 2012

Questions! Questions! Questions!

Gordon Brown in 2007
Gordon Brown
Word is a strange creature was sighted in Fife today. It seems that Gordon Brown surfaced from wherever it is the British Labour Party keeps him these days to do his wee bit for the campaign to preserve the union. He made a speech, apparently. And, I'm told, had certain sections of the media hanging on his every word as if he actually was the great sage that he evidently believes himself to be.

I read the speech. What I read was not the reasoned pronouncements of a wise elder statesman but the ill-informed ramblings of a political has-been who is seriously out of touch and very confused. A measure of that confusion is his "twenty questions". Not just the questions themselves and the fact that he needs to ask them, but the mindset that is revealed. Of which more later.

First, let's deal with those questions - at least insofar as they make any sense at all as reasonable points of enquiry. The first nine of these questions deal with the matter of the economy. That Brown himself only manages to count eight is, perhaps, an indication of what we are dealing with here.
Why will the rest of the UK without any guarantee of a Scottish role set Scottish interest rates?

Why will the rest of the UK without any guarantee of a constitutional role for Scotland set the Scottish inflation target?

Why will the rest of the UK without any guarantee of a constitutional role for Scotland set Scottish mortgage rates?

Why will the rest of the UK and not Scotland decide the Scottish money supply?

Why will the rest of the UK without a constitutional role for Scotland decide what to do in a crisis like how much quantitative easing or printing of money is done

Why will the rest of the UK with no constitutional role for Scotland decide who is Governor of the bank that decides Scottish monetary policy?

Why will the rest of the UK with no constitutional role for Scotland decide who are the members of the group, the Monetary Policy Committee; that supervises interest rate decisions?

Why will England and the rest of the UK be able to demand a fiscal pact that controls Scottish spending?

Why will England and the rest of the UK be able to demand a fiscal pact that controls Scottish borrowing?
What Brown fails to realise is that all of this is actually only one question. Who decides? And the simple answer is that the people of Scotland decide. This is what Brown, in common with all too many British nationalists, is sadly unable to get his head around. The fact that what is important is that the people of Scotland get to decide who makes all these decisions and more on their behalf. And that can only happen with independence. So long as we remain in the union the decisions will all be made outside Scotland whether we like it or not.

Not being as short of vision and shallow of mind as Gordon Brown, I do not see any of these issues as insurmountable obstacles. Basically, what Brown is talking about here is a sterling zone as mooted by the SNP. What he is too blinkered to see is that such a monetary union would have distinct advantages for both Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK). Granted, such arrangements can be problematic. But they are not necessarily so. If conditions are amenable then all that is required is the goodwill of all the parties to the arrangement.

What is telling about Brown's attitude is that he not only regards every problem as insoluble, but he assumes an uncooperative, adversarial attitude on the part of the rUK even to the extent of doing significant harm to both economies. Why? Count that as the first of my questions to Gordon Brown.

Why does Brown take it for granted that the government of the rUK would pursue some kind of low-level economic warfare against a neighbouring nation and important ally? What justification is there for assuming, as he does, that the rUK government would go out of its way to make monetary union unworkable?

And if Gordon Brown offers an accurate insight into the London government's attitude towards Scotland, why the hell would we want to be in a formal union with them?

It's not as if we lack choices. With independence we will have numerous options as regards monetary matters. The sterling zone proposed by the SNP simply happens to be the option with the greatest mutual advantages. That's the difference between the SNP and the British parties. While the latter are looking only for problems, the former are working on pragmatic solutions. British nationalists assess ideas on the basis of the extent to which they can be twisted into a stick with which to beat their political enemies. The SNP and Yes Scotland assess ideas on the basis of what is likely to work best for all concerned.

And this pragmatism applies in other areas.
What happens if the Scottish Parliament has a different view on the line of succession for the Monarchy?
Note again the default assumption that the rUK government would be unable or unwilling to negotiate a compromise with the government of Scotland. It is becoming easier and easier to see why Brown is such a failure as a politician.

The policy of retaining the monarchy is best regarded as one of those pragmatic solutions mentioned earlier. It is convenient. It offers an acceptable arrangement. One that most people in Scotland can live with - including republicans like myself. But this acceptance of the monarchy is only possible because of the way that it is viewed. The royals are not generally regarded in Scotland with the same grovelling, fawning reverence that is common among British nationalists. The idea of a divinely ordained monarch is treated with deep suspicion by most and is anathema to many. Not to put too fine a point on it, the monarchy is disposable. As with the proposed monetary union, if the arrangement no longer suits us, we will make other arrangements. That's kind of the point of independence.

So! Another question for Mr Brown.

What happens NOW if the Scottish Parliament has a different view to Westminster on the line of succession for the monarchy?

Like most, if not all, of Brown's questions this one can just as meaningfully be asked of a situation where Scotland remains in the union as with independence. The difference is that with independence comes choice. This does not occur to Brown and his ilk for the simple reason that he would never think to question the righteousness and efficacy of the union.

Another thing that most, if not all, these questions have in common is the fact that, contrary to Brown's dishonest assertion, they have been answered. Repeatedly! When he and other British nationalists say that questions have not been answered what they actually mean is that they did not like the answer given. Having no counter-argument, it is easier just to pretend that there was no argument in the first place. Brown's next two question provide glaring examples.
On what basis do they claim we have an automatic right to membership of the EU?

On what basis do they claim that if Scotland joins the EU we do not also have to commit that we are obliged to join the Euro?
Generously assuming that Brown is not being disingenuous and that he truly has not seen or heard any of the countless explications of this issue, then my point about him being out of touch stands proven beyond doubt. If, as is evident, he is determined not to hear the answers, what might be the point of answering the questions - again! Suffice it to say only that, once again, the answer derives from the pragmatic approach to issues that I spoke of earlier. The two successor state scenario gains its political certainty status not least from that fact that neither of the alternatives is in any way credible. If Brown or any other British nationalist believes differently, let them argue the case that the EU would act irrationally against its own interests.

What these questions about EU membership evidence, apart from a pathological inability to attend to answers, is the same mindset referred to in relation to the matter of monetary union. The mindset which regards Scotland's aspiration to independence as an affront to the British state which must be punished. This, combined with notions of British exceptionalism, leads the intellectually impaired Britnat to the quite ludicrous assumption that existing member states of the EU will subordinate their own interests to aiding and abetting rUK in pursuing vengeance against the Scottish upstarts. Perhaps the best that can be said of such thinking is that it is grossly immature.

Here's the question. Why would the EU chose anything other than the two successor state option?

Moving on...
Are their automatic rights of citizenship that come from being an English resident in Scotland?
This one falls under the heading of pointless. There is no ethnic component to Scotland's independence movement. If Brown doesn't understand that then the phrase "out of touch" may be wholly inadequate to describe his condition. Quite apart from anything else, we are all EU citizens. For most practical purposes, that's enough. In fact, I can think of no circumstances in which being ethnically English in an independent Scotland would give rise to any problems whatever. Unless, of course, Brown envisages the government in England contriving such problems. So here is another question for Brown.

Does Brown expect that the government of the rUK will implement legislation based on some kind of ethnic discrimination?
Will the SNP accept that NATO is not just a military alliance generally but a nuclear weapons alliance with obligations on its members
It's difficult not to come right out and call this question stupid. Because that's what it is. Very, very stupid! Is Brown genuinely unaware of the debate that has been going on in the SNP for months now? A debate that eventually went to the party conference where delegates voted to change SNP policy? Does he really not know that two SNP MSPs resigned their party membership over the very fact that the SNP had acknowledged NATO as a nuclear-armed alliance? Where does this guy keep his head in between speaking engagements? In a jar!?

The SNP's position, which even those who disagree at least understand, is that it is possible to be a member of NATO whilst maintaining a non-nuclear stance. This position necessarily implies acknowledgement of NATO's nuclear capability. But it also acknowledges the very evident fact that the vast majority of NATO members do not possess nuclear weapons and actively oppose their development and deployment.

What basis does Brown have for supposing that Scotland will be a singular exception among all the non-nuclear members of NATO?
Can it be confirmed that there is more public spending per head in Scotland than in England?
No. At least, not to the satisfaction of anyone who does not unthinkingly accept whatever figures the UK government throws at them. This issue is considerably more complex than Brown's question allows. It is, however, a matter that could be resolved if the UK government would simply "open up the books". As they will be required to do anyway when the referendum returns a YES vote. That's not up to Brown, of course, as he is something of a nonentity in the Westminster village these days. But it does prompt another little question of my own.

Can it be confirmed that current or forecast public spending is less affordable in an independent Scotland than with Scotland in the UK?

What Brown fails to acknowledge is that public spending is in part a necessity - in which case it makes no difference whether we are in or out of the union (Unless he wants to admit that Westminster is refusing money for essential services.); and in part discretionary - in which case it is in accordance with the values and priorities of Scotland's people as determined by democratic means. To state it simply, if we in Scotland apply more of our resources to health-care it is because we make an informed choice so to do. Nobody has a right to deny us that choice. Another question.

Can it be confirmed that, in the event of a NO vote in the referendum, the UK government will not seek to restrict the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make spending decisions in accordance with the wishes of Scotland's people?
Can it be confirmed that no guarantee can be given that Scottish pensions will not be lower than English pensions?
Can it be confirmed that no guarantee can be given that Scottish pension will not be HIGHER than English pensions?

Like so much of the anti-independence case this question is premised on the assumption that the UK is a bastion of economic security for its citizens. It patently is not. And few people bear more personal responsibility for this than Gordon Brown. If people in Scotland are concerned about their pensions then, on the basis of historical evidence, they should be clamouring to get out of the union as quickly as possible.

For Gordon Brown, of all people, to use fear of insecurity arising from the fiscal incompetence of government as a propaganda weapon is sickening. The man has absolutely no shame!

The rest of Brown's questions are in the same brazenly outrageous vein and deserve the same indignant response.

Let's be clear. None of Brown's questions are asked in a genuine spirit of inquiry with the intention of furthering the debate on Scotland's constitutional future. All are asked in the characteristically negative spirit of the British nationalists determined to preserve the British state at whatever cost to the people of Scotland or other parts of these islands. The intention is not to cast light upon facts, but to cast us all into the darkness of doubt and fear. The purpose is not to promote understanding, but to cause confusion. The aim is not to clarify, but to obfuscate. It is no part of Brown's design to effect enlightened awareness of the issues. His project is to obscure those issues behind a veil of uncertainty and contrived complexity and thus undermine the confidence that people are entitled to have in their own capacities.

In the final analysis, there is one simple answer to all the so-called "unanswered questions" touted by Brown and the rest. Scotland will manage its affairs at least as well as any other nation. No more is required.
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  1. Another excellent article, Peter. Thank you.

    It's always a pleasure to read such well-written items, especially in respect of grammar, punctuation and spelling, which always scores extra points from me.

    (In which case, you may wish to look at 'their' under 'CITIZENSHIP' and 'that' before 'Gordon Brown' in 'PENSIONS'.)

    Hope you don't mind the pedantics, I just feel that in so many other blogs, lack of attention to such matters diminishes the message that needs to be put across.

    Needless to say, such criticisms are not welcome on other sites, but I trust you will accept them in the spirit intended.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Ron. The first error you identify is in the original transcript. The other, however, is all mine and I am grateful to you for bringing it to my attention. I'm a bit of a stickler for such things myself. On this occasion I sacrificed proper proof-reading for the sake of getting my dinner while it was still hot. I am appropriately ashamed of myself.

  2. James Gordon Brown still thinks he is installed in 10 Downing Street and still refusing to consider that Scotland has elected an absolute SNP majority.

    Maybe in his own wee world, he is still there having created a secret wee bunker doing his squatting days with a back door and his own special key.

    I posted three questions to him on WOS re EDF and his brother Andrew as well as the holidays he took in The Hamptons every year..

    The man does slip his Carer every now and again.

    Who is the beneficiary of the Charitable Trust he has set up? It may be his son or it may be just a way of dodging income tax? Shurely Not Miss Moneypenny?

    1. At Wings Over Scotland Stuart Campbell has done a couple of excellent articles tearing apart Brown's speech. The make very good companion pieces to my own little offering on the subject (links below).

      In a comment on the second of the Rev's articles I say that Brown seems to be arguing from somewhere in the 1970s. From what you say, I suspect this observation will resonate rather well.

      Wings Over Scotland | Answers for Gordon
      Wings Over Scotland | A question for Gordon


  3. "What I read was not the reasoned pronouncements of a wise elder statesman but the ill-informed ramblings of a political has-been who is seriously out of touch and very confused."

    I will go with "very confused". These questions have come from a man who has spent his entire adult life involved in politics. At the very least he has had several months to formulate these questions. What this experience and time has delivered is incoherent ramblings, presented with very poor grammar. Perhaps, without an army of researchers, civil servants and speech writers to aide him Mr. Brown has shown himself to be less than a mediocre politician.

    "When he and other British nationalists say that questions have not been answered what they actually mean is that they did not like the answer given."

    It is not even as honest as that. The unionists are entirely relying on a compliant media to peddle their lies and distractions in the hope the undecided believe the guff. So far, the BBC and Scottish print media are fulfilling their role as the rejuvenated Ministry of Information. My hope, and expectation, is that the FUD will be found out for what it is long before autumn 2014.

    1. Perhaps the most unfortunate thing is that Brown will not even be aware of how dire his speech was and how badly it has been received. His coterie will be busy assuring him that he is a brilliant orator who has dealt a deadly blow to independence cause.

  4. Who decides ? well we decide that is how democracy works in an independent Scotland,we don't get that with Westminster !suppose that is why you asked the question,

    1. Who decides?

      In the unlikely event of Scotland voting for separation the relationship between the new Scottish state and the EU will be decided in Brussels by the 27 member states - the demands of the SNP will be ignored and to all intents and purposes are irrelevant - the member states will vote, quite properly, in their own national interests.

      The decision on whether a separate Scotland will be allowed to use the Bank of England as a central bank and lender of last resort will be taken in London by the UK Treasury - the demands of the SNP will be ignored and to all intents and purposes are irrelevant - the decision will be taken in the remaining UK's interests.

      The decision on whether a separate Scotland can join NATO and the conditions of that membership will be taken in Washington - the demands of the SNP will be ignored and to all intents and purposes are irrelevant - the decision will be taken in the interests of NATO - a first strike nuclear alliance.

      So much for a separate Scotland meaning decisions will be taken closer to home: Scotland's EU membership will be decided in Brussels, the central planks of its economy will be decided in London and its defence will be decided in Washington...

    2. You obviously worked long and hard on that little diatribe. Which makes it's complete pointlessness even more striking. To whatever extent it might justifiably be referred to as an "analysis" it is one based solely and exclusively on that bitter, burning resentment of the SNP that permeates the whole of British Labour, and its dysfunctional Scottish off-shoot in particular.

      Thus intellectually crippled by jealous hatred, you are completely unable to see that it is not the SNP that is the relevant entity in your "analysis", but the nation and people of Scotland.

      With independence, it is the nation and people of Scotland that will be negotiating a relationship with rUK, Europe and the rest of the world.

      It is the nation and people of Scotland that you dismiss with a casual contempt that has come to characterise all the British parties, but "Scottish" Labour in particular.

      Nor are you able to see, through the mist of your mindless hatred of the democratically elected government of Scotland, that the situation which you represent as unacceptable is precisely the situation in which Scotland currently finds itself. By your own unthinking rant you prove that what motivates you is not a desire to rectify this situation, but an obsessive craving for a return of the days when British Labour could consider Scotland its own fiefdom.

      Like so many in the North Britain branch of British Labour, you believe with a religious fervour that the clock can be turned back to the "good old days" when Scotland had a a "wee pretendy" assembly instead of a real parliament, and a Westminster-compliant "executive" instead of a real government. A time when the office of First Minister was nothing more than a pay-off for time-serving loyalty to the British Labour Party and the British state and nothing whatever to do with political leadership representing Scotland in the world.

      I have had the very dubious privilege of reading far too much of your hate-fuelled raving over the past several years. It has never changed. Other than, perhaps, to grow more blinkered and delusional. At no point has there been so much as the slightest indication that you were even aware of the transformation in Scotland's politics going on around you. And certainly no sign that you were capable of taking account of these changes.

      The reality that so sadly eludes you is that time is up for you and your ilk. There is no way back for you. Regardless of what happens in 2014, the "Scottish" Labour clique to which you owe such total, blind devotion has no place in 21st century Scotland. New political forces are stirring that will relegate you to the dustbin of history. All that awaits you is increasing irrelevance and electoral rejection.

      Whatever choice the people of Scotland make in the independence referendum, what comes out at the other side is a changed nation. The party you have pinned all your hopes on cannot even speak to that nation, far less govern it.

      Your time is past. And it's a glad good riddance to all that you represent.

    3. Dear sir.

      I stumbled upon your blog. I am astonished that you would berate a persons point of view in such a harsh and frankly rude manner.

      There are portents of year zero having been reached where we will be free to burn all labours history in Scotland and venture forth under a ssltire flag.

      As a voter who swithers over infependence your flowery use if language only seems to serve to sconce and traduce.

      I want a Scotland that is inclusive. If this country has or is changing then we will all need to work with one another.

      This resembles a civil war where friends turned on friends. Many MPs of all parties...yes even English MPs entered politics to improve the common mans lot.

      Your ridiculing is being read by midde class voters but I doubt very much that struggling working class prople much care. It does not engage them in politics.

      I would suggest you look at everything eith your scotnat or in the case of others with your britnat tinted glasses off. Each camp has done some good and some bad. Make our holyrood parliament work. work together and be positive. So far I have read nothing that would convince me to vote YES in the referendum and that is equally so for the NO's

      I suspect there is much disunformation and hidden truths from both camps and that stirs nothing but resentment to voting.

      Shame on you all.

  5. Mr Bell , I have just stumbled upon your response to the Scotsman troll .

    Never have I seen a better demolition job it may well keep him from comment here on a permanent basis .

    Mind you with he/she/its questionable intelligence and the inability to accept a trouncing ,anything is possible.

    Keep writing - you , a couple of other bloggers and Newsnet keep dispiriting thoughts at bay!

  6. I agree with Dot. You might care to read the thread on WoS about 'cry babies'.

    1. Just read that, Douglas. Not for the first time, I find myself in total agreement with Rev Stu. And feeling his frustration.

    2. It is becoming increasingly difficult to disagree with either of you.

      Because feelings of entitlement have become tied into concepts of personal rights.

      There is nothing much to distinguish between 'The Divine Right of Kings' and the current horror of the Labour Party in Scotlands discovery that the 'Divine Right of Labour' is also a bit past it's sell by date.


      Somewhat off topic:

      A writer elsewhere, talking about another group altogether, made the trenchant criticism that 'community leaders' were, essentially, a marketing phrase that allowed a reactionary leadership to control it's base. We are seeing exactly that reflected in Scottish politics. Labour claims 'community leadership' but, in fact does nothing of the sort. It seems to me that what my friend said applies to the blindness of the Scottish electorate as much as it applied, then, to the Asian electorate. They are not quite so blind now, the blog had a ripple effect, but nothing seems to impact on this ridiculous notion that Scottish Labour, as it currently stands, is worth a candle.

      Electing people that see a career in being petty minded, petty fogging, petite bourgeois, negative idiots is apparently the sum total of the future election manifesto for the likes of Grahamski and Kelly. If they have ever had a new thought, they have hidden their collective lights under a bushel.

      We, independent minded people are not perfect. But we can at least describe a future that is better.

      The sad people of the 'better together campaign' do their best to drag our aspirations down to their level.

      It is all a bit sad, really.

  7. I'm glad the likes of you and Stu are about in the blogosphere, trying to inject some maturity and adulthood into the debate. It means a lot to someone like me who has only really started to pay attention to the independence issue over the past year. Starting from almost no knowledge of the issues, I have learned a great deal in that time although there's so much still to be learnt and like you say, it can get frustrating when you hear so much cliched, intellectually stunted negativity.
    And that was the most competent demolition job I've seen since the Red Road Flats! :-)

  8. "And that was the most competent demolition job I've seen since the Red Road Flats! :-)"

    Absolutely agree with that!

  9. That'll leave a mark in the morning. :)


  10. From those darlings of the SNP, the Cuthberts:

    "In any negotiation to keep Scotland in the sterling monetary union, Westminster will inevitably insist on tight controls on Scotland’s ability to borrow, and on its ability to vary the structure of its taxes. Monetary union as envisaged by the SNP leadership is therefore not consistent with meaningful Scottish independence."

    Jings, Mr Bell, looking forward to your response to the Cuthberts...

    1. That response is being drafted now. In the meantime, I shall continue to be amused by the desperate straw-clutching of British nationalist fanatics such as yourself.

  11. Vote No -and Scotland wont be sent back to think again, it will be lobotomised by an incompetent surgeon with blunt and rancid tools in a high cost private surgery.