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Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Case Of Conscience

Posted by Martin at 11/02/2006 02:21:00 pm

There is an at first glaring, but on reflection perfectly understandable, omission from The Times' leader this morning on the subject of the elections for the Scottish Parliament due to be held next May.

That omission is creditable mention of the Conservative Party's performance in the Scottish Parliament.

The Conservative Party in Scotland has as much of a future as a flock of dodos with a Portuguese sailing ship on the horizon. It is the Norwegian Blue of British political movements, never again to be revived, fit only to be smashed against democracy's countertop by a deranged John Cleese.

If anything its future now looks even worse than it did on May 2 1997, the day after it lost all its seats at Westminster. For the Scottish Tories that was when things could only get better, because they had the prospect of devolution to look forward to - the chance to put themselves out and about in front of the voters and prove that they could once again be a force.

Just as Forsythism was the father of devolution, however, so too the performance of the Scottish Tories in Holyrood has been the father of Cameronism. Policies? You want policies? What policies? What are policies?

As a relatively close observer of Scottish public life (through necessity rather than choice), one is hard pressed to think of a single policy espoused by the Conservative group in the Scottish Parliament. Not one. Nothing springs to mind. Their presence is ghostly, their impact minimal.

It is as if they are not there at all.

This leaves natural supporters of the Conservatives with a difficult choice next May - to waddle out with the dodos or to behave like Liberal Democrats and engage in the negativity of tactical voting.

For there is much more at stake in this election than in either 1999 or 2003.

2007 is the year in which the Scottish National Party must be kept from power.

The electoral system for the Scottish Parliament is Belgian and arcane - yet one of the very few things for which Scots should thank Tony Blair is that it was specifically designed to ensure that no one party could attain a majority. The SNP are constitutional sectarians, unable and unwilling to enter alliances with Unionist parties.

To be absolutely blunt, it was designed (or rigged, if you prefer) to ensure devolution, not independence, and for the Unionist parties always to keep the SNP out - the best place for them, frankly.

However, this year the SNP is on a wee bit of a roll - and this has the potential to cause great problems, not just for us kilted haggismunchers in 'See You, Jimmy' wigs but for all you honest yeomen in Lincoln Green down on the lower part of the wall.

In order to gain power, Alex Salmond needs allies. He will not find them in any Unionist party. That means he will have to find them in the non-Unionist parties; the Greens, whose allegiance is owed as much to Gaia Regina as Elizabeth Regina, and/or on the lunatic left wing fringe - Tommy 'Humpty Numpty' Sheridan.

If the SNP's support, itself a consequence of dis-satisfaction with the devolution settlement's impotence and uselessness, continues to rise, then those who do not want people like Sheridan getting their hands on real power have difficult choices to make.
Do you guys really want Tommy Sheridan having the power to spend your money?

Voting for the SNP is not an option for conservatives. Its values are incompatible with our values. An independent Scotland would be a weaker, poorer and more feeble place. Scottish independence would show the type of Scottish nationalism espoused by the SNP for the hypocrisy it is.

The SNP has been opposed to every military operation that the UK has undertaken in recent years. Many assume that this is because they are leftists - but that is not the real reason.

The SNP consider themselves to be Scottish, not British, first. They do not see these operations as Scotland's wars - consequently, they feel no duty to support them. One can rest assured that should Scotland become independent, and should it suit his narrow political purposes, The Tartanissimo would not hesitate to despatch a fleet of rowing boats to Rockall with a shout of 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit!'.

Then again, one of independence's saving graces would be that we would be so poor, weak and feeble that the only country we could realistically invade would be the Faroe Islands. Readers in Torshavn should start checking the shore defences.

The Liberal Democrats are the most vicious opportunists in British politics. I am firmly of the belief that their opposition to the Iraq war was not motivated by respect for international law, whatever that is, but by political triangulation with one eye on the 2005 General Election. A vote for the Liberal Democrats only increases the likelihood of SNP gains.
At the moment, UKIP in Scotland are too weak to mount a realistic challenge to any of the main parties, and are unlikely to gain the necessary momentum in a mere six months. Maybe in 2011, but not yet.
That leaves Labour.
I am a fourth generation Conservative voter. I imbibed atavistic, tribal loathing of the Labour Party with my mother's milk and developed an equally atavistic but intellectually deeper loathing of it when I grew old enough to understand what it stood for.
Its leadership of the devolved parliament could be bettered by a troupe of doped macaques.
Yet in order to preserve our nation, our Union, I now have six months in which to screw up my courage to vote for it.
And for that, I have the abysmal, rudderless Sscottish Conservative and Unionist Party to thank.
Cheers, guys. Well done.

Posted by Martin at 11/02/2006 02:21:00 pm


21 Blogger Comments:

Blogger Richard Thomson said...

'Scottish independence would show the type of Scottish nationalism espoused by the SNP for the hypocrisy it is.' - I hope you'll forgive me for saying so, but that statement is absolutely meaningless.

You also suggest that the SNP are 'unable and unwilling to enter alliances with Unionist parties.' Not true - the SNP in common with the 80% of Scots who express a preference on the matter, want to have a referendum on Independence. The only ban is on working with the Scottish Tories, which is rather academic given how dire and disunited they are currently - something which you appear to acknowledge indirectly yourself.

Interesting also that you seem to equate a country's success by it's ability to invade others, by which yardstick you would presumably have valued the totalitarian and sclerotic Soviet Union over democratic and prosperous Sweden, and China over Taiwan. Personally, I'd rather measure the success of a state on the quality of life it can help deliver for its people, on which count Britain is failing Scotland dismally. But each to their own.

The best hope for a tory revival in Scotland is surely through independence. But if you'd rather copy Annabell Goldie and prop up the dreary, inept, crony-ridden managerialism of the Scottish Labour establishment, then quite frankly you don't ever deserve to see the Tories recover in Scotland!

11/02/2006 04:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Dr Crackers said...

Very thought provoking. I do not follow Scottish politics or affairs other than delivering and collecting a daughter from Edinburgh Uni. An independent Scotland would in my view lead to a renewal of Scots energy and inventiveness. Currently they are more aid junkie than go getting nation of proud achievers.

11/02/2006 04:51:00 pm  
Blogger S. Evil said...

At least I have the choice to vote for "oor Dennis". I may loath his unthinking allegiance to a discredited socialist ideal but at least he isn't actually a member of the Scottish Labour Party.

It's not an attractive option but ...

11/02/2006 04:52:00 pm  
Blogger Reactionary Snob said...

I'd rather the Tories die a horrible, horrible death and never give us another squeak up here if that is what it takes to stave off the smug chubster Salmond.

The maths don't add up - tax cuts whilst paying off student debt... and that is just a very small example.

Would an independent Scotland follow Ireland's path to success? Almost certainly not - for a multitude of reasons. For a start, Ireland doesn't have a bloated state sector and weren't averse to 'right-wing' economics.

The likelihood is, that even if the SNP can form a government with the Lib Dem snivelling opportunists, the referendum wouldn't be a 50% referendum - it would be over 60%. Not achievable.

RS

11/02/2006 10:03:00 pm  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Richard,

Your Blogger profile describes you as 'a researcher for Stewart Hosie MP and Shona Robison MSP'.

You could have saved some space by replacing that verbiage with 'SNP hack'.

Does the SNP class posting blog comments as 'research'? Golly, good to know the taxpayers are getting their money's worth.

It's miraculous that the SNP ever gets any research done
when its researchers seem to think that the best way to debate opponents is agree with them.

I wrote -

"The SNP are constitutional sectarians, unable and unwilling to enter alliances with Unionist parties."

Your comments about the Scottish Tories proves my point. They mean that should the circumstances ever arise, the SNP would prefer Scotland to have no government than engage in alliance with the Scottish Conservatives.

That's constitutional sectarianism.

You go on to critique my comment,

"In order to gain power, Alex Salmond needs allies. He will not find them in any Unionist party."

You seriously think Jack McConnell would enter government with the SNP? Seriously?

When are the Martians landing?

Think the disgusting Liberal Democrats would do so? The Lib Dems want as wide an influence in the UK as possible. It does not suit their national political purpose to ally with separatist parties in the regions.

You go on,

"Interesting also that you seem to equate a country's success by it's ability to invade others, by which yardstick you would presumably have valued the totalitarian and sclerotic Soviet Union over democratic and prosperous Sweden, and China over Taiwan. "

My, how clever! How glib! Pity you can't seem to read!

Didn't you see the words ' and should it suit his narrow political purposes'? Richard, a word in your ear - history shows that politicians are, by and large, opportunists. Your lot are no different.

But seeing as you want to talk living standards, and as I have the privilege of debating an MBA (Master of Bullshit & Atrophy) student, let's get down and dirty on ye olde numbers.

What would an independent Scotland produce? What would we live on?

Tourism? Very sensitive to changes in economic conditions. Another 9/11 and the Highlands loses a season.

Oil? The best people to debate that with would be the Royal Marines who would mysteriously appear on the oil rigs the day after Scotland became independent.

But we've got banks!

And? The banking clan would desert Scotland in a moment if they considered it to be in their interests to do so.

No, Richard, in an independent Scotland we would be both beggared and buggered. That's the reality. Y'all have fun now working out ways to be 'The New Estonia' or 'The New Ireland' - personally, I value the old Scotland rather too much to see it pass into your care and become 'The New MacBantustan'.

And fu-thank you very much for your injunction "quite frankly you don't ever deserve to see the Tories recover in Scotland!" At least they're democrats. Whether your bosses can make the same claim is highly debatable. Too much constitutional sectarianism floating about for my liking.

Dr. Crackers - than you for your kind comments, although I disagree with you on the cure for the malady.

RS,

Dead right.

11/03/2006 07:17:00 am  
Anonymous David B. Wildgoose said...

As an Englishman who is suffering Scottish politicians who are determined to denigrate, destroy and abolish my country my attitude is that everyone who is able to should vote SNP. I certainly would if I had a vote in Scotland.

I have been a life-long Unionist, but have come to the realisation that the Union with Scotland, at least, is finished. Why should the English be forced to continue to live in an abusive marriage?

When (not if) Scotland goes independent we shall have a chance to build a more normal relationship between England and Scotland. The one we have right now can only be described as poisonous.

11/03/2006 08:56:00 am  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

David,

I'm very sorry to read that; believe me, if the boot were on the other foot I'd probably be feeling the same way.

The poisonous atmosphere you describe is entirely a consequence of cheap hucksters like the SNP, whose elitist whinging and burning, unrequited lust for power turned the deindustrialisation of the 1980's into a clash of civilisations, abetted by the short-sightedness of socialist so-called 'Unionists' who have embarrassed Scotland by engaging in quasi-oppression of the English while their 'comrades' built a monument to their own egos abd called it a Parliament - not a parliament, but instead a collection of egos fumblng in the dark.

11/03/2006 12:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That leaves Labour."

Fuck that. I'd rather vote for my genitals to be slowly chewed off by Glenys Kinnock.

11/03/2006 02:51:00 pm  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Anonymous,

Believe me, so would I.

BUT THE SNP CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTROL THE SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE!

THERE IS TOO MUCH AT STAKE!

11/03/2006 08:22:00 pm  
Anonymous C Walker said...

"THERE IS TOO MUCH AT STAKE!"

Yes, having someone you describe as an "Economic Ignoramus" in charge for another 4 years.

I was toying with the idea of voting SNP in May but after reading your abusive comments to other posters and over the top scare stories I'll definitely be voting SNP now if this is the sort of voter Labour is attracting.

Having worked for NGO's around the world I'm immune to the scares establishments use when faced with independence. The majority of countries pass peacefully to independence after negotiation.

So no thanks. I'm not falling the purple language and feigned warnings of doom from those trying to ossify a system that benefits their vested interest.

11/04/2006 02:26:00 pm  
Blogger Richard Thomson said...

Enjoyed your bilious if barely literate response, G-gnome. To get 500 words in exchange for my original 200 is great value - I must come back sometime if its that easy to rattle your cage!

A small suggestion, though. Next time you invite someone to to get 'down and dirty' on the numbers, how about actually using some? Or is the reluctance because deep down you know that Scotland has been running pretty healthy budget surpluses for the last 3 decades while the UK as a whole is heading for a total national debt of £530bn this year?

The arguments about business fleeing a self-governing Scotland were shown up as so much nonsense after devolution. All those companies like Scottish Widows and Standard Life that were going to pack there bags? Oh, they're still here and both are still headquartered in Scotland - even Widows, thanks to LTSB having their brass plate in Edinburgh! And what was that that the Standard Life Chief Exec Sandy Crombie said in the Scotsman a few weeks ago about being 'content to leave the issue of independence to the Scottish people at this and every other election'?

While we're on the subject of constitutional sectarianism, when are UKIP and the Tories going to finally accept that Holyrood is here to stay and its not going to go away? Some friendly advice if you still consider yourself to be a tory - the party needs more MSPs like the intelligent and thoughtful Derek Brownlee and fewer grandstanding nincompoops like McLetchie. Can't see it happening on Annabell Goldie's watch, somehow, but if it did, it might make it that bit harder for the SNP to justify that ban on deals with them.

Just a thought.

11/04/2006 02:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Eadgils Grimhelmas said...

“Tourism? Very sensitive to changes in economic conditions. Another 9/11 and the Highlands loses a season.”

What? Just the Highlands in the entire world? And the way you say it it’s like no-one else works in any other field.

And why would it stop British Isles tourists who make up the bulk of tourism to Scotland?

Besides why would remaining under sovereignty from Westminster mean “another 9/11” would be any better for Highland tourism?

And just to suspend reality for a second, let’s say the Highlands only had tourism from an American tourist base. That doesn’t say much about the vaunted “success” of the “Union”.

So if you believe it to be the case perhaps you can explain why things are so bad that only one industry from one market base has to be relied on when the “Union” is meant to have brought us such a wealth of benefits?

“Oil? The best people to debate that with would be the Royal Marines who would mysteriously appear on the oil rigs the day after Scotland became independent.”

Most likely they’ll be Scottish Royal Marines since the day after Scotland becomes independent we would inherit our share of the UK armed forces and EEZ area as designated by international law based on equidistance as per the negotiated agreement before that day.

You do understand the principle of negotiation, states inheritance and international law?

Or are you suggesting that you support acts of unprovoked war by the London government on inheriting sovereign states which they have just negotiated with?

And if you believe the London government would act in such a way (I don’t) why do you want to remain under such a system?

It’s a bit embarrassing for Jack if he has to rely on votes from anti-democratic, anti-Scottish Tories who make veiled threats of state violence in response to Scotland becoming independent.


And Richard -

”You also suggest that the SNP are ‘unable and unwilling to enter alliances with Unionist parties’.”

And also undermined by the facts and reality that they SNP works in alliances in council chambers with some of those “Unionist” parties.

”The only ban is on working with the Scottish Tories.”

Well since they have members who think it would be okay for an independent Scotland to be invaded are you surprised?

11/04/2006 10:48:00 pm  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Richard,

Barely literate?

Kiss my backside, SNP hack.

"...is the reluctance because deep down you know that Scotland has been running pretty healthy budget surpluses for the last 3 decades while the UK as a whole is heading for a total national debt of £530bn this year?"

Why is every factory in sight closing?

Why are our peripheral housing schemes turning into Indian reservations?

Why are we over call-centered?

And just where do you get your numbers from, hack? Come on, let's see some stats.

Anyone mention the words 'Barnett formula'?

"The arguments about business fleeing a self-governing Scotland were shown up as so much nonsense after devolution. All those companies like Scottish Widows and Standard Life that were going to pack there bags"

Whoa there! Literacy issue ahoy!

"Oh, they're still here and both are still headquartered in Scotland - even Widows, thanks to LTSB having their brass plate in Edinburgh! And what was that that the Standard Life Chief Exec Sandy Crombie said in the Scotsman a few weeks ago about being 'content to leave the issue of independence to the Scottish people at this and every other election"

Richard, Richard -

"And what was that that the Standard Life Chief Exec Sandy Crombie said in the Scotsman".

No, no, no...

"And what did Sandy Crombie, Standard Life's Chief Exec, say in the Scotsman"

Much better.

Yeah, hack, as if a listed company's boss is going to commit his shareholders to maintaining their current business practices in perpetuity.

Keep drinking the MacKool Aid, hack, if it gives you something to believe in.

You actually read 'The Scotsman'? I mean, you pay money for it? Ha ha ha.

"...it might make it that bit harder for the SNP to justify that ban on deals with them"

Sad to see someone who thinks they're a democrat defending constitutional sectarianism.

Just a thought.

C Walker,

You think my language is purple?

You don't read this blog very often.

Your admission that you've worked for NGO's around the world means, to my ears, that you've had a very nice life spending money that other people have been taxed to their back teeth to provide - in fact, measuring your productivity would probably baffle a Nobel laureate in Economics. The phrases 'a real day's work' and 'never done' have just floated into my consciousness...

Did you read my post at all?

Didn't you get the bit about NOT wanting to vote Labour?

But you start to scare me when you start writing stuff like,

"The majority of countries pass peacefully to independence after negotiation."

Hmm, maybe...it's what happens afterwards that causes some problems. Let's list some countries where life post independence has not gone swimmingly.

Uganda. Pakistan. Zimbabwe. South Africa. Ghana. Sierra Leone.

Quite enough to be going on with. None of those were yours, were they?

Eadgils,

You wrote,

"What? Just the Highlands in the entire world? And the way you say it it’s like no-one else works in any other field."

The first part of your comment's a non sequitur. The second part - well, as of January ths year there were 5,000 unfilled vacancies in the hospitality sector in Glasgow alone. Tourism is an enormous slice of the Scottish economy.

"And why would it stop British Isles tourists who make up the bulk of tourism to Scotland?"

Evidence, please.

"And just to suspend reality for a second, let’s say the Highlands only had tourism from an American tourist base. That doesn’t say much about the vaunted “success” of the “Union”."

Another non sequitur.

"So if you believe it to be the case perhaps you can explain why things are so bad that only one industry from one market base has to be relied on when the “Union” is meant to have brought us such a wealth of benefits?"

1. See responses to Richard the SNP hack above.

2. Where did I say 'one market base', please?

"Most likely they’ll be Scottish Royal Marines since the day after Scotland becomes independent we would inherit our share of the UK armed forces and EEZ area as designated by international law based on equidistance as per the negotiated agreement before that day."

Really? You think so? I'll believe it when I see it.

One of the great lessons I learned from studying public international law is that much of it is made on the hoof.

And your question,

"You do understand the principle of negotiation, states inheritance and international law?"

is rather patronising, don't you think? I mean, you do have a law degree and several years of experience in legal practice under your belt, don't you?

I do.

"Or are you suggesting that you support acts of unprovoked war by the London government on inheriting sovereign states which they have just negotiated with?"

Unprovoked war? Give it a rest!

There is only one body which could dissolve the United Kingdom - Parliament. For the avoidance of doubt, this aim could only be achieved on whatever terms were legislated by Parliament. If Parliament ruled that Scotland's territorial limits were 3/4 of an inch offshore that would bloody well be that.

International law's great flaw is that to all intents and purposes it is unenforceable. Think of Rwanda and Srebrenica if you need reminding. It is the Ford Edsel of legal systems, famous for not working, constantly breaking down in power's face.

Idealists and dreamers like Richard the Hack don't understand just how important gaining and holding power is to politicians. Most politicians would chew off their left testicles on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle for a chance of wielding power. Politicians will always negotiate the most power for themselves that they can. If the quid pro quo for Scottish independence was Alex Salmond signing away treaty rights of debatable applicability he would sign away treaty rights of debatable applicability.

That's how politics works.

Don't you understand that yet?

You wrote,

"It’s a bit embarrassing for Jack if he has to rely on votes from anti-democratic, anti-Scottish Tories who make veiled threats of state violence in response to Scotland becoming independent."

I'm not an anti-democrat - I just don't want to see the SNP gaining power because they are more likely to do more damage to our country (which is still called the United Kingdom) than anyone else.

'Veiled threats of state violence', my arse...

11/05/2006 06:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most likely they’ll be Scottish Royal Marines since the day after Scotland becomes independent we would inherit our share of the UK armed forces and EEZ area as designated by international law based on equidistance as per the negotiated agreement before that day."

You do realise that firstly there are no "Scottish Royal Marines" and secondly neither Scotland or England has any specific share in the Armed Forces?

The Royal Marines are a nationally recruited Corps, even in the units quartered North of the Border (45 and FPG) most of them are probably going to be Englishmen.

11/06/2006 02:56:00 am  
Anonymous James said...

"Most likely they’ll be Scottish Royal Marines since the day after Scotland becomes independent we would inherit our share of the UK armed forces and EEZ area as designated by international law based on equidistance as per the negotiated agreement before that day."

That's a really interesting comment, as my brother is a Royal Marine. He was born and raised in Sheffield, making him both English and a Yorkshireman. Not sure how he'd feel about having Scottish Nationality forced upon him.......

11/06/2006 05:45:00 pm  
Anonymous James said...

As an amendment to my last comment, my brother is stationed on a Royal Navy base just to the North of Glasgow.

Sorry, that was kind of relevant.

11/06/2006 05:47:00 pm  
Blogger Richard Thomson said...

”Kiss my backside, SNP hack”.

Oh, now, that’s just not fair. You seem so mixed up about your own affiliations that it means I can’t respond in kind. I guess I’ll just have to rely on logic and reason instead.

If you really are a lawyer, judging by your remarks to the guy who worked for the NGO, you must be working for the only firm in the country which never takes a penny from the public purse in Legal Aid or works for the state in any other way. Truly, the exception which proves the rule.

Anyway, back to the point. Every factory in sight closing? Over call-centred? Apart from being piss-poor observations, ever if that were the case, it’s not much of an argument for the union, is it? And the problems in our housing schemes? Caused for the most part by the Labour Party that you say you are considering voting for next time round.

You ask where I get my numbers from. The UK debt figure comes from table C4, P259 of HM Treasury publication ‘Budget 2006’, as it happens. Or if you don't have it immediately to hand, you can find it online at http://www.hmtreasury.gov.uk/media/26E/0F/bud06_completereport_2320.pdf .

The words ‘Barnet Formula’ are a usually a lazy shorthand for ‘Scotland gets a higher level of spending than the UK average, therefore she is subsidised by England’. But do you know what? If you judge London by the same yardstick, it is being ‘subsidised’ as well. Sure, the city generates lots of wealth, but if you look at Table 7.11 in the 2006 PESA document produced by the Treasury, you’ll find that the city gets £1275 per head more than the English average in ‘identifiable’ spending. And that’s before you include the benefits of ‘unidentifiable expenditure’, or the huge capital projects like Portcullis House, the Millennium Dome, the Jubilee Line extension, the Limehouse Link, the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the 2012 Olympics… see how ridiculous this ‘beggared and buggered’ argument of yours is starting to look?

Scotland is actually in surplus relative to the UK by £4.3bn this year. But don’t take my word for it. The Constitution Unit produced a book in 2002 called ‘Scottish Independence – A Practical Guide’, without, it has to be said, the help of anyone in the SNP. If you get as far as Fig 10.2 on page 191, you’ll find that even on what is a pretty harsh assessment of Scotland’s fiscal position, we still turned in a surplus of £24bn between 1979 and 1999 while the rest of the UK trailed along behind. It’s a bit of a contrast with what the Tories were telling us at the time, I’m sure you’ll agree.

You really do seem genuinely distressed that the SNP don’t want to play with the Tories down at the Holyrood sandpit. However, haven’t you said already that the values of the SNP and Conservatives are completely opposed, or words to that effect? If our values are as opposed as you say, what does it matter whether the SNP has a ban in place or not? In the interests of stable government, it would seem that the Tories in their current state and the SNP should keep well away from one another, for both their sakes.

And finally, amongst other papers I do read the Scotsman, even if I don't always inhale. It's lost some of its comedy value since Brillo Pad pissed off to burn up even more of the Barclay Brothers’ millions, but some days now its almost worth reading again. Do I detect in your laughter a longing for the days of Tim Luckhurst and Martin Clarke trying to turn it into the Daily Mail, by any chance?

11/06/2006 08:58:00 pm  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Richard,

My views on the unsustainability of the Legal Aid system are a matter of public record -

http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/2006/10/great-freedland-legal-aid-fisk.html

However, putting your almost unintelligible cheap shot at my credentials to one side let's get, as you say, back to the point.

'Piss-poor observations' - must read better in Gaelic.

The perceived poor quality of my observations notwithstanding, and your perhaps not unreasonable comment that our economic decline is no great advert for the Union, the onus is on you to prove that we would do better under independence - this is something you have not done, for you cannot.

Being largely a party of the left your economic policies would be more likely than not merely to lead to more of the same.

And its says much for the SNP's economic competence that when one tries to bring up the URL of the document it cites to prove how much of a surplus we produce, one receives the message 'The page cannot be displayed'.

There are two lessons to be drawn from this.

The first is that if you are an MBA student you should be capable of noting down a website address correctly.

The second is that it's perhaps not surprising, give that you're a follower of a philosophy that always talks big but has never actually had to deliver.

'Table 7.11 in the 2006 PESA' - link?

Referring to 'Fig 10.2 on page 191' of a 2002 book called '‘Scottish Independence – A Practical Guide’ is hardly the most transparent or verifiable of arguments.

You write,

"If our values are as opposed as you say, what does it matter whether the SNP has a ban in place or not?"

and continue,

"In the interests of stable government, it would seem that the Tories in their current state and the SNP should keep well away from one another, for both their sakes."

No, no, no, you're not getting away with that. Your party's constitutional sectarianism means that the SNP would prefer Scotland to have no government than for it seek alliance with the Tories. No other reasonable conclusion can be drawn from this self-imposed, anti-democratic ban.

And why should I care what 'The Scotsman' says about anything?

11/07/2006 02:58:00 pm  
Blogger Richard Thomson said...

“ the onus is on you to prove that we would do better under independence - this is something you have not done, for you cannot”.

You’re right, Martin – I can’t prove it, any more than anyone else can disprove it. I can only point to what I think is likely to happen.

For me, independence represents the constitutional settlement for Scotland superior to all others, since it gives maximum scope for a government of whatever persuasion to pursue its policies and to be held accountable for its actions. That’s not something which can be said about the present hotch-potch.

“Being largely a party of the left your economic policies would be more likely than not merely to lead to more of the same”.

Did you see the World Economic Forum Competitiveness Rankings, published in the Economist w/b 30/9? It runs Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Singapore, USA, Japan, Germany. There’s an obvious point to be made there about small successful European countries, but I’d prefer to say it shows that there’s no hard and fast link between left/right policies, the size of the state and economic performance.

Only the SNP has been making the case recently for a more efficient ordering of the state in Scotland. There’s a dependency culture which current arrangements encourage, but which Independence would force people to face up to. Let me give you an example.

The block grant means that Holyrood is responsible only for the monies it spends and not for the revenues needed to fund that spending. This creates a governing class insulated from the consequences of its choices. Professor Ronald MacDonald, Adam Smith Chair of Political Economy at the University of Glasgow and Professor Paul Hallwood, University of Connecticut even likened it to a ‘Rakes Progress' in a recent paper for the Fraser of Allander Institute.

It also means politicians will be tempted to spend money on what they think will deliver immediate rewards, rather than focusing on longer term objectives like the growth needed to pay for it all. Even if Holyrood does succeed in growing tax revenues it doesn't see the benefit, since these go straight to Westminster and only come back through Barnett as an ever decreasing percentage of what's being spent in England.

“And its says much for the SNP's economic competence that when one tries to bring up the URL of the document it cites to prove how much of a surplus we produce, one receives the message 'The page cannot be displayed'.”

Nice try, but all it says is that my attempt at cutting and pasting must have ballsed up, for which I apologise.
I’ll try again to paste the links intact.

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/budget/budget_06/bud_bud06_index.cfm
http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/economic_data_and_tools/finance_spending_statistics/pes_publications/pespub_pesa06.cfm

If they don’t work this time, blame the Treasury. However, you could always Google for ‘PESA 2006’ and ‘Budget 2006’ – the first result which appears in each case will take you to the relevant report.

”Referring to 'Fig 10.2 on page 191' of a 2002 book called '‘Scottish Independence – A Practical Guide’ is hardly the most transparent or verifiable of arguments”.

Maybe not, but you wanted stats and I was looking for something independent. The ISBN number is 0 7486 1699 3 and it is available from the UCL Constitution Unit by emailing Victoria Spence on uctqw3a@ucl.ac.uk . It might even be in a public library somewhere.

In any case, it’s the arguments about growth which really matter. In the last 10 years, Ireland has grown at 7.9% pa, Iceland at 3.7%. Norway at 3%, the UK at 2.9% and Scotland at 2%. That means reduced opportunities, poorer public services, population stagnation and long-term relative decline. It’s been the story for Scotland in Britain ever since the turn of the 20th century and frankly, I’m fed up with it.

Norway was less wealthy than Scotland in the early 1970’s – now it’s at the top of the UN development league for quality of life. What have small state Ireland, big state Norway and big state Iceland been doing over that time that we haven’t? Isn’t there a chance that by taking full responsibility for our own affairs, we might emulate their successes in areas where the union has failed?

“the SNP would prefer Scotland to have no government than for it seek alliance with the Tories”.

I can see what an alliance with the SNP would do for the Tories, but what’s in it for the SNP? Not much, except lots of grief from political opponents, the media and the voters.

But sometimes a dramatic gesture can change people’s perceptions. If I were a Tory, instead of offering to prop up Labour to keep the SNP out, I’d be looking for a position which generated maximum benefit for my party with the minimum compromise of my beliefs.

I’d want to come up with something to overturn public perceptions about Tories being anti-Scottish; might see Labour put out of office; cuts the feet from the Lib Dems; and helps put to bed for years to come the constitutional question which has hampered my party for the last 30 years. I wonder what sort of initiative stands the best chance of doing that... any ideas?

11/07/2006 08:16:00 pm  
Blogger The g-Gnome said...

Richard,

My apologies for taking some time to get back to you- I have a bad habit of spreading myself too thinly.

That small nations can be prosperous is not in dispute - indeed, I once posed a similar question of your boss -

http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/2006/07/salmond-dilemma.html

What the WEF rankings do show is the importance of culture.

Swirtzerland is a country with centuries long traditions of true localism and international isolationism - would we be able to compete with their banking sector? Or chocolatiers?

One of the reasons Sweden may be so stable and prosperous is that, to the best of my recollection, a massive proportion of its stock market is owned by one family, the Wallenbergs.

Finland - assuming that North Sea oil would pass into scottish control, itself by no means guaranteed, would that be for us what timber is to Finland?

And what would be the Scottish Nokia, which the last time I looked accounted for about 40% of the Helsinki bourse's value?

Would we have the geographical advantages of Singapore, being an English speaking nation with Anglos-Saxon legal and commercial traditions slap bang in the middle of a densely populated zone of developing nations desperate to do business with the outside world? And whose prosperity, incidentally, is owed in no small measure to its extremely authoritarian givernment?

We can quote examples untill the coos come home, Richard. The critical question is - what would give Scotland the edge it would need to survive on its own? What would be its comparative advantage?

That's the killer question which right now the SNP cannot answer to my satisfaction.

You write,

"There’s a dependency culture which current arrangements encourage, but which Independence would force people to face up to."

Could they do it?

I don't think so. It's too ingrained now.

By the way, you're not the only one whose interested in a more efficient ordering of the State (this one will really surprise you) -

http://theggnomeridesout.blogspot.com/2005/08/open-letter-to-nicola-sturgeon-msp.html

Richard, I had significant difficulties with the URL, and at this stage on a Friday night i'm not going to argue the toss with you. But let's talk growth.

"In the last 10 years, Ireland has grown at 7.9% pa, Iceland at 3.7%. Norway at 3%, the UK at 2.9% and Scotland at 2%. That means reduced opportunities, poorer public services, population stagnation and long-term relative decline. It’s been the story for Scotland in Britain ever since the turn of the 20th century and frankly, I’m fed up with it."

Ireland - pay off from years of European money and an aggressive inward investment program. Something like 25% of US multinats operating in the EU are HQ'ed in Ireland. Not the result if internal organic growth.

Iceland - Baugur

Norway - massive oil revenues running into a massive welfare state

UK - Gordon Brown to thank for that one; corporate profits higher than ever before - but massive welfare state.

Scotland - hmmm, inward investment strategies going down the Swannee...over emphasis in low grade service jobs (what I meant by being 'over call centered'); and massive welfare state.

"What have small state Ireland, big state Norway and big state Iceland been doing over that time that we haven’t?"

Small state Ireland - taking money hand over fist from Brussels and playing the Irish card in Wall St. boardrooms.

Small state Norway - not invading Iraq, keeping themselves out of the EU and banking the oil money.

Iceland - well, we've not lost our taste for fish and chips.

"Isn’t there a chance that by taking full responsibility for our own affairs, we might emulate their successes in areas where the union has failed?"

That's a very, very, very big gamble, Richard; and given the differences between the small states you mentioned at the top of the post and ourselves, I would have to say 'No'.

"If I were a Tory, instead of offering to prop up Labour to keep the SNP out, I’d be looking for a position which generated maximum benefit for my party with the minimum compromise of my beliefs."

Under the current Scottish Conservative leadership, I do not believe such a position is possible. Sadly.

"I’d want to come up with something to overturn public perceptions about Tories being anti-Scottish; might see Labour put out of office; cuts the feet from the Lib Dems; and helps put to bed for years to come the constitutional question which has hampered my party for the last 30 years. I wonder what sort of initiative stands the best chance of doing that... any ideas?"

Campaigning against Holyrood's continued existence on the basis of the waste it has generated and obloguy it incites.

In other words, for the abolition of devolution.

11/10/2006 10:30:00 pm  
Blogger Richard Thomson said...

Thanks for the very interesting response, Martin. Just the thing to get the brain started up on a Sunday morning!

You are right that culture is important with respect to those WEF rankings. I think only the Belgians can possibly compete with the Swiss for their choclatiers, but having spent the early part of my career working in financial services I know that our banking sector does really quite well in international terms.

I was in Washington DC earlier in the year for Tartan Week (paid from my own pocket, I hasten to add). At one event, I got chatting to a couple who had recently holidayed in Scotland, and were keen to tell me all about the ‘cute little bank’ that sent a mobile branch round the village they’d been staying in. It came as a shock to them to find out that same ‘cute little bank’ was the 2nd largest in Europe and 5th largest in the world by market capitalization, and was the very same one they banked with whenever they spoke to their bank manager at Mellon.

The role of the EU cash in recent Irish success, while significant, is often overdone. The Economist reckoned a few years ago that it actually only accounted for ¼ of what was already an impressive growth rate. After all, EU money on its own without reform would just have disappeared into a great big pork barrel.

What was more important was the favourable demographics; a political and trade union establishment that decided to get to grips with chronic budget deficits; being brave enough to cut business taxes to try and stimulate growth; cornering the market in Anglophone pro-Europeanism; and being able to attract back some of those who had emigrated to use their skills in building the new Ireland. The population of the Republic is now heading for 4m – ours is static at around 5m and forecast to start falling in the next 20 years.

Looking at what others have done is instructive, but as you suggest, we have to find our own way. RBS is, for the moment, Scotland’s Nokia. I don’t see that particular dominance as being a weakness, any more than I do the wealth which oil brings and will carry on bringing throughout my lifetime. There’s as much left to recover that we know of in the North Sea as has already been extracted. And as demand increases, over the piece the price is only likely to be heading in one direction. As an aside, being the first port of call for what comes ashore is something I value, given the way that Gazprom and the Kremlin are starting to throw their weight around.

Norway’s oil fund now brings in a sizeable amount in interest, to the extent that it rivals the current revenues received from the Norweigan sector. Careful husbandry has worked wonders for them. With a similar approach of enlightened self-interest, I’d like to think that even the most incompetent Scottish government could make the next 30 years more like the last 30 should have been.

Is there goodwill for Scotland in US boardooms? Yes. There’s also a lot of goodwill for us up on Capitol Hill. For all that much of it is mushy-headed nonsense about being 1/3rd Scotch on a granny’s budgie’s side of the family, there’s a diaspora out there open to doing huge amounts of business in Scotland. We are spectacularly bad at taking advantage of that at the moment, and are not helped in any way by the Labour numpties currently at the helm.

It was revealing to see how the cocksure swagger of Scottish Executive Ministers, including Jack McConnell, was absent when they were away from their home turf. I was there when he spoke at the launch of the ‘Friends of Scotland’ caucus in front of a roomful of Senators and Congressmen. Fair enough, he had to follow a serious player like George Reid, which isn’t something which many people would relish, but McConnell was truly cringeworthy. He would be out of his depth in a kiddie’s paddling pool.

Competative advantages? At present, I believe that Scotland has a pretty good fiscal starting point. There’s a huge amount of international goodwill waiting to be capitalized upon. We have a great natural environment which can offer a fantastic quality of life, have a pretty well-educated workforce, lots of international links through our academic institutions, have 80% of ‘EU’ oil and gas reserves, enjoy greater potential for renewable energy than any country in Europe other than perhaps Iceland (the Pentland Firth has the potential to generate more energy than all current UK nuclear stations combined, according to Prof. Stephen Salter), we are at the crossroads of trade between the EU and North America, we speak English as a first language and have an intimate familiarity with Anglophone culture… we should be great at doing business and Scotland should be a great place to do business in.

However, as an Irish government minister once said to a friend of mine ‘Sure, you’ve been dealt a great hand of cards, but you’re playing them all wrong’. And that’s where culture comes into it and where what politicians and officials, for better or worse, try to do, really begins to count.

I don’t agree that it’s too late for Scotland. It is possible to build world-class businesses here, and there are a lot of dedicated people in the public sector who chafe at the timidity of the ‘you can do anything as long as it’s not for the first time’, or the ‘but we’ve always done it that way’ mentality. In my view, it’s not so much a failure of culture as a failure of leadership - a failure to accept responsibility for the condition of others around us. I’ve had a rant about what I see as the ‘prolier than thou’ culture elsewhere – see http://www.scotsindependent.org/2004/041008/index.htm if you’re interested.

Abolish devolution? Your gast will no doubt be flabbered to learn that I disagree. Even limited devolution has removed the opportunity to blame our neighbours to the south for every misfortune visited on Scotland, which for me is an unqualified good. Also, I don’t want to go back to the bad old days of the Scottish Office doling out billions of pounds of our money and only coming under parliamentary scrutiny for an hour once every five weeks when Westminster happens to be sitting.

Neither would I want to see complete incorporation, and the loss of the ability to do things differently in Scotland. We have 1/12 of the UK population on 1/3 of the land mass, which means that some things have to be done very differently, even if the objectives are similar. Too often, where Scottish and wider UK interests don’t coincide, it’s Scotland that (quite understandably) ends up losing out.

We have already have the institutions, the civil service and a Parliament, albeit a flawed one. For me, the direction now is one way towards Independence – the only remaining questions are how far and how fast. Frankly, if I didn’t believe that we could reinvigorate a culture of celebrating success and thereby put a firework under some of the dismal plodders that seem to make their way to the top in every walk of life (business as well), I’m not sure I’d bother to get out of bed in the morning.

We generate a surplus of economic, human and cultural capital in Scotland, but much of that has to leave to achieve its potential. No harm in that, necessarily – London is a global city and will continue to have a huge draw for ambitions people everywhere – I might even end up there myself once I become that Master of Bullshit and Atrophy. However, I don’t think we do enough to allow people to reach their full potential here in Scotland. That means diminished economic, social and cultural opportunities for those who remain, and it’s something which can only be changed, in my view, through engaging directly with the wider world, putting a focus on growing our economy and having a government which has the full toolkit of economic and legislative powers currently held by the grown-ups in London.

Direct rule didn’t do it and devolution isn’t doing it. Independence might, and that for me is reason enough to go for it. The long-term alternatives are really, for me at least, too awful to contemplate.

11/12/2006 02:27:00 pm  

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