Final Thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum

no thanks

I hope everyone planning to Vote “Yes” on Thursday understands that this is not like voting in a General Election. In an election whether it is a General Election or an election for the Parish Council if we (collectively) vote the “wrong” party in we have to grit our teeth, grin and bear it until we get a chance to correct the mistake next time. On Thursday a “Yes” vote is permanent. When the Yes campaign’s Panglossian promises prove impossible to implement it will be too late to change your mind.

The divorce will be messy; It’s not going to be easy dividing up the CD collection. It will take a lot longer than the 18 months that the “Yes” campaign seems to think it will take. It is likely to get acrimonious, especially if, as seems possible though I’ll do as much as I can to make sure it doesn’t happen, UKIP have some leverage after the 2015 election.

You can’t come greetin’ back when you find that what the fancy man promised turns out to be a mixture of fantasy and lies. Oh and it seems that the rich uncle you hoped might pay for all this is thinking about keeping his money to himself. Yes Shetland may just take its oil and go its own way

An independent Scotland even without “the Oil” will probably work, lots of smaller and poorer countries than Scotland work, at least after a fashion. Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian says this;

The fundamental point, though, is this: neither picture captures the reality. Look at Scotland’s economic profile, and it’s clear that independence would be viable. But count up the building blocks that would form the basis of a new economy, and it looks sadly unlikely that an independent Scotland would be much of an alternative to the Old Corruption south of the border.

He concludes that economically Scotland will end up looking more like Ireland than anything else. Now Ireland works, but it is a long way from the promised fairer Scandinavian Social Democratic paradise.

We live in a democracy, and we have to accept the result even if it is 50% +1 vote.

Having said that we live in a democracy, roughly 10% of Scots living in the UK have been deliberately deprived of a say in the outcome of the referendum. Make no mistake how you vote on the 18th will have a profound effect on the lives of Scots who have chosen to live in, or in many cases had to move to, another part of their country. Giving us a vote on the outcome would help a lot of us accept the result, either way, more readily. But I don’t have a vote so all I can do is express my feelings on my blog and hope that it sways one or two of you.
Patrick McGhee says;

Scotland has waited 300 years for a chance to vote for its own independence. It’s a decision of historic proportions. The waiting feels interminable and unbearable.

But not all Scots will get a say. About 800,000 Scots live in England but will not be able to vote in the Scottish referendum. That’s about the same as the population of Glasgow and Aberdeen combined. That is to say, people born in Scotland but who have relocated to England for work, family or study reasons, either temporarily, permanently or indefinitely. People who are essentially as Scottish as those born north of the border and who currently live there.

People like me.

It is your vote, I can’t tell you how to cast it, but I am asking you to vote “No”, because I genuinely believe that both Scotland and the other parts of the United Kingdom will be better and stronger if we stay together. Here’s Gordon Brown putting the case much more eloquently than I can;

If you want to read the articles I quote from in full click on the links at the beginning of the quotes.

A View of the Scottish Independence Debate from a Scotsman in England

I was born in the Scottish Borders just over 59 years ago. I have lived in South London for the last 25. Before that I lived in the Solomon Islands for about 3 years and before that I was at sea for about 15 years. During the time I was at sea I lived in Hawick when I was at home. During the time that I lived in Hawick, I was more or less the only member of my High School class who still lived there. Everyone else had gone off to College or University and had not come back. I could continue to live in Hawick because I earned my living elsewhere. I doubt that the situation has altered much since then and if independence will change it I would like to know how.

The first thing that bothers me about the independence debate is that I will have no say in its outcome. The result of the referendum will have a profound and lasting effect on my identity. I am someone who sees himself as Scottish and British (which way round usually depends on the sporting contest that I am watching) and a Borderer and a Londoner1. Following a “Yes” vote on the 18th of September, what will I be? I will still be living in England, but I am definitely not English. Can I still be Scottish? And what becomes of the British part of me?

I had originally given this post the working title “An Expatriate View of the Scottish Independence Debate”. I changed it because I am not an expatriate. I was an expatriate when I lived and worked in the Solomon Islands. I moved to a different part of my country because I fell in love with and then married a woman who lived in London. I was in the Merchant Navy at the time, so where I lived didn’t matter. It was no different to moving to Edinburgh or Inverness.

I understand to a certain extent why I don’t have a vote in the referendum; although I don’t think that it would have been too impossible to allow Scots living in the UK to register to vote on proof of birth.

I am not in favour of an independent Scotland. I think that the past 307 years do actually prove that we are “Better Together”. One hundred years ago when my grandfathers signed up to fight in World War One they joined the British Army. Thirty seven years later, when my father signed up to help defeat Nazism he didn’t join the Scottish Navy he joined the Royal Navy. We fought and defeated Fascism as the United Kingdom. We forged the Welfare State and the National Health Service as the United Kingdom. We celebrated our shared history at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. When Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray won their gold medals it wasn’t just Scots who celebrated. Scotland’s story is inextricably linked to the story of the rest of the British Isles.

It is probably worth remembering that the Union came about because Scotland had bankrupted itself on a grandiose ill thought out national ego enhancing scheme (the sort of thing that I am sure Mr Salmond would never contemplate) Over the next three-hundred years we built a new nation that was and is stronger than the separate parts.

A few random thoughts

Tax and Oil

The Yes campaign, or parts of it at least, appears to promise a Social Democratic paradise with Scandinavian levels of social provision and American levels of taxation. It is interesting to note that the only concrete tax proposal they have come up with is a proposal to cut Corporation Tax, presumably Amazon and Starbucks will declare their profits in Scotland rather than the counties they were earned in. Of course the oil, or possibly whisky will supposedly pay for all this.

I don’t know where Brian McNeill stands on independence, probably for it, but his song “No Gods and Precious few Heroes” could have been written about the Alex Salmond and the Yes campaign;

He’ll lead us to the Promised Land with laughter in his eye
We’ll all live on the oil and the whisky by and by
Free heavy beer! Pie suppers in the sky! -
Will we never have the sense to learn?

The reliance on oil revenue to balance the budget strikes me as similar to my ideas about what I could do with my first pay check after I had completed my apprenticeship. I seemed like an almost unlimited amount of money, but I discovered pretty soon that it didn’t go as far as I had hoped.
It also seems slightly incongruous to me that the Scottish Green Party signed up to a policy that relies on an increase in greenhouse gasses to fund it.

I am a Social Democrat and I want to see a more just country but I don’t see the plans being laid out by Tommy Sheridan and his ilk as a practical way forward, and besides what’s wrong with fighting for social democracy in the United Kingdom

Currency Union

Of course an Independent Scotland could keep the pound, the only problem being that a currency union without political and fiscal union doesn’t really work. The Euro doesn’t work very well especially for countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal. This is because without political union and unified fiscal policy it is not possible to make the transfers of money that help stabilise the weaker parts. It works for the largest economy – Germany – which gets to dictate the terms and conditions for the others. The dollar does work well because the United States of America is a political union with a unified fiscal policy at Federal level.

When Czechoslovakia separated both the Czech Republic and Slovakia thought that they could continue to use the Koruna in a currency union, it took about a week for them to discover that it wouldn’t work and that they would have to separate the currency.

The real reason behind the Bank of England’ reluctance to allow a currency union ( and the three main UK political parties) is a fear that an Independent Scotland will end up in similar deficit situation (see my previous point), to say Greece or Portugal, with them rather than the European Central Bank as lender of last resort.

Railways

One other minor point, a fair bit been made of Scottish taxpayers funding London’s Crossrail project, however as a London Taxpayer I am funding the Border Rail project. I am not saying that the Border Rail project should not happen, it would probably have been better if the Waverly Line had never been closed in the first place, but if you calculate the cost at about £300 million and consider the number of people who will benefit from it, about 100,000 if I am being generous 40,000 is probably more realistic that comes to about £3000 per person (I’m being generous) Crossrail at a cost of about £15 billion will benefit about 10 million people a cost of £1500 per person. Also I am funding free prescriptions, free care for the elderly, free higher education, all of which I think government should be funding by the way, but I don’t get the benefit of any of it.

My summary

When it comes down to it I am a Borderer and true people of the borders know that there is no difference between them and the people on the other side of the line drawn on the map.
Everyone has roots somewhere, mine are in the Borders, but I am also Scottish, British, and a Londoner, but above all I am a Citizen of Earth.

I believe we are Better Together and although I don’t have a vote on the 18th I hope that enough of you who do will agree with me and vote to keep the Union.

1 The definition of a true Londoner is someone who lives there but wasn’t born there.

This post was produced while listening to the Cheviot Ranters a band from Northumberland who were popular on both sides of the border.

Writing 101 Free Writing Challenge

So I have signed myself up to the WordPress Writing 101 Course. The Idea being to improve my writing and hopefully make this blog more interesting. Today’s exercise is to write for twenty minutes without an agenda and publish the result.

OK this may not be the most interesting post I have ever produced. It certainly won’t be the most coherent. Though some one (probably Lord Wallington) will probably tell me that it beats every thing that I have ever written on both counts.

I would normally run my posts through the proof reader to winkle out any gross grammatical errors, clichés and the like, before I publish, but this time I won’t as this is just supposed to be a stream on conciousness thing. I will use a spell checker though. The spell checker doesn’t like the way I spell spellchecker apparently. First fail of the post, unless you count starting it that is.
Normally at this time of the year I would be blogging mainly about the Tour de France, but for various reasons, mainly things going on in and around my life, I haven’t got the same enthusiasm for it that I usually have. At this time last year I was getting quite excited about the fact that it was starting in Leeds and that there were to be three stages in Britain, with the final on ending more or less on my doorstep in London. I was making tentative plans about going up to Yorkshire at the weekend and then back home for Monday so that I could take in all three stages, but life got in they way. And as Burns said

“The best laid plans o’ mice and men gan aft aglee”

That is my twenty minutes up, so I will run the spellchecker and hit the publish button.

How big a change is Global Warming going to make?

The Web Comic XKCD – Which comes with the following warning;

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)

recently published this:

It is easy to deny climate change, to say “Global Warming, nothing to worry about. it just means that we will be able to grow grapes in Yorkshire”. The reality is that if we don’t stop pumping CO2 into the atmosphere we will be producing a climate that is as different from today’s as today’s from that of the last ice age.

The Psychology of First World Problems

A phrase has appeared on the internet recently. Someone posts a Facebook status update complaining about a less than perfect hazelnut latte, and in the comments some one will point out that this is a First World Problem.
Oliver Burkeman has an interesting column in the Guardian on the psychology behind this.

He starts with the furore caused by a very very rich American Tom Perkins comparing criticism of the richest 1% to Nazi persecution of the Jews (completely ignoring Godwin’s Law).

Perhaps you recall the furore a few weeks ago when Tom Perkins, a stratospherically wealthy venture capitalist from San Francisco, wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal, comparing criticism of America’s ultra-rich to Kristallnacht. Yes, that Kristallnacht. The Nazi one. Perkins apologised, but in an editorial the Journal claimed the uproar proved his point: “Maybe the critics are afraid that Mr Perkins is on to something?” Maybe. Or maybe it was a very stupid comparison, made only marginally less offensive by its absurdity.

He puts this incredible touchiness among the 1% down to the fact that they surrounded by lackeys and flatterers – like the editorial writer in the Wall Street Journal – employed to blow sunshine up the arse of the rich. They never hear criticism, they are never told they could be wrong, when criticised or told that they are wrong they take it incredibly badly.

I remember a story that our then Union Convener told me. He had encountered two members of the higher echelons of the company’s management in a hotel bar. While remaining perfectly civil about it he told them exactly where they were wrong why they were wrong and what they needed to do to put things right. He said that the primary reaction he received from them was shock, shock that someone had the effrontery to tell them something that they didn’t want to hear, and probably shock at the fact that a person about ten pay grades below them was telling them and giving a good coherently argued case.

That accounts for the 1% reaction, but it doesn’t take into account the problem of the imperfectly prepared hazelnut latte.

Then again, if you’ve ever felt cross about the absence of your favourite brand of coffee at the supermarket, or frustrated by slow broadband, you’re doing something similar. In that sense, the tale of Tom Perkins is just an extreme illustration of how, to quote the comedian Louis CK, “everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy”. (He recalled a fellow aeroplane passenger complaining that the in-flight WiFi didn’t work. “But you’re sitting in a chair in the sky!”) Actually, he might have added, it’s worse than that, because the more amazing things get, the less it’ll take to make you dissatisfied.

This is where the problem lies, we have become used to a world of perfect hazelnut lattes and super-fast broadband and if the latte isn’t exactly to our taste, or it takes more than a nanosecond to download the latest pearls of wisdom from johnm55, we get annoyed. It applies to other, more serious, things. As Steven Pinker points out in the Better Angels of Our Nature we live in probably the least violent era in human history. As a result some things like domestic violence, which a century or even a few decades ago would have seemed unremarkable, are now seen as unacceptable. Because aggressive and violent behaviour is now fairly rare these things stand out.

Some bad phenomenon – workplace bullying, say – may strike us as appalling. But part of the reason it stands out is that aggressive behaviour in general is so rare, and our standards so high, compared with previous eras. In this area, high standards are a good thing, of course, since workplace bullying ought to be eliminated. When it comes to your slow broadband, you’re probably better advised to lower your standards. Yet, in both cases, it’s the excellence of the wider context that makes the flaw look so bad. And when your context is more privileged than that of almost any human in history, perhaps you stop being able to see how deranged it looks when you compare your critics to Hitler.

Or possibly a few lessons in self-awareness might help – for everyone.

The full article can be read here

Weather Revisited

We finally have a bit of a respite from the storms that have battered Britain since about a fortnight before Christmas, or the late part of October of you count the St Jude Storm (so-called because it was at its height on October the 28th, which is The feast of St Jude the Apostle).
I found this video on YouTube in which various climate scientists explain that what we see happening before our eyes is essentially what we can expect to see.

In The Observer Henry Porter asks the climate change sceptics to coherently explain what is happening and why we don’t need to do anything about it. Having berated the media, especially the Today programme, for trying to pretend that man-made climate change is still an open question;

For the moment, however, they have a disproportionate influence because they’ve created the illusion that this is a finely balanced discussion where a person can reasonably support either side. They empower a certain amount of stupidity, laziness, selfishness and ignorance in the minds of many, and I hope some of the younger deniers, though few, live to acknowledge responsibility.

He does give a very logical reason about why the sceptics deny the facts when presented to them.

I mentioned that most deniers come from the right and it is true the uninterrupted business of capitalism, which often entails waste of resources and energy, is a priority, but there is something deeper that explains why there are so few deniers from the left and that is to do with conservative mind. In his 1956 essay “On Being Conservative”, the philosopher Michael Oakeshott wrote that the man of conservative temperament is “not in love with what is dangerous and difficult; he is unadventurous; he has no impulse to sail uncharted seas. What others plausibly identify as timidity, he recognises in himself as rational prudence. He eyes the situation in terms of its propensity to disrupt the familiarity of the features of his world”.

The real problem is that we are all a bit conservative and very few of us want the familiar features of our world disrupted, but unless we start to do something about it soon, as the video shows our little world is going to be disrupted whether we like it or not.
Go read the full article here