Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Big Currency Bash.

Well, it's been hot news since Gideon laid his cards flatly and squarely on the table. The Scots and their Nation are second-class citizens of Planet Earth when it comes to currency sharing. And while I don't normally re-blog items, I saw this post pertaining to the stramash on "who can do what with a pound" while on Facebook today, and thought it was worth the reposting. 

Thanks to Mairie NicIllemhoire and Ken Potter for all the information:

"I'm not in favour of the Euro as our currency post-indy, but nonetheless, I found it very interesting to discover that there are several non-EU members who use the Euro as their currency, namely: Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, and Vatican City.

With regards to sterling, the current list of official users (plus secondary currencies, in brackets) are:

United Kingdom,
British Antarctic Territory,
Falkland Islands (alongside Falkland Islands pound),
Gibraltar (alongside Gibraltar pound),
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (Tristan da Cunha; alongside Saint Helena pound in Saint Helena and Ascension),
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (alongside Falkland Islands pound),
British Indian Ocean Territory (de jure, US Dollar used de facto),
Guernsey (local issue: Guernsey pound),
Isle of Man (local issue: Manx pound),
Jersey (local issue: Jersey pound).

Apart from these OFFICIAL users of the pound sterling, there are the following places using sterling unofficially:
Uganda,
Zimbabwe,
Zambia,
Sierra Leone,
Tanzania,
Rwanda,
Malawi,
Botswana,
plus the Pakistani city of Mirpur in Kashmir.

Historically.
After becoming independent, Ireland continued to use the Saorstát pound (Irish Punt), which remained pegged with sterling until she joined the European Monetary System in 1978, whilst the UK remained out. Other areas of the, now defunct, Empire have also used sterling in the past - the gold sovereign was legal tender in Canada despite the use of the Canadian dollar.

Several colonies and dominions adopted the pound as their own currency. These included Australia, Barbados, British West Africa, Cyprus, Fiji, the Irish Free State, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. Some of these retained parity with sterling throughout their existence (e.g. the South African pound), whilst others deviated from parity after the end of the gold standard (e.g. the Australian pound).

At this point, I'm thinking that someone needs to put this to Better Together, and ask 2 salient questions: 


1) Just exactly WHAT makes Scotland different from any and all of these other places?
 
2) Name one place that has ever been refused the use of sterling. Just one!"


It will be interesting to hear if they've got an answer to either of those questions. 

As we approach the referendum, the output of scaremongering dross from the Unionist side is building to a torrent . But just how much more will the people in Scotland take and how much of it is now being seen for what it truly is - utter nonsense? 
I get the feeling that Westminster forgets even the humble Scot has access to the internet where any amount of information is available and these pronouncements can be checked and double-checked and seen for the misinformation they are.

Meanwhile, on the rest of the planet, the thought of an independent Scotland with a Scottish Pound appears to be perfectly acceptable. For instance, this little article - Hong Kong Markets favour a Scottish Pound - published last year on April 28th shows the money markets of the East giving a more favourable rate to the Scottish Pound than Sterling. It looks as if foreign markets think a Scottish Pound would be a safer bet than rUK Pound. 

I shall await the next development, scare story, bullsh*t with baited breath. I'm sure, just like buses, several will turn up at the same time. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Pulling The Wool - No Credit For Tweed.

Westminster and the Institute for Financial Studies (IFS) say there is, and will continue to be, a financial black hole in Scotland’s budget. They persist in telling us we are Too Poor, our economy is a basket case, and following independence we’d be poorer than a Developing Nation on its uppers, with a financial deficit in the billions. However, the IFS has apparently taken their data from those figures which are available from Westminster; figures that are created under the auspices of London’s government and London’s rules, as such they do not always, nor indeed by all appearances ever reflect the reality of Scotland’s financial standing because of certain “quirks” on how exports etc are recorded. Some of these issues I dealt with here Hidden Wealth.

Essentially, exports are credited to the UK nation that controls the port of departure. That’s right, it’s not about where they’re made, it is from where they are shipped.

The information in the above blog resulted in me being asked on Facebook what this meant for the iconic Harris Tweed Industry. It seemed appropriate to dig a bit.

My first stop was UK Registry of Companies to discover where much of the Harris Tweed industry was registered. This would tell us whether their profits and taxes could be attributed to Scottish income. The results were interesting and varied. Many of the smaller companies associated with the Harris Tweed Industry are indeed registered in Lewis, but the main mills where by far the majority of the textiles are produced brought a mixed bag of results.

I really enjoyed this trip into an iconic Scottish industry, and I learned much, such as the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) was set up by Act of Parliament in 1993 to help protect and promote the industry, while maintaining standards within it. I was quite surprised to discover there are only three main mills within the industry, all based in the Outer Hebrides.

Shawbost is the largest mill and main producer of tweed. It is owned by Harris Tweed Hebrides Ltd and is registered in the Isle of Lewis. Interestingly, members of their board include one Ian Roper Taylor, of Vitol fame and a certain Brian Wilson, former UK Labour politician. Harris Tweed Hebrides board of directors.

The next and oldest operating mill (since 1909) belongs to the intriguingly named Harris Tweed Scotland Ltd. I say intriguingly from the viewpoint that it is actually registered as a company at Haincliffe Road, Ingrow, Keighly, West Yorkshire, BD21 5BU; Harris Tweed Scotland LTD. The company is owned by Mr Brian Haggas following a buy-out in 2006. It primarily produces tweed to be made into jackets, presumably in garment factories in the North East of England. These are then exported all over the world including sending an apparently small proportion of its finished garments back to the Islands to be sold there.

The third and smallest mill in Lewis involved in tweed production is the Carloway Mill. It’s an independent mill; however, I was unable to find any trace of registration on either of the Companies House or Company Check websites. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to why this is so. In March of this year, they entered a joint venture with the large Chinese textile company Shandong Ruyi Technological Group Ltd. Companies not registered under their own names are often held by overseas investors through shell corporations. I’m not alleging this is the case here, but would welcome information to the contrary.

There is also a network of independent weavers within the industry who can work as contractors for any of the mills or sell their cloth freelance.

While the HTA would like you to think that the Hebrides are the centre of the exporting world for tweeds, as you will be misled by this HTA World Presence web-page, this is not strictly accurate. Indeed, all the fabric is created, dyed and woven there, but the vast majority of the product, and research indicates a substantial percentage of it, leaves the Islands by road haulage by Woody's Express Parcels and ferry for a depot in Inverness.

From Inverness I am reliably informed other haulage companies, namely DHL, UPS and FED EX take the fabric on the next step of the journey, to destinations such as East Midlands Airport (DHL, UPS), Newcastle Airport (FED EX) and all ports south. Very little of this Scottish iconic fabric actually leaves via a Scottish airport or dock. From this, I can only conclude that it doesn’t count in favour of Scottish exports and adds tonnage and financial gain to English exports, as bales of Harris Tweed exit via English ports.

What we have here is an iconic Scot’s product which has the appearance of being virtually deleted from the Scottish balance of payments ledger, while simultaneously accruing to England’s. To reiterate, as per UK export law, it is the port of exit that counts when it comes to registering overseas shipping, not the country of manufacture.

Under the weirdest of all situations one could actually have the finished garments, marked ‘Harris Tweed’ counted as a Scottish import, and worsening our balance of payments. This is because almost no ‘Harris Tweed’ garments are now manufactured in Scotland, so any sold here effectively have to be re-imported from the country of manufacture.

That you can play with the base fundamentals of an economy in such a fashion is very simple indeed. Especially when almost everyone relies upon the official figures from Westminster to obtain a consensus of agreement that Scotland might just be an economic basket case with a horrible balance of payments deficit, when the reverse may well indeed prove to be a much more accurate statement. The only real way to prove Scotland’s net worth would be to do as the USA apparently does with its states, and count the country of origin or state of origin of goods, but that might not be in vested interests with a referendum in the offing.

This is obviously something that happens with startling consistency where Scotland’s exports are concerned. It is agreed by those who have actually researched the figures that Scotland is nominally responsible for somewhere around 9% of UK GDP, this does not include oil which is treated separately, yet based upon air freight, with a similar number being expected across the board, Scotland is credited only for about 2% of UK export, by weight. Air Freight tonnage. The fact that the system is set up in such a way that practically all of Scotland’s manufacturing ends up exiting the British Isles not via a local airport or freight terminal, but one which, in Stornoway’s case, may be almost 700 miles away (Stornoway-London) is both detrimental to our economy and destructive to our environment. It is also a bit of an eye-opener when you discover Kent International Airport (where?) moved more tonnage in air freight (12,744 tonnes) than Edinburgh (8,933 tonnes) in the first half of 2013. In fact Manchester Airport shifted over twice (45,831) the cargo that the whole of Scotland moved (22,731).

The reality of this situation is that if Scotland produced exports of 9 billion pounds per year, then she would be being credited for 2 billion pounds per year, while the other 7 billion pounds per year will accrue to Westminster’s ledger, and no, they’re not hard numbers, they’re example figures.

This is a dreadful under-use of Scotland’s facilities and resources from all sorts of angles, including Green Issues, but that’s another blog for another time. Far more could and should be moved through these airports from an economical point of view. Local economies and employment would benefit enormously from this.

The important aspect I got from all of this is from London’s perspective, when you spread this “port of exit” requirement across all of Scotland’s exporting industries, whether it’s tweed, electronics or shortbread, they have created a wonderful statistical tool that ‘anyone’ can use to perpetuate the ‘too poor” case for the Scots’ economy and produce ‘believable’ statistical data that might encourage a ‘NO’ vote when perpetuated by the MSM in Scotland without proper back up research.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Hidden Wealth.

It gets you that way. You find yourself in a long Facebook natter and suddenly you realise there is a fact which doesn't often get highlighted in this “debate” about Scotland’s constitutional future. Oh yes, the Unionists aren't slow to drag the “oil is volatile and will cause you no end of confusion” card, and sadly many, many people pick this one up and run with it. It defines and confines the financial deliberation within heavily bordered limits. And this is precisely where Westminster wants this discussion to be kept.

Yet, there is not so much an elephant in the room but a small herd of elephants in the room. These are all of the companies currently manufacturing and exporting from Scotland and/or selling goods to the people in Scotland, but are head-quartered in England.

Currently, the majority of goods manufactured, grown, distilled or created in Scotland are exported via ports and airports in England. All taxation receipts from the following items such as airport fees, freight charges, fuel sales, VAT, applicable export levies and associated profits from these goods are then allocated as English income at the Treasury. The exact figures are hard to break down as they appear to be intentionally difficult to search or find in any of the Westminster governmental sites. For an example of a typically Scottish product regularly exported, in 2012 Whisky exports topped £4 billion. Approximately seventy-five percent of this is exported via English ports and allocated to the Treasury as English exports and income. This is also true of beef and other farm produce grown in Scotland, yet exported via ports down south. This can only be viewed as profits and tax receipts which should be credited to Scotland lost in a system set up to confuse and obfuscate.

Then we have the interesting situation of companies that sell goods and services in Scotland, but are head-quartered south of the border. With very few exceptions, it is only chains and stores with head offices in Scotland that record profits and VAT as being income from Scotland. The majority of companies which operate central offices in England pay their taxes and are shown as making profit in England – despite it being hard earned wages which gave them those profits and VAT receipts at tills in Aberdeen or Kilbirnie or Haddington.

We all need to eat, furnish our homes and wear clothes (well most folks do!). And many of us enjoy our electronic goods or buy home improvement items – you get the picture. We go to our local supermarket, DIY store, favourite clothes shops or electrical store and pay for all those things that make our lives viable and comfortable. Except, very few of these stores have a head office in Scotland.

As a way of explanation, allow me use one chain to give a small example.

Sainsbury: They have 1,016 stores throughout mainland UK, 60 of those are in Scotland – according to 2012 figures. This is roughly 6%. Until March of this year they took £2,329 Million in VAT. Roughly 6% of that or £140 Million was taken in Scottish stores. Under the current arrangement, ALL of that money is allocated as English income to reflect where Sainsbury have their HQ.

Now, imagine in an independent Scotland, that portion of VAT generated by us busily getting on with our daily lives, equipping our bellies, families and homes, going directly to Holyrood to be spent as needed on those things that we have deemed as important to us and our society – whether it’s infrastructure or social care. Sounds great doesn't it, but it’s “only” £140 Million, I hear someone mumble. However, you need to extrapolate this small amount over every company presently operating in Scotland under the current set-up.

What we have is a pile of money heading to Westminster and not really finding its way back to help those who spent it in the first place. Not only that, because it isn’t shown as being generated within Scotland, it helps to reinforce the “Too Poor” aspect of the Unionists argument. They can throw the volatility of North Sea Oil in our faces every other day, but they deliberately miss the point of other important, yet hidden aspects of the Scottish economy (e.g. £500 million in road taxes with associated fuel duties) which isn’t being allowed to show up for us in the “Books”.

How easily they can transform Scotland’s vibrant economy, created and supported by her hard working population, from energetic to appear poor and perhaps slightly quaint and backward.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Westminster Cronies Al Qaeda ... You decide.


Something has been troubling me for some time; it did in 1979 before that referendum, it has again for more than a year. It crystalised not too long ago when the denizens of that inimical palace of Westminster labelled the tactics they would use in Scotland to secure a ‘No’ vote as ‘Project Fear’.

If we doubt Westminster and her allies are indeed inimical towards the Scots, we need only look to five quick definitions which can be uncovered with two minutes of browsing through almost any dictionary. 

Also, that Unionists are utelising a not-so-subtle form of terrorism against Scottish aspirations is becoming increasingly apparent as we begin coasting down the months towards the referendum in September 2014.
The only significant question to be asked is "why would we believe anything from such a source?". 



The online Cambridge dictionary was used for the definitions pasted below.

Project: a piece of planned work or an activity that is finished over a period of time and intended to achieve a particular aim.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen e.g., "Trembling with fear, she handed over the money to the gunman."

Terrorism: defined as ‘Threats of violent action for political purposes’

Terrorist: would be someone who uses violent action or threats of violent action for political purposes. 

Blackmail: the act of getting money from people or forcing them to do something by threatening to tell a secret of theirs or to harm them.

Accordingly, we have it clearly from the architects themselves. They describe their own work as ‘Project Fear’ and they’re proud of it, damned proud.

Consider the multitude of scare stories; from currency to oil; from the northern isles breaking away to ejection from the EU; from border controls to debt; the storming of Scotland’s airports by English forces to our inability to defend ourselves. Then consider and remember that each of the principle denizens of the belly of the beast, the main political leaders of Westminster and their puppets in Edinburgh, for surely they deserve no other title under these circumstances, have all stated that ‘of course, Scotland could be a successful independent country’.

These same political leaders have then gone on to bless "Project Fear". Perhaps not overtly or openly, but neither have they decried it, which at the least is tacit approval. And we all know the danger of mute inaction because as widely acknowledged; evil only wins when good folk don’t take a stand and speak out against it.

It’s also re-enforced by the fact that the threats and implied actions against the Scots aren't presently enacted against the Irish, who like us were also ‘engineered’ into this same union. It is not enacted, it would appear, simply because they've already left, though history tells us of  tactics utelised before they did.

It is said the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. We should have good cause to expect similar treatment to the Irish, though like the Irish, we might expect it to take three quarters of a century.

Project Fear is quite simply a piece of planned work that will be finished over a period of time and is intended to achieve a particular aim. In the eyes of its architects, it will secure a ‘No’ vote in the upcoming referendum. Remembering of course, a referendum is a political event. ‘Project Fear’ is therefore decidedly an attempt to influence a political process through intimidation.

This leads to the fact that Project Fear is clearly an attempt by those pictured above to convince Scots that something dangerous, painful, or bad might, most likely will happen should they dare to vote ‘Yes’

Project Fear is therefore clearly state terrorism under this accepted interpretation. For like many political or religious extremists, it is carrying both the implied and overt threat of violent action for political purposes. What else can describe the almost 'hell on earth' which would be engendered in Scotland if every one of the dire utterances from, or on behalf of the Union were to play out after a successful independence vote.

It would clearly follow that the leaders of project fear are at worst terrorists under the literal meaning. It means those pictured above who might participate in such negative propaganda lie anywhere in the scope of this blog from real actual terrorists in the true Al Qaeda vein, to simply not very pleasant people; if one equates good people with pleasant people. If it were otherwise they’d surely be speaking with one voice and condemning ‘Project Fear’.

As to the role of the head of the state in all this? Surely a benevolent monarch should be decrying such tactics in ‘her’ land? In respect to the Queen, what will change, except perhaps Scotland’s financial contribution?

Finally, we have blackmail, for surely ‘Project Fear’ is blackmail, because it’s got every appearance of trying to force a particular course of action in order to avoid the threat of, or actual personal harm.

Personally I believe Scots to be a bit better than to submit to blackmail, terrorism, or other such attempts at coercion. 
In addition, I believe we’re overall a worthy, competent and conscientious folk more than capable of building our own home and living peacefully in the village of nations. 

Meantime, consider those above; the actions, words and deeds emanating from the London Parliament and its supporters, and decide for yourself if a no vote is a vote in support of terrorism, blackmail and fear?

There is no grey area, if you decide that’s what’s happening, a NO vote is simply a vote to support state sponsored terrorism and blackmail.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Is there pact to destroy the NHS?

I've had the opportunity to live in both the UK and US. In a previous life I spent a career in healthcare. Consequently, I have always kept an eye on this subject as I'm interested in it, and have watched England’s steady march to Privatisation for a decade and more.
The first issue is; why privatise?

No, really, why bother?

The universal government line is that it is:

1) ‘Necessary’

2) ‘Reduces costs’

3) ‘Fosters competition’.

The first two are obviously hokum; the last is probably undesirable in a health care scenario, unless folk just get the opportunity to go elsewhere, which could be satisfied by simply electing to go to another health board. It would be easy to make a statute to cover a right to change health boards. The cost would be no more than some legislation.

Let’s look at the first two for a minute, the hokum claims.

Well, I would deal with ‘Necessary’ first, except I've come up against an immediate issue; nobody is telling me Why it’s necessary, unless it circles around points two or three, in which case it’s irrelevant fluff; and fluff we should also be able to agree is hokum.

So, if reason one for privatisation is self evident ‘padding’ of hokum, and reason three can be fixed by statute that leaves reason two.

Reason two says it ‘reduces costs’, which is smoke and mirrors. Let’s say the State, and we’ll make it the entire UK as well as use easy numbers, has a hundred billion for health care. We’ll make it simple by abbreviating scenarios and not adjusting for inflation.

In 1973 the nation had a hundred billion to spend on health care. We were taxed a hundred billion to support it, we spent a hundred billion on it. We got what we paid for, more or less directly returned.

Now, fast forward forty years. At this point about a third, twenty to fifty percent depending on how you work the numbers, of that service is effectively privatised, from PPI to PFI contracts to farming out of services and people.

So, now we've got a hundred billion of our money going in and about sixty five billion returned directly in ‘services’

What has happened to the other thirty five billion? Well, ‘The City’ and ‘Wall Street’ like to see profits of thirty to forty percent; we’ll call it a third on average. Executive salaries in the private sector are generally higher, hourly wages generally lower, but about ten percent of company revenue is usually kept to repay banks and shareholders as well.

Of that thirty five billion, we’ll be generous; about twenty billion might come back in services which have been included as part of PFI/PPI agreements, e.g. laundry, security, some aspects of direct care services, building maintenance etc.

So, in 2013, we still put in a hundred billion, but we lost fifteen of it to the ‘privateers’ padding their treasure chests. Now you know how a lot of those new yachts I see every day get paid for. Luxury lifestyles being financed while your children or your grandparents go on waiting lists. In fact, at the time of writing, our £19,000 floating home is next to a $7,000,000 yacht – financed by the insurance side of the US health care industry. And let’s be clear, it is an Industry.

So, what inspired this blog, and why now?

The NHS has just announced it expects a thirty billion funding gap by 2020.

To meet that, Lady Williams is advocating charging for visits to doctor’s surgeries. They’re also proposing having pensioners pay. So-called “wealthier” pensioners, just because they might have worked all their lives and saved like crazy and have a pension other than the State’s, now get to buy that executive or banker’s new yacht. Yet, had those elderly squandered their money instead of saving, they’d be off the hook for the time being - until the financial threshold is eliminated.

Of interest are the comments made by NHS England’s information director, Tim Kelsey.

Here is the gist of what Mr. Kelsey said:

"We are about to run out of cash in a very serious fashion."

Followed by a revealing statement:

‘... the UK and US governments were currently working on a common standard of certification for health companies to make it easier for them to access both markets”.

As the Guardian article pointed out, critics of the government's health reforms say they were conceived as a "necessary prelude" to a trade agreement with the US.

He further stated:

"one of the things that we agreed with the US government which will be hopefully signing at the G8 meeting in November is that we want to make it as easy as possible for small businesses to get access to both the US and the UK market places” .

“To do that we want to have some common standards. We will be working on a standard of certification so that you can be in the digital hospital marketplace or the apps marketplace and you only need to sign up to one certification scheme."

Based upon his statement and those of others, US healthcare companies, in return for their millions poured into US election campaigns, want a return on those millions. They need fresh markets and fresh profits. The government and those who manage the NHS appear to be on the brink of devising a system which would enable the simple, painless integration of NHS services into private US health care systems. This is a very accomplished system that charges ever-increasing amounts of money in the form of monthly insurance payments from its users i.e. Patients.

The fundamental interpretation here is that these US companies have lobbied their ‘bought’ representatives to make access to the UK market a prerequisite of any future trade deal. Very quietly, the US is telling Westminster, ‘Privatise Your Healthcare’, and Westminster, London, like the subservient poodle it is, is agreeing.

The only way they (health care companies based in North America) can get that access, and therefore additional opportunities for profit, is through increased privatisation of the NHS. If that privatisation doesn't happen, then they’re only fighting for a bit of that existing thirty percent. They will then undercut each other, services will suffer, bankruptcies will follow, and our people will get hurt by both poorer care and unpaid bills.

Remember just because Blue Cross UK goes belly-up and leaves a medical wasteland in its wake, it doesn't mean Blue Cross USA has to pay. That’s the “beauty” of independent subsidiary companies.

Therefore, feel free to vote “NO” in 2014. Just be aware there is every likelihood one of the many things you’ll be voting “NO” to is the NHS. You have to remember, reduced public spending in England will result in a claw-back of our meagre pocket money under the Barnett Formula. The outcome of which can only mean reduced spending in Scotland.

The current cost of a quality ‘family healthcare plan, i.e. the kind of health care we currently take for granted, in the USA is creeping towards a thousand pounds per month. Can you afford that?

Furthermore, from personal experience, I know that even “comprehensive” cover doesn't truly ensure care in every eventuality that may become a health imperative in your life. Like many in the US, we were forced to sell everything we owned - from our home to my guitars - to pay for brain-scans and tests following a serious industrial accident.

As the UK will be copying the US health care model over the next several years, with both Labour and Conservative members pledging to ‘continue these reforms’, what you’re looking at is a return to the nineteen thirties. If you have any doubts about this, just check the list of Registered Members Interest in both Houses and see how many are intertwined with private healthcare companies. We need only look as far as Ms. Cherie Blair to find one very well-known example.

Then again if you do vote no, perhaps next time I break down on the ocean, maybe one of these new multi-million pound yachts will stop and help me. If it does, I’ll thank you for that ‘No’ vote. In reality, I’d expect it to do what the last one did when emergency struck. I’d expect it to ignore us, to keep on sailing, and pretend it didn't see the distress flare’s being let off or it didn't hear our anxious calls on the emergency radio channels.



You see, like us, if you don’t have health insurance in several years time, you’ll be able to expect that hospital ship to just maintain its current course and keep sailing on by.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

European Union or European Court of Human Rights - Choices.

This week I had a Twitter chat with an independence supporter which began following my posting of a link to the recent executions in Saudi Arabia, of seven men whose convictions were achieved by using torture. 

This led in turn to the Tories recent announcement that they'd love to dump the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) because - let's face it - Europe is a meddling pest etc. This conversation also then went on to include Tory interests into having secret courts in the name of "national security".


What did become evident was that many people equate the European Union in Brussels with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. You know the statement; we've heard many of our independence supporting friends use it: "I want independence, BUT I'm not sure about Europe!".

This is EXACTLY what Westminster wants you to do.

Mr.Cameron has promised some sort of "In/Out" referendum in regards to Europe in 2015. However, there is a confusion out there about what "Europe", and "which" Europe he may mean. 
They (Westminster) seem to mix the ECHR and the European Union in one sentence. To my mind they are attempting, and in many instances succeeding, to make them appear to be the one and the same organisation. 
Therefore will this vote in 2015 may be just a vote to remove the UK (or rUK) from the economic organisation of the EU, or will they confuse things further by including self removal from the ECHR? And once we (or rUK) choose to remove ourselves - what will be next on the rather strange agenda of Westminster? I'm not going say this is just a Conservative Party issue, as Labour aren't exactly making the kind of reassuring noises or clarifying this issue, as one would hope under the circumstances.

The European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, they're just the same, aren't they? They're both in Europe, they both affect and meddle in what happens in the UK, right?

Well, no; neither body has a lot to do with the other - in the way Westminster want you to believe, anyway.

The Court of Human Rights began its life under the Council of Europe in 1959; the Council of Europe [1] being founded by the Treaty of London in 1949, and signed by the United Kingdom and 9 other states.
This isn't some fang-dangle invention of Brussels. This was something which was born of World War II. Even Churchill mooted a "United States of Europe" as far back as 1946, and during a radio broadcast in 1943, he mentioned a Council of Europe.

The birth of the European Union was in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome [2]. It was from this basis the economic union of European nations grew, and to which Britain became a fully signed-up member in 1973 [3]What isn't clear in all this, is even "Europe", governed from Brussels, has to be held accountable to the human rights standards set in Strasbourg. Otherwise it would be case of the tail wagging the dog.

The need for Westminster to induce public confusion with these two organisations is very clear. This is all to do with stripping you of your human rights. And it will be done using lies, confabulation, sleight of hand and down-right bovine effluent. 

"But!" - I hear you cry, "Europe is interfering with everything, just look at that Abu Qatada!" Well, what about him? Everyone of us is entitled to human rights, are we not? It may well have worked fine for Mr Qatada, but it certainly didn't work for Saddam Hussein who appealed frantically to the ECHR to prevent the coalition troops from handing him over to the Iraqi interim government, stating he feared he would be executed [4]
You also have to recognise just how much the ECHR interferes with legal decisions made in Britain. Westminster wants you to think that UK courts can't take a breath without some European judge jumping on their backs. This is not so. The UK lost only 10 cases last year [5].

Westminster needs this confusion to continue in order for people to VOLUNTARILY give up their human rights. And once forfeited  how would we ever get them back? 

We can look on in horror just now as the rights of vulnerable, sick and disabled people are eroded by the changes in benefit entitlements, and currently there may be ways of dealing with this with help from Europe. There may even be ways of dealing with the fact that Westminster is trying very hard to introduce a law which can be retroactively applied [6]. Something that could never happen if it were included in a written constitution, similar to the USA.
A retroactive law could seem "benign". For instance, a local authority could decide to make a place that was free and legal to park illegal - and backdating it however long. You could, conceivably, receive a parking ticket for leaving your car there one day 3 months ago - when it was legal. Nice little income generator, but what if it were to be applied to other, more sinister areas? What if a government decides to increase income tax - then backdate to last year? Where would it end?

This situation of confusion over what constitutes Europe affects those uncertain voters in the independence referendum. It must be clear that the human rights issue is separate from the European membership issue. 

We need to be sure of what we are demanding from our political representatives. 

If we're not, it might just come back and bite us hard - in a Room 101 near you [7]


Further Reading:

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Wrong Message

Creation of a sterling-zone as trumpeted by the SNP is decidedly the wrong message.

Scotland needs to dump the pound faster than a drowning diver needs to dump his weight belt.

The recent downgrading to Sterling brings only one question, posed by the French almost a year ago, and that is, why has it not happened long, long before now?

In the last week I saw the value of my income plummet. For argument’s sake let’s say I get £725 a month. That’s what it was last month anyway, or last time I drew it out. Today they handed me £688. This was, they said, due to the fact the £ plummeted against the $ after the downgrade.

My account said £725 had been deposited, the bank gave me £688, there’s a problem when my bills are £700. The ends no longer meet in the middle. I’m now worse than broke.

Anyone not relying on foreign exchange rates may see it as a minor thing, but with pretty much everything made overseas these days it simply means, in Scotland, when the current supplies on the shelves run out, the new ones are going to cost more. We are all two months away from losing that real money.

In about ninety days, and much less for many items, that £725 a month in every pocket will soon become £688. It will still say £725 on the statement, so we’ll fool ourselves. But at the end of the day if it doesn’t buy anyone what £725 did a month ago, how can you argue it’s still £725?

Let’s invent a little scenario. You’re selling your car, you want £5,000, but you drove it this morning and had a wee fender-bender and slightly bent the chassis – but it still looks not too bad. Hey, it’s still your £5,000 car. It has a couple of dents here and there that weren’t there yesterday, but you've still got the same sticker on the window, £5,000 it proudly declares. Think you’ll ever get that now?

That dented car of yours is Sterling. These are just the first view visible dents. The difference is it has been ready for the knackers yard for years, the rot was just hidden under the shiny exterior, but any decent mechanic would walk away from it asking if you’re insane. MOT; No chance mate, but there’s a bloke in the next village who, for fifty quid like….

We’re now at the point where even the bloke in the next village won’t touch it.

For the UK and Sterling, it means this time it won’t recover.

Expect the pound to continue to devalue. After all, it has for over eighty years. The ability to devalue the pound and thereby steal our savings is the primary reason that Westminster didn't join the Euro.

We've all heard and seen the unrest in Greece; in many instances the United Kingdom’s press have given the Greek people short shrift in terms of sympathy. The Irish have been the media’s financial whipping boy. The Spanish, Portuguese and Italians have all been slated and derided by the papers. Whereas, for most of the UK’s self vaunted media, the Italian’s have always been good for a joke; the Spanish and Portuguese seem to me largely ignored.

It may take once-mighty Britannia a decade more to be in such a condition that Greece looks like a safe haven. It may only take a few months. The United Kingdom’s per capita and national debt burden is fast outstripping that of Greece. Don’t doubt it, Greece’s debt load stands at less than 70% of the United Kingdom as a percentage of GDP.

What about Italy, Spain and Portugal? They are likewise positioned with debt about 75% of the UK’s. Only Ireland, another favourite punching bag of the UK media, is actually worse. However, we’re entering the home stretch and the nag in green white and gold isn’t the favourite in this race anymore. With the finishing posts ahead, the cuddy in red white and blue is set to come thundering down the home stretch. That poor old Irish nag seems like it hasn't got a hope of staying in front.

Except this is a race to poverty, to national penury and isn’t a race anyone really wants to win, is it?

The reality of the situation is that no matter who is elected to Westminster, the average individual is going to get screwed.

Westminster can barely service its debts right now. If interest rates climbed just a little, say to the historical norms of five percent, then Germany’s old Weimar Republic where wheelbarrows were needed to carry the cash to buy a loaf of bread might look like a wonderful place to have lived. Our debt burden is already worse than that of the Weimar Republic.

So, why has the crash not already happened?

It has begun, but most people want to play the ostrich. Maybe if we stick our heads in the sand long enough, we might fool the lion and he won’t actually bite us on the behind. Sadly, the lion has the luxury to decide when the ideal time will be to bite us. The only thing we know is that his jaws will snap shut someday soon, and when it does out collective behookie is going to hurt like hell.

Social upheaval, no jobs, riots, deprivation and hunger are possibly the nicer parts of what lies ahead, if we don’t get our act together. Mr. Osborne’s current attitude of “it’ll be alright” and Westminster’s continual “Nothing to see here folks, move along” are even bigger lies than Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” declaration in 1938. Six years of “peace” broke out the following year in September. Chamberlain’s piece of paper had as much true worth as that printed by the Bank of England today.

Consider at the time of the collapse of the Weimar Republic, still in living memory for some, that one pound of sterling bought one pound of silver. At the time of writing the value of silver is £300 per pound. Where did the other £299 go?

It was neatly pochled by Westminster, through that cunning mechanism “inflation”.

Surely, we may think, the value of silver has just risen incredibly? No, it hasn't At that time five hundred pounds, sterling or silver, bought a modestly sized family home. Five hundred pounds of silver today will still buy that £150,000 home. And what about the £1 note from 1932? Well there is not a coin small enough in the treasury’s inventory that I could now trade it for. It is worth a fraction more than one old ha’penny. They have legally devalued that £1 to nothing viable in today’s currency; only in Westminster.

Remember, in the five centuries prior to World War One, inflation was by all comparisons, nonexistent.

The only way the United Kingdom is surviving today is by borrowing. Where do the banks get the money they lend to the government? Essentially, it’s invested savings. You put your extra cash (if you are one of the lucky folks to have any) in the bank to save. The bank loans it to the government at less than 2%, sometimes less than 1%. Inflation has swung from over 5% to less than 3% in the last seventeen months. That means your bank is loaning to your government at a guaranteed loss.

There have even been instances of late when some governments have been able to borrow money at negative interest rates. Although, not Westminster, they’re not “safe enough”. Effectively, the investment firms supplying that money have been willing to guarantee their investors i.e. you, an instant loss for the so-called safe keeping of your money. In other words, well managed economies are actually being paid to borrow your money.

The United Kingdom passed the point of no return about five years ago and has been hovering around there, barely surviving, making payments, but not cancelling debt.

The problem is those interest payments, those billions upon billions paid every year are our new hospitals, schools and our infrastructure. Our future.

Westminster is bankrupt, arguably it’s fiscally, morally, and intellectually bankrupt. Like the destitute old lord in the crumbling manor, it is time to sell the family silverware. Except, we are the only silverware Westminster has. Our savings, our pensions, our health service, our children’s education. Like any government in history, Westminster has only one option; its people and their pockets.

This fiscal tsunami will be released in the not too distant future.

Hopefully it won’t be released until after the 2014 referendum. If Scots vote YES, which appears to be the intelligent course of action, it could well be released with early. After all, the release of this tidal wave will only require a very modest 1.5% change in the interest rates, and we've all seen that happen on countless occasions in our adult lifetimes.

Any way you look at it, promoting a “Sterling Zone” is insanity incarnate.

The Scots Pound is already in circulation. We need to resurrect it as a world currency once more. As many economists have pointed out, it wouldn't be difficult. Let our money float, or tie it with other currencies, any currency - except Sterling.

Our choice is simple, since no nation in history has ever recovered from the UK’s debt load; we have to vote Yes to survive or we vote No for long term debt, poverty and bankruptcy.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Is The Treaty of Union Already Dead?


Due to the renewed interest in Scotland's status of existence or not, recently dragged up by Governor General Moore et al, it seems there has been a resurgence in interest in an article I had published in Newsnet Scotland in July of 2011. As I'd never previously included it in the blog, I've decided that perhaps now would be a good time to do just that.

The question I posed at the time was: Is the Treaty of Union Already Dead?

The Treaty of Union 1707, we live every day of our lives with its effects – but should we?

Could we, if we choose, simply denounce it, has that already been done, or have events simply transpired to void it entirely? Are we at liberty, under international law, to simply “walk away’.

For almost all of us it consumes much of our waking time, consciously or otherwise as we struggle to pay the taxes and debts imposed by its after effects. It has done so for generations of Scots.

Our forebears fought and died because of it, through it, in support of it or against it.

Yet under international law It certainly appears void, if not simply revoked. It just seems there’s a distinct lack of willingness to test this by any relevant party.

In view of the above this article specifically does not advocate or focus on a single course of action; although it certainly uncovers several intriguing and interesting potentialities available to us Scots, should we choose. Law is about interpretation, what follows is one very reasonable such interpretation.

Our land and our nation has often been derided, pilloried and a comic joke because of it [this Union], mainly from within.

Even in the halls of power, that corrupt underbelly that we call Westminster, proven so in the courts of our lands, that place which is supposed to uphold our nation and care for it in this Union there is little respect demonstrated for Scotland.

There is an interesting and entertaining aspect to international law, it’s called the Vienna Convention, and it exists in a stratosphere of law that governs international treaties.

This article of law was adopted on May 23rd, 1969. It didn't exist in 1707, but it does claim jurisprudence over almost all international treaty and law since its ratification. And it has very definite retroactive implications.

If it had existed in 1706/1707, there would have been no Union Treaty as we know it. That is irrefutable.

The signatory states to the Vienna Convention agreed that international law and treaty law as defined by it would have jurisdiction over their own national laws. Basically if the UK [and thereby its constituent nations] signed up to it, they agreed to be bound by it.

It can be regarded as entertaining because the signatories to it, including the United Kingdom which ratified it on June 25th 1971, and implemented it on January 27th 1980, on the surface did not appear to fully understand the entire scope of their actions.

The UK and its constitutional law brigade certainly thought it may have covered its bases, yet there is a section or two in the Vienna Convention that indicates it may not have. The language is not categorically unambiguous, but the intent certainly appears clear.

We really should test it. At the very least it would prove interesting. 

Where the Vienna Convention specifically does not remove itself from treaties of a historical nature are when their principles are overtaken by new or ratified principles of recognized international law, or when they have been voided prior to inception and would be regarded as so being by evolving international law (article 64).

This aspect of the Vienna Convention specifically itemizes the following areas as voiding treaty agreements.

Article 49

Fraud

If a State has been induced to conclude a treaty by the fraudulent conduct of another negotiating State, the State may invoke the fraud as invalidating its consent to be bound by the treaty.

Article 50

Corruption of a representative of a State

If the expression of a State’s consent to be bound by a treaty has been procured through the corruption of its representative directly or indirectly by another negotiating State, the State may invoke such corruption as invalidating its consent to be bound by the treaty.

Article 51

Coercion of a representative of a State

The expression of a State’s consent to be bound by a treaty which has been procured by the coercion of its representative through acts or threats directed against him shall be without any legal effect.

Article 52

Coercion of a State by the threat or use of force

A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.

A quick examination into the founding aspects around the Union Treaty is worthwhile – did it significantly contravene articles 49 through 52 of the Vienna Convention. Investigations and perusal of records show there is a relatively simple case to be made for contravention, not just of one the above, but potentially all of the above.

Any single contravention of the above articles would be more than valid enough reason to negate the Treaty of Union since inception.

It would certainly leave us with an entertaining constitutional conundrum.

Interestingly even article 14 of the Treaty of Union itself can be used as verification of corruption. Article 14 stating; “the Equivalent, granted £398,085 and 10 s sterling to Scotland to offset future liability towards the English national debt”. In essence as history records, it was detailed as being subsequently used as a means of compensation [bribery] for investors in the Darien Scheme, and Union supporters.

This sum noted above was only paid after signature. None of the above funds were recorded as being distributed to anyone who opposed the Treaty of Union, nor could they be given to “Scotland’s government” – it no longer existed. They are reported and acknowledged to have been distributed solely amongst those who worked for passage of the Union Treaty.

Direct bribery was also known to be a factor. £20,000 (£240,000 Scots) was dispatched to Scotland for distribution by the Earl of Glasgow. James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry, the Queen's Commissioner in Parliament, received £12,325, himself.

Now under Article 45

Loss of a right to invoke a ground for invalidating, terminating, withdrawing from or suspending the operation of a treaty

A State may no longer invoke a ground for invalidating, terminating, withdrawing from or suspending the operation of a treaty under articles 46 to 50 or articles 60 and 62 if, after becoming aware of the facts:

(a) it shall have expressly agreed that the treaty is valid or remains in force or continues in operation, as the case may be; or

(b) it must by reason of its conduct be considered as having acquiesced in the validity of the treaty or in its maintenance in force or in operation, as the case may be.

It can be clearly seen these do not apply to Scotland – the civil unrest and popular (dis)Unity has been widespread since treaty inception, and, in its most basic form, absent an independent government it was unable to fall into the first category. Without an independent government, Scots could not expressly agree.

So much for the past, this is the present, and it’s within article 45[b] that past meets present. There was an interesting quirk in 1999 when Winnie Ewing made her famous statement.

Certainly Winnie was acting as a government representative – certainly she had full authority to make the address, just as certainly her words have never been officially disputed either by Westminster or Holyrood. Arguably just as certainly she served notice on Westminster that under 45b that Scotland did NOT acquiesce.

The actual words of Winnie Ewing have been widely acclaimed; "The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on 25 March 1707, is hereby reconvened."

Basically and effectively Ms. Ewing served notice on the Westminster government that the treaty of Union was ended.

The Scottish government had re-convened. It went undisputed. Treaties can be terminated by universal, bi-lateral or unilateral acts. They can also be terminated by the fundamental reason d’être of the treaty no longer being valid.

In 1999 a fundamental change took place within the Treaty of Union – there were again two parliaments.

The primary reason for the Union Treaty was to remove the dual parliamentary system. The Scots through their representative declared that their parliament was “re-convened” the English under international law in its most basic interpretation have no right of interference in the internal politics of another country.

Arguably, on 12th of May 1999 Ms. Ewing told our nation “if you want a Union – now go negotiate one” – perhaps that is just what Alex Salmond should do – declare the treaty of Union dead as of a set date [12th May 1999] based upon the facts, and request of the Scottish people the authority to renegotiate a treaty that is fair and reasonable towards Scotland – if such can be achieved. The actual official date of termination, and the end of all obligations under that ancient agreement could be June 24th 2014.

We should therefore invite England to the negotiating table. That would require a separate English parliament however.

Let them decline if they choose. It would also solve that pesky “West Lothian question”.

If the English do come to the negotiating table, and agreements are reached, then let the Scots vote on the new treaty, allowing terms can be arranged that the Scots might accept.

Perhaps we should simply take that “Independence” word right of the table. It is certainly appearing an option. The question then becomes do we devolve our government to Westminster again, and if so, what aspects?

Last but not least, and worthy as a footnote is an interesting Westminster quirk – Westminster now sees itself categorically as England’s parliament and Scotland’s overlord.

It views itself as a UK government of dominion, not of partners. It has demonstrated it would retain dominion.

If Westminster / the UK parliament had any other pretexts these are effectively dismissed by the list of countries with whom it can “do business”, conclude treaties etc.

Scotland is on that list, England is not. Northern Ireland is also on this list, but as Wales was taken by right of conquest it doesn't have to be. Wales is absent. The only discernible reason England would not be on that list is because Westminster views itself as England’s Parliament.

Although the UK Government’s website does list Scotland as a nation with which it can enter and execute treaties, it has none listed for review against our nation. Not the treaty of 1328 (Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton) recognising our nationhood “for all time coming” or the treaty of 1707 where we entered the Union of Parliaments.

The treaties recognising our borders are also conveniently absent, as is the existence of a treaty where the latest 6,000 miles of seabed was “grabbed by England” in the last decade – meaning under UN rules that act can also be construed as basically illegal – void.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Just what are they afraid of?

The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Tories in Scotland; what are they afraid of? Watching the Libdems in Westminster snorting at the trough, you would think any one of these so-called representatives of the Scottish people would leap with out-stretched arms at the opportunity at a shot of time in government. And not just a devolved government, but fully matured, grown up, independent government with powers over taxation, spending, foreign policy and the sundry responsibilities that this would entail.

This next step, to my mind, is the logical one to take. Following on from the devolution “experiment”, independence can be the only destination.

While reading another article here: Scottish Socialist Voice, it hit me on the forehead that these enemies from apparent opposite ends of the political spectrum (with the dead-beat Libdems swinging either way to suit whatever side is “in”) were more than willing to cosy up in a thorny bed to maintain this dysfunctional Union, rather than stand up and go boldly into the future which is full of potential. They are happy to support all these awful cuts to benefits which is the cause of much suffering to the weak and vulnerable in our society; cuts which Labour have promised will continue in the future following 2015 general election, should they win. They seem content – every one of them – to watch the gap between the wealthy and the poor stretch to mind-bending, record breaking levels, rather than say “No, this can’t go on, there is another, better way!”

What is it that keeps them tied hard and fast to the Butcher’s Bloody Apron-strings; that makes them too afraid to take up the cause of their kith and kin and actually try to improve the lot of the Scottish Nation?

Consider the gasping corpse that is the Tory Party in Scotland; why would it consign itself to electoral oblivion under the current system? Potentially, in an independent Scotland they could achieve a return to the popular party they were during the 1950s, but with a uniquely Scottish conservative slant. Or perhaps that’s where their imagination runs out. It has to be like Westminster.

Then there is the Labour Party, North Britain Branch, because they do not behave like a representative of the Scottish people. This crowd, as so eloquently pointed out on many, many occasions, would prefer to be ruled and dictated to by a Conservative parliament in Westminster, than put a foot on the next step of the promotional ladder and use the power of Holyrood to improve the lot of the people of, for example, Glasgow. These same people of Glasgow whose life-span, despite many decades of local councils being under Labour stewardship, has been shown to be shorter than the residents of Gaza.

When we come to the Liberal Democrats we appear to have a political party whose malleability is second only to warm Plasticine; willing to compromise their ideals for any taste of power. So, why not in an independent Scotland?

Could it be they are so used to taking instructions from headquarters in London that they have lost all confidence in themselves and are emotionally, psychologically and physically incapable of taking charge of decision-making and of forming a government? They certainly seem bereft of ideas and policies, and are deadly silent on what their function in an independent country would be.

Obviously the SNP never had to take instructions from, or toe the line of, any London-centric party. They have always been their own masters and have grown and matured over the last 70-odd years to become a very competent party of government within the devolved parameters of Holyrood. Furthermore, I’m confident that the changeover to independent, autonomous nation-hood will be no great problem to them either. As individuals they are, each and every one, all ready to work for the needs and the needy of Scotland.

In contrast, however, I think the other political representatives do not have that confidence, intellect or ability. They only know how to take and carry out orders. Therefore, to suddenly give them the power of a fully functioning government would cause them to behave like rabbits in headlights. As a result of their current set-up, i.e. receiving instructions from London bosses, they have never had to stretch their abilities beyond that of a glorified councillor. They’ve not really had to balance a budget as well as they should.

This is true, especially when you take into consideration their past record in power (1999-2007); PFI, PPI and so on. They have bequeathed a whole slew of extortionately expensive schemes, which have in reality indebted our grandchildren. My nephew’s daughter will be paying off hospitals and other public expenditure into HER adulthood.

Perhaps some of the now retired and more mature ex-members of those parties could have coped in government, but when I look at Lamont, Rennie and Davidson, I’m left with the knowledge they are followers not leaders.

You only have to watch their cringe worthy “performances” at First Minister’s Questions to see that. Their debating skills are limited ad hominem commentary and petty point scoring, instead of discussion and debate. Their sense of achievement appears to come from their perception that they have successfully dragged other MSPs characters, chiefly SNP MSPs, into the dirt, rather than finding solutions to the myriad of social and economical issues that affect the everyday lives of our fellow Scots.

It is now obvious to me and much of the general public that many of the current members of Labour, Libdems and Tories are by no manner of means ready for serious, grown-up politics; they’ve relinquished that responsibility to their masters in London. They have chosen to self-fulfil the “too stupid” myth by being incapable of standing up to the mark and saying “Not only, Yes We Can, But Let’s Show Westminster How It’s Done!”

Since the SNP landslide of 2011 and the promise of the referendum, not one positive reason for remaining part of the United Kingdom has been given by any of them. All that has happened is a torrent of scaremongering has cascaded from all Unionist quarters. Slurs, insults and in many cases, out and out lies have been utelised by them in an attempt to subdue the Scots into giving up their right to autonomy. In addition, we’ve had the “Jam Tomorrow” promise of increased powers post 2014. All we need do is look at the NHS in England and watch it evaporate despite promises made to conserve and nurture it, same with education fees.

Scotland’s fate in 2014 following a No vote is something I have no desire to even contemplate. It’s too dismal and depressing.

I believe that one of the reasons these Union politicians in Scotland are so unreservedly ideologically stuck to the maintenance of the United Kingdom comes down to basic lack of ability. They may even have some insight that they themselves are incapable of making such important decisions, and this is why they are afraid to step up to the mark. However, more importantly and probably closer to their hearts, it really does come down to the money.

Many believe their financial rewards will be greater remaining with the status quo. With the potential of a gift of a place on the Green Bench and an ermine cape, so long as they do their master’s bidding, they are more than happy to keep the querulous Scots kow-towing to Westminster’s increasingly miserly plan. However, they are not so daft as to miss the point that as members of an Edinburgh Government, we the people have sovereignty over it and them, and could ask awkward questions about expenses and dubious accounting. Whereas Westminster not only does very little to prevent this type of corruption, it actively encourages it, as we have seen many of those who paid back false claims are having them repaid.

And for these selfish reasons alone, Scotland could remain yoked to a system which has little in common with her social aspirations. A system dedicated to maintaining the false perception bolstered by compliant media that, although The United Kingdom is over-run with layabout spongers, the worst of them all (if the comments section of the Daily Mail and Telegraph are to be taken seriously) are the lazy, drunken, scrounging Scots north of the border.

When in reality, we all know the real scroungers and money-wasters occupy Green and Red Leather Benches in a luxurious palace on the banks of the Thames. 


The very place that many, if not most of the Unionist supporting politicians would dearly love to be.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

This HAS to change.

Yesterday, I read the online account of Prime Minister’s Question Time. I also followed some of the Twitter response to the so-called “clash” between Mssrs Balls, Miliband and Cameron. The immediate thought that struck me was:

“How can this 18th century bullyboy-style mockery for government debate really come up with solutions to 21st century problems? I don't think it can, it's no longer fit for purpose, and possibly it never was. A complete and radical change is required; unfortunately, no-one has a clue how to think beyond their limitations within Westminster.”

The foundation of the establishment, Parliament, is based in the old French word, parley. Simply put it means to talk, discuss amicably, to resolve to mutual benefit. There is little in Westminster’s “Parley” or Parliament that gives any hope to a resolution of the trench warfare and inimical party points scoring that persists and destroys our democracy. The only surprise so far is that it’s been only jibes and insults that cross the no-man’s land of Westminster’s plush carpet, yet the effect on our economy has been as destructive as the bombs and bullets that crossed the Somme.

How can a culture become adult and mature in its outlook when it has to witness the “cream” of society behaving like spoilt brats at a Sunday-school picnic? When these “elders and betters”, these rule makers, cannot actually debate subjects without delving for insults, cheap jibes and point scoring off each other? When it sees the true policies on which we could thrive mown down before they ever manage to climb from the trenches?

Nothing is discussed or debated, no common ground is found, no compromise is ever achieved. This crock of nonsense is purely for show, and does nothing to benefit the people who voted these men and women into such powerful positions. Westminster did manage a ‘Christmas truce’ from 1939 to 1945, and they achieved remarkable things. However, since then their ideas and decisions are increasingly set in stone, polarised and already made, long before they come to the “debating” chamber. There is absolutely no point to PMQ’s – other than strutting, preening, grandstanding and point-scoring. It is an inane exercise. And sadly, First Minister’s Questions is going the same route, thanks to the Unionist parties attempt to mimic all things Westminster.

It is human nature; when someone poses a threat to us, we fight back. Therefore, rightly or wrongly, the parties who might put Scotland needs first will attack in return. Ultimately, the Union parties in their aspirations for Westminster-like adversarial conflict guarantee the useless and destructive spiral will continue.

Returning to the Twitter “debate” it really did not improve any of the events that took place in the chamber; in fact it merely continued the pathetic score-keeping of “my politician was better than your politician”, as if this type of political non-achieving is something of which we should be proud.

How is this example of non-cooperation, insults, bully-boy tactics and the rest setting any sort of example to youngsters in society? Politicians are saying it’s perfectly ok to behave likes this, but you kids have to behave in quite a different manner. Instead of leading by example, they’re yet again meting out more of the “do as I say, not as I do” nonsense that most people resent. Then these politicians become all confused and befuddled because there is a lack of respect for any of them.

Westminster is so deeply entrenched in tradition I think it is beyond them to alter the mindset. They have to be dressed like 18th century guisers to open and close the sessions, and they require the anachronistic presence of HRH Queen Elizabeth to sanction the proceedings. Now I could go on at this juncture about HRH and family being the biggest benefits scroungers out there, something for nothing layabouts, whose influence is beyond the pale, and how can you expect people to work for a living when they see this crowd at the peak of society living off tax-payers money, but I won’t. The monarchy is a different debate for another time.

So what to do?

Personally, I believe there is nothing that can be done for Westminster; this cause was lost generations ago, stuck in the mud of tradition going back centuries. It had, at best, a brief twilight renaissance between 1945 and 1950. Therefore, we must look to Holyrood to beat a path to mature, consensual politics.

The Unionist supporting parties, as I mentioned previously, appear to advocate, promote and thrive on the Westminster style of rabid, party-led, point-scoring attempts, without much consideration for any constituents during FMQs.

Our reconstituted parliament in Holyrood, having retained few of the relics from the 18th century, is arguably one of the oldest parliaments in Europe. Moreover, having only been reinvested very recently, it isn’t mired in tradition like London and it should therefore be very simple to change ways of doing business BEFORE they become rooted in the mists of time as some weird, immutable folklore defining how a parliament should function. Changes are required in the system in order to ensure we have politics that represent the people and not the party. With an absolute majority, the SNP should be looking at this as a matter of extreme urgency.

While the way Holyrood’s debating chamber is set out physically, (i.e. semi-circular instead of sitting in opposition to one another) is a good start, it is undermined as each party continues to sit in its own little clique or block thus perpetuating the tribal mentality of “Us versus Them”.

More must be done to alter the way these politicians think about their role in parliament. That means altering the entire mind set. It is time to move away from “Party Politics” and start choosing people on their individual merits and promises. For example, while I support the SNP in many, many issues, there are some things with which I do not agree. But it doesn't mean they’re not the best all around choice for me as a party. By the same token, individuals may represent my core beliefs more closely and I’d be more prone to support them. All our politicians should be in the chambers to represent those people who cared sufficiently to attend polling stations and vote for them. To play the game along party lines is nothing but a slap in the face to the voter.

Changing the mind set is probably not achievable among many of the current crop, but surely they are not so blinkered that they are unable to see how damaging this type of so-called debate is on their standing, politics in general and the nation in its whole.

All the “ya-boo-sucks” hollering does nothing to advance people’s interest in how their country is governed, and in fact alienates them from the process. Perhaps this is the true goal of those who prefer the adversarial type politicking. Put sufficient numbers of people off voting, bring about such apathy towards the process, that the politicians can do whatever they please with impunity. Literally giving us what we vote for.

Alternatively, Holyrood could simply pass legislation that makes every vote  in its chambers a secret ballot - at the time of voting; consequently, every vote becomes a conscience vote. In addition to this, the voting record of every member of the Scottish parliament would be published following the dissolution of each and every session, ensuring they are immune from pressure by the party system. Subsequently offering the sovereign people of Scotland the opportunity to see how their parliamentarians voted, before having the option to re-elect them.

Now, wouldn't that be a wonderful and brave new world?


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Knowing the Enemy. A very Personal Blog.

Folks have been asking what I'm up to at the moment, why haven’t I posted anything recently. Well, in all honesty, I've had a hard time blogging of late. I've been angry, despondent, elated, annoyed ... you name it; I've been there and back again. The question troubling me has been “Why”?

Frankly, it has taken me weeks to work through this. It began with a journey back home for family reasons, throughout September and October. During the time there I took the chance to catch up with old friends that I hadn't seen in almost seven years. This visit also gave me the opportunity meet and mix with supporters of independence. Many of whom I had become friends with through the medium of the internet or my music, during the intervening years I've been travelling overseas. 


For me, my favourite experience and excitement came at the very beginning of the trip.

I attended the March and Rally for Independence on September the 22nd. It is one day of my life I won’t forget. My young brother was my companion (and chauffeur), and we were on a high from the outset. As we approached The Meadows (Niall chose to park as far away as possible while technically remaining in the same universe), I was overcome with a feeling of anxiety. What if my brother and me and ten other worthies were the only people to show up? What if all that stuff on Facebook and Twitter had been all so much bluster – "a’ talk and nae action"?

However, as we know, those fears were wholly unfounded, and the march was a complete success – although references to it in the media were sparse and underwhelming.

Meeting many contacts I’d only known as faces and names on the internet was for me, one of the highlights of the day.

Additionally, the fact that thousands turned out in peaceful family groups, walking their dogs and carrying picnics was the cherry on the icing of a wonderful cake. I listened to the speeches and cheered and waved my very large, extremely noticeable Scottish Naval Ensign. I was reeling with adrenalin, while at the same time mentally noting the numbers of younger parents with children who were attending.

Scotland’s future was rosy and in the bag.

The following week was filled mainly with family issues and making sure everything that required attention was being dealt with, and I had very little to do with independence matters.

The middle week of my expedition was spent in my old beloved stomping ground of East Lothian. This was a week full of gigs and music and radio interviews; one with my friend Madelaine Cave on East Coast FM – where I even managed to mention my partisanship in politics, as well as doing a live session. The other interview was with Stewart Lochhead at the North Berwick Sea-Life Centre for Three Men In A Blog . All in all, it was a fulfilling and fantastic time.

However, I think it highly likely I may have peaked too early.

By the end of the week I was beginning to get a weird feeling about the cause of independence. I had been speaking to many friends, and none of them are slouches when it comes to intellect, but there was a pattern emerging, and it wasn't pretty.

There were overtones varying from “if it ain't broke, don’t fix it” to “eh, independence, ach I haven’t thought about it!” to a few doses of “too poor” to outright and total antipathy. My cosy, rosy feelings from barely ten days previously were steadily evaporating in a cloud of doubt and confusion. My illusions were beginning to crumble down around my ears.

I eventually left Scotland in mid-October, filled with mixed emotions. The problem which had beset the family had been worked out satisfactorily and I was missing my husband and my pets. Yet I still carried this peculiar feeling within that all was not right in the independence garden.

Sure enough, since getting back, there seems to be nothing but increased amounts of negative feedback in the ever-unreliable mainstream media concerning the SNP and its goals. I can’t remember them all, but it began with the NATO vote at the conference. Then there was the “lying about legal advice” in respect to the European Union, to the apology just the other day by Salmond in Holyrood over inaccuracies in figures concerning education budgets.

Throughout this time I’d been throwing my hands in the air, despairing at what was going on, sinking further and further into an angry depression with regards to Scotland’s future. It was even causing a little “domestic dis-harmony” ... as my moods swung up and down with the “good-news/ bad-news” see-saw. And sure enough, it reached a bit of a crescendo this afternoon when my long-suffering husband eventually blew a small gasket.

When the harrumphing and grumbling had died down, and I’d returned from wandering the dog through his usual admiring crowds, a few thoughts had settled out and fallen into place.

There are two main problems as I see it.

One is the lack of support among women for independence. I'll come to that in a paragraph or two.
Meanwhile, although Unionists are still unable to come up with one single, solitary, sensible, non-patronising reason why we should remain part of this union of unequals, they are winning the Battle of Obfuscation and Confusion.

All they can continue to do is use the MSM to smear and malign and nit-pick at every little thing the Scottish Government does. Unionists are attempting the tactic called “death by a thousand cuts”. They repeatedly and frequently screach and scream foul; even when there isn't one; or take events and either invent negative stories around them, e.g. the Euro Legal Advice debacle, where it was shown Westminster would equally have not revealed any such information either; or they exaggerate erroneous or mistaken information to appear they are full-blown lies, spoken with the deliberate intent to deceive.

Moreover, their aim is to equate a post referendum independent Scotland with Alex Salmond and the SNP in power, in perpetuity; thus resulting in a sort of Shortbread Dictatorship, with no room for any democracy.

The problem here is, if you throw enough mud, it will eventually stick. Currently in the polls, Alex Salmond is considered trustworthy. However, there are two long years for the Unionist to lock and load barrow-loads of mire for firing in the general direction of Mr Salmond and the members of the government.

If a week is a long time in politics, two years must be verging on an eternity. I'm pretty sure the SNP are fully aware of this situation; what concerns me right now is they seem to have their guard lowered, and the jibes from the opposition are beginning to add up in column inches in the dreadful MSM. And whereas before, any taunt was easily shrugged off and explained as the bitter trumpeting of the opposition, seeds of doubt must now be being planted in heads across the country.

Lamont, Davidson, Rennie, Darling et al, may not be able to string a coherent argument together, but they don't have to when the MSM is constantly playing their nasty little sound-bites on a loop at the Scottish public.

My next question is about the lack of female support for independence.

I can only assume that these women are comfortable with the direction of their lives today and the thought of the Union maintaining this “status quo” after the referendum. The Unionist propaganda of negativity appears to have succeeded with these mothers, wives, sisters and aunts in regards to how uncertain life will become in an independent Scotland in November 2014. They are relaxed and confident in their Union rut, but afraid and unsure of the new independence road.

How on earth do we get the information across that post 2014 Jam isn't going to arrive; that if Whitehall really did intend giving extra and meaningful powers to Holyrood, they could and should do it now as a mark of respect and trust; that the perceived “status quo” will be nowhere near similar to what will be the reality; that the cuts that are ravaging the social services, health services, disabled benefits and child benefits etc., will also become a reality in Scotland, as will privatisation-by-stealth. You can’t expect to run and maintain the current level of living standards on an ever-decreasing house-keeping budget – see Barnett Consequential. In addition, all of the Unionist parties will indeed squander billions of pounds on renewing nuclear weapons just 30 miles from the Dear Green Place, instead of spending it on care for our elderly or educating our children or ensuring our disabled and vulnerable are maintained safe and well. And what of our Service personnel being dragged into future illegal conflicts?

How can we get our message over crystal clear and without the Unionists obsessive insinuations and, at times, out-right lies? Those lies that I now know were even getting me down; I was beginning to think “what’s the point?” I realise now they had been the root cause of my gloominess ever since I came back. They were starting to wear me down with the drip, drip, drip of negative propaganda.

So, what can we do?

As the independence camp has no real access to fair reporting anywhere in the UK, surely to goodness some cash has been set aside for buying advertising space in newspapers and billboards. If not, why not? How would we go about arranging this?

However, I expect it we will mostly have to do things the old-fashioned way. Each and every one of us will need to take some responsibility in delivering these important messages door to door, person to person, blog by blog.

Sometimes I wish I were there, walking with my pup, delivering leaflets, talking to people and knocking down barriers one myth at a time.