Wednesday 19 September 2012

This is the time to be part of Scotland's story

In 1979, I was a third-year student and an ardent supporter of Scottish Independence. The first ever constitutional referendum for Scotland was imminent and the Yes campaign was marshalling its resources, such as they were, to fight a No campaign which included practically every political party and institution in the country and many based elsewhere.

The few opinion polls which existed then were ambiguous, but seemed to show a Yes vote would be unlikely. The Westminster government (then Labour led) was interfering with the referendum process to make a positive outcome almost impossible. And the Tories were promising jam tomorrow – just as long as we behaved ourselves and voted No. We all know how that turned out.

Monday 17 September 2012

Satirical site fools BBC audience with spoof news stories.

A spoof BBC Scotland News site has been causing a mixture of hilarity and anger this week, as some readers have mistaken it for the real BBC site.

The site, called BBC Scotlandshire, was launched on Wednesday 12th September with a single story entitled “Andy Murray must now become English, says Cameron”.

The article, written in the style of a BBC Scotland item, claimed that David Cameron was offering a new Honour to Andy Murray, but only if he agreed to a set of preconditions which included him representing England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

A second article, posted on Friday 14th, suggested that MPs would take over Holyrood while Westminster was being refurbished, displacing MSPs to the nearby Dynamic Earth. This article, entitled, “Cameron gives green light for MPs to relocate to Holyrood”, has even caused confusion among the Twitterati.

A lesson in how not to argue your case.

The following is a transcript of a conversation between myself and the admin of the facebook campaign page, Unted Kingdom Forever, as well as a couple of it's visitors.
The early comments seemed (to me) to be a little controversial, so I decided to join in the argument and see where it led.

What ensued became, I believe, a salutary lesson in how not to put forward an argument in support of a political position.
Naturally, not all British Nationalists are as ill-informed and poorly equipped as those below, but many on social media sites at least give the impression of being no more able than these examples.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Atos Healthcare and the Benefits of Union

During the Olympics, we were treated to the delicious dichotomy of the world's largest mixed sporting event being sponsored by a fizzy drink manufacturer and a chain of fast food restaurants. Presumably, by associating themselves with the games, both companies saw the opportunity to clean up their reputations for promoting ill-health and obesity. Only time will tell if their marketing money was well spent.

The Paralympics, on the other hand, have raised irony to a whole new level as one of their main sponsors is Atos, the giant French service company which has been contracted by the UK government to reduce welfare costs by removing benefits from millions of sick and disabled people. For most of us, this may well turn out to be a degree of hypocrisy too far.

The Westminster government has awarded Atos a contract worth £400 million under which the company will “re-assess” the ability of sick and disabled people to work. The government, of course, expects to recoup much more than this amount in reduced benefit payments if Atos do their job well. And, from Westminster's point of view, they've been doing their job very well indeed.

Thursday 9 August 2012

The Jubilympics: How British do you feel?

The London Olympic games have come to a conclusion and, along with the obvious success of Team GB athletes, and their Scottish colleagues in particular, a good deal of politics has been associated with the games. This has played out as a sort of pastiche of the real independence debate, but shares many of the same characteristics.

To begim with, the opening ceremony, while spectacular in parts as a piece of theatre, was conspicuously English and Metropolitan. This was understandable, perhaps, given the location of the games but was hardly likely to inspire a feeling of togetherness and common endeavour among those unfortunate enough to live outwith the home counties.

Danny Boyle's choice of the NHS as a highlight of Britishness must surely have been ironic, given the current state of, and prospects for, the English NHS as it suffers 49% privatisation on top of death by PFI.

Monday 30 July 2012

Independent Thought in the "Better No" Campaign?

The independence debate appears to be cautiously entering a new phase as the battle lines drawn between the pro- and anti-independence political parties begin to blur.

Before the last Holyrood elections, the minority SNP administration tried to host an independence referendum, but were prevented from doing so by a wall of opposition from each of the three London-based political parties. Labour, Tories and LibDems were united in their view that Scots must not be asked their views on the constitutional future of their country.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

The only way is Ethics

Recent revelations of corrupt practices in the financial service sector are eroding even further public respect and trust for the organs of state. The combination of government collusion and incompetence which is also coming to light only serves to exacerbate this process.

Over the last fortnight we have discovered the fiddling of the Libor rates by at least 20 international banks, apparently with the knowledge (and inaction) of the Bank of England and treasury. This was combined with the admission that interest rate swaps had been mis-sold to small and medium businesses to the extent that many had been forced out of business, at the same time as the banks were deliberately failing to meet business lending targets.

Sunday 15 July 2012

How I answered the West Lothian Question

Over recent weeks there seems to have been renewed interest in the so-called “second question” or “third option” on the 2014 independence referendum, at least among the chattering classes. The “Better No” campaign and the separate (but strikingly similar) political parties which form its membership have become increasingly loud in their opposition to the very idea of devo max, and to its inclusion as an option on the referendum ballot paper.

Over the first half of this year, there has also been an attempt by many to define the possible types of devolution which might be on offer. I even had a wee go myself a few weeks ago. The options seem to range from Calman plus, through Devo Plus to Devo Max or Full Fiscal Autonomy, with the Lib Dems muddying the water with talk of finalising their federalist proposals after a century of dithering.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Road to London


Sic a parcel, aye rogues you are and stubbornly remain

neo Englander, new Labour, just about accepted by the middle

as long as principles deeply held are dropped as readily as R's.

Denying the wealth of nations, well your very own at least

you propagate your stories of dependence and ineptitude

mouthing too wee and too poor and too stupid with equal appetite.

Your Southerly migrations of body and mind are powered by gravespinning

the genesis of your parliamentary life soon followed by an exodus

both Scotland and socialism becoming far and fearful places.

Then your bitter leavings insinuate onto Holyrood front benches

those badly-tempered yarddogs growling on their long London leash

cynically pulling the chain on neebours, lest their own be Yanked.

Your chromatic careers spin red tie to blue then red hide to green

all spent hacking benefits from those on colder benches than your own

no longer happy to be Tamson's bairns, you become our uncle Tams.

Bob Duncan

Saturday 30 June 2012

The Lie at the Heart of the No Campaign

No campaign Monger-in-Chief, Alistair Darling
There is a theme developing in the unionist camp(aign). A leitmotif with an irresoluable contradiction at its core. An ambiguity so fundamental to unionist thinking that it underpins almost every question to which they demand an answer, every dubious objection they pose, even every scare they monger.

I would like to propose the following hypotheses which can be used to test each pronouncement made by the no campaign and its media associates as we approach the referendum on Independence in 2014.

1. The national hypothesis

On the one hand the union is presented as a partnership. A marriage between two nations (or four regions). An arrangement between equals which enhances the stability, the security, the prestige and the economies of its participants. The very antithesis of “too wee, too poor, too stupid”.