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Thursday, 24 March 2016

What Might Have Been....and...What Will Be

Independence Day: The National asked former First Minister to imagine the referendum result was Yes. This might have been his address to the nation tonight...
MY FELLOW SCOTS. It is with great pride that I make this Ministerial address on the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation and commercial channels as the first First Minister of an independent Scotland.
Today at noon Royal Assent was granted to the Scottish Independence Act and tomorrow the credentials of Scotland will be presented to the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am pleased to say that all of our international engagements have been negotiated without any great difficulty over these last 18 months and that we have found a warm and enthusiastic welcome for our new democracy in the councils of Europe and the world. To date we have received messages of congratulation from some 200 countries and territories representing virtually all of humanity. Deputy First Minister and Foreign Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has responded to all of these representations of goodwill.
In particular, we wish our friends across these islands well, particularly in their upcoming European referendum; however, it is important to note that our position in Europe will be unaffected by their decision. There are some who have argued that the doubling of international investment proposals in recent months shows that it is to our advantage for the rest of the UK to opt out of the Europe Union but I believe that this welcome trend is much more the result of Scotland’s much higher profile amid the community of nations. I hope that our close neighbours choose to remain within the European community of nations and that Prime Minister May is successful in her campaign.
Whatever the rUK choice they will forever find in Scotland a firm friend and constant ally. Similarly I hope that the upcoming vote in Westminster on Trident shows a willingness to accept the reality that building a new nuclear base in addition to the £170 billion lifetime cost is not a sensible, credible or moral option. I can confirm that whatever the vote it is now accepted that a new generation of weapons of mass destruction will not be located on the River Clyde.
Similarly from January 1 next year we will disengage the administration of the two electricity networks in Scotland and the rUK as we cannot justify paying a share of the extraordinary bill of the new nuclear power stations planned for Hinkley Point. In preparation the Scottish Government has secured the position of Longannet power station which we plan to convert to combined cycle gas generation in the near future. The carbon capture plant at Peterhead will now proceed, supported on a demonstrator basis, by the reinstated renewable obligations certificates, as if it were an onshore wind farm. Furthermore the early go-ahead for both the giant pump storage hydro electric plants at Cruachan and Balmacaan means that electricity supply in Scotland is secure, green and cost effective, with a healthy spare capacity to export through the interconnectors to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In looking to the future let us consider what it is about Scotland that will not change, what will change and what will be determined by the people in the coming election campaign.
On the first, as we move through this holiday weekend of celebration, Monday morning will demonstrate that some things will be as they are this week or any week. People will go to work, public services will continue, Her Majesty the Queen will continue as head of state and the pound sterling continues as our currency. Our Scottish Central Bank under the leadership of Professor John Kay has set out the options for the future but whether we continue to use sterling or develop our own currency at parity with sterling, asset values will remain protected.
THE refusal of former Chancellor George Osborne to agree to our offer of a shared currency was a factor in the turmoil which has recently engulfed the English Conservative Party. However this and other negotiations on the distribution of UK assets and liabilities carried the not insubstantial benefit of relieving our new state of close on £150 billion of accumulated UK debt and the interest payments thereon. With the cancellation of our commitments to Trident renewal, Hinkley Point and HS2, Scotland is placed in a sustainable fiscal position despite the decline in the price of oil. We believe that the exploration taxation credits announced last week by Scots Chancellor John Swinney will generate jobs, secure the future of the basin and provide major future discoveries and revenues as the oil market recovers. And as we look forward to another 50 years of oil production let us determine that this time round when prices do recover we shall save some of the proceeds for future generations. The wisdom of such an approach has been amply demonstrated by our neighbours across the North Sea.
It was John Swinney who also set the tone for what shall change in his Budget last week. Despite the savings made by ditching our contribution to the UK’s white elephant nuclear projects, fiscal circumstances are still constrained. Therefore it is all the more important to ensure that no-one can dispute the fairness and balance of what we have done. Hence our decision to protect working benefits for the disabled and the revolution in nursery education. There are encouraging signs in record employment, a surge in productivity and a sharp rise in inward investment.
Of these the rise in productivity is the most encouraging. As has been wisely said in the long run for successful economies while productivity isn’t everything it is almost everything. However, all of us know that we now need to reap our own harvest and ring our own tills. And this nation shall prosper because we shall be a just nation.
Our newly independent parliament has proposed to enshrine our values in a written constitution. We have given notice of our refusal to participate in unjustified conflict but signalled our determination to act collectively to keep the peace and security of the Continent. We have willingly shared the burden of the refugee crisis confronting Europe and enshrined our commitment to international aid in our new constitution, which is currently subject to vigorous popular debate and consultation. It is a matter of great pride for us all that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe declared our draft constitution as a model for the 21st century in terms of its protection of human rights and dignity.
Finally we come to the choices that each of us will make in the forthcoming election campaign. It is right and proper that 16 and 17-year-olds are part of the process which chooses the first elected independent Government of our new state. They will not be short of choice.
There are no less than eight political parties registered for election intending to contest every first past the post constituency. However, whichever party or combination of parties emerges victorious from the election they will have both a great task and great opportunity.
Whatever policies are pursued they shall be our choice, whatever mistakes are made they shall be ours with our own lessons to learn for the future. Whatever success is earned then it shall be by our own efforts and our own national will. That is the dividend of independence.
With the referendum of 2014 something was born in Scottish society. In 2016 the challenge has been now met and the triumph is there to be won. Scotland’s future is now in Scotland’s hands.
Goodnight and Alba gu brath.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Pushing For Independence

Better Together’s broken promises open the door to independence

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.41.24
FM Nicola Sturgeon: making a renewed push for independence
Last week Nicola Sturgeon announced that from the summer the SNP will start to campaign to build support for independence. Many media outlets and Unionist politicians expressed surprise. Hold the front page “political party refuses to drop the policy that guarantees majority government”. On June 24 we will know if Scotland is once again on an independence referendum footing but we will still have to wait for the trigger of a sustained 60 per cent support for independence to start the ball rolling.
One of the problems the 2014 Yes campaign had was that it was relentlessly positive and missed the opportunity to highlight the dangers of continued Union. I am not saying Yes should have run a “Fear the Union Project” but a realistic analysis of how Westminster’s distant, disinterested and dysfunctional attitude to Scotland holds our nation back would have helped. Fortunately that is easier to do now as the No Campaign provided us with a long list of false claims and broken promises:
1. Renewables subsidies – Ed Davey, the then UK energy secretary, said: “Scotland could lose billions in renewable energy subsidies with a Yes vote and would put our green energy revolution at risk”. Davey claimed that 33 per cent of UK subsidies for wind, wave and tidal projects (£530m a year) came to Scotland and so independence would ‘slam the brakes on wind farm projects’. Now drastic cuts to the public funding of onshore wind-farms have been announced which Renewables Scotland claim could reduce Scotland’s economy by £3 billion.
2. Carbon capture – Davey also claimed the vital climate change project at Peterhead would be endangered as he signed a deal with Shell and Scottish and Southern Energy. However, after the referendum, Westminster pulled its promised £1bn of support and the project failed.
Scotland’s EU membership not looking so secure with a No vote to independence now
3. EU membership not secure! – David Cameron claimed that the only way to protect Scotland’s EU membership was to reject independence. No campaign spokespeople parroted the phrase “EU membership only guaranteed with a No vote”. Now we have polls in England showing that the EU referendum is too close to call while 60 per cent of Scots plan to vote Stay. Right-wing, separatist, British nationalist and often racist, anti-European sentiment will now decide Scotland’s membership of the EU as Scottish votes will not be enough to influence the result unless England’s vote is within one per cent.
4. Labour’s majority promise – Labour who led the No Campaign claimed that not only would independence “consign the rest of the UK to permanent Tory rule” but that a Labour Government would sort out Scotland’s problems. Labour lost by a mile and the Tories won a majority just as I had predicted in this column in 2014. Once the EU referendum is over, Ukip will disappear and their votes will mostly go back to the Tories and England, it seems, will continue to quite happily consign themselves and Scotland to permanent Tory rule.
5. Scotland should lead, not leave the UK – An almost perfect piece of political spin from both Gordon Brown and Johann Lamont but no one seemed to tell David Cameron. The day after the referendum Cameron announced English Votes for English Laws (Evel), effectively meaning no MP from a Scottish constituency can ever be prime minster of the UK and ipso facto can’t lead the UK.
6. Pensions not safer in UK – Gordon Brown warned that independence came with a pensions time-bomb. The UK Government backed that claim and now we see pension age increases for women meaning some will lose out up to £30,000. UK Government policy since the referendum means that middle to high earners will be better off through their pensions but that low earners will bear the cost of pension reforms. A Scot earning around £15,000 with a working life of 30 years, could see their pension drop £1,800 per annum.
7. It was Scotland’s pound – We were told that Scotland could not continue to use the pound after independence. Denying claims that it was a political manoeuvre, the No Camp claimed that a currency union was unworkable. However last week on STV’s Scotland Tonight Sir Mervyn King who ran the Bank of England for a decade said “it would have been totally feasible, there was no need for an independent currency.”
Scotland is still waiting for the watered down Smith Commission powers…
8. Slower meaningless devolution – David Cameron claimed that “A No vote would lead to faster, fairer, safer and better change and that draft legislation for new powers for Scotland would be in place by January, 2015”. John Swinney tells us that almost every concession for more powers in the watered down Smith Commission document had at least one Unionist party trying to block it. We now also know that the Westminster negotiators tried to use the Scotland Bill fiscal agreement talks to cut Scotland’s budget by £7bn over ten years.
9. Uncertainty was a myth – David Cameron claimed inward investors had told him they wouldn’t invest in Scotland until after the referendum due to uncertainty but 2014/15 turned out to be a record year for Scottish inward investment, the number of projects increased by 17% to 91 between April 2014 and March 2015.
10. Job losses – Some strangely specific claims were made by the No camp on protecting jobs. They claimed that the Scottish HMRC tax offices would close and many jobs would be lost as they also collect taxes for England. Since the referendum it has been announced that 2,500 HMRC jobs in Scotland are to go. Again Better Together teamed up with steel workers’ union Community to claim that a No vote would protect steel jobs, but now 270 steel jobs have gone in Scotland.
Miliband and the Foreign Office warned of manned border controls between Scotland and England
Miliband and the Foreign Office warned of manned border controls between Scotland and England in the event of Scottish independence
11. What, no border controls? – Former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael launched a UK government report entitled Borders and Citizenship claiming that Scotland would have to have a manned border with England after independence.  This was backed up by Ed Miliband claiming new members of the EU must accept free travel. Ireland has a pre existing free travel agreement with the UK which as well as being an EU member also has an opt out of Shengen. If the UK leaves the EU Ireland would no longer have an automatic opt-out, but last week Boris Johnson claimed that a Brexit would mean no change to the current open borders agreement with Ireland.
I could also point also out that the MoD announced 13 Type 26 frigates with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon making it clear that the investment was conditional on Scots rejecting independence. In the end the order looks like being just 8 ships as the money is needed to pay for new nuclear weapons. Or that the No camp claimed Scottish tourism was being damaged by the referendum and specifically that UK interest in travel to Scotland was down by 29%. Strange then that the figures for 2014/15 show Scotland had a record tourism year with a 9% increase in holiday trips and 41% increase in business trips.
We were also told that you can’t have a sovereign oil fund as it wouldn’t be viable whilst running a deficit but then Westminster announced that the North East of England could have a Fracking Fund to make sure the local communities benefit from their oil wealth. Corporation Tax cuts were labelled unhealthy and a “race to the bottom” and we were told it couldn’t be devolved to Scotland, but was then devolved to Northern Ireland and in this weeks budget the Chancellor George Osborne has announced Corporation Tax cuts. We were also told that the big financial institutions would leave Scotland with a Yes Vote – it turned out they would just reregister but keep all the jobs here and that would have destroyed the bank bail out myth, but now Scottish Widows has relocated anyway and ironically HSBC are threatening to leave and move their European HQ to Paris if there is a Brexit.
I have also previously detailed how the “broad shoulders of the Union” have let down Aberdeen. Thats around 20 and the list goes on and on and on there are actually far too many to mention them all here. So why, when so much is obviously wrong with the case for the Union, is support for independence not soaring? There are two reasons; firstly as Nicola Sturgeon has astutely realised the case for independence needs to be made loudly and then people will be made to consider such evidence as listed above – it needs to be taken to the voters – they won’t search for it themselves. Secondly we need to create and promote a clear economic argument, a detailed roadmap to prosperity through the powers of an independent Scotland (the raison d’ĂȘtre of Business for Scotland) this would send independence support soaring. That roadmap can be built without the need to reply on oil but the oil price coming back to profitable levels by 2020, as 97 per cent of senior oil executives expect it to, would also open the floodgates.
Did someone say Game On?

Tories in Disarray

Alex Salmond says ‘full scale civil war is well and truly underway’

MP for Gordon Alex Salmond reckons the Tory party are in trouble and the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith is a sure sign.
The former First Minister says that a full scale civil war is well and truly underway.
Mr Salmond wrote in his column:
“All political lives end in failure.
“If Enoch Powell’s dictum holds true then Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation letter spells double barreled trouble for David Cameron.
“The self styled “quiet man” turned up the volume spectacularly on Friday night with an Exocet missile aimed right at the mid ships of the Tory government.
“And IDS scored a direct hit. When a prime minister is reduced to saying that he is “puzzled” and “disappointed” by a resignation then you know that he is in deep doodoo. When he then organises a junior minister to get torn into her former boss, then you know that the wounds are cutting deep. Then when he launches a private “four letter word tirade” at the recalcitrant minister for insisting on resignation then you know that full scale civil war is well and truly underway.
“However, the real Duncan Smith target was not the prime minister, but the chancellor – not the sheriff, but the deputy.
“The background is clear enough. A few weeks ago in that backroom coven where the Tory wizards cook up their pernicious policies, they decided that the pain of Osborne’s missed economic targets had to be targeted on someone. And so they decided to cast their dastardly spell in the direction of disabled people by making thousands of pounds of their benefit money under the new personal independent payments simply disappear.
“IDS “went along” with this unpleasant madness, just as he has swallowed everything else that the chancellor has forced down his throat over the last six years. His social security brief has taken by far the biggest hits from austerity. The policy was duly announced but then disability groups started to build up a head of outraged steam, mobilising the opposition and targeting some fretting Tory backbenchers.
“Then Duncan Smith turned up at the pre-Budget cabinet last Wednesday morning to find out that a big tax cut was to be handed out to the top 15% of taxpayers and juxtaposed with the disability payments cuts. This meant that it would be extraordinarily difficult to maintain the argument that there was no alternative to further disability cuts in a budget which included rich people getting a hefty tax cut.
“As the Budget went down badly the Downing Street neighbours, prime minister and chancellor, started to panic and rumours spread of a climbdown in the offing. Duncan Smith, the leading Eurosceptic in the cabinet, was being lined up to take the rap and look like the pantomime villain into the bargain. Making the rich richer while the disabled are more disadvantaged is not a legacy any minister would want to have hanging around his neck.
“Quite incredibly and totally ineptly, Labour at Westminster lined up to back the top pay tax cut, taking the political pressure momentarily off the chancellor. However, Duncan Smith saw the political trap being set for him and had had more than enough. His departure means that the prime minister has lost the high moral ground on welfare cuts to Duncan Smith, the high priest of the bedroom tax, and that is intensely damaging.
“The IDS resignation letter is a masterpiece, flinging back in the face of the prime minister the chancellor’s favourite incantation that “we are all in this together.”
“Some political resignations get quickly lost in the fog of politics and are soon forgotten. Others like those of Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine of bygone Tory generations have a big impact because they come at a time of a political changing of the guard.
“I’m betting that the departure of IDS is one of the latter. The poison pen in the letter from Duncan Smith is the issue of Europe. Out of the cabinet he is now free to campaign full square against the prime minister in the upcoming EU poll.
“Furthermore Tory backbenchers, who up until now have been held in line by the seeming inevitability of Osborne’s succession into the top job, are looking at a political landscape where the chancellor’s stock is falling faster than the Chinese stock market. He has gone from cock of the walk to “unfit for office” with no intervening period whatsoever.
“All of which spells big problems for the prime minister. The European referendum campaign is not going at all well. Even Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has managed to draw level in the English polls, while Boris Johnson is swimming around the body politic like a giant shark waiting for the blood to be spilled in the water.
“If the Euro referendum is won, which is still the most likely outcome, Cameron will hand over a deeply divided and fractious party which will probably elect a Euro sceptic as his successor. If it is lost then he will be packing up his bags by the autumn.
“There are no glad confident mornings left for Cameron and for the Tories the party is almost over.”

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Salmond not Happy about "Question Time" from Dundee

Angry Salmond: The threat of gunge is the way to liven up debate

COMRADES, it’s high time we started to question BBC Question Time. For years, the best thing about it – by far – has been Dimbleby’s wonderful collection of ridiculous ties. Beyond this point of fashion, the show is anything but enjoyable, impartial or logical. In fact, I’d go so far to say that its sole purpose for existing now is to descend every platform of social media into a weekly commentary track of resentment and misery. I have personally given up on the show in recent years, viewing it as the perfect excuse to stay in the pub until closing time on a Thursday. However, last week’s edition was purporting to be broadcast from Dundee – and thus featuring real, live Dundonians. With this being the case, I decided to dust off my television remote and listen into what one of Scotland’s great “YES!” cities had to say.
However, what I was presented with was anything but the Dundee I know and love. The programme’s audience was nothing more than a gathering of yoons, goons and people from other toons! It’s one thing for the producers of Question Time to intentionally mislead the public, but quite another to misrepresent the good people of Dundee. The panel wasn’t up to much either, with John Swinney finding himself on the receiving end of an incessant Unionist cross-examination. Labour’s Jenny Marra and Tory Ruth Davidson came across more like a bickering married couple than political opponents. Meanwhile, Willie Rennie did his best to cling to political relevancy as the show gave excessive speaking time to some loser journalist with more than a passing resemblance to Arnold Rimmer from Red Dwarf.
Given this nightmarish set-up, it was comforting to see one pro-independence member of the panel successfully navigate the Question Time minefield. Patrick Harvie was the undisputed MVP of the night, with his answers as pleasing as they were miraculously uninterrupted. To most nationalists, the SNP is still the sexiest party in politics but anyone with a soul must have a soft spot for the Greens. Certainly, Patrick’s uncompromising approach to independence – a methodology that does not feature the monarchy or an unwanted reliance on oil – is far closer to my own. In my mind, Patrick Harvie wanting freedom with a separate currency over full fiscal autonomy is a very valid and sexy opinion!
Of course, that’s not a call for anyone to jump ship based on my view. I support folk researching and voting for whichever parties best represent them – whether that be SNP, Green, Rise etc. There’s no need for infighting. Even I’ve come to regard the Greens as the Ewoks who help us take down the Empire. Moreover, they have some pretty damn sexy merchandise on the go at the moment! They even have their own beer!
Without doubt, Harvie brought a different and welcome pro-independence stance to Question Time. However, one would also have hoped that the presence of the Green Party would’ve meant that we wouldn’t have had any plants in the audience. Yet disgraced Labourite Kathy Wiles, who once compared young Yes voters to Nazis, appeared along with fellow Labour staffer Braden Davy, who tried and failed to fool the world by sporting some unconvincing Clark Kent spectacles. In typical Labour style, their performances lacked subtlety, direction or class. These rotten tactics may have worked in the years prior to the internet, but in a time when a quick Google search can expose such wrongdoings, it appears that Labour are as hell-bent on their self-destructive ways as ever. In my opinion, last week’s questionable Question Time epitomises all that is wrong with the BBC, but it also illustrates the contempt that the organisation has for Scotland. As much as I’m not of the opinion that there is some great conspiracy against the SNP, I do believe that there are lots of scheming fudricks in the media. After all, we can hardly expect the British Broadcasting Corporation to not take the side of Britain! Then again, clowning Ukip followers frequently criticise the organisation as well. Clearly, the BBC is incapable of pleasing anyone on the political spectrum of their impartiality – with nationalists and pro-Brexit politicians equally as critical of the company as each other. Which makes one wonder how an organisation could be biased towards the left and the right at the same time? Yet this is the very crime the BBC is regularly charged with.
Personally, I would be completely in favour of seeing the BBC licence fee scrapped, with the organisation monetising their iPlayer in a similar manner to that of Netflix. Failing this, I certainly think a major overhaul of Question Time is necessary if it is to remain on television. In my estimation, the contestants have it far too easy. Back in the 1990s, audiences on a variety of shows were able to gunge participants they didn’t like. I would see this option as a constructive addition to Question Time. Hell, perhaps I should start my own version of the programme called “Everyone Loves Angry”? I’d certainly make good use of the post-watershed timeslot!

Angry Salmond is a political lampooner. Follow him on Twitter @AngrySalmond and on www.facebook.com/sexysocialismHe is not the real Alex Salmond.
https://youtu.be/sfsK30Y45UE

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Awaiting the Opportune Moment

Sturgeon: 'We will woo No voters to back the 'beautiful dream' of Scottish independence'

Sturgeon: 'We will woo No voters to back the 'beautiful dream' of Scottish independence'
Sturgeon: 'We will woo No voters to back the 'beautiful dream' of Scottish independence'
Herald Scotland:
Reacting to Sturgeon’s push on independence, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said: "It's clear the SNP - from top to bottom - just isn't prepared to let this go. People voted decisively to remain part of the UK and it's time Nicola Sturgeon respected it.”
Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley called the speech “timid”. Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: "The SNP's biggest priority remains to start the division of the referendum again."

Sunday, 6 March 2016

A Great Speech from Adam Price

https://youtu.be/Drn28ENu8_4

Plaid Cymru Conference

Adam Price fires up conference
Posted By: Alan Evanson: March 05, 2016In: News, Politics, Top News, Uncategorised

PLAID CYMRU’S Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr AM candidate Adam Price took the Plaid Cymru Spring Conference by storm today with a rousing speech, which had echoes of the speech made by Gwynfor Evans in 1966 following his election as MP. The Plaid candidate told the conference, “This year, the challenge is not to remember but to be history, to make history, to shape history. The challenge for us is not to be passive bystanders at our own funeral but the active agents of our own regeneration.” He used a combination of humour, history and quotes throughout his speech and laid bare what he thought of Labour’s record. He said, “It’s nine weeks out and not a vote has been cast but I think we can confidently make one prediction. Labour will lose in May. And they deserve to lose because they have already lost any sense of direction, any scrap of creativity, of vision, of drive. They have put us at the bottom of the league for prosperity, for wages, for literacy, for numeracy and science.” Mr Price quantified his claim by saying, “The first wonder of the world is the mind of a child….Yet we are thirty-fifth in the world league of education standards today thirty-fifth. They say give me a boy at seven, I’ll show you the man at 70. Well give me the education system that is thirty-fifth in the world today and I will give you the economy that is thirty-fifth in the world”. He also quoted one of Wales’ greatest historians, Gwyn Alf Williams but paraphrased him by saying, “We can only truly love Wales if we can put our hands on our hearts and say we love Llanelli bus station in the rain.’ Mr. Price received a standing ovation and was warmly greeted by Plaid Cymru’s leader Leanne Wood as he left the stage.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

British Exit from the EU precipitates independence


Bookies slash odds on Scottish independence as Nicola Sturgeon warns Brexit would trigger another indyref


IT is now just a 2/1 chance that another referendum will be held on Scottish independence in the next four years, as the chances of the UK leaving the EU narrow.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Ending Trident

Corbyn, Sturgeon and Wood set to rally together for Trident protest

Party's
Corbyn, Sturgeon and Wood will all be speaking at Saturday's Trident protest Credit: PA
Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood will be putting political differences aside when they join together to support a major protest against the Trident nuclear system today.
The three party leaders will all speak at a protest rally in London as they argue that the nuclear weapons should be disarmed ahead of a Commons vote on the use of Trident, expected later this year.
Sub
The rally will protest against the use of nuclear weapon carrying Trident submarines Credit: Danny Lawson/PA
During the event Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood is expected to say that nuclear weapons should be thrown into the "dustbin of history" as she argues "it is a disgrace that £100 billion and more will be diverted to nuclear weapons that no one should want and no one should ever use".
Just as war is a human-made construct, so too are weapons of mass destruction. It is the will of humanity that will secure their abolition.
– Leanne Wood
The government's defence minister Philip Dunne has argued that "disarming now would be a reckless gamble with our national security."
Disarming now would be a reckless gamble with our national security that would play into the hands of our enemies.
– Philip Dunne
The demonstration is expected to be the biggest of its kind in a generation with coaches full of union officials, faith leaders, anti-nuclear activists and anti-war campaigners expected to travel to the capital from across the UK, including Scotland, where the Trident submarines are based.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Alex Salmond, on the warpath

Is the First Minister lucky?

"I know he is a talented general but is he a lucky one?”
So Napoleon famously remarked about his generals.
The last two weeks tells us that his adage may also apply to our own First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. She is a brilliant politician certainly but also it appears a lucky one.
Nicola’s chief source of luck is in her opponents. In the space of a few days both Labour and Tory Parties have delivered a clear and dominating election theme into Nicola’s capable hands. They have virtually presented her with the Scottish election.
First the Tory London Treasury were caught making a clumsy attempt to fiddle Scotland’s finances.
Then the Labour Party suggested a tax rise for working people. Why either of these parties thought they could get away with such tactics on the eve of an election is beyond comprehension. Instead they have delivered Ms Sturgeon, already in a commanding position, an unbeatable platform for the forthcoming Scottish elections.
The Scotland Bill “fiscal framework” debate has been on slow burn for the last few months.
However it has now caught alight with a vengeance. In the blue saltire corner is Scottish Finance Minister, “honest John” Swinney. In the red, white and blue corner is Tory Chancellor “slippery Gideon” Osborne.
The underlying issues are serious, both in terms of the money but even more so in terms of the principle at issue.
In the last desperate days of the referendum campaign with the Yes campaign on the brink of victory the Westminster parties issued a last ditch attempt to convince people to vote No.
It was too important to be a mere promise and so it was called “a Vow”. The “Vow” was that Scotland would be delivered of huge powers of “devo to the max”, “home rule” or “near federalism” and keep the Barnett formula on Scotland’s spending. Too good to be true? Turns out it was!
With the vote safely in the Westminster bag, the “Vow” started to be watered down under the resultant Smith Commission and that realisation was one reason for the total rout of the unionist parties at last year’s general election. This was not the fault of the estimable Robert Smith.
The all-party commission was forced to proceed at the pace of the slowest ship in the convoy and the unionist parties refused to sign up for anything that could be said to resemble “home rule” never mind “near federalism”.
However, Smith himself did insist on one crucial protection for Scotland and that was that any proposals on financial devolution should be delivered with “no detriment” to either side that there should be no financial advantage or disadvantage just by the delivery of additional powers.
Professor Anton Muscatelli, principal of Glasgow University, calculated a potential loss to Scotland of as much as £7 billion over a 10-year period certainly but still a fair amount of change and in total conflict with the “no detriment” principle.
At issue is whether future reductions from the Scottish Budget should follow the “Levels Deduction” system favoured by the Treasury or the “Per Capita Indexed Deduction” method proposed by the Scottish Government.
For the Tories in Scotland it is a PR disaster. After years of trying to shake off their anti-Scottish image, and months of boasting that they could catch Labour for second place, they have been caught with their sticky fingers well and truly stuck in the cookie jar.
Now also entering from stage right comes a totally gormless Labour Party.
Desperate to find an issue any issue on which to fight the election campaign they have proposed a general increase in the new 10 pence rate of income taxation. This 1p tax grab would hit 2.2 million basic rate taxpayers including almost 500,000 pensioners.
Even if we leave to one side the embarrassing fact that just a few weeks ago Labour were arguing against this move, forget that they are proposing a tax rise for people on incomes of £11,000 and upwards and also ignore their total inability to explain how their rebate system would work this is still a completely crazy policy.
It means that Labour’s “answer” to Tory austerity is to transfer the burden onto Scottish workers. Higher tax on working people is not an end to austerity. It is an example of austerity. That misunderstanding is at the heart of Labour’s muddle.
The Scottish Government should stand firm against the Tory fiddle and Labour’s muddle. Instead Nicola Sturgeon should take her case to the country, ask the people for their support and thank the gods of politics for her luck in having two such kamikaze opponents.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Brexit: Scotland to declare independence if Britain votes to leave EU, says Nicola Sturgeon

Ana Nicolaci da Costa

Published 20/02/2016 | 17:32
  • 1 Comments
British Prime Minister David Cameron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Getty Images 1
British Prime Minister David Cameron and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Getty Images
If Britain votes to leave the European Union against the wishes of Scotland than a second independence referendum is likely inevitable, says Nicola Sturgeon.
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The leader of the Scottish National Party and of Scotland's devolved government made the comment as British Prime Minister David Cameron announced June 23 as the date the UK would vote on its ongoing membership of the European Union.

Read More: British Prime Minister sets June 23 date for Britain's in/out EU referendum

Ms Sturgeon said she supports staying in the EU, and that polls show the majority of Scots also back this view.
"Across the UK the polls suggest this campaign is on a knife-edge and that's why I think it's important for the in-campaign to be positive," Sturgeon said.
The Scottish vote, which is about 5 million, however is dwarfed by that of England which represents about 84 pc of the population of the United Kingdom.

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"If we get into the situation, where Scotland votes to stay in, the rest of the UK votes to come out, then people in Scotland will have big questions they will want to look at again about whether Scotland should be independent."
Scots rejected independence by 55-45 pc in a vote in 2014 but since then the SNP has gained further strength, taking 56 of the 59 seats representing Scotland in the national parliament in London in last May's election.
Mr Cameron has come out in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, saying that he had securing a deal from other EU leaders that would give Britain "a special place within Europe".

Read More: Merkel: British EU demands are 'justified' and 'necessary'

Former SNP leader Alex Salmond said he did not rate the EU deal that Cameron had secured.
If "we were dragged out against our will by the votes of a much larger English (electorate), then the pressure for another independence referendum in Scotland would be irresistible and I think very rapid," Mr Salmond said.
Reuters

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Independence if UK leaves the EU

Almost six in ten Scots would vote for independence if UK quits EU

European Union flag. Cropped.
Brussels break-up: Scots are not keen on quitting the EU. Fdecomite, http://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite

By Stephen Daisley

Almost 60% of Scots would vote to quit the United Kingdom if Britain leaves the European Union, a new poll finds.
The survey commissioned by STV News shows strong Scottish support for Britain’s continuing membership of the EU and suggests a correlation between splitting from Brussels and increased backing for independence.
The research also finds a towering lead for the SNP ahead of May's Holyrood election and firm opposition to raising income tax.
Some 62% of Scots are inclined to support the remain campaign in the EU referendum, 26% expect to support the leave effort and 12% say they don’t know.
Across the nation as a whole, 55% of Britons will vote to stay while 36% will endorse Brexit, with 9% putting themselves down as don’t knows.
A further six in ten told pollsters from Ipsos MORI Scotland they had “definitely decided” how they would cast their ballot, while 36% admitted they may still change their mind.
In findings that will cause concern at Westminster, support for independence would receive a boost from a European breakaway.
Posed a hypothetical scenario in which Scotland votes to stay in the EU but the country overall votes to leave, 54% would subsequently back independence compared to 39% who would vote to keep the UK together. A further 7% did not know how they would vote.
Scots continue to hold contrasting attitudes towards London and Brussels. While a clear majority wish to pool sovereignty with the latter, most want to secede from the UK.
If a second independence referendum were held tomorrow, without any change in Britain’s relationship to the EU, 49% of Scots would cast their ballot for Yes, 45% for No and 5% said they didn't know. With don’t knows stripped out, 52% of Scots back independence while 48% oppose it.
The Ipsos MORI research also indicates the SNP is on course for another landslide victory in the Scottish Parliament election in May.
Among those likely to vote in May, 53% will give their constituency vote to the SNP, 20% to Scottish Labour, 16% to the Scottish Conservatives, 6% to the Scottish Liberal Democrats and 4% to other parties. This translates to a 33-point SNP lead over Labour.
This is largely in line with how Scots intend to cast their second ballot for regional MSPs, except for the level of support seen for the Scottish Greens.
Almost half (49%) say they will favour the SNP on the regional list, 19% will back Labour, 15% will support the Tories, 8% the Lib Dems and 6% the Greens. A further 2% will back other parties. Here the Nationalists enjoy a 30-point lead over the main opposition party.
The findings confirm the SNP’s unassailable electoral position north of the border and will make painful reading for Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who appears not to have dented the unprecedented popularity of the Nationalists and Nicola Sturgeon.
The First Minister remains far and away the most popular politician in Scotland, with a net satisfaction rating of +39, an almost mirror image of attitudes to David Cameron, who scores -38.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has still not won round voters in Scotland, where his net satisfaction sits at -13, although Kezia Dugdale rates at +5.
Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson sits on +8 while Scottish Lib Dem boss Willie Rennie is on -4. The public’s second-favourite political figure after Sturgeon is Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie, who enjoys a +19 approval score.
The poll also calls into question assumptions about Scotland's attachment to social democratic principles. Asked their preferred policy on income tax, 54% said they wanted it to remain at the current level while a further 10% wish to see it cut by 1p in the pound. Less than a third (30%) support raising the levy by 1p and a further 7% said they did not know.
The results suggest Scottish Labour's proposal to hike income tax by 1p to offset Scottish Government cuts to council budgets will struggle to gain traction with the electorate.
Ipsos MORI conducted telephone interviews with 1000 people over the age of 16 between February 1 and 7. Where figures do not tally to 100%, this may be due to computer rounding or the exclusion of don’t knows.