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 is not the real Alex Salmond.

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

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.