Monthly archives: August 2014

My Scotland

Yesterday the licensing man from Dundee Council went down the taxi ranks ordering saltires and yes stickers removed from the taxis. (would he have ordered No stickers removed as well? We can never be sure as there weren’t any.)

Having missed the train to my Cupar meeting last night, I got in a taxi (it’s not far) and the taxi driver was giving his side of the story. He said he told the council man that “There is an argument that he was within his rights to tell me to remove the sticker, but when he told me to take off my lapel badge, I told him that he was infringing my absolute right to freedom of speech under article ten of the European Convention.”

This campaign has been the most uplifting experience imaginable. It will not be possible to put the people back in the box of media-induced apathy after this.

One of the most unexpectedly invigorating aspects of the campaign is that in packed town hall meetings, I have been sharing the platform with people who are not good public speakers. If that sounds paradoxical, it is because often they have never done any public speaking before. Yesterday in Cupar there was an excellent lady who works in the NHS who had a deep knowledge of its workings and of the threats from privatization of its services, including the mechanisms by which these privatisations were being advanced. She believed that after a No vote it would not be possible for the Scottish NHS to continue to be insulated from some of these trends, and she explained why she felt that.

There was no polish to her quiet delivery, but her heartfelt sincerity and the depth of her knowledge held the audience in intent silence. She had never spoken in public before. It was truly inspiring.

The substance of the campaign is people in local communities actually talking to each other about what is important to their communities and they way their society is organized. I have never seen anything to compare this to. No wonder the politicians have no idea how to counter it. The happy lack of hierarchical power structures in the campaign on the ground seems to relate to the fact that so many women are coming forward as speakers – for the third time, I was the only male on the panel yesterday.

Better Together have women too of course. Just in case anyone has been living under a rock and hasn’t seen it, here is the Saatchi and Saatchi produced Better Together broadcast that set the campaign on fire. The many spoofs are great, but I think nothing quite equals the sheer comic genius of the original.


I have added this picture as pro-government commenters have started to come on the site with their ridiculous propaganda claims that NATO killed very few people in its 398 bombing raids on Sirte. What you see is just one street of scores in similar condition. You can believe your eyes or the propaganda.

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Tonight’s meeting is upstairs at Watts of Cupar (Fife) 7pm. I have been astonished by the wave of popular enthusiasm and above all by the incredible meld of social media activism and old-fashioned street campaigning. The mainstream media have no idea what is going on as, on the rare occasions they try to cover a Yes happening, they are utterly thrown by the absence of men in suits to interview.

The other quite astonishing thing is the level of political radicalism at all the events I have attended. The world should pay attention to Robin McAlpine. In my view, Robin has the ability to become one of the most important contemporary political philosophers not just in Scotland, but in the World. His ideas of future political and social co-operation in more useful forms of economic transaction, and of politics without party structure, are profound. When the campaigning dies down I will discuss further.

Nobody wants simply to repeat Westminster corporate power structures in Scotland. There is a movement happening here which is truly revolutionary and feels like nothing I have experienced in my life before. I am deeply moved. If we achieve independence, it truly will be the victory of the people, not the politicians.


An encounter at the Wellgate Centre Dundee today captured a key aspect of the campaign for me. An old lady refused to take one of our Yes leaflets. She said she was Labour, and that she had been told by the Labour Party that if Independence came, we would let all the foreigners in. I have no doubt she was telling the truth.

The Labour Party – running a Tory funded campaign against the people to try to hang on to their Westminster jobs, and resorting to the racist tactics of UKIP. An absolute moral disgrace.

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Yes Scotland Meetings

Confirmed speaking dates at the moment are
26 August St Andrews
28 August Insch
29 August Dundee
30 August Cupar, Fife

I will post details of times and venues shortly – these are all evening events. I am still open to invitations on dates around these, and indeed any daytime events. Don’t mind dashing all over the place. A number are in the pipeline already. Contact me using the button at top of page.

Have been rather unwell the last couple of days, so please forgive lack of regular posts. BBC Hardtalk interview with Anders Fogh Rasmussen of NATO made me feel much worse. Totally incapable of acknowledging the disasters NATO and NATO members have inflicted on the world since the collapse of the Soviet Union – and the BBC totally incapable of serious questioning on the point.

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There is Another World

Resigning minister Mark Simmonds earnt 417 pounds an hour for his “consultancy” work for Circle Healthcare, a group looking to profit from the massive privatisation of NHS services and functions. He had to give it up during his time as Minsiter, but presumably can now go back to it. Simmonds gets 50,000 a year from Circle, broken down into 12,500 payments once a quarter, for ten hours a month. That is 417 pounds an hour.

This is blatant corruption. Simmonds has no great expertise worth that money, it is simply that the private healthcare industry is buying the MPs who will vote to privatise areas of the NHS to them. New Labour are just as bad as the Tories. Alistair Darling received 12,000 pounds for one after dinner speech to Cinven Ltd, a firm which does nothing but benefit from privatisation of NHS services. Was it because Alistair Darling is just the entertainment people want after a good dinner? No, they were buying his vote. New Labour and Tory MPs are both up to their eyeballs in NHS privatisation money.

It is the same with defence spending. Lord Taylor of Blackburn epitomises the rampant corruption in this area the professional in infant education who earned hundreds of thousands of pounds as a “consultant” to British Aerospace. This blog now has ten times more regular readers than it did when I wrote this article, and I beg of you to click the link and read it. It may open some eyes.

Simmonds has come into the spotlight by resigning on the pretext that his total salary and expenses as an MP in 2012-13 of 271,000 pounds – including a 25,000 for his “secretary” wife and 32,500 in rental allowance – were not enough for him to be able to live a family life in London. This man voted for the benefit cap that limits the total income of families on benefits to 26,000 pounds – that is under ten per cent of the amount which is inadequate for his family to live on. These bastards really do live in another world.

In their world, however, all is good and foodbanks are a sign of a healthy society. This will take your breath away.


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Orange Blackout

My mole at Pacific Quay tells me that there will be no BBC coverage of the Orange Order No campaign march in Edinburgh on 13 September. It has been decided that this would “present an unfairly negative image of the No campaign.” I find that fascinating, as the BBC has certainly never shirked from portraying an unfairly negative image of the Yes campaign. Apparently BBC Scotland have taken the decision “in consultation with” their bosses in England.

The proposed Orange for No march appears plainly to be in contravention of the Public Order Act 1936. This act makes it illegal to wear a uniform to promote a political cause:

Section 1 (i)

Subject as hereinafter provided, any person
who in any public place or at any public meeting wears
uniform signifying his association with any political
organisation or with, the promotion of any political
object shall be guilty of an offence :

For the Orange order to march through Edinburgh in uniform to support the No referendum campaign seems to me as blatant a contravention of the Act as can possibly be imagined. The Act remains in force, this section has not been modified by subsequent legislation and it does apply to Scotland. The specific provisions for Scotland at Section 8 relate solely to the mechanics of administration.

Orange marches in Scotland are not normally prosecuted on the (frankly weak) grounds that they are a cultural not a political manifestation. But that cannot be said of the September 13 March which is being undertaken by the Grand Orange Lodge as a registered participant in the referendum campaign. If they march in uniform they are very plainly indeed in breach of the Public Order Act.

The Act is not a dead letter from the 1930s. It was used to arrest and convict Irish Republicans in the 1980s demonstrating at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park for wearing black berets. Its breach of the peace provisions were used against pickets in the miners’ strike.

There is therefore a key question here – is the law applied impartially, or is it only applied against political demonstrations opposed to the Westminster Establishment? Is the law ignored for political demonstrations in support of the Westminster Establishment?

It is not a case of whether you support the existence of this particular law. It is an essential attribute of a democracy that where the law exists it is applied impartially. That appears not to be the case in Scotland.

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Rusbridger – Handmaiden to Power

Rusbridger’s Guardian has become an unrepentant unionist, zionist, and neo-con New Labour propaganda vehicle. Particularly deceitful is their attitude to the security services and the “war on terror”, where Rusbridger stands revealed as a handmaiden to power. He was, a very senior Guardian source told me, particularly upset when I described him as “Tony Blair’s catamite”. Let me say it again.

Let me give you a specific case to illustrate my point.

On 2 August the Guardian published a piece by Jamie Doward and Ian Cobain which, on the face of it, exposed the British Foreign Office for lobbying against the publication of the US Senate report on extraordinary rendition, lest details of British complicity become public.

On the face of it, a worthy piece of journalism exposing deeply shady government behaviour.

Except that I had published precisely the same story a full 15 weeks earlier, on April 14 2014, having been urgently contacted by a whistleblower.

What is more, immediately I heard from the whistleblower I made several urgent phone calls to Ian Cobain. He neither took nor returned my calls. I therefore left detailed messages, referring to the story which I had now published on my website.

In fact, the Guardian only published this story after William Hague had written to Reprieve to confirm that this lobbying had happened. In other words the Guardian published only after disclosure had been authorised by Government.

Furthermore, in publishing the government authorised story, the Guardian omitted the absolutely key point – that the purpose of the UK lobbying was to affect court cases under way and in prospect in the UK. Both in civil cases of compensation for victims, and in potential criminal cases for complicity in torture against Blair, Straw et al, British judges have (disgracefully) accepted the argument that evidence of the torture cannot be used because the American do not want it revealed, and may curtail future intelligence sharing. Obviously, if the Americans publish the material themselves, this defence falls.

As this defence is the major factor keeping Blair, Straw and numerous still senior civil servants out of the dock, this sparked the crucial British lobbying to suppress the Feinstein report – which has indeed succeeded in causing a huge amount of redaction by the White House.

My mole was absolutely adamant this was what was happening, and it is what I published. Yet Cobain in publishing the government authorised version does not refer to the impact on trials at all – despite the fact that this was 100% the subject of the letter from Reprieve to which Hague was replying, and that the letter from Reprieve mentioned me and my blog by name.

Instead of giving the true story, the government authorised version published by Cobain misdirects the entire subject towards Diego Garcia. The truth is that Diego Garcia is pretty incidental in the whole rendition story. On UK soil there was actually a great deal more done at Wick airport (yes, I do mean Wick, not Prestwick). That is something the government is still keeping tight closed, so don’t expect a mention from Cobain.

I was fooled by Cobain for a long time. What I now realise is that his role is to codify and render safe information which had already leaked. He packages it and sends it off in a useless direction – away from Blair and Straw in this instance. He rigorously excludes material which is too hot for the establishment to handle. The great trick is, that the Guardian persuades its loyal readers that it is keeping tabs on the security services when in fact it is sweeping up after them.

Which is a precise description of why the Guardian fell out with Assange and WikiLeaks.

I suppose I should expect no better of the newspaper which happily sent the extremely noble Sara Tisdall to prison, but we should have learnt a lot from Rusbridger’s agreement with the security services to smash the Snowden hard drives. The Guardian argues that other copies of the drives existed. That is scarcely the point. Would you participate in a book-burning because other copies of books exist? The Guardian never stands up to the security services or the establishment. It just wants you to believe that it does.

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Forget Those Shredded Children, Hadley Freeman is the Real Victim Here

Do not be deceived. The murdered innocents of Gaza are not those who are really suffering. It is the liberal Jews like Hadley Freeman, victims of the new anti-Semitism.

Israel is a state openly founded on racist and theocratic grounds, in which Jews have an absolute right to live in Israel, wherever in the world they were born and their families have been for centuries, and nobody else does. The unfortunate pre-1946 occupants of the land have been mostly driven out into refugee camps, including in Gaza, while religiously motivated settlers continue apace to grab the best Palestinian land and water. The state does this for them precisely and explicity because they are Jewish. Those non-Jews who remained in Israel proper are subject to a whole raft of apartheid style legislation, even governing whom they may marry, and the quantity of this legislation is increasing. 140 Israeli laws specify treatment by race.

Israel is as a state entirely based and run on a racist premise. Its very foundation is racist. But while the Israeli state may steal land specifically for Jews, make provision for Jews, and make life difficult for non-Jews, anybody else who mentions Jews in the context of Israeli behaviour is a vicious racist and anti-Semite. This warped and ludicrous logic is enforced by political orthodoxy and the mainstream media.

It is as though, in opposing apartheid, it was taboo to mention it had been invented for the benefit of white people.

Reading Freeman’s long self-pitying self-centred whinge I was waiting to find out what had actually happened to her to occasion some distress. Had she had a brick through her window? Had she been assaulted in the street? Has somebody hurled racial abuse at her?

Apparently none of the above. It appears that she feels under unfair pressure to denounce the actions of Israel. And- horror of horrors – the Tricycle Theatre has cancelled a Jewish Film Festival in Kilburn because it was financed by the Israeli Embassy. Oh no, the agony! How can a poor girl survive in a North London which is so rife with anti-Semitism! It reminded me forcefully of the very first diplomatic social engagement of my professional career, in 1985 when our Afrikaaner hostess held forth on how she thought people looked down on her in Harrods.

I deplore racism with every part of my being, all racism. Freeman makes what is intended to be a smart observation that the Tricycle’s act “reminds me how very far I am from the States”. It is very plain that she regrets that and believes that the US attitude to Israel is better than the British one.

This then morphs into the meme that the reaction to the Gaza massacre is part of a wave of the “new anti-Semitism”. There have indeed been several deplorable anti-Semitic incidents in Europe in the last few months. But they have killed absolutely nobody in the last two years, while Israel has killed 1,500 people. There have been three terrible examples of racial murders of Jews in the past eight years, and there needs to be continued and unremitting vigilance against all hate crime. The disruption of Hadley’s cinema treats and the daubing of paint on a synagogue are in themselves bad things. But do they really compare to the massive disproportionate force being used to destroy over 1,000 women and children in a month in Gaza, and the context of the entire seventy year programme of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people?

You are right, Hadley. Just because you are Jewish does not mean you should be under special pressure to condemn Israel’s actions. But if you take it upon yourself to write a long article on the subject, we are entitled to expect you – as a human being – to condemn the massacre. And as in the article you write about nothing but your own angst and the evils of anti-Semitism, and manage not a single word of sympathy or regret for the victims of the terrible massacre in Gaza, we are entitled to form our own opinion.

And my opinion is that you are a wholly self-centred and self-regarding little person with an abject lack of moral perspective, who seems to think the murder of 1500 people is about the impact on your feelings.

Hadley, you are not disgusting because you are Jewish: you are just a disgusting human being.

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Astonishing Coincidence

By an amazing accident of timing, the Westminster Select Committee on British Affairs has today published a report saying Scotland will have no currency at independence and may have to barter. The Committee consists of Conservative, New Labour and Lib Dem MPs.

The Scottish Sun has run the currency scare on the front page for the last three days. Labour, Lib Dem and Tory leaders all asked nothing else at First Minister’s questions yesterday. The media and Holyrood frenzy could have been sparked as reaction to the TV debate. But what the publication of the Westminster report today shows is that this massive currency scare has all been pre-planned by Tory, Lab and Lib-Dems with heir media allies for some time. This is their big push keep Scotland’s resources.

What is increasingly plain – and I warned before the debate – is that the conduct of the entire “debate” was a part of this co-ordinated plan, pre-determined to allow the media to declare the currency issue is the only one that will decide the referendum. Salmond was grilled on nothing but currency for twelve minutes, and then the chairman picked out members of the public from the IPSOS/Mori selected audience pre-primed with questions about … currency.

Audience members had had to fill out forms for selection indication if they were Yes or No voters. They were then asked again at the door, and many Yes voters who had been invited were excluded. No voters were seated in a selected central area where the questions were taken from. Better Together staff were present briefing their questioners.

This really is a major test of the power of the mainstream media. There is no currency question. A very large majority of the countries in the world became independent in the last seventy years. Countries with far weaker economies than Scotland
support their own currencies. I have personally in travelling had at least 40 different currencies in my pocket. All over the world, what matters is not the unit of denomination, but how the money is distributed and used.

Scotland like Denmark could have its own currency. It could keep the pound either in a formal currency union or not. It could join the euro. As an independent country it will have the choice – and if the English want to burn the choice of formal currency union, that will not sink Scotland by any means.

Currency is not the be all and end all of independence. But what we have is a concerted effort by the Westminster politicians and the entire media to convince people that it is. Will this work? Or will they stand against the raw aggression and hatred now pouring out from the British nationalist camp?

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McGinley’s Choice

I am starting to look forward with eager anticipation to the Ryder Cup. The European team is looking very strong, and Paul McGinley’s selection choice is absolutely fascinating. At present, it appears that he might have to choose three from five out of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Stephen Gallacher and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

The nine automatically selected on current standings would be
Rory McIlroy
Victor Dubuisson
Sergio Garcia
Henrik Stenson

(The top 4 in the European money list)

Justin Rose
Martin Kaymer
Thomas Bjorn
Graeme McDowell
Jamie Donaldson

(The top 5 in world rankings not pre-selected through the first list)

On the European money list, the three next ranked players not in are

Ian Poulter
Joost Luiten
Miguel Angel Jimenez

On the World ranking list, the three next players not in are

Luke Donald
Stephen Gallacher
Ian Poulter

Of course the current USPGA in particular and other remaining tournaments might change things, but not that much. Jamie Donaldson might slip out of last automatic spot on the European list but barring peculiar events would be saved for the team by his position on the world list. The most vulnerable automatic qualifier position looks to be that of Graeme McDowell from the world ranking. He is benefiting from the world ranking’s crediting of historic performance. He needs a good performance or two to stay in. If he slips out, on current form he is not an automatic pick. My own view is that McIlroy can play with any partner.

Westwood leads the USPGA this morning on 6 under. Only winning things now will get him an automatic slot, but I think that he is showing sufficient form for him to get a captain’s pick. That may be unlucky for Miguel Angel Jimenez, as massive experience should not be criterion for all the picks. Poulter at the moment is just short on both lists, and I think McGinley would be nuts to leave him out with his Ryder Cup record.

The crowd is Europe’s “thirteenth man” and I think that will get Stephen Gallacher a pick if needed, ahead of Donald, Jimenez or Luiten. Donald just does not have enough recent form, barring a spectacular resurgence. Jimenez would let nobody down and would be tough to leave out – and the four times he has been on the team, the team has won! But if a realistically qualified home player is available, there should always be one in the team to be roared on by the crowd. Home advantage really does lift people in sport.

There will be changes in the points tables, and form will be important in the next few weeks. I shall update these early musings closer to the selection date.

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The Currency of Hatred

The No campaign is convinced it has won the referendum over the question of what currency will be used in an independent Scotland. Being convinced they have won, they are starting to show their true feelings.

Everybody in Scotland should read the comments section on this report by the Labour supporting Guardian. That truly horrible, sneering tone is a foretaste of what is in store for Scotland if it votes No in the referendum.

States have currencies. Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, all have currencies, some unique and some shared. Scotland might keep the pound. Otherwise the Scottish economy is perfectly strong enough and Scots perfectly capable of taking another of the many available options. It is entirely a media construct that this is the issue that can halt independence – a construct initiated by George Osborne in cahoots with Darling and their media lackeys.

What is undeniable is that these people actually would act with deliberate malice towards an independent Scotland. The hatred of the Scots is there for all to see. This is not the Telegraph or the Mail. It is the Guardian. Read the comments and judge of their tone and intent. Do you really want to get down on your knees before this hatred, and surrender?

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Let’s Keep Supporting Bombing Gaza

David Aaronovitch is the very first name on the “Let’s stay together” list unveiled today. That’s Aaronovitch, Murdoch employee, unrepentant propagandist for the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing of Libya – and look how those turned out – and arch media Zionist. We know why he wants to keep the Union together. For exactly the same reason that Baroness Warsi resigned – because Westminster foreign policy is under unshakeable Zionist control

It is a diverse list. But there is one thing all of these people have in common.

They are all much wealthier people than the rest of us.

Almost all of them of them have their main home in South East England. No wonder they want to keep the UK scam going, and Scotland’s resources funnelling down there.

A large number of them get their high salaried living from the (ahem) “neutral” BBC.

There are 210 names on the list. How many can you find whose main residence is not in South East England, and where is it?

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The Independence Debate – Those Questions Answered

Currency Union

There are over 200 nations in the world. Many became independent in the last thirty years, a large majority became independent over the last seventy years. Most have their own currencies. Some share a currency.

If every other country in the world can manage its currency options, why Better Together are allowed to pretend this is an insuperable obstacle for Scotland is beyond me. Are we uniquely stupid or lazy or incompetent? In fact Scots founded the Bank of England and the Bank of France (John Law).

The media has deliberately built u a non-question into “the thing that will stop Independence”. Yesterday Darling was allowed to bang on about nothing else for 12 minutes and then the pre-selected audience questions were on the same subject. This is a media propaganda construct not a real problem.

The problem is not the currency money in which is denominated – it is the fairness of its distribution we should be addressing.

The Scottish government’s preference is to enter a currency union with rUK. The strong attraction for rUK in that is that it avoids economic dislocation. Also it gives a strong hydrocarbon element to the economies underpinning the currency. Without Scotland sterling outflows in times of high oil prices could become a real problem for rUK.

So Salmond’s view is the rUK will agree to currency union, and there is no point in having a hypothetical argument based on an artificial Better Together propaganda construct that they will not.

My own view is that Scotland would be much better off with its own currency anyway, or could join the Euro. Either is a good option. But these are all perfectly possible post-independence options – none of them is a reason not to be independent.

Tuition Fees

Once Scotland is independent, it will have to treat all its fellow EU citizens the same on fees, including English students who currently – at the insistence of the UK government – have to pay.

Scotland will probably have to introduce some level of tuition fee post independence. BUT

a) There is no EU rule against giving student grants based on residence. So the Scottish government can give Scottish resident only students grants to pay their tuition fees. There can still be no net cost to Scottish students. This is what other EU countries do.

b) There will be no call for fees to be as high as the terrible 9,000 pounds a year charged in England. Tuition fee levels may perhaps be a third or half of that – with Scottish students given grants to pay the full amount. If the cheaper fees lead to a great rush of bright English students to Scotland, that will in the medium term give a great boost to the Scottish economy. Many of them will stay for the exciting new economic opportunities a dynamic independent Scotland will bring.


Mineral resources are the inalienable property of the State on whose territory – including continental shelf – they lie. Agreements made between oil companies and the UK for exploitation rights on Scotland’s continental shelf will be honoured on the same terms by the Scottish government. The tax revenues will come to Scotland instead of to the UK. There is no dispute over this whatsoever in legal or academic circles. It is an utterly ludicrous piece of false information to claim otherwise, put out by Better Together. The only dispute will be over the precise settlement of the maritime boundaries with England. But the area of dispute is in the region of whether 88 or 92% of British hydrocarbon resources are Scottish.

Excluding oil, Scotland’s GDP per capita is 98% per capita. The extent of the “oil bonus” on top indeed varies with the price of oil, but the total is certainly never going to give GDP per capita below that of rUK. Proven oil reserves will last a minimum of 50 years. What happens after 2070 when oil starts to run out is a problem which will face the entire world, not only Scotland. In the meantime, it is better to have it than not to have it.

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The True Meaning of Being Scottish



I became deeply ashamed of being a British Ambassador when face to face with our complicity in torture and involvement in extraordinary rendition. I am ashamed of Britain’s acquiescence in the genocide of Gaza. I am ashamed of food banks and benefit cuts, of tuition fees and the massive and growing gap between rich and poor.

This morning I am deeply ashamed of some Scots.

I have no doubt whatsoever Scots will be economically better off in the short, medium and long term in an independent Scotland. But that is not the point. There is more to life than money. Those people holding pikes at the battle of Stirling Bridge were not rich men – their lives were harder than we can easily imagine. They fought for “freedom, which no man gives up except with life itself”.







Now’s the day, an now’s the hour:
See the front o battle lour,
See approach proud Edward’s power
-Chains and Slaverie.

‘Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave




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Ice Cold on Alex

The debate format seemed modelled on the Jeremy Kyle show, and pitched to the same intellectual level.

Stripping out pollsters’ unionist weighting, Yes just went from ahead to further ahead.

Poll before debate 58 – 42. Who won poll after debate 56-44. Yet media claim Yes went backwards!

The 2010 debates were much better than this in terms at least of allowing for sustained passages of thought. Whether the thoughts were any good is a different question.

I was imagining myself as a participant in tonight’s debate and the impossibility of developing any coherent arguments within the fractured format. Which of course helps those simply stating a negative rather than building a positive.

Well, that really was pretty awful. At no stage did either Salmond or Darling get given the space or opportunity to string a decent series of thoughts together. The selected questioners from the audience were overwhelmingly unionist to a degree that was absolutely ludicrous. The presenter constantly displayed aggressive body language towards Alex Salmond.

STV’s political correspondent said that the questions showed that pensions and currency were the dominant issues – given that STV chose the questioners and questions, it only shows that STV want those to be the issues.

Alex Salmond did get across the need to get rid of nuclear weapons, despite the questioning being organised to keep away from that subject.

I don’t imagine any genuine floating voter learned a lot. But the entire format and context was designed to make sure they didn’t learn a lot

Alistair Darling’s closing statement came over as though he didn’t actually believe it at all

The very next question comes from a No voter. Haven’t seen a question in twenty minutes from a Yes voter.

Four straight pro-unionist (and extremely ill-informed) questions from members of the audience obviously pre-selected by the chairman. Salmond given no chance to reply and then a pat question put to Darling.

I am truly astonished by the debate format, designed to leave no time at for consideration – or considered answers – on any of the questions and to ramp up the speed and sheer hysteria of the programme. The cutting aside to the “spin room” and that really horrible shoutey New Labour numptie woman. Also a very strange absence of the Tories, who are financing the Better Together campaign, and the other unionist elements.

In a format which seems designed to make sure nobody ever gets more than ten uninterrupted thought to develop a reasoned line of argument, and of which the express purpose appears to be simply to make people believe that the independence referendum is just a high volume slanging match between unreasonable people, it is Alex Salmond who comes over as calm and more thoughtful (not to mention polite) and Darling who comes over as the impassioned and rather snide one – contrary to advance billing.

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Baroness Warsi

I shared a platform in Dewsbury with Baroness Warsi’s current husband in a meeting against persecution of British Muslims through “anti-terror” legislation. While that particular persecution was under the New Labour brand of Conservatives, and nothing has changed under the official Tories, it nonetheless always seemed slightly strange to me that the family has such strong and sensible views and yet the Baroness, who has described her husband as her “political rock”, is a Tory.

I offer this thought as some background to the principled and highly praiseworthy action of Sayeeda Warsi in resigning from the Cabinet over Britain’s acquiescence in the appalling massacre of Gaza. A politician who believes in anything other than their own career and bank balance is a rare thing indeed today. I offer her my congratulations and sincere good wishes for the future.

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Liveblogging the Great Debate

I am much looking forward to the Salmond/Darling debate this evening. The media have already been playing the expectations game for all they are worth, so that if Darling does not actually wet himself during the debate and then fall flat on his face and break his spectacles while attempting to remove his soiled trousers, they will all be able to claim that he performed better than expected.

Attempts to skew the agenda by Better Together are frenetic this morning. We have Cameron, Clegg and Miliband all signing a pledge to give Scotland (unspecified) new tax and legal powers after a No vote.


Oh look, here’s Nick Clegg signing another pledge about what happens after a vote.

Nick Clegg is always signing pledges. He must be a really honest man.

We also have a new think tank called Fiscal Affairs Scotland, pontificating on the state of Scotland’s public finances this year. Personally I am deeply suspicious of all these new think tanks and lobby groups which keep springing up. Fiscal Affairs Scotland appears on a google search not to exist at all, beyond the report released today. Nor can I find this report online. But there is a remarkably fair summation of it in the Scotsman, under the heading “Independence: Economists Criticise Both Sides”. This states that “Scotland’s finances could be facing anything from a deficit of £10.8bn up to being £1.9bn in credit – meaning Scots would be £1,033 better off or £1,324 poorer.”

It should be noted that this relates to 2016 only, and includes a substantial estimate for the one-off costs of setting up a new state. There are numerous reasons to believe Fiscal Affairs Scotland’s estimate deliberately pessimistic, but for the moment it is the media treatment of the report which interests me.

Better Together immediately rushed out a press release stating that the report said that Scots would be much worse off after independence, and lazy and complicit “journalists” simply copied and pasted the Better Together press release without bothering to look at the report. This from the Guardian’s unionist hack Severin Carrell:

Better Together seized on a new analysis of Scotland’s likely finances in its first year of independence, mooted as 2016 by Salmond, from a recently launched thinktank Fiscal Affairs Scotland. The paper found that Scotland’s deficit would be worse than the UK’s by up to £900 per head unless oil revenues doubled over current forecasts or Scotland took only half its expected share of UK debts.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s shadow health secretary, said these findings added to the pressure on Salmond to defend his economic predictions for independence in tonight’s debate. “Expert after expert lines up to explain the threat of separation to our public finances, Alex Salmond will have to explain why he is right, and they are all wrong,” she said.

Carrell was too lazy, stupid and downright unethical to even bother to ask anyone from the Yes campaign for a comment.

There will be an even more intrusive media attempt to frame tonight’s debate in Salmond’s favour. An opinion poll by IPSOS/Mori will be released by STV at the start of the debate.

IPSOS/Mori has been consistently unionist friendly in its poll results. These differences between pollsters are not coincidental. They do not take random samples of the population and then tell us how that random 10,000 people break down. They radically adjust their sample by “weighting” to reflect the age, social groups and geographical distribution of the population. So, if you ought to have 20 retired people living south of Edinburgh in your sample but you only have 4, then you multiply the results of those 4 by 5 to weight your sample.

This is where it gets particularly murky. One of the key factors they weight for is political allegiance. So they weight your answers according to their own prior view of what they think the actual distribution of political views ought to be. I am not making this up.

They do this by prior vote weighting. So if 28% voted Labour at the last Holyrood election, their panel has to include 28% who voted Labour at the last Holyrood election or votes be weighted accordingly. But get this – they do not just take your word for how you voted at the last election, they then adjust this to account for “false memory” and “shy votes” – wanting to remember you sided with the winner, or being ashamed to say who you voted for.

The net effect is that the samples have deliberately boosted numbers of Labour voters in them. Pollsters generally adopt a “panel” approach. Having identified their voters and applied their weightings, they just keep asking the same voters again so they don’t have to recalculate the weightings. So they create a Labour-biased panel, and then stick with it.

In Scotland they have a history of being spectacularly wrong. At the 2011 Holyrood elections the pollsters on average overestimated the Labour vote by 6% in their final polls.

The excellent “Scot Goes Pop” website dissects the shenanigans of the opinion poll weightings in great detail, poll by poll.

Anyway, ALex Salmond will have to face “IPSOS/MORI says you are twelve points behind” and be on the back foot right at the start of the debate. There is worse. Commenters on Wings Over Scotland and Scot Goes Pop who are part of the IPSOS/MORI panel have reported that for this survey they were asked twenty questions on subjects like oil revenues and the NHS, which were heavily biased towards the No camp. “On a scale of 1 to 10, How worried are you that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford basic pension provision.”

On top of which, at STV’s invitation IPSOS/MORI has selected the audience for the TV debate to reflect IPSOS/MORI’s view of the composition of the Scottish public – ie heavily Labour and unionist. ITV have done everything conceivable to load the deck in Darling’s favour. Let’s see how the game unfolds.

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Scotland’s First State Visit

Who should an independent Scotland invite to pay the first State Visit to the country after independence?

I intend to do a series of posts at intervals over the next few weeks on some of the diplomatic needs of an independent Scotland. Before tackling some of the weightier questions, I thought today I might look at the exhilarating question of who Scotland should invite to pay the first State Visit after independence.

A State Visit is made by the Head of State to another Head of State, as opposed to just the Head of Government (so monarch or President as opposed to Prime Minister). Head of Government visits are quite frequent, but State Visits are generally just a couple a year. The recipient state extends the invitation, though it is not unknown for a message to be sent to indicate that an invitation would be welcome. A reciprocal visit the other way usually follows within a year or two.

State Visits are affairs of great pomp and pageantry, but also the highest level of expression of political amity. Behind the parading and banquets is a huge amount of government to government diplomacy and of trade and business discussion.

The first State Visit to an independent country is a matter of huge symbolism. So who should Scotland invite to be the first Head of State to greet their Scottish counterpart as an equal, after over three hundred years?

Fortunately we can rule out WENI (Wales, England, Northern Ireland), as the issues involved in the Queen visiting herself are over-complex. I expect the Prime Minister of WENI will pay the first Head of Government visit, as the relationship will be extremely important to both countries. But State Visit, no.

The same consideration rules out other countries which have the Queen as Head of State. Otherwise New Zealand might have been a good choice. A similar size to Scotland, a thriving democracy and a population very heavily of Scottish descent.

I think we can rule out the United States too. The US will probably need to back up the Tory Prime Minister of WENI by pretending to be hacked off about the relocation of Trident missiles from Scotland (in fact the US really finds Trident more a distraction than a serious part of the arms equation. Trident is of no interest to anybody except the Westminster politicians it makes feel important). But Scotland’s strategic position in the North Atlantic will remain vital to the USA, and post independence may increase the heritage awareness of the massive number of US voters of Scottish descent. So an early State Visit for the USA, but not the first.

One way that Scotland can immediately mark a more moral foreign policy than WENI is by recognising Palestine, now that its statehood has been accepted at the UN. Palestine should be invited to open an Embassy in Edinburgh, as opposed to the “Mission” it is permitted to the Court of St James. An early state visit to Scotland by Palestine would be a great event, but not I think the very first such visit, which Scotland might need to promote its own interests as it embarks on the path of statehood.

Much the same goes for other countries with which Scotland has a close historical connection, of which Malawi has very close links. But the human rights situation there is deteriorating.

Norway is a country with strong historical links to Scotland. Its management of oil wealth is viewed as the best practice example. It shares a key maritime boundary. A good relationship with Norway will be essential to Scotland.

The overwhelming interest must be for Scotland to use the honour of the very first State visit to cement a relationship with one of its key EU partners.

Ireland is an obvious candidate, Scotland’s sister nation. But nobody wants to stir the sectarian divide and further alarm the benighted bigots of the West coast. So I don’t think Ireland will be high on the list.

Scotland’s EU neighbours in Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, Finland – are those with whom Scotland is likely long term to share interests and a voting bloc. These relationships will be essential.

Italy and Poland both have a great many human ties to Scotland. It has been estimated that 25% of all Scots have some Italian blood, like my good self. Poland is sending its second wave of welcome immigrants, seventy years after the first, and has strong historic links through the Baltic trade.

But in the end Scotland’s interest must be best served by inviting the first visit from one of the most powerful European states, either Germany or France. There is a wealth of historical and emotional resonance for France to be first in the queue. The French may not remember the Auld Alliance as readily as the Scots, but they are ready to play a helpful role on Scotland’s uninterrupted EU membership. I would opt for President Hollande as the first state visitor to Scotland.

There are many reasons why it is a bad idea to have a monarch, not least the entrenchment of an aristocratic elite and the sheer insult to democracy. But having a Head of State who is also Head of other States whose interests are different is a limiting factor. The Queen dislikes State Visits immensely. She only receives 2 a year for the UK, 4 at most, and getting her available to host them for Scotland will be difficult. Just a minor one of very many reasons we need a Republic.

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Disgraceful Partisanship from Prince William

A jarringly inappropriate nationalistic speech from Prince William hit entirely the wrong tone and drew desultory applause at the commemoration ceremony for the start of the First World War, in Belgium today.

William’s whole attitude was based on the ludicrous jingoistic myth that there was a “right” and a “wrong” side in the First World War. This attitude pervaded the entire sickening performance. More than once he said we were “grateful” to Belgium for its “staunch resistance”. He mentioned the execution of Edith Cavell and the burning of the library of Loeven, with no balance of the equal war crimes on the other side.

In the dreadful nationalistic war between rival Imperial powers, the Belgian Empire was probably the most evil of all. To commend its resistance is ridiculous. Joseph Conrad’s great “Heart of Darkness” and “Congo Diary”, and the formal revelation by British Consul Roger Casement of the dreadful enslavement and abuse of the Congo population to provide vast profits to the Belgian crown, provide lasting testimony to the malignity of the Belgian Empire.

William referred to Cavell’s execution: he did not mention the execution of the heroic Roger Casement by the British, another key incident of the First World War.

The First World War was a terrible, terrible event. The millions of soldiers may have been activated by motives they believed to be noble, but the cause of war was the rival desires for aggrandisement of the very rich who ran and profited from the Empires. The Second World War was a fight against the evil philosophy of fascism, but there was no such cause for the First World War, which was simply a clash between Empires, and whose vindictive conclusion laid the foundations for fascism.

Commemorations which play to the “good side” “bad side” myth are uncalled for and should be widely condemned. That we still have a monarch-led elite which cannot admit the First World War is wrong is ludicrous. William stands baldly revealed as a reactionary ass.

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