Thursday 30 April 2015

This campaign of hatred must be turned off

As many of you will be aware I’ve been getting quite a lot of stick recently. It all started a couple of weeks ago. Firstly I said in a tweet something on the lines that I was one the more prominent Scottish bloggers. This is obviously true. I’m not as well-known as Wings and naturally people who only read Wings haven’t heard of me, but on our side I am one of the more prominent bloggers. I may not have as many readers as Wings does, but I get thousands every week, sometimes thousands every day. For their own peculiar reasons however the Nats went ballistic.

Secondly a Labour MP kindly tweeted one of my blogs where I argue that the UK is one nation and it’s indivisible. I made some comparisons with the USA and argued that the UK like that country was becoming a nation of immigrants and that this was a good thing. I made the point however, that any country requires those who choose to come to it to have a degree of loyalty and that I was always disappointed to find people, who would not like their own country to be broken up, to come here and try to break up mine.  This was twisted by my opponents who accused me of some sort of racism, when in fact there is not one racist sentence in my article. This once more set off a storm.

Finally I wrote an article that questioned the SNP’s assumptions and put forward a plan by which they could be contained. Everything I wrote was reasoned, logical and legal. But from that day a mass wave of attacks began.

It’s no good trying to relativise what is happening. Firstly it is a poor moral argument. Something is not less wrong because something else is wrong too. Secondly explaining to, for example, a rape victim that others have been raped too is not exactly sympathetic. Would you do that? I condemn all abuse and urge everyone to campaign politely and by using reason. I find it hard to believe that in the place where I was born and grew up such abuse occurs. I find it hard to believe that so many Scots are intending to vote for a party supported by people such as these. I don’t know where the responsibility lies. But this is clearly organised.  Here are some examples, with brief commentary. Judge for yourself!

This person is admitting to theft, but wants a refund. In fact he hasn’t read any of my books. He is simply criticising me because my politics differ to his. Would you want your children taught by someone who admits to being a thief? Of course he may just be joking. I’ve never met him. I have no idea why he is so offended by me. 

I have studied to post-doctoral level. I speak a number of foreign languages and can read a number of alphabets. Yet because I disagree with this person I am mentally subnormal. 

These people think I am either someone who has rabies or someone who indulges in glue sniffing. I would suggest that their tweets make them look rather worse than me. My arguments are abuse but their insults are not. This is odd logic.

This journalist thought it was funny to make a joke about me being a sock puppet to his cybernat friends. Odd that someone who is not prominent is mentioned by such a well-known journalist. 

Shortly afterwards I received this sort of abuse, that is similar in level and tone to that received by Ruth Davidson. The joke of the journalist obviously led to the tweet from his colleague.

For criticising the assumptions of this nationalist I am told to go first to England and secondly told that I a racist. There’s a contradiction here somewhere.

This nationalist thinks it’s fun to use mental health as a way to abuse people he doesn’t know. Many people in Scotland suffer from depression or other forms of mental illness. He doesn’t know if I do. But he and we’ll find others are happy to use mental illness as a way of abusing and insulting. This sort of abuse is such that it could cause mental illness. I’ve faced much worse in my life, but everyone has a breaking point. The abusers must realise that there is a person who they are attacking who may be damaged. It would be their responsibility. 

This nationalist likes to change my first name into a common swear word.

Despite having nothing against English people, many nationalists are desperate to find out if I am English. It seems anyone who criticises the SNP by definition must be English. Alternatively we must be mass murderers.

More insults about mental illness.

A common form of argument among nationalists is to make an assertion accompanied with a swear word. This is known in philosophy as the argument from the expletive.

This nationalist thinks that any criticism of the SNP is a criticism of Scotland and the Scots. She thinks I’m an enemy of the people. If Scotland became independent no doubt that’s just what I would be.

This nationalist is offensive in so many ways it is hard to count them.

More variations on the theme that I am insane.

This nationalist thinks I’m a crazed drug addict.

We’re back to the theme of mental illness. Anyone who disagrees with this nationalist is obviously insane.

This nationalist doesn’t think the abuse is orchestrated but that I did come onto their radar. There’s a contradiction here somewhere.

This nationalist wants to send some sort of threatening message from his friend. He apparently thinks there’s a problem with my grammar. I would call him a pot but I'm not sure he would get the reference.

This nationalist thinks that anyone who does not associate with nationalists is clearly a fascist and a lunatic.

Whenever a nationalist disagrees with me he immediately accuses me of being thick and my husband of not being a Scotsman. Sometimes I’m told that I’m not a Scotswoman.

This nationalist who appears unable to spell the word teacher claims to be educated, but his disagreement with me is not about literature it’s about politics. People like him think it is funny to leave negative reviews about my books just because they disagree with me. People who have actually read my books rather like them. This includes people rather more qualified than this teacher. 

This nationalist claims not to be abusing me while swearing at me.

This nationalist like so many others thinks I should leave. They’re friendly these civic nationalists, don’t you think?

This nationalist wants to proclaim that he is not a troll because he was swearing at me rather than someone else.

Here we have another nationalist desperate to prove that I am English. I wonder why.

This nationalist is quite original in in his insults. What does vinegar veined mean?

This nationalist does not appear to be able to ascertain that it was I that wrote this steaming pile of etc.

These nationalists think because I disagree with them I hate Scotland, that I am English and finally that I need re-educating. All the while they maintain their love of England. Yet it seems English is their worst insult. In fact lots of Scots support the UK. The majority of us voted No remember.

This nationalist thinks that because I criticise nationalism I am as bad as a prominent national socialist. 

This nationalist thinks I’m a witch. Perhaps he favours witch trials too. Again he criticises my books. How would he feel if I criticised his job because I disliked his politics?

This nationalist objects quite violently to the word prominent. But if I am so unknown how is that these people all fling abuse at me. There’s a contradiction here somewhere.

This nationalist again accuses me of the worst possible of crimes that of being English.

This nationalist may be more polite than the others but appears to  want a one party state. I lived in a one party state. I actually feel more offended by this one than all the others. Moreover, I begin to feel that I’m living in one again. 

This is what happens when you write articles criticising the SNP in modern Scotland. Waves and waves of nationalists attack in the vilest possible way. This is just a small sample. One evening I found hundreds of tweets from nationalists all saying exactly the same thing. They had filled up my timeline with their spam. It prevented me from campaigning. This is really an attack on democracy. To these people it is simply impermissible to criticise the SNP, but it is especially impermissible to do it well using argument.  These people think there is nothing worse than to do that. I am always as polite as it is possible to be on twitter. I write articles that are reasoned, that contain no foul language, that are praised by academics. I am followed by people I respect, journalists, politicians, academics. Some of these really are prominent well known people. Yet in Scotland even to dare to criticise the SNP is a dangerous thing. I have been subjected to abuse that could drive a weaker person than me to despair or worse. It is clearly orchestrated. It is turn on and turn-offable. Who controls the switch? This is a national disgrace and must stop. It shames Scotland. 

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.

Saturday 25 April 2015

We no longer even share truth in Scotland

There was a story in one of the independence supporting websites recently that rather shocked me. It was very short indeed and consisted in little more than a series of links to major UK newspapers. Each of these papers was running a story about the SNP. The website simply stated without any argument whatsoever that each of these stories was mad with the implication that they should be mocked and certainly not believed. I read every one of these articles.  The journalist who had written each of the stories had made an argument, had cited information, backed it up and had drawn conclusions from that information. Each was a standard piece of political journalism. Like every such story, it would be possible to dispute some details, or disagree with some conclusions. But it is hardly possible to simply dismiss the journalism of highly qualified writers working for some of the most famous newspapers in the UK. This, however, is what is now frequently happening in Scotland by upwards of half the population.

When I was growing up in Scotland, we had a shared truth. We disagreed about politics as we do today, but we didn’t dispute the facts. We disagreed about how to lower unemployment, we disagreed about how to create growth in the economy, we disagreed about whether there should be nationalisation of industry of not. But we shared the truth that, for instance, there was high unemployment. No-one suggested that either the Telegraph or the Guardian were systematically telling lies even if they came to different conclusions about what was needed to be done. Today in Scotland there is no shared truth. There is the truth of No voters and there is the truth of Yes voters, and they rarely meet. We really do live in different countries with a chasm between us. On the one side are those like me who expect the BBC to ask politicians awkward questions, on the other, are those who think the response to awkward questions is to attack the journalist involved and try to get him sacked. Why not just answer the awkward question? No wonder Salmond wants to control the BBC. There would be no more awkward questions.

I’ve been through this before.  I remember talking to someone in the 1990s in Russia who ended up crying because she had no idea what was true anymore. So much of what she had been taught in school and as a young adult had turned out to be false that she literally did not know what to believe. It did not matter that information was freely available now. Her confidence in her ability to tell true from false had been shot to pieces. This was a common experience in those days.

The trouble with propaganda is that it’s not always obvious that it is propaganda. If I believe a story to be true, I thereby don’t believe it to be propaganda. But how am I to tell? Try this thought experiment.  Take the example of Britain in the 1950s. How many of the beliefs that were universally held then are still held today?  Someone from the 1950s with the standard morality of that period would rapidly find himself breaking all sorts of 21st century Western European taboos.  If I could travel back in time to the 1950s with the standard 2015 views about issues such as sex, sexuality, faith, marriage, feminism, or even tattoos, I would be considered completely mad. The times we live in condition us more than we realise. It’s only when we go to another place that does not share our assumptions that we begin to see how the time and place where we live can provide a propaganda background to our lives.  It was only when I lived in Russia that I realised that I, too, had a set of assumptions that I could not prove, but which I had been taught to accept without question. I found myself living in a country that had not gone through the sixties in the way that we had in the West. Much of 1950s morality had been retained. They had a different way of looking at things. They were able to point out to me that not everything was ideal in the West, that in certain respects we had made a mess of many things. Yet we in the West expect the whole world to believe our truth as if it were the only truth and to follow our path as if it were the only path. People told me frankly that they did not want to go down the Western European path.  They did not like where it led.  I, too, found myself in the same position as my Russian friend earlier, wondering what was true and from then on I started questioning assumptions.   

When I came back to Scotland, there were many things I liked here better. The standard of living was certainly far higher. But I found it oppressive that thought was so limited by convention, that there were things I could write and things that I simply could not write. There were things that were better here, but there were also many things that were much worse. There was propaganda here also. If you’ve ever said the wrong thing and had a twitter mob on your back, you know all about the power of propaganda. The rules of life in the West are enforced quite vigorously. It is not that we have censorship, rather it is that we tend to censor ourselves. We all know what the taboo issues are and so we keep silent about them, or else we whisper when we think there are like minds round about.

The only way to avoid propaganda, even the hidden sort that creeps up in a very subtle fashion is to question every assumption and to be willing to break every taboo. It can cause difficulty at times and incomprehension at others, but it’s the only way to come up with something interesting. Far too much of what I’ve read lately simply confirms someone’s prejudices or tries to fit in with the latest academic fad. The problem is that when people lose the ability to think critically, they are much more open to propaganda even in a society that calls itself free.  

I tested this method of thinking last week. I questioned the assumption on which the supporters of the SNP base their support. The result was quite eye-opening. I was trained to do thought experiments and above all to think freely no matter where the thought led.  What I discovered last week with my little experiment is that huge numbers of Scots are unable to question the assumptions on which they base their thought. They were unable to respond with reason to my questioning of the assumption and so for the most part responded with fury. I set off a twitter storm that raged because I transgressed a nationalist taboo. Horror of horrors, I had explained logically why Scotland was not really a country. How dare I say that, splutter, splutter! But it is a country, it is! I got an awful lot of assertion. But the majority of minds were quite fully shut and not open to argument on this issue.

It isn’t necessary to have censorship if you can just convince enough people to believe propaganda. The information is all available and the truth is easy to discover. But if you can just convince them that all newspapers are telling lies except those run by the SNP, then they will follow whatever Tsarina Nicola says. Peasants used to weep at the sight of the Tsar, now they weep at the sight of Nicola. They listen to the words and accept her blessing with gratitude. Anyone who talks down Scotland is an enemy of the people, anyone who points out anything negative about the SNP is being negative about Scotland, because the SNP is Scotland’s party. SNP MPs and members are forbidden from criticising the leadership. This is all so familiar. Mobs can appear and disappear whenever they are required or not required. This is dangerous, my friends. I’ve been here before. Anything we might say that contradicts the SNP is scaremongering. Even if we can show through fact and reason that SNP plans would lead to economic disaster, none of their supporters believe us, nor apparently do they care. They have been carefully taught to ignore and laugh at anything in the press that contradicts the SNP.  Whatever I write that is critical of the SNP is met with personal abuse. It is anti-Scottish. I am anti-Scottish. I’m lying. Where are you from they keep asking? Are you English? Are you mentally ill? Are you a holocaust denier? Do you support child abuse? Are you a Tory?  Are you a communist? Are you a moron?  Are you a sock puppet? Are you a mongoloid? I’ll get you, my Effie, and your little dog, too.

SNP supporters now are getting their information from SNP supporting websites that tell them to ignore whatever is said in the press. The SNP can quite literally say anything about Scotland’s economic prospects and their supporters will believe simply because the SNP could never tell a lie. If the truth is negative about Scotland, then the truth is false. What is truth after all compared to not talking down Scotland. But I’m sorry, Nat friends, the truth has a way of catching up with you. Some months before the Rouble crashed I read a story explaining what would soon happen. I told friends in Russia who thought I was scaremongering. But it did crash. People who didn’t get their money out, lost rather a lot of it. My Nat friends believe the Tsarina Nicola who thinks living beyond your means leads to prosperity, that spending ever more money you don’t have leads to wealth. Well, I’m sorry even if you believe the moon is green cheese when you go there, you will find nothing edible.

There are two Scotland’s now and two truths.  The one relies on certain popular nationalist websites (“As if someone were to buy several copies of the morning paper to assure himself that what it said was true.” §265while telling its readers not to read any others. The other finds itself looking on the truth that our neighbours believe so fervently with the feeling that it will all soon end in tears. But the tears are mine, too, for in Scotland now there is very little indeed that we share. Not even truth. Look where nationalism leads. 

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.

Saturday 18 April 2015

We must attack the SNP at its roots

Why are so many people voting for the SNP? In 2010 they got less than 20% of the vote and won 6 seats. This time according to some polls they may win all of them. My view is that they will do rather worse than they expect, but still unless the polls are hopelessly wrong, they are liable to at least double their share of the vote. What has changed in the course of 5 years? It’s only necessary to think for a second to understand what has changed. We had a referendum on independence.

When I lived in the USSR, I used to visit friends and relations in what is now the Ukraine. People on the whole got on pretty well. There were some jokes and bits of banter, but nothing unpleasant. Everybody I met thought of the USSR as one single indivisible country. Nobody dreamed that it would all fall apart so soon. I never met Ukrainian nationalism in those days. No-one I met thought of themselves as particularly different in any real way.  People from what is now Ukraine and what is now Russia were far more united during the Soviet Union than people in Scotland are today. 

People may wonder why I write so much about Scottish politics. One reason is that I am one of the few Scots with first-hand experience of seeing a country fall apart. The other is that I have seen what nationalism has done to Ukraine. Nationalism was latent in Ukraine, but it was ignited by foolish politicians and this spark led to a bonfire. People who had previously thought of themselves as the same now hated each other, now fought each other, now killed each other for a difference that two decades earlier they had barely been aware existed.  

When I was a child in Scotland, nationalism barely existed. There was no division whatsoever between Scots and precious little between Scots and people from other parts of the UK. Even five years ago less than 20% of the population were nationalists. The event that changed everything was the Scottish election of 2011. I don’t particularly remember following that election. Just another boring Holyrood election, I thought. We all sleepwalked into letting our country be run by nationalists. For the first time the SNP won a majority. Who knows, if they hadn’t won in 2011, we might still be having an ordinary election in 2015 with the SNP winning just less than 20%. But the SNP only needed to win once in order to play the nationalist card that sparked the bonfire that is now sweeping across Scotland. They claim to be civic nationalists, but the logic of civic nationalism ultimately collapses, for why separate people if there is no characteristic that distinguishes them. To be a civic nationalist logically entails that you are not a nationalist at all. But it can act as a convenient façade, which even its followers are unaware exists. Again I saw this in Ukraine in the 1990s. Everyone said they wanted to get on with each other and have friendly relations with their neighbours.  It was all very civic, even civil, but when the mask was taken off, the result was civil war.

It was the seemingly never-ending indyref campaign that brought out the hitherto latent nationalism in Scotland. Up until then Scottish nationalism was a minority pursuit, but the referendum meant it went mainstream. For the first time huge numbers of Scots were exposed to nationalism. They found it appealing. It is appealing. That’s why it is such a strong political card to play. That’s why it’s a card that should never be played.
There’s only one good argument for an independent Scotland. But it is a very good argument indeed. It can be stated in the following way:

1 Scotland is a country.
2 Countries ought to be independent.
3 Therefore Scotland ought to be independent.

Once you have accepted this argument, then all other arguments will be impotent against it. We know from history that people seeking independence have been willing to endure all sorts of privations in order to achieve it. They don’t care if their material situation will be worse, so long as they are free. It is for this reason that the campaign that we ran against the nationalists was in the end only partially effective. The slogan “Better Together” will never persuade someone who thinks Scotland ought to be independent.  Moreover, it looks from their perspective a little like the argument of a scoundrel. The nationalist doesn’t care if he will be worse off, he doesn’t care if times will be tough. He looks down on someone saying ‘watch out, you’ll be worse off’ with contempt.

While Better Together won every economic argument, while we could show that Scotland was indeed materially better off in the UK, we saw our opponents grow impervious to all our arguments. At the beginning of the campaign it was genuinely a debate about what was better for Scotland. Towards the end we were arguing against fundamentalists who couldn’t care less what was better for Scotland so long as Scotland was independent. That was the only better they were interested in. At this point rational argument ceases. It literally has no point. Since being defeated in September, nationalism has if anything grown still more fundamentalist. It matters not one little bit to them that the price of oil has crashed. It matters not one bit that the SNP’s argument for full fiscal autonomy are economically incoherent. All they care about is achieving independence for Scotland. All our arguments are brushed aside. But then if you went up to a soldier in an army fighting for independence and started talking about material wellbeing, he too would brush aside the argument.

In order to defeat an opponent it is necessary to put forward his best argument and then refute it. The only way to refute an argument is by either refuting the reasoning or the assumptions. 

How many countries in the world can you name that are not independent? Off the top of my head I can name four: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. No doubt, there are others. But the vast majority of countries I can think of are independent, sovereign nation states. It would almost appear that the defining characteristic of a country is that it is independent and sovereign. Countries fight wars to maintain their independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Being independent therefore in the vast majority of cases is the defining characteristic of being a country.  For that reason the statement “countries ought to be independent” would on the surface appear to be true and reasonable.

In order to defeat the SNP we must defeat their assumptions. The initial assumption “Scotland is a country” must not be allowed, for if we do allow it, the rest of the argument follows as a matter of course. While Scotland is called a country owing to a quirk of the English language, it is not a country in the sense in which 99% of the countries of the world are countries. As I frequently say Scotland is a country in a similar way that Fife is a kingdom. Fife is called a kingdom, but it lacks the defining characteristic of being a kingdom. It lacks a king. Scotland too lacks the defining characteristic of being a country, for it is neither sovereign, nor independent.

This would all appear to be straightforward. The difficulty is that the pro-UK side of the argument is frequently unwilling to say what is obviously true for fear of upsetting or offending Scottish voters. This is our biggest mistake. We ignore the strengths of the UK. Instead of fighting on ground that is strong for us, we fight on ground which is strong for our opponent. The debate always is framed in terms of Scotland. Every sentence involves Scotland, and Britain is never mentioned. We end up in a ‘who cares most about Scotland’ contest. But in a contest about who is most nationalistic about Scotland the SNP are always going to win.  

This same mistake has been there from the beginning of creating the Scottish Parliament. I’m all in favour of devolved power. It works well in Germany and the USA. But the Scottish parliament was created in far too grandiose a way. People went on about how we were recreating the Parliament we had lost in 1707.  Well, naturally Scottish nationalists would see this as a step on the way to independence. Why be satisfied with a parliament that had some powers when you could have a parliament with all powers? The same can be said for 'the vow' just prior to the referendum and the Smith Commission just afterwards. If you are talking to a freedom fighter and you offer him some freedom, he will of course grab it, but it will only whet his appetite for more. Independence supporters are never going to be satisfied with devolution.  Moreover, from their point of view they ought not to be satisfied. No concession will make them cease to want independence.  But they are always happy to reach that goal gradually. The logic of their argument is to demand ever more power until they approach and then fall over the line that makes them independent. The logic of our argument must be different.

We must attack the SNP at their roots. I have tried to outline how to do this in the past few weeks.  First, accept that the UK is one nation, that is indivisible. Therefore, cease treating the parts of the UK as if they were really countries. By all means let us keep our identities as Scottish and English etc., but let us accept that these are not real distinctions, no more than the distinction between someone from Yorkshire and someone from Lancashire. It has turned out to be a long-term historical mistake that in a number of respects the parts of the UK have been treated as if they were independent countries. No other nation state in the world allows its parts to have separate money and separate international football teams. If France or Germany treated their parts, which likewise were formerly independent countries, as if they were still independent, perhaps they too would have problems with nationalism. Scotland has not been independent for more than 300 years. The mistake is to treat it as if it still is independent. This simply concedes the argument to the nationalists.  It’s because we act towards Scotland as if it were independent that nationalists want it to be so in reality. Their logic is impeccable, for which reason we must refute it.

Secondly, rule out any further referendums ever. No-one would allow Aberdeenshire a referendum on independence. Well, on the same basis we should say that Aberdeenshire is to Scotland as Scotland is to the UK. Because it is an indivisible part of the whole, there is no right to secede. This is perfectly legal and is indeed perfectly fair. No nation state can forever be faced with being destroyed from within.  A second referendum moreover would spark nationalism still further in Scotland, it would lead to still more division in a place that is already divided enough. Who knows where this would lead? I have a right to live without a continual threat to my country’s existence.  Why should I, a British citizen, not have the same right as a French or a German citizen?

It is because the world recognises Ukraine as a sovereign independent nation state that is indivisible that the secession of the Donbas and Crimea without the permission of the Government in Kiev is considered illegitimate. There is wrong on both sides of that conflict, but in principle it is perfectly legitimate for a sovereign independent nation state to protect its territorial integrity. If that were not the case, it would be wrong for the West to object to the people in Crimea and Donbas seeking to secede. But if a nation state that has existed since 1991 is allowed to defend its territorial integrity why cannot a nation state that has existed since 1707? The UK has existed for longer than the United States, Germany and Italy. They would not allow secessionists to infringe their sovereignty. Why on earth should we?

Thirdly, don’t make any sort of deal with those who have only the goal of destroying our country. Don’t work with them even if they pretend to be our friends. They are nothing of the sort. They are the greatest threat to the UK in over 300 years of history. Treat them as such. Under these circumstances it would be normal for the main pro-UK parties to work together for the good of our country. If necessary, they should do so again.

Fourthly, we must find a way to bring about more unity into the UK and promote a feeling of common identity. As we devolve, so must we unite. In the United States there is lots of local power, but there is also much that unites everyone no matter how far apart they live. The United States overcame historical division and reinvented itself. We can do the same. This will take time, perhaps generations. It took much of the USA over one hundred years to heal the wounds of the Civil War.  How long will it take to heal the wounds of our referendum in Scotland? I have no idea, but we have to start putting the nationalist genie back in the bottle.

Some people who voted No in Scotland will object to what I write here. My answer is as follows. If you think that Scotland is a country in the same sense as France is a country, you should join the SNP. If you don’t feel particularly British, you likewise should join the SNP. We need people throughout the UK who are willing to say we value our country and we are willing to fight for it. Too many are lukewarm about Britain. Sorry, but you only help the Nats. We need to tell a story about the UK that is more attractive than the story the SNP want to tell about Scotland. If we had run a campaign based on how much we loved the UK and how it is a great country, it would have been both positive and it would have meant that we were fighting on firm ground, our ground.

We have a battle on our hands. We can’t do it alone. We need people throughout the UK to realise that the breakup of our country would be a disaster for all of us. It would be a disaster economically, but much, much more important it would involve the loss of our country. A Frenchman or an American would see the breakup of his country as the greatest disaster imaginable. So too must we. We also have to recognise that the divisions in Scotland are becoming dangerous. We must make no further concessions to nationalists. Don’t try to be more nationalistic than the nationalists, you only help them. Don’t appease them as they attempt to destroy our country. You will only help them do it. Don’t accept the assumption on which the SNP campaign. Rather attack their assumptions. They assume there will be a hung parliament. Unhang it by letting all pro-UK parties work together. They assume that in the end, there will be another referendum. Refute their assumption. Just say No. They think they can use the Scottish Parliament to ferment division in the UK.  Some say they will use the Scottish Parliament to claim UDI. Show them that we are serious and will take all necessary steps to stop them. 

This is Britain’s most difficult fight in centuries. But we have been in tough spots before and remember, this is Britain. We always win. This time, however, a few will not be enough. We will need all those who love the UK to work together to defeat Scottish nationalism. We had another finest hour last September, but this time we will need rather longer.

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Don’t turn the UK into the Eurozone.

If North Koreans, by some good fortune, were able to rid themselves of tyranny what would be the result? Well just as in 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, there would begin a process of reunification with South Korea. Why? It would happen simply because the Koreans speak more or less the same language and have a shared history that goes back hundreds of years. They would see themselves as family rather than foreigners. It would not matter at all that technically they had been at war for decades. Whatever harsh words may have been spoken by one side about the other would instantly be forgiven and forgotten.

We already know what would happen during such a reunification because we can look at the example of Germany. The process by which Germany became one united country again was carried out by a number of steps. The border was opened and there was free movement of people. A single currency was reintroduced. Each Eastern mark was found to equal each Western Mark even if the former traded massively below the latter. There were massive transfers of money from West to East that have gone on for decades. Why were people in Western Germany willing to transfer billions or Marks to the East? For a simple reason. They viewed those people as compatriots.  It didn’t matter that Bavarians, Hessians, Prussians and numerous others had been living in separate nation states until 1871 and had fought a war against each other as recently as 1866No one in Germany celebrates a war against the “old enemy”, even if Germans still sometimes make jokes about each other.

The single currency of the reunited Germany was a currency union that covered not just two formerly independent states (East and West Germany), but going back a little further literally dozens if not hundreds. If I were a German I could describe my country in any number of ways. Almost everywhere at some point or another was an independent country, some remarkably recently.  Imagine if Germans were to try to re-establish the borders of 1707. We would all struggle to name all the new countries that would result.

People then can see themselves as forming a family even if they once lived in independent states. This fundamentally is the reason why they are willing to transfer money to each other. In the same way as most of us care more for our children than someone we’ve never met, so we care more for a compatriot than someone from abroad. This is human nature and there is no changing it. It is the reason why it was possible to introduce a single currency in Germany in 1990 without too much difficulty. It is also the reason why it will ultimately prove impossible to introduce a single currency across the European Union, unless and until people in member states across the Eurozone view each other as compatriots.

The fundamental reason for the crisis in the Eurozone is that Germans are unwilling to transfer massive amounts of money from Germany to Greece. They were willing to give without limit to the former East Germany, but they feel no such obligation to Greece. Why? Because Greeks are not compatriots.  It’s as simple as that. But a currency union without a transfer union is bound to fail ultimately. What would have happened if the West Germans had refused to transfer money from West to East following reunification? The problem was that East Germany could not have competed on international markets with a currency as strong as the D-mark. It would have required devaluation in order to become competitive. But it could not devalue owing to the fact that it was in a single currency. Exactly the same situation obtains in Greece, which desperately needs to devalue its currency, so as to make exports more competitive and holidays cheaper. Greece is faced with a choice. Either devaluation or transfer union. The logic of the Eurozone is that it must begin acting as a single country or it must break up. There isn’t a third alternative.

If there had not been a transfer union in Germany after reunification, there would have been radically different standards of living in East and West with no prospect of the differences narrowing. There would have been more jobs in the West and given an open border, the same language and free movement of people there would have been depopulation in the East. People would literally have voted with their feet.  A transfer union is the only way that a currency union can work long term. In the end Germans must treat Greeks the same as Germans or else they must accept that they must break up the Eurozone.

The UK just like Germany is formed from places that once were independent, some like Scotland a long time ago, others like DálRiata a very long time ago. At one point, no doubt we all lived in independent tribes and villages and painted ourselves blue. Since coming together the various parts of the UK have had different economic circumstances. It’s only necessary to read Thomas Hardy to realise that quite recently parts of the south of England were very poor. They must have looked on with envy at the wealthier northern parts of Britain at the height of the industrial revolution. These things tend to go in cycles. Scotland had an oil boom in the 70s and gave more than we received, now the boom is over and we receive more than we give. This is usually called sharing. What is necessary to keep standards of living in the UK reasonably equal is a transfer union. It is this transfer union that guarantees that everyone gets a similar level of benefit, a similar level of healthcare and education, no matter where we live. The people living on a small island off the Scottish coast with a tiny population have a teacher and doctor which they simply could not afford without money being transferred from the other parts of the UK. Without the transfer union that exists in the UK the rich parts would get richer, the poor parts would get poorer.

The proposal that Scotland gains Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA) is being proposed by the SNP and Iain Martin suggests the Conservatives might agree with them in order to get English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). It is bizarre that this proposal is even being considered seriously.  For fundamentalist nationalists who want independence at any cost, there is a certain logic for FFA inevitably leads to independence. There would be no need even to have a second referendum as FFA would break up the UK in and of itself. No country in the world has a part which has FFA for the simple reason that it is incoherent economically.

The SNP have spent the last few years complaining bitterly about wicked Tories introducing austerity. They want the next UK government to end austerity and spend £180 billion more than either Labour or the Conservatives intend. Yet FFA would give rise to eye watering levels of austerity in Scotland. People who don’t understand this fact simply have not seen the figures, or more likely don’t understand them. FFA would massively increase taxes in Scotland and massively cut public spending. The poorest would be hit hardest. Do nationalists really believe it is worth paying this price just to obtain independence? This isn’t “Devo-Max” it’s "Austerity-Max". This is simply fanaticism. I begin to wonder if my country has literally become so drunk on nationalism that it has taken leave of its senses.

Logically if Scotland had FFA, it would hardly make sense for us to send MPs to Westminster at all. What would they have to do there that would have anything to do with Scotland? Foreign affairs, defence? These are not exactly issues that we have spent much time debating in the General Election. This isn’t devolution its independence in all but name. We voted against that remember.

Would the Tories really sell Scottish No voters down the river just to get EVEL? Who can tell? There’s a short term cunning about some present day political leaders which I find hard to understand. Statesmen look at the long term interest of our country and work for that. It was Cameron’s fatal underestimation of Scottish nationalism that got us into this mess in the first place. He can still go down in history as a rogue if his future actions are seen as breaking up the UK.

It should however be made clear that FFA is not in the interests of anyone in the UK. The reasons for this have already been made clear. FFA turns the Poundzone into the Eurozone. The Poundzone only works because we have for centuries had a transfer union between the various parts of the UK.  FFA takes away the transfer union and turns Scots into Greeks in relation to the UK’s Germany.  If the UK is unwilling to transfer money to Scotland and vice versa it would be treating Scots in the same way that Germans treat Greeks. Scots would no longer be compatriots, i.e. people we share with without question. Scots would already be foreigners. But the same logic that applies to the Eurozone would immediately start to apply to the Poundzone. Either we would have to start behaving like a single nation state or we would have to split up. To start behaving like a single nation state we would have to begin our transfer union again (which we just stopped with FFA!). Alternatively we would have to break up our currency union.  There isn’t a third alternative. Does anyone really fancy bringing the economics of Grexit to the UK? What would we call it Scoxit or Engxit?

Do people in the rest of the UK really want to go down this route? Moreover, if FFA is given to Scotland, why not to Wales and Northern Ireland? Once we start going down the route of breaking up our country, why shouldn’t London and the South East demand FFA? They would be far richer if they didn’t have to share their wealth with the rest of England? By some calculations Londoners wouldn’t have to pay tax at all if they kept all the money earned in London to themselves. Why moreover, should not Aberdeenshire have FFA? We’re far richer than people in the Central Belt. Why should we have to share our money?

Nationalism is poisonous because it divides people who until that point thought of themselves as the same. Look at how it has already divided our country, not only within Scotland, but also in the UK. Where previously we all thought of ourselves as compatriots who had a duty of care to each other, nationalism would divide us and then divide us further.  I have seen what nationalism can do to a country like Ukraine. It leads people to act irrationally. They cease to act in terms of basic self-interest.  But equally a people that would vote to make itself poorer, that would joyously embrace "Austerity-Max" is capable of anything. When nationalism trumps every other political policy, I begin to get very scared, for it is just this kind of nationalism and fanaticism that led Ukrainians to destroy their country. Nationalism is the most powerful political card that can be played, therefore it should never be played. It appeals to something instinctual in human nature and base. Blair is right:

“National pride is a great thing. Nationalism, as a political cause in the hands of parties like [the SNP], is almost always ugly and, despite being wrapped in the garb on high-sounding phrases, can never disguise its essentially mean spirit.”

But Blair is ultimately responsible for the rise of nationalism in Scotland. It’s growth can be traced to his time in Government. The other Prime Minister most responsible for the rise of nationalism is David Cameron. It was his folly and miscalculation that gave the SNP their chance. Now is the time when both Labour and the Conservatives must make amends. Don’t play the nationalists game. Don’t make short term political calculations that risk our country’s future. Don’t make deals with separatists. Rather find a long term strategy that will bring our country together again. Above all else don’t turn the UK into the Eurozone.

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon, An Indyref Romance and Lily of St Leonards on Amazon. Please follow the links on the side. Thanks. I appreciate your support.