Monday, 19 October 2020

Would Samuel Paty have been jailed in Scotland?

 

Tens of thousands of French people have taken to the streets to demonstrate in favour of free speech. The French Government has responded robustly to the murder of a French teacher, Samuel Paty, who was killed by a Chechen extremist for showing cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to his freedom of speech class.

The French Government and people have almost universally expressed their solidarity with the M. Paty. No one has questioned his right to show such cartoons. But what would happen to a teacher in a Scottish school who did the same thing? If parents or pupils complained about the class, would the Scottish Government be quite so robust in defending freedom of expression? The answer of course is no.



A Scottish teacher who showed his class cartoons of Muhammad would I strongly suspect be sacked instantly. He might also be prosecuted under Humza Yousaf’s hate crime laws. Mr Yousaf has recently made a few concessions to his bill. He now says that the hate crime legislation would only cover offences where the stirring up of hatred was intentional.

But M. Paty was apparently aware that his freedom of speech class was stirring up hatred. He was threatened by extremists and warned to desist. Nevertheless, he continued with his classes because he believed freedom of speech was more important than these threats. Well when someone his warned that his action is causing hatred and continues to do it, it is reasonable to assume a degree of intent. He didn’t just accidentally show the cartoons while being ignorant of the possible consequences of doing so.

Humza Yousaf’s bill is intended to protect people with certain characteristics (race, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, transgender) from hate crimes. There is an offence of stirring up hatred against them.

But what if the terrorist lived in Scotland and instead of cutting off the head of a Scottish teacher had instead complained to Mr Yousaf about it. What would Mr Yousaf’s response have been. Would he have sided with the teacher or instead have sided with the refugee from Chechnya who was complaining that the Scottish teacher was stirring up hatred?

The issue of intent has nothing to do with the substance of the issue. I should of course commit no crime against anyone whether or not they have any of the protected characteristics. It is wrong and it ought to be illegal to vandalise a mosque, a church or a temple. It is wrong to assault, murder or steal from someone who is homosexual or old. It is wrong to shout at someone on the street because they are black or French. But it is wrong to do any of these things to an ordinary house or an ordinary person who doesn’t have any of these characteristics.

Freedom of expression does not give me the right to go into a Church and say horrible things to the people taking part in a service. Nor does it give me the right to vandalise or desecrate the church. But freedom of expression ought to give me the right to write about Christianity in any way I please. It ought to give me the right to depict Jesus and other figures of Christianity in a way that I know Christians would find hateful.

I am a Christian, but I do not object to people telling me that Christianity is lies and nonsense. I do not object to people depicting Jesus in cartoons or in ways that I disagree with. Let them make films or draw cartoons, say or do what they want. It does not affect what I believe.

Intent has nothing to do with it. Of course, those people who say Christianity is lies and nonsense intend Christians to be offended. What would be the point of writing arguments against Christianity if they did not?

The whole point of freedom of expression is that it can offend. If I use reasoned argument to say that I don’t think it is possible for a man to become a woman, this will cause offence to some people. Some of them will hate what I say. They may correctly argue that I intended to stir up hatred and indeed succeeded. Well what I wrote wasn’t accidental. So too I might argue that it is an absurd misunderstanding of the verb “to marry” to suppose that a man can marry a man. Some people will find that hateful. Do they have the right to stop me writing it?

A free society is one in which there are differences of opinion and where people are allowed to hold views which other people think are hateful. But this is not the direction in which SNP Scotland is going.

The whole idea that people ought to be protected from hearing or reading views that they find hateful is mistaken and deeply wrong. The French understand this. They defend the right to offend. Humza Yousaf and the SNP are becoming ever more authoritarian. It is quite unimaginable that there would be a free speech class in a Scottish school, because neither Mr Yousaf nor the SNP believe in free speech.

So, I would like to ask Mr Yousaf if M. Paty was Scottish and showed cartoons of Muhammad in a Scottish school would you say he had the right to do so or would you prosecute him and send him to jail? The answer to this question really determines whether Scotland is still part of the Western world or whether we are moving somewhere else.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

What does a no deal Brexit mean for Scottish independence?

 

We have all rather forgotten about Brexit in the past few months. Whatever damage Brexit might have done to the economy is trivial compared to what Covid has done. Being locked up in our homes with an illness killing thousands with no end in sight has rather put other matters in perspective. If we can manage Covid and we will have to, we will certainly be able to manage Brexit.

It doesn’t look as if the EU and Britain are going to be able to come to any sort of deal. So, it’s going to be a no deal Brexit in the end anyway. Whatever remains of the Withdrawal Agreement signed last January will be gradually dispensed with or ignored. If Poland and Hungary can tell the EU where to go while being members, Britain can certainly do the same while not being a member.



Britain will be able to develop our own trade policies, pass our own laws and regulations and do what we please without paying the least bit of attention to the EU. In the end international relations come down to power and mutual self-interest. If they make it difficult for us to buy their produce, we will buy it from elsewhere. If they are angry, we can ignore their anger while also undercutting them.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP and lots of Scots Remainers will also be angry. Some of them will tell opinion pollsters that they will vote for Scottish independence. Some people will even believe them.

But politics in the end is about reality. What we are really concerned about is not so much ideals as standard of living. The biggest change that could happen to any one of us is not Scottish independence but losing our job and being unable to find another one.

The difference between living in a country that can afford generous benefits, good healthcare, decent schools and universities is very great indeed. If you think life is tough in Scotland try living in Eastern Europe or even Southern Europe. It’s an hour or so on a flight, but life is much tougher than here.

There is no automatic right to the standard of living that Scots enjoy. This is especially the case when we spend considerably more than we earn and receive a subsidy from the British Treasury. Take away the subsidy and you are more likely to end up with Portugal or Poland than Denmark. If you want to live in Lisbon or Warsaw why don’t you move there rather than force the rest of us to live there too.

If you seriously maintain that Scotland at present does not receive a subsidy, how do you explain Kate Forbes continually asking for more furlough from the Treasury. Why doesn’t she simply refuse all Treasury money and raise all the furlough money from Scottish taxpayers? If you think Scotland is making a profit right now and could easily afford Universal Basic Income, why not say we don’t want any Treasury money and introduce it immediately? We don’t need Mr Barnett’s obsolete formula because we can manage just fine on our own. But Forbes cannot set a Scottish budget because she needs a UK budget to tell her how much Treasury money she is going to get. This is rather inconsistent with the claim that she doesn’t need it and could manage fine in an independent Scotland without it.

The mere fact that Scotland benefits financially every year ought to be enough to make independence supporters think twice about giving up free money, but a no deal Brexit ought to make them think twice for all sorts of other reasons.

You may be angry that Scotland did not have a veto on leaving the EU. But how could parts of the UK have remained in the EU while others didn’t? In an independent Scotland Aberdeenshire wouldn’t have a veto on EU membership because we were concerned about our fish. But anyway, whether you like it or not the whole of the UK is outside the EU. What does that mean for Scottish independence?

Well the problem is geographic as much as anything. When Wales and Scotland contemplate closing the border with England, they are really imagining what would happen if either Wales or Scotland chose the route of independence. What they forget is that almost everything that ends up on our supermarket shelves comes via England. Imagine if English lorry drivers chose to refuse to cross the border out of sympathy for Welsh and Scottish Covid fears. What would we eat?

If Scotland were independent and joined the EU, we would have to pay tariffs on everything in those English lorries and there would have to be a regulatory border between England and Scotland where the EU imposed its Common External Tariff.

In order to reach the EU free trade zone every single Scottish lorry would have to travel through England or else our goods would have to travel by air or by ship. What if England decided to charge our lorries a fee for using English roads as well as a tariff? Who would stop them? The SNP?

So, the SNP are offering us free trade with the EU with whom we trade relatively little, but we have to cross a hard border to get it. In exchange the SNP will give us trade tariffs with the former UK with whom we do most of our trade. If we are making a loss now, how will this turn it into a profit?

Worse still, because the EU requires all new member states to join the Schengen free travel area, which would mean anyone in the EU could travel without passport checks to Scotland, the former UK would have to regulate the movement of people just as much as trade. If they didn’t check Scottish passports and visas people sitting in camps in Calais could simply fly or sail into Scotland and get a bus to London.

If Scottish voters knew the truth about what a no deal Brexit means for the prospects of Scotland joining the EU, very few would vote for it. This is why when Nicola Sturgeon writes in a German newspaper, she mentions none of these things.

But she must know that an independent Scotland could not join the EU for these reasons. She is therefore conning Remainer Scots.

The only alternative would be for Scotland to be neither in the UK nor in the EU trying to make a deal with both. But as we have just learned neither the EU nor the UK have to make a deal with each other, nor would they have to make a deal with Scotland. This is something that Nicola Sturgeon won’t tell you either.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Defeating the defeatists

 

I have a certain respect for Scottish nationalists. They have a cause that they believe in and they fight hard for it. Nicola Sturgeon is an excellent communicator. Alex Salmond was a first-rate politician who brought his party from nowhere to the natural party of government in Scotland. The SNP took on and destroyed Scottish Labour in a way that was quite unimaginable to Scottish Labour.

If I had predicted when the Scottish Parliament was established that Labour would not merely fail to run it forever but would be reduced to one MP there would have been Labour chuckles and shakes of the head. What happened was quite simply impossible.



So, I admire SNP politicians for their skill. Politics is about winning, and they have won a lot. I disagree with them of course, but you can admire a skilful opponent. The only way to fight an opponent is to recognise his skill. Never underestimate the SNP. They are good at politics.

Likewise, I have a certain respect for those people who write articles that make the case for Scottish independence. Many have risen from obscurity and now have a great deal of influence. I can respect an opponent who is dedicated to his cause even if I profoundly disagree with that cause.

What I have zero respect for is those journalists and opinion formers who were on my side of the argument but who have gone over to the other side. Our argument isn't so different now than it was in 2014. In fact it is better. You changed, not the argument.

Worse still are those who while pretending to be Pro UK give aid and comfort to our opponent.

We fought a tough campaign leading up the referendum in 2014, but at least it was a fair fight. There were journalists on both sides of the debate. The media gave each side the chance to put forward its argument. There were complaints about BBC bias of course, but no one can claim that the SNP were not allowed to make their case. We heard their arguments. There were debates. There was a Scottish Government White Paper setting out their reasoning.

There were things that the Scottish electorate disagreed about in 2014. We disagreed about what would really happen if Scotland voted for independence. Some of us were optimistic others pessimistic, but the truth is no one knows for sure what will happen in the future. But at least each side had the chance to make its argument.

Since then it has become ever more one sided. When was the last time you heard someone on TV make arguments against Scottish independence? When were the fundamentals of the issue discussed seriously?  Not since 2014.

Everything the SNP says and does whether it is about Covid or anything else is designed very carefully to make the case for Scottish independence. Who is making the counter argument? No one is. Neither opposition politicians in Holyrood, nor journalists on TV or elsewhere ever really make the argument for UK unity. They never really take the SNP on fundamentally. The Scottish news channels are soft on the SNP. It’s shadow boxing at best.

There are any number of Westminster journalists dissecting both Labour and the Conservatives. Arguments for and against Brexit were made after the 2016 referendum. But nothing like that happens in Scotland. Imagine the feeding frenzy if Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings were caught up in a scandal similar to the one involving Sturgeon and Salmond. Imagine what would happen if they withheld information from an Inquiry.

There are a few Scottish journalists who put up a fight. Brian Monteith is one. Stephen Daisley is another. There are a few others. They are worth reading.

But what I cannot abide is the defeatism of people who used to argue against the SNP and now think it is time to give up.

Do you remember how No had a huge lead at the beginning of the referendum campaign? I think it was 25% at one point. Were the Scottish nationalists ever defeatist? No. Did they ever say that the cause of independence was doomed? Not once. If they were ever pessimistic, they kept it to themselves.

Morale is everything in a battle. If you think you will be defeated, you can be pretty sure your prediction will come true. This is why yet another “we are doomed” article is so damaging. It makes English people give up on Scotland. It makes them think what’s the point. Indeed, it encourages English people to say “good riddance” to Scotland. If they are going to leave anyway, we might as well make the best of it. It does still more damage in Scotland.

We have few enough genuinely pro UK Scottish journalists. We don’t really get to make our argument on TV. We are reduced to people like me who have jobs, but who write in our spare time as a hobby.

Not one single Scottish nationalist journalist, supporter or politician, thought independence was doomed when Yes was on 42% and No was on 58%. They didn’t think they were doomed when they had lost by more than 10%. No. They dusted themselves off and kept on fighting.

I dislike limpets. They leave a nasty gritty taste in the mouth. But I admire their tenacity. They stick to the job.

When faced with a set-back, the task is to fight harder and make better arguments. If our voices are not heard we need to shout louder, write better articles and find people who can communicate our arguments.

What we do not need is defeatists.

There is no prospect of a second independence referendum any time soon. The campaign hasn’t even begun yet some supposedly pro UK Scottish journalists are ready to surrender.

At least Lord Halifax had a good reason to suppose that we would be defeated in May 1940.  Our whole army was trapped on the other side of the Channel. At least he didn’t advocate surrender before the war had even started. This amounts to the position of Iain Martin and Alex Massie. How much did the SNP pay you to write this defeatism? If you had written it in 1940 you would have rightfully been interned along with the SNP. Shame on you. I will never read either of you again. 

This is a tough battle. We need every Brit who is willing to put the work in. It doesn’t matter what your contribution is. Even sharing good pro-UK arguments, telling your friends and neighbours is a massively helpful.

I would advise everyone to cease reading defeatists. They contribute no useful arguments but only damage your morale if you read them. Maybe if enough of us cease reading them we can put them out of business. 

Above all be optimistic. We have very good arguments and the task of achieving independence is becoming harder not easier.

We have a tough opponent. Do not underestimate the SNP. But keep fighting and I promise we will overcome them together. 

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Scotland needs to wake from our fever

 

For the last few months there has been near constant polling on the question of Scottish independence. Why? There has been no date set for a second independence referendum. The Conservatives in their election winning manifesto ruled out such a referendum. We are experiencing the worst pandemic in decades if not more. The UK Government is spending like Corbyn on steroids and the National Debt is fast approaching 100% of GDP. We have no idea how long Covid will remain dangerous. We don’t even really know if we are in the first wave or the second, nor do we know how many waves there will be. So why are we continually polling about a referendum that is equally as mysterious as Covid.

For the past six years we have been promised a second independence referendum every few months. At some point or other Nicola Sturgeon has put on her best angry face and demanded another chance. But all we know is that it hasn’t happened yet.



Could there be another independence referendum in 2021? We don’t even know if there will be a Scottish Parliament election. It all depends on Covid. After all, if we are all locked down in our homes, we might struggle to vote let alone campaign.

So, we are polling about something that might not happen next year and indeed might not happen at all. It all depends apparently on whether the SNP win a majority at the Scottish Parliament elections that might not happen. After that it depends on whether Boris Johnson would feel sufficient pressure from such a victory to allow the SNP to have another chance.

But we already know that when Nicola Sturgeon asked Theresa May for a second referendum and May said No, the sky did not fall in. No doubt Sturgeon and various Scottish journalists thought that May was under great pressure. But she still said “No”. If May can say “No” what would prevent Johnson? The anger of Scottish journalists?

Is there a genuine desire for Scottish independence at the moment? It’s actually rather hard to judge. Lots of people in Scotland are angry about their being a Tory Government. Lots are angry about Brexit. Many think that Nicola Sturgeon is doing a good job with Covid.  But no one has heard any arguments. The SNP has not put forward a new plan that takes into account Covid and the present circumstances of the Scottish economy. No one with a high profile has set out a counter argument. So, the people being polled are completely uninformed about the reality of Scottish independence. You might as well poll them on brain surgery or else nuclear physics.

 We are also in a fever. In the final part of her novel Pale Horse, Pale Rider Katherine Anne Porter depicts the fever of Spanish influenza in 1918. She catches the way the sick person is disoriented, dreaming and unaware of reality, but wakes from the pandemic unable to escape the reality that had been lost with the fever.

We too have lost all sense of reality during Covid. The lucky ones like me have been able to work from home. The strangeness for us is merely that we haven’t seen colleagues for months. But who knows which jobs are secure and which are not? I couldn’t possibly guess what is round the corner economically.

Cinema chains are going bankrupt because no one wants to risk going out to see a film. Universities may end up teaching everything virtually with students staying at home. Some may go bankrupt because of this model. Pubs and restaurants may not survive the crisis. The whole way we work may be different including the end of the office and the commute.

At the moment many of us are being subsidised by furlough or its latest variation, but this just keeps us in the feverish state. The Chancellor may not be approaching the limit of stimulus yet, but Britain’s national debt is already too large to be paid back. It can only be managed by growth or more likely by being gradually inflated away, but this makes those who are lending to the Chancellor mugs. They will get back less than the lend. So how long will they keep lending. For the moment, yes, but not forever.

So, we must wake from our fever some time.

Do we find as in the novel that the pale horse has visited and taken away the young soldier we were in love with? What too will be left in Scotland when the waves of Covid have finished their destruction. Your, job? My job? The value or your house? The viability of her business?

I honestly have no idea what businesses will survive, and which won’t. If we stay locked down or semi locked down for a year or two years, what jobs will there be for students finishing university? Will we be able to afford all of the public spending that we are used to? If the recession that we are in continues and deepens what will we wake up to when it’s over?

I remain optimistic. We have survived worse than this, but I am also scared for the future of the British economy and the standard of living we are used to. It isn’t inevitable that these things continue. Not every country has a welfare state as generous as ours. You can’t shut down your country for one or two years and it not have an effect.

So why do we have continual polls about Scottish independence? Don’t we have a few more important things to worry about?

If I were Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon asked about a second independence referendum, I would laugh out loud. I would point out that now was not the right time given that we were still in the pandemic or else dealing with the after effects and that the present Government had better things to do than indulge separatism.

But Nicola Sturgeon is shrewd enough to realise that trying to establish a new sovereign nation state after the wreckage that the Covid waves will bring with it, would not merely be foolish, it would be impossible.

Britain’s national debt because of Covid will soon top 100% of GDP. The SNP may think that Scotland can begin with zero debt, but the British Government’s condition for the possibility of Scottish independence and a second referendum would certainly be that Scotland accepted a proportional share of the debt. But this alone make Scottish independence impossible to achieve. No new country could be financially viable under those circumstances because the market would be unwilling to lend at an acceptable rate. Scotland would be in a debt spiral before it had a chance to start.

The polling therefore is quite academic and under the present circumstances about something that simply cannot happen. Come back in a few years when the British economy has recovered somewhat.

At the moment it matters not one little bit if the SNP win all the seats at Holyrood and 100% of Scots except me tell pollsters that they want independence. Sorry folks it isn’t going to happen until we all get over our present Covid fever and when we do, we will look around and find we have more important things to occupy ourselves with than pollsters.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Let's just cancel everyone

 

What is it that holds a country together and gives its people a sense of shared identity and the idea that they all belong to a place together? It isn’t democracy. Lots of countries have democracy. It isn’t human rights or any of the other values that are shared by western countries.

The French have human rights and democracy, but their glue is different from our glue. What holds the French together is a feeling that they are all connected to the French land, they all speak French and are all equally French citizens. In the end what joins the French together is that they feel that they are all part of a story beginning with Clovis and continuing unbroken until today. It is shared history that unites a country.



Britain, I think is unique at least in Europe in that a large group of British people hate our country, despise our present and loathe our past. There have always been such people, but they have grown in number in recent years particularly after the EU referendum in 2016. Some of them want to take revenge for the fact that the majority dared to vote for Brexit. They want to damage Britain not merely as an act of self-hatred, but to reveal to the foolish Brexiteers the consequences of their folly in not following Remainer advice. 

The Left take delight in trashing the reputation of any and all famous British people from the past. But what do they hope to achieve by these attacks?

The other day I read about Nelson being a supporter of slavery and Dickens being a racist. I would go further than this. By the standards of today, everyone in Britain prior to 1945 was a racist. Not only that they were all homophobic without exception and they would have been transphobic too except it would never have occurred to them that such a thing was possible.

So now we have admitted that not merely Dickens, but everyone else was racist.  Not only Nelson, but almost everyone in his time and before thought slavery was normal and natural, not least because it had existed in one form or another since time began. Now that we have made this admission need, we continue the investigation of historical racism and slavery. Take any important person from British history any writer, any politician, any king and any queen, they were almost certainly racist slavers who hated homosexuals.  Not a single one of them would pass a woke test today.

But what makes Nelson famous is not his views on slavery. What makes Dickens worth reading is not his racism. There are any number of bad writers who were also racists. What is interesting about Nelson is his feats as a military commander. What is interesting about Dickens is that he wrote great books that were also enduringly popular. The interesting thing about these people has nothing to do with their racism, which was shared by the dull and the talentless. What is interesting is what they did not share with the dull and the talentless.

What is the purpose of digging around British history in search of slave holders, slavery supporters and racists? Is it to make life better for British people today or indeed for black British people? Let’s imagine we all watched lots of television programmes and read lots of books demonstrating that every important figure in British history was a racist, slavery supporting homophobic, transphobic wife beater who was neither kind to children nor animals. Would the sum of human happiness be increased by this knowledge? Would it improve the life of even one British citizen?

There has been a tendency in recent months for people on the Left to go on a racism witch hunt. If the police stop a black MP's car it is with delight that she revels in exposing the wickedness and racism of the police. The poor policeman is terrified of losing his job. The MP isn't. 

If insufficient respect has been shown while kneeling there is glee in pointing out the miscreant. The merest slip of language or thought is pounced upon by a mob gloating that someone else has made an error that the virtuous would never make. The Internet is searched and the speech and writing of everybody is carefully assessed to discover if anyone has even unconsciously shown signs of racism. There is eagerness and joy at the chance to point out that someone has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

But why go to all this trouble? Wouldn’t it be easier to accept that all white people are racist? They may do their best to avoid racism, but they are bound to give in to temptation. No matter how hard they try there is always a racist lurking beneath the surface of their unconsciousness and this racist guides everything they say and everything they do.

I believe that the same could be said of all white people. Racism, just like all other prejudices is a universal part of the human condition. We judge people by appearances. We generalise. These two things lead us to think in prejudicial ways. We prefer to live with, work with and marry people who look like us, think like us and speak like us. This is why we have countries. We think of people from our own country as more important than those from other countries. This is why we are willing for our taxes to be used to look after them. This is also why we are willing to fight for our own country even when it might lead our own death. The only people we are less selfish towards than our fellow countrymen are our family members.

So, the great hunt for racism has succeeded. Every white person has correctly been judged to be racist. Not only every white person now, but also every white person who has lived or will live in Britain has clearly and distinctly been shown to be a thorough rotter guilty of the worst sin of all.  They are all racists. Are those running the witch hunt for racists happy yet?

Having succeeded in trashing British people living now and in the past and the future, they will have succeeded in making no British person have any pride whatsoever in Britain. We are the worst of all people. We are racists. They will have succeeded also in destroying the sense that British people, including those whose families arrived relatively recently, have a common purpose. No more will we be taking part in a shared story that began at some point in the dark ages, led to the unifying of the peoples of Britain into one country and continued with the embrace of people from all over the world who chose to make Britain their home. How can British racists embrace anyone let alone someone from a different race? All they can do is oppress and enslave and exploit.

What will hold us all together when the trashing of our history has meant there is no more glue holding us together. Will this improve the lives of black people or make them worse? Without the glue holding British citizens together we are all liable to revert into tribes defined in other ways than our shared Britishness. Instead we might fix on external characteristics and find our identity in something that is not shared.

But worse than that if white people are continually told that every British hero and everyone living in the present is a racist brute what is to stop them embracing the story that is told of them. If even our heroes and great writers were nasty racists, how can we expect to do any better?

The biggest danger of the present way of viewing history is that it divides the world into the sheep and the goats. White people are racist, homophobic transphobes and they are to blame for every bad thing that ever happened in the world. Non-white people are never racist and incapable of being nasty either to homosexuals, transsexuals or anyone else. In fact, they are so close to perfection that they resemble angels rather than human beings.

But the key to moral improvement is for me to look at my own conscience and judge myself severely, while judging everyone else leniently. It’s only when someone looks at himself and reflects on what he himself could do to improve that change happens. Blaming something or someone else is simply an excuse for inaction.

If someone is poor or unhappy or unsuccessful, he will not achieve success by blaming his dyslexia, his skin colour, or white people. For as long as he continues to blame others, he will not be in the morally serious position of self-reflection where he finds the solution within himself to overcome whatever challenges including racism that holds him back. Blaming others is always the excuse to do nothing. Lead me not into this temptation above all others.

Reducing the world to white sinners all guilty of the unforgivable sin of racism, versus pure innocent victims of white oppression, simply reinvents the world of puritans full of sin and the innocent noble savage they encountered. Make us all wear a scarlet R for racist if you please, but the descendants of Hester Prynne will still inherit the world. The feeling of virtue of those who condemn others without investigating their own self  will keep them noble but also savage, for innocence is the stage where you haven't even progressed beyond the Gates of Eden. It is an ignorance that cannot chose between good and evil and so knows nothing serious about morality. 

Britain needs all our British citizens to be flawed humans no angels need apply. We need to be better human beings. We must accept that the past includes the faults of all of us. Nelson and Dickens were no different from any of us, because they too could do wrong just as we can. Every British citizen must reflect on our own sin, before being quite so judgemental about someone else’s. Only in this way can we contribute to making the present more pleasant for all of us. Seriousness about morality is reflecting on what I can do to improve myself. It is judgemental only about myself. It has nothing to do with blame, nor pointing out the faults of others.

Our country has not faced its present challenges for decades. We have a pandemic. We have Scottish nationalists who would like to destroy Britain. We have people on the left who want to undermine our natural pride in our country in ourselves and in each other.

But such people will not improve the lives of those British people who want to share our common humanity no matter where our families came from. We should refuse to let them or anyone else divide us. We are all equally flawed and we need to forgive each for the fact that each and every one us has been unkind to someone. We each have a neighbour we didn’t love.

Only in this way can we start thinking of each other as part of one British family that shares our island and our island’s story. All British people must unite and reject anyone who wants to divide us.

Monday, 12 October 2020

The more fronts she is having to firefight on the better

 

I don’t recall demonstrations against the Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon.  It had begun to appear that Teflon Nicola was completely non-stick both in terms of her policies and in terms of whatever misdeeds the SNP got up to. The Scottish voters simply did not care. She could make a mess of education. She could make a mess of hospitals. But it was always someone else’s fault. Boris Johnson was blamed for things the Scottish Government controlled and Scots believed Sturgeon. But for the first time this has changed.

Scottish bar and restaurant workers dumped ice in the streets in complaints about lockdown 2. Graffiti has been seen saying that Sturgeon lied. Of course, these same bar workers may forget that they dumped ice when they next have a chance to dump the SNP, but this would make their protest rather pointless. You don’t really change anything by throwing ice into the street. It melts and then it dries, but you do change things by voting for someone else.



Sturgeon decided to diverge from UK Covid policy when the Conservative Government eased lockdown earlier than she wanted. From then on, she took responsibility for Covid in Scotland. Health is devolved. It doesn’t matter what England does. That’s their business. Whatever happens for good or ill in Scotland is to the credit or blame of Sturgeon and the SNP.

Sturgeon attempted to eliminate Covid in Scotland. That was what all the talk of borders was about in the summer. But she failed. All those daily briefings where she boasted about how wonderful Scotland was doing look like so much hot air when we get locked down again.

While Sturgeon was willing to contemplate borders within Britain, she is not willing to contemplate borders within Scotland. There is no reason at all why most of northern Scotland has extra restrictions.

There are 18.8 cases per 100,000 in Aberdeenshire and still less in Moray, Highland, Shetland and Orkney.

Sturgeon suggested that the Northern Isles could be exempt from the new rules, but only if travel between them and the mainland was forbidden. But this is a harsh punishment for places with almost no cases of Covid. There is no reason at all why people from Shetland cannot go to Moray, Highland or Aberdeenshire. There is no reason why our pubs and restaurants should be shut because of high numbers of cases in the Central Belt.

But is it anyway because of restaurants and pubs being open that we have large numbers of cases in parts of Scotland? No, the reason cases are increasing is because Nicola Sturgeon decided to allow students to return to campuses.

There is no reason whatsoever why students are physically at university. Their teaching is almost exclusively online. Those who are interested can learn just as well this way, but universities had to fill their halls of residences with rent payers and probably feared that students wouldn’t pay their fees if they were forced to stay at home. The result was that thousands of students from all over Britain and other parts of the world travelled to the university towns in Scotland. They spread Covid amongst themselves and the wider community and ended up trapped in their halls of residence doing courses online that they could have done just as well at home.

Universities may well have faced a business crisis if students had been prevented from going to campus. But why is one business (a university) more important than another (a bar or restaurant)? Why should bar workers be made unemployed so that students can sit in their rooms in isolation eating jam sandwiches and pot noodles?

The decision to import young people without friends desperate to socialise with each other was Sturgeon’s alone. Margaret Ferrier is not the Covid super-spreader. It is Nicola Sturgeon.

But is there any need to close restaurants and bars anyway?

There are 1574 cases per 100,000 in Glasgow, which is very high indeed, but on 11th October there were zero new deaths in Scotland.

We know that there is a time lag. But the graph of the increase in cases has been rising for some time now. The graph of deaths is not rising.

Young people are spreading Covid amongst themselves, but very few if any will have a serious illness. So long as those young people keep away from the elderly the fact that they have caught Covid will prove beneficial. The more people who have had Covid without spreading it to the vulnerable the better. Not only will it make Covid less dangerous, it will take us that bit closer to the point where Covid is no longer dangerous to anyone.

Sturgeon’s elimination strategy failed because she imported thousands of students into Scotland without testing them, but it was anyway misconceived. The task is to prevent those at serious risk from catching Covid. This is what will save lives, nothing else.

Nicola Sturgeon has made one almighty mess of both health and education in Scotland. Shutting bars and restaurants will save very few lives, because those who are at serious risk of dying from Covid will choose not to go to bars and restaurants.

Those who are dumping ice on the streets are right to protest because their jobs are being sacrificed partly because Sturgeon thinks university finances are more important, but secondly because the whole strategy of closing down places where young people congregate is folly.

If you put 10,000 students on an island and let them go to as many clubs, restaurants and bars as they please, it is unlikely that even one of them will die from Covid. It is a disease of old age. A strategy that does not treat it as such is hardly a strategy at all. Treating everyone as being at equal risk fails because young people know that the risk to them is tiny. This is why they will mix socially no matter how much Sturgeon tries to lock them down.

Sturgeon is facing a firefight on multiple fronts. Just as she puts one fire out another emerges. Her own party is turning against her, because they know that she tried to nobble Alex Salmond and they know she has something to hide.

It would make more sense if Peter Murrell had written

TBH the more fronts she is having to firefight on the better for all complainers. So CPS action would be a good thing.

 The point of attacking from multiple fronts is that the enemy cannot transfer troops to cover a breach and because eventually you find a weak spot. Sturgeon is weak in multiple places. The weakest of all is that Scots who are losing their jobs because of her decisions are beginning to see through her. Her party is corrupt, divided and Sturgeon’s story about her own conduct is full of contradictions. It needs just one more fire to put out and she will be toast.

   

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Could Shetland become independent?

 

Recently the Shetland Council declared that it would explore autonomy. Could Shetland declare independence either from the UK or from Scotland? Could it declare that it was autonomous from either?

In terms of law the answer is No. Shetland is part of the UK territory and does not have a unilateral right to declare either autonomy or independence. Anyone who doubts this should reflect that Security Council permanent members France, USA, Russia and China all forbid secession within their own states. No one questions that they have the right to do this. A sovereign nation state can legally forbid secession and indeed prevent it.



The United Kingdom gave Scotland a legal referendum on secession. It didn’t have to do this but chose to. I don’t think another currently existing nation state would grant such a referendum. Certainly, no European state would. But having granted one referendum it is obviously possible that the United Kingdom might grant another.

Scotland could illegally attempt to separate from the UK. This is indeed the normal route that countries take when separating. Rebellion or war has accounted for far more new countries than referendums. Sometimes such rebellions succeed sometimes they don’t. This route would of course be open to Shetland too. But I don’t think there are enough rebels either in Scotland or in Shetland, so we can safely return to the legal route.

If Scotland were to be offered a referendum on independence there is no logical reason why another part of the UK could not be offered one as well. If the Cornish National Party wished to have independence for Cornwall and it looked as if there was reasonable support for this idea, it would make just as much sense for the UK to give Cornwall a referendum as Scotland. Likewise, if Anglesey wanted independence, it would make just as much sense to offer the people there a referendum as it would be to offer on to Wales.

Having once been a country or having once been ruled by someone else does not grant one bit of territory any more rights to independence than another. If a group of people calling themselves Scots can seek independence, then so can a group of people calling themselves Cornish or Anglesonians.  Why should one group of people have more rights than another?

It might be objected that Cornwall and Anglesey are not countries. But neither were lots of other places until they become one. The map of the world is full of places that were not considered countries until they were. South Sudan is the latest example, but there are any number of others.  

But given that Scotland has no more or less right to an independence referendum than Cornwall, there is no reason therefore why the borders of Scotland as they exist now should exist if Scotland voted to be independent. Shetland could vote to be independent if it were given permission by the UK Government. But so too could Orkney and indeed any other part of Scotland.

Being an island or a collection of islands does not give people any more right to claim autonomy or independence than being a peninsular or indeed a corner in the case of Aberdeenshire.

If sufficient people in any part of Scotland voted against independence and if they felt strongly enough about it, they could demand that they were not dragged out of the UK against their will. Scotland does not have sovereignty over Scottish territory, because Scotland is not a sovereign independent nation state. Scots who voted for independence would have no right to claim the territory of those Scots who did not.

At this point the issue would be settled politically. There might be further referendums to determine which parts of Scotland wished to leave Scotland and which parts wished to stay. So, there is no guarantee if Scotland had a referendum on independence and Scottish nationalists won that the whole of Scotland would go with them. It would depend on whether places like Shetland or the Borders felt strongly enough about being dragged out of the UK against their will to do something about it. The precedent of course is Northern Ireland, where the people did indeed feel strongly enough about it.

But could Shetland be independent? The main advantages that Shetland has is that it has a good standard of living and a very high rate of employment. If it were independent, it would be able to claim the fishing rights around the islands. The right to whatever oil is left would be less advantageous. It is unclear even that North Sea oil will ever bring a profit to anyone again especially considering that the rigs at some point will have to be decommissioned and that is part of the cost.

But Shetland would have at least as good a chance as the Faeroe Islands and a rather better chance than Scotland as a whole, because Shetland lacks the disadvantages of the post-industrial Central Belt with its high unemployment and social deprivation. Control of the waters around the Faeroes as given the people living there a good standard of living and they are able to manage semi-independence from an autonomy within the Kingdom of Denmark very well indeed.

Full independence might prove as difficult for Shetland as it would for Scotland. Shetland would have to take a proportional share of the UK’s national debt, which would be more than 100% of Shetland’s GDP. It’s hard to see how either Shetland or Scotland could make a start under those circumstances. If they refused to take a share, the UK Government could simply refuse to allow them to leave, which takes us back to rebellion.

Shetland would have to decide what it wanted to do about currency. It would be hard for such a small country to have its own currency. It would be hard also for Shetland to manage without a university or a hospital that could treat serious illnesses.

If Shetland wished to separate from Scotland it’s best option would be to remain a part of the UK with whatever autonomy the UK cared to grant it. This would give Shetlanders the same rights as they have at present to live and work in the UK. They could be given at least the same sort of devolution as Scotland has at present. Alternatively, Shetland could attempt to negotiate an arrangement like the Falkland Islands have or Jersey and Guernsey closer to home. There would be advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

The main difficulty with such arrangements would be geographical. The nearest universities, large shops, hospitals and major airports would still be in Scotland.   Shetland would still trade more with Scotland than anyone else. For this reason, Shetlanders might doubt the wisdom of separating from Scotland. But by the same logic Scots might doubt the wisdom of separating from the UK. 

Despite the rather odd claim that they are somehow Vikings, the truth is that Shetlanders are much more similar to Scots and British people in general than they are to Norwegians. It matters little that Shetland was once owned by Norway, the overwhelming majority of Shetlanders descend from the Scots who settled there after Norwegian rule ceased. This is why they have Scottish surnames.  It is for this reason also that Shetlanders speak English rather than Norwegian. The only Norwegian speakers on Shetland are either from Norway or have decided to learn Norwegian.

Up Helly Aa was invented in the 19th century by English speakers and is about as authentically Scandinavian and historically accurate as Asterix the Gaul. Scots dressing up as Vikings does not Scandinavia make. But it is not because people on Shetland once were part of Norway that gives them the right to separate from Scotland, it matters not one little bit who used to live there. The right that Shetland has to separate from Scotland would be the same right (if it were granted) that Scotland would have to separate from the UK.

Scottish nationalists cannot logically demand a right for themselves that they refuse to grant to parts of Scotland that might wish to separate from Scotland. There is nothing sacrosanct about the borders of Scotland. Only when Scotland gained independence would it have sovereignty over whatever territory it owned. Prior to that any part of Scotland not merely Shetland and Orkney could decide not to take part in Scottish independence.

There is no international border within the UK at present, so what the international borders would be if a part of the UK decided to leave would be up to those living there to decide. Scottish nationalists cannot require the unity of Scotland when they themselves have fought against and undermined the unity of the UK.  

Scottish nationalists might succeed not merely in partitioning Britain, but in partitioning Scotland too.  Anyone who thinks it couldn’t happen needs to look across the Irish Sea.

Friday, 9 October 2020

The SNP hall of shame. Part 3

Previously


I didn’t intend to write a third instalment to my SNP scandal list, but kind Twitter users kept telling me about just one more scandal and then another. I wondered if I could reach one hundred and fifty. It didn’t seem possible. This will be the last instalment at least for a while. The point has been made it need not be laboured.


101. Alex Salmond promised to “we’d either have Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon or Ruth Davidson or Melania Trump, but I couldn’t make any of these wonderful women come” The joke is even worse now.

102. Alex Salmond is asked to provide details of spending £467,000 on a trip to Ryder cup. Surely his tartan trousers couldn't have cost that much.

103. Nicola Sturgeon claims to have failed to tell MSPs about a meeting with Alex Salmond dealing with alleged sexual misconduct because she had forgotten about it. The dog had also eat her  homework. 

104. SNP cashed in on Covid by selling face masks with the SNP logo on them. Apparently upside down odal runes ward off Covid germs. 

105. STV clip of children praising Nicola Sturgeon is compared to North Korea. Of course no one from the SNP contacted STV to ask them to make the clip.

106. Yen Hongmei Jin Scotland's only Chinese councillor quits the SNP because of racism and bullying. 

107.  Julie McAnulty SNP councillor and Holyrood candidate is suspended after saying "get the p*kis out the party"

108.  Paul Monaghan told a racist cybernat to keep it up. 

109. Nicola Sturgeon breaks social distancing rules in Holyrood but locks down the rest of Scotland

110.  James Dornan and Fergal Dalton pose in front of a banned Irish republican terrorist group's flag

111. Moira Shemilt accused of anti-English xenophobia in online rant. 

112. Derek Mackay boasted about chairing the SNP conference while drunk and was banned from attending the karaoke. This was not on account of his singing. 

113. Michael Matheson loaned Prestwick Airport £43 million, but has no idea if he will get the money back.

114. Angus Robertson claimed £400 in expenses for a home cinema system. He claimed that the DVD player was bought to catch up on political programmes and that he used the fact that it also had a build in radio.

115. Alex MacLeod fiddled his election expenses and flouted a court order handed down for the offence. 

116. Jennifer Robertson, wife of Angus, goes into business  setting up Spey Media with the disgraced Alex MacLeod

117. Pete Wishart claimed twice for the rental of the same flat on his expenses, but claims it was all due to faulty paperwork. 

118. Jeane Freeman claimed to work 376 days in one year.

119. Stewart Maxwell gets job with state owned company which required local and national political connections after giving up job as MSP leading to questions being raised about lobbying. 

120. Peter Murrell said that he never asked his wife Nicola Sturgeon what her meeting with Alex Salmond was about. He also had no knowledge of how the complaints against Salmond were investigated by the Scottish Government. 

121. Joanna Cherry falsely accused nurse Claire Austin of being married to a Tory after the nurse confronted Nicola Sturgeon on TV. Cherry later apologised

122. Joanna Cherry criticised Emily Thornberry for missing a vote when Thornberry was visiting her child in hospital. 

123. SNP allegedly gagged journalist Stephen Daisley when he worked for STV

124 Nick Robinson required a body guard to do his work due to Scottish nationalists

125. Sarah Smith grovels in apology over the suggestion that Nicola Sturgeon was enjoying setting her own rules over Covid. Not that there was any pressure put on her.

126. Devi Sridhar hints at disagreement with Sturgeon, but a little later says she is completely aligned with her. Ruth Davidson suspects the use of a hair drying in the background. Afterwards Ms Sridhar goes native by accusing "unionists" of being anti-Scottish.

127. Lewis Ritchie arrested and charged over alleged sexual offences in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

128. Jim Sillars claimed that Alex Salmond had shown him evidence that the allegations against Salmond were a political set up. 

129.  Ashten Regan-Denham used her maiden speech at Holyrood to state that education was not a commodity to be bought and sold, but she sends her own children to a fee paying private school.

130. Alex Salmond put pressure on St Andrews University head Louise Richardson over independence. She was urged to issue a statement praising the Scottish Government.

131. Imtiaz Majid lied in court in an attempt to get a divorce on the cheap but got a £50,000 bill instead.

132. Caroline Stephen had her £4000 council tax debt paid off by a colleague so she could take part in a budge vote. 

133. Gregor Murray was suspended for two months as a councillor over derogatory remarks. 

134. David Linden is unable to speak English in the House of Commons

135. David Linden is perhaps the first MP to use the word "cr*p" in the House of Commons, but withdraws it

136. Kenny MacAskill believes there were dark forces at work in the Salmond trial.

137. Pete Wishart suggests ways to break the law if he doesn't get his way. Isn't failing to take No for an answer the route of nearly all of the SNP's scandals?

138. Joanna Cherry wants the SNP to investigate ways of breaking the law. It's an odd look for a QC. Why should the rest of us obey the law?

139.  Natalie McGarry agreed to pay £10,000 to charity for falsely calling a unionist a Holocaust denier. 

140. Anne McLaughlin claims her Rastafarian boyfriend is being denied his human right to smoke cannabis. He is also employed by her. 

141. Derek MacKay is still claiming expenses for a second home despite not voting.

142. SNP tried to block the newspaper that reported the Derek Mackay texting scandal. What other stories has the SNP successfully blocked?

143. Margaret Ferrier went to church while ill with Covid putting the lives of elderly church goers at risk. 

144. SNP were warned about allegations of domestic abuse against Bill Walker three years before he was elected

145. Douglas Chapman claims that the "moral code was very different" when Bill Walker was beating his wife. 

146. SNP condemn the decision to open the files on Arthur Donaldson founder of the SNP who was interned during World War II for supporting the Germans.

147. Tommy Shepherd says old people dying will reignite the independence campaign. 

148. Alex Salmond blamed "elderly Scots, who were most hostile to leaving the UK, for holding back younger generations and argued that independence is inevitable after they die off."

149. Peter Murrell admits sending texts encouraging the police to take a greater interest in Alex Salmond 

150. Nicola Sturgeon had earlier refused to confirm whether her husband had sent the texts. She said that she was not prepared to answer for other people, but denied obstructing the inquiry. 


Will any of this make a difference? In any other country it would. A list of scandals this long would make an enormous difference in Europe or the United States. But in Scotland who knows? Committed independence supporters won’t be persuaded to change their minds no matter what the SNP do.

If the sainted Nicola Sturgeon turned out to be a secret serial killer, Scottish nationalists would still vote for her and accuse the victims of exaggerating their injuries.

But we are not appealing to the fanatics. We are appealing to decent Labour and Lib Dem voters who are thinking of voting SNP because they are angry with the Tories or angry about Brexit.

Much of politics is short term. It won’t in the end much matter if there is a Conservative Government. It won’t even much matter that we leave the EU. If it turns out to be a bad enough mistake we will go back.

But Britain is forever. Britain is the only country any of us has ever been from. You don’t throw away being British because you are miffed about Brexit or the Tories.

The SNP are a party full of scandal. They have limited power. If they won independence, they would rule Scotland forever and hey would have unlimited power. What would the scandals be like then?

These scandals won’t persuade everyone, but they will persuade some voters. It’s not all one-way traffic. Lots of former SNP voters have become sick of SNP sleaze. People do change their minds. This is why we discuss politics. If they never changed their minds it would be because we already were in a one-party state. Be scared above all of those with closed minds.