Tuesday 30 June 2020

A no deal Scexit

The UK’s national debt at present is approximately £2.4 Trillion. But there is a simple way that we could owe nobody anything. If Britain declared independence from itself then we would owe zero pounds. If seceding from oneself is illegitimate, Britain could secede from Cornwall and decide that Cornwall is the inheritor of all Britain’s debt. Cornish independence would mean that each citizen of Cornwall (Kernow) owed nearly 5 million pounds, but that would be their problem not ours. Alternatively, if we took pity on Cornwall, we could decide that it was in fact Scotland that deserved all Britain’s debt. After all the SNP keeps demanding independence. What if Britain seceded from Scotland?  Each Scot would then owe £500,000 pounds.

If it were legitimate for Scotland to secede from the UK and not owe any debt, it would equally be legitimate for everyone else to secede from Scotland and not owe any debt. What makes the shared British debt belong to people in Yorkshire, but not belong to people in Aberdeenshire? The debt after all was taken out jointly by the UK and was used for the benefit of all of us. So why should a big bit of Britain be left with all of it and a small bit of Britain be left with none rather than the other way round. Scottish independence could leave Scotland as the successor state to UK assets and debts. The rest of Britain could owe nothing.

 There is however a word for this. It is default.

Some Scottish nationalists apparently seriously suppose that after Scottish banks were bailed out in 2008 and after the Treasury has paid our wages and kept our firms from going bust during Covid, and after asking for the furlough scheme to be continued for as long as the Scottish economy needs it, that after all this we could declare independence and walk away owing zero pounds. But if this were legitimate why doesn’t everybody do it?

Crete could solve its unemployment problem by seceding from Greece. Sicily could become rich by seceding from Italy. The Confederacy could once more secede from the United States, but this time base its economy not on slavery but on being debt free.

But there is a very simple reason why this doesn’t happen everywhere. The markets would view such secession as a default. If Scotland were to refuse to pay its share of the Britain’s nation debt, markets would be very reluctant to lend to Scotland again unless it paid a very high interest rate. Scottish bonds would have a junk rating because of the risk. This would be not merely because Scotland as a newly independent country would have no track record of repaying debt, worse than that it would have a track record of refusing to pay back debt that had in part been issued for the benefit of Scotland.

This would perhaps be less problematic if Scotland were running a surplus when we became independent, but unless we discover some more secret oil fields, or better still secret gold mines, we would be running a 7% deficit. In order to fund this deficit, we would have to ask bond markets to buy Scottish bonds. But who would we be asking? We would be asking people in the City of London. But these would be the very people who we had just refused to pay back our debt to. So not only would Scottish bonds be junk we would expect the City to throw good money after bad.

If Scotland could emerge from Scottish independence with no debt, then so too could every other part of Europe that saw reneging on national debt as a way to solve its financial difficulties. Would this tend to encourage or discourage default? How much cooperation would Scotland receive from other European Union countries or indeed from the rest of Britain?

Would Scotland be welcomed with open arms into the European Union having set off a domino of default from Catalonia to Flanders? Would the Bank of England cooperate with Scotland? Would indeed consumers from other parts of Britain decide that they neither wished to trade with Scotland nor indeed allow their roads to send goods and services northwards. Would the British Army help if the Faeroes decided to invade Scotland?  

In order to become independent Scotland would require the cooperation not only of the rest of Britain but other countries around the world. Refusing to pay a proportional share of Britain’s national debt would be a no deal Scexit. Worse it would be a no deal while Scotland didn’t even have a central bank, a means of raising taxes and a way of paying benefits, nor indeed a currency. Scottish nationalists who propose this sort of unilateral independence would turn Scotland into a pariah with no friends and no money.

Monday 29 June 2020

Old Lives Don't Matter

I will always believe that my aunt was murdered in hospital, but I cannot prove it and there is no point even trying. She was doing the Telegraph crossword one day, the next she was deprived of water by her doctors and put on a pathway to death because a committee of them decided she wasn’t going to make it so it would be best to hasten things. By the time I was told it was already too late. If I had known sooner, I would have got her out of that hospital forcibly, but I would probably have been arrested for trying.

It is routine for older people to be treated as if they were lesser beings. One of my mother’s friends was ordained and an important member of her church. When she died her son decided to give her a humanist funeral and no one from the church was invited.

 So many older people live alone neglected by their family. The vultures circle waiting for whatever legacy may come their way but treat their parents with disdain. They don’t phone and when they do, they don’t listen. I have heard so many tragic stories because I live with my mother. I know many of her friends. They get more help from each other than they do from their families. Have you any idea what it is like to be an older person on her own who can’t open a jam jar when there is no one to do it for her? What if it were you? It will be.

This is the context of the greatest scandal of all during Covid. The treatment of older people in hospitals and care homes happened because for decades we haven’t thought that their lives matter.

This is why older people were pressurised into signing do not resuscitate forms. It is also why sick elderly patients were sent back to care homes to spread Covid.

There was mad panic in hospitals in March. There had to be be room for all the potential Covid patients that were going to overwhelm the NHS. This is why the army built Nightingale hospitals so quickly. It is also why hospital wards were stripped of the elderly.

I wonder who phoned the doctors and managers of those hospitals in Scotland to demand that beds be freed. Can you imagine what would have happened if the hospitals had refused? A little while later we would have seen evidence of their repentance.

There were things that none of us knew in March. We didn’t know then that the NHS was not going to be overwhelmed. We didn’t know that people without symptoms could spread Covid, though we might have guessed, because that is the way with so many other diseases, but the elderly were anyway treated as bed blockers because that is the mentality of too many.

Half of the Covid deaths in Scotland could have been prevented if the Scottish Government which is solely responsible for health had decided either to leave the elderly where they were in hospital or find alternative accommodation and carers for them.

If asylum seekers can be housed in hotels, so too could the elderly who were discharged from hospital. All but the most frail could have been looked after by staff recruited by the Scottish Government using the money it received from the Treasury. Most elderly people just need someone to open the jam jars and give them a little company. Those that needed a lot more care than that should have been kept in the hospitals. If elderly people in this way had been kept isolated in hotel rooms or elsewhere, they would have survived.

The decision to send older Covid infected people to care homes was the cause of more avoidable deaths in Scotland than any other. We need to know who made it.

There are mitigating circumstances, but if you call yourself a Government then you have to take responsibility even then. It is no good saying that there were deaths in care homes in other parts of Britain. What has that to do with the decision that was made in Scotland? Devolution means you don’t get to blame the English even if your whole life and thought has been founded on just that.

There needs to be an inquiry into each avoidable death in Scotland. The police need to investigate who made what decision and when. If it turns out that there was negligence on the part of politicians, then they will need at least to resign. But more importantly we all need to change our thinking about older people.

Compare and contrast the treatment of sick infants with sick older people. A sick infant is given the best treatment possible. There are campaigns for the latest treatment and parents strive to keep the infant alive even if it is only for a few more months. An infant is not deprived of water so that its death is hastened. It is not discharged from hospital even if the bed is needed. We act in this way because the life that this infant has is the only one it will ever have. It is uniquely valuable.

But each life is the only one that each of us will ever have. It is this that makes all forms of discrimination morally wrong. The value of a life depends solely on its humanity. Neither race, nor age, nor sex nor any other characteristic is morally significant.

The lives of older people matter. They are the people in Britain today who are most likely to suffer discrimination. They are the people who frequently live lives of quiet desperation because no one cares. No other group of people is more deserving of demonstrations, but no demonstrates for them.

Old Lives Don’t Matter.

Saturday 27 June 2020

You cannot achieve equality from inequality.

The language of race has become very strange indeed. Take the following statements.

Black Lives Matter                   Is not racist but praiseworthy
White Lives Matter                   Is racist, far right and gets you sacked
All Lives matter                        Is likewise racist
White Lives Don’t matter         Is not racist and gets you promoted

This is to put language through the looking glass. Words mean what we want them to mean and the use of language becomes inconsistent and illogical. But how did this happen?

Take the statement. “White lives don’t matter. As white lives.” The qualification “as white lives” is supposed to change the meaning of the previous statement. But if someone said “Black lives don’t matter. As black lives” there would be immediate fury. It could be that these statements are trying to say it is not the characteristic of being white or black that makes a life matter. But this is the equivalent of saying “All lives matter”.

The problem with a statement like “White lives don’t matter. As white lives” is that it is unclear.  So too is the statement “Abolish whiteness”. How am I supposed to do this? If I set out to abolish yellowness I might for instance try to find all the bananas in the world and paint them red, but even if I succeeded, I would still find that part of a rainbow was yellow. So how would I abolish whiteness. I clearly can’t abolish a colour that occurs in nature, e.g. snow, not unless I tried to turn snow yellow. But what about trying to abolish whiteness as a race?

How could I abolish white people? I could do this in two ways. I could set out like Herod to slaughter all the innocents. The problem with this is that I would have to go to somewhere like Poland where nearly 100% of the population is white and try to repeat what was tried there between 1939 and 1945. This might abolish whiteness in Poland, but there is a word for such an endeavour.

How else could I abolish whiteness. I could strive to achieve a situation where every white person gave birth to a non-white child. If enough people from all over the world ignored race completely in their choice of partner, then eventually there would be no racial distinctions at all nor indeed would there be national distinctions. There would simply be the human race. There are some attractions to this idea. It would make wars less likely. There might develop a universal language, but the trouble is that everything about human nature that we actually know suggests that it isn’t what human beings want. Why else did we historically develop countries that were mostly monocultural? It suggests people choose to live with those who are linguistically and culturally similar. If there were not the case, there would be no countries today.

So how are we to abolish whiteness and if we did so, would we be allowed to abolish blackness too?

Earlier in the week I read about a cartoon character that was mixed race which was played by a white actor. This is now forbidden. Only a black person can play a mixed-race character. What this means is that a person with a white father and a black mother is considered to be black. From this it follows that while whiteness can be abolished by white and black people having black children, blackness cannot.

Abolishing whiteness therefore is not about achieving equality. It is about encouraging white societies to be ever more mixed race in order that eventually they cease to exist. But this abolitionism must require the cooperation of these societies otherwise how could it happen without force? Does it happen by making the concept that “white lives don’t matter. As white lives” intellectually acceptable and indeed praiseworthy while if the words black or brown were substituted, we would all be fired?

The problem we have is that the study of race in modern universities is not about equality. This is because the foundation of modern studies of race is the idea that only white people can be racist.

This idea has never been proved and is in fact counterintuitive. But much of modern academia consists in statements that cannot be proved. Subjects like Postcolonialism are full of statements that can neither be proved by logic nor by experience. But if a statement can neither be proved by reason or experience, it must have been made up. Eventually these statements that are made up are treated as being the truth. We thus end up with a variety of counterintuitive statements that we must believe such as “Men can become women”, “Men can marry men”, “Black people cannot be racist” and “Black lives matter, but white lives don’t”.

These statements do not result from clear thinking. Rather they result from unclear thinking, unreadable books and subjects where there is only ever one correct answer one goody (e.g. women, black people, transgender people) and one baddy (men, white people, non-transgender people).

It means that there is always a fundamental inconsistency in the thinking.  A white actor must never play Othello, but a black actor may play Hamlet.

This would not matter much if this inconsistency were limited to acting, but it extends to everything.

The unforgivable sin of racism gets a white person fired, but gets a black person promoted. Black people have no fear of being called a racist because of either their actions or their words, because they have been told that no matter what they say, or do it is impossible for them to be racist.

This of course is a racist ideology, but it is the foundation of modern thinking on race. This is why a Cambridge academic feels she can say anything. It is also one of the reasons why some black people feel they can do anything. You can kill three white gay people, but no one will call you either homophobic or racist. But if a white person killed three black gay people that would be the first thing that was said.

You cannot achieve equality from inequality.

Friday 26 June 2020

The Madness of Queen Cherry’s SNPland.

I’ve learned to distrust opinion polling because I don’t think it is remotely scientific. For this reason, I haven’t been concerned about a few polls that have shown support for Scottish independence to be rising. Support also rose after the EU referendum as disappointed Scottish Remainers flirted with Scottish nationalism. But it is one thing to tell someone over the phone that you support independence it is another to go into a polling booth when the decision means something.

Still certain SNP politicians have become excited and a debate has developed between those, like Nicola Sturgeon, who think the way forward is to have a legal referendum after receiving permission from the British Government (Plan A), and those who, like Joanna Cherry, who think next year’s election to the Scottish Parliament should be used as proxy referendum leading to a unilateral declaration of independence and negotiations with the British Government (Plan B). 

 There are many historical examples of places achieving independence other than by a legal referendum, but this usually happens when there is an overwhelming majority for secession. The problem for the SNP is that support for Scottish independence is at best marginal. Each side of the debate needs the other in order to succeed with its goals. If a small majority of Scots favoured independence either during an illegal referendum or a Scottish Parliamentary election used illegally to obtain secession, there is no guarantee that the rest of us would cooperate.

If it became clear for instance that the SNP intended to use a Scottish Parliament election to try to achieve secession, the British parties could decide not to take part. The SNP might win 100% of the seats but this would damage the credibility of the Scottish Parliament beyond repair.

Alternatively, when it became clear that the SNP were proposing to use the Scottish Parliament election for something illegal, the Electoral Commission could decide that the election would not take place with its sanction.

As a last resort a majority in the House of Commons could decide that the 2016 Scotland Act which said that a referendum was required to disband the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government did not in fact bind Parliament, because an Act of one Parliament cannot bind a successor. It could therefore simply abolish the Scottish Parliament bulldoze it and leave Joanna Cherry and co. to plot treason in a hole in the ground.

But all of this is very silly indeed and none of it will happen for the simple reason that no part of a European sovereign nation states has the legal right to secession.

South Tyrol was made a part of Italy after the First World War although the majority of people living there were German speakers. But it remains a part of Italy even if these German speakers vote for secession and later reunification with Austria. The same of course goes for Catalonia, Crimea and the Donbass in Ukraine. If these places do not have a legal right to secession, then neither does Scotland. Any sovereign nation state has the right to protect its territorial integrity.

Of course, lots of places in the world have achieved de facto independence, but their independence remains unrecognised by anyone else. But in Scotland’s case this would preclude our membership of the EU, which is one of Ms. Cherry’s goals. The Copenhagen Criteria require “institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law”. But you cannot fulfil these by breaking the law. I would have thought a lawyer knew this.

The biggest problem faced with Plan B however is that for Scotland to achieve independence it requires the cooperation of the British Government. Scotland does not have the necessary structures of an independent nation state now. It is for this reason in 2014 the SNP proposed a transition period and the British Government agreed to cooperate in the implementation of independence if the SNP had won.

But what if the SNP declared independence after winning a majority in the Scottish Parliament and the British Government refused to help and refused to negotiate? We can assume that the Scottish economy will face a major hit from Covid. We can assume that the process of rebuilding will still be going on next May. There may even still be more outbreaks of Covid. What if the British Government decided to withdraw all cooperation immediately from the rebellious province of SNPland? What if no more money was sent from the Treasury? What if the British Government refused to recognise SNPland and told all its allies to refuse also? What if Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives in Scotland also refused to cooperate with the SNP and if all British Scots refused to help also? If you want to wreck Scotland, this is about the best way possible that I can imagine. If the SNP succeeded in seceding from Britain, they might find the rest of us seceding from SNPland.

The truth is that a unilateral declaration of independence by the SNP would lead to a complete collapse of the Scottish economy. Neither wages nor benefits would be paid. Taxes would be uncollected. SNPland would have no electricity, no currency, and rapidly no food deliveries from England. Not only capital would flee, people would too.

Some SNP supporters are clearly feverish and should get themselves tested quickly. Covid is a life changing historical event. Our task is to get Britain back to where we were in February. We need to get schools open and help children to get back the education they have lost. We need to find work for all those who will have lost their jobs. We will need to spend the next generations paying back the Covid debt that has kept us going these past few months. We don’t need Plan A and we most certainly don’t need the Madness of Queen Cherry’s SNPland especially with King Alex coming back from o'er the water. 

Thursday 25 June 2020

Kate Twist wants some more

Kate Forbes the Scottish Government Finance Secretary has asked the British Treasury for the power to borrow an extra £500 million this year. Scotland has already been bailed out by the Treasury’s furlough scheme and increases to the Scottish budget owing to the UK’s increased spending due to Covid. But Kate Twist wants some more.

I am of the view that each part of Britain should get as much as it needs to deal with Covid. None of us are going to be asked to pay back the wages that we received except through taxation and contributing the to Britain’s economic growth in the years ahead. But here we immediately come up with the issue.

 Kate Twist supports Scottish independence and wanted a second independence referendum to take place this year. After this demand was postponed due to Covid we may assume that she wants it to take place next year. But she now wants to take out a loan that is repayable over ten years. What happens to the loan if Scotland votes to become independent?

The Treasury has been investing in all of Britain so that our economy remained intact while we were stuck inside. But borrowing is not free. Government’s borrow by issuing gilts (debt) to investors. The Government pays interest on gilts and pension funds buy the gilts because they are very safe investments. If a Government failed to pay back its debt none of us would have pensions.

But the rate at which a Governments can borrow is not the same all over the world. Britain can borrow at a low rate because we have an historic record of paying back debt and because we have a sustainable deficit (the extra we spend over what we earn from taxes etc) that markets believe will allow us to continue repaying our debts in the future.

But the confidence of the markets in the British economy would be undermined if Scotland became independent. English people frequently maintain that they are indifferent to Scottish independence. Some even welcome it supposing that it would save them money. But they forget that the UK would cease to exist if Scotland became independent. It wouldn’t be possible for British people to even continue to call themselves British, because the north of Britain would have gone.

There is no guarantee that what was left would maintain its seat on the Security Council, nor its soft power nor its reputation as a safe place to invest. The UK would become a laughingstock the world over. Who would respect a United Kingdom that could not remain united? The price of borrowing would also increase as investors waited to see what consequences the breakup of a three-hundred-year-old country had for debt repayment. Any English person who thinks he would be better off by the departure of Scotland understands nothing about economics.

Kate Twist is asking the Treasury for permission to borrow because it is the Treasury that will be backing up the debt. Scotland on its own with a 7% deficit could not issue debt on the open market without paying a punitive interest rate. Twist therefore is in effect asking the Treasury to borrow for her. But is Scotland a good risk?

Last year Scotland had 13.6 % higher spending per head than the UK as a whole but collected 2.6% less per head than the UK average. Scotland’s deficit is 7 times Britain’s and half of Britain’s deficit is due to Scotland. This year the situation will be worse. The oil price has crashed so that it costs more to dig it out of the North Sea that it is worth. Scottish tourism has been destroyed by Covid and SNP mismanagement. How much more will we spend than we earn this year Kate?

But worse than this Kate Twist only wishes to borrow more because she doesn’t want Scotland to return to austerity. Scotland in fact has not had any austerity, which means living with your means. We have for years spent more than we earned. But how does Twist think we can repay debt if we neither raise taxes nor reduce public spending?  

So, in effect Kate Twist is asking for more even though Scotland’s deficit, which was unsustainable last year, will this year be even worse. She is doing this knowing that it will be Britain that incurs the risk, but that she and the SNP plan to make it more difficult for Britain to borrow by destroying not merely our country but our credit rating. She is asking for more knowing that the last SNP plan for independence involved walking away without paying Scotland’s share of the national debt. The minimum I would ask her for her 10-year debt is a 10-year promise for the SNP not to campaign for independence.

Kate Twist is going to the bank manager asking for a mortgage telling him I spend 7% a year more than I earn and I’m planning to leave the house without paying the debt and will burn it to the ground. Kate knows all about flitting. Her degree is in Diaspora and Migration History. If she asked me for more, I’d tell her to come back when she had read Economics for Dummies.

Wednesday 24 June 2020

More Scotland

The SNP recently commissioned a report entitled “Towards a robust resilient, wellbeing economy for Scotland”. I have no idea about the political affiliations of the group of authors, some may be independence supporters, others most likely are not. But they had a remit and that remit was of course to please Nicola Sturgeon. We all know what happens when someone says or writes something that displeases her. A few hours later they tend to have a change of heart.

Whenever there is a problem in the EU the European Commission demands one thing to solve it. More Europe. Well so too the solution to all of Scotland’s economic problems according to the report is, more Scotland.

The report’s first conclusion is that Scotland should be more financially autonomous, so that it can diverge still further from whatever approach the British Government takes.

This is within the context of the Scottish Government already spending considerably more than it earns in normal times but becoming even more reliant on the British taxpayer during the present crisis. The SNP demand that the Treasury furlough scheme continues beyond October. The report in effect is demanding that Scotland have still more autonomy to spend money raised outside of Scotland.  

Devolution is already lopsided enough because England has no devolution. It has led to four different approaches to the Covid crisis just so that the devolved administrations can be different.  It is neither robust nor resilient for a child to have autonomy over its parent’s credit card. It leads neither to the child’s wellbeing nor helps its grasp of economics.

The report’s authors expose themselves by suggesting in nearly every one of their recommendations that the Scottish Government should do something. It may be something that it does in conjunction with someone else, but it is always a state solution.

But the biggest problem we have in Scotland is precisely that too many Scots are employed by the state. The solution to every problem in Scotland is always that more public money should be spent on it. No one, not even the Scottish Conservatives, ever argues for a smaller state. But the way to make a country profitable is to be more like Switzerland and less like the Soviet Union. When businesses and people are left alone with as little interference from Government as possible, they are naturally innovative. When taxes are lowered, and state spending declines free market economics automatically makes a country richer. But not one word of this is mentioned in the report.

Scotland performs more poorly than Britain as whole because the state pays our wages. Public sector workers just recycle public money when we pay taxes. But it is private businesses that make things and sell the things that bring revenue. A country that only employed civil servants and bureaucrats would starve.

When the report talks about investment, its focus is on what Government can do rather that what private individuals and businesses should do to make companies profitable. For this reason, it advises the Scottish Government should take over the ownership of private companies that are facing difficulties due to Covid. But this would mean still more of Scotland would be publicly owned, when too much is publicly owned already. Nationalisation props up failing businesses with taxpayer’s money and is unlikely to bring a return on the investment.  If Governments were good at investing, they would nationalise the stock market.

The report concludes with ever more demands for increases in public spending to improve Scottish broadband and mobile phone networks, make Scotland still more environmentally friendly, help tourism and pay people to write bad plays and poor music.

The last thing Scotland needs is a National Arts Force. Creativity should not be paid for by the state. If someone cannot sell tickets to his play or get readers to buy his book, then he should find a job where he can earn a living that does not depend on subsidy. No one pays me to write. Tories are not subsidised in Scotland. The only people who are paid by the Scottish Government to create are independence supporters who couldn’t earn a penny otherwise.

Scotland will underperform compared to similar economies so long as most Scots think that the solution to all our problems is to be found with the Scottish Government spending ever more public money so that things are "free", i.e. paid for by someone else.  This is precisely the reason we live beyond our means and cannot afford independence.

Poverty is not the cause of people voting for left-wing parties it is the result. People who vote for the Left wait for the Government to solve their problems and make them better off. They wait for Government to give them things rather than working for them. Not one country in the world made a penny from passivity. The report and its authors are part of the problem rather than the solution.

Because Scottish wages are paid by the state rather than from the profits of a company and we will drag our feet as much as we can out of lockdown. We will find any excuse possible not to teach in schools and universities. We will keep our pubs shut even when the English are getting drunk.  This is why the damage to the Scottish economy will be much greater than in England. It will take us longer to recover.  

Independence supporters may delight in Nicola Sturgeon showing how independent she is from Boris, but every extra day we stay in lockdown due to Sturgeon’s caution or desire to be different will make it that much more impossible to achieve independence.

The demand for independence from SNP voters has become the primary reason why Scotland underperforms. Every Scottish business every year is faced with the possibility of the most drastic change imaginable with its largest market, the other parts of Britain. This uncertainty is unceasing. Every person who doesn’t wish to live in an independent Scotland, whether here or elsewhere, wonders whether it is a good idea to come to Scotland or to stay. It makes long term decision making about jobs, mortgages and children's education quite impossible, because the SNP continually make the future uncertain for British people who live here or might chose to do so. 

If the Scottish Government wished to improve the wellbeing of the Scottish economy, it would rule out seeking independence for the foreseeable future. This would have a more beneficial effect than any report that it could commission. This, of course, is unmentioned by the present report. Can you imagine how Sturgeon would have responded if that had been the conclusion?

In Scotland we have been shielded from Covid not merely be being stuck at home, but also by Treasury spending that has meant we haven’t really noticed the economic cost yet. We will all notice that cost soon and then I fear for the rest of our lives. I hope this judgement turns out to be unduly pessimistic, but I doubt it.  

Whatever happens we will need innovative thinking and ideas that were common in the age of Adam Smith, but would now be thought of as unScottish. We need Conservatives to smash through the yellow wall and bring prosperity them. 

There is nothing of this in the report Sturgeon commissioned. It is dull, statist, unwilling to see Brexit advantages and is in fact the absolute opposite of what Scotland needs to recover from the worst economic crisis in centuries.

Britain has made mistakes since March, but the unity that meant that British money went where it is needed is something that we can build on. Devolution has become at best an irritant at worst a hindrance to the unified response that is so clearly necessary now. We need to rethink devolution and reject separatism. We need less Scotland not more.

Monday 22 June 2020

The immorality of collective punishment

Since the early 1970s Britain has witnessed numerous terrorist attacks. Most of them were committed by the IRA some more recently have been committed by Islamic extremists. But British people have neither blamed Irish people in general, nor Catholics nor refugees nor Muslims for these attacks.

There are always idiots, who are usually themselves extremists, who have made nasty comments about Irish people or refugees or Muslims. There has been some vandalism against the property and places of worship of these people, but these attacks are thankfully rare and condemned by the vast majority of British people.

 We don’t attack the group for the actions of the individual. Irish people in general and Catholicism were not responsible for the actions of the IRA. Only IRA terrorists themselves and their supporters were responsible for Republican terrorism. So too only Islamic extremists and their supporters are responsible for terrorist actions. Ordinary Muslims who are neither extremists nor supporters of extremism are no more responsible for terrorist incidents than anyone else.

It is not religious beliefs that cause terrorism. It is wicked individuals. The same Christian belief can be used to justify the inquisition, the burning of heretics and also some of the greatest examples of good that the world has ever seen. So too the same Islamic belief that rescued the teachings of antiquity has sometimes led misguided and wicked individuals to commit acts of terrorism. But it is not Islam that is at fault, no more than Catholicism was at fault for the IRA.

This is not to say that all religions are the same and that we cannot find fault with them. We all should be free to address the religious teachings of the world critically. Morality allows us to be critical of sacred texts and to find them lacking. But it does not allow us to attack those who believe in these texts simply because they believe them. I may find another person’s faith to be false and I may even find the teachings to be immoral, but I must judge each person not by what he believes but by what he does.

 But it is precisely this that has gone wrong recently. Imagine if British people witnessing an act of terrorism by a Muslim refugee decided to arise en masse to protest at the killing of British people.

Imagine if we started demonstrating with signs saying, “British Lives Matter” and imagine if we started vandalising the property, sacred texts and sacred buildings of Muslims and also of refugees because we held them collectively responsible for the actions of one individual.

There could be great crowds of British people, breaking the rules of social distancing, chanting about how British lives mattered and making it clear that we held all Muslims responsible. There could be acts of vandalism. Monuments to Islam could be destroyed.

Even to imagine this for a second is to imagine something grotesquely wrong and outrageous. If British people attacked all refugees because one refugee had committed an act of terrorism, we would be acting as monstrously as the terrorist. If even one Muslim was made to feel guilty for something that he did not do, we would be horridly to blame. Collective punishment is morally indefensible. It is the action of the SS destroying a village because one person from that village killed a Nazi.

But it is just this that Black Lives Matter are doing as they tear down statues and violently attack property because of the actions of one policeman and his colleagues.

British Black Lives Matter protesters are punishing the British police and their fellow citizens, not because of something that happened here, but for something that happened in Minnesota. They are attacking our heritage because of something done by someone abroad. They are attacking white people as if we were guilty collectively for racial injustice everywhere.

Morally this is equivalent of attacking British Muslims because of wars and terrorist incidents that have taken place in Syria. This is wholly unjust.

We must treat each person we meet in Britain as an individual. It matters not one little bit where he comes from, what his ethnicity is or what he believes. There are good people from everywhere and good people who follow all religions and none. We must find our common humanity rather than divide life into groups that matter and groups that don’t. We must cease to judge by what is on the surface, but what is in the heart. Only then will we judge morally.

Sunday 21 June 2020

A new Civil War

I studied for a time in New Hampshire. I found America both strange and familiar. I found Americans of all backgrounds to be extraordinarily patriotic. They treated their flag and national anthem with a reverence that I had never seen in Britain. They were sensitive about their Constitution and even their President. The heroes of American history were treated like saints. What else is the point of the George Washington story about him being unable to tell a lie? I was fascinated and studied American history in some detail.

The United States after winning its War of Independence was a divided society. It was divided between those who focussed on states’ rights and those who focussed on the country as a whole. It was divided between those states which had slavery and those which did not.

For the first decades as the USA spread westwards it muddled along through each crisis without ever resolving the fundamental divisions. Were states sovereign? Did they have the right to do what the United States itself did when it rebelled against Britain? Could a state leave the United States? South Carolina first threatened to secede in 1832, but the quarrel was smoothed over. A bargain was made about whether slavery could spread westwards and a compromise was made about Missouri. But slavery and states rights continued to divide the USA right up until 1860.

The Civil war is poorly understood in Britain. The crisis that led to war was the election of Abraham Lincoln. The 1860 presidential election saw North and South completely divided. Lincoln won ever state in the North, but none in a state that had slavery. The South used the SNP argument to demand secession.

The war was caused by both the division over states rights and slavery, but it’s immediate cause was not slavery. Lincoln did not intend to abolish slavery when he was elected, nor for that matter did he intend to abolish slavery when the war began. The Union Army’s initial war aim was to defend the territorial integrity of the United States and defeat what it saw as rebellion. If the war had been won quickly it is unlikely that slavery would have been abolished at least in the short term. Lincoln wrote

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Most Northern soldiers were likewise indifferent. It was war itself that led the North to see the abolishment of slavery as a war aim because it was viewed as a means to undermine the Confederacy.

For the first three years the North fought the war on land poorly especially in the East. The South had by far the best General in American history in Robert E Lee, two of the best cavalry commanders in J.E.B. Stuart and Nathan Bedford Forrest, plus ordinary soldiers who could usually win despite being massively outnumbered, having poorer equipment and worse food.

Lincoln looked in vain for a win until Antietam (1862) gave him a draw that he could pretend was a win. At this point he could announce the Emancipation Proclamation which freed states not where the North had control, they remained slaves there, but only in the states of the Confederacy. But it was a start and it made a difference.

The Union was saved by two men, Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Grant owned slaves while Sherman did not believe in equality for black people. They were people of their time. Most Americans North and South had racist views including Lincoln who wanted to send free slaves back to Africa.

Grant’s capture of Vicksburg on the Mississippi in 1863 was the equivalent of Midway (1942). It meant the South could no longer win. His overland campaign in 1864 showed that perseverance, stubbornness and indifference to casualties was all it ever took to beat Lee’s genius. Meanwhile Sherman marched to the sea and demonstrated what happens to secessionists by destroying everything in his path and burning the South Carolina capital of Columbia to the ground.

The Civil War is by far the most important event in American history. It killed between 600,000 and a million people. It led to decades of poverty for the South and enormous bitterness.

But the genius of America is that it was able to overcome this division. By the time of the First World War people from the South were quite willing to fight for the USA. They didn’t think of themselves as still Confederates. They were Americans and the flew the Stars and Stripes.

This was achieved because from the beginning of the surrender by Lee at Appomattox the focus of the armies was on beginning reconciliation. Grant gave Lee and his soldiers lenient terms of surrender. Even Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president, after a period of imprisonment was allowed to go free.

Since this time American culture has worked on reconciliation between North and South. Confederate heroes became American heroes. Books and films that depicted the Civil War usually did so in such a way that both people from North and South could respect each other.

This is the importance of Gone with the Wind. It was read and loved by people whose ancestors fought each other.

Black people gained their freedom after the Civil War. The original American sin of slavery had been paid by blood of those who died between 1860 and 1865, but it would take another hundred years before black people gained the civil rights that made their freedom worth having.

Black people were left out of the reconciliation process between the Union and the Confederacy, but Martin Luther King changed that. His vision of a colour-blind society touched people all over the world. His peaceful protests, inclusive language and patriotism finally meant that the words said at Appomattox “We are all Americans” applied to black people too.

But since Dr King’s death America has begun to divide again. Despite the election of a black president America has become divided in a way that it has not been since 1860.

While Martin Luther King was patriotic about America, the Black Lives Matter protesters are the heirs of Malcolm X and black nationalism. This is why they use the raised fist of the Black Power movement. This is also why they go down on one knee.

When various American sportsmen went down on one knee, they were protesting about the United States flag and national anthem. They were saying this is not mine. I will not take part. Instead of the unifying message of “We are all Americans” they were saying we are not Americans. They were secessionists. The heirs of the Confederacy.

The attack on statues in the United States is an attack on the symbols of reconciliation that created one nation indivisible under God.

By tearing down statues of flawed people who were of their time such as Washington, Jefferson, Lee and others, Black Lives Matter opens the way to tearing down all of American history until there is nothing left. It means that nothing will unite Americans until it reaches a point when they will fight.

Burning the American flag and destroying statues of Washington with whoops of joy will cause fury.

Americans atoned for slavery in the Civil War. If that atonement is not enough, then Black Lives Matter are saying a new war is needed. Sensible Americans from all races and backgrounds must say that this is not so. Identity politics will cost lives unless a new Martin Luther King arrives with a new message of unity that gives all Americans a new birth of freedom.

Saturday 20 June 2020

Scottish Lives Matter

Alex: Are you The Lives of Scots matter?

Nicola: F*** off!

Alex: What?

Nicola: Scottish Lives Matter.  

Alex: Can I... join your group?

Nicola: No. P*ss off.

Alex: I didn't want to touch elbows with anyone. I hate the British as much as anybody.

Mhairi: Are you sure?

Alex: Oh, dead sure. I hate the British already.

Nicola: Listen. If you wanted to join the SLM, you'd have to really hate the British.

Alex: I do!

Nicola: Oh, yeah? How much?

Alex: A lot!

Nicola: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the British are The Lives of Scots Matter

Mhairi: Splitters.

Nicola: And The British Lives Matter we hate them more even than The All Lives Matter

Alex: Didn’t you split from them?

Nicola: Who All Lives Matter? There are things we don't mention. Anyone who goes on about how got started in 1934 gets a Glasgow handshake from me.

Alex: So, what are we going to do to show how much Scots Lives Matter?

Nicola: There's one statue that matters. It's above all the others. We're getting in through the underground. We discovered long ago that Nelson’s column is really Nelson’s willie. We are going to use the tube in the willie to abduct Nelson. Having grabbed Nelson we inform the British that he is in our custody and forthwith issue our demands. Any questions?

Ian: What exactly are the demands?

Nicola: We're giving the Brits two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the British Imperialist State. We will abolish capitalism, British supremacy and instead establish Scottish Power and if they don't agree immediately, we execute Nelson.

Angus: Cut his head off?

Nicola: Cut all his bits off. Send 'em back on the hour every hour. Show them we're not to be trifled with.

Alex: But isn’t he missing rather a lot of his bits already?

Nicola: It just means they’ll have to hurry up and give in to our demands. And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop him up, and that we shall not submit to blackmail!

Angus: No blackmail!

Nicola: They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers' fathers.

Ian: And from our fathers', fathers, fathers, fathers.

Mhairi: And our mothers' mothers, and the transgender drag queens and lesbians who also were oppressed by the British. We must remember those whose job it was to go against the flow.

Nicola: Yeah. All right, Mhairi. Don't labour the point like a Red Tory. And what have they ever given us in return?!

Alex: The seed drill

Nicola: What?

Alex: The seed drill. It was invented by some heavy rockers with a flute.

Nicola: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.

Ian: And the railway.

Mhairi: Oh, yeah, the railway, Nicola. Remember how long it took for Scottish lives to get anywhere before that?

Nicola: Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the seed drill and the railway are two things that the British have done.

Angus: And the Radar.

Nicola: Well, yeah. Obviously the Radar. I mean, the Radar goes without saying, doesn't it? No shooting down Messerschmitts without the Radar. But apart from the seed drill, the railway, and the Radar-

Joanna:  Crop rotation

Angus: Viagra

Ian: Essential for you Angus. How else could you manage so many at once?

Mhairi: Modern nursing

Joanna: Something about a Knight in a gale if I remember correctly.

Nicola:  Were none of these Scottish? Mhairi! See. Call. Find me a Scottish nurse and a Scottish Lives Matter member if possible.

Alex:  And the vitamins

Angus: And the Haggis I read about it somewhere being invented in a place beginning with E.

Joanna: That's something we'd really miss, Nicola, if the British left.

Nicola: The Haggis. 

Joanna: No I was thinking about the Newtonian physics. Without it we'd fly of into space. 

Ian: Anaesthetic, the spinning jenny, polyester, the light switch. 

Mhairi: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, because of the Bobbies, Peelers, eh Police Nicola. Will we pull down Peel too?

Nicola: If he were only MacPeel, but without the Mac he has to go. 

Mhairi: Yeah, the Peelers certainly know how to keep order, even if they do sometimes run away and go down on one knee to us.  

Nicola: All right, but apart from the seed drill,  modern nursing, railways, vitamins, police, viagra, coronavirus bailout, unemployment benefit, jobs, furloughs making sure we don't go bust what have the British ever done for us?

Ian: Brought peace. They helped defeat the Kaiser, the Nazis and the Communists in the last century alone.

Nicola: Oh. Peace? Whisht!

Alex: What about Nelson? Shall we still pull him down and chop him up bit by bit.

Nicola:  Aye we still hate the British. But most of all I've never forgiven him about England expecting. For that alone we are going to abort him. After that we’re going to escalate the campaign. For today Scotland belongs to us, and tomorrow the world. We will conquer by  blowing up pillar boxes that don’t say Elizabeth I.  It's a sign of occupation. It means Scottish Lives don't matter and we are slaves of the English. 

That Elizabeth. She’s not the second of Scotland.