Saturday 31 October 2020

Nursing a grievance

 

There is a certain irony in Humza Yousaf planning to collectively pardon Scottish miners who were convicted during the 1984-1985 Miners’ Strike.  The SNP justice secretary has been told by a review that many of these miners would be unlikely to face prosecution today. But so too would they have been unlikely in 1984 to have faced prosecution for saying hateful things in their own homes. Thirty-five years from now will there be another collective pardon for all those Scots unjustly punished by Humza Yousaf’s new hate crime laws?

The Miners’ Strike has faded from memory into myth, but it was one of the most influential events in recent British history. It marks the hinge between post-war British decline and modern Britain. It destroyed Old Labour, the trade unions and set us on the path to the broad consensus in the mid-1990s that Britain would make money through business and the free market.



I just about remember the three-day week in 1974 and power cuts caused by striking miners. I remember trade union leaders walking into Harold Wilson’s Downing Street to tell him what to do.  The average standard of living in Britain in the 1970s was nowhere near what it is today. But the Miners’ Strike changed that.

The miners and their unions wanted to keep pits open even if they were making a loss. Margaret Thatcher realised that there was no way Britain could become a more efficient economy if people were allowed to mine even if they were digging mud. She realised too that trade unions were preventing economic growth and their power had to be curtailed.

She carefully prepared her defences against trade union action. There were stockpiles of coal. When the strike came, she was ready.

The strike was illegal. No national ballot was held. Strikers were legally allowed to picket using persuasion. It was illegal for them to block anyone going to their place of work. It was certainly illegal for them to use violence and intimidation to prevent people who disagreed with the strike from going to work. It was only legal to picket your own place of work, but miners took part in mass secondary picketing. The Miners’ Strike was the most violent industrial dispute in British history. But no one in Scotland was guilty.

There may have been some injustice. The police may at times have overreacted and used excessive force. The severity of the offences that some miners were convicted of may too have been too more than they deserved.  But all of the miners were taking part in an illegal strike and they all were using force and intimidation to prevent other workers doing their jobs. Every miner who was on a secondary picket or a mass picket blocking roads in Scotland was guilty of something. What’s more if people behaved in that way today, they would be convicted even in Scotland.

When was the last time you saw a strike started by a mass show of hands? When was the last time you saw strikers blocking road and being violent towards strike breakers? These things are like something from ancient history, because they simply don’t happen anymore. This was the victory that Margaret Thatcher won. It wasn’t just that she was able to close inefficient pits. It was that she established the principle that Government could not prop up loss making nationalised industry forever. She established the principle that strikers could persuade but could not use violence or intimidation and that they could not picket someone else’s place of work or come out on strike in sympathy. It was this that made Britain prosperous.

Every one of the soon to be pardoned Scottish miners is guilty of something. If their memories are honest, they will know this to be true. They each intimidated, were violent, blocked a road or picketed someone else’s place of work.   If the Miners’ Strike was the most violent in history how can it be that Scottish miners did nothing illegal whatsoever? If Humza Yousaf thinks that it was only the police that were violent why doesn’t he seek to convict them?

But this has nothing to do with truth or justice. This has to do with SNP mythologizing of the 1980s. Those wicked Tories closed down the pits and Ravenscraig. It’s fading from memory so let’s do something to remember it.

It is grotesque to compare striking miners in the 1980s to shell shocked First World War soldiers being shot. A soldier with a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does not commit any crime in 2020. A striker using intimidation and force to stop someone else going to work does commit an offence in 2020. It is for this reason that few if any do.

I don’t believe that the SNP want to take Scotland back to those times before 1985 when unions ran the country and mass strikes could paralyse the economy. To do so would be to make Scotland even less prepared for independence than it already is. But as always with the SNP this has nothing whatsoever to do with the past or even in righting injustice, it has everything to do with independence.

Just as Humza Yousaf’s Hate crimes bill is about appealing to one constituency so too pardoning Scottish miners has to do with appealing to another and reminding everyone else about the 1980s.

The 1980s destroyed the Conservatives in Scotland and it is difficult for us to move on, because Margaret Thatcher has become a Scottish version of Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, but what this myth doesn’t realise is that what Thatcher did was necessary and was the cause of the prosperity of modern day Scotland.

The pardoning of miners who self-evidently committed crimes during the Miners’ Strike, is cynical and hypocritical. Humza Yousaf would punish someone today who made a joke at home that he found hateful but wants to pardon those who committed crimes that would send them to jail today. This puts him not merely on the wrong side of the free speech argument that France is defending against those who would use violence to destroy it, it also puts him on the wrong side of history. What the miners did was wrong and illegal in 1984. It would be wrong and illegal now. Thank goodness they lost, or we would all still be as poor as we were then.

The failure to recognise this is what keeps Scotland in the past nursing a grievance to keep it warm.

Thursday 29 October 2020

Why does Humza Yousaf want to police what I say in private?

 

Nicola Sturgeon once said that independence transcends everything else. This is the main problem with the SNP. It also explains what might appear to be otherwise unrelated issues.

Humza Yousaf has explained that he wants to punish Scots for having insulting conversations at home. While we would retain the right to be offensive anyone stirring up hatred against various protected groups will be prosecuted. What this means is that we would no longer be allowed to speak freely in our own homes.



Let's just give an example, which is intentionally stirring up hatred against Muslims. Are we saying that that is justified because it is in the home?”

Well it depends on what he means by stirring up hatred.

Let’s say I organised a terrorist group with the goal of bombing and killing Muslims. If I gathered a group of people to carry out that goal, then clearly our conversations would be stirring up hatred. But the crimes that we would be committing are already covered by legislation. If I plan any crime at home, I am liable to get into trouble with the law.

So, if Mr Yousaf does not intend stirring up hatred to mean planning to commit crimes against Muslims what can he mean?

Mr Yousaf wrote on Twitter

If you invite 10 mates round & it can be proven beyond reasonable doubt that you intentionally stirred up hatred against Jews, why should this not be prosecuted. It would if you did so down the pub but not in your house?

Well again, if I organised a group to beat up Jews or burn down their houses this would be stirring up hatred. But this is already covered by other laws.

Let’s say I invite these 10 friends and we start making anti-Semitic remarks. Let’s say we describe Jewish people in stereotypical and offensive ways. Let’s say we single out Israel for particular hatred and blame Israelis for all the problems in the world. Is this stirring up hatred?

What if these 10 friends didn’t know any Jews and were simply expressing their ignorance and hatred? What if no Jewish person would ever come into contact with their hatred? Is that still stirring up hatred?

Well what if I organised a group of people who were hostile to the Jewish religion. Let’s say that we liked to draw cartoons of Abraham in a grossly insulting manner. Let’s say we liked to depict Adam and Eve having sex and made fun of every story from the Jewish Bible. Let’s say we denied that God existed and depicted Him in an insulting way. Let’s say we made fun of Jewish religious practices and mocked the ceremonies that took place in Jewish homes and synagogues. Would that be stirring up hatred?

It’s still hard to see how it could be stirring up hatred unless Jewish people found out about our group and its actions. I may hate you, but unless you are aware of my hate how have I harmed you?  Or does Mr Yousaf think that it is enough that I merely think hateful things or feel hatred towards someone for this to be a crime?

Well what if stage a play based on the Life of Moses. I might call it the Life of Mo. In this play I might make fun of Moses and the Jewish people who followed him. I might satirise all aspects of the Jewish religion and describe it as lies and nonsense. What if some Jewish people came to my play and found it hateful and said that I was stirring up hatred against them. Would Mr Yousaf like to put me in jail?

The danger of this is that people from the protected groups might find it hateful if for instance I suggested that it is as impossible for a man to become a woman as it is for a cow to become a bull and that if you cut off a bull’s pizzle you won’t get any milk from it. I might likewise say that my understanding of the word “marriage” precludes a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman. I might also express that I disagree with the aims of Black Lives Matter. I can imagine that certain people would find these views hateful. If so, would I be committing a crime if they found out that I had been discussing such issues in my own home?   

The problem with Mr Yousaf’s views on hate is that it is entirely unclear where the line is between being offensive and someone else finding my views so objectionable that they amount to stirring up hatred.

What is he trying to achieve?

At one point or another nearly everyone in Scotland has said something hateful in private about someone with one of Mr Yousaf’s protected qualifications. Unless he wants to turn Scotland into a jail it simply won’t be practicable to punish private conversations. But it also won’t be necessary.

Jewish people would probably not object to a play about Moses. Christians won’t mind very much if our religion is satirised. Most people in Scotland won’t mind much so long as I don’t treat them with prejudice or say horrible things to them in the street. We usually allow people the right to disagree about controversial issues and few of us would want to convict someone even if we thought his views were hateful and disgusting. This is because we come from a country that believes in freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

But not everyone in Scotland believes in freedom of speech and freedom of thought. There are some people who think that it is forbidden to change your religion and that doing so should be punished by law. There are some people who think that religious law ought to be expressed in the law of the land. There are some people too who think that their religious books and the major figures of their religious ought to be protected by the law from insult or indeed from being depicted at all. Mr Yousaf is appealing to these people. Why is he doing so. He is doing so to win their votes. He is doing so because he wants to them to vote for Scottish independence. He is suggesting to them that an independent Scotland would be a place that better fitted in with their world view and would indeed protect it. He is doing so because independence transcends everything including freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

 

 

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Is it the Government's job to feed children?

 

The present Conservative Government has spent more this year than any previous Government. The national debt has gone beyond two trillion and is now at 103.5% of GDP. The deficit, or the gap between what we spend and what we earn could reach 15% of GDP. Yet for some people it’s not enough. We want some more.

The Conservatives are apparently starving children because they won’t fund school meals during the holidays. A footballer who I had never heard of campaigned for free school meals to be extended during the summer holidays. He succeeded. But it wasn’t enough. The Government had to spend more. Now he wants the free school meals to be during other holidays.


It would be easier by far for the Government to give this footballer what he wants. What’s a few more million pounds when we are already spending so much. Why have a battle about school meals?

But if the Government gave in, would that be the end of the matter? No of course not. After a few weeks there would be a demand for still more to feed the starving millions in Britain.

I dislike rich people telling the Government to spend ever more taxpayer’s money. If my net worth was £65 million pounds, the moral thing to do would be to keep enough to live on and give all the rest to the poor. Once I had done that, I might consider I had the right to demand that other people give more to the poor, but until I had done so I would obviously be a hypocrite. Ultra-rich socialists should set the example of sharing with other people, before telling the rest of us to do so.

But is there a problem with starvation in Britain? Can anyone point to where there is famine?

There is an odd conjunction of events. On the one hand people go to the trouble to sail across the Channel or hijack a tanker in order to reach Britain, but on the other they can expect to reach famine and starvation when they arrive. Why do they do it? Which other country in the world where hunger is endemic gets so many migrants?

The truth is that Britain has a problem with obesity, not hunger. If you walk around a city centre, you will see large numbers of grossly overweight people. When did you last see someone who looked like they had experienced a famine?

The amount that someone receives in benefits in Britain is more than average earnings in some Eastern and Southern European countries. In many of these countries benefits if they exist at all are at a much lower level to here and they are temporary. But no one starves in Poland, Lithuania, Greece or Bulgaria.   

Are benefits enough in Britain so that people can avoid starvation? Well if they are not enough, why are there not more starving people wandering the streets?

I would not like to live on benefits. It is for this reason I choose to work. But the vast majority of the world’s population if given British benefits and a British supermarket could live quite easily on the amount given. The amount of vegetables, grains and pulses that can be bought in a supermarket for a tiny amount of money is extraordinary. It would be quite easy to cook the dishes that are eaten all over the world with British benefits.

There is a problem of education. Many people don’t know how to cook nutritious food cheaply. But then the issue is not money but knowledge and education.

There is a difficult balance for Government on deciding how much people on benefits should receive. If the rate is too high, then people will decide to remain on benefits indefinitely. But this will prevent them finding the work that will lift their living standards much higher than life on benefits.

Clearly benefits should be set at a level that people can live reasonably well. If that is not the case, then benefits should be increased. But it is better by far to give benefit claimants enough money to buy their own food rather than give them free meals.

The whole philosophy of giving people on benefits free meals is mistaken.  If they need free meals, why not give them free clothes and shoes too. But if you give them free meals, free clothes and supply their every other need, the logic is that you don’t give them any benefits at all. You just buy everything they need and give it them. Is this what benefit claimants want? The logic of free school meals is eventually to take away all financial responsibility from people on benefits. It is to treat them as children.

The Left uses the issue of hunger because it is emotive. This is why we have food banks and demands for free school meals. It is also why the Left uses a relative definition of poverty defining it as 60% of average earnings. This would be considered as great riches to someone from Bulgaria, so it isn’t really poverty at all. It doesn’t matter if I am relatively poor if my absolute income is enough to fund a lifestyle better than many Europeans who are working. I am relatively poor in comparison to footballers, but so what? It doesn’t mean I am really poor.

I have never seen someone suffering from starvation in Britain apart from sufferers of anorexia and old people who are not properly fed in hospitals. There are children who eat poorly because neither they nor their parents know how to buy cheap nutritious food and cook it. But this problem would not be solved by increasing benefits it would be solved by education.  Children could be taught about all the wonderful cheap dishes that people make all over the world.

The Left likes to pretend that there is a problem with starvation in Britain, because it is an emotive stick with which to beat the Conservatives. But it is obviously false. The Conservatives are already spending more than any other Government in history, but it is never enough. This is why you have to say no to the latest emotive demand. If you don’t then at some point, we will become an economy that cannot pay benefits at all.

You don’t starve when you have no benefits, you do anything to get a job, earn money and feed your family. It’s not the job of the state to feed your children. It’s your job.

 

 

 

 

Sunday 25 October 2020

The SNP school of economics

 

There's an Austrian school of economics. After Emma Harper an SNP MSP’s confusion about what a currency is, we obviously need an SNP school too.

 

1. In an independent Scotland we could make money from non-existent secret oil fields even if the price of oil can turn negative.



2. Scotland already has its own currency because we have different bank notes to England. This rather ignores the fact that while each member state has its own Euro coins this doesn’t mean they each have their own currency.

3. England won't let the Scottish cash cow goThis proves that Scotland is running a surplus rather than a deficit.

4. It's Scotland's pound.

5. We could just keep printing money. This used to be called the Weimar school of economics.

6. We could afford a Universal Basic Income while running a deficit. Why would anyone work in an independent Scotland when we could all pay each other to do nothing?

7. We want to be in a different trade bloc to our biggest trade partner. Scotland exports 56% to the other parts of the UK and imports 71% from them. Nearly everything that arrives on our shelves is driven through England. Major UK ports are in England. Sounds like a plan in the SNP school of economics. 



8. We're going to campaign for independence while demanding the Chancellor pays our wages, but we don’t intend to pay him back.

9. We're going to close the Scottish economy lock everyone down and have more tiers than England just so we will be that bit more ready for independence.

10. We're going to promote Scottish tourism by banning tourists and being nasty to those who come.

11. SNP Government predicted oil revenues of £6.8bn-£7.9bn for 2016/17 in the 2013 White Paper. In fact, they were £36 million.

12. The SNP want Scotland to have a large financial sector while using someone else’s currency. But this together with most of their customers being located in other parts of the UK would mean that Scotland’s financial sector would immediately have to leave Scotland if it became independent. The lesson of Icesave was don't put your money in a foreign bank. 

13. Scotland would have no lender of last resort. This role presently is performed by Bank of England. Scotland would not have a central bank that could create money, because it would be using the someone else’s currency. If banks went bust like in 2008, Scottish savers would lose all their money.

14. Osama Bhutta, a former aide to Alex Salmond said Scotland could create money instead of making us pay taxes. Why don’t other countries try this?

15. Using Sterling unofficially would mean the Scottish Government would have no ability to directly influence the Scottish economy. It would have no control over interest rates. Scotland would literally have no monetary policy. It would be set by the Bank of England. This is called being independent.

16. Scotland would lose seigniorage, which is the difference between the cost of producing bank notes or coins and their monetary value. The profit gained would stay in England.

17. Scottish securities (debt) would have to be bought back with someone else’s currency. Scotland would have to build up reserves of Sterling otherwise it would face running a current account deficit to buy back its debt, that is it would have to borrow to pay back debt. This is the equivalent of using one credit card to pay off another.

18. Scotland would be unable to underwrite any public expenditure because it would lack the ability to create its own money. This means that the risk of default would be much higher for Scotland than a comparable country whose currency was backed by a central bank issuing its currency. This would mean that Scotland could only borrow at very high interest rates compared to at present.

19. Scotland would not have the ability to devalue if Scottish goods or services became uncompetitive in relation to the former UK. This would put Scotland in the position of Italy or Spain in the Eurozone, which lacking the option of devaluation could only introduce austerity to regain competitiveness.

20. In a crisis such as 2008 or the present Covid crisis a country with its own currency can bail itself out by printing money. If there is a recession or a depression it can loosen monetary policy and lower interest rates in order to stimulate the economy. Scotland could do none of these things but could only borrow on the international markets at very high rates or else appeal to IMF, who would then run Scotland in exchange for a loan. This too would be called independence.

21. Joining the EU while continuing to use Sterling would probably be impossible unless the EU changed its rules. No country has joined the EU without having its own currency. Some may do so soon having unilaterally adopted the Euro. But even if Scotland could join the EU while continuing to use Sterling it would be in the hopeless situation of using the currency of a non-EU country while being inside the EU. Bank of England Sterling policy cannot possibly fit be appropriate for an EU member and a non-EU member state.

22. UK national debt is at present more than 103.5% of GDP. The last SNP plan was that Scotland would not accept a share of UK national debt but would instead pay a solidarity payment of around £5 billion a year. If parts of a country can avoid paying debt in this way, it might become embarrassingly popular. Expect Flanders and Lombardy to dump Belgian and Italian debt. The danger is that the markets would view it as a default, which would lead to still higher interest rates for Scotland. Why anyway would London agree to Scotland paying only 2.5% of GDP per year while the former UK continued to owe 103.5%? This might lead the UK to argue that the divorce should be like Czechoslovakia where both parts were successor states. Alternatively, it could lead to the UK simply refusing Scottish independence on the grounds that Scotland refused to accept its share of debts that had been used to bail out Scottish banks and pay Scottish wages.

23. The SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission in 2018 had a commitment to robust spending controls. But Covid has made the Scottish economy much weaker than it was in 2018. We can assume therefore that the spending controls would be even robuster. But this is another way of saying that Scotland would face austerity. But it was in order to avoid wicked Tory austerity that Scotland was seeking independence in the first place.

24. Andrew Wilson the author of the Growth Commission said that Scotland would emulate Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. But independence doesn’t automatically turn you into any other country. It is just as likely that it would turn Scotland into Portugal, Poland or Papua New Guinea. Perhaps nose piercing would go well with kilts. 

25. Scotland’s nominal deficit is £15 billion pounds or 7% of GDP. Like most parts of the UK including most parts of England we receive more from the UK Government than we raise in taxation. If Scotland became independent, we wouldn’t receive that money. Instead we would have to reduce our deficit by ourselves by spending less and taxing more. The EU requires a 3% deficit for new member states. So, Scotland doesn’t at the moment qualify for EU membership unless the EU changed the rules. We would need a 4% cut in order to join the EU. Alternatively, you can believe the SNP school of economics that tells you there is no deficit and there would be no cuts.

26. Scotland has most of its trade with other parts of the UK and much less with the EU. The danger is that Scottish independence will mean that we have to pay tariffs while trading with the former UK with whom we do most of are trade in order to have free trade with the EU with whom we do only a small amount of our trade. Scotland both sells to and buys more from the other parts of the UK, which is the opposite to the situation the UK faces in relation to the EU. It is for this reason that a no deal Brexit would damage the EU more than the UK, but a no deal Scexit would damage Scotland more than the UK. There is no guarantee that Scotland would have a trade deal with the UK especially if we refused to pay our debts. Do you think they would respond to this with kindness and friendship?

27. The UK’s internal market means that we can buy and sell goods freely within the UK with the same rules and regulations applying everywhere. Independence would mean that Scotland would cease to be part of the UK’s internal market. Everyone is much more likely to buy goods and services from the businesses of fellow countrymen than from foreigners. Who would buy their household insurance from Slovenia or indeed Scotland?

28. There is the possibility that if Scotland joined the EU the external border of the EU would have to be manned in order to check passports and apply tariffs. It’s hard to see how this could not damage cross border trade especially for those in the south of Scotland. Not only would trade with the former UK be slower it would be more expensive, and almost all trade would have to go through England, which could charge Scotland what it pleased for the use of its ports and roads.

29. If Scotland refused to accept its fair share of UK debts, it would obviously have no right to UK assets. It might also forfeit UK cooperation, which would be awkward as the UK runs rather a lot of services in Scotland including benefits. The lack of shared assets would hardly leave Scotland better off financially as we would have to build everything from scratch that we presently use that belongs to the UK. This would include the DVLA, the Passport Office, MI5, MI6, GCHQ, BBC, British Armed forces and everything the UK owns abroad including all our embassies.

30. The UK economy is facing its greatest challenge in three centuries. No one knows what damage it will do to long term prosperity in Scotland. In this moment of great uncertainty, it is hard to imagine an act of greater self-harm than trying to achieve independence. Most people don’t even know if they will have a job next year or what will happen to their savings. To add the uncertainty of independence is the greatest folly of them all.

 

Emma Harper is a highly qualified nurse. She is not stupid, but her contribution to the SNP school of economics like all the others shows a lack of understanding of the subject. Scottish independence supporters are not stupid. But they have been won round by an emotional argument appealing to their patriotism and sense of Scottishness. I believe independence would harm Scotland and would leave most Scots financially worse off. This is a practical argument. Scottish independence would damage everyone in the UK, but Scots most of all. You may prefer the emotional argument, but the practical argument will keep more Scots fed and clothed and warm in the years ahead. It is for that reason that it is also the only truly patriotic argument.

Friday 23 October 2020

English nationalism is fake, dishonest and unhelpful

 

The latest manifestation of “English nationalism” in Toby Young’s recent essay is the epitome of English nationalism. Mr Young by the end claims to hope that the UK remains together. English nationalism is so fake that even English nationalists don’t believe in it.

I don’t think I’ve ever met or indeed come across a serious thinker who genuinely wanted English independence. England on its own is such an odd shape and there is no obvious reason to put a border here or there. There isn’t even really an English identity that that can be distinguished from a British identity. Everything that is typically English is also typically British, except perhaps Morris dancing.



It may be for that reason that the English have been so blissfully unaware of nationalism. English people are the only ones who wear a rugby shirt with quadrants depicting all the other teams. They support all of them equally and above all support playing the game cheering on a good try or a good hit for six no matter who makes it.

Perhaps fair play and a love of losing is the defining English characteristic, playing far after all generally guarantees defeat if your opponent is willing to do anything and everything to win.

I thought that the declinism and defeatism that gripped Britain from 1945 to 1979 and had its final hurrah with Remain had been buried by Boris last year, but no.

All it takes is a for Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon to be annoying and Brexiteers like Mr Young are willing to give up on Britain and we can presume on Brexit.

If Brexit led to the breakup of the United Kingdom would it be a success or a failure? If England ended up being neither in the EU’s Single Market nor the UK’s Internal market would that benefit England? You can take splendid isolation too far old chap.

Toby Young like a number of other pretendy English nationalists doesn’t want English independence, not least because the breakup of Britain would leave them without an identity. If Britain were partitioned so would the sense of self that most English people feel. The English identity has so merged with Britain, that the loss of the Union Jack would be the equivalent of an American losing the Stars and Stripes. The English identity covers the whole of the UK in a way that the Scottish identity never did. This is why the breakup of Britain would hurt you more than you like to think. Perhaps it is for this reason that you lash out in your impotence to stop it like a toddler having a tantrum over something it can neither influence nor reach.

Mr Young thinks of England as a sugar daddy feeding the poor in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but he forgets that it isn’t England that pays anyone. England has not really existed since 1707 or perhaps 1282 when it merged with Wales. That makes England something similar to Wessex or Mercia or indeed Dál Riata, Pictland or Scotland.

Mr Young thinks that Boris Johnson rules England and that England has to be responsible financially because it lacks a sugar daddy. But Mr Young has forgotten the B part of Brexit. Boris doesn’t run England. He runs Britain. England doesn’t subsidise anyone, for the same reason that Wessex doesn’t. The UK Treasury subsidises everyone in Britain according to their need and because this is what is involved in living in a currency union that works and also in a single nation state that actually exists.

But who actually subsides whom in Britain? According to the politically impartial Office for National Statistics, London, The South East and the East of England are the only regions of the United Kingdom that made a surplus in 2019. The UK as a whole makes a loss. Every other region of Britain including six other English regions plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland made a loss. This means that more English people make a loss than the whole populations of Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland put together.

Mr Young has not minded subsidising his lower income neighbours, but those neighbours are just as likely to be other English people than anyone else. What’s more it may well be that it is Mr Young himself who is being subsidised.

The vast majority of British taxpayers take out more from the pot than we put in. Governments have been raising the tax threshold and public spending and the size of the state has grown so large that only very high earners actually contribute more in taxation more than they take out.

I understand that Mr Young lost a few jobs recently so it may be that he too doesn’t quite reach the level of contributing more than he pays in. But it wouldn’t do to be patronising about it, because that would be rude.

British debt has passed the two trillion-pound mark, but we are still allowed to borrow at very low rates. What allows us to do this? It is simply that Britain is a country that has existed for hundreds of years and we have a record of paying our debt back.

If Britain broke up into four parts, it might equally break up into more. Who is to say that London and the South East would want to subsidise the North? Or indeed that Aberdeenshire would want to subsidise the Central Belt.  But however many bits we break up into the two trillion will have to be paid for by someone. Perhaps we could play pass the parcel.

Would the markets have quite as much confidence in the ability of England to pay back its debts? Would the world respect England’s armed forces? Would England have the same standing in international bodies like the United Nations? Would it indeed be a member of the Security Council? Would Burgundy if France split up?

The idea that England would be better off financially if it could only get rid of the tiresome Scots is short sighted. Britain’s prosperity is built on the confidence of the markets and a reputation for stability. If you think this would survive the loss of Scotland and with it the loss of the United Kingdom, you have an odd understanding of stability.

Scotland and England are like too feuding prisoners joined together by handcuffs. We require the cooperation of each other even to walk forward. We might insult each other and resent the handcuffs from time to time, but we cannot do without each other.

Scotland is making a loss and to attempt to walk away after the worst financial crisis in centuries is foolhardy in the extreme to the point that it is hard to believe that some people are thinking seriously of doing so. They simply cannot possibly understand the figures or what separation would mean. Do you really want to be poorer?

But the UK too is making a loss. Most of England is making a similar loss to Scotland. Sensible English people will not fling insults at the Scots and the Welsh, not least because it undermines the unity that we all need to overcome this crisis together.

There are a few Scots like me trying to make the case for Britain. We need as much help from friends and allies as we can get. Mr Young had some fun with his essay. He got to show how angry he was with Nicola Sturgeon. But his words helped the SNP. They delight in English people saying good riddance Scotland.

If you really want to get you own back on the SNP help us defeat them by showing that British unity is stronger than Scottish separatism.

Wednesday 21 October 2020

Should the Scottish Parliament have still more powers?

 

We have learned this year that devolution is a bigger mess than we thought.  Some people in Britain have mayors without devolved parliament, others have devolved parliaments without mayors. Others still have neither a mayor nor a devolved parliament. Manchester gets to delay going into tier three lockdown because it has a mayor demanding money from the Government before it does so. But Mansfield only has its MP so has to do what it’s told.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have parliaments, but each have different powers. Northern Ireland’s parliament has power sharing, but the others do not. England doesn’t have a parliament at all. The British Government controls health, education and all of the other devolved powers only in England. But this means Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs vote on matters that affect only England, while English MPs cannot vote on those same matters when they apply to Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland.



If Labour and the SNP had formed a coalition Government after the last election, there might have been an SNP health minister telling Manchester it had to be in lockdown. But that same SNP health minister would have no say on whether Glasgow was in lockdown nor indeed over any other health matter in Scotland.

When Tony Blair’s Government introduced devolution, no one suggested it would involve the Scottish Parliament shutting the non-existent border between England and Scotland, let alone the Welsh parliament, which had only narrow support when it began, doing the same with England. If anyone had suggested such a thing it would have been dismissed as preposterous.

Now in response to some polls suggesting support for the SNP and Scottish independence increasing we have a leaked report from an organisation called Hanbury that the solution is to give Scotland still more devolution.

It is worth noting that Hanbury was set up by David Cameron’s former director of strategy. It is hard to think of someone other than Tony Blair who has done more damage to the UK than David Cameron. His strategy of giving Alex Salmond as long as he wanted to campaign for independence with a question of the SNP’s choice was what caused the surge in support for Scottish nationalism in the first place. It was the independence campaign itself that fuelled support for the SNP. If Cameron had simply said “I’m sorry Alex” the UK is one country indivisible. There would have been mutterings and some people would have said it was undemocratic, but there would not have been the surge of support for independence from 25% to 45% and now 55%.

It was Cameron and Cameron alone whose arrogance and stupidity led him to think that he could win a referendum on Scottish independence easily. He nearly didn’t win it at all. That same arrogance and stupidity meant he thought he could win a referendum on EU membership. Perhaps Hanbury guided his strategy then too.

There are really only two things that you can do to defend the UK that will work permanently.

1. You have to make clear that the whole of the UK is British territory and we will defend it like every other country in Europe defends its territory. If you keep offering referendums on secession you will eventually lose.

2. You have to make devolution to apply to every British citizen equally.

It is no good giving Scotland still more power. SNP supporters are completely uninterested in what goes on in the Scottish Parliament. The Smith Commission gave the Scottish Parliament more powers. Did this in anyway lessen support for the SNP? No. But Scottish nationalists still go on about “The Vow” being betrayed.

There is no point begging the EU not to allow Scotland to join after independence. The EU hates Britain and cannot be trusted on this issue. It might give Scotland a special deal just to spite us. Spain has solved its Catalan problem, by saying No and meaning it, so it might well be willing to accommodate Scotland.

What you need to do to deter those Scots tempted to vote for Scottish nationalism is to make absolutely clear what it would involve. This is where a Canadian style Clarity Act is crucial.

There are two sorts of secession movements. There is the sort like in Catalonia, Flanders or Lombardy where a rich region wants to secede from a poorer whole. The EU did not support Catalan independence because if Catalonia had become an EU member state with the same rights as it had before, then it would indeed have been better off than Spain as a whole. This would have set a precedent that could have been followed in other parts of Europe. The EU would have fallen apart.

The other type of secession movement is in places like Scotland and Wales, where a poor region wants to secede from a richer whole. Some Scottish nationalists think it would be worth being poorer if only we could be free from the English. Others mistakenly think that Scotland is richer than the UK as a whole. SNP propaganda is good enough to make them believe this, but they would discover the truth if Scotland became independent.

The problem then is one of communication not one of truth. Scotland really would be financially poorer if it ceased to receive the subsidy it receives from the UK treasury. Brexit would make Scotland poorer still, both financially and because as Britain will no longer be an EU member there is no guarantee that Scots would have the same rights in the former UK as we have now.

The task is to make this argument. It is true that the Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative opposition is pitiful. This is mainly because none of them are willing to use Brexit as an argument against Scottish independence because they are nearly all Remainers.  We have excellent arguments, but they are not being heard. Sort the problem of communication, which is due to the media and the lack of talented Pro UK politicians in Scotland and you will begin to convince voters. A majority of Scots will not vote to be poorer so long as they know and believe this.

If you want to give Scots new powers give it to them on a local level. Go beyond the Scottish parliament and bypass it. But above all recognise that lopsided devolution is the source of the problem and if you make devolution still more lopsided you will increase the problem in the long term rather than alleviate it.

There are people who think federalism is the solution. But Spain has federalism and it was only defeated because the Spanish Government was willing to say No and mean it. The United States Government would say the same. Would the SNP be willing to give up the goal of independence in exchange for federalism? No of course not. So how does it solve the problem?

The task is to undo the mess created by Tony Blair which was made worse by David Cameron. The ideal solution would be if Scotland had five regional parliaments each representing around a million people. The other parts of the UK could have the same. This would not merely equalise devolution across Britain so that every voter had the same power, it would also take away the national aspect of these parliaments. If you want to stop Scottish nationalism, first say No and mean it, then use local parliaments to undermine it.     

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.