Wednesday 29 December 2021

Power without responsibility


Which parts of the UK are the most prosperous? If you have travelled around Britain or even if you just read the newspapers or watch TV you get a sense of where are the best paying jobs, where are the most expensive houses and where are the fewest people on benefits. This tells you all you need to know about deficits.

There is an endless rather tiresome debate whenever I raise the issue of how much each part of the UK receives from central government versus how much it raises in taxation and other revenues. Those Welsh and Scottish nationalists who think that Wales and Scotland pay more into the Treasury than they get out, must logically believe that the people of Wales and Scotland are on average more prosperous than the UK as a whole. If that were the case then we would expect huge numbers of people migrating from England in order to get higher paid jobs in Merthyr Tydfil and Airdrie. The people who arrive in rubber dinghies would not be making their way to London, but instead to Londonderry, Lanark and Llandudno. Is that really your experience?

There are of course people in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who have better paid jobs than most in London, but anyone who knows anything about the UK will tell you that the wealthiest people with the most expensive houses and the best jobs live in London and the South East. These are the regions who make a surplus or a profit. Everywhere else makes a loss or has a deficit.

The pandemic has completely distorted the UK economy and skewed the figures, but anyone who studies the long-term economic data will realise that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland depend on UK central Government funding and have done for years.  To be fair let’s take the figures just prior to the pandemic.

England spent 0.3% more than it raised in taxes or £91 per person

Scotland spent 7%                                                 £2,543 per person

Wales spent 18%                                                  £4,412 per person.

NI spent 19%                                                        £5,118 per person


The figures are much worse now after nearly two years of pandemic, with higher public spending due to furlough and bail outs, plus people being unable to work or losing their jobs. This is why talk of Scottish independence, let alone Welsh is so idle at present. Neither could afford it without devastating the lifestyles of people living there.

This deficit situation in each part of the UK does not mean that those parts which receive more than they contribute are spongers, lazy or stupid. They merely reflect the historical and geographical conditions of post-industrial economics. The parts of the UK which used to have heavy industry at one point contributed more than their fair share, but as these industries declined so too did the standard of living and the tax revenue raised. This is a feature not just in Britain, but in parts of Europe and the USA also.

Some English nationalists use these figures to sneer at the rest of us, but the truth is that most of England likewise receives a subsidy and some parts of England in the North receive more subsidy than Scotland and almost as much as Wales and Northern Ireland. If you live outside London and its commuter belt, you have nothing to be smug about.

Historically every British citizen and each part of the UK has contributed to the pot in some way. Each area has sent soldiers to war and provided work that was necessary at that time. We would not be where we are today without Northern Ireland’s soldiers and shipbuilders, Welsh coal or Scottish steel. We are all getting what is our due because we all helped to make modern Britain. Being citizens of one country makes it normal that money is shared around.

There is in reality no such thing as English money. A French banker working for a Japanese bank in London pays taxes to the Treasury. It is not the English Treasury any more than the Government that spends the money is the Government of England. There has been in international legal terms no such thing as England for centuries. There are no English citizens any more than there are citizens of Normandy. The same goes for the rest of us. Look at your passport if you disagree.

We happen to call the parts of the UK countries, but there is only one sovereign nation state called the UK and the citizens of that state may call themselves what they please, but it doesn’t change the fact that they all have the same citizenship. It is only for this reason that we share between our fellow countrymen, for we would not do so if we were really all foreigners to each other.

Just as we accept that a wealthy farmer in Aberdeenshire pays more in taxes than he receives back in services, so too we accept on the same principle that those parts of the UK that raise more in taxes than other parts help out everyone else. This is it what it means to be citizens of the same country. If you disagree with this, then you might just as well think that rich people shouldn’t pay more in tax than poor people. It is peculiar for people on the Left to argue for redistribution between people, but to wish to cease redistribution between the parts and the people of the UK.

The UK as a whole is anyway living beyond its means. The national debt is over two trillion and the UK deficit has shot up due to the pandemic to 14.5%. None of us has anything to be smug about.

The markets are willing to lend to us at reasonable rate solely because we are a United Kingdom. We would all be worse off including England if we split apart. England has no track record of paying back debt. The UK does. The UK has both soft and hard power and an international reputation that depends entirely on our remaining united. It is not obvious that England on its own would inherit any of this.

The ability to borrow, just as the Bank of England has the ability to create money depends entirely on these actions being credible and markets believing in the fundamental strength of the UK economy. For Scottish and Welsh nationalists to argue that they could create a central bank that did just the same is to suppose that Chad could become the richest country in the world if only the Bank of Chad resorted to printing money and issuing debt. If the UK can’t be trusted to hold itself together it is unlikely any of it would be trusted to print money and issue debt at an acceptable interest rate.  

But the fiscal situation in the UK does have consequences for nationalists everywhere.

Scotland raises a similar amount per person as England in taxation. The reason we have a deficit is because of much higher public spending in Scotland. Scottish nationalists fundamentally have to accept that independence means a decrease in public spending and more taxes. To suppose that isn’t the case is to suppose that Scotland is on average as wealthy as London and the South East. But anyone who has travelled around Scotland knows this isn’t true. There is nowhere like Dundee or Greenock in the South East of England.

The concept of Welsh independence just does not add up economically, which is why most Welsh people reject it. To suppose that Wales would be better off outside the UK is to suppose that Rhyl would become Richmond by erecting an international border across the Severn Bridge. But why would that make Rhyl richer? I can’t think of any answer to that? Nor can a Welsh nationalist, except that the Bank of Wales would print money. QE works when markets trust and accept it, otherwise you get hyperinflation and eventually an economy based on barter.

Northern Ireland’s deficit typically amounts to £10 billion a year or a third of its budget. Leaving the UK and one assumes joining the Republic of Ireland would involve Irish taxes instead of British taxes funding this deficit. The exact scale of the deficit would depend on the divorce terms, but it is not credible to suppose that Northern Ireland would suddenly become profitable by joining the Republic. But it’s one thing for 65 million UK taxpayers to help Northern Ireland, it’s a quite different matter for 5 million Irish taxpayers. The Republic of Ireland would also have to take on the cost of security and dealing with any trouble that might arise from those Northern Irish people who were dissatisfied with their new citizenship, which might be nearly half of them. It’s hard therefore to see how Irish unification could be achieved without wrecking the Northern Ireland economy, which is oriented primarily towards the UK and the Republic of Ireland economy too.  

There are people in all four parts of the UK who long to leave it, but none of them can explain how ditching the other parts would leave them better off. Even English nationalists have to suppose that the process of secession would do no harm to the economic credibility of London and the South East and that it would not damage market confidence. This is unlikely at best. English nationalism anyway is no threat to the UK as England is the only part where there is no serious political party advocating either secession or joining with someone else.

The UK will remain intact until and unless the economic situation changes. Unless the SNP reduces Scotland’s deficit, we can take their threats of independence as being empty or perhaps a lever to get more money from the Treasury. This is still more the case with Wales. I don’t think that Northern Ireland’s position can change without violence, for which reason the Republic of Ireland would do well not to stir and not to meddle.

But it is untenable for the devolved parts of the UK to think that they can rely on British money to stay at home, while England works. There must be a consequence in budgetary terms if Drakeford or Sturgeon or Givan follow a different path to that set out by the Prime Minister, if that path requires funding.

If, for example, Sturgeon is right about omicron and that it requires that there are no New Year Celebrations in Scotland and various businesses are either closed or their activities curtailed, she has to take responsibility for this decision and the money to pay for it must come from her budget.

If she is wrong however and Covid cases and deaths turn out to be no worse in England than in Scotland, then those Scots who were prevented from going to football matches or celebrating New Year as they wished to, must remember this next chance they have to vote. We cannot be in a situation where Sturgeon is able to lock down the economy, but someone else picks up the bill. That is not devolution, but rather power without responsibility or cost.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

An SNP carol


Salmond was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.

But as Nicola Sturgeon woke up and saw the ghost of Alex Salmond, she wondered how it could be. The last she had heard he was still alive.  

But it wasn’t so much a vision of a future when Salmond was no more as a vision of a present that might have been.

Salmond was president. He had won the independence referendum in 2014. Now in an alternative Christmas of 2021 all of Scotland had the chance to view “Scotland’s Future” as its present.

The women who had accused Salmond of sexual assault and attempted rape never accused him of anything after the SNP’s triumph of September 2014. Nicola Sturgeon’s response to the MeToo movement was not to start an investigation into past misdeeds by former First Ministers but rather to continue to ignore whatever she saw and heard.

She like everyone else in the SNP had heard rumours of unwanted attention in the back of cars and the tendency to arrive unexpectedly in a lady’s bedroom as indeed this ghost, if it was a ghost, was demonstrating. But the cause had been more important. Winning the referendum and independence was worth whatever Salmond’s moral failings so long as he was useful. When he ceased to be useful, he could be discarded into jail if only the jury had followed the plan.

She saw the alternative Scotland she had helped create. Negotiations with the former UK had dragged on longer than expected and had been much tougher. The former UK set out to punish Scotland for leaving and the EU keen to discourage separation agreed with this tactic. Scotland ended up neither in the UK nor the EU.

The promised riches that independence would bring did not materialise. Scotland had to pay tariffs to trade with both the EU and the former UK and found that former UK consumers were less than keen to buy Scottish goods and services. Taxes in Scotland rose and public spending fell.

When the Covid pandemic struck in 2020 Scotland was unofficially using the pound which meant that it didn’t have a central bank that could print money, nor could it borrow from the markets at a reasonable rate. Instead, it had to borrow from the IMF just like Montenegro which likewise was using someone else’s currency (in this case the Euro) unofficially.

There was no furlough in Scotland during the pandemic and no support for businesses. We had to work even if it meant catching Covid and so rates of infection and death were higher in Scotland. This meant that the former UK closed the border with Scotland and English people in Hazmat suits patrolled it. This had the unfortunate consequence of making it difficult for produce to arrive in Scottish supermarkets as we continued to rely on English ports, English roads and English lorry drivers to take it here. Still, we made do with root vegetables which now at least had exclusively Scottish names.

The next night the ghost of SNP past arrived and Sturgeon saw Dreghorn in the 1970s. She was watching Scotland play the Netherlands in 1978. There was good humour and we laughed at ourselves as we went out of the World Cup. But there was pride too at going out so bravely. There was no talk of Scottish independence. Even the Sturgeon family kept their views a bit under wraps as they would be gently mocked by the neighbours who had come round to watch the match. Everyone except the Sturgeon’s felt both Scottish and British. They had pride in the team and their Scottishness, but it didn’t mean they thought themselves so very different from anyone else in Britain. Scotland was not divided politically and we hardly thought of constitutional change at all.

When the ghost of SNP present appeared, he showed Sturgeon the Scotland she had helped create. He showed her a room in a Glasgow tenement where a young woman was shooting up heroin as her baby cried itself to sleep hungry and in dirty nappies. She was taken across the sea to islands which had lost their ferry lifeline so that now a journey that had once been routine was a matter of careful planning. She was taken to a school where the standard of education was far lower than she had enjoyed in Dreghorn. She saw a little girl who might have been her and might too have had the opportunity to study to become a lawyer, but already the little girl was beginning to lose interest. The ghost of SNP present pointed out what Sturgeon had neglected during the years of being in charge of Scotland.  

When the ghost of SNP yet to come appeared Sturgeon saw a grave with her name on it. She did not know how far in the future she was seeing, but it seemed rather neglected. She saw how disliked she was by those who had opposed Scottish independence. Even her former supporters had tired of her continual pretending that next year there would be a referendum.

She is granted the ability to look back on her whole life and to see what she has achieved. She sees a Scotland that is worse than when she became First Minister, perhaps worse than when she was born.

Desperate now Sturgeon asks the ghost of SNP yet to come

“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?”

She is assured that the future is not yet determined and that she can change.

Nicola Sturgeon wakes up and looks at the pile of novels that has been carefully designed to appeal to focus groups. She sees it as a metaphor for everything else that is fake in her life. She sees the carefully constructed image. The hidden inner circle of the SNP playing with independence supporters as if they were puppets. She admits that however much she would like Scottish independence, we cannot afford it right now and that it would harm the standard of living of ordinary Scots to attempt it anytime soon after the pandemic.

Sturgeon tells the Scottish Parliament that the SNP while seeing independence as a long-term goal, will focus instead on the Scottish economy, reducing the deficit and healing the division both within Scotland and the UK generally so that we all work together to make a better future for everyone.

Freed from anxiety about imminent secession the Scottish economy improves to the extent that we actually could afford independence, but by that point we accept that being Scottish has been the same as being British for many centuries and see no need for separation to express our Scottishness.

Friday 24 December 2021

What say the augurers?


Boris: What say the augurers?

Professor Neil Ferguson: They would not have you to stir forth to-day. Plucking the entrails of an offering forth, they could not find a heart within the beast.

We think, of course, that science has rather progressed since the time of Julius Caesar. We no longer rely on priests to predict the future by means of studying the flight of birds or by slaughtering animals and rummaging around in their entrails. Science has triumphed over religion to the extent that the belief in the truth of Christianity is in inverse proportion to the amount of Christmas lights decorating the outside of a person’s home. We may still be culturally Christian, but few indeed believe the literal truth of the Christmas story. ln Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire miracles hardly ever happen.

Our lifestyle and the progress that has made our lives so much more pleasant and longer lasting than previous centuries is undoubtedly due to the scientific discoveries on which we rely without question. We don’t question the science of aeroplanes nor generally of medicine. We do not think that Television sets will send out dangerous rays that will kill us, nor on going to the doctor and being told to take these pills for a couple of weeks do we search the Internet to look up all the possible side effects. Scientists today are as respected as Caesar respected the augurs.

Some scientists have had an extremely good pandemic. Those doctors who devised new techniques to treat Covid have undoubtedly saved huge numbers of lives. Those scientists who created vaccines in record time have doubtless saved still more. Without them we would have been able to delay Covid by means of lockdown and social distancing, but eventually we would have had to face it without any protection at all. It would have killed far more of us.

But while these scientists have had a good pandemic, those who have attempted to predict the future by means of epidemiologic modelling have done no better and sometimes worse than those who attempted to tell Caesar what would happen by means of chicken entrails.

There are different sorts of science and our government has not done enough to distinguish between them. While we accept that economists have a certain expertise and that there are economic principles that are useful in understanding how economies work, we also recognise that economists cannot predict with certainty which stocks will rise tomorrow and which will fall. They cannot tell exactly on which date the stock market will crash nor indeed whether Brexit will be advantageous economically for Britain or disadvantageous.

The modelling that George Osborne and friends used to predict disaster if voters dared to vote to leave the EU turned out to be no more accurate than the modelling that Professor Neil Ferguson and the rest of the SAGE experts used to predict the various waves of Covid. Of course, they claim not to be predicting at all, which is a nice get out clause for augurs. If we tell you not to step forth Julius and you get murdered in your bed, don’t blame us. If modelling doesn’t predict the future, why is it used by government to inform policy any more than chicken entrails?

It is clear by now that the epidemiologic modellers have very limited power to predict what will happen with Covid. Sometimes they have said if you open up Covid will rise and lots of people will die, but the opposite occurs. At this point the scientific method ought to discard this method of attempting to explain the world. But it doesn’t. SAGE is still full of such modellers. They still publish respected articles in prestigious journals. Government still listens and the public is expected to obey.

The problem in universities at the moment is that large numbers of academics are teaching nonsense. Men can become women. Critical race theory. Culloden has an important connection to slavery. All of these experts are held up by each other. They peer review each other’s papers. No one dares point out the lack of clothing on the emperor. It is as if we are caught in the age of phrenology. Will the future look at us and laugh that we could have believed such things?

There is a limit to human knowledge. We cannot predict the future. No one guessed that in March 2020 we would have Lockdown and a pandemic that would last into 2022. Even in January and February of that year we were still going on holiday and reading reports of an illness in China with minimal concern. The modellers of SAGE did not tell us to close the borders weeks before Lockdown. They initially told us that masks were useless and then without any real experimental evidence they told us we must wear them. They told us to wash our hands, but later pointed out that Covid was air borne.  

It is not that these people are charlatans. But they do think that they know more than they do. If there is one fault with scientists it is their certainty that science is the only way to arrive at truth and that no truth can hide from science. It is this that turned Christmas into the gaudy spectacle of lights and trees and excess consumption.

The Archbishop of Canterbury knows that he lives in a secular country, for which reason he comes across as bossy little Lib Dem councillor. Jesus would not have needed a vaccine, because if he caught Covid he could have cured himself just as he cured a man with leprosy and if he had died it would not have mattered because he would have risen again on the third day.

The Christmas story approaches the limit of our understanding, because it deals with miracles. Everything that is important about Christianity is miraculous. A virgin birth. Water turns into wine. Some loaves and fishes feed five thousand. God becomes man, dies and rises again. Without the miracles you have nothing and you certainly wouldn’t be celebrating it two thousand years later. Odd then that we do. The Church rather hides the miraculous in favour of the left-wing lectures and wonders why it declines.

But we reach the limit of our understanding every day when we face the future. None of us know what will happen with Covid next year. It will I think fizzle out into milder versions until it is just like every other coronavirus floating around. But I don’t know that. There might be a new more deadly variant that kills every animal except amoebas. The Greens would naturally be delighted as the planet would be saved from the fossil fuel burners. But saved for whom?

We face the limit of our understanding each moment when we choose and exercise our free will and when we sense ourselves as not being material objects, but rather something quite different. When we judge an action to be moral or immoral, we likewise implicitly think of it as free and not caused by a sequence of material causes. But each choice then becomes a minor miracle for science cannot really explain it. Science only deals with the physical and every cause is mechanistic. For which reason it never quite grasps humanity.

Ceasar’s augurs were right. He should not have stepped forth that day. He should have stayed in Lockdown. But they didn’t really know what was going to happen and nor does Professor Ferguson. Human beings are not to be corralled by Ferguson’s models, because we are free and each of us is miraculous. Science can no more grasp the miracle in each of us than it can predict with certainty how people will react to a mutant variant and how many of them will get sick.

Human beings are complex, free moral beings. We are not determined and we will resist those who try to control us. We face the limits of our understanding each moment for none of us can guess what will happen tomorrow let alone next year. Covid reminded us of this. It’s why we need faith and hope to face that future.

That is the message of Christmas. It is a message that we have lost somewhere amongst the paper wrapping and the tinsel. Look inside and you will find something miraculous that you might just have overlooked. It is the eternal in time.

Have a very Happy Christmas and let us all hope for better times ahead.



Monday 20 December 2021

Scottish nationalism is not truth


There is a difference between how we judge the taste of carrots and how we judge the effectiveness of face masks, the likelihood of Covid spreading and the performance of the economy. The statement “carrots taste great” can be both true if I say it and false if you say it. It is a matter of taste. It is subjective. But there is an objective truth about face masks, the spread of Covid and how well or badly the economy is doing. It may be difficult or sometimes impossible to know this truth, but it is there anyway. It is surprising therefore that opinions are so wildly divergent about these issues. It is as if one half of the population insisted that grass was in fact red and that everyone else was stupid, lying or trying to deceive everyone else.

Everything I have read and my whole understanding of economics tells me that at present Scotland spends more than we earn. Public spending is higher in Scotland than much of the other parts of the UK. This is not least because Scotland is sparsely populated and it costs more to employ doctors and teachers in the Highlands than in London.

It wasn’t always so. The northern parts of Britain, including Scotland were more industrialised than the southern parts and were the engine of the economy for centuries. If the majority of North Sea oil were considered to come from Scotland, then in the 1970s and 80s, it may well have been the case that Scotland contributed considerably more to the UK economy than we received. This demonstrates quite ably how pooling and sharing in a country ought to work.

We each contribute whether in terms of soldiers fighting wars or miners digging coal. Sometimes we contribute more, sometimes less, but because we are all working together, we can expect help in lean times, just as we may need to be generous if we’re doing a bit better than someone else. We do this because we are one people living in one country. It’s what enables us to have a single currency and a tax and welfare system that covers the whole population.

Scottish nationalism is selfish. Its essence is that we don’t want to share with the other parts of Britain, because they are not Scottish.  We owe them nothing.

The SNP Government’s own figures show that Scotland is running a nominal deficit. We spend more than we earn through taxation. But of course, Scotland does not run out of money because the difference between what we earn and spend is made up by the Treasury.

But if that is the case then the Scottish nationalist argument that we send our taxes to London and we only get back what we paid in is false. We get back not only what we paid in, but more too. If that were not the case then we would not be running this nominal deficit. To deny this deficit is the equivalent of denying that there is an illness called Covid and that it has all been made up to make Bill Gates rich.

If Scotland were independent this nominal deficit would become an actual deficit. It would have to be financed through debt. Of course, Scotland could borrow just like every other country. But the markets would charge an interest rate on that debt dependent on whether they think it would be paid back. The problem an independent Scotland would have is that initially at least it would be borrowing in a foreign currency (pounds sterling). It would not be able to print that currency or use its central bank, if it had one, to create money (QE). The markets would also worry that in time Scotland might have to start its own currency, which might involve devaluation and then join the Euro which might again mean devaluation. This would make borrowing expensive because the markets would not be sure that they would get the full value of the money lent to Scotland.

The present situation is that the money Scotland receives from the Treasury does not have to be paid back. Instead of paying back to the markets at an exorbitant rate of interest we don’t have to pay back what we get from the Treasury at all. The SNP thinks this is worse, which is an odd understanding of the word “worse”.

But there is a bargain still in being part of the same country. If in the future the Scottish economy is doing better than the other parts of the UK, we cannot morally say “We’re off then.”  We have obligations to our fellow countrymen in the future because we have received their help in the past.

The idea that is commonplace among some Scottish nationalists that Scotland in fact pays more into the UK than we get out, that we in fact receive no subsidy from the Treasury and just get back what we pay in from taxes, is to treat economics as if it were eating carrots. Because I want Scottish independence my opinion about the economic situation in Scotland is a matter of taste rather than a matter of fact.

This way of thinking is becoming ever more commonplace in the world and accounts for the extraordinary divergence of opinion about for example what a man and a woman are. The difference between generations is such that to people like J.K. Rowling it is obvious that the difference is objective, while to people like the young actors she discovered for the Harry Potter films, it is subjective.

It is perfectly possible to treat the Scottish economy as a matter of subjectivity, just as it is perfectly possible to treat being a man or a woman as similar to eating carrots, the problem is that reality is rather likely to intrude at some point in the shape of a carrot.

If we insist that being a man or a woman is not a matter of objective anatomy (carrots), but rather a matter of subjective taste, we are going to be confronted with “women” who are objectively not like other women. It is this that puts male anatomy in women’s changing rooms in Markies and it is this that leads “women” swimmers being able to perform at the same level as men swimmers and lap all the other women.

By all means treat the Scottish economy as a matter of subjectivity, but it is the equivalent of putting “women” with male genitalia into a women’s prison. Don’t be surprised when you get “f*cked” and there are some unwanted pregnancies a few months later.

The Scottish economy is not a matter of opinion. Its nature is matter of complex fact. If you think that it is a matter of taste then you are likely to end up with a diet consisting of oatmeal, neaps and carrots. These things grow quite well in Scotland.

Not being able to see a deficit when it’s the largest in Europe is like not being able to see a c*ck when it’s the largest in the women’s prison and growing by the second. You are about to discover whether women can be rapists.

Scottish nationalism (subjectivity) is not true just because you believe it to be. You might as well think Sturgeon is wearing a green coat. 

Friday 17 December 2021

Sturgeon is the hypocrite


So, we are back in a sort of semi lockdown. You can argue if you like about whether it is necessary. You can also complain about parties that happened a year ago and pretend that it matters. I broke lockdown rules, when I thought it was safe to do so. Everyone did. But doesn’t it feel good to point out someone else’s hypocrisy while not noticing our own.

I am completely uninterested in by-election results, which have no long-term significance. I have no idea whether Omicron will prove to be more or less serious than previous mutations. I no longer argue about vaccines as the debate is toxic. I’m happy for you not to have one if you think the risk of vaccination is greater than the risk of Covid, but I really don’t want to hear your reasoning, just as you are uninterested in mine.

I will avoid other people as much as possible for the next few weeks and I’m frankly delighted to be working from home again as it saves me about four hours a day. But I’m fortunate. I don’t manage a pub or a restaurant or a small business that is now deserted.

The only thing that Boris can reasonably do in the face of Omicron is to speed up vaccination, which he is doing, encourage people to be sensible over Christmas and to keep the economy going. If you think that parties in Downing Street a year ago are more important than this or indeed that it would have been better if only Labour had won the last election, then by all means vote for someone else in North Shropshire, but it is no more than an angry gesture from voters who need to calm down.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford want more money. People who can’t work need furlough. Pubs and restaurants need to be bailed out. But implicitly in asking for more, both of them are saying that we can’t manage on our own. But there is something peculiarly inconsistent about Sturgeon in particular demanding more money from the Treasury. She still officially plans to hold an independence referendum next year. The SNP have argued that an independent Scotland would have no responsibility for the UK’s national debt. It might pay back only the interest, or it might not pay back any debt at all. But this is rather like going to the bank for a loan while admitting that you don’t intend to pay it back.

Taxation is partially devolved. The Scottish Government can raise or lower income tax. Unfortunately, recent SNP tax rises have been remarkably ineffective at actually raising revenue amounting to a mere £6 million. The SNP’s lack of understanding of basic economics means that it doesn’t grasp that lowering taxes is the way to grow the economy, which ultimately brings in more revenue. Some Tories need to be reminded of this too by a nocturnal visit from the ghost of Thatcher past.

But the more important point is that either Scotland does not need revenue from the Treasury, in which case why does the SNP continually ask for it, or Scotland does need money from the Treasury, in which case why is the SNP planning to give it up next year?

I’m quite sure at the start of the pandemic that Nicola Sturgeon could have gone on TV to say actually Mr Sunak Scotland is quite self-sufficient. We raise more in taxes than we spend. So, let’s make a deal. We’ll keep all the money we raise in Scotland and you keep your furlough. Later she could have said that we don’t need the vaccines that the UK ordered, we’ll manage fine on our own. Put like that it seems a bit ridiculous, but that is exactly what the SNP are saying they want to do next year.

Now it could be that magically being independent would give Scotland the means to raise enough money to make up for the loss of Treasury funding, but it is entirely unclear where that money would come from. An independent Scotland would not be able to borrow as cheaply as the Bank of England. The idea that the EU would rescue the encircled Scottish homesteaders, ignores the fact that the Euro is again showing signs of trouble and that the EU anyway gives loans with strings attached and the loans have to be paid back.

The money that has so far bailed out Wales and Scotland ultimately has to be paid back. The reason that the Treasury can still borrow is that the markets trust that it will be paid back. There may come a point when it is no longer possible to borrow at a reasonable rate. Imagine if the pandemic lasted for ten years, at some point the Government would have to say, I’m sorry you are all going to have to take your chances, because we can’t afford to keep you at home. That point is not yet.  But we will still need to pay back the debt gradually over the coming generations.

The reason that Government funding is spread evenly throughout the UK where it is needed is that we are one people who share one country. This is why money paid in tax by a city banker goes to a crofter in the Outer Hebrides. If we were really four nations as Sturgeon and Drakeford think, then why should a Londoner pay for furlough in Swansea or Stranraer? This is the problem with Mr Drakeford doing his broadcast in a language no one in the rest of Britain understands or Sturgeon refusing to display a Union Flag in Scotland. It says to people who are not Scottish or Welsh, why should we bail you out?

When I got my booster, I was asked if I were white British or white Scottish. I thought the question absurd because I am both. But those who think they are exclusively Scottish and who want to have an independence referendum next year, must think that they have no more in common with people from the other parts of the UK than our common humanity. If to be a Scot is the equivalent of being French, then other British citizens owe us no more than they owe the French. But we don’t get any grants or furlough from M. Macron. If on the other hand every citizen of the UK forms part of one people, then why do we talk of four nations and why do people like Sturgeon wish to split it up?

Either you think that Scotland can manage on its own, in which case why do you continually demand UK funding that you would cease to get after independence, or you recognise that everyone in Britain depends on everyone else, in which case you have admitted that separation is folly.

It was a mistake for Downing Street to organise parties a year ago, but it is far worse hypocrisy to demand money you don’t intent to pay back.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

The SNP have perverted Scotland


I grew up in a part of North East Scotland that was still politically Conservative. But more important it was morally conservative. In those parts of rural Aberdeenshire that were too far to easily commute into Aberdeen we spoke Doric as our everyday language with friends and in the shops. There was a whole vocabulary of farming language for which I don’t know the English equivalent. There was something direct and plain about these words and the people who spoke them. The idea that a quine [girl] could rape a loon [boy] never even occurred to us.

Church going was already in decline when I was young. Sometimes a place that was called a village, but was merely a few scattered houses would have a church the whole population of the surrounding area could easily fit in, but it stayed empty apart from funerals. The sort of survey that the SNP wants to ask school children would have been met with a mixture of bafflement and embarrassment by adults in those days let alone those of us at the school.

We giggled in first year science as we flicked through the book to the sex section. It involved stylised anatomical drawings that explained the differences between men and women and how they reproduced. We learned about the biology of human beings in exactly the same way as we learned about the biology of rabbits.

We were taught nothing else. There was nothing about homosexuality, nothing whatsoever about sexual practices or positions beyond the most obvious. The idea of anal or oral sex didn’t even occur to me as a child. There were childish insults relating to homosexuality, but we were all rather vague about what it might involve. The idea that a mannie might become a wifie was equally beyond our idea of the possible, it would be like thinking a coo could become a ewe.

Farming and fishing are grounded in reality. You have to know the soil and the weather and which crops will work this year. You have to know the sea and your boat and where it is safe and profitable to fish. There is no room in such an environment for words to self-defined. There can be none of the vagueness of thought that could allow you to wonder what a man or a woman is and what makes them what they are. If common sense were allowed to depart so much as to think that women could rape women, how could you make a living in such a harsh environment of strong winds and rain continually blowing in from the sea. The soil was good, but only because of a battle won over centuries against the rocks by people who were made by the landscape and spoke directly or not at all.

There were two or three girls I vaguely knew who got pregnant when I was at school. They had been going out with older lads with cars. But teenage life for most of us was quite innocent. There might be a puff on a cigarette a snog at a disco, but usually nothing more at least until university. We would have been insulted by the SNP’s questions if we had known the words.

Something odd has happened to Scotland in the past 30 years. It makes my childhood appear out of the mist as if it were Victorian times and I am one of those girls with ringlets peering from an old photograph. But it’s not that long ago. We had television, we had video recorders, we even had primitive computers. But it might as well have been that we were driving horse drawn carriages.

I knew one or two girls who had sex when they were sixteen or seventeen and still at school, but it was enough of an adventure to manage that, without trying anything more exotic. The suggestion of any other orifice would have been met with bemusement and then disgust. The request to send a naked picture would have simply been refused with indignation and indeed horror.

Either it is necessary to ask school children today about their drug use and advanced sexual practices, in which case I want to ask what sort of society has the SNP created where such things have become the norm, or it is unnecessary in which case why is the SNP trying to corrupt minors?

It is still illegal for children to have sex when they are under sixteen even with each other. It is still illegal even for them to buy cigarettes let alone cocaine and heroin. But it is as if the SNP simply accepts that such illegality happens, that nothing can be done about it and so we must have a survey along the lines of “what is your favourite colour?”, “what is your favourite book?”, “what is your favourite sexual position?”, “what is your favourite way to get drunk/high?”

The SNP is creating a new normal in Scotland. It is a world where women can rape other women, where a sword can redefine itself as a sheath even though it still has the means to penetrate and we are not supposed to notice any difference between swords and sheaths. If the police are unable to tell the difference they are going to struggle with knife crime let alone rape. After all, how are you supposed to catch a suspect if a witness describes the person fleeing from the scene as a man, only for that man to define himself as a woman. It wasn’t me I’m a woman. Welcome to a Scotland where everyone has an alibi.

Everyone I grew up with would look at this world where lesbians can rape each other with swords unsheathed and children have anal sex while high on drugs with incomprehension. This is not the Scotland we knew. A government that created such a Scotland we would have considered to be full of perverts, weirdos and strangers to everything we valued and held dear.  

In those days no one much thought about Scottish independence. The few SNP odd bods and obsessives were safely ignored because they could do no harm. But my younger self looks forward to the harm they have done and a Scotland she can scarcely recognise.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

His white privilege


White privilege comes in many forms.  You have the privilege of your mother leaving your father for another man and then being convicted of killing this new lover. You have the privilege of your new step mother having four children with three different men, but she doesn’t care for any of them and least of all does she care for you. You have the privilege of being forced to stand for hours on end, while everyone else eats ice cream. Finally, you have the privilege of being forced to eat salt until it kills you.

Last year as social workers up and down the country went on white privilege courses where they were taught how to identify the privileges they had because of their white skin, they found themselves less and less able to identify the signs of abuse and neglect that were all around them and which would in one instance lead to a little boy being tortured and then murdered.

Parliament is outraged. Something must be done. But we have been through all this so often. There is a long list of vaguely remembered names that we were all once outraged about. But nothing changed. Next year or the year after there will be another name, another death that might have been prevented, but wasn’t because of yet another woke course that causes social workers to close their eyes to the real problem.

It isn’t accidental that social workers miss abuse. We will go through a ritual of a public inquiry. It will recommend new training courses, new safeguards, better this and better that. But nothing will change until you eradicate an ideology that views everything through identity politics and thinks that there is a hierarchy of victims.

There was a time when the local district nurse would visit the homes of children and be judgemental about the parents and the home environment. Was the house clean and tidy? What sort of food was in the cupboard? Did the father have a steady job? Were there signs of immorality? If it was obvious that the child was from a good family, there was no need to check back very often. If the parents had bad habits and a history of petty crime, they had to be watched closely. But now we mustn’t be judgemental.

The Scottish Government tells us that we mustn’t call drug users addicts, because that would be judgemental. Instead, we are supposed to say that drug users are unwell. When social workers go into a drug user’s house, they are not going to be judgemental if it is filthy with drug paraphernalia lying about and a child in unclean nappies annoying its mother with its crying. Above all don’t call the mother an addict, what matters is the feelings of the drug user and the hurtful words we use.

The route through college or university is now a woke obstacle course. You are not going to pass your social work course if you question identity politics too closely. There are victims and villains. At the peak of villainy are rich white men who vote Tory. Various characteristics give you a degree of victimhood. White people can be victims if they are poor single mothers with multiple children from different fathers, even if they also obviously have an inherent white privilege which they can no more change than a leopard can change its spots.

It means that the authorities will treat the case of a poor white girl complaining of being raped differently according to who she is accusing.  She might even be called racist if she accuses a gang of men from the wrong ethnicity. But just as identity politics caused the crimes of such men to be ignored, so too it causes other forms of child abuse to be ignored and for the same reason.

It isn’t merely that social workers waste their time going on woke courses rather than courses that would teach them to identify child abuse. No one really needs a course to tell that a child has bruises or is distressed or undernourished. The problem is that the basic common sense that we grow up with that would immediately identify abuse is distorted by the woke courses. Instead of judging impartially and objectively we see through a prism of identity that sees more harm if it comes from a nice middle-class family with good jobs, than if it comes from the home of the underprivileged.

If Arthur Labinjo-Hughes had a father working in the city and a step mother working as an engineer then a mere fraction of the signs of abuse that were present would have been enough for the case to have been investigated thoroughly. It was his misfortune to be living in a family somewhere near the bottom of the heap. It was for this reason that social workers felt they couldn’t be just too judgemental about his parents. If he had been a little black boy his “black privilege” would have made it still more likely that the social workers would cut his parents some slack. After all we mustn’t judge the parenting skills of the poor and downtrodden. And if the little boy died, we could still feel warm about the fact that his black life mattered.

Woke politics must be taken out of social work, or else nothing will change. It’s not merely that the obsession with identity politics is a waste of time. Worse it teaches students to lose their common sense. If you can believe that a father can give birth, you can also believe that a battered child is loved by his parents. Worse still you are conditioned to excuse the inexcusable because the parent is poor, or black or drug addict, while condemning the rest of us for the white privilege of owning the slaves which our ancestors fought to abolish.

Thursday 2 December 2021

What’s the real level of support for Scotland leaving the UK?


What’s the real level of support for Scottish independence? We don’t know. What’s the real level of support for Scottish separation? This might be a different number, but we still don’t know it. What’s the real level of support for Scotland leaving the UK rather than remaining in the UK? This would probably be a different number again. But we have no way of knowing exactly what it is. All we can do is estimate.

The only time we knew the number was when we had a referendum in 2014. Since then, we have had various elections and perhaps hundreds of opinion polls, but none of these tell us what the real level of support for independence is.

Some people vote for the SNP though they prefer the UK to remain intact. I find this rather odd, or at least risky. We had the referendum in 2014 because the SNP won an election in 2011. The same might happen again one day if the SNP keeps winning elections. On the other hand, continually threatening independence is about the best strategy you could come up with if you wanted the British Government to keep increasing its funding for Scotland.

If the SNP were seeking a way to to maximise what Scotland got from the UK while never actually leaving, their strategy would be exactly what it is at present.

I have never been one of those who thinks Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t actually want independence. She does. So do the vast majority of SNP voters. But what they want involves a contradiction. They want those aspects of being in the UK, which they like, to continue, but for us to be politically independent. M. Barnier would call it cakeism.

Scotland has a standard of living and a sense of security because we know that we can rely on the welfare state, the rule of law and the various institutions that are familiar, reliable and dependable. At a certain age we will get a state pension. If a bank goes bust, we won’t lose all our savings, but will get at least some of it back from the Government. If there is another lockdown because of Omicron we will probably still get furlough.

Every single independence supporter believes that all of the familiar things we have from living in the UK including spending pounds would continue after independence. Some of them no doubt would or Scotland would get something similar.

But if you go abroad, you quickly realise that nearly everything that makes, for instance, France what it is, the rules and regulations, the standard of living, the healthcare, is due to the French state. Obviously the same goes for the UK.

A newly independent Scotland would be able to replicate much of what we had before, but it would not be the same, because we would be living in a new state. Much of what we took for granted previously about life including our standard of living and our healthcare would now suddenly depend on this new independent Scotland, which wouldn’t at all be the same as our familiar Scotland which has been part of the UK for centuries.

If there were a new Covid crisis, there would be no furlough from the Treasury. If my bank went bust and the Scottish Government lacked the funds to bail it out, I would lose all my money.

The NHS would be no more. The N in National Health service refers to the whole of the UK even if the parts of the NHS have always been devolved. It is for this reason that we can get free treatment anywhere. The same goes for every other part of the welfare state. We would be leaving the British welfare state and we would have to replicate it in Scotland. It wouldn’t be what we have now. It would be something quite new. It might be better, or it might be worse, but we would no longer be able to depend on what we depend on today. It would be like getting a new insurance provider, that has never provided cover before.

There is also no guarantee that I have access to someone else’s health or welfare system when I move abroad or indeed if I choose to create a new state that becomes abroad. The former UK might choose to offer us reciprocal treatment and benefits, but that would be up to them.

It’s easy to be optimistic about Scottish independence when we all know that there won’t be a vote on it any time soon and when the arguments for and against have not even been tested by debate. But I think rather a lot of independence supporters want it in theory, but not quite in practice if it might involve a hit to their standard of living.

So, what is the real level of support for independence? It depends on what question you ask. None of us have any idea what question would be used if there were ever to be a second referendum. Opinion pollsters seem quite sure that it would be the same as the last one. But the politics are quite different now. The British Government doesn’t want to give one at all and has said No at least twice. For the Scottish Government to get its referendum it would have to compromise. The question is one obvious place to begin.

So, there might be no Yes movement. It could instead be a Leave movement. It could even have to be a separatist movement.

We have no idea when there might be a repeat of 2014. The SNP’s best chance is to end up in some sort of coalition with Labour after the next election. But winning a referendum with Labour in power would be much harder than winning one with the wicked Tories in power. It would take away the SNP’s main argument and reason for voting for independence in the first place, i.e., to avoid being ruled by Tories.

So, what is the significance of going from a six point No lead last week to a 9 point Yes lead this? Nothing much.

Did anything happen this week to suggest that public opinion on Scottish independence has changed radically. Did we for instance discover a new gold mine? Did we invent a teletrasnsporter which means we no longer need to rely on building ferries? Did Scotland win the world cup?

Such a large swing might just about happen in a General Election campaign if we discovered that Boris Johnson had been caught in flagrante with a cockerel after eating his children. In Scotland we would not expect such a swing even if we discovered that Nicola Sturgeon was having a lesbian affair with Alex Salmond who was in a fact a woman dressed up as man and that the whole scandal last year was an attempt to cover it up. Even then the average SNP voter would forgive them the deception pointing out that at least in Scotland we didn’t sleep with cockerels nor did we eat our children.

No one in Scotland has the least idea what Scottish independence would involve, because the last time we had a campaign about it was in 2014. It’s only when public opinion is tested by debate and by going into a ballot box to mark a cross that people begin to think seriously about the issues. At the moment we don’t even know the question, let alone the answer, which is why opinions fluctuate like leaves blowing in a gale.

Friday 26 November 2021

The Great Sturgeon

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Sturgeon's wonder when she first picked out the green light at the end of Covid's dock.

Her popularity was rising as the disease spread throughout Scotland. But we at least had a deliverer who could save us all from this sickness. We could be comforted by her daily televangelism. Her prophecy that the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped was finally coming to pass. The most stubborn former No voter was either dead in a care home, or else converted to the cause. Even Tories were saying we could not survive without Nicola. Her daily TV appearances killed all known viruses remotely just by zapping them with a flick of her prompter. When Covid was over there would be the green light for a second independence referendum and the result by that stage would be inevitable.

Her dream must have seemed so close that she could hardly fail to grasp it.

2020 must have seemed a good year for Scottish nationalism. There had been great hopes before about Brexit. Angry Scottish Remainers would surely prefer the EU to the UK. Yet somehow it never quite happened. Sturgeon lost 21 seats at the 2017 General Election. But now finally the issue that would get her to the promised land had arrived. Of course, she hated having to be on TV every day, just as she loathed taking selfies with Greta Thurnberg and a can of Irn Bru. Still there was a moment as her popularity climbed and as support for independence gained a 13% lead that she saw herself as unstoppable.

She could hardly fail to grasp the dagger that would kill the United Kingdom. “Come, let me clutch thee” said Sturgeon “I have thee not, and yet I see thee still”.

Something happened last winter and it became clearer still as we moved into the second year of the pandemic. All of Sturgeon’s TV appearances, all of her little rules and regulations and Scottish versions of British guidance made zero difference. If there had been no devolution at all and we’d all just done the same in each part of the UK, it would have made minimal difference.

I remember how we treated Covid like the Olympics. Germany was doing better than Britain. It must have been because of all their extra efficient hospitals. Now they are in lockdown. Sturgeon too saw her task as simply doing better than England. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the disease-ridden English spreading it to Scotland, we wouldn’t have had any cases at all.

I remember how Sturgeon had an elimination strategy in the summer of 2020 and promised us that if we only did what we were told she would eradicate Covid. Even Australia and New Zealand haven’t managed that. With Covid spreading this summer in Scotland at a higher rate than anywhere else in Britain, Sturgeon looked merely foolish as if she were trying to abolish the common cold.

She did not know that it was already behind her, somewhere back in that vast obscurity of SNP plans, where the dark fields of Ravenscraig rolled on under the night.

Brexit changed everything firstly on the surface and then fundamentally. It helped the SNP initially, but this was merely an illusion as if some unkind fate were playing tricks on Scottish nationalist hopes, like one of those stories where you are given your heart’s desire, but the price is something dreadful. It must have seemed so close.

Brexit briefly increased support for the SNP because Remainer Scots were angry, but in time we all gradually began to realise that it was going to make it much harder for independence if England was outside the EU while Scotland was inside. It put Scotland back to a world we hadn’t inhabited since the Middle Ages and went against the whole course of history where we gradually became closer to the neighbours on our small island. The SNP have never come up with a convincing answer to how practically it would work for an EU border to be drawn between Berwick and Gretna. This is why support for independence is falling. The fundamentals of the SNP argument are mere obscurity and we won’t vote for dark fields in the night.

Sturgeon believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.

Boris would say Yes. He would be forced to. If only she made a coalition with the Scottish Greens, she would get her green light. But there is no sign of it. The man from Del Monte, he say No. It’s not at all obvious what Sturgeon with Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater can do about this. They could hold a vote in the Scottish Parliament, but we already know that it is outside Sturgeon’s remit, because the courts have told us this. So, it would be ignored.

It took over three years to organise the first independence referendum after everyone accepted there would be one in 2011. So, who are you kidding Mrs Sturgeon when you keep telling us that it will be in 2023? It amounts to a Scottish nationalist wet dream that may well be orgastic, but is merely a sticky mess the next morning.

It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.

Covid has changed the way we work forever. Along with the Internet it amounts to a revolution like the invention of the printing press. We are therefore going through one of the great changes in history and we can hardly guess what work will be like in the coming decades. Faced with uncertainty voters stick with what they know.

Two things mattered during the pandemic. The vaccine and furlough. The first saved our lives the second saved the economy. Neither came from Sturgeon.

The Conservatives have made a lot of mistakes lately. But the decision to go it alone on vaccine development rather than join with the EU, made more difference than everything else put together. It saved more lives too. In difficult times we learned the benefits of the Treasury. It would have been much tougher if Scotland had voted for independence in 2014. We all know this. This is why support for independence is falling.

With Russia perhaps about to invade Ukraine and with China threatening Taiwan now does not look like a good time to abolish the British armed forces.

Scottish independence depended on a world that is now gone. This is the problem with the SNP continually trying to rerun 2014. It eluded us then. Just one more go. It’s like a compulsive gambler at the puggy machine. Next time I’ll get four cherries. Even if this time I have only one and she’s called Joanna.

Tomorrow we will march faster. The pity for these poor people is that they are marching backwards. All that they demonstrate by their marches is that they are not really a mass movement.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

This is the tragedy of Scottish politics and why the Scottish Parliament has achieved nothing of significance since it was created.

It isn’t that Scotland could not become independent. It’s that it couldn’t be done without damaging our prosperity, standard of living and above all without doing grave damage to the relationship we have with those who live in the other parts of the UK.

We are obsessed about a past, when we continually fought against England, which was in every respect worse than now. But it is not 1314 that prevents our rowing boat from getting beyond the waves that are pushing it back, it is 2014. Our population is divided and pulling in different directions. The idea that independence would unite a disjointed crew depends on the opponents of Scottish nationalism accepting defeat in just the way we have all learned from the SNP not to do.

The Great Sturgeon may go on and it may be true that she has no plans for retirement, but she knows that her career is already over because it is revolving “slowly, tracing, like the leg of compass, a thin red circle in the water.” And her cause is lying face down dead in the water.


Friday 19 November 2021

The unforgivable sin

There is some speculation that Russia might be about to invade Ukraine again. The Red Army might be about to repeat its “liberation|” of “Little Russia” bringing it back to the Motherland whether it likes it or not. In such a case a large number of Ukrainians might decide to flee westwards. Would they be stuck behind a barbed wire fence in tents trying to cross the Polish border?

If President Macron took his Napoleon complex one step too far and crowned himself emperor and masses of French people decided to flee across the Channel in rubber dinghies how would the British respond? Would we propose as a solution to this problem that they should be sent to Albania? Would we indeed pay Mr Macron millions to stop his people fleeing? Britain has been happy to rescue fleeing French Huguenots who had a well-founded fear of persecution after being massacred on St. Bartholomew's Day 1572. We were happy to give homes to those French nobles who escaped the guillotine and we gave a base to Charles de Gaule and the Free French though we got little thanks for it.

The response to people wishing to come to Britain is entirely different depending on where they are from. Britain absorbed millions of EU citizens with minimal difficulty. If we had to resettle a few hundred thousand Ukrainians we would do so and barely notice. Why then are we bothered about Belarus flying in people from Syria and Iraq? Why care about upwards of one thousand people a day arriving in rubber dinghies from France?

There is a fundamental lack of honesty about this. The reason we would not be that bothered if French refugees turned up on the South Coast or if Ukrainians had to flee here from the Red Army is that twenty years from now the children of these people would be indistinguishable from the rest of us. The descendants of the Huguenots may have French names, but in all other respects they are no different from those French who arrived with the Norman Conquest. Likewise, the children of Ukrainians would be like the children of those Poles who arrived here some decades ago. There would be no stories about them blowing themselves up in a taxi, nor would there be any stories about them complaining about the racist treatment they had received in Britain. There would in fact be no stories at all.

The attitude we have towards refugees or migrants is entirely dependent on who they are. If Australia suddenly became too hot for its inhabitants, there is no doubt whatsoever that our government would offer large numbers of Australians the chance to come somewhere cold, wet and miserable. We would do so because we’d recognise that apart from an accent there is little to distinguish an Australian from a Brit. But when there was a war in Syria our government did it's very best to minimise the number of Syrians who came here. Were these Syrians not equally people in need?

We are dishonest too about our duty to our fellow human beings. Our first duty is to our families, our second duty is to our fellow citizens, but our duty to the rest of the world depends entirely on whether they are people we know and like. If we really wanted to treat every human being equally, we would abolish all borders and pool the world’s money so that everyone got his share, but unfortunately this would involve a rather drastic cut in our standard of living and the gradual dilution of whatever national identity we feel.

Beyond mere abstraction we don’t think that everyone is born equal. We care more about a hurricane in Florida than we do about a far more devastating cyclone in Bangladesh. We care more about Covid deaths in Britain that we do about Malaria deaths in Africa. We are territorial and tribal and want to keep our green and pleasant land for ourselves, our families and our friends. This is no doubt deplorable, but it also the reason why we defend our territory and why we have a country to defend at all.

Racism has become the unforgivable sin. A remark allegedly made in private ten or twenty years ago will mean that this cricketer will lose his job and struggle to get another. We all know that certain words would lead to our instant dismissal so we don’t use them in public if we are sensible. But this does not change how people think.

In a Yorkshire town which is racially divided, what do the inhabitants think about each other? Most people probably try to get along with those they meet. It’s easier than conflict. But many in each community decide to live in streets where there are only people like them. There may not be the same history of armed struggle, but this is a division similar to that in Northern Ireland.

In private which of these residents from either community has never had a racist thought about the other? In conversations in these homes prejudice will be expressed. You can’t go out with her. You can’t be friends with him. These people have no morals. Those people don’t fit in. These people smell. Both communities would probably prefer to live in a town, indeed a country, where only people who looked like them lived and where everyone believed the same things. If that were not the case they would not be living in separate streets.

Prejudice is part of being human. It is not limited to white cricketers. It is something that all of us feel including the Government when it has a different policy about migration from European countries and from the Middle East. If we were completely lacking in racism, we would be flying planes to Iraq and Syria to save them the trouble of sitting on the Polish border or risking their lives in dinghies. But we don’t, because we prefer Britain as it is, we think it has changed too much already and we don’t want to add to the risk that already exists.

The unforgivable sin is universal if we could look into everyone heart and private thoughts. We are careful about what we say in public, but when we hear about a Christian suicide bomber who converted we rather doubt the sincerity of the conversion not least because the concept of a Christian martyr is of someone who is put to death for his beliefs, not someone who puts anyone else to death for their beliefs.

Azeem Rafiq was the victim of prejudice, but it is the same prejudice shared by nearly all of us who would prefer that those in rubber dinghies did not cross the Channel and that those on the Polish border did not make it through and especially did not make it here. We can either be honest about this or continue hiding our prejudice under a bushel.

If as a Christian ten-year-old I had been taken to live in Pakistan, I would have been part of a tiny minority. It is doubtful that I would have been allowed to play cricket. I might have found that some people didn’t want to be friends with me or marry me, because of my religion. I would perhaps have learned various insulting words that are used about Christians. One of them might have been the word Kafir, which comes from the Arabic. Perhaps I would have also heard insulting words about white people. It would have been deplorable no doubt, but I would just have had to accept it. There wouldn’t have been much point complaining.

We must do all we can to treat whoever lives in Britain politely and with respect. But let us at least be honest about this. Each of us has prejudice, because it is part of what makes us human beings. Since time began, we have divided ourselves into groups based on features such as language, religion and appearance. It is for this reason that we have countries and peoples who distinguish themselves from other peoples.  It is only because we discriminated against those who were not in our group that we remained this people and this country rather than merged with everyone else.

Everyone commits the unforgivable sin. The accuser is equally the accused, who also has written and thought things that he ought not. Better by far if we forgave each other for being human.