Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The Great Indy and Ref Swindle

 

If I go around knocking on doors collecting for a local cancer charity, but it turns out the money is going to me, I am liable to be convicted of fraud and might expect to spend some time in jail. If Nicola Sturgeon asks independence supporters to provide money for an independence campaign, but indyref2 doesn’t happen, yet the money raised is gone some might wonder if for her next project she might produce an album called the Great Indy and Ref Swindle. Pete Wishart could change his surname to Rotten, while her own husband might reasonably adopt the surname Vicious to describe his text messages about Mr Salmond.

The moral dilemmas about raising revenue however are intricate. When in my office someone had the idea of paying for a goat instead of everyone giving each other Christmas cards, I pointed out that there wasn’t a goat. The twenty pounds that we paid to the charity might equally well go to pay the wages of a secretary. Indeed, we might have to buy several thousand goats in order to pay the salary of the chief executive. Were we being swindled when we were encouraged to buy a goat which our money might not be used for?



My local cancer charity would also have administrative costs. So long as most of the money raised went to helping cancer victims and only some went on paying the cost of printing the leaflets, then there would be no question of dishonesty. But what of the £600,000 the SNP raised to fight indyref2? It wasn’t that some of the money bought metaphorical goats, while some was used to pay the chief executive. Rather no goats were bought at all, because there was no indyref2 and therefore no campaign.

When we pay National Insurance, most of us know that there is in fact no insurance. The money that we pay does not go into a separate fund that is used by a future government to pay our pensions and benefits. Rather National Insurance is just a way of splitting the tax bill so that it doesn’t seem quite so big. They money raised goes into the general pot, is spent and it will be up to a future government to pay my pension out of revenue raised then. Is the SNP’s raising the £600,000 the equivalent of us each paying National insurance?

It is reasonable to assume that when I am old enough, I will receive a pension. Every one prior to me has received one. So, what I am paying for when I pay National Insurance I do indeed get, even if the specific pounds I pay in National Insurance might go on something else. But the SNP were raising money for something that might never happen. There is no way of predicting if there will ever be an indyref2 campaign, because it depends on the political fortunes of the SNP and the decision of the British Government.

When the SNP decided to raise money for an independence campaign, it looked as if political momentum was with them, but shortly afterwards at the 2017 General Election the SNP lost 21 seats and it’s share of the voted declined 13.1% to 36.9%. That sort of percentage is hardly going to win a referendum, so no wonder plans for indyref2 were shelved.

In 2020 support for independence increased and once more there was a lot of talk about independence and indyref2. Nicola Sturgeon would demand a second referendum just as soon as the pandemic was over. But what about the money that had been raised for the campaign prior to its being called off in 2017? Well, we don’t know exactly what happened to it, but it is reasonable to suppose that the SNP used it for its campaigning. It could reasonably argue that the only way to get to an indyef2 campaign would be if the SNP won lots of seats at Holyrood and Westminster.

The SNP could point out that just like National Insurance, there would be no problem so long as the £600,000 was spent in the future, even if it had been used for other things in the past. But the SNP as a political party unlike a government has to raise money through donations. It cannot or at least ought not to tax the Scottish people to raise money for its political campaigns.

But here we have a problem. Let’s say in two years’ time, support for independence is once more high and the SNP is demanding Indyref2 and it appeals to its supporters to give it a campaign fund. Let’s say these supporters raise £600,000. Problem solved say the SNP. We now have the £600,000 to spend. But what if I had previously contributed to the campaign fund? I would reasonably expect there now to be £1,200,000. Unless the SNP has another source of revenue it cannot make up £600,000 by appealing again for the same thing. It could appeal for more SNP members, or it could increase the membership fee, but it can hardly appeal for a new indyref2 campaign fund after spending the previous fund, that would be to treat its supporters as fools.

Independence has become like socialism. It is something that Labour traditionally promised but was never quite able to deliver. Nicola Sturgeon has promised indyref2 so often that she has become the little girl who cried indyref2. The Great Indy & Ref Swindle is unlikely to see anyone prosecuted. This is Scotland. The lesson we learned from the Alex Salmond scandal was that no one was prosecuted and moreover it had no consequences whatsoever at the ballot box. If you vote for scandal, don’t be surprised when you get more.

Two huge scandals in the same year. No problem say the Murrells. If they can survive Salmond, they can certainly survive this. But the deep pockets of Scottish nationalists, which can fund bloggers, a newspaper, and a near continual independence campaign because independence is just around the corner, may become rather less deep when they realise that it isn’t.

Before the Scottish Parliament election there was endless talk of forcing indyref2, holding an unofficial poll or even doing something illegal. This feverishness raises party revenue and wins SNP seats, but it looks less than honest now when we pocket the seats and the power but put off indyref2 until another day. This pattern has been going on since 2014.

As All under one Banner begins marching again, I wonder if they realise that they are being marched to the top of the hill and then down again. The Grand Old Duchess of Dreghorn once more plays the Great Indy and Ref Swindle on the turntable.

 

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Could the SNP avoid a hard border after Scexit?

 

While support for the SNP remains high and while many Scots support independence at least in theory, there is no question now that both face an intellectual challenge over EU membership. For this reason, the independence movement has become divided over how to overcome the challenges caused by Brexit. While the UK was an EU member it was possible to argue that if only an independent Scotland could gain EU membership too then life would go on much as before. Scotland in that case would trade as freely with the former UK as any other EU member and there would be no requirement for border checks either on goods or on people. Scots would have exactly the same rights to live and work in the former UK as we do at present simply because EU citizens had these rights too. The EU guaranteed that Scottish independence would not disrupt trade and free movement with the former UK, but this ceased to be the case after Brexit, which is why the SNP fought for Remain.

There would still have been disadvantages if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014. We would still have had to replace UK Government funding with either spending cuts or tax rises. Scotland therefore would have been poorer, which is why a majority of Scots voted No. But the argument is unquestionably worse now than it was then.



The pandemic has shown even more clearly that Scotland depends on UK Treasury money to supply us with vaccines and furlough. Scotland’s deficit has become larger and it is more unconvincing than ever to suppose that we would become richer by giving up free money from Mr Sunak.  But worse still Brexit has completely changed the logic of the SNP argument and it has yet to come up with a convincing answer.

If the SNP had voted for Theresa May’s soft Brexit which would have kept the UK in the EU’s Customs Union, there would have been no issue with trade between an independent Scotland and the former UK, but the SNP thought along with other Remainers that it could stop Brexit completely. This was a strategic failure that means the SNP now has to deal with the fact that the UK is neither in the Customs Union nor the Single Market. It means that the border between England and an independent Scotland would be the external border of not only the EU but its Customs Union and Single Market.

The SNP argues that Scotland could have a similar relationship to Ireland’s with post Brexit UK. There is after all no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.  But this is because Northern Ireland remains de facto in the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market and Ireland remains in the Common Travel Area.

But for an independent Scotland to be in Ireland’s position would require the whole of the former UK to become like Northern Ireland and for the Common Travel Area to be extended to Scotland post-independence. The SNP would have to persuade the former UK to accept de facto EU membership and to have Brexit in name only. Membership of the Customs Union would make trade deals with places like Australia difficult if not impossible. Membership of the Single Market would mean the former UK would have to accept free movement of people from the EU. In that case the former UK might as well rejoin the EU. To suppose that an independent Scotland would be like Ireland is to suppose that the former UK would embrace Remain to make the SNP’s life easier, which is unlikely at best given than the SNP is the only major party campaigning to rejoin the EU.

Some prominent independent supporters, notably Alex Salmond, have suggested that Scotland might initially join EFTA (European Free Trade Association) as a way of avoiding a hard border. The main distinction between EFTA and the EU is that EFTA members are not in the EU’s Customs Union, which enables them to have trade deals with other countries. But EFTA does involve being part of the Single Market and accepting free movement.

Would EFTA membership help an independent Scotland avoid a hard border? The problem for Scotland is that it would only help if the former UK could be persuaded to form a customs union with Scotland. It was after all the maintenance of the de facto EU Customs Union between Ireland and Northern Ireland which enabled them to avoid a hard border. But if the UK has rejected a Customs Union with the EU, why would it choose to establish one with an independent Scotland?

Scotland in choosing the EFTA route would still have to follow the rules of the Single Market, which would make the Scottish economy gradually diverge from the former UK’s economy, but a custom’s union only works when countries have a common external trade policy, which would mean Scotland having to follow former UK rules on standards and trade. But this would be incompatible with membership of the EU’s Single Market. Either EFTA or EU membership would require the Scottish economy to follow the EU path and diverge from the former UK, which would make a customs union undesirable if not impossible for both economies. If Scotland wishes to align itself economically with the UK and maintain the Customs Union and Internal market that exists at present between the parts of the UK, the only way to do this is to remain in the UK.

All present EFTA members are part of Schengen while none are parts of a customs union with each other or anyone else. Scotland’s being in a customs union with an economy as large as the former UK might turn out to be incompatible with EFTA membership even if the former UK could be persuaded to agree to it. It is therefore hard to see how a trade border between the former UK and Scotland could be avoided. It would not be in the interest of the former UK to align itself too closely with an independent Scotland because it would find itself having to follow EU Single Market rules in order to stop Scotland disobeying them. It is impossible to imagine a former UK Government agreeing to this.

Ireland at present retains free movement with both the UK and the EU due to the Common Travel Area. Would this option be open to Scotland after independence? The Common Travel Area was set up in 1923 as a way to avoid patrolling the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. If Northern Ireland were to cease being part of the UK there is no reason to suppose that the Common Travel Area would continue. Whether Scotland was admitted to the Common Travel Area after independence would depend on the other members. Scotland would have no right to membership and it cannot be assumed.

One of the reasons why Scottish membership of the Common Travel Area might be problematic is that membership of Schengen is a condition for joining the EU. Ireland has an opt out. EFTA members might also object to Scotland avoiding membership of Schengen. But if Scotland were part of Schengen, then there would be no border checks between Scotland and the other parts of the EU. But there have to be border checks between Schengen and non-Schengen members otherwise someone could fly from Greece to Edinburgh and then simply get a bus to London.

Free movement between the UK and Ireland requires that Ireland has a similar immigration policy to the UK and that there is no large-scale illegal immigration between the two countries. Scotland would not be able to be part of the Common Travel Area if it followed SNP policy of significantly increasing migration to Scotland, not least because there would be nothing to keep these migrants in Scotland.

The Common Travel Area is as much an anomaly as Northern Ireland’s continuing to be de facto part of the EU. The historical context (decades of terrorism) applies to the border between the UK and Ireland, but it does not apply to Scotland. Leaving the EU meant that the UK had to give up free movement with the EU. Scotland cannot assume that leaving the UK would not involve giving up free movement too. The SNP might wish for an independent Scotland to be like Ireland, but this would require both the EU and the former UK to agree. There is no guarantee that they would do so.

Prior to the pandemic and certainly prior to Brexit, we had the idea that most borders would be open and that they were just lines on a map that could be ignored. But we have discovered that even the internal borders within the UK have been closed on the whim of Nicola Sturgeon. But if the SNP finds it convenient to close a border which is not even an international border, so too might a UK Government decide that in the event of Scotland voting for independence it would promise to make life as difficult as possible for Scots.

Just as the UK Government decided in 2014 that it was not interested in a currency union, though the SNP wanted one, it might also decide that it was not interested in allowing Scotland to continue to enjoy the benefits of being part of the UK after leaving. This after all was the line that the EU took after Brexit. If the EU can take away our European citizenship and rights to live and work in the EU, the UK Government might decide that the best way of persuading Scots not to vote for independence is to promise them that there would be no open border between Scotland and England whether Scotland joined EFTA, the EU or the Star Trek Federation. It could build a fence or dig a moat and there is nothing much the SNP could do about it.

The UK would be destroyed by Scottish independence, there is no reason to suppose it should react any differently to this existential threat than the EU did over Brexit.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

It's still OK to hate him because he's English

 

The racist abuse suffered by the English football players who missed penalties was peculiarly stupid. The English football team is picked on merit. It so happens that a large number of those players are black. The manager’s judgement must be that these players deserve to be in the squad. If they underperformed other players would be picked in their place. It follows therefore that those players who were racially abused were in part responsible for England qualifying for the tournament and reaching the final. The racial abusers are therefore insulting the penalty takers who were responsible for getting England to the position where they could take the penalties in the first place. The abuse is therefore not merely wrong, but self-defeating.

The squad is picked on merit, so we can assume that without the players who were racially abused it would be a worse squad than it is at present. We can assume then that the racists would prefer a worse team to be competing. But to complain about people missing penalties while wishing for less talented players to take them is senseless.



The fact that the team is picked on merit and that people from all races, backgrounds and religions are picked on the basis of their talent means that the support for the England team reflects the population in England. Everyone is equally English no matter where their parents came from. This is quite unusual in the world.

In places like Poland, Hungary and Japan and others, it is only really possible to be Polish, Hungarian or Japanese if you were born there and your parents were born there too. In Britain we are taught to be wary of such an idea, but it was commonplace here too until recently.

The response to the abuse of the English players shows that the vast majority of people in Britain reject the idea that they were not really English. We also reject the idea that people should be hated, disliked or abused because of characteristics we were born with. We should be judged on the basis of our character, thoughts, morals and actions because we are responsible for these things. We ought not to be judged on the basis of our race, sex, age or physical characteristics because we were born with these and cannot help them.

But just as I am not responsible for the colour of my eyes, so too I am not responsible for where I was born or my nationality. To hate and abuse someone because he is black is therefore just as wrong as to hate someone because he is English.

Racism is still clearly still a problem in England. But we may be hopeful that progress is being made. Sporting teams are picked on merit. There are laws to prevent racial discrimination in work and black people have demonstrated that they can reach the top in a variety of fields. More importantly the vast majority of people were horrified when the footballers were abused and condemned it. No serious thinker, politician or writer has tried to justify the racial abuse that occurred. Rather ordinary people have sought to express their support for the black players.

But in Scotland it is still commonplace to hate people for sectarian reasons, for political reasons and for xenophobic reasons. These hatreds have largely been eradicated in England, but we still have work to do here.

It is routine on social media for Scots to be abused by Scottish nationalists if they describe themselves as British. I have never once seen a Scot abuse a Scottish nationalist because he is Scottish, but it is commonplace for Scottish nationalists to use hateful language to describe people who think we can be both Scottish and British at the same time. I am routinely abused simply for being a Scot who disagrees with the SNP.

Hating people because they are black, of Pakistani or Indian heritage is unacceptable in Scotland, but hating people because they have an English heritage is not merely acceptable it is routine. Even newspapers and media journalists frequently describe our nearest neighbour as the Auld Enemy. People make generalisation about English people, being arrogant, condescending, snooty or always talking about England during football matches, that would be completely unacceptable if they were made about any other country. Imagine criticising people from Pakistan by making generalisations about their character. But we make generalisations about English people and have stereotypes about their character that we simply would not dare to make about anywhere else.

This is sometimes dismissed as banter and good fun. Everyone hates England after all and wants them to lose. But a number of incidents have shown how this banter can quickly turn nasty and violent.

Sporting rivalry is perfectly reasonable, but Australia and England can maintain a keen sporting rivalry without ever expressing that they hate or dislike the other’s country. England cricket fans do not hope that Australia loses whenever it plays someone else, nor I suspect did Germans support first Ukraine, then Denmark and finally Italy in a desperate hope that their sporting rival would lose. Germans did not buy the football shirts of England’s opponents or dance in the street in delight when they missed a penalty, because Germans have learned that hating people because of their nationality or where they were born or their religion is not merely unpleasant it is dangerous.

Some idiots, thankfully few in number, made racist remarks when a black footballer missed a penalty, but in Scotland there were loud cheers from those watching on TV, who then went out on the streets to celebrate that the goalkeeper had saved his kick. While there was condemnation of the racists who insulted him and hated him because he was black, there was no condemnation whatsoever of those who hated him because he was English. But he could no more help that he was born with black skin than that he was born in Ealing. But in Scotland while it is wrong to hate people because they are black it is still quite acceptable to hate them because they are English. Indeed, it is only because of this hatred that so many of us can’t quite bear to live in the same country as Bukayo Saka.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Three hundred and fourteen years of hurt

 

One lion on oor flag

We’re still getting steamin

Three hunner years of hurt

Didna stop us scheming


It’s comin hame,

It’s comin hame.

It’s comin.

Fitba’s comin hame.

 

The English think that they invented football, but it’s not true. Everyone knows that it was invented in Aberdeenshire.



It happened in a wee place called Crichie when a group of drunk [steamin’] farmhands started to misuse a haggis in a game with no rules. Suddenly someone decided to kick the haggis and it rolled between two trees. At that moment the laird seeing that his workers were wasting time in a very un-Aberdonian way asked them what had happened to their ball. The scorer replied “Fit ba?” [what ball?] because he knew that kicking balls was illegal in Scotland at that time as indeed it still is. They had gotten round the prohibition against kicking balls, by kicking a haggis instead and for the next centuries it was only permitted to kick haggises in Scotland, for which reason some scholars have perceived Scotland’s lack of success at football.

But the name of the Scotland’s national game had been invented. Only it was stolen by the English who didn’t understand the meaning of “Fit ba” and thought it actually meant “foot ball.”

The birthplace of fitba has been unjustly neglected. It got its name from the farmhands crying out loud “Crikey, we’ve invented fitba”. They then decided to copyright the game and to allow only Scots to play it. For this reason, Scotland were unjustly deprived of our lawful victory over England because England shouldn’t have been playing fitba at all, nor for that matter should anyone else. Only Scots are allowed to play fitba and because we should be playing with ourselves, we should by right be both European champions and indeed World Cup winners at every World Cup since it began.

When we sang about winning the world cup in 1978, we were right. We did indeed win it, because we were the only team that was in all justice allowed to play. Scotland was the greatest football team, and still is for that matter.

It is most galling to hear those England fans singing about football coming home, when it is our home, they are singing about. Whoever wrote that damn song clearly plagiarised it, because the original was written by a Scot as can be seen by the Scots language used in it. And what about our hurt. It’s all very well singing about not having won the world cup for thirty years, now 55 years and long may that continue, but we’ve had three hundred and eighteen years of hurt and oppression and English domination and the theft of our games. 

That Raheem Sterling isn’t even English so he shouldn’t be allowed to play, let alone to score. He is obviously Scottish, where else could he have got his surname from than Stirling where William Wallace defeated the English in 1297. He just needs some help with his spelling.

Anyway, England shouldn’t even be taking part in the European Championship. They voted to leave Europe when they voted for Brexit. Scotland of course remained European and virtuous because we voted to Remain. So obviously England should be immediately disqualified and Germany reinstated.

And another thing. That Sweet Caroline song that they are all singing is really a Scottish song. It was originally about Bonnie Prince Charlie, but because of Scotland’s ideals about equality we allowed it to be sung about women too. But we don’t allow anyone else to sing it and especially not English people. That Neil Diamond needs to pay Scotland royalties.

But just you wait. Our three hundred years of hurt is coming to an end. When we are independent, we will win every game of fitba, because we will resolve to play our game with no one but ourselves so we can hardly fail to win. Let the English and everyone else play football, we will play fitba and if we can’t beat ourselves even when we are playing with ourselves, we’ll take our haggis home.

Monday, 28 June 2021

How to make her unhappy

 

I have been writing less since the Scottish Parliament election. The mood has changed. It is partly because it is summer. I have been more interested in using the sunshine to travel around Scotland than write about Scottish politics. But it’s not just me. Both sides of the constitutional divide spent the year or so before the election building up to the vote only to discover that we had reached a sort of stalemate with neither side able to move forward.

During the early stages of the pandemic support for Scottish independence increased, because Scots saw Nicola Sturgeon on their TV screens every day, but since April this year it has become clear that neither Brexit nor the pandemic is going to push support for Scottish independence above the critical 60% mark which would give the SNP a good chance of winning. The stalemate is that enough Scots support the SNP to guarantee them permanent government in Scotland and the vast majority of seats at a General Election, but political support for the party of independence does not fully translate into support for independence itself.



The reason for this is the economic situation that Scotland finds itself in. Many Scots have concluded that they want independence theoretically, but they do not think for the moment that we can afford it. If Scotland was running a surplus, breaking even, or even perhaps running a small deficit, then it might be possible for the SNP to be confident of winning a poll on independence. But we are not.

Scotland’s economy is worse than it was in 2014, partly because of the pandemic, partly because of the decline in oil. But the strategic situation is worse too. Brexit increased support for independence because of Remainer Scots seeing independence as a route to rejoining the EU. But it is not accidental that neither the Lib Dems nor Labour will campaign to rejoin at the next General Election and the same argument applies in Scotland too.

Brexit has not been the disaster that Remainers predicted. It is unimaginable that Britain would have gone it alone over vaccines if we had still been part of the EU. Scots benefited from this. The EU’s Pandemic Recover Fund will be used by the EU to increase political control and bring the 27 member states closer to political union. If the UK were to rejoin the EU it could only be on condition that we fully signed up to Europe, Schengen, the Euro and the loss of our previous rebate. We would therefore pay more for an EU membership that we have discovered in the past years that we do not need to be prosperous and successful. We would have to discard any trade deals we will make in the years ahead such as with Australia only to have to accept those aspects of the EU such as federalism which have never been popular in Britain even with Remainers.

But the same argument goes for Scotland too. Scots may have wanted to remain part of the EU that existed in 2016, but that is no longer on offer. The contradiction inherent in “independence in Europe” is going to become ever clearer as the EU makes clear to Hungary and Poland that they will have to change their ways or not receive anything from the Recovery Fund. The Scottish Parliament would have less power if Scotland were an EU member state, because it would have to give up control over those areas that the EU controls.

The dilemma of Brexit is that if Scots choose independence in the EU, it would lead inevitably to a hard border with England, tariffs and trade controls at the border, because Scotland could not have an independent trade policy within the EU. But we trade far less with the EU than with the other parts of Britain and would have to use English roads and ports to get our goods to the continent. The loss of membership of the UK internal market would not be compensated by membership of the EU’s Single Market, not least because English customers might be reluctant to buy Scottish goods and services if they were no longer domestic.

But the alternative of not joining the EU looks even less attractive. Scotland would start life as an independent state with no trade relationship either with the EU or the former UK. There would be no recovery fund either from the UK or the EU if there were another crisis.

Scotland in its present economic state would be brave indeed to vote next year or the year after for complete independence. Both the 2008 economic crisis and the pandemic have shown how we rely on the Bank of England’s ability to borrow and how we have relied on the British Government to pay our wages, keep our businesses going and supply us with vaccines. Nicola Sturgeon may be on TV, but it was not her government that supplied the money or the medicine needed to keep us well. She may say that Scotland could have done just as well in the pandemic if we had been on our own. But how? Scotland does not have a central bank with a track record of paying back debt and we live beyond our means to such an extent that markets would only lend to us at a high rate of interest.

Yet support for independence remains high. Support for the SNP that continually threatens a vote on independence, that would be a coin toss, is if anything still higher. The SNP uses its power to spend ever more UK tax payer’s money, which means Scotland is ever more dependent on Britain and ever less ready for independence, but perversely uses this money to increase its own support and support for independence. The result is stalemate. Independence supporters want independence with present levels of public spending, but that level depends on a British Government they reject. It means like Augustine they pray “Lord make me independent, but not yet.”

How to get out of the impasse? Independence supporters ought to focus on the economic fundamentals. Scotland must spend less and earn more. But this project would take years and they are impatient. Worse if the SNP did try to live within its means, support for both the SNP and independence would fall. So, we are left with Scots wanting independence, but not wanting what it would involve. No wonder support for it decreases whenever the prospect of a second independence referendum increases.

The Pro UK side of the argument must focus on two things. Polling organisations still use the 2014 question with a Yes/No answer. It must be made clear by the British Government that if there were ever to be a second referendum, the question would be Leave/Remain. We must also argue that the franchise for any referendum would involve all those people who would be citizens in an independent Scotland.

The SNP proposed in 2014 that all British citizens habitually living in Scotland would have the right to Scottish citizenship plus anyone born in Scotland or with a Scottish parent or grandparent. Logically if someone were to have the right to a Scottish passport in an independent Scotland such a person should have the right to choose if he wants one.

At present the SNP has extended the franchise in Scotland so that everyone with the right to live in Scotland would have a vote. This means that people who would not intend to become Scottish passport holders, have the right to chose whether Scotland should leave the UK, but Scots who would become Scottish passport holders living outside Scotland would not have that right. This is unjust for a variety of reasons.

In 2014 Theresa May made it clear that there was no guarantee that Scottish citizens could remain British citizens. There is a very good argument for the British Government going further than this by ruling out dual Scottish/British citizenship. Irish citizens who had been born British citizens like my grandfather had to chose in 1948 whether they wished to be British or Irish. Citizens of the Soviet Union are not automatically citizens of Russia and leaving the EU meant that British citizens lost their EU citizenship and with it free movement in the EU.

Independence involves a choice and Scots cannot expect to have free movement both in the EU and the former UK. Minds need to be concentrated and independence supporters must accept that it would involve both gains and losses.

But it is for this reason that Scots living outside Scotland should be asked if they want independence. If a Scot living in Bath campaigns for independence, we can assume that he would want a Scottish passport. But if the British Government refused to allow dual Scottish/British citizenship, this would mean he would lose the right to live in Bath unless he obtained leave to remain in the former UK. No doubt this would be granted to long time residents, but he would not necessarily have all of the rights that a British citizen had, because he would now be a foreigner living in Bath.  Other Scots living in the former UK might decide that they preferred to be British citizens, but this would mean that they would have no automatic right to live and work in Scotland. But clearly an issue that might lead a Scot not to have the right to live in Scotland, should be a matter that he has a say over.

At the moment polling about Scottish independence is skewed in two ways. The question is unfair and only Scottish residents are asked their opinion. It is completely unjust that someone living in Scotland who may have arrived very recently and who doesn’t even speak English, should be able to decide Scotland’s future, while someone born and raised in Scotland, but working in England cannot.

If all those who would become Scottish citizens were allowed a say on independence it would change the argument, because it would involve those Scots who have particularly benefited from their British citizenship because it gave them the right to live and work anywhere in Britain. If independence meant losing the automatic right to live and work in the other parts of the UK, far fewer Scots would vote for it. They would no longer be able to take over London without a visa.

This would break the stalemate because it would show that the overwhelming majority of Scots, as defined by the SNP in 2014, wanted Scotland to remain a part of the UK. With independence off the agenda, it might be possible for Scottish politics to focus on making Scotland a more pleasant and prosperous place for all of us.

 

 

Thursday, 24 June 2021

She needs to defend UK sovereignty too

 

Yesterday there was a minor incident in the Black Sea when a Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender sailed close to the Crimean shoreline and was warned by the Russian coastguard to keep away. Some shots were fired, but no one was hurt and it is likely that no one was in danger of being hurt.

The waters around Crimea and Crimea itself are considered by Britain and its NATO allies to be legally part of Ukraine. The Russians claim Crimea and its territorial waters to be part of the Russian Federation. Very few countries agree with Russia. Only a few Russian allies recognise Russia’s annexation and the referendum in Crimea that declared independence from Ukraine.



Crimea left Ukraine illegally because Ukraine did not allow the referendum which gave rise to its secession. It does not matter one little bit that Crimea only ended up in an independent Ukraine because of its transfer in 1954 from the Russian SSSR. It also does not matter that the majority of Crimeans are Russian speaking.

The referendum that was held in 2014 was far from ideal because Russian troops had already invaded Crimea, but there is little doubt that a free and fair referendum held in Crimea with the permission of Ukraine would also give rise to a majority of Crimeans wishing to join Russia. But none of this matters Crimea is still legally part of Ukraine. You cannot annex the sovereign territory of another nation state either by means of a referendum or by means of soldiers. That is, you cannot do it anywhere other than in the UK.

HMS Defender as is typical with the British armed forces is happy to risk the lives of British people defending someone else’s sovereignty, but we are for rather odd reasons unwilling to defend British territorial integrity and sovereignty in the same way.

Michael Gove has suggested in a rather vague way that the British Government will not allow Scotland to hold a second independence referendum before the next General Election. That election is scheduled for 2024, but may well happen in 2023. So, we have perhaps a two year pause in the Neverendum, that is unless the SNP try to organise an unofficial referendum, which may or may not be illegal, or else declare independence unilaterally just like Crimea.

We are still not back to being able to do many of the things we could do routinely in March 2020. Many of us are still working from home. The full economic cost of Covid is not clear yet and we are probably in the middle of a new “industrial revolution” which will change how we all work forever. Scotland is very unlikely to be ready for an independence referendum in the next two years when we have no idea how long the pandemic will continue nor how it will impact our lives. So, Mr Gove is really pre-emptively denying something that Sturgeon will not seriously be asking for. It all rather similar to Russian bombers approaching the Scottish shoreline only for our jets to scramble and intercept them.

But even stating the obvious gets Mr Gove the usual sort of rebuke from Sturgeon. By denying her a referendum she almost certainly doesn’t want at the moment, he will she says increase support for independence. If that were true, why isn’t she grateful? She needs the help after all. Even with the 2014 question Yes is polling at less than 50%. How much further would support for separation fall if it involved a question such as Do you want Scotland to leave the UK or Remain in the UK?

Mr Gove obviously does not want to give the SNP too much of a grievance. It therefore makes a certain sense to deny them their referendum for the next couple of years when they probably will not want it. But the threat to the territorial integrity of the UK will not go away by this tactic.

While HMS Defender plays with the Russian bear, it should realise that there are only two serious threats to UK sovereignty and neither of them come from Russia. Mr Putin may be a threat to his near abroad, but he is not a serious threat to British sovereignty. He does not under any circumstance plan to annex Shetland or invade Cornwall. The threats to British territory are solely in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

Britain spends more than £40 Billion on defence but not one penny of it is spent where the threat to British sovereignty is greatest. We spend it on sailing around the Black Sea and on defending Poland and on various foreign expeditions around the globe, but we spend nothing on defending our sovereignty against the only two threats that could seriously damage our territorial integrity, the SNP and the Irish Government.

While it is illegal for Crimea to hold a referendum on independence, for which reason Crimea must remain part of Ukraine for as long as the Government of Ukraine wants to retain it, this rule does not apply to any part of the UK. While it does not matter if 97% of Crimeans want to join Russia, because it is legally part of Ukraine a mere 50.1% is enough for Scotland and Northern Ireland to leave the UK.

While Britain spends 2% and more of GDP to be part of NATO, the USA does not allow us to defend our own territorial integrity, but insists that British sovereignty over Northern Ireland must be according to rules that the USA itself would not accept for any part of its own territory. No other NATO member would allow trade to be disrupted between parts of its own territory, nor would it allow an “ally” the ability to annex a part of its territory by means of a referendum.

While defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine HMS Defender does nothing to defend the territorial integrity of the UK. While being willing to stand up to the Russian bear, we are unwilling to stand up to either Irish or Scottish nationalism. But what is the point of our spending so much on defence when we are only willing to defend others and never ourselves?

It is time that the British Government addressed this anomaly because it is the only way that long term, we can protect our territory and our sovereignty. If you give either Scotland or Northern Ireland the right that Crimea does not have, to leave with a referendum, you must accept eventual defeat. We might delay two years or five years or ten years. There might be two referendums, or twenty, but eventually if you accept the rules of the game as they are at present, the UK will lose and Scottish and Irish nationalism will win. They only have to be lucky once and in time they will be.

We have at least the same right to territorial integrity that Ukraine has. After all Ukraine only became a sovereign nation state in 1991. The UK needs to assert the principle of its territorial integrity and indivisibility and we should make clear that we will fight to maintain both against all enemies both foreign and domestic. If that means renouncing treaties incompatible with our sovereignty and unity, we should be brave enough to do just that, accept the consequences and use our armed forces to deter those who would disagree whether they try to counter with terrorism, or economically. Above all we need to make clear that HMS Defender will not defend anyone else whether European or American unless and until our NATO allies recognise Britain’s right to defend our territory in the same way that they defend theirs.

Saying No to Sturgeon for a couple of years buys us time, but it is no use unless gradually we work towards a position where we can say No forever. It is this principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty that we are defending in the Black Sea.  We must defend it here too.

 

Saturday, 19 June 2021

The Tartan Army has shamed Scotland

 

An acquaintance of mine called John Bull moved to Scotland as a student from Bulford in Wiltshire. He loved Scotland so much he decided to stay. He met a Scottish woman and because she was an SNP supporter, he began to move in Scottish nationalist circles. He campaigned for Scottish independence in 2014 and has voted SNP since. Like many English people on the Left, he viewed the SNP as progressive and the only alternative to Tory Government in Scotland. He thinks Scottish independence will bring with it fairness and equality and the chance to create a social democratic society which is inclusive and without the xenophobia that he now associates with England. He has been told that he is just as Scottish as anyone born and bred in Scotland and refers to himself as an English-Scot or perhaps simply a Scot with English heritage. He joined the Tartan Army, bought a kilt a Glengarry and Scotland shirt and joined those on the trains to London.

John has a southern English accent and it’s rather posh, because he went to a private school. His parents and most of his friends from Wiltshire vote Conservative. This accent had not normally been a problem in SNP party meetings. Rather he was viewed as useful evidence that the SNP was not at all full of Anglophobia. If John could vote SNP, then clearly, independence supporters could not be motivated by hostility to England. Rather they just wanted self-determination. John became one of the “some of my best friends are English” and for this reason was considered convenient.



He noticed in fact that supporting the SNP was just about the best way possible for an English person to avoid some of the hostility that an English accent can give rise to. So long as he wore his SNP lapel badge and told about how he hated Tories then he found even on All Under One Banner marches his kilt, his white cockade and his English Scots for Yes flag gave rise to few if any hostile comments. He was accepted as an honorary Scot and no one much asked if he was entitled to the tartan that he wore.

John had never been to an England Scotland football match though he had followed Celtic ever since moving to Glasgow. He condemned the sectarian singing of the Rangers fans. He thought it was entirely just that a drunk Rangers fan had recently been arrested for singing “I’d rather be a P*ki than a T*m”. Such xenophobia, racism and sectarianism had no place in a modern progressive Scotland. If only Scotland could be independent, there would be no such expressions of hatred. He considered the songs he sometimes heard about Irish Republicanism to be merely natural expressions of the injustice of Irish history for which he repented as a descendant of the oppressors.

It was on the train down to London that he began to hear some songs about England. If you hate f*cking England clap your hands. He didn’t quite know what to do with his hands. The combination of his English accent and the words he was supposed to be singing didn’t quite fit so he began simply mouthing them. But people noticed that he wasn’t singing. He began to not quite feel as if he was part of this army.

Nearly everyone in the Tartan Army was entitled to wear the kilt they chose to wear. There were few if any black faces. Those Pakistani Scots who were born and bred in Scotland and who sometimes wore adapted Scottish dress which reflected both their sense of being Pakistani and Scottish had for a variety of reasons chosen not to get on the train. Perhaps it was the crates of McEwan’s Export they might have seen being carried onto the train. Perhaps they preferred other sports, but no Muslim women with tartan headscarves let alone tartan veils chose to join what was anyway an overwhelmingly white, male Scottish born invasion.

Not one member of the Tartan Army discovered any hostility to Scotland when he arrived in London. If he had booked a hotel, the receptionist was polite and said nice things about his kilt. There were some glances of bemusement and the odd friendly joke, but London was used to people from all countries and all forms of dress and Londoners did not reply to the hostile songs that they were forced to hear.

If the Tartan Army had sung about how they hated the French, they would not have received such a welcome in Paris. If they had sung about how they hated the Russians, they would have had their kilts stolen, their sporrans emptied and they would have received such a kicking from the Russian police and fans that they would have indeed been forced to think again about such an invasion. But in London the Tartan Army met only tolerance.

London is perhaps the most multicultural, multiracial city in Europe. Londoners in recent times have never seen such an overwhelmingly white crowd as the Tartan Army, which was so intent to express both its hatred of the English and how progressive, multiracial and multicultural Scotland is. The team of the bigoted English had rather more black players.

John began to wonder why he had got the train at all. He couldn’t find a pub where he could watch the game and so stood in the street with beers, he had bought in a supermarket with other white men mouthing words of hatred about the people he grew up with and the place where he used to live.

He tried to tell himself that it was all banter, due to an historic sporting rivalry that reflected ancient battles from the Middle Ages, for which he was sorry. Scotland had indeed been oppressed by his ancestors. These songs of hatred, were not really hatred of course. English people like him were not hated in Scotland and his fellow Scottish fans did not really even hate the people they were singing in front of in London. It was all just good fun that sometimes got a little out of hand because of the drink.

He noted how Nicola Sturgeon had condemned the singing. Didn’t this reflect how Scotland was really not at all hostile to England and the English. But then he began to remember how the word “Tory” had a certain universal application to English people, who could be Red or Blue Tories, how the word Britain had come to mean England and how Westminster was code for English power. He remembered how Sturgeon had no gratitude for English tax payers’ money and whenever anything went wrong it was always the fault of those south of the border and he began to sense that the motivation of those singing of their hatred of the English was not so dissimilar to those voting for independence.

Anglophobia in Scotland is not as serious as either racism or sectarianism. Few Scots will beat someone up because of an England shirt or discriminate against an English person. But decent Scots who would not dream of going to Pakistan to sing “if you hate Pakistan clap your hands”, think it perfectly reasonable to travel to London not so much to see a football match (they didn’t see it live), but merely to gather in large groups to tell about their hatred of its inhabitants. If English people had gone to Glasgow for the same purpose there would have been rather more trouble. But English people are largely tolerant of Scottish hostility and barely notice. Perhaps for this reason the Tartan Army feels the need to sing so loudly and so repetitiously.

But how are we to rid Scotland of sectarian hatred and racism if we tolerate and take part in such singing? How can we condemn the language of hatred directed against people who happen to be Catholic or Protestant if we think hating our nearest neighbour is just fine? To hate people because they are from England is just as bad as hating people who happen to come from Pakistan or Poland.  The Tartan Army would not dream of singing songs of hatred about Pakistanis, so why does it think expressing hatred of English people in England is a legitimate way of following a football team. We didn’t mean it really is hardly an excuse for most singers of sectarian songs don’t really mean it either. Few join the IRA, most will have friends who are Catholic or Protestant, just as most will have friends who are English. But singing with hatred creates the conditions which enable these forms of hatred, whether racist, xenophobic or sectarian to continue. It is this for reason that the Tartan army has shamed Scotland.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Kneeling to an unjust God

 

There are lots of deaths everyday in the United States. People have guns and there is a lot of violent crime. Most of it is ignored even in the United States let alone here. Imagine if in May 2020 a person of Chinese origin had been killed by a policeman. It’s perfectly possible. In 2020 there were 457 white people killed by the police in the USA. There were 241 black people, 169 Hispanic and 28 of other races as well as 126 of unknown race.

But there were no demonstrations about most of these people and certainly no demonstrations in Britain. If a Chinese-American man had been unjustly murdered by the police in the USA in May 2020, would we still have footballers going down on one knee because of it. No, of course not. There is an inequality in our response to violence involving race. We don’t care about white people being killed, we don’t care about Hispanics we don’t in fact care about anyone being killed by the American police unless they are black.



The whole discussion of race in the West is toxic because of this inequality of response. But you cannot fight inequality with more inequality. It is this I believe that football crowds are responding too when they boo players taking the knee.

The origin of taking the knee is essentially unequal. Those American football players who decided to fail to stand when the national anthem played, did so not because they cared about all police murders of all American citizens, but only when a black person was killed in this way. Not only that they only took the knee when a high-profile case of police violence led to the death of a black person. They did not take the knee when a black person killed another black person in a violent crime. The only black lives that mattered were those that could be attributed to white people killing black people. This again was an inequality of response.

America has a much bigger problem with police violence than Britain does. In 2020 only five people were killed by the police in the United Kingdom. But America is far from the most violent place to live. There are any number of countries, including Venezuela and El Salvador where you have a far greater chance of being killed by the police than the USA. The USA has a rate of deaths involving the police of 28.54 per 10 million people. Venezuela has a rate of 1830.2. While the UK’s rate is merely 0.5. But there are no demonstrations about police killing black people in Venezuela. Footballers don’t kneel to complain about this. It doesn’t even make the news.

In Britain we don’t have a problem with the police killing black people, yet we are still expected to go down on one knee, which is essentially an act of disrespect to a flag and a national anthem, even when it is not our problem. This is why fans are booing.

The footballers and the authorities argue that taking the knee has nothing to do with either Black Lives Matter or the origins of the gesture. They are merely making this gesture to show that they oppose racism. But this is not true. Footballers were not going down on one knee in Britain prior to the murder of George Floyd. They only began after the widespread Black Lives Matter demonstrations which began afterwards. If George Floyd had been Chinese and had been murdered in a similar way, there would have been no demonstrations, no Black Lives Matter organisation in Britain and no taking the knee. It is therefore impossible to divorce the gesture from its Black Lives Matter origin, because it only happened because of the response to the death of George Floyd by Black Lives Matter activists. To suppose that going down on one knee is somehow different is to suppose that I could raise my arm in front of me without this being connected with fascism.

Is there a problem with racism in Britain? Yes. Human beings everywhere have prejudice about external characteristics including race. Is Britain a particularly racist place to live? There is discrimination here. There is prejudice and there is racial hatred. But almost everyone accepts that racial discrimination is wrong. You don’t need to persuade us of this. Most of us try to treat our fellow citizens the same and with respect no matter their race or national origin. We have made progress in the past fifty years. Yet no matter what we do it is never enough. There is always someone who is ready to call us racist, no matter how hard we try. There is always someone waiting to pounce on the least mistake, an unguarded remark or a joke in poor taste.

The problem with modern race theory is that is fundamentally unequal. Only white people can be racist. Black people cannot be racist. But this inequality makes gestures such as taking the knee, toppling statues and cancelling people from the past seem unfair. This is why fans are booing.

When Sasha Johnson the Black Lives Matter activist was shot in the head, there was immediate media interest. If it had turned out that she had been shot by a far-right white person, there would have been endless condemnation, mass demonstrations and calls for more kneeling, but instead it appears that those suspected of shooing her are black people. Immediately there is minimal coverage in the media and no one is interested. It only matters if white people shoot black people. But do the lives of black people shot by other black people not matter? Why don’t footballers kneel for Sasha Johnson? If they think about it at all, it is because the black lives that matter are only those where a white person can be accused of racism. This is why taking the knee is so divisive. It amounts to an accusation against a whole society, that we need re-education, that we are unconsciously racist and to blame for our whole history and everything bad that ever happened to a black person. We are to blame because of the skin we were born in. Many people are getting tired of being blamed for who we are by those who are angry with us no matter what we do.

The inequality of treatment is such that a TV programme about Anne Boleyn can have a black actress. There is an argument to be had about whether black people can sensibly portray non black historical characters. I dislike it because it makes such programmes unbelievable and lacking in realism. Why go to great efforts to have an accurate depiction of Tudor dress if we don’t care about an accurate depiction of Anne Boleyn’s race. But I could see the logic of colour-blind casting if it was done fairly. But it is not. While historical white characters can be depicted by non-white people, historical black people cannot. Try making a remake of Roots with all the slaves and their descendants cast with white actors. If the character in a novel is described as being black, it is whitewashing to use a white actor to depict them. But Morgan Freeman can play an Irish character with red hair in the Shawshank Redemption and that is fair.

It is now problematic to have an operetta such as the Mikado with white singers, but it is not problematic to have black singers depicting people who would have been white. It means that a staging of Turandot with a full black cast would be no problem at all, but if it had a cast of Italians for whom it was written it is liable to be condemned. Bridgerton can have black aristocrats in Regency England, but a Suitable Boy cannot have white actors depicting Indians in post war India. We are not allowed to distort black history and fiction, but we can pretend that there were black aristocrats which is a distortion of British history.

Only white people are privileged because we live in a majority white society, that supposedly makes all black people no matter how successful or rich underprivileged. It means that a multi-millionaire black footballer is less privileged than a single parent white family with little money and less hope. But if a white person happens to live in a society which is overwhelmingly black, he will not find that black people have black privilege he will not be underprivileged in relation to them no matter how poor he is and no matter what discrimination he faces.

It is all one-way traffic. While white people are condemned for cultural appropriation if they adopt the styles or culture of people from other races, those other races can culturally appropriate the English language, classical music and the inventions of white people with no condemnation whatsoever. This is because cultural appropriation like racism is deemed to be a power relation. Black people with less power can culturally appropriate all they wish and can use racist language about themselves and others without being called racist. It is this unequal treatment that the crowds are booing.

People in Britain are beginning to sense that modern race theory is a racket. If a black cricketer were discovered to have tweeted something racially offensive about white people in his teens, he would not be suspended. If a black hero were discovered to have benefited from the slave trade he would not be cancelled. There is an unforgivable sin called racism, but only white people can ever be guilty of it.

As footballers go down on one knee they are praying to the God of Racism. This is an angry God who has divided us all into the sheep and the goats. The black sheep are without sin, incapable of error and never to blame. The white goats must kneel down and repent. They must pretend that Britain was always multi-cultural and multi-racial. They must be careful what they say and do, for one slip and they will be cancelled. They must confess that those people from the past who we admired, respected and who made our country what it is were in fact racist. Instead of pride in our past we must instead feel guilt. Each of us it turns out is a descendant of bigots and slaveholders and the sins of the fathers must be visited on the sons and we must repent and pay reparations.

But ordinary football fans are beginning to realise that the God of Racism that they are told they must kneel down to is itself a racist. Modern race theory does not treat all races equally and does not want to. It was invented so that one side would always be guilty and one side always innocent. They want you to kneel down to a theory that is itself racist because it is founded on the unequal treatment of people due to their skin colour. The modern understanding of racism has become merely a stick to beat white people with whether they deserve it or not. It is never used against anyone else.

The biggest danger is that when white people begin to discover the inequality of treatment, when they fully realise the racism inherent in modern race theory, they will reject the whole concept of being anti-racist and will give up on fairness, tolerance and treating others as equal no matter what they look like. The inequality in the modern conception of race will lead people to no longer see racism as an unforgivable sin, because how can a sin be unforgivable if only white people can commit it, while for black people it isn’t even a sin at all.

At this point taking the knee will not merely be an empty gesture worthy of booing and derision, but rather a source of division and hostility between races and will begin to undermine the progress that we have all made by treating each other simply as human beings. If white people begin to sense that they are being conned by a race industry that wants to treat them unequally, unfairly and unjustly then race relations across the western world will be set back decades until we can once more realise that all human beings are capable of prejudice and racism and that we can only overcome this not by emphasising what divides us, but by recognising the humanity that we share. People of all races must realise that identity politics will make race relations worse unless we all work together to reject its divisiveness. This is why people are booing and why their boos will only get louder.

 

 

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Reeling the SNP in.

 

My earliest political act as a child in 1979 was throwing mud at campaign sign for the local Conservative MP which was in his garden. The Conservatives won 22 seats that year and my mud across the face of the MP did him no harm, but got me into trouble with the primary school. I think I also put up an SNP poster in my window, which horrified my Conservative voting parents, who made me take it down immediately. But this didn’t help the SNP as it lost seven seats and ended up with only two. It’s only a little over forty years ago, but it’s not so much that the past is a foreign country as that Scotland is.

Labour won 44 seats in Scotland in 1979, but it has lost all but one of them not so much because of the SNP, but because it turned Scotland into the land that hates Tories. In doing so it created the sense of the rest of Britain being some foreign and rather wicked place that votes Tory. It was this that created the modern SNP and which also destroyed Labour in Scotland.



The desire for independence did not seriously exist in Scotland when I was a child. Even SNP supporters did not think it would ever happen. It was an issue for cranks and obsessives. Support had increased with the discovery of oil and with it the idea that it was Scotland’s oil, but at the moment when Scottish independence might have been economically viable, support was miniscule. As oil began to decline to the point where it will within a few years reach obsolescence perversely support for the SNP reached levels that neither the Conservatives nor Labour could have dreamed of in 1979.

But whereas in the 1970s SNP support might have been driven by the “what if we had it all” argument and while in 2014 it was still possible to dream of secret oil fields filling the coffers, now instead we have merely the legacy of Margaret Thatcher and the idea that Scotland is not like the other parts of Britain because we are egalitarian and believe in fairness and they are just wicked Tory Brexiteers.

The Scottish independence movement is not really an independence movement at all. It is mere anti-Toryism. The 1980s changed Scotland from a place that historically voted Conservative at least some of the time and which viewed Conservatism as just one ideology amongst others, to somewhere that saw the Conservative Party as being unScottish and lower than vermin.

This created a new Scotland that was divorced from our conservative past, which was full of thrift, frugality and Adam Smith. It severed the connection between our Jacobite ancestry (who were after all Tories in the traditional sense of the word) and created for the first time a form of Scottish nationalism which is quite alien to our experience in both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

When historical nationalism arose in Europe in the 19th century, it found no answer in Scotland because we were content on the northern part of our island and had done very well out of our marriage with the English crown. It was for this reason that Walter Scott was able to express, perhaps invent, Scottishness in the Waverley novels while also inventing Englishness in Ivanhoe. Somehow his writing could be both Scottish and English at the same time without diminishing either, but by celebrating both. This was Toryism. It admired the Jacobites and the wild Highlanders like Rob Roy while recognising the progress that arose due to the defeat of the Stuarts. This that created the Scottishness of the 19th century, which built monuments to William Wallace and Robert the Bruce while being pleased that eventually the warring parties had made peace and become united. This was the Scottishness that endured until 1979.

For this reason, I find the SNP quite foreign to the Scotland I grew up in. They took away my heroes and my flag. They turned a romantic song about Bannockburn into something that I can no longer sing because it would make me a hypocrite. They have divided Scotland in a way we have not been divided since the Covenanters and all because of hatred of Tories.

I have always been a Conservative, despite my mudslinging which continues to this day with criticism when I think it is merited. I am Conservative because it is the only way we can get Scotland back to what it once was. A place that was not so very different from other parts of Britain and which did not have the absurd idea that somehow, we are exceptional or radically different from other Brits.

We need to spit out the anti-Tory poison, because it is this and this alone that fuels Scottish nationalism. If the Conservatives were just another party whose record was fairly judged, we would already have defeated the SNP.

The next electoral challenge will be the next General Election in perhaps two years. Small parties will be unable to compete with First Past the Post. A legal independence referendum will not happen until then. An unofficial referendum is unlikely given that Sturgeon knows she would need international recognition to succeed and anyway could either be stopped by the courts or made farcical by a Pro UK boycott.

Labour is competing for the same voters with the SNP, which makes it both soft on independence, but not soft enough for genuine independence supporters to support. It is already clear that Labour will be lucky if it retains even its solitary MP. The Lib Dems will continue to hold the far north of Scotland and bits of Fife, but their share of the vote is not going to change massively, because their only selling point rejoining the EU is a dead issue in Britain and will be supported by no major party in its manifesto except the SNP. The only way to really increase Pro UK seats is in those parts of Scotland where the Conservatives stand the best chance of winning. This also avoids the chance of letting the SNP into power because a vote for either the Lib Dems or Labour might lead to them forming a coalition with the SNP, the price of which would be indyref2. Conservative Government is how we avoid a pact between Starmer and Sturgeon.

While Conservatives have shown themselves to be willing to vote Labour and Lib Dem where the Conservatives have no chance of winning, there is a reluctance on the Left to reciprocate. Centre Left Scots having been brought up to think of the Conservatives as wicked are unwilling to lend their vote even for the good of UK unity. It is this above all that allows the SNP to keep winning, because it is this anti-Toryism that is the foundation of Scottish nationalism.

We have a few years to change the narrative. Being virulently anti-Tory has become a sort of code for hating Britain and the English who give us Tory governments. It is the difference between now and 1979 when 31% of Scots voted Conservative and the UK was threatened only by the Soviets.

It is reasonable to criticise Boris Johnson’s government when it makes mistakes, but we must judge his record fairly and not by dogma. You may have voted to Remain, but we must judge Brexit not by what we thought then, but by the results now. Vaccination would not have happened so quickly if we had stayed in the EU. That at least is one thing we gained from leaving. Trade deals may bring challenges for our farmers, but they may also bring cheaper produce and more choice. The British Government funds both the NHS, the vaccine programme and furlough, so why do we give credit to Nicola Sturgeon? It’s as if we gave credit to the puppet for its movements while ignoring the strings. Boris is the fisherman and she is merely dancing on the end of the line. Support him and we will reel the SNP in. 

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Macron's geography lesson

 

France is a rather odd place. It is not merely the chunk of the European continent across the Channel. It also includes two islands in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe and Martinique, a little bit of South America, French Guiana, and two islands in the Indian Ocean, RĂ©union and Mayotte. These are part of France in just the same way as Picardy and Normandy. The concept then of territory that is far far away being France is quite clear to Mr Macron. Oddly he struggles with the concept of Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom.

Perhaps Mr Macron is getting mixed up by the fact that Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain. But Northern Ireland is so much a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland that if it ceased to be a part there would be no United Kingdom at all. There would then be just the Kingdom of Great Britain. But although Northern Ireland is not a part of Great Britain the people living there are British and just as British as any other citizen of the UK. The reason for this is that the word we use for citizens of the UK is not as it might have been “United Kingdomer”, which is a bit ungainly but rather “British”. Every resident of the UK is a British citizen unless he has the citizenship of somewhere else. We are all equally British. It doesn’t matter if you come from Belfast or Barnsley.



It is for this reason that Mr Macron’s words are so offensive. It is as if Boris Johnson said that the people of Corsica and their most famous general were not really French and that the territory of Corsica was not really a part of France because it is separated by a stretch of sea.

Unfortunately, it is more understandable than it ought to be that Mr Macron does not consider Northern Ireland to be part of the UK. He has been encouraged in this view by decades of British Government policy which has not treated Belfast as if it were just the same as Barnsley.

Northern Ireland exists because of the Irish War of Independence. While the majority in what is now Ireland wished to leave the UK, a majority in Northern Ireland did not. If the majority of people in Ireland could justifiably secede from the UK, there is no logical reason why the majority of people in Northern Ireland could choose not to do so, but rather remain in the UK. This was just one of the territorial changes that took place in Europe after the First World War sometimes due to plebiscite and sometimes due to war. Likewise, after the Second World War there were more territorial changes. No one questions these.

No one agitates for Italy to return South Tyrol even though the majority of people living there speak German. There is no serious prospect of reuniting the Tyrol and if there were the EU would oppose it. No one suggests that Hungarian speaking parts of Romania and Slovakia should be returned to Hungary, because if Europe began reopening border disputes there would be chaos and most probably violence. Only in Northern Ireland is irredentism acceptable. If Germany agitated for the return of its lost lands which are now parts of Russia and Poland it would be accused of reverting to its behaviour of 1938 when it annexed the Sudetenland because of the Germans living there. There is no obvious difference between this and what Ireland is doing when it seeks to find ways of annexing Northern Ireland because there are some people with an Irish identity living there.

The problem is that whereas places like Italy and Turkey view the lands they took after the First World War as theirs permanently, whether or not they are across a sea (European Turkey, Eastern Thrace is in a different continent to Anatolia), the British have always apologised for Northern Ireland. Churchill was willing to trade Northern Ireland with De Valera for Irish cooperation during World War 2. During the Troubles the British Government was always keen to come to an arrangement with the Ireland, which would in the end trade land (Northern Ireland) for peace. Making peace with the IRA meant giving Ireland a role in Northern Ireland and the peace treaty, the Belfast Agreement, allowed for Northern Ireland to join Ireland if a majority on both sides of the border wished it.

No other country in the world would have signed such a treaty and the British Government would not have signed such a treaty about any other part of the United Kingdom. It is simply unimaginable that Italy would sign a treaty with Austria about South Tyrol that gave the Austrians a formal role in South Tyrol or which allowed a plebiscite for Tyrolean unity. The United States would not allow Mexico to interfere in the internal affairs of New Mexico nor would it sign a peace treaty with terrorists from Old Mexico, no matter how many children they bombed. But somehow Northern Ireland is different. This is why Mr Macron thinks it is not really part of the United Kingdom, because we do not treat it as if it is either.

It is of course outrageous that internal trade within the UK should in any way be disrupted by the EU. The regulatory border down the Irish Sea is the sort of thing that countries would be justified in fighting a war about. After all we were willing to fight world wars over Belgian neutrality and to protect Poland, yet we meekly agreed to the EU’s de fact annexation of Northern Ireland. What if the same regulatory border had been applied to Cornwall or to London? It is simply unimaginable that we would have allowed it.

The problem arose because Theresa May hoped that by agreeing to keep Northern Ireland within the EU/Irish sphere of influence she would force the whole UK to remain within it too. Boris Johnson was left with little choice but to make the best of a bad situation or else not leave the EU at all.

It might just have been possible to accept a regulatory border if it had been barely noticeable. The people of Northern Ireland after all voted for the Belfast Agreement and they are divided fairly evenly between those whose allegiance is to the UK and those whose allegiance is to Ireland.  It is worth compromising to maintain peace in Northern Ireland. But the present situation is not maintaining peace but rather imperilling it.

The people of Northern Ireland have the same right to buy produce from the other parts of the UK as anyone else. I would be furious if I could not buy what I wanted from England, or if small parcels could not be sent from there. Mr Macron would not allow disruption of trade between the overseas regions and departments of France and mainland France. No one in the world would allow such an arrangement.

It is therefore time for the United Kingdom to trigger Article 16, as the EU briefly has already done. This can be justified if the protocol "leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist". It has already done so. The EU are unwilling to seriously negotiate, because they are using the protocol to punish Britain, by striving to make Northern Ireland the price of Brexit.

Having triggered Article 16, the British Government can inform the Irish Government that we do not intend to have any border checks at all at the international border between our countries. We don’t massively care if any rogue Irish pies or sausages make it to Belfast or to Barnsley. What the Irish Government chooses to do on its side of the border will be up to them, as it will not be any of our business.

Let the EU do its worst. But let us also be clear that the whole package of relations would then be on the line. If the EU treats Britain as a hostile power it can no longer expect the UK to be part of its security arrangements. If they wish to be friends, then treat us as friends. If they don’t, then don’t expect our cooperation next time European security is threatened. We have fought too often on the European Continent and received precious little gratitude for it.

The UK is doing quite well thank you very much after Brexit. We will survive if the EU chooses to make it more difficult for us to sell our goods to the EU. We will simply sell elsewhere and buy our goods from elsewhere too. Whatever might happen would be a fraction to what we have already endured during the pandemic, so there is nothing to be afraid of.

We still allow free movement of people between the UK and Ireland though we allow it for no other EU member state. A little cooperation from Ireland would justify this arrangement continuing, otherwise it might be time to revisit it. Joe Biden can hardly complain as his country does not allow free movement between Old Mexico and New Mexico. The Irish Government could not logically complain either, the consequence of choosing independence is that you choose an international border. You have no right to demand it be kept open.