Sunday, 25 September 2022

After independence Sturgeon would need a wall.

 

There are approximately 4.6 million adults in Scotland. Of these around 1.9 million or 41% pay no income tax. 48% of us pay between 19 and 21%. While 9.9% pay 41% and 1% pay 46%. Around 60% of revenue raised in Scotland comes from that top 10%. But this means that Scotland has an obvious problem. We are being undercut.

One of the benefits of Brexit was that it gave the UK the chance to undercut the EU. The UK could become a low tax, low regulation offshore competitor attracting business from the Continent. The EU did all it could to prevent this happening and thus far has largely succeeded. Perhaps Truss will be able to do better. But she has just done to Scotland what Brexiteers promised to do to the EU.



If you think this doesn’t work, look at Ireland. Much of Dublin’s income comes from it having a model of very low corporation tax. This means that it is cheaper for many large businesses to be based in Ireland rather than say France or Germany. This is good for Ireland, but bad for everyone else, which is why they want to force Ireland to raise corporation tax. Well Truss has just done to Scotland what Ireland does to Germany and France.

The problem for Scotland is that large numbers of Scots pay no income tax at all. This is partly because the rate at which people begin to pay income tax has been raised by the UK Government. I have always believed this is a long-term mistake. It means that low-income workers have no interest in keeping tax rates low because they don’t share in paying them.  If you don’t pay income tax at all you don’t directly benefit from tax cuts.

The SNP could of course argue that the threshold should be lowered in Scotland and I’m sure its wish would be granted, but it won’t because it would upset its core support.

We know that support for Scottish independence correlates with socio-economic status. The low paid and those on benefits are most likely to support Scottish independence, while those who pay the highest levels of tax are least likely to support it. There are exceptions of course. There are millionaires who support the SNP. But generally, it is obvious that poorer Scots hope that Scottish independence will increase the help they get from the state. They want higher taxes and higher public spending, because they know that someone else will pay for it.

But this is why the SNP has a problem now and particularly if it were ever to achieve Scottish independence. The top 10% of tax payers are going to be very much better off if they moved to England tomorrow. Of course, not all of these people can move. Many will have jobs in Scotland or businesses that cannot easily be moved. But if you work in finance in Edinburgh, you could just as easily do your job in London. The same goes for doctors and many other professions that are easily transferable.

It would be difficult for many of us to move. We would need to sell a house, move schools and move from rather empty quiet Scotland to crowded England, but young people starting a career after university will right now be faced with a choice. Get a job in England which will immediately pay more because of lower tax or get the same job in Scotland which will pay less. Scotland not merely faces a brain drain, we face a tax drain too.

So even as part of the UK Scotland is going to lose revenue, but imagine if Pro UK people who undoubtedly pay the vast majority of Scottish taxes are outvoted by those who don’t pay tax at all. This would be perfectly democratic of course. We don’t limit voting rights to those who pay income taxes. But there is nothing to stop Pro UK people voting with their feet. Not unless Sturgeon decides to build a wall.

The majority of Pro UK people would doubtless stay in Scotland after independence. Many of us have jobs we would not want to leave, children we would not want to uproot and we love Scotland just as much as independence supporters. But a proportion of Pro UK people would leave especially if times were tough in the first few years of independence.

Independence supporters usually react to this with a sort of glee. Cheerio. Happy to see you leave etc. But the worst thing that could possibly happen to Scotland is to see part of its population leave.

Scotland has a very low birth rate. It has a low life expectancy. It has poor health and increasingly poor education. The majority of people who choose to move here are from other parts of the UK, which would decline after independence, because they would become foreigners.  Few people from elsewhere choose to come to Scotland. Scotland’s population is aging and in decline. Independence supporters should be getting down on their knees and pleading for people to stay rather than telling us to Foxtrot Oscar.

At the moment if some of Scotland’s highest earners and highest tax payers choose to take advantage of lower tax rates in England, Scotland will be compensated by means of the Barnett formula. Scottish tax revenue may fall, but the UK Treasury will redistribute and the level of Scottish public spending will stay the same. Independence supporters will not notice any lowering in their benefit payments. We will still get free prescriptions, free tuition and all the goodies the SNP give us.

But the economic case for independence is gradually going to get worse the longer the tax differential between England and Scotland continues, because those Scots who pay the most tax are going to leave.

Worse if Scotland were to achieve independence it would lose not only the money, we now get from the UK Treasury, we would have to take on a proportion of UK debt, because it is just this debt that pays our pensions and gives us annuities. We would then have to pay for all of the promises that the SNP made to people who don’t pay taxes, from a dwindling pool of tax payers, many of whom could pay less tax in England, most of whom did not want independence in the first place.

Scotland might be able to make up for its loss of population by having an open immigration policy welcoming everyone from everywhere. But even those Scots who pay the lower rates of income tax receive about as much from the state as we pay. To increase tax revenue substantially you will need to import people who will immediately be paying the higher rates of tax.

But where are you going to get them and if you can get them, how are you going to stop them moving to London, where they will earn more and pay less tax? After independence Sturgeon would need a wall.

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Not so much quasi-Conservatism as the real thing.

 

Liz Truss is attempting to rescue both Britain and the Conservative Party by a supply side revolution involving massive tax cuts. Suddenly after years of Tory centrism and wet mush we have got Friedman and Hayek back as the philosophy behind Kwasi Kwarteng’s thinking. It is not so much quasi-Conservatism as the real thing.

This ought to work. If you believe in free markets, indeed if you believe in capitalism then it is really basic stuff that lowering taxes and shrinking the state will lead to growth. The problem is time.


We have about two years to turn things around. At that point there is going to be a General Election with a task only half done. The voters will have to have faith in Friedman and Hayek even though they have never heard of them. Most probably voters are going to have to feel just a little bit better than they do now and have a sense that we are going in the right direction.

The Left including Scottish nationalism is going to throw everything they have at Truss, because hers is a revolution that if given the chance will change everything.

There was no going back to the 1970s after Thatcher and the Berlin Wall came down. Instead of the Heath Wilson socialist double act we ended up with Blair and Cameron two sides of the social democratic coin. That consensus continued until yesterday. Now ideology is back and the difference between Truss and the Left becomes obvious and massive.

The point of lowering the size of the state is that socialism doesn’t work. Governments spend money less efficiently than the people who earn it.  

Where I work the department has a budget. If you spend less than your budget you get less next year, so as the deadline approaches you buy anything, not caring if it is useful. You are spending someone else’s money anyway, not your own.

People are motivated to study and work because they want to earn money that they can then spend on themselves and their families. No one works to pay for the NHS even if they like the NHS. No one works to pay taxes.

If you lower taxes people will work harder and the money they earn will be spent more efficiently than if the Government spends it.

This works except for one thing. Jealousy.

In your work if your colleague gets a pay rise and you don’t what do you feel? Be honest. Most people feel jealousy. Your income stays the same. You haven’t lost anything, but you resent that your colleague now gets more.

This is the heart of why people oppose free markets and capitalism. Some people work harder, some people are more talented or cleverer or can kick a ball better than others. It is not fair.

In ancient times I might work harder to make clay pots than my neighbour, but he might be more talented and people want to buy his pots rather than mine. I earn less than he does. I resent him. I invent a system where he pays more tax than me so we end up earning the same. This is called socialism.

But if a talented maker of clay pots earns the same as a mediocre maker, why be talented? Why work hard if the result is the same? It is for this reason that Left-wing thinking depresses economic growth and the Soviet Union could not compete economically with the West.

Inequality is the foundation of capitalism, without it there would be no incentive to work and work harder. But many of us are uncomfortable with this idea, not least because the Left argues not merely for equality of opportunity, but for equality of outcome.

But this is our problem. If we all live in ancient time and we are making pots, or tools, or growing grain, what happens if the Government decides to pay everyone a universal basic income. Perhaps I am not very good at making pots or growing grain, but now that the Government pays me to do nothing I needn’t bother. But then those who are growing the grain see me doing nothing and reflect why should I work hard every day while my neighbour is idle? But if the farmer chooses universal basic income too, who grows the grain?

Free market capitalism in its earliest form works because the poor know that if they don’t work, they don’t eat. This is the ultimate incentive to work and it applies still in most countries of the world. Even in Eastern Europe today where there is a minimal welfare state people without work do not starve, but rather do anything.

This is the part of the revolution that Truss still needs to push through. Growth is hindered by taxes that are too high, but it is also and equally hindered by welfare being too high.

No one questions that those who genuinely cannot work should be given enough to live especially if they are old or sick or disabled. But in Britain vast numbers of people choose to be idle even though they could work. If all of those people who could work did so we would be able to cut government spending on welfare and increase economic activity leading to economic growth.

The way to encourage people to work is to make benefits such that they do not discourage people from seeking work. But the Left just as it encourages ever higher taxes, also encourages ever higher benefits. The endpoint of this is that we pay 100% tax and all of us are on equal benefits called universal basic income. At this point we would have genuine starvation and call it our socialist paradise.

There is no starvation in Britain. I can go to Aldi and buy a bag of potatoes, a bag of lentils, plus whatever vegetables are on sale with a cheap cut of meat and make enough soup to feed a football team for a few pounds.  There may be children who are malnourished because their mothers feed them crisps and Irn Bru, but the issue here is not financial, but educational.

There is no more inefficient method of trying to help poor people than donating food to food banks. There are no foodbanks in Eastern Europe, no one starves there. No one starves here.

Foodbanks merely encourage welfare dependency by making living on benefits more pleasant. People who might have looked for a job if they only had benefits get the equivalent of benefits in kind that encourage them to do nothing. Giving to food banks doesn’t help these people. It hurts them.

The best way to help poor people is to get them to work. The level of benefits ought to be such that people want to cease receiving them and instead receive a pay check.

 We have forgotten the basics of capitalism in Britain. We have come to expect the Government to solve all our problems and pay all our bills. But this will make all of us poorer in the end, especially the poorest.  Social democracy leads merely to decline, laziness and inefficiency. Public services and welfare depend on growth.

The Left will resist Truss with everything they have, because if it can just be proved that lowering taxes and getting people off welfare makes all of us wealthier then who will listen to Starmer or Sturgeon? Give real Conservatism a chance and we will destroy the Left.

 

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Mother Russia calls, but no one listens

 

Everybody including me got everything wrong about the war in Ukraine. The Germans and the French thought it wasn’t going to happen right up until the moment that it did. The British and the Americans thought that the Ukrainians would be defeated within a week or so. The fear was that the Russians would then threaten Lithuania and Poland and that NATO would struggle to defend the countries it had expanded into since the end of the Cold War. It turns out that no one knew anything.

Russia is now pinned back almost at its starting point. Its best troops are gone and Ukraine has counterattacked with such success that it can win the war. It may even be that Ukraine will be able to recapture the whole of the Donbas and perhaps even Crimea, which would make Russia’s defeat complete in a way that was simply unimaginable in February.



It is likely that the world would have accepted a peace deal prior to the war with Russia keeping its territorial gains from 2014. Ukraine would have had little choice but to accept this too. Putin is desperate because Russia faces the prospect of complete humiliation similar to the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 or the Treaty of Brest Litovsk in 1918. This has long term strategic consequences.

Russia has bet the farm on restricting gas supplies to Europe. We will all pay higher prices and we may have some power cuts, but we will get through this winter. But who is going to rely on Russian oil and gas ever again afterwards?

But Russia sells nothing much except natural resources. Russia doesn’t really make anything. There are few if any Russian brands in our supermarkets. We don’t buy Russian cars or TVs. All we buy is oil and gas. But when you freeze your consumer don’t expect him to buy from you again.

Anyway, oil and gas are borderline obsolete technologies. The present crisis will merely hasten our move away from fossil fuels towards renewables and nuclear. In the short term we may burn more coal, oil and gas, but we won’t get any of it from Russia and we won’t burn them for long.

Russia is not China. It did not make the transition to a market economy. Russians do not work like the Chinese. They expect a western standard of living because they border Europe, but they have never worked particularly effectively, efficiently or hard.

The literary character who best reflects Russians is Oblomov. He spends his days sleeping on a divan dreaming about his ancestral estate that is decaying because of his inactivity. His friend Stolz of German ancestry tries to get Oblomov to do something, do anything, but it is Stolz who does everything.

Russia imported its Napoleonic generals from Germany and almost everyone in tsarist Russia who made anything, taught anything or sold anything was from abroad.

Russian success historically has been military. In 1812 Russia defeated Napoleon almost as single-handedly as it defeated Nazi Germany in 1945. Russian military might has instilled fear in everyone because of these two events. Russia may look useless, but just wait, it is merely Oblomov sleeping, when roused he will be a formidable foe.

But Ukraine has just exposed that there is no more Russia to arise. There is no one for Mother Russia to call. The long centuries of serfdom waiting to be told what to do has given us merely Russian passiveness. The tyranny of the Soviet Union waiting for the whispered denunciation and the Gulag has created a people capable merely of consuming vodka and committing acts of barbarism.

The Russian Army has shown itself to be completely without discipline and without expertise. Its weaponry is second rate and the quality of its troops still worse even that that. All it can successfully do is rape women and children and torture people it claims to be brothers. But an army that loses discipline or never had it will struggle against an army fighting because it wants to rather than because it is forced to.

The Ukrainians have shown that they are innovative, well-motivated and with first rate morale. They are equipped and trained by the British and the Americans and are a different order of competence from the dregs of Russian society that it is now recruiting from its prisons.

Strategically Russia is being defeated like it was defeated at the end of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire that had gradually been brought under control from the days of Ivan the Terrible was lost when Gorbachev lacked the will and perhaps even the means to hold it together.

A few machinegun bullets would have been enough to stop the Ukrainian SSSR and the other Republics from leaving the Soviet Union, but by that stage Gorbachev could not rely on the machine gunner doing what he was told. So, Russia lost what it had taken centuries to gather.

Now it is unclear that Putin or whoever follows him has the means to keep the Russian Federation together.

Russia is poor, empty and without effective armed forces. It has nothing to sell and no obvious means to become an efficient part of the world economy. Its people dream of the luxury they see on western TV, but lack the means to gain it for themselves. Any new business opportunity is as likely to be stamped out by corruption or mafiosi who simply steal it.

There is therefore a vacuum. Russia stretches all the way to Vladivostok. But neither the land, the resources nor anything else is properly exploited. If this was the USA every corner would be used for either business or farming, but in Russia the grain all fell on the stony ground. It won’t sustain the population that this enormous chunk of Eurasia ought to sustain.

Outside Moscow and St Petersburg there is poverty, squalor, deprivation and hopelessness and this was before the events of the last year. If you live in a small town five hundred miles from Moscow there are few opportunities. Less even than there were during the tsar, when such towns could be reasonably pleasant and prosperous at least for the upper classes.

We have already been witnessing Russia’s hold on the Soviet Union’s former Republics weakening. They either look to the West or to China or are forced like Belarus to be vassals of Mother Russia.

This weakening will continue. The threats are a sign of weakness.  Russia appears not merely impotent but deranged. It returns to the human wave tactics with obsolete equipment with a mass mobilization of the unwilling. It is the First World War all over again. A disciplined army will defeat the mob in Donetsk in the same way it defeated it at Tannenberg in 1914 with Russian generals responding to disaster with blowing their brains out. 

Expect Russia's neighbours to ask themselves why turn to Russia if it can be defeated by Ukraine?

Worse as Russia’s population declines further because women choose not to bring babies into a land without opportunity and anyone with any talent or money is getting a one way ticket to anywhere, so the vacuum of land without people will expand and the emptiness will become ever more obvious to Russia’s neighbours.

At some point a Russian Republic far far away from Moscow will gradually fill up with Kazakhs or Chinese or Koreans. It won’t be necessary to fight a war. Instead, the takeover will eventually just become a matter of fact.

The Chinese will be the main victor as Russia gradually retreats towards Muscovy.

When Mao first went to Moscow, he was kept waiting and was treated like a beggar at Stalin’s table, thrown a bone or two from the scraps of his Lord and Master. Russia in the 1940s was hugely more developed than China, both militarily and economically. It controlled the whole of Eastern Europe. But Russia slept and as it did so the Chinese first overtook it and then surpassed it.

China today has a better military than Russia, a better economy and a people who are willing to study and work in a way that Russians are not. Russia is already China’s vassal. Xi tells Putin what to do.  Now Russia’s weakness will be filled with China’s strength.

It is impossible to predict what will happen in a war that has already been unpredictable. The Russians didn't see the recent offensive coming, which is one reason why they lost. It is too early to say whether the Russian Federation will collapse. But it is vulnerable. If Putin is got rid off and there is an attempt to introduce any sort of real democracy then there will not be enough to hold Russia together. It will be the fall of the Soviet Union all over again.

If the Russian Federation continues then the Chinese takeover will more resemble its takeover of African countries and Central Asia. Chinese influence, money and power will quietly gain more than it could possibly have gained by invasion. This is where the Chinese are clever, while the Russians relying on the thinking of past wars and ancient glories have proved themselves as obsolete as their weapons.

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Scottish nationalists refute their own argument

 

The past couple of weeks have exposed a delightful contradiction at the heart of Scottish nationalism. When I point out that Scottish independence would mean the loss of the monarchy, I am contacted by numerous outraged Scottish nationalists eager to point out that in 2014 the SNP intended to keep Queen Elizabeth as Queen of Scots. On the other hand, when I argue that the British Government should make clear to Scottish voters that if you choose to leave the United Kingdom you won't have King Charles III or any of his successors, numerous Scottish nationalists tell me that I am making their dreams come true.

Both horns of the dilemma think they are being extremely clever in refuting both of my arguments, but they are blissfully unaware that they are refuting themselves.



The response to the Queen’s death has made it obvious that there is an astonishing degree of support for the monarchy in the UK and indeed around the world. The Royal Family has had its difficulties and this has caused various commentators and pollsters to think that support for the monarchy might be in decline. But look at events on the ground.  

The past weeks have been a sort of reverse French revolution for Republicanism in Britain. Whoops you just lost your head.  You may still be speaking as allegedly Charlotte Corday did afterwards, but there is not much sense coming out of your mouth.

Not one serious political party will campaign for a republic at the next election. Those politicians who support republicanism in the Labour Party will told to keep their mouths shut. There will not be a referendum on this issue in the lifetime of a new born baby. So, write and protest all you wish. Claim that Charles is not your king. But to what purpose?

So too even in Scotland. When the astonishing scenes of people lining the pavements became undeniable, I was first told by Scottish nationalists that they were tourists. I was then told that they were Scottish nationalists who both supported the monarchy and independence. After all the SNP supports the monarchy. Didn’t you know? Finally, I was told by Mr Curtice and the Scottish establishment to move along please, nothing to see here, nothing had changed and that everything would be back to normal in a few days. Sorry for the delay in campaigning for next year’s referendum.

But the Queen’s death has turned into one of the most significant political events in the past decades. It is not disrespectful to point this out. Rather it is to acknowledge that her reign was even more important that we realised,

We will resume normal politics shortly, but since her death almost no one has been thinking about the cost of living crisis and the price of heating, whatever Liz Truss plans to do and Nicola Sturgeon also has become of so little interest that it has become irrelevant. It’s not so much stop all the clocks as stop all the politics. To suggest that this is not a political event is obtuse.

When something important happens, you can try to diminish it. Look some people are chipping away at the Berlin Wall. Look some planes are flying into the World Trade Centre. Look there are some crowds queuing to view a dead Queen’s coffin. But the key is to realise that some events change how we think about the world and the arguments we can sensibly make about it.

In Scotland the SNP has failed to address the consequences of Brexit. It has used it to try to gain support from Pro UK people who were also Remainers. But it has completely ignored the consequences of Brexit for the independence argument.

In my view any sort of regulated border between Scotland and England destroys the SNP argument. There is no way Scottish voters will choose passport checks at Carlisle plus trade tariffs.

Support for independence is contingent on people believing that the border will continue like now. But that would depend on both the EU and the former UK Government agreeing to some sort of special arrangement, which is unlikely to be in the former UK’s interest.

But to Brexit we can now add the monarchy. If the British Government and Charles III made absolutely clear that it would have no interest in Charles III becoming king of Scotland, then it is true that the hard core independence supporters with their Celtic tops and their hatred of the crown would be dancing a jig, but the consequence of their dancing is twofold. One it makes it obvious that support for the monarchy amongst most independence supporters is insincere. Two that sorry folks independence is not going to happen.

The sort of people who might be tempted to support independence to get Scotland back into the EU are just the sort who lined the pavements of Scotland to say goodbye to the Queen. It is these people you need to win round.

Every time independence supporters tell us how much they hate the monarchy, they emphasise that the SNP’s idea of making Queen Elizabeth the Second Queen Elizabeth the First of Scotland was merely a ruse. Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon calculated that the monarchy was relatively popular in Scotland so they promised to keep it. It might win a few votes for the cause. Once independence had been achieved it was always their intention to have a referendum on the monarchy.

But why would King Charles III subject himself to this? Why would the British Government let him? He is King of the United Kingdom. He is not going to reward those who destroyed his kingdom any more that Louis the XVII would have been inclined to reward those in 1795 who had caused a guillotine to be hanging over his head.

You cannot both want the United Kingdom to cease to exist and express support for the King of the United Kingdom. That contradiction in the SNP’s plans in 2014 has been fully exposed. But the idea that the very swing voters that the SNP needs to win independence, will vote any time soon to ditch the monarchy is to suppose that Queen Elizabeth II was like her distant ancestor Edward II being sent homeward to think again.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has changed the argument in Scotland and it is the SNP that will have to think again not merely about the economic consequences of Scottish independence, that is the easy part, but that Scots are more deeply involved in her kingdom than we even realise. The monarchy unites us and there is nothing else that could make us line the pavements nor queue in the cold and the rain, certainly not Scottish nationalism.

It's hard to even imagine anything more powerful than what is attracting people to the Queen, but it is just this that the SNP will have to refute before it can win independence. Unfortunately, Scottish nationalist insincerity about the monarchy has rather stupidly destroyed its own argument.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

The SNP cannot logically support the monarchy

 

When the Queen had her 70th jubilee in June I was surprised to discover the number of Union Flags that were displayed across Scotland. The SNP had done its best to erase the flag from public life and its supporters frequently described it in the most insulting ways possible. But the jubilee was genuinely popular here. The Queen was clearly much loved in Scotland.

I was even more surprised to see pavements packed with people seeking a last glimpse of the Queen’s coffin. The scale was quite unexpected.



Everything I knew about Scotland told me that support for the monarchy was at best muted among independence supporters. But now the same people who have been telling me for years that they want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and become a republic are telling me that the SNP wants to retain the monarchy and loves the King.

It is crucial to remember always that the SNP is a single-issue party. It wants to achieve Scottish independence. If that requires it to adopt Labour policies it will do so to attract former Labour voters. It will be Pro EU if it thinks that it will win votes now, even though the SNP campaigned against staying in the EC in 1975.

The problem the SNP has is that most Scots hold rather contradictory views. We think that Scotland already is a country just like France with all the attributes of independence.  But we also love and want to retain the rights and advantages of our shared citizenship in the UK. If we were to lose any of these, we would think twice about going it alone.

It is for this reason that the SNP campaigned in 2014 for what might be called independence in the UK rather than its more well-known slogan independence in Europe. Alex Salmond hoped to persuade Scots that we would barely notice Scottish independence. We would keep the pound, we would keep the monarchy, there would be open borders and we’d have exactly the same rights to live and work in the former UK as we do now. We’d watch the same TV. We’d be best friends with the English. If he could have got away with it, Salmond would have told us that the Barnett formula would continue also.

Scottish nationalism unlike most independence movements has always been a minority pursuit. The SNP’s task has been to persuade Scots who mostly like living in the UK to leave it. The debate is therefore largely dishonest.

Most SNP politicians are republicans. Most think of themselves as exclusively Scottish, but they are willing to pretend even to feeling British if it gets just one more Scot with a conflicted identity to cross over to their side.

For this reason, Scottish nationalists pretend that Charles III is King of Scotland and therefore upon independence he will continue to be King of Scotland. We will go back to how it was between 1603 and 1707 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

But this is the big lie at the heart of Scottish nationalism. Both Scotland and England were already on their last legs in 1603 when they gained the same king. At this time the country and the king were more or less the same thing.

If Scotland in the century between the James VI and I and Queen Anne had found another king then Scotland might have resumed its independence. Failure to do so guaranteed the two kingdoms becoming one.

There is no kingdom of Scotland today. The last Scottish monarch was Anne. There is no kingdom of England either. The last English monarch was Anne also. This is so basic that I am astonished that I have to point it out to Scottish nationalists. But I do.

In 1707 Anne became the Queen of Great Britain. It is for this reason people who live in her kingdom became British. A century later the Kingdom of Great Britain merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom.

Charles III is king of the United Kingdom. There is no kingdom of Scotland for him to be king of, because Scotland is not a sovereign nation state and the kingdom of Scotland ceased to exist in 1707.

We continued to refer to Scotland as a country, but it lost all of the typical attributes of a country in 1707 precisely because it ceased to have a King of Scotland.

It is for this reason that it is incoherent for the SNP to claim to be monarchists. It is of course perfectly possible for Charles III to be head of state of places like Canada and New Zealand while also being King of the United Kingdom. But he cannot become King of Scotland and remain King of the United Kingdom. The reason for this is that if Scotland became independent there would no longer be a United Kingdom for him to be king of.

If Alex Salmond had won in 2014 Elizabeth II would have ceased to be Queen of Great Britain, because Scotland would have left. She had never been Queen of Scotland. She might or might not have chosen to become that, but like everything else the SNP promised in 2014 it was not in Alex Salmond’s gift. Whether Scotland continued to share a monarch with the former UK would be up to the monarch and Parliament, not the SNP.

The contradiction in the SNP’s supposed monarchism can be illustrated best by its basing Scotland’s supposed right to independence on The Claim of Right 1689. People who have never read this document want to base all sorts of dubious claims about it. In fact, it is one of the foundation documents of the UK.

In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, James II King of England was kicked out and replaced by William III and Mary. But Scotland had a problem. It needed to kick out James VII King of Scotland and it wanted to imitate the English Bill of Rights 1688. The Claim of Right did the job.

The Claim of Right is primarily an anti-Catholic document, accusing James VII of being a papist who used Jesuits to seduce Scots away from their protestant faith. It therefore says

The said Estates of the Kingdome of Scotland Doe resolve that William and Mary King and Queen of England France and Ireland Be and be Declared King and Queen of Scotland.

This is the purpose of the document.

There are some important statements similar to the Bill of Rights in England that limit the power of the monarchy. This was the moment when we moved away from the Jacobite concept of the divine right of kings to a modern constitutional monarchy.

But it is crucial to realise that neither England nor Scotland in 1689 were democracies. The rights that these important documents gave us, most certainly did not involve the right to break up a kingdom nor to political independence. The vast majority of Scots in 1689 did not have the vote at all, let alone the right to vote for independence.

An 18th century Alex Salmond would have been hung drawn and quartered and it would have done him no good whatsoever if he had appealed to the Claim of Right.

It’s rather amusing to read a document which Scottish nationalists use as the basis for their whole case. They have obviously never read it. If it had not been for the Claim of Right it is likely that Scotland would have remained a separate kingdom. If we had chosen contrary to the English to retain James VII rather than adopt the English King and Queen there would never have been the Act of Union of 1707.

It is still more amusing still to reflect that the green side of the Central Belt bases its claim to Scottish independence on one of the most virulently anti-Catholic documents you could possibly read. You cannot both celebrate the Jacobites and the Claim of Right. It shows you understand neither.

Charles III and the monarchy is inherently opposed to the secession of Scotland. You cannot possibly support the King and want his kingdom to be broken up. The idea that the King would reward such disloyalty by becoming the king of Scotland is preposterous.

We know that the SNP is crossing its fingers when it claims to have loved Queen Elizabeth II. One of the first acts of an independent Scotland’s Government would be to ditch Charles III if he was foolish enough to accept its offer.

The existence of our monarchy is grounded in us having one king who is sovereign over the whole of his realm. To suppose that you can support the monarchy while campaigning for Scottish independence is to misunderstand our history and our country. It is not merely dishonest it is deceiving yourself.

Monday, 12 September 2022

In what way would being a Republic improve Britain?

 

The UK is going through some tough times at the moment. We have just had the pandemic, followed almost immediately by an economic crisis and our Queen has just died. We have a new Prime Minister who most ordinary voters know nothing about. The coming winter may be the most difficult since 1978/1979. Yet I am hopeful.

The response by the overwhelming majority of British people to the Queen’s death has been one of shared grief and united sorrow. No one had to come out to view the Queen’s coffin pass on the road from Balmoral to Aberdeen and then on to Edinburgh, but the pavements were packed. The same will be the case on the journey to London and this will continue until the day of the funeral.



Overseas with a few notable exceptions, governments and peoples have expressed sorrow, empathy and indeed a love for someone else’s queen that is rare indeed.

Would Britain really have been better off if after the Queen’s father died, we had decided to become a Republic?

I am not remotely opposed to the Republican form of Government. Some very fine countries have presidents. The USA elects a president as does France. Both are good places to live as are Germany and Ireland. But so too are the various constitutional monarchies in Europe like Norway and Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. It isn’t at all obvious that Norway would be more pleasant, more free or more democratic if it replaced Harald V with a president. Britain would face exactly the same challenges this winter if we had a president rather than King Charles III.

The UK is as it is because of our history and our history is intimately tied up with the monarchy. It is because Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor married James IV of Scotland that the heir to the throne upon Elizabeth I’s death was James VI and I. Without that marriage, it may well have been the case that Scotland and England remained separate countries with similar languages like Portugal and Spain.

It is also because of monarchy that the transition from absolutism to democracy happened gradually here and without revolution. If the European Union can claim to have prevented European war after 1945, then it is still more obvious that the Kingdom of Great Britain prevented Scotland and England continuing the periodic battles and wars that had marred the centuries prior to unity.

Because we have a constitutional monarchy, we can abolish it when we chose. It would merely require a Republican Party to win a General Election. But it would be time consuming to change our constitution. If a Prime Minister were also head of state, it would change the nature of Parliament and the nature of our democracy. Liz Truss is Prime Minister because she won her battle to be an MP in South West Norfolk and was chosen to be leader of her party. She wasn’t elected by the country as a whole, no Prime Minister ever is. She can hardly then be the equivalent of a president. But if we had presidential elections like in the USA, we would no longer have a Prime Minister, but a totally different political system. Alternatively, if we elected a symbolic president with no powers, we would end up with someone anonymous like the President of Austria. But this is no obvious improvement.

We are not in the Middle Ages. We are one bad king away from getting rid of the Monarchy. If Andrew the First was to be our next King, I suspect we would not have a king at all. But we are not in that situation. Everything King Charles III has done in the past few days suggests that he will be both good and popular.

I have seen some criticism of the King that the head of the established church should not be an adulterer and a divorcee. But this is to misunderstand the nature of Christianity and the church. Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery (John 8) is to forgive her and tell her to go and sin no more. If anyone sincerely accepts that they have done wrong and repents with the intention of not doing that wrong again then Christianity offers forgiveness and redemption. It doesn’t matter how large or small the sin. To have a sinner as head of the church reminds all of us that we are sinners too. Adultery and divorce are now commonplace. All sex outside marriage was considered sinful by Jesus. So go ahead throw the first stone at King Charles.

Each of us has done things that we are ashamed of. Each of us has treated boyfriends and girlfriends or husbands and wives poorly. Charles III is no different from the rest of us and deserves the same second chances that we too hope for when we do wrong. He now has a new marriage and a loving wife. Camilla has behaved well for many years now. She too deserves no less love and forgiveness than we all also hope to receive when we show weakness and the frailty of our humanity.

Everything I have seen in the past few days suggests to me that Queen Elizabeth II has brought the British people close together in her death and that King Charles III will bring us closer still in his life. The crowds packing the pavements of Scotland do not look like people who want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom nor for Charles III to be the last King of it. He represents continuity with our long history and unity. Scottish nationalism cannot compete with our story of shared purpose rather than separation.

Long may he reign.

Saturday, 10 September 2022

Shame on the haters

 

When Mikhail Gorbachev died recently, I didn’t notice any anti-Russian or anti-Soviet sentiment on Twitter or in the newspapers. Even those who have good reason to resent Soviet or Russian expansionism kept silent or offered only mild criticism. But somehow the death of a 96-year-old lady, very frail and much loved by most in Britain set off a torrent of abuse the like of which I have never seen.

Governments and heads of state around the world have been respectful and sometimes more than that generous. At the state funeral will appear many of the most important world leaders. But there is a festering hatred in some of the people they represent. Why should they hate the Queen quite so much?



It may be that the vast majority of Irish citizens have nothing against Britain and are mourning the Queen as befits a friend and an ally of the UK. But it didn’t look like that on what they called Irish Twitter.

It may be that the vast majority of Scottish nationalists would love King Charles III to be king of Scots and for the beloved monarchy to continue after independence. After all this is official SNP policy.

It may be that the overwhelming majority of Welsh people are delighted that William will be Prince of Wales. It is hard to tell who is representative and who is not.

It may also be the case that the woke African American professor who disgraced herself by wishing agony on a 96-year-old was unique, but Black Twitter showed any number of people going on about slavery and empire as if the Queen was responsible for both.

So, with the qualification that such people may or may not be representative and without trying to be unfair to Irish people, Scottish and Welsh nationalists and Black Americans who loved the Queen, it might be worth trying to understand this hatred.

Some Irish people resent that Ireland used to be part of the UK. They blame the British for occupying their island and for everything bad that happened there including Oliver Cromwell and the famine.

But the Queen was born in 1926. Ireland left the UK before that and the Queen like every other British person living today is not in any way responsible for famine or for Oliver Cromwell.

The history of both Ireland and Britain is one of colonisation and settlement. We would not be what we are today if we had not been colonised by waves of settlers from Europe including the Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. To describe Ireland as being occupied for a thousand years is the equivalent of saying Britain was occupied by the Angles, Saxons and Normans and that we still are. It is an absurd interpretation of history.

An Irish person living today, just the same as a British person is the product of these migrations. It is for this reason that we speak English. If no one had come to our two islands in the past thousands of years we would both speak a form of Celtic or the unknown language of whoever lived here before Celts.

To blame the British for destroying the Irish language and culture is the equivalent of the British blaming the Germans and Scandinavians for forcing us to speak English.

An Irish person living today, just like a British person, is the descendant of all of these migrants. To hate the British is to hate yourself, because none of you are purely Irish. Who do you think taught you English, if not your British ancestors?

The same goes for Wales and Scotland. Poland kept its language while it was partitioned. Polish people do not hate Austrians for hundreds of years of occupation. Nor do they generally hate Germans for killing 17% of their population in World War II, nor Russians for occupying their country afterwards. But some Scots, Welsh, and Irish resent the fact that we generally found it more convenient to speak English. There was nothing like the oppression of Polish in Britain or Ireland. Your parents or grandparents chose not to pass their language on. No one prevented them from doing so in their own homes. So, who is really to blame?

Bad things happened in the past. There were dreadful wars, horrible diseases and famines. But no one sensible in Europe today blames famine on a present head of state or bangs on about a war or a conquest that happened in the Middle Ages.

The British Government made mistakes in the 1840s. It failed to do enough to alleviate the famine in Ireland. But it was Irish landowners, most of whom had been born and bred in Ireland who chose to export their grain. The British Government in the 1840s was responsible for horrible conditions in factories and the existence of workhouses, but it would be absurd for the descendants of those who suffered from stupid governments of that time and stupid policies to blame a leader living today.

The hatred of some Irish, Welsh and Scottish nationalists for the past actions of Britain is unbalanced. No one else in Europe has such hatred for other people. Every country in Europe invaded its neighbours. It’s what medieval kings and queens did. But no one today blames anyone else for the 30 Years War, even though it killed far more than any war in our two islands. It’s only us that obsess about 1314, Owain Glynd┼Ár or the plantation of Ireland and the Battle of the Boyne.

What it ignores is our good fortune to have two neighbouring states Ireland and the UK that are both prosperous, free and democratic. Our shared history dealt us some bad hands as it did everyone else, but it also was the foundation of what we have now.

Neither Scotland, Wales, England nor Ireland were democracies when we all came together, but somehow the combination of migration and mutual settlement gave rise to the free societies we have now. Ireland became a democracy on independence because democracy had developed slowly in the UK for centuries. Most other newly independent states in twentieth century Europe struggled to remain free from tyranny. Ireland only had a flourishing free market economy because it had developed one as part of the UK. Developing free markets out of nothing is not easy. Look at Russia if you doubt this.

But nationalists across the two islands give no credit whatsoever for our shared history only blame. Hating Britain and hating the British Queen is self-hatred, because every Welsh, Scottish and Irish nationalist is full to the brim with British ancestors.

I regret the British Empire because although it may have brought Britain short term gain, it gave us long term harm. European countries that had no empire are no worse off than us today, but avoided the legacy that we had to accept.

But would it have been better for those who were once part of the empire if Britain had never gone there? Perhaps but someone else would have.

If we had never sailed from our island, someone would have settled in what is now the USA. It may have ended up like South America. Australia may have been settled by Indonesia. Canada by the Russians.

It is impossible to know what would have happened if India and Africa had been settled by someone else. But we can be sure that they would not have been left alone. When one people have a technological advantage over another they have always migrated and conquered.

Perhaps Australia would have been better if the British had never gone there. But if the whole world had left Australia in isolation with no contact whatsoever it would be like one of those undiscovered tribes in the Amazon using blow pipes to shoot down helicopters. Even if you think that would be an improvement, it was never going to happen. Someone would arrive and conquer eventually even if it had not been the British.

Woke African American professors then have a choice. Their ancestors could have stayed in Africa in which case they would not right now be citizens of the richest state in the world. If you fancy that there is nothing stopping you applying for a teaching job in Chad or Malawi. You are free and rich and you can get on a flight.

The British did not invent slavery. Every country in the world I think at one point or another had slaves. Long before the Atlantic slave trade the Arab slave trade was transporting Black Africans to Arabia and beyond, only each of these was castrated, for which reason they have no descendants. Perhaps the woke professor would prefer that this had happened to her ancestor.

The people who brought slaves to America did so for the same short-term reasons as empire. But long term it was a mistake. By the time of the Civil War the northern states which had abolished slavery had an economic advantage over the southern states, precisely because they did not have slavery and were much more productive and populous. This is why they won.

But although both British people and Americans traded in slaves like everyone else did in the past, the British did more to stop the slave trade than anyone else and the Americans fought the bloodiest war in its history to abolish it there.

But woke African-American professors give no credit to either Britain or the USA for stopping slavery, they only blame us for their own ancestry giving them the good fortune to be living in a free, democratic society rather than living in a place they would not even wish to visit.

For good or ill African Americans are the product of American history. Their DNA is a mixture of the oppressed and the oppressor. Their own ancestors oppressed them, bought and sold them. So, who is really to blame?

The Queen was not just our monarch, she was the personification of our country a part of all of us. That's why her loss feels personal. People who hate the Queen and celebrate her death, hate us personally.  

Perhaps they are a tiny minority, but there is something horribly unjust and unfair about attacking a frail elderly lady who has just died. It reminded me of the Question Time audience after 9/11 who told the American Ambassador that his country deserved it.

If you joined in, if you opened a bottle of champagne, I view your vileness with disgust. What is wrong with you?

 

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

The price cap is on the SNP

 

I have been busily buying thermal underwear, fleece lined tops and down filled trousers. My intention is to use the central heating as little as possible. If I heat myself with clothing rather than heat the room where I am sitting, I will save a fortune. But in fact, I will be able to have every radiator in the house on full and walk around in short sleeves. The price of energy is going to be capped. The Government will spend up to £150 billion to subsidise our bills and my little burst of self-reliance will have turned out to be pointless.

But I will stick to my plan regardless. If I can use less heating it will benefit me. Think of the calories burned. It will benefit my finances if I spend less than last year price cap or no.



I oppose price caps. Prices are set by the market by the laws of supply and demand. Energy is in short supply, because we stopped using coal, failed to build nuclear and didn’t exploit the North Sea to the full. We tilted at windmills thinking they were giants who would keep the lights on only to discover that they were midgets who went on strike warming their hands round a brazier every time it was really cold.

I would prefer to spend the full price for a commodity rather than have the Government pay it for me, because it then gives me the choice to pay the price rather than have to pay it later. Because the subsidy we will all receive whether we want it or not will not be free.

The Government borrowed £70 billion to pay for furlough and now will borrow twice that two years later to pay our heating bills. But the present crisis is in part the result of the Covid crisis, so if we are not very careful the Government will have to borrow £300 Billion two years from now to pay for the next crisis.

There comes a point when you realise that it would have been better to tell people to continue working during the pandemic rather than pay them to stay at home. It may have cost lives doing so, but it will cost lives increasing Government debt to unsustainable levels, because we will be unable to afford the things that save lives.

But I fear that just as lockdown was politically unavoidable, so too is furlough two. The BBC would find a poor starving family shivering in its hovel and accuse Liz Truss of mass murder if she did not cap energy prices. Telling us all to wear thermals and jumpers rather than wandering around the house in our underwear would certainly lose the Conservatives the next election. British voters were delighted to be paid furlough to stay at home and they will be delighted to have their energy capped. They will think of it as free money and a bargain at that.

But there are long term consequences to continually bailing out the public each time there is a crisis. It makes the political situation in the UK where each part thinks it has the right to walk away unsustainable.

At some point quite soon, Nicola Sturgeon is going to have to admit that there will neither be an unofficial referendum next October nor that the next General Election will be a de facto referendum on independence. The reason for this is that we will be in the equivalent financially of the pandemic. We will be spending twice as much as furlough and Scottish voters must surely realise that just as they relied on the UK Treasury for furlough so two years later, they will rely on the UK Treasury or else receive heating bills they will most likely not be able to afford. Voting to be cold is not a great slogan for the SNP.

Scotland has lots of renewable energy, but it would remain intermittent even if we were independent, unless Sturgeon can control the wind and make the sun always shine. If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014, we would have had to bail ourselves out in 2020 and in 2022. Small countries can indeed do this, but Scotland at present spends considerably more than we raise in taxes. We could of course change this by spending less and working more, but there are no signs of the SNP doing so.

So Scottish voters must reflect that we have been bailed out twice since 2020 and its not at all sure that the Government of an independent Scotland could have borrowed at the same rate or even at all. Yes, Denmark and Norway can borrow, but we are not in their position and independence would not automatically make us like them. In time Scotland could become like Denmark, but it would require the tough choices and economic realism that I have yet to encounter from either the SNP or independence supporters in general.

But there is something perhaps more important that Scottish commentators are missing. Government debt isn’t some abstract figure that we then dismiss. It has to be paid back. The only reason the markets lend to the UK Government is that they are certain to be repaid. The word for not repaying is default.

When pension funds invest, they rely on Government debt because it is reliable. So, the Government’s promise to repay its debt matters to you individually. If it didn’t you might not receive as high a pension as you expect. Government debt is therefore a promissory note against future tax payers. But these tax payers the Government is assuming will live in Scotland just as much as any other part of the UK.

But there comes a point then where future tax payers cannot escape their obligation to contribute their taxes to paying back the debt that was incurred for their benefit.

There would be legitimate fury in those parts of the UK that pay the most taxes if Scotland were to walk away in 2023 or 2024 having been bailed out in 2020 and 2022 by means of Government borrowing which was borrowed on the assumption that Scottish taxpayers would pay it back because they would be UK taxpayers.

But Scotland cannot afford to leave the UK with former UK taxpayers furious with it. We require the cooperation of our fellow citizens, we require the former UK to recognise Scotland and to encourage its allies to do so.

Just as it is politically untenable for Truss to allow the market to decide the price of heating, so too it is becoming politically untenable for Scottish voters to demand their share of furlough and their share of a price cap on heating, while demanding the right to walk away without repaying any of that debt whenever they please.

The UK Government can certainly make Scottish independence impossible, not merely by failing to allow a legal referendum, but by refusing to negotiate with a Scottish Government that planned to go it alone unilaterally. More importantly the UK Government can insist that the only way Scotland can achieve independence legally is by accepting a population share of the national debt, which means future Scottish taxpayers whether independent or not accepting they pay back what was borrowed on their behalf.

This in itself makes Scottish independence impossible until and unless UK national debt is reduced to a more manageable level. No country could begin life with a debt ratio to GDP of more than 100%, it would involve a default. If the UK insisted that it would view a failure to accept a population share as a default, then it makes Scottish independence impossible at least for decades.

The Scottish Government could alternatively say that it did not need furlough, does not want a price cap on heating bills no longer wants Barnett and would prefer that Scots freeze. After that you can by all means have your referendum.  

Monday, 5 September 2022

Making life harder for the SNP

 

The rumours that Liz Truss will make it harder for the SNP to both obtain a legal independence referendum and to win it, don’t so much matter in their detail but in the fact that they demonstrate that Truss is not willing to play the SNP’s game.

The UK is unique in present day western democracies in facing a continual threat from separatists who only have to win a simple majority once at a referendum to gain independence. It makes it impossible to plan. It adds an element of economic risk that no one else faces. It means that for short term reasons like an unpopular Prime Minister, a 300-year-old country might face dissolution. It might survive any number of referendums, but lose just once and it loses forever.   



The rumour is that the SNP will now require a 60% lead in the polls for a year to or more and then win a majority of the electorate in a referendum. Of course, Scottish nationalists are complaining that this isn’t democratic. But there is no right in western democracies to have an independence referendum. It is a simply a mistake to suppose that there is. Nowhere else in the EU or the USA does a part of country have the right to leave the whole. So, by the standards of most democracies Truss is being ultra-generous to the SNP.

Her generosity is for the following reasons. The UK has been playing a losing hand since 2014. We have made continual concessions to Scottish nationalism. We have increased the powers of the Scottish Parliament and allowed it to act almost as if it were ruling a separate country. We have seen support for Scottish independence rising and falling between about 45% and 50% which means the SNP wins every election. If you give the SNP a referendum each time it wins an election, you will be tossing a coin until one day you lose. You can say No not now, for a while, but unless you change the game, in the long run you will lose. Everything else is managing decline.

It is in my view unimaginable that if the SNP won 60-65% in a referendum, but only won 49% of the electorate that it could be prevented from achieving independence shortly thereafter. It would be like 1979 all over again, where a majority supported getting a Scottish Parliament, but lost because turnout wasn’t high enough. The winners had a grievance and nursed their wrath to keep it warm until winning in 1997. The increase in the vote during the years between was in part because of the grievance.

But this is to mistake the power of the Truss gambit. Since 2014 Yes has not come close to 60%. It will take a big shift in public opinion for Yes to reach 60% for a year or more. Even then the SNP would be gambling if it went for a referendum, because winning a plurality of the electorate might not be possible even if it won 60%.

In 2014 Yes would have needed 2,141,696  to win 50% of the electorate which is more than No got (2,001,926) meaning Yes would have had to win 59% of the vote. But that was an exceptionally high turnout.  

It was always said before that the SNP would need 60% of the polls to be reasonably sure of winning, because the status quo has an inbuilt advantage, but this means that the SNP now would now have to reflect that even 60% in the polls might not be enough. It might have to wait until 70%.

The reason for this is that 50% of the electorate is an extremely high bar. The SNP won 1,454,436 votes in the 2015 General Election nearly 49.97% of the vote, but that isn’t even close to half the electorate. If that becomes the task in Sturgeon’s de facto referendum/General Election, then she might as well roll a rock up a hill like Sisyphus.

But it is perfectly reasonable to argue that those who don’t bother to vote want independence less than the packet of fags they walk to the corner shop to buy. So why not count them with those who oppose it?

Under the present circumstances where support for and against independence is about even and that hasn’t changed at all since 2014, the Truss gambit make independence practically impossible. We would never get to the referendum, because the SNP would never dare ask for it. But this means that we would never get to the grievance of the SNP winning say 59% but not getting independence.

I always favoured changing the law to ban referendums on independence, but arguably the Truss gambit is cleverer. It basically does ban referendums, but allows them if an unlikely condition is met.

Scotland of course can go down the rebellious route. The Scottish Parliament can make a unilateral declaration of independence, but it won’t because it knows that it doesn’t have the support for this with the voters. A no deal Scexit unrecognised by anyone with no cooperation and beginning immediately does not have close to majority support in Scotland. Even a majority of Scottish nationalists would reject it. Make it clear that this is what rebellion gets you and we will retreat from Derby once again.

A lot of Scottish voters may not much like the UK, but we rely on it in times of trouble to pay our wages in a pandemic or our fuel bills in an economic crisis. Many of us would love to be independent, but only if we have a safety net which is made in Britain.

We have a standard of living, which is better than 90% of the world’s population and we are not going to risk that for independence even if we like the idea in theory.

So, both sides have a limited room for manoeuvre. Scottish nationalists can play at being rebellious in their Jacobite outfits, but we are too prosperous to rebel and too careful to risk ending up much poorer after independence.

The British Government recognises the problem that we all think of the UK as four countries held together by “the union” like the Treaty of Rome. It would like very much to tell everyone that we are one country like France, but try convincing England fans when they just beat Germany. So instead, we gain twenty years by giving the SNP a hurdle it can’t jump over. After twenty years we might say that the SNP now needs 70% for a year. Twenty years after that we can rule out independence referendums and say actually, we are only one country not four.

The main point however of making independence impossible to achieve is that independence supporters will have to judge the SNP on its domestic record rather than on a dream that is not going to happen. If you make independence impossible, you make the SNP pointless, because it is a single-issue party.

It puts us back to the days before 2014 when Scots voted Labour if they wanted a more left-wing UK Government and didn’t vote SNP on the whole because it had no chance of forming a UK government.

It doesn’t much matter if you agree or disagree with the Truss gambit. What it signals is that Scottish independence is not happening and the British Government will do this, or that or something else entirely to stop it.  This changes the calculation. It takes away the idea that Scotland could leave the UK with consent and with cooperation and with goodwill. But without these, independence loses much of its attraction for reasonable Scots who might otherwise be tempted.

Once Sturgeon sees that she will not lead the tribe to the promised land, she will leave the task to someone less famous and less talented at which point it will be amusing to watch Scottish nationalist marches dwindle. I might even shed a tear as I watch Scottish nationalist hopes fade.