Wednesday 31 August 2022

A Force for Bad


There are times when you only realise your mistake four decades later. My mistake happened in 1985 or perhaps in 1986. I used to regularly attend the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. You could watch films there in the afternoon for something like 50 pence. I saw a poster with a man looking out of a train advertising a film using a word I had never seen before “Shoah”. It was a documentary lasting around 9 and half hours in two parts. I decided not to go and see it. That was my mistake.

Over the years that passed at various times I contemplated buying the DVD. I’m something of an amateur film enthusiast and have seen most important films, but somehow, I put off seeing Shoah. I had the idea that it would be like reading one of those great novels that you really ought to read, but which turn out to be a chore and a struggle to finish. How many such novels do we put off reading forever?

It might have been because I am practicing listening to Polish at the moment and quite a bit of Shoah takes place in Poland with many interviews in Polish, it might have been for some other reason, but immediately on watching I realised that I was watching something special and by the end was convinced that I had watched the greatest documentary of all time and one of the truly great films.

The greatness of Shoah consists in this. The witness testimony to the Holocaust is so convincing that it is enough on its own to convince the viewer of the historical accuracy of what we know about the murder of 6 million Jews.

Of course, we have much more evidence than witness testimony. There are documents. There is the existence of the sites of the death camps. There are piles of clothes, glasses and suitcases with Jewish names on them. There is the absence in 1945 of the majority of the Jewish population of Europe that lived there in 1939. Where did they go? There is more historical evidence for the Holocaust than almost any other event in history.

We have far less evidence for what happened at the Battle of Hastings or even the Battle of Waterloo than we have about what happened at Treblinka let alone Auschwitz. To deny the historical record of the Holocaust is madder than denying the Norman Conquest and badder too because the denial is grounded in Anti-Semitism and sympathy with the Nazis.

Why deny the Holocaust, why say there were no gas chambers unless you want to say the Nazis were not as bad as all that and in fact, they did the world a service.

The people who deny the Holocaust don’t deny that in Rwanda there was genocide or that around 1.7 million people died in the Soviet Gulag. They don’t deny that around 16 million Soviet civilians died in World War II. They only deny the deaths of Jews.

There is room for disagreement in the history of the Holocaust just like every other history. But it must be grounded in evidence and genuine scholarship rather than pseudoscience and the misuse of archives motivated by hatred of Jews and love of Nazis.

Shoah gives us first hand testimony from people who were in the camps and also from some of the Germans who worked in the camps. We hear how Czech Jews from Theresienstadt sang the Czech national anthem and then the Hatikvah (Israel’s present national anthem). “Our hope is not yet lost” they sing knowing that they are about to die in the gas chamber and that they won’t see the hope of two thousand years, a free nation in the land of Zion. The sonderkommando who witnessed this and who wanted die with them Filip Müller, a Slovak Jew must be a liar if Alistair McConnachie is right, because he, as reported by Stephen Daisley, thought there were no gas chambers.

There are some extraordinary moments in Shoah. They are the most convincing witness statements I have ever seen. To suppose that these people are liars is to suppose an acting ability that defies belief. Watch for yourself Shoah and find yourself astonished, moved and in the end shattered by “the sorrow and the pity” of it all. Anyone who denies this happened as these people describe it lacks humanity also. He is on the side of the monsters who tried to hide their crime against humanity. He is complicit in the act of hiding as if his hands too destroyed the buildings in Treblinka. 

It matters that someone on the Pro UK side of the debate in Scotland is reported as having abhorrent views. Such a person is not merely useless as a campaigner he is positively harmful.

Everything a holocaust denier writes or does is discredited by association and everyone who associates with a holocaust denier is discredited too.

Our Scottish nationalist opponents can use the existence of a holocaust denier to make our side look foolish and extreme. Unfortunately, it is no use denying you are a holocaust denier once you have been judged by public opinion to be one. All of your excuses become like the Nazis in Shoah, who tell us that they did not know. They were just responsible for running the trains and had no idea what happened when they reached at their destination.

I don’t want to give McConnachie any publicity, which is why I have not written about him before. I know little about him. Some Scottish nationalists many years ago pointed out the accusation of Holocaust denial. I googled and discovered some newspaper articles. I blocked him. I urge all Pro UK people to do likewise. I don’t read anything written by him, I do my best to ignore everything that he does and indeed his existence. 

 It had been good for that man if he had not been born.

Imagine if we discovered that a prominent Scottish nationalist campaigner had been accused of Holocaust denial. We would naturally believe that this person harmed the Scottish nationalist argument. Scottish nationalists would be dismayed by this person even if they otherwise agreed with what he wrote and did.

Holocaust denial is a taint. It is like the mark of Cain. It infects everything else. Never ever associate in any way with Holocaust deniers.

The anti-Semitism of the Far Left helped to defeat Labour at the last election. The anti-Semitism of the Far Right is expressed most commonly by Holocaust denial. Idiots waving Union Flags and making Nazi salutes do not help the Pro UK argument. They help the SNP. So does McConnachie.



Saturday 27 August 2022

Could the SNP gain independence by winning a General Election?


Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for independence, assuming that it is genuine, involves holding an unofficial independence referendum in October 2023, but this depends on the courts agreeing that she can do so. Even if they do agree, such a referendum would not be like the one we had in 2014. It might be boycotted by the Pro UK side. The SNP’s case involves it being more or less a giant opinion poll and being merely advisory. It’s entirely unclear what would happen if the Yes side won? But we are unlikely to get that far anyway. The courts will probably rule against. This leaves turning the next General Election into a de facto referendum on independence.

There has been a lot of comment saying that it is not possible to unilaterally make a General Election a referendum. No one party can decide what an election is about. There would be no referendum question. There would be no referendum campaign as other parties would be debating UK wide issues rather than Scottish independence. These arguments and others like them are correct. But this all rather misses the point.

It is perfectly possible for a country to secede by means of a General Election. There are lots of examples. The immediate cause of the secession of the Confederate States of America from the Union was the Presidential election of 1860. This was de facto referendum on independence.

Abraham Lincoln won most of the North, John C Breckinridge won most of the South and from this followed the secession of each state of the Confederacy.

Was this legitimate? The Confederate States argued that they had the same right to leave the USA as the original 13 colonies had to declare independence in 1776.  The USA disagreed and fought to prevent secession. The war initially was not about slavery, though that was its long-term cause. The initial war aims of the Union was merely to prevent secession.

So, if the Confederacy could obtain independence by means of an election, so too can Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. The British Government even if it thought the SNP argument was illegitimate would not attempt to prevent Scotland becoming independent by force. It might attempt to prevent it by means of law, but if Scotland declared that such laws no longer applied in Scotland, it would be impossible to enforce them otherwise than by force and that is unimaginable.

Indeed, it is completely unnecessary for the SNP to hold a de facto referendum on independence. A vote in the Scottish Parliament would certainly be sufficient or even if the Scottish Government merely declared that Scotland is now independent. Afterall the USA did not have a referendum prior to saying it had left.

Countries that want to be independent do not require referendums or elections. They merely require a leader or a movement to declare independence and be willing to push the issue to its conclusion. Given that the British Government under no circumstance would force Scotland to stay in the UK, it is perfectly possible for the SNP to gain independence by means of an election or merely by stating that it is independent.

But it is one thing to gain independence after a legitimate referendum like the one we had in 2014. It is something else again to achieve independence unilaterally. This is especially the case when public opinion in Scotland is so evenly split.

When the UK voted to leave the EU, it did so according to EU rules. We triggered Article 50. For this reason, there were negotiations between the UK and the EU. It would not I believe have even been necessary for there to be a referendum. The UK is a sovereign nation state and could have merely informed the EU that it was leaving. But if the UK had not followed EU procedures and had simply told the EU we have left, we could not have expected any sort of deal between the EU and the UK.

Scotland is not a sovereign state, but likewise not following the agreed procedure of leaving the UK, i.e., by means of a legal referendum agreed by the UK Parliament, like we had in 2014, would amount to leaving without a deal.

The UK went to great lengths to avoid a No deal Brexit, but this would have involved us merely leaving a trading organisation of sovereign nation states which we had been a member of for forty years or so. A No deal Scexit would be something else again. It would mean leaving the sovereign state of which we have been a part for the past 300 years immediately and without negotiations.

Scotland lacks the apparatus of a sovereign nation state. It has extensive devolved powers, but much of what is required to run a state, such as customs and excise, income tax and benefits is at present controlled by the British Government. An independent Scotland in a No deal scenario would have to start these things on “day one” who is to say that “day one” would begin the minute the SNP declared victory in its de facto referendum.

Of course, in time there would be negotiations between breakaway Scotland and the former UK, but the former UK would be under no obligation to cooperate or make life easy. The SNP appear to think that winning an unofficial referendum or a de facto referendum/General Election would lead to negotiations and a transition period as they planned in 2014. But that scenario depended on Scotland leaving with consent, rather than unilaterally breaking away.

I have little doubt that if the SNP won 50% of the vote at a General Election with a high turnout that this would lead to independence. In time the international community would come to terms with breakaway Scotland. But it is very difficult to predict how the former UK and the international community would react to the precedent. It is unlikely in the short term that Scotland would be offered membership of the EU or NATO.

But there is something that the SNP has not perhaps thought of. The secession crisis of 1860 and 1861 changed the United States. Prior to 1860 each state generally thought that it had the right to leave. After 1865 it was accepted that the Union was permanent. The question of whether a state had the right to secede had been decided decisively by force of arms.

Similarly, if the SNP pushes secession to the limit by hijacking an election and turning it into a de facto referendum, it ought to realise that this is a battle it can only expect to fight once. It cannot expect to turn every election into a secession crisis.

We have been debating now for about ten years. The SNP lost the referendum in 2014. If it were to lose twice, then this must have a consequence for the unity of the UK.

If the SNP were to win 50% of the vote, then I would expect independence to follow, but if the SNP were to win 49.99% of the vote, then that must count as losing forever. That would be two referendums lost and that would be enough. No country can be threatened with continual secession.

But this I think makes the SNP strategy very risky indeed. It must be explained carefully to Scottish voters that voting for the SNP involves the risk of a No deal Scexit and that this will happen on the day after the election if the SNP happens to win more than 50% of the vote.  The British Government will then agree to immediate secession, without any transition period and without any negotiations. Under these circumstances my guess is that Scots will reject the SNP for a second time.

The way to defeat the SNP decisively is to offer it what it apparently wants, but under circumstances that it does not want. It is using the strength of your opponent to defeat himself.

The UK ought not to hold Scotland against its will as expressed by a clear majority of Scottish voters and the UK ought not to be held together by force as the USA once was, but make absolutely clear that Scotland would be treated by the UK and the world as an unrecognised breakaway state that achieved secession illegitimately and Scottish voters will turn down the offer. And that will be the end of Scottish nationalism.

Thursday 25 August 2022

Bail us out once more before we leave


There is an odd conjunction of events in Scotland. On the one hand we are still, I think, supposed to believe that there will be an unofficial referendum in October of 2023, on the other some Scottish nationalists are demanding that this winter there should be a second furlough to keep us warm. This means that these people will perhaps acknowledge that Scotland has needed the UK Treasury in 2008, 2020 and 2022 in order to keep going, but after October 2023 we will need it no longer. It’s an odd argument.

Why did the Treasury bail out Scottish Banks in 2008 and pay us 80% of our wages in 2020? It is because we are British citizens. Sturgeon makes the usual mistake of Scottish nationalists in conflating citizenship with geography. Her being British has nothing whatsoever to do with her identity and it has nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland being part of the British Isles.

When Sturgeon says she is “British” she is playing the same game that the SNP played in 2014. She is trying to argue that nothing much would change after independence, look I’d still be British. I seriously doubt that an independent Scotland would promote itself as being both British and Scottish. Irish citizens after all do not think of themselves as British and object to the term British Isles.

But what matters anyway is not whatever identity Sturgeon chooses to have, but what the reality would be. People living in Scotland can rely on the Treasury, not because of our identity or lack of it, but rather because we are whether we like it or not British citizens.

We owe an obligation to our fellow countrymen that we do not owe to anyone else. Most of us accept the principle that we pay taxes in order that the money raised is shared with other citizens. I pay for schools and hospitals even if I have no children and I am not sick. My taxes go to the unemployed even if I have always worked. But we do not expect our taxes to pay for French hospitals or the French unemployed. But Scottish nationalists never quite get to the stage of accepting that Scottish citizens would become like the French. British citizens would no longer have any particular obligation to help.

Sturgeon might or might not, I suspect the latter, feel British after separation, but it would be irrelevant what she felt, Scotland would no longer be part of the United Kingdom, indeed the United Kingdom would have ceased to exist. Those people living in England and whatever else remained would have no obligation to help Scotland, even if in 2024 or 2025 there was another crisis.

We have discovered again from the statisticians employed by the Scottish Government that financially at present our standard of living depends on our being British citizens. Scotland raises £221 per head less than the UK average, but spends £1963 per head more. After independence there might or might not be an immediate change of fortune. The successor to Amazon and Microsoft might be developed in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Scottish scientists might discover fusion power and then sell it to the rest of the world. But we can probably assume that in order to break even the Scottish Government would have to raise £221 pounds per Scottish citizen and spend £1963 less.

Let’s say energy bills this year will be £6000. If the Scottish Government wanted to furlough Scots on its own, it would have to borrow the £6000, but only after already cutting the £1963. Otherwise, it would have to borrow nearly £8000.

On top of this the Scottish taxpayer would have to deal with the initial costs of setting up our Brave New Scotland and would start life with no trade deal either with the EU or with the former UK, plus a hard border. The cost of borrowing for the Scottish Government would be higher, because it would lack its own currency, could not print it and therefore would be more at risk of default. So how much do we add to the figure of £8000? Do we add another two or three thousand per person or would it be more?

Most parts of the UK including most parts of England are subsidised by the Treasury. There is nothing wrong with this. It is not really England subsidising Scotland. England is not a sovereign nation state. There are no English citizens. Rather we have British citizens from wealthier parts, especially London, subsidising poorer parts.

But this only works if we really are British. I cannot expect taxpayers in one part of the UK to subsidise my standard of living if I don’t think they are my fellow countrymen. That would be like expecting the French to pay for my children’s schools.

Most of us accept that we pay taxes for things we don’t use at present, because when we are old, we might need hospital care or we might need benefits if we lose our job. But to expect someone to subsidy me now, when I intend to cease to be a fellow countryman is dishonest. Scots can only morally take out of the common pot if we are willing to pay into it later. But it is just this that Scottish nationalists intend not to do.

After independence Scottish taxes would not fund former UK schools or hospitals or pay unemployment benefits. Worse the SNP argues that the cost of furlough 1 and one assumes the cost of furlough 2 should not be paid by an independent Scotland. The SNP does not intend to accept a population share of the national debt, but rather will only make an annual payment as a contribution to the interest.

So, the Scottish nationalist argument is this. British taxpayers took on debts in 2008, 2020 and now will do so again in 2022 so that our banks did not go bust, our wages were paid and our heaters were kept warm, but in October 2023 we intend to vote to leave without paying back any of the money that was borrowed for our benefit.

Such an argument looks dishonest, but it also looks stupid. Because we are British citizens, every year we get around £2000 from the Treasury, which we don’t have to pay back. It enables us to offset the added costs of living in the Highlands and Islands and to make post-industrial Scotland have a higher standard of living than it otherwise would. But because we dislike Tories we will tell our British fellow citizens, that we don’t want to be fellow citizens anymore. We can manage on our own.

But if we really can manage on our own, why doesn’t Sturgeon first give up the £2000 per person, why moreover did she not say at the start of the pandemic that we don’t need your furlough and we don’t need your vaccine, because we want to be independent. If you want independence, first be as independent as you can be by living within your means and not asking for any furlough or any Barnett formula or anything else, then have your referendum.

Now two years after the pandemic started Scottish nationalists want Scotland to be bailed out again by the Treasury because otherwise, we will be cold. But what happens two years from now when we want furlough 3, but we’ve already voted for independence. No doubt we would expect British taxpayers to bail us out again, because Scotland would still like Ireland be part of the British Isles.

Help me, help me cousin Liz cried Nicola Queen of Scots as Scottish history is repeated as farce.


Saturday 20 August 2022

Are Tories scum?


There is in Scotland an unreasoning, visceral hatred of Tories. It reached its present level of vehemence in the 1980s when Scots from the Left and Centre united to prevent the Conservative Party winning even a single seat at the General Election of 1997 and only one until 2015. Tories in Scotland are portrayed not merely as being mistaken, but as morally wrong and even wicked. I generally vote Conservative. Do I do so because I am selfish and immoral?

The debate between the Left and Right is primarily about economics. On the furthest Left of the political spectrum, we would have pure socialism state spending as percentage of GDP would approach 100%. On the furthest Right of the political spectrum, we would have laissez faire capitalism with state spending as a percentage of GDP approaching zero.

At present state spending in the UK is around 50% partly because of Covid, but under both Conservative and Labour Governments public spending has generally varied between 35% and 45% for the past 70 years. The wicked Tories since 1999 have spent more public money than any previous Labour Government and we have in fact come closest to socialism during lockdown when huge chunks of the population were paid 80% of their wages to do nothing.

The hatred of Tories is unreasoning because historically there is very little difference between Conservative and Labour Government in terms of public spending. Both parties tend to increase public spending when in office and therefore both parties help us gradually approach socialism.

The wrongheadedness of this can easily be demonstrated. Imagine if your local Tesco was run on socialist principles so that goods were free at the point of use. What would happen on the first day of free shopping? Everyone would come into the shop and take what they wanted and at the end of the day there would be a few solitary jars of pickled cockles that no one fancied.

The goods would not be free even if the Government said that they were free at the point of use. Someone would have to be paid to produce the goods, transport them or import them. Government would have to cover the cost of this through public spending which it then passed on to the taxpayer. But so long as everyone could buy what he wanted when he wanted, there would be no limit to how much the Government would have to spend and no way to stop Tesco being empty every evening except for the cockles.

The answer would be to tell each shopper that he could only have one packet of bacon, two loaves of bread etc each week. The answer would be rationing. Do you now begin to see the problem with socialism. It is not an accident that you have to wait to see your doctor, or wait to get into hospital even if you are very sick. It is a feature of a socialist model of funding which makes healthcare, which has a cost, free at the point of use.

At present companies Amazon are run ultra-competitively and deliver goods and services remarkably quickly and cheaply. Would this competitiveness and efficiency continue if we each could buy what we wanted from Amazon whenever we wanted to and get it delivered free the next day with everything paid for by the Government? Again, this system would only work if there were rationing, but worse than this Amazon would begin to treat us like the lady in the doctor’s waiting room who rations access to the doctor. Quite soon Amazon or a British version of it would be like the NHS, the Government would have to continually pump more money into it otherwise there would be a winter crisis and no one would get their parcels.

Socialism doesn’t work. Human beings are motivated by profit and to improve their own lives and the lives of their families. This is why we work and study. If you increase Government spending as successive Governments have done you end up with national debt which for the UK is now over 100% of GDP and for all that debt and spending, we still have poor healthcare, poor schools, decaying infrastructure and energy bills that will be so expensive that many of us will prefer to sit in the dark with heating off.

But although the Conservative Party is largely to blame for this situation, it is not conservatism that has got us here it is socialism. There is nothing remotely laissez faire or capitalistic about what has happened since the last General Election. We even rig and put caps on the energy market and think price controls might work. Labour could hardly have spent more or borrowed more even if it had become the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The epitome of this absurdity has been reached in Scotland where we now have sanitary products free at the point of use. Even free marketeers might see the logic of giving free products that are too expensive for the poor to purchase, but sanitary products cost as little as soap and toothpaste. Will the Scottish Government make those free too? From that point we really are moving towards free shopping at Tesco.

There is not a great difference economically between Tories, Labour and the SNP. An independent Scotland would certainly have to cut public spending and there is no way that it could maintain public spending at 50% of GDP. I strongly suspect that after initially attempting to create a Scottish Socialist Republic, the SNP would have to go towards the free market laissez faire side of the spectrum. But oddly they would not be called Tories if they did so and the same people who hate Tories now, would not protest, because Tories are merely the villain that was created by those in the Scottish Constitutional Convention who thought they could control nationalism by giving it a parliament, only to see it take over. There is a long history of the establishment trying to control nationalism.

I will keep voting Conservative, because the alternative will be worse. No matter how much the Tories spend, Labour and the SNP want to spend even more.

We are where we are. The task is gradually to get public spending down to around 30% of GDP. This can only be done by changing the model of healthcare funding and cutting taxes when we can afford to do so. It can only be done through free trade, cutting business costs, eradicating whatever rules and regulation hinder business and making people accept that when something has a cost whether it is sanitary products, prescriptions or healthcare it is not free because the Government pays. Until we change the mindset that the solution to every problem is to spend more public money, we will continue our drift towards poverty and socialism.

I am not immoral because I oppose this. Socialism gives you poverty, no choice, loss of freedom and very frequently mass murder. Socialism is contrary to human nature and therefore people have to be coerced first by shouting mobs trying to intimidate, then by laws, and then by Gulags.

Thursday 18 August 2022

How to put out the flames of SNP anger


There is a lot of anger in Scottish politics. It comes mainly from the Scottish nationalist side of the argument. There are people on the Pro UK side who behave badly, but these are almost exclusively from the Orange side of the sectarian divide in the Central Belt. I have not once seen a Pro UK demonstration in Aberdeenshire. If Nicola Sturgeon visits Aberdeen, there will not be a single Pro UK person shouting at her.

Online there are some Pro UK people who behave badly, but the main Pro UK people I know of do not attack SNP politicians personally. I write essays, which can sometimes be hard hitting, but I try to distinguish between the personal and the political. I disagree with people like Sturgeon. I think it is wrong what her party has done to Scotland. But I don’t wish any SNP politician personal ill, nor any SNP supporter.

I don’t honestly know many Scottish nationalists personally either online or off. I turned off the comments on my site because all I got was personal abuse from Scottish nationalists. I have a policy of not answering polite nationalists more than once or twice on Twitter and of blocking impolite or annoying ones immediately. It is the only way to stay sane.

I have noticed certain Pro UK commentators using the term “Brit Nats” to refer to Pro UK people they disagree with. I have a long-standing policy of blocking immediately anyone who uses this term. This along with “Yoons” was invented by Scottish nationalists in order to draw equivalence between their nationalism and the supposed nationalism that wished to hold the UK together. But it is a false equivalence. It is not nationalistic to wish to maintain the territorial integrity of your nation state. Every country in the world wants to do this. To call it nationalist makes the word meaningless.

Nationalism is always either about secession or unification. But the UK does not wish to leave another country, nor does it wish to join with another country. So, to describe British people as nationalists is as absurd as describing French people as nationalists because they don’t want France to break up.

Nor is it reasonable to use the term “Brit Nats” as the equivalent of Cybernats. We are not Nats and there simply is not the equivalent of Pro UK people attacking SNP supporters online.

I write articles, but I never ever attach links to these articles to the Twitter accounts of SNP politicians or supporters. I almost never initiate a conversation on Twitter with a Scottish Nationalist and would generally prefer to be left alone by them. I have not once seen an example of a Pro UK organised attack either online or offline that is remotely similar to the Cybernat attacks that were routine during the referendum of 2014 and are becoming more commonplace now.

The strength of the Pro UK argument is that our side generally has behaved much better that the nationalists. I see nothing wrong with expressing ideas that Scottish nationalists dislike, such as denying that there is a democratic right to secession or arguing that there is no democratic deficit. I think it is perfectly fine to mock SNP politicians and to ridicule their policies.

There is a certain kind of Pro UK commentator that doesn’t want to frighten the Scottish nationalist horses. It is for this reason that Liz Truss talks of herself as a child of the union and why we have a Minister for the union. It is why we think of the UK as four separate countries, because otherwise some Scots would be angry. But it is precisely because of this sort of appeasement that the UK has a problem with secession while France does not.

There is nothing whatsoever historically different from the way in which the UK was formed than from the way any other European country was formed. There were separate kingdoms which merged. Perhaps there was an act of union perhaps not. But they became one country while we remained four. The union is not a strength. It is a weakness. It is the Scottish nationalists who believe most in the union and who object most if I say there is no union.

There is a lot to like about Liz Truss, but someone need to tell her to ditch the stuff about the UK family as if we are some sort of husband and wife. This stuff only helps the SNP, because a family is made up of separate parts that can divorce and can leave home. A country like France is not a family. There is no wife called Burgundy married to a husband called Brittany. There is no union and therefore nothing to split up. There is one thing. France.

Scottish nationalists would be very angry indeed if Liz Truss told the truth about the UK, that legally we are one nation where the parts happen to be called countries. There is one sovereignty, and it extends equally over all UK territory. There is no democratic right to secession and therefore the UK is as within its rights just like the USA or Germany to deny an independence referendum forever.  

But the key to remember is that we are going to have to go through Scottish nationalist anger at some point whether we have a referendum or not. Scottish nationalists would be angry during an independence campaign and would certainly be angry if they lost. They would be angry with Pro UK people even if they won.

Scottish nationalists are angry because nationalism makes people angry. Places that were previously reasonably peaceful like Yugoslavia had people hating their neighbours who previously were friends because someone let the nationalist genie out of the bottle and the disease spread.

What we have done since 2014 is to keep the Scottish nationalist flame alive. We have given them hope. Always, next year there will be another referendum. So, we never go back to where we were before Scotland discovered nationalism.

If you take away the hope, there will be a burst of anger, but if you do it legally and calmly and methodically and explain carefully that the UK is just like France, then the flames of Scottish nationalism will soon turn into ashes and those flames of anger would actually be no worse than you would have to endure anyway.

There is anger in Scotland, but I don’t think Scotland is remotely revolutionary. Support for independence is contingent on it being easy and life going on pretty much like now. The number of fanatics on the SNP side who are willing to suffer a large drop in their standard of living to gain independence is small indeed.

So, tell them your only legal route to independence is holding a revolution (like the USA did in 1776). We will not fight you, but nor will we help you, nor recognise you and no one else will either. Tell them that and you will put out the fire and eventually put out the anger also.

Saturday 13 August 2022

The triumph of the book burners


I don’t generally read modern literary fiction. The sort of books that win the Booker Prize I usually leave alone. So, I have never read Salman Rushdie and had barely thought of him in years before yesterday. But Rushdie is an important writer whether I care to read him or not and his being stabbed for what he wrote is an important moment for the West. Either we really stand up for freedom of speech now or we forever lose it.

I was quite young when the Life of Brian came out, but I remember watching some of the controversy. A few Christians objected to Monty Python mocking the Gospels, but the film was never banned. John Cleese, Graham Chapman and the others were not threatened. They did not have to go into hiding. For this reason, other films, documentaries and books have come out since that are critical of Christianity or which mock it.  

In academic writing theologians can investigate Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and pretty much any religion (except one) they care to study with no thought whatsoever for being stabbed. I can argue that there was no historical figure called Moses and that the New Testament was a medieval forgery and know that nothing bad will happen.

This was not always the case. People in Britain were murdered for believing in the wrong sort of Christianity or not believing at all. But gradually we developed the idea of freedom of conscience, we defended people’s right to believe what they pleased and we defended the right to offend.

The success of Western society in the past centuries is founded on freedom of thought and freedom of speech. The development of science depended in part on people being able to challenge orthodoxy and the Christian viewpoint without being personally threatened.

It was this that allowed both Darwin to investigate evolution and theologians to look critically at the texts of the Bible without fear of being censored and without fear of being killed.

We now have much greater insights into both science and the process by which the New Testament was written. It is perfectly possible for a reasonable person to believe in the essential truth of the Gospels and to accept the scientific method.  

Christianity has not been damaged by freedom of thought. The Life of Brian is an insightful commentary. Christians who choose to follow the theological debates may find their faith weakened or strengthened. But at least they will find it tested. If the story of the Gospels is true it matters not one little bit if Jesus is mocked or insulted, after all that is what we are told happened on the road to Calvary.

It is not accidental that freedom of speech as a concept developed in places that were Christian. We came to realise that compelling people to believe this or that about Christianity was a misinterpretation of the Gospels, where the decision to follow Christ is voluntary. It was because Christianity was not a religion of laws, that the law eventually ceased to compel us to believe in it.

Salman Rushdie was stabbed because he believed mistakenly that he could write freely about Islam in the way that people for some centuries in Britain have been able to write freely about Christianity. The process that began in the nineteenth century of critically examining the Bible texts without worrying if it might offend someone has only partially happened with Islam. The sort of things that are routinely written about Christianity or Judaism in academic journals are treated at least with more care if the topic is about Islam.

What we learned in 1989 was that writing a novel with Islamic themes could get you the death penalty. Academics, novelists and the makers of films and television programmes took note. We self-censored.  It is simply unimaginable that anyone would dare make a film called The Life of Bashir based on the Islamic prophet. You couldn’t get funding for it, no cinema would show it and no actors or directors would dare make it.

It wasn’t always like this. In the nineteenth century it was possible for academics in Britain to write freely about Islam. These books are well worth looking at because they are much more honest than anything that could be written today. There was no one to threaten them, no one to stab them.

Freedom of speech before 1989 was almost universal. With the obvious exceptions like shouting fire in a cinema, it didn’t occur to anyone to limit what they said. I don’t think anyone was even frightened to say what they thought about Islam. Perhaps it is for this reason that Rushdie wrote the Satanic Verses. It did not occur to him that in Britain this would be a problem.

But whether it is a coincidence or a cause from 1989 onwards we have gradually been losing the ability to speak freely not merely about Islam, but about everything else.

We self-censor all the time now. About issues such as race, homosexuality, transgender and others. There are things that we might say in private that we would not dare to say at work.

In Scotland there are a set of characteristics “age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation”, about which I might get in trouble if I make a joke which offends someone else.  If I say or write something that is contrary to the orthodoxy now about any of these characteristics I might in theory be convicted of hate speech, so there is a tendency to refrain from doing so.

The Fatwa that was issued in Scotland punishing anyone who say or writes the wrong thing about these characteristics will not get me stabbed, but it might mean I lose my job. If I disagree with the assessment of a teacher that my boy has become a girl, it might mean that I lose my child.

The problem since 1989 is that we have caved in not merely to Muslims who were offended by the Satanic Verses, but to everyone else. Our society that was founded on free speech has not repudiated the viewpoint of Ayatollah Khomeini that we should not offend Muslims, it has emulated it.

Has our appeasement of those who would limit our freedom of speech worked? Well Salman Rushdie is reported to be on a ventilator and may lose an eye.  The threat from extremists is greater now than in 1989.

On each occasion when someone has been offended, we have sided with the offended. We should have required every school child in Britain to read the Satanic Verses. When Danish cartoonists were threatened, we should have published the cartoons in every newspaper in the West. When staff at Charlie Hebdo were murdered, we should have translated the cartoons and made an animated version for transmission on the BBC.

Freedom of speech is not an accidental characteristic of the West. It is the characteristic that made the West what it is.  It is tragic that Rushdie has been attacked, but it is still more tragic that his attacker’s ideology has triumphed. No one today would dare write the Satanic Verses today, not even Rushdie.  

Thursday 11 August 2022

Don't expect the Government to pay for your heating


There was no summer of 1976 when I was a child in Scotland. There was no drought. The grass was green. There were no water shortages. But it is hotter now than I ever remember it getting back then. As the temperature in Aberdeenshire approaches the mid-twenties, I find it too hot. My bed is no longer cool, my car needs its fan, I no longer where a coat in August in Aberdeen, which before was rare indeed. Things have changed.

I used to live in a very large house that was built in the 18th century. We had a wood burning stove in the sitting room, but the house was too large and too draughty to make central heating worthwhile. So, the radiators stayed off.

I lived in the attic. I had a single electric heater, but I was encouraged to only use it when necessary and then only briefly. It was much colder then. Snow was normal in the winter. I can remember being driven on roads with a path cut through the snow on either side. I haven’t seen such snow since then.

It is a simple matter of experience to say that the climate has changed. It’s hotter here in the summer and much milder in the winter. Most winters now involve perhaps a few days of snow with only a few days below zero. I am hoping for an ultra-mild winter this year, because I am going to try to go back to barely using heating just like I did as a child.

I have better things to do with £4000 than create hot air. Of course, for some people heat is a matter of survival. But for most of us who are reasonably fit and healthy it is a matter of habit. I will try to heat myself rather than heat the air around me.

Why are we in this mess? We have become too reliant on buying energy from elsewhere and far too reliant on energy that is intermittent. The price of energy like everything else depends on supply and demand. There is not enough supply while demand has not fallen. Therefore, the price has increased.

While I accept that the climate has changed, the response to global warming will in part be responsible for many of us being cold this winter.

Environmentalists are responsible for the political consensus that has led us to the attempt to abandon fossil fuels too quickly and before we have a viable alternative ready.

We have invested vast amounts into renewable energy, but it cannot on its own heat our country. I have nothing against solar panels or wind farms. They make a useful contribution. But on a dull, windless cold day we need a supply of energy that is not intermittent.

Our power stations can either be powered by gas, coal or splitting atoms. We don’t have fusion power yet and we don’t have anything else that can do the job.

Britain could right now be self-sufficient in gas if we had continued to exploit to the full the reserves under the North Sea and if we had fracked where possible under the ground. We could likewise be self-sufficient in energy if we had built enough nuclear power stations. The Greens opposed all of these things, so when you are cold blame them.

It is too late to rectify these mistakes. We cannot instantly build new nuclear power stations. So, what can be done.

I will insulate myself and my house as best I can and use as little energy as I can manage. I don’t expect the Government to pay my heating bill.

The Government already owes too much (debt) and borrows too much (deficit). Many of us spent the pandemic not working with the Government paying our wages. There comes a point when this has to stop.

I read a comment by a Scottish nationalist in the Herald the other day saying that the UK Government should have a second furlough scheme to pay our energy bills. But Scottish nationalists also want Scotland to vote to leave the UK in October next year. The SNP’s last plan was that an independent Scotland would not pay a share of the national debt, but only yearly payments covering the interest. So, a second furlough for Scotland would be like going to the bank to get free money while telling it that you didn’t intend to pay it back.

This is untenable. Scotland cannot expect the UK Treasury to bail it out, while continuing to threaten to walk away. Present debt is contingent on future citizens paying taxes, or it is unsustainable. If you are planning not to be a future citizen, you cannot morally add to a debt you don’t intend to pay back.

I think it is reasonable for the Government to subsidise the energy costs of those who desperately need them. The elderly and the sick can reasonably expect help in a caring society. But the rest of us need to be a touch more self-reliant.

We live in a reasonably well-off country comparable to most others in Western Europe, but our standard of living is not automatic. We have expectations about healthcare and benefits and an average standard of living that depend on Britain producing things and selling things.

Its all very well some left-wing Scottish nationalists talking about our having a right to these things. But not every one in the world can afford our lifestyle, nor do they have our opportunities.

There are no intrinsic rights. There is only a society that can afford to grant rights that are contingent on that society working hard enough to make the profits that pay for them.

Britain had a one-off response to the pandemic, by giving furlough. If it were repeated this year, it would hardly be a one off, but rather a habit to be repeated every time there was a crisis.

Government spending must be reduced if we are to make the wealth that will provide a still better standard of living for future generations.

Let us find the quickest cheapest route to energy developing all useful technologies including renewables, but let us also recognise that the solution to climate change is through free market innovation rather than state subsidy.

Let us drive petrol cars until electric cars become so cheap to buy and fuel that we choose them ourselves. Let us keep our houses warm with gas drilled or fracked in Britain. That is the way that Britain will have the sort of economy that can discover the technologies of the future that will make fossil fuels obsolete.

The Conservatives will rightly be blamed if energy becomes too expensive for   us to buy, but the solution is not going to be Labour or the SNP pretending that Government can pay for everything. That way lies public spending increasing to the point where we approach communism.

If the Government has to pay your heating, it may as well pay for your housing, your shopping and your holidays. I would rather shiver through the winter than lose my sense of self-reliance, because this alone is the guarantee of my freedom. Socialism will tell you what to buy and give you only shop in which to buy it. The price for your loss of freedom will be your poverty.

Tuesday 9 August 2022

Ruth Davidson is helping Sturgeon


It seems that Ruth Davidson is bored sitting in the House of Lords. It’s no surprise that being a baroness turns out to be less interesting than being an MSP battling against Nicola Sturgeon every day or campaigning in a General Election and proving that a Tory is not a species of Dodo in Scotland.

It’s easy to see the attractions of leading a No campaign during Indyref2. It beats changing nappies and it beats listening to snores during a debate between unelected worthies. But Davidson’s intervention shows a worrying lack of insight.

Davidson clearly views indyref2 as a rerun of 2014. She still views it as a debate about the Union. She thinks that the same question would require a No answer and we’d all behave exactly as we did 8 years ago.

But as I have long argued, if you think the UK is a union of four separate countries, you have already conceded the argument to the SNP. This was the problem with calling the campaign “Better Together” in 2014. Things are only together if they are separate. Mary is together with John because they are separate people. They are better together because John earns a lot of money and Mary gets to stay at home looking after the kids. If John loses his job or Mary becomes unhappy, they seek a divorce. If that’s your view of the UK, a marriage of separate countries, then you might as well give up campaigning for the union, because it won’t last another decade.

The only way to take on the SNP argument is to attack the SNP’s assumptions. The UK is not four countries, which are better together rather than apart, we are one nation and have been for centuries.

There will not be a campaign like in 2014 headed by a worthy figure in Scottish politics. There won’t be a Pro UK campaign at all. The task is not to campaign against Nicola Sturgeon. The task is to ignore both her and her Pretendyref. Ruth “Hold me Back” Davidson is simply legitimising a referendum which sensible Pro UK people are planning to boycott.

But this is our problem. If Sturgeon somehow organises an unofficial referendum next October, it will require people like Davidson not to take part. But they seem eager to do so.

Imagine if only one side of the argument was presented by the SNP/Greens. Let’s say that the British Government provided no official papers and no counterarguments. Just think about debates organised by the SNP on TV where only Scottish nationalists took part. When polling day came what would it be like if only Scottish nationalists voted and not a single Pro UK person took part? If all of those things happened would Scotland obtain independence? No of course not.

But it is going to take a little discipline. Some of us might think we could beat the SNP again like we did in 2014. Some of us might be tempted to lead a campaign or appear on TV. But if instead we boycott and ignore Pretendyref, we can be certain that it will have no legitimacy whatsoever. It won’t lead to negotiations, it won’t lead to anything.

Would we be boycotting because we think we’d lose? No. We might win a campaign just like we did in 2014. But it would be a coin toss where Scottish nationalists knew that they can keep tossing until they win, while if we lose once we lose forever. That’s not an honest game.

There needs to be new thinking on the constitutional issue in the UK. It is vital that Pro UK politicians make clear that although the parts of the UK are called countries, these countries are not sovereign nation states. There is only one sovereign nation state and it is called the UK. Its unity is no different from that of France. Instead of talking of a future referendum like Davidson is doing, make clear that there will never be another legal referendum on independence and that it was a mistake to grant the last one. Use Parliament to make this position legal watertight.

No country can long endure if it views itself as being made up of separate countries that have the right to leave if they ever vote for it. So, either do what is necessary to protect our country or concede that defeat will happen next year, the year after or sometime in the decades ahead.

The reason why politicians do not respond to the SNP by saying “No, Never”, is I think that they are scared of inflaming Scottish public opinion and increasing support for independence beyond a point where it can be contained.

But in fact, the opposite is the case. Support for Scottish independence was low from 1707 until sometime around 2013. It was the possibility of independence being achieved that increased support from 25% to 44%. It is that same possibility that puts the SNP in permanent power. Scottish voters don’t care about ferries not running or drug deaths increasing, because there is always the tantalising possibility of independence being achieved after the next election. Only when independence is no longer a possibility will we return to Left Right arguments instead of Leave Remain arguments.

The way to make the issue redundant is I believe to cease talking of independence being achieved by means of a referendum. Most countries historically have not achieved independence in this way.

The UK Government should tell the SNP and Scottish nationalist voters that we view the UK differently to you. We think it is a single nation state. You are free to go down the unilateral route. You can hold an unofficial referendum, or you can try to turn a General Election into a de facto referendum, but you don’t need to. You have a parliament in Edinburgh, you can vote to leave whenever you want, but we won’t cooperate in your departure.

If enough people in Scotland wanted independence there would be no need to win a referendum. There would be no need to win 50% or more of the vote in General Election. There was no referendum prior to the United States declaring independence and the First Congress created its own legal right to secede. The SNP could do the same whenever it wishes.

This then is the counterpoint to saying to the SNP that there will never be a legal independence referendum. You can leave when you want. We will do nothing to stop you.

I think this solves the problem. The SNP does not have the numbers to go down the unilateral route. All that is necessary is to expose this. The SNP thinks that it can force the British Government to negotiate the terms of independence by a unilateral referendum or a unilateral interpretation of a General Election. But it’s aim is not a Unilateral Declaration of Independence but rather a negotiated departure.

I think support for Scottish independence is soft. On the 2014 question opinion is evenly split. But ask Scots if we want to Remain in the UK or not and Remain as a double figure lead. What Scots want I conclude is to be an independent country within the UK. We want to turn the UK into a sort of four member EU, where we all stay in a currency union, have the same security arrangements and receive subsidies from the centre. But this is not on offer and never has been.

So, this is the offer the next Prime Minister should make to Scottish voters. There will never be a legal referendum on independence, but we will do nothing to stop you if your elected representatives choose like the First US Congress to leave. But in that case, there will be no negotiations. We will make clear to the world that you have rebelled and left without our consent. We will neither cooperate with you nor oppose you. We will neither help you nor hinder you. If you fancy that arrangement there is no need to wait until next October, you can leave tomorrow. A simple vote in the Scottish Parliament will be enough. But from that moment on you will get nothing more from us.

Sturgeon is all bluff. She doesn’t have the support to go down this route. There is therefore the chance to expose the SNP as the chancers that they are.


Thursday 4 August 2022

How to ignore Sturgeon


The United Kingdom has various serious problems at the moment. Some of them are short term primarily caused by our response to Covid, others are more long term. Many of us will struggle to heat our homes or drive our cars, because of long term failures in our energy policy. But the greatest threat to the UK and the greatest long-term problem is the one caused by Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats arguing that because Scotland didn’t vote Conservative, we needed a devolved parliament.

This decision has fuelled nationalism not only in Scotland but also in Wales, which just barely voted for devolution by 50.3% in 1997.  Encouraged by the success of the SNP and the independence referendum in 2014 there are now upwards of 30% of Welsh voters who support independence, which a generation earlier would have been considered as preposterous.

In the 1970s almost no one thought that there was the remotest possibility that the UK would break up, just as no one thought there was a chance that the United States would become fifty countries. The UK was as permanent as France Germany and Italy. We happened to call our parts countries and they played international football with each other, but this was merely a quirky British thing like driving on the Left.

Devolution changed everything. It led directly to Nicola Sturgeon attempting to organise an independence referendum without permission with the back up plan of turning the next General Election into a de facto referendum. The next step would be a unilateral declaration of independence.

Of course, this may all be some sort of game to keep SNP supporters happy, but it is a very dangerous game none the less. There would be a very serious constitutional crisis if an unofficial referendum was to take place and the SNP claimed that it gave them a mandate to negotiate independence. There would be a similar crisis after a General Election. There are countries that have fallen apart due to such crises in the past fifty years.

It is for this reason that Liz Truss’s comments about Sturgeon are to be welcomed. It is of course provocative to call her an attention seeker who should be ignored. What is important about these comments however is that they perhaps show that Truss grasps the nature of the problem of devolution and is willing to do something about it.

The outrage from Scottish nationalists is that they view Sturgeon as the democratically elected First Minister of the Scottish Parliament. How dare you ignore Scotland?  But this is the whole problem. Scottish nationalists and some misguided “unionist” commentators view Scotland as a separate country that is equal to the United Kingdom. So much for being a union of equals they say. But the UK is not a union of separate countries. Only Scottish nationalists and unionists believe this.

The UK is a unitary sovereign nation state just like France. It came about because of the Act of Union in 1707, which gave us the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Act of Union of 1800 which gave us the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There is no union between Scotland and England that exists today, rather they have been part of the same kingdom since 1707. There is a union between the Kingdom of (Northern) Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain, this is why people who support this in Northern Ireland are called unionists. It was support for this union with Ireland that gave us the Conservative and Unionist Party. Unionism has nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland because everyone until recently viewed Scotland, Wales and England as having merged centuries ago.

The UK is not a marriage, but rather the result of a marriage, a child. You can no more split it than Solomon could split the baby in half. Companies that merge do not remain two, but rather become one, the same goes for countries. The countries that formed France do not still exist after they merged to form France. For this reason, France is one unitary nation state just like the UK.

The problem is that politically everyone treats the UK as if it were four countries. This used to be harmless. We played each other at football, because it was invented here. But the key to defending the UK is to tell the truth. The UK is one country just like every other nation state in the world. From this follows everything.

Once you accept that the UK is one country, not four, then it becomes obvious that the argument for Scottish devolution was false. It is no more unfair that Scotland votes Labour, but the UK as a whole votes Conservative, than it is that any constituency votes differently to the whole. There is no reason to treat this part differently than that part if we are really one country. So too it matters not one bit if Scotland voted to remain in the EU, while the UK as a whole voted to leave. Scotland was not a member of the EU, because we were one country that joined and one country that left.

The assumption that it was unfair if Scotland voted differently to the UK, which was the foundation of devolution, assumed that Scotland really was a separate country, but this is to concede the argument to the SNP. Once you assume that Scotland is a separate country, then you have already broken up the UK, because then we are four separate countries like France, Germany, Poland and Spain that happen to share borders. To suppose that the UK is like this is to assume what you are trying to prove.

What is a devolved parliament? It is a parliament with certain powers that were devolved from the UK Parliament. The UK Parliament however remains sovereign over the whole of the United Kingdom. The Scottish Parliament is not sovereign. This is what was voted for in the 1997 referendum.

I don’t know what Truss meant when she talked about Sturgeon being an attention seeker who ought to be ignored, but I hope that it might be this. The Scottish Parliament has the right to rule on certain issues that are devolved, but it has no right to rule on issues that are reserved. If it tries to rule on those issues, it will be ignored.

The consequence of this is as follows. If the Scottish Parliament attempts to organise an unofficial referendum, the result will be ignored. If the SNP attempts to hijack a General Election by turning it into a de facto referendum, the result will be ignored. There will be no negotiations on Scottish independence even if the SNP wins 100% of the vote. If the SNP strays into foreign policy matters or any other matter outside the remit of the Scottish Parliament, the British Government will advise its international partners that the SNP is acting outside its remit and therefore should be ignored.

Truss should explain very carefully to Nicola Sturgeon that the British Government will cooperate fully with the Scottish Government when it is using the powers that have been devolved to it, but if it abuses those powers or attempts to go beyond them, it will not hesitate to amend or even repeal the Scotland Act. If you act unilaterally, we will act unilaterally and then Nicola Sturgeon you will neither have a parliament nor a job.

Truss, I believe may be a radical thinker who has the courage to assert by means of law that although the United Kingdom is popularly supposed to be made up of four separate countries, this is merely a matter of football and not of legality. After this the British Government should assert legally that because the UK is a single sovereign nation state, its parts do not have the right to secede any more than the parts of Germany, France or indeed almost anywhere else in the world. There will be no more independence referendums, not now, not ever.

This is not fascism as some ignorant Scottish nationalists suppose unless they are willing to assert that Germany, France and the United States are fascists, it is merely to deny what Scottish nationalists falsely assume.

If a devolved politician in the formerly independent kingdom of Burgundy attempted to have international relations with the EU, or the USA, he would be ignored. If this Burgundian tried to re-establish the kingdom of Burgundy, he would be considered mad. If he tried to organise an unofficial independence referendum, he would be locked up. This is exactly how we should respond to Nicola Sturgeon.

We will ignore you. Do your worst.