Wednesday 23 November 2022

What part of No don't you understand?


It is no surprise that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish Parliament cannot hold even an advisory referendum on independence without permission. If it could have done so now, why didn’t it do so in 2014 or at any time previously.

The mandate for setting up the Scottish Parliament in the first place was based on there being devolved and reserved issues. This is what devolution means. The UK is not a federation let alone a confederation. We do not have rival parliaments with equal status. Rather when Scots voted for devolution, they accepted that it would only deal with certain issues. One of the issues that it would not deal with was the constitution.

Nicola Sturgeon has thus spent millions of taxpayer’s money to establish in law what we all knew already. The Scottish Parliament cannot rule on reserved issues. But this ruling has some important consequences.

The SNP claim to have a mandate for an independence referendum based on its support at the last Scottish Parliament election. But the Supreme Court has legally ruled that despite that support it does not have mandate to hold the referendum.

But if the SNP does not have a mandate now because of its votes at a Scottish Parliament Election, it cannot either have a mandate if it wins a majority or indeed all the seats at a General Election.

For a party to have a mandate from a General Election it needs to win a majority of seats in the House of Commons. But the SNP could not achieve this even if it won all the seats and all the votes in Scotland.

So, the SNP cannot have a mandate for its devolved parliament because independence is outside of the control of the parliament, and it cannot have a mandate at Westminster either because it cannot win enough seats. So, it cannot have a mandate period.

But if the SNP cannot have a mandate for independence, it cannot achieve independence democratically, not because someone is acting in an undemocratic manner towards Scotland, but because there is no legal right to secession in a modern European democracy. This is what the Supreme Court is saying.

What options are left for Scottish nationalists? They can go on demonstrations or engage in acts of civil disobedience. But none of these will change the fact that support for Scottish independence hovers between 45 and 50%. Demonstrations and civil disobedience only work if you have overwhelming support for your cause. If you don’t, they are as likely to harm the cause rather like Extinction Rebellion. So long as no one overreacts to demonstrations or civil disobedience (c.f. Easter 1916 for what not to do), they can safely be ignored.

The Scottish Parliament or the SNP could go down the unilateral route. But if support for independence is around half on the assumption that it would take place with cooperation after a legal vote, my guess is that it would fall considerably if we were confronted with UDI. There would be no EU membership. There would be limited recognition from other states and not much cooperation either. Good luck with that.

The final alternative is revolution. If the American could win independence that way, then Scotland could do so likewise. No one is going to fight to stop it. But the problem with revolution is much the same as with UDI. Scotland is a reasonably prosperous part of the UK anything like UDI or revolution that would undermine that prosperity is going to have tiny support.

Sturgeon may or may not decide that the next General Election will be a de facto referendum on independence. But even if the SNP plus fellow travellers won 50% of the vote there is nothing in the constitution to suppose that this would give them a mandate to negotiate independence. If the UK Government refused to meet the SNP delegation, Sturgeon would be left with UDI and revolution once more.

The UK Government can now legally refuse a second independence referendum forever. Whether it would do so is a different matter. This is no longer a legal issue but a political one. If support for independence were high enough for a sustained period, then I don’t think the UK Government would refuse.

We don’t know what might constitute enough support for independence. But if support were consistently over 60% for a few years, then the UK Government might grant a referendum not because it had to, but because it thought it was politically the right thing to do.

Scottish nationalists may make all sorts of statements about the UK being undemocratic, but this is obviously untrue. Even if 100% of Glaswegians voted for Glasgow’s independence it would not give Glasgow the right to leave Scotland. To say that Glasgow is not a country is to assume what you are trying to prove. Scotland is called a country, but it is not an independent sovereign nation state and cannot suppose that it has the rights of one.

The UK is a unitary state with devolution it has the same right to territorial integrity as Scotland would have if it were independent. The fact that the parts of the UK are called countries and play international football is quite immaterial.

For the same reason as South Carolina cannot declare independence, nor Bavaria nor Lombardy, so too it is perfectly just and democratic for the UK Government to block Scottish secession. This is what the judges have told us.

But because most people in the UK have an identity strongly connected with one of its parts there may be a political reason to allow referendums on secession which do not apply in other countries.

For the moment Scottish nationalists would be best advised to change the timescale of their goal. Scottish independence if it is to happen will require decades of work and a significant change in attitude. Let us give up this division as it helps neither side.

The task for both Pro UK people and Scottish nationalists is to improve Scotland. Let’s make the economy better and let’s work on making Scotland a more pleasant place to live. Accept that you probably won’t see Scottish independence in your lifetime. Then we can move on to healing some of the wounds and together make Scotland better for all of us.

Sunday 20 November 2022

The criticism of Qatar is hypocritical


Qatar is criticised for being different to Western Europe, the United States and other democracies. The criticism is grossly hypocritical. No one criticises the human rights record of Djibouti, nor how it treats homosexuals, because there isn’t going to be a football tournament in Djibouti and anyway few of us could point it out on the map.

But the hypocrisy goes deeper than this. Why is Qatar the way that it is? Why does it treat women differently to men? Why can’t homosexuals get married like they can in Britain? Anyone would think that it is simply some odd quirk of Qatar that it has laws and customs that make it more difficult to buy beer and spirits than in Aberdeen, that it has a singular lack of well attended churches and rather few gay pride marches.

But Qatar is similar to the vast majority of other countries Islamic countries for a very simple reason. It is Islamic.  

There are differences between Muslim countries. Some are very strict like Saudi Arabia or Iran others are less strict like Turkey or Morocco. Qatar isn’t Turkey, but neither is it Iran. You can buy a drink in Qatar in certain hotels and restaurants. You can wear a bikini in the hotel. If you behave yourself and act sensibly you can probably have a good time there on holiday if you are rich enough.

But whatever the level of strictness in an Islamic country the rules and customs which differ from ours are derived from Islam. There isn’t a single rule or custom in Qatar that is being complained of that cannot be justified as either coming from the Quaran, the Hadith, or Sunnah and the various traditions of interpreting these. What is dishonest and hypocritical about the criticisms of Qatar is that it is presented as if this were not also a criticism of Islam.

Qatar is a theocracy because Islam thinks that religion ought to be a matter of law. It has laws about human sexual behaviour because it thinks that sex outside the marriage of a man and a woman is a sin that should be punished by law. It has laws about what people can eat and drink because Islam believes that we should be compelled to follow these rules. It punishes people who cease to believe in Islam because it is commanded to by its sacred texts.

The strictest Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran follow the rules of Islam most closely. Others countries like Qatar are willing to bend or even break some rules at least for foreigners. But when Qatar allows foreigners to drink beer it doesn’t change the rule about alcohol. It still thinks that it is wrong to drink beer. The most liberal Islamic countries still believe exactly the same as the strictest. There hasn’t been a reformation. There hasn’t been anything like the Western theological tradition that analysed the Biblical texts accepting some rejecting others. There has been no reform such as happened in many western churches where teachings about homosexuality were revised. Islam is pretty much the same as it always was.

There are things I rather admire about Islam. Muslims frequently have a very strong faith. They believe literally in what the Quran and Islamic tradition teaches. They follow that teaching even when it would be easier not to. I would not like to fast nor drink even water during the day during Ramadan. I would not like to have to pray four times a day whether it was convenient or not. I have always thought it incredible how Islam spread from Mecca all the way to Indonesia. This is clearly a very powerful faith.

But I would not like to live in an Islamic society, because I think religion ought to be a matter of choice rather than a matter of law. Who am I to tell someone else what to believe or to force him to follow religious rules?  If Muslims don’t want to drink beer or if they think that homosexuality is a sin that is there right, but why force others to live as they do? I believe that so long as you harm no one else you can do what you please. Muslims don’t believe this. This is why liberalism and Islam are incompatible, because liberalism is incompatible with a religion being the law.

The reason I think as I do is because Christianity is not a religion of law. Jesus picked the grain on the Sabbath and changed everything including the future.  Ultimately it is for this reason that the West developed in the way that it did. Tolerance comes from Christianity allowing us to choose to believe and choose to follow religious rules. From there we in time made Christian rules also a matter of choice. If you don’t like the bits in the Old Testament about Sodom and Gomorrah then skip them. If you think that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said about marriage, then you no doubt know better than him. If you think that God did not create us male and female, then no doubt you know better than God too.

What we have discovered in the past decades is Christianity is negotiable. If society demands women priests the church must have them, if society demands tolerance of homosexuality or transgender Christianity will adapt. Jesus said go and sin no more. But now the woman about to be stoned would say today that her sin in fact is not a sin and the church would agree.

At the same time belief in Christianity has collapsed. Traditional Christian morality about sex and marriage or indeed about anything else simply no longer exists in Britain. It is a dead issue like belief in Zeus and Nietzsche in the sense that he meant has been proved right.

So, from the Qatari point of view, the critics are really saying “If thou wilt be perfect, go and give up all thy beliefs and laws, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” But the Qatari will point out you don’t believe in heaven. You don’t believe in God. If I follow you, I will end up with no faith at all. What will I have to show for it. A flag with a rainbow and the faith that men can become women. Your faith is merely woke. It believes nothing about God and destroys morality for a mess of LGBTQQIP2SAA and a coat of many colours.

I would not like to live in Qatar and still less in Saudi Arabia or Iran. I dislike theocracy and could not endure following a religion of laws. But the Qatari can justifiably point out that the laws that he has are because of Islam and he can also point out that if he follows the path of the West, he will end up with no religion at all. If that is what the West wants from him, then it should be honest about it, but why should he follow the path that the West took knowing that it leads to the destruction of all that he holds most dear leaving him nothing but an acronym that keeps getting longer.

Thursday 17 November 2022

How many can speak Scots as well as Emma?


Why do Scottish nationalists make such fools of themselves over language? Anyone who has heard Emma Harper attempting to speak Scots in the Scottish Parliament would conclude firstly that she did not write the text she was reading, secondly that she did not understand it and thirdly that she was unable to read it. She demonstrated therefore the opposite of what she was attempting to prove.

Poor Emma is becoming the President Biden of gaffes despite being only in her fifties and therefore not having the excuse of senility. She obviously thinks that promoting a language she barely speaks herself is important. The reason is because language difference is the foundation of nationalism.

When Poland was partitioned and divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria Polish national identity continued because the people continued to speak Polish. If they had all forgotten their Polish and learned German and Russian instead then it is doubtful that Poland would have been reborn in 1918.

It is of course the case that there are international boundaries where people speak the same language. Spanish speakers in Latin America live in a number of different countries. So too there are states where many languages are spoken. Nation states exist for a variety of historical reasons some of which are quite accidental. But the history of nationalism shows that one of the main justifications for either unifying separate states or separating is language.

German unification depended on the idea that various peoples who spoke varieties of German were speaking the same language and were therefore one people. Poland’s separation from the German, Austrian and Russian Empires depended on the idea that Poles were distinct from Germans, Austrians and Russians and the main way in which they were distinct was linguistic.

Scottish nationalists would therefore be delighted if Scots spoke a language or languages different from the UK as a whole. Imagine if the whole of Scotland spoke Gaelic. Well in that case we would be just like Poland. It would be very easy indeed to argue for Scottish independence and the Scottish people would be obviously different from the English. The difference would be linguistic.

Imagine on the other hand if the whole of Scotland spoke Scots. In that case people from the other parts of the UK couldn’t make themselves understood in Scotland and if they moved here would have to go to Scots language classes just as if they moved to France, they would have to learn French. But while there was a time when the Scots language was widely spoken and was very different from standard English, this is not remotely the case now.

I grew up in a small village in Aberdeenshire and spoke Doric (Aberdeenshire Scots). But even then, the people who lived in the small villages spoke more Doric than those in the small towns but rather less than those in more isolated farms. Now I speak Doric if I meet a fellow speaker, but rarely do and the vast majority of conversations take place in English with a Scottish accent.  

No one speaks like Emma Harper tries to do not least because her text comes across as fake. It’s like whoever wrote it for her was looking up in a dictionary desperate to come up with a Scots word for “helicopter”.

In all my life I have only ever properly spoken Scots in Aberdeenshire. I never met anyone in Edinburgh who spoke Scots apart from a few words. The Doric of my childhood had a rich vocabulary and a distinct grammar. I’ve never heard the equivalent anywhere else in Scotland. But even that Doric language was not really a full language like Polish.

I couldn’t write about physics or chemistry in Doric I just wouldn’t have the vocabulary. In fact, I could barely write about anything because I wouldn’t know how to spell the words I could say. Emma Harper absurdly wants to bring back the yogh ȝ in fact called yoch in Scots. Perhaps she also wants to bring back other letters from Middle and Old English to confuse matters further. If we used some thorns þ and some eths ð we could turn Scots into Icelandic, but it probably wouldn’t help poor Emma’s pronunciation as she struggles even with the alphabet we use at present.

If you read Scottish literature even from the late 19th century you can hear a natural language that was spoken by everyone. Novels like the Little Minister or Sentimental Tommy written by J.M. Barrie show a rich, beautiful Scottish language, but none of us speak like this now.

When I have heard Scottish nationalists attempt to write poetry or prose in modern Scots it is simply embarrassing because of the paucity of their language. Such people cannot even understand Walter Scott’s characters yet claim to be reviving Scots. Sorry, but using weans doesn’t make you a Scottish poet even if it is a useful word to rhyme with drains. The poetry of Burns comes from the fact that the language he wrote was the language that he spoke daily. It means that his poetry is natural, because his was a lived language. No one writes like that today in Scots, because no one lives today in Scots.

We no longer speak Middle English and don’t much regret it. I can read Chaucer with a glossary, but would probably struggle to understand it spoken. Middle English evolved into Scots and four hundred years ago was as different from English as Dutch is from German, but ever since King James became heir to throne in England Scots has been in decline and has gradually been moving towards English.

I absolutely understand Scottish nationalists regretting this, but language evolution has been going on since language began, which is why we no longer speak Middle English.

Aberdeenshire used to be isolated. Everyone was from nearby. But in the past decades people from other parts of Scotland and other parts of the UK moved here. They couldn’t understand Doric so we modified our language to make communication easier. We went on holiday more often and learned to speak a language which could be understood outside Aberdeenshire.

I learned to speak English and a few other languages and so for me language and identity ceased to be closely connected. Language is a useful tool for communicating with others. Emma Harper when she speaks Scots communicates with no one not even Scots.

There are two candidates for the separate language that would justify Scottish separatism. Gaelic is a separate language, but no matter how many road sings are translated into Gaelic (which as a council in Monmouthshire says is confusing not merely to me but to others too) it does not translate into increased numbers of native speakers. So, Gaelic won’t do. Scottish nationalists get stuck after mispronouncing Alba gu bràth.

The other candidate is Scots. How many of us really speak Scottish? If you mean do I have a Scottish accent, you might have 5 million. If you mean do I use some Scottish words, you might have 2 million. If you mean I can write an essay wholly in Scots without looking up the dictionary, you might have less than one hundred. Having red hair unfortunately does not a native speaker make.

There are fewer fluent Scots speakers than Gaelic speakers. If that’s Emma Harper’s justification for her Scottish nationalism then she and all the wee lassies reading poetry on Youtube might reflect that the difference they are manufacturing with England won’t change the fact that we are linguistically closer to our neighbour than at any time in our history. Perhaps it is for this reason some of us are so desperate to pretend we are different.

Monday 14 November 2022

Juries are our last defence against Sturgeon


The Scottish Government is considering scrapping jury trials for rape cases in Scotland. The reason is that while crimes in general have a 90% conviction rate rape and attempted rape have a conviction rate of less than 50%.

I have no problem with many criminal cases being decided by a justice of the peace or a sheriff. There are advantages and disadvantages to trying a case by jury. It makes sense for low level crimes to be tried without one not least because it is much cheaper. There may also be advantages in having someone who understands the law trying certain cases rather than 12 people who don’t understand it.

But what the Scottish Government is saying is that in 40% or more of rape cases juries were wrong to acquit and it would be better to have a judge do the job because those 40% would be more likely to be convicted. But why is there a difference in how juries decide and how judges would decide.

The Scottish Government thinks that juries may believe rape myths. But what are these myths? Well according to Rape Crisis one myth is that women lie about rape. Well, that sorts the problem of low conviction rates immediately. If women don’t lie about rape, then simply stating that a man raped you ought to be enough for a judge to convict without any further evidence. 100% conviction rate achieved. Result.

But of course, it isn’t true that women don’t lie about rape. Women are human beings who are as capable of lying as men. How can we possibly know that women rarely lie about rape unless we know the truth. But the only way we have of determining the truth is by means of trials. The assumption that 40% of men were unjustly acquitted assumes that these men were lying, while their alleged victims were telling the truth. But what is the evidence for this assumption? There is none because we do not have an independent way of determining who is lying and who is telling the truth other than the trial.

Another myth is that Women often play ‘hard to get' and say 'no' when they really mean 'yes'. It is certainly the case that men must be certain that a woman has consented to sex, but it is simply false to say that women don’t sometimes play hard to get, and it is also obviously the case that someone can say no to something but be persuaded to say yes.  How many times in your life have you said no to something but been persuaded? This happens every day in the life of couples and in our reaction to children. No, you can’t have the sweeties. Oh, all right if you only shut up about it. Human beings are complex. Speech is subtle. If No really meant No then Mr Darcey would never have married Miss Bennett.

The reason juries are reluctant to convict in certain rape cases is that the alleged crime most frequently happens in private and there is no other evidence other than the woman’s claim to being raped and the man’s denial. There is no other serious crime where conviction can be achieved on the basis of a solitary witness with no other objective evidence at all. If I claim that John Doe killed Jane Doe but cannot point to a dead body nor even to a missing person, nor a murder weapon, nor blood stains, nor anything else then I am not going to be able to convict Mr Doe. Likewise, if I claim that John Doe burgled my house, but cannot point to anything missing, nor any signs of broken doors or windows, then so too I won’t be able to get a conviction.

Only in rape cases do we have a claim that someone was raped perhaps decades ago and try it solely on the basis of one person’s word against another. Imagine if you could be convicted of murder in that way and with only a judge between you and a life sentence. Which of us would feel safe?

If Andrew Windsor was to be tried in Britain for the rape of Virginia Giuffre, there is every likelihood that he would be convicted. After all his trial by television led to his being convicted by most of the public. His banishment from public life and his payment of millions of pounds in damages has confirmed us in our judgement.

But last week Giuffre dropped similar allegations against Alan Dershowitz. She now recognises that she made a mistake. But if you can be mistaken about one man raping you twenty years ago you can equally well be mistaken about another. If you are an unreliable witness about Dershowitz, then who is to say you are reliable about Windsor? More generally how can we determine what did or did not happen in a private room twenty years ago. We cannot possibly prove what happened beyond a reasonable doubt.

I wonder if the Scottish Government is still resentful about the Alex Salmond case. If a jury can acquit when 9 or 10 professional women accuse someone of a variety of sexual assaults, then a jury can acquit in every rape case. If that many witnesses are not enough, what number would be enough? Mr Salmond must consider himself fortunate that he had a jury, because a judge alone would surely have convicted him.

But although the jury heard witnesses describe a pattern of alleged behaviour, might it be that they were able to assess the reliability of these witnesses in a way that a judge would or could not have done? It may be that they saw or sensed that the Scottish Government itself wanted to convict Mr Salmond and had used the powers of the state to get him.

This is the purpose of the jury. It can acquit even when the law tells it to convict because it can sense a higher justice than the law. The jury might fail to convict the boy for stealing a loaf of bread in the 19th century even though the evidence is overwhelming, because it sees the injustice of the law. There are any number of cases in history where a jury has gone against the law because it perceived a higher sense of justice that needed to be protected. It is this that protects are liberty.

The jury was the only aspect of the case that could not be controlled by Nicola Sturgeon. It defied her. And instead of Salmond being safely behind bars where he could not speak, he came for her and almost brought her down. If the whole system had not been rigged, if indeed she were living in any other European country Sturgeon would have certainly had to resign in disgrace. But here no one could touch her.

This I think is what it is really about. Sturgeon controls her parliament. She controls the Scottish establishment. She controls the media and the quangos, the police and the law. But she doesn’t control the juries. Now she doesn’t need to.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Neither Greta nor Sturgeon will solve anything


I am no doubt fortunate to live in a part of the world as yet barely discovered by Extinction Rebellion. I have yet to see orange paint on the grey granite walls of Aberdeen nor have I been hindered in my journey to work by people obstructing the road. Some rather scruffy people did occupy the building where I work, which involved them taking turns at speaking into a megaphone, but fortunately I was unable to make out more than the noise of their voices rather than their words. I understood that they were angry, but not a single one of these people looked capable of holding down a job let alone saving the world.

This is a problem with the green movement in general. Let’s assume that there is a problem with using fossil fuels. Let’s further assume that the world is getting warmer and that something needs to be done to prevent this. Who do we turn to for solutions?  Greta Thunberg is possibly the most famous green campaigner. She’s also just as angry as the Extinction Rebellion people, but with fewer qualifications. I don’t wish to be nasty about Thunberg, but she doesn’t have any expertise in physics or chemistry and is just repeating what she has been told or read in popular science books. Her conclusion is that we need to overthrow capitalism. OK let’s have world revolution, but the countries that went through such revolutions in the 20th century, for example, China and the Soviet Union polluted more than we did.

In Scotland we have lots of windmills, but the SNP and Green coalition continue to tilt at them in thinking that these are enough to keep the lights on. Scottish nationalists think that if only we were independent, we would right now have no energy problems whatsoever. Our bills unlike anyone else in Europe would not have risen and instead we would be charging the English vast amounts to use our excess power.

Renewable energy is wonderful stuff even if you exaggerate how much of it Scotland has. But the cost of solar panels still makes me wonder if it is worth putting them on my roof rather than keeping the money invested elsewhere and the problem windmills is not merely that they are a murder of crows, but that on a freezing cold still January day, they don’t keep you warm. You need an alternative source of energy either gas, or oil or coal or nuclear.

This is our problem. The SNP Greens think that all of these sources of power are bad (although we might just base our case for independence oil if the price rises enough). So, if Scotland has only windmills and wave power and solar panels where do we get our power on that cold January day? Obviously, we have to buy it from somewhere else, but that somewhere else has to be connected to us by cables or pipes. But unfortunately, these go all go to somewhere called England. So, who will depend on whom to keep the lights on?

Just as I wouldn’t ask a nineteen year old girl with no qualifications to solve our energy problems so too I would not ask Patrick Harvie or Lorna Slater. Both think that Thunberg not merely has all the answers about climate change, but also all the answers about economics. They agree with Extinction Rebellion that the solution to traffic congestion is for people to obstruct the roads and the best way to save the planet is for us to abolish cars (except ministerial ones) abolish planes (unless needed to go to Cop 27) and for Scotland to pay reparations to Panama for the Darien scheme.

Reparations remind me of an Old Testament theology that I thought we had dispensed with. Why should I be punished because my ancestor invented the spinning jenny and the steam engine? Why should I be punished because my ancestors owned slaves? Some of my ancestors were no doubt also slaves if you go back far enough.

It is true that the industrial revolution eventually caused us to burn fossil fuels, drive cars and develop power stations that have caused the world to warm, but any country demanding reparations must ask itself if it would prefer to go back to the preindustrial age without planes, advanced medicine, computers and telephones. If you condemn us for industrialisation, you cannot very well continue to use what came about only because of industrialisation.

Lorna Slater’s solution to the problem of climate change is to increase recycling. Soon every bottle or can that we buy containing more than 50 millilitres will cost 20 pence more in Scotland. We will then have to gather our bottles and cans and drive them somewhere to get our money back. But each of the manufacturers of these bottles and cans will have to relabel them just for us Scots. The cost will be passed on to the consumer. Alternatively, some firms will decide that it isn’t worth it and stop selling in Scotland.

A firm outside Scotland that makes bottles and fills them is not going to take back all of the bottles that Slater’s scheme gathers in Scotland. So, these bottles are not going to be reused. They will either be smashed and recycled like they are now or they will be put in landfill or they will be sent to the third world. But what’s the point of charging me 20 pence do something we do now anyway? Not least because it will involve vast numbers of unnecessary car journeys to reclaim the deposits.

Deposits only make sense if the bottle will be reused like milk bottles. But no one is going to reuse coke cans or bottles of wine from France. The cost of sending them back would be prohibitive even if the French wanted them.

I can see the point of trying to minimise the use of fossil fuels, not least because we don’t want to be dependent on places like Russia and Saudi Arabia, but we are not going to save the world by recycling, because it is simply not cost effective. It is cheaper to make bottles and cans from scratch rather than attempt to reuse them.

Extinction Rebellion, the Greens and the SNP are the same in that all they do is disrupt our lives and make day to day life less pleasant while doing nothing to address the solution to global warming. Scotland already produces almost no greenhouse gasses. Even if we went back to driving horses and carts it would make almost no contribution to climate change. The idea that paying 20 pence more for a can of Coke will reduce average world temperatures is preposterous.

The solution if there is one is technological and will be arrived at neither by the SNP nor the Greens. The only way to persuade China, India and developing countries that are desperate to industrialise still further is to provide them with a form of energy that meets all of their needs more cheaply than burning fossil fuels. Renewables have a part to play in this, but the long-term solution is going to be either safe fission power or else fusion power or something that none of us have dreamed of yet.

The people who discover these forms of power will not be in Extinction Rebellion, nor will they be uneducated screaming Swedes shouting “how dare you”, nor will they be Greens nor Scottish nationalists who despise business and dream of socialism. They will be capitalists trying to make money just like the capitalists who invented the steam engine and the spinning jenny.

You don’t solve any problems by making products more expensive, e.g., cans of coke. The solution is to make them cheaper.

Sunday 6 November 2022

The Government does not want to limit immigration


Should there be sovereign nation states with borders or should we reject that model of the world as archaic and cruel and work towards a world without borders where everyone is welcome and we share the resources of the world equally? Imagine if we could all live where we pleased, if there were no passports but we were all just citizens of the world and we each paid taxes to a world government that distributed the revenue so that no one was poor and the standard of living was the same everywhere. Would that not be Heaven on Earth?

The EU has become the dividing line in UK politics not because of economics, but because it represents to supporters particularly on the Left a move away from the nation state towards free movement and the merging of peoples. If it were genuinely possible to create a federal EU state then it would be a decisive step towards removing all borders. If people speaking different languages in the EU can share wealth, mix freely and share sovereignty then they could equally well do so with people from Africa, Asia and South America.

The main barrier to the EU succeeding is that people from the member states still think of themselves as primarily German or French or Polish. They still think of their country as the source of their identity along with their language and ancestry. But free movement, intermarriage and perhaps in time a common language spoken by all will lead to primary loyalty going to the EU and a common EU identity covering all member states. At this point there will be no objection to Germans sharing resources with Greeks, because Germans and Greeks will have a common identity. They will just be Europeans. Germans will be as willing to share with the French as they were to share with East Germans.

There is little doubt that this is the EU’s long-term aim. It is also the aim of those who favour borderless travel and unlimited migration. The main reason why British voters rejected the EU in favour of Brexit had nothing whatsoever to do with weighing up the pros and cons of membership, nor did it have much to do with extra money for the NHS. Brexiteers rejected the EU because they wanted British sovereignty (taking back control) and because they wanted to be able to limit migration.

I thought at the time that the best feature of the EU was that people from EU member states could freely live and work in the UK. Britain has an aging population. The UK birth-rate is below the replacement rate. So, if you want people to pay taxes to maintain public spending you have to either increase the birth rate or you have to import them from abroad. If you don’t get them from Europe you have to get them from outside Europe. Having left the EU, this is what we are now doing.

At present nearly 17% of the population of England and Wales was born abroad. The figure is 7% in Scotland and around 6.5% in Northern Ireland. There is an enormous fuss about people arriving in rubber dinghies. But the record numbers this year of 40,000 are trivial compared to the 573,000 who migrated in 2021. Net migration last year was 239,000 and has been at a similar level for years.

There is no attempt by government to limit migration. Quite the reverse, because it thinks the British welfare state would collapse without migration. There would not be enough tax payers to pay our pensions, our schools and our beloved NHS. The people we vote for to take back control of our borders, whether they are Labour or Conservatives, merely pretend to do so. I think part of the pretence is to talk occasionally about being flooded or invaded.

It would be relatively easy to limit migration if we wanted to. Cease giving visas to people from poor countries unless they have for instance £100,000 in their bank. But our universities depend on the fees from foreign students. Our tourism depends on allowing people to visit who we know might choose to stay. The problem is not so much asylum, though there ought to be a legal way to tell the genuine asylum seeker from the economic migrant. But we could leave the European Court of Human Rights, ditch every treaty that prevents us stopping or deporting those we think are not genuine asylum seekers and it would not bring down the numbers of migrants one little bit.

If we successfully stopped the dinghies our politicians would merely increase the number of legal visas to keep net migration at around 250,000 per year.

It is national identity that stops the EU from achieving its goal. It was national identity that meant the Soviet Union disbanded even though it had a common language, which the EU lacks. It is national identity that threatens the very existence of the UK even though it is precisely the UK model that the EU has to emulate if it is to become a state.

If after more than 300 years and in the case of England and Wales nearly 800 years of being united the national identities of the parts of the UK are such that they still want separation, then what chance is there to merge the parts of the EU into a single nation state? If Welsh, Scots and English who universally speak each other’s language cannot bear to live in the same state how can Slovenes and Spaniards? Calling it a federation doesn’t change the essence of sharing a single state. Well one way might be when nearly everyone in Scotland and England, Wales, Spain and Slovakia has a mother from somewhere far away and a father from somewhere still further. That will bring down borders, because everyone will be from elsewhere.

But this is our problem. 100 years ago, when everyone living in the UK could trace his ancestry back to the Norman Conquest and when the cultural and linguistic differences between the part of the UK were far greater than they are today, there were no serious independence movements and Scottish and Welsh nationalism barely existed. But now as all parts of the UK are more multiracial and multicultural nationalism is on the march. But it is on a march to nowhere.

Both the UK and the EU are I think deliberately making it easier for migrants while pretending that they are trying to limit migration. They are removing borders and saying that anyone anywhere in the world can be British, or French just so long as they reach our territory either legally by means of a visa or illegally by means of dinghy.

But if you continue down this route it makes both a mockery of Brexit and also makes it pointless. We would be better off having the advantages of the Single Market and free movement if we are going to allow unlimited migration anyway. We would be better accepting a world without borders and the gradual withering away of the nation state if that in fact is what a modern economy and welfare state requires.

But if that is the case and I begin to think that it is, then we are being conned. Neither Scottish nationalism, creating a border between England and Scotland, nor Brexit make any sense at all if the direction of travel is towards removing borders and citizenship. Both leaving the EU and Scotland leaving the UK become debates about nothing, merely to distract a population that still thinks it has a choice.


Friday 4 November 2022

Now I am become Death, the destroyer of women's rights


There is a lot of controversy in Scotland about the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill and also quite a lot of misunderstanding. It is important to understand what it will change and what it will not change.

At present the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) is set out by the UK Government and this will continue to be applied in England and Wales.

The purpose of a GRC is to enable someone’s affirmed gender to be legally recognised. This enables the person to change birth certificate get married in the affirmed gender and have the affirmed gender on a death certificate.

To apply the person must be at least 18 and have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a UK doctor and must have lived for two years in the affirmed gender and intend to continue living that way until death.

If someone lacks a diagnosis of gender dysphoria it is necessary to have lived for six years in the affirmed gender or have had gender affirmation surgery.

The UK Government when Theresa May was Prime Minister intended to reform this procedure to make it easier for people to obtain a GRC, but later changed it mind, partly because of the controversy that arose and also because of the opposition of many women.

The Scottish Government wishes to make the process of obtaining a GRC considerably easier. Being different from England as usual is part of the motivation. It intends to remove the need for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. It lowers the minimum age to 16. It lowers the amount of time needed to live in the affirmed gender to 3 months after which there is a further 3 month period of reflection.

The bill in itself does not give trans people any new rights. But works together with the Equalities Act 2010 which prevents discrimination against transgender people.

There are some exceptions listed in the explanatory notes to the Equalities Act. For instance

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a Gender Recognition Certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.

But this is where the whole process becomes rather difficult. If a GRC enables someone to change his birth certificate and if it is true that transwomen are women and transmen are men, the transwoman might argue, but I really am a woman so I fulfil the condition in the example. On what grounds are you discriminating against me? Because you have male anatomy. But what has that to do with it if being a woman is a matter of gender affirmation rather than anatomy?

This is our problem. Either we determine gender by means of anatomy in which case why are we allowing people to change it? Or we determine gender by means of affirmation and say it has nothing to do with anatomy, in which case how can we discriminate against the male bodied trans woman who wants to be a rape counsellor?

We cannot have two radically different ways of determining the meaning of ordinary words like “man” and “woman”. Either a woman is an adult human female and we determine this by her anatomy or a woman is what any of us might affirm ourselves to be in which case we cannot have as the explanatory note requires a status of “real” women with female anatomy and “fake” women with a GRC.

This is the fundamental problem with allowing people with a GRC to change their birth certificates. Sex is an objective characteristic of a human being. This is how people have thought about it since time began. We now know that it is a matter of DNA. You cannot change from being male to female no matter how much you wish it and no matter what surgery you have. So, in essence people are being allowed to falsify their sex and then use that to justify their being allowed to enter spaces do jobs and have rights that they otherwise would not be entitled to.

There may be exceptions to the Equalities Act, but faced with a claim of discrimination who will attempt to make use of them? If someone who looks like a man goes to the women’s changing room in Marks and Spencer, the shop assistant might if she were very brave question them. But if the person said I have a GRC who would dare to say you have to go to men’s section? Who would apply to a court to determine if this were one of the exceptions?

It is in this way women’s safe spaces gradually become ever more open to male bodies and eventually the woman’s swimming team has someone with male anatomy getting changed and displaying that male anatomy to everyone else in the changing room. No one dares question. If you object you are a bigot and no longer on the team.

The GRC does not in itself give new rights, but this is beside the point. We know that there are male bodied rape counsellors in Scotland who have affirmed that they are women and no one dared question their right to the job even though it is an exemption to the Equalities Act. So, who is going to stop a male body entering the women’s showers at the swimming pool. No doubt it would be an exemption to the Act but the exemption depends on proving that this male body is not really a woman, but we have already allowed him to legally say he was born female and we have been told that transwoman are women. So, who will dare say he can’t take a shower?

The exception depends on the old definition of “woman” a person with female anatomy. But definition is no longer available to us if we have created women without female anatomy and they are women in just the same way as everyone else.

The root of the problem is the GRC. Once you allow the idea that people can really become men or women merely by affirming it, you inevitably allow male bodies into women’s safe spaces and allow rights that apply to women to apply to male bodies also. The problem with the Scottish Government’s legislation is that it makes this problem worse.

The UK regulations on obtaining a GRC require the trans person to convince a GP and to show considerable commitment by living in the acquired gender for at least two years. The Scottish GRC on the other hand will be easier to obtain than Higher Maths and will be available at a younger age. It won’t in practice be necessary to even live in the acquired gender for 3 months. Who will verify that the person did? If a 16 year old boy wanted to be a 16 year old girl he could just say I want to be a butch lesbian and continue wearing the same clothes. Who will say that he can’t?

People should be free to do what like and be what they like so long as it does not harm any one else.

People should be allowed to sleep with whoever they want as it harms no one else.

But allowing a man to become a woman, although he retains his male anatomy does have consequences for women.

Having a female body makes one group of people fundamentally different from another. It is for this reason that various rights have developed for women. It is not because they merely affirm themselves to be women, but because they actually have female bodies and all that goes with that fact. To allow those with male bodies to merely affirm that they are women with no evidence whatsoever that they are women and without any sort of medical diagnosis is a betrayal of women’s rights, because it allows those rights to be open to those who have not grown up with female bodies. It erases the very idea of what a woman is, because if those with male bodies are equally women, then what is it that makes each woman a woman. If it is not her body, what is it? We are left with no answer. The groundedness of women’s identity in their bodies collapses.

There is a medical condition called gender dysphoria and we must be kind to these people and we must not discriminate again them. I would be happy to give a GRC to someone who wants to live as the opposite sex. I would be happy to use whatever name is preferred and whatever pronouns, so long as it is clear to everyone that a transwoman is not a woman and a transman is not a man. Change gender if you wish, live as you please, but you cannot change reality.

Tuesday 1 November 2022

Should Wales be called Cymru?


I love speaking foreign languages. In my house we speak, Polish, Belarussian, Russian and English and often all of them mixed together. I spoke Doric (Aberdeenshire Scots) at school and still automatically switch to it when I meet a fellow speaker in a shop or in the street. I would be delighted if I knew people who spoke Gaelic and likewise if I moved to Wales one of the first things, I would do would be to sign up for Welsh languages classes. The Celtic branch of the Indo-European language family is interesting and unusual and as worthy of study as any other language. But even so there is something illogical about trying to change the name of the Welsh football team to Cymru.

When there is a draw for the football world cup each country does not use its name in its own language. There is a good reason. What countries are these?






You have to be pretty good at languages to know that these are Japan, Ukraine, Qatar, Croatia and Greece.

If the world cup draw were to be conducted in everyone’s language no one in the world would know who was going to play whom. So, the draw is instead done in English. So too when people watch the games on TV the name of each country will be translated into their own language.

We will talk about the Croatian team from Croatia, even though that is not how the Croats refer to themselves. We will talk about Germany, not Deutschland, for the simple reason that we cannot speak every language.

But what is the word for Wales in English? It is not Cymru. It is Wales. There is nothing wrong with Wales as a name. It is the basis for most countries understand of the place.

For instance:

Walia (Polish)

Gales (Spanish)

It is probably the case many people in the world don’t know quite where Wales is even if the word for it in their own language is used. Many of us don’t know quite where Laos is or Kyrgyzstan, but we would have even less chance if we had to look for ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ (Laos) or Кыргыз Республикасы (Kyrgystan). The rest of the world would be simply baffled if the world cup draw involved Cymru? If the Laotian commentator were lucky, he would be able to translate it into ເວນ (Wales) but he might not be able to translate it at all, for the simple reason that he didn’t speak Welsh.

We have English words for things and we have Welsh words for things, but there is something absurd about speaking or writing in English but insisting on using the Welsh word for Wales. When we talk about Japan we use the English word. The Japanese don’t make us say Nihon. Imagine if every football team insisted on being called the name of its country in its own language. But if it would be silly for Saudi Arabia (المملكة العربية السعودية) to insist on this, why is it sensible for Wales?

While people in Wales have a perfect right to call where they live Cymru in their own language. It is completely unreasonable to try to change the English language word for Wales. Why would you want to when 99% of the world’s population if they have heard of Wales at all know it by the English language word or a word derived from it? Scotland is known by the English word if it is known at all, if you changed the name to Alba people would mix it up with Albania.

There is a modern tendency for us to change the English word for places. Peking becomes Beijing, Bombay becomes Mumbai, Burma becomes Myanmar. It is hard to keep up. But let the Burmese call their country what they will, why should we change our word? After all we don’t say Hrvatska we say Croatia. It doesn’t matter to us one little bit what the Croats call their country.

Boudica Queen of the Iceni spoke a language from which Welsh descends. It is likely that the Picts spoke a similar language. The Welsh are the original ancient Britons. It is admirable that Welsh is by far the most spoken of the Celtic languages still extant. Welsh has some of the greatest songs. I particularly like Llef, Bryn Calfaria and Myfanwy and would love to understand the words without looking at a translation. But trying to call Wales Cymru on the international stage will not add one Welsh speaker to the numbers who already do. IIt will merely confuse everyone and leave them as baffled as to where Wales is as the Welsh would be baffled if they were drawn to play Magyarország.