Friday 29 September 2023

Cancelling the dissenting voices


I am at something of a disadvantage because for the last year or so I haven’t watched any TV. I’ve never watched GB News. But I do sometimes listen to the monologues by Neil Oliver online. I used to watch his documentaries about the history and geography of Britain and found what I watched to be unusually intelligent. GB News has given him a different platform and his is a rare voice. I don’t think he is always right. Sometimes I disagree. But he is trying to say something important about Britain. The thing that is important is that we are stuck in a stultifying rut without any possibility of change.

Britain since the Second World War has been dominated by a consensus between the Labour Party and Conservative Party. The Welfare State was combined with managed decline so that by the 1970s most of us were poor. For decades it didn’t much matter who you voted for. Wilson and Heath were much the same.

There was a very brief interlude where it did matter. The Thatcher Government changed everything, and we reached the 1990s with a Britain that had been changed as radically as it had been by Atlee. But since then, we have returned to consensus.

Blair and Brown gave us social democracy that hoped to use the market economy to produce higher taxes for public spending. David Cameron and the coalition did the same. But so have Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. The exception was Liz Truss who attempted to change things, but through a mixture of mismanagement and establishment opposition failed dismally.

The vote in 1979 made a difference as did the vote in 1945, but in between the only other time Britain voted for real change in 2016 it was thwarted. There are all sort of reasons why people voted to leave the EU, but the main one was that they wanted change. The UK did leave the EU, but did anything else change? No not really. The same consensus remains.

The situation I think is similar in Scotland. We voted for devolution in 1997, but it is hard to think of a single respect in which Scotland has improved. Scottish independence may have produced radical change, but I rather doubt it. The SNP has been in charge since 2007, but it has not made Scotland more prosperous, worse it’s model of ever-increasing taxation and state spending within the EU is not essentially different from that of Blair and Cameron.

The Scottish establishment is just as powerful as the British establishment. If you read the Herald or the Scotsman, then you find the same cosy consensus. The main political parties differ over independence, but not much else. I have the distinct impression that most SNP MSPs and MPs are concerned more about their salaries and keeping their pleasant jobs than independence. They accept that independence is not happening any time soon, but let’s keep pretending to the gullible that it is, because it gives us access to that nice bar in Westminster or that delightful Bute House in Edinburgh.

But the situation is no different in London. We will soon have a choice between Labour and the Conservatives again. Keir Starmer may be Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak, or successor will stand opposite each other pretending that they are saying something different, but the difference will be minimal.

We saw this during the pandemic. We now know that life expectancy in Scotland has fallen sharply due to lockdown. We know how many people died due to Covid. But we now know due to the fall in life expectancy that many more died due to lockdown. But no one will admit that lockdown was a mistake and they would do the same again.

I don’t think it mattered very much what we did. A certain number of people were always going to die due to Covid. It would happen quickly if we did nothing or slowly if we had lockdown, but we are as helpless in the face of viruses as we were in 1918. If Boris Johnson had told us at the beginning, I’m sorry there is a new illness, be careful if you are old, but otherwise carry on as normal, we would have saved huge numbers of lives.

But no one said this. There was as with everything else a political consensus. Dissenting voices were cancelled. We weren’t allowed to even think about the issue. We just had to do what we were told.

It didn’t matter if your leader was Nicola Sturgeon, Boris Johnson or anyone else. The BBC went into full propaganda mode and grotesquely exaggerated the danger that for most people under fifty was relatively small.

Given this consensus our democracy becomes largely pointless. It won’t matter much if Labour wins the election, the civil service will tell it what to do just as it is telling Sunak what to do. It won’t matter very much if the SNP win or even if it won independence. The same Scottish establishment would be in charge.

Independence would merely be Brexit with kilts, because it is founded on a lie that the SNP is different from the wicked Tories, and we are still living in the 1980s when Thatcher closed down our pits and steel works. They would have closed anyway. There is no real ideological difference between Sunak, Yousaf and Khan. They are all social democrats. The hatred that is the foundation of Scottish nationalism is entirely manufactured between people who think the same.

But the cosy consensus won’t do. Britain is two trillion in debt. We are falling behind other countries in the far east and eastern Europe. Our economy is hardly growing and if we continue in this way, we will decline in just the same way as we did between 1945 and 1979. Our standard of living will soon be such that many of us won’t be able to afford a car or heat our houses or go on holiday.

The establishment solution is mass immigration. Brexit was supposed to give us control over our borders, but the Conservative Government does not want to control our borders. It pretends to want to stop people arriving in small boats and talks tough about the European Court of Human Rights or Asylum law. There is manufactured outrage from Labour. Meanwhile legal migration with visas to the UK approaches one million people a year.

But if mass immigration were the solution we would not be where we are now. We have been trying this experiment since 1950. Has it succeeded or failed? Thirty years from now Poland will be more prosperous than Britain and it will still have tiny levels of migration. The Poles will vote to stop it.

There is a concerted effort to cancel those few who are outside the cosy consensus. Scandals are manufactured or exaggerated. Media hysteria is always against those who dare to say the unsayable.

I don’t want to be overly cynical. Politics does matter and even if you cannot change the world, you can be a decent moral person and that matters more than anything.

The Brexit rebellion largely failed, but that doesn’t mean real change is impossible.

Thatcher and Atlee mainly succeeded and changed everything. Meanwhile we must focus on small battles like kicking out the SNP because of its corruption and incompetence.

There will be a bigger battle one day, but we will only win it if dissenting voices like Neil Oliver’s are allowed to speak.


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Wednesday 27 September 2023

Is Dennis the Menace Scottish?


Where does Dennis the Menace come from? He was initially created by DC Thomson in Dundee. But later the character has appeared in animated films made in London. The UK Government advertised this with a picture of the animated version of Dennis saying it came from London. This was met with fury by various Scottish nationalists. One called it cultural appropriation.

But this is odd for a variety of reasons. Where does Winnie the Pooh come from? You could argue One Hundred Acre Wood, or wherever A.A. Milne was living or the place he based it on. You could argue that it was from London as it was first published by Methuen & Co. Ltd., but this would be a bit strange. We don’t normally think a book is from its place of publication or indeed from where it was written. This would have the unfortunate consequence of making lots of Scottish books English if they happened to be published by Penguin.

But let’s say we are thinking about an animated version of Winnie the Pooh produced by Disney in Hollywood. Would it be wrong to say that this version of the story came from somewhere in Los Angeles? No obviously not. It was animated there. The voices and the music would have been recorded there. Would anyone call a Disney Winnie the Pooh cultural appropriation? Well, if you did you would have to call the animated version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and almost every other animated Disney film cultural appropriation too.

Even to think of an animated version of Dennis the Menace being truly described as being from London as cultural appropriation shows the oddness of SNP ideas about what it is to be Scottish. Cultural appropriation is the idea that it is wrong for white people to adopt aspects of an ethnic minority culture or dress. Thus, some black people might criticise white people for wearing dreadlocks or trying to imitate reggae. But no one thinks that it is cultural appropriation for someone from the north of Germany to wear Bavarian national dress. They are from the same race.

Until quite recently there was the idea that only people who could trace their ancestry to a particular clan were entitled to wear a kilt with that pattern. But now no one objects to Humza Yousaf wearing a kilt. Students from many countries will wear kilts at their graduation. No one will object if someone from London learns to play the bagpipes and plays them dressed in full highland regalia every day in Trafalgar Square.

The idea that being Scottish is open to everyone from any country and every race and that every symbol and cultural aspect of Scotland is equally open to them becomes senseless if English people can be guilty of cultural appropriation. It looks then as if Scottish culture can be adopted by anyone except England.

But what is on view here displays the contradiction inherent in Scottish nationalism.

Dennis the Menace may have been created in Dundee, but he is not obviously from Dundee. DC Thomson produced comics like the Broons and Oor Wullie where the characters were obviously from Scotland, but it wanted a wider audience for most of its comic characters, who are not obviously from anywhere. If Dennis the Menace were from Dundee, he would speak like a Dundonian, but he doesn’t.

No one cares where Marvel comics were produced or argues that Superman and the Incredible Hulk are from New York because these comics were produced there. But Scottish nationalists are incredibly touchy and possessive about Scottishness while arguing that it is open to everyone.

What is it to be a Scot? The SNP thinks that anyone living in Scotland is a Scot. It isn’t necessary to be born in Scotland. It isn’t necessary to have any Scottish ancestors. It isn’t even necessary to speak English, Scots or Gaelic. It is perfectly possible for instance for a new Scot to live in Scotland and know nothing whatsoever about Scottish history, culture, language or indeed anything else.

If the SNP achieved independence it would like to increase immigration. Everyone who arrived in Scotland would be as Scottish as someone else who could trace his ancestry back to Bannockburn.

But the contradiction is this. Scottish nationalists are obsessed with the past and with Scottish culture. This is why they play bagpipes when they go on marches and why they wear Jacobite hats with white cockades and highland dress. It is also why they are obsessed with finding and emphasising anything that makes Scotland different from England. This includes a desperate search for a different language.

But the truth is that we don’t normally wear highland dress or play bagpipes. Almost all Scots speak English with an accent. Some of us sometimes add a few Scottish words. We are culturally almost identical to the other parts of the UK.

But why go to such extraordinary lengths to pretend that we are different if we are willing to accept people as equally Scottish just because they have recently arrived here. If what matters is that we wear kilts and play bagpipes and use words that are either Scottish or Gaelic, then how can this be reconciled with Scottishness applying equally to someone who speaks neither English, Scottish, nor Gaelic?

If being Scottish is merely being resident in a place called Scotland, then depending on where these new Scots originally came from, they could be culturally and linguistically very similar indeed to people living in England who came from the same place. But why separate people who are the same?

The Scottish nationalist argument depends both on there being a Scottish people that is a different people from those living in other parts of the UK and that being Scottish has nothing whatsoever to do with where you were born and where your parents came from. But it cannot be both.

But if there is no such thing as a Scottish people, then Scottish nationalism and its goal are senseless. If on the other hand there is such a thing as a Scottish people, then it must depend on who your parents and ancestors are.

Dennis the Menace is no more Scottish because he was produced in Dundee than Winston Smith is Scottish because Orwell wrote 1984 while living on Jura. Fictional characters don’t have a nationality. They are from nowhere. But the obsession with the supposed Scottishness of Dennis the Menace reveals that Scottish nationalists are obsessed with the origin or each person. Dennis the Menace can’t be from London, because his origin is Dundee. That is his ancestry.

That is also why people who cannot trace their ancestry to Bannockburn and who do not speak fluent Scots or Gaelic should be very careful voting for the SNP. Scottish nationalists may pretend that you are Scots just like they are, but they don’t quite think you are entitled to wear a kilt. It’s cultural appropriation.

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Sunday 24 September 2023

Should Britain pay reparations for slavery?


The president of Guyana Mohamed Irfaan Ali recently argued that Britain owed his country reparations for slavery. So too an international judge from Jamaica claimed that Britain owed nearly £19 trillion for its involvement in the slave trade. We are constantly reprimanded for the British Empire and urged to decolonise. Yet nobody in Britain living today took part in the Atlantic slave trade.  Britain did more than anyone else to abolish it by Acts of Parliament in 1807 and 1833 and by enforcing those laws with the Royal Navy. This involved enormous costs at the time. But it seems we must pay twice.

I would have preferred that there had been no British Empire. If you compare the standard of living in modern day Britain with European countries which had minimal involvement in colonisation, then you will find people who have a similar standard of living to us or higher. The people of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Luxembourg are not obviously worse off because they didn’t have an empire.

It is true that the English language spread around the world because of the British Empire, and this can be advantageous to us, but Finns manage fine with a language no one else speaks. We could have managed too.

For the same reason British people do not continue to benefit from slavery or colonisation. If we did continue to benefit you would expect us to be in some obvious way better off than Swedes, but we are not.

It would be very hard indeed to prove much of a connection between economic activity two or three hundred years ago and now. If the UK benefited from having an empire with slaves hundreds of years ago our present economic condition owes far more to economic choices made in recent decades. The Greeks after all don’t benefit today from Alexander having no more worlds to conquer.   

The logical problem for the president of Guyana seeking reparations for slavery is that if it had not been for the slave trade and the British Empire his country would not exist at all. If Europeans had not colonised North and South America and the Caribbean, if we had all stayed in Europe and if there had been no slave trade then African people would not have been forced to move from Africa to the New World. Under those circumstances Mohamed Irfaan Ali either would not exist or else would be living somewhere else. He certainly would not be president of Guyana because there would be no Guyana.

Let’s say there had been no European colonisation and no European involvement in the slave trade. Would that have meant that no Africans were enslaved? No. Africans enslaved other Africans. Arabs also were involved in enslaving Africans. But oddly no one asks for reparations from the descendants of Africans who enslaved other Africans or indeed from present day Arabs.

Slavery has existed since time began. Europeans were enslaved by other Europeans and by North Africans. Russians were able to own other Russians until 1861, but no Russian ever asks for reparations from a descendent of a former owner.

If you go back enough generations then everyone in the world has an ancestor who was a slave and also an ancestor who was a slave owner. The descendants of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings are descendants of a slave owner just as much as the descendants of Gladstone. The same situation will apply to much of the population of Guyana.

But more importantly the concept of demanding reparations for empire and slavery ignores the historical alternative. If there had been no colonisation, then none of the countries in North and South America would exist. There would be no black people in the Caribbean nor in the USA or anywhere else. Would they prefer not to be living where they are? But if you are happy being president of Guyana, how can you demand reparations for what put you there?

If Europeans had remained in Europe and had not explored beyond our continent there would have been no sharing with other people, any of the discoveries or inventions that have been developed over the centuries.

We have then the president of Guyana wearing a suit and tie, wearing glasses, and speaking over the Internet using a computer and speaking English. But if British people had remained in our island and had never gone anywhere else, he would be doing none of these things.

Colonisation, empire and slavery are part of what gave us the modern world. Europeans travelled the world for profit. They went to places like Guyana and imported slaves. The descendants of slaves can wish that slavery never happened, but it is to wish for a world unimaginably different to the one in which we live.

The historical circumstances of empire and slavery were part of the development of the modern world. You cannot logically blame Britain and demand reparations for slavery while accepting the benefits of modern knowledge, medicine, science and everything else that was shared only because of European involvement in Africa.

Who knows what the world today would be like no European country had ever explored, there had been no colonisation and no slavery. It would be vastly different, nowhere near as developed and much of what we all rely on would never have been discovered.

If we have to pay 19 trillion for the slave trade, how much do you have to pay for your existence in Jamaica and all of the knowledge you would not have if Europeans had never seen Africa?

Everyone has benefited from the discoveries that took place when European powers were involved in colonisation and slavery. Who knows the interconnections between the profits made from empire and the scientific discoveries of early modern science. But all humans benefit including the descendants of slaves.

It would have been better if Europeans had never colonised anywhere. It would have been better if we enslaved no one. But that is to imagine a world where every descendant of a slave is somehow miraculously back in Africa.

The modern world is a consequence of human history both good and bad. Trying to obtain reparations for wrongs done centuries ago is senseless because it goes against the moral principle that I am responsible for my own actions, not the actions of my ancestors. We don’t blame modern day Mongols for the invasion of Europe any more than we blame the Goths Huns and Vandals.

Reparations of nearly £19 trillion is five times the UK’s national debt, but the UK population is multiracial. Some are descendants of slave owners, others the descendants of slaves, but others have ancestors from places that were never involved in the slave trade. Should they all pay the descendants of slaves in Guyana or is it only white people who are guilty?  

If I am to pay reparations because my ancestor owned slaves, then I should pay reparations because my ancestor murdered someone. Murdering must be worse than enslaving. This rapidly becomes morally senseless.

The truth is that it is hard to imagine anything worse we could do to a country than give it free money for something that happened centuries ago. Would this free money make Guyanese people work harder? Would it encourage them to be more innovative in business and trade? Would it make them more self-reliant? Would it make Guyana less corrupt or more democratic?

It would be far better for Guyana to try to become prosperous by its own efforts. It is blaming someone else for its poverty that keeps it poor. It’s not blaming anyone else that makes other countries rich.

Friday 22 September 2023

A useless trip to New York


Humza Yousaf has gone to something called the Climate Ambition Summit in New York. Given that Yousaf lacks the ability of walking on water, we can assume that he flew there. It may also be that he is having a pleasant time on the Staten Island Ferry learning about how ferries work and not having to think about any other type of ferry including Broughty Ferry which likewise lacks a ferry in just the same way as many Scottish islands. New York in the early autumn will be still warm and Yousaf will be able to enjoy roaming in the gloaming with whoever he has to roam with.

But is there any point in Yousaf being in New York? No. Regional leaders of places like Bavaria, Burgundy and Bohemia will doubtless have reflected that their best contribution to limiting carbon emissions was to follow events in New York online. But it is crucial for the SNP to pretend that Scotland is a nation state just like every other UN member state despite Scotland never having been a member, because it is eh not independent.

But there is a more important reason why it is pointless for Yousaf to be in New York. It matters not one little bit what Scotland does about carbon emissions.

Rishi Sunak has decided to delay the ban on petrol cars and gas boilers from 2030 to 2035. There is an enormous fuss. But the truth is that it will not affect global warming in any measurable way. It would be impossible even to try to measure how this delay will change global temperatures 50 or 100 years from now.

It's nice for Humza Yousaf to feel involved and to think that the decisions he makes in Scotland will make a difference to climate change, but the truth is they won’t. A brief look at some figures shows this.

Carbon emissions in million tonnes

Scotland                 41.6

China                    11680.42
United States         4535.30
India                       2411.73
Russia                    1674.23
Japan                      1061.77

Even if Scotland had no electricity. Even if Scots drove no cars. Even if we lit no fires. Even indeed if we went back to the Stone age, it would make no measurable difference to global warming or climate change. Our 41 million tonnes will be well within the margin of error of China’s 11000 million tonnes.

People say the problem is not the amount of carbon emissions each country produces but the amount each person produces. But this is obviously false. The country in the world with the highest per capita emissions is Palau an archipelago of 500 islands in the South Pacific. Palau had 1.24 million tonnes of emissions in 2020, but it only has a population of 18,000. Perhaps they use a lot of petrol travelling between these islands. Palau though has done well in 2017 it emitted 1.41 million tonnes. But the idea that the actions of Palau will make a difference to climate change is clearly preposterous. It’s too small. The saving of 0.17 million tonnes changes nothing globally.

It would simply be a waste of aviation fuel for the President of Palau to travel to New York, but at least he would be a leader of nation state rather than a region of one.

But the most important reason why Yousaf’s trip is pointless is that the UK has already massively reduced carbon emissions, while other countries have increased theirs.

Change in carbon dioxide emission from 1990-2022


China                     +426.5%
India                      +348.3%
South Korea           +133.5%

United Kingdom    −41.4%


So, while we have been cutting carbon emissions since 1990 the savings we have made have been and are continuing to be made pointless by countries like China and India. It’s as if one member of a family is buying the cheapest Tesco tins of beans while another is buying caviar and vintage champagne. The savings of the one are made pointless by the extravagance of the other.

The SNP and the Scottish Greens want everyone in Scotland to be forced to buy an electric car by 2030. They want us to be unable to sell our house if we don’t have a heat pump. They want us to pay a deposit on every container we buy so that we have the pleasure of queuing to get our money back.

But Scotland already has the carbon emissions of Laos and if China continues to increase its carbon emissions at the rate it is doing, our decrease won’t make any difference at all. Whatever savings we make will be outstripped thousands of times over by China and India.

I think it is a good thing in itself to emit as little carbon as possible. There are better more efficient ways to get the energy we need.

There is no way to stop developing countries using ever more fossil fuels unless technology provides them with a cheaper more convenient alternative. China and India can reasonably point out that the alternative to burning fossil fuels is to remain poor. The same goes for every other developing country that wants the standard of living we have.

This is why it is pointless for Yousaf to go to New York. It ends with him virtue signalling about cutting emissions when we already are cutting, while the developing world burns as much coal oil and gas as it can buy and will continue to increase its rate of burning still further while we keep cutting.

It will be an advanced economy like the UK or the USA which will discover the technological solution to global warming, but we will only remain advanced economies if we ignore the SNP and the Scottish Greens who would prefer, we had no economic growth at all and went back to driving horse drawn carriages.

Net zero is a con and the con is created precisely by the kind of meeting Yousaf is attending in New York. It’s only a few Western countries that are even attempting to cut carbon emissions, because our leaders like Yousaf love to feel important at international meetings, enjoy making grand gestures and pretend that we set others and example, which in fact they ignore. 

But it is us that suffer from their virtue signalling when our houses are too cold, or we get stuck in Sutherland with an electric car and the nearest charging point is Inverness. We miss out when we can’t afford to fly somewhere warmer on holiday. Soon it will only be Humza Yousaf who can afford to travel anywhere.

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Saturday 16 September 2023

Would anyone recognise an independent Scotland?


Few people in Britain would notice a football match between Romania and Kosovo in the qualifying round of the European championship. The match was stopped because of Romanian fans chanting and banners proclaiming that Kosovo is Serbia. Even this would not be especially interesting except for what it tells us about the political situation in Scotland.

There is a certain oddity too. Romania has played England on numerous occasions. There has been no chanting that England is the UK. Likewise, it is likely that Romania has played against the Faroe Islands. There have been no banners telling the Faroese players that the Faroe Islands are Denmark. Why are Romanian fans so interested in opposing the independence of Kosovo?

The problem with Kosovo is that it achieved independence by means of a unilateral declaration of independence. The war in Yugoslavia eventually gave rise to six new states seven if we include Kosovo, but Kosovo is the most problematic. The reason is that it was part of Serbia, and the Serbs were not and still are not willing to recognise that independence.

There were special circumstances behind Kosovo’s declaration of independence. The Kosovo War involved the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) in a civil war against the Kosovo Liberation Army. This led to the attempt to expel Kosovar civilians and the intervention of NATO.

Most Western countries due to these circumstances recognised the independence of Kosovo, but it set a precedent that was later used by Russia to justify the independence from Ukraine of Crimea and the Donbas. It is this precedent also that means that Kosovo is not universally recognised today.

Five EU member states Spain, Slovakia, Cyprus, Romania, and Greece do not recognise Kosovo’s independence. But all EU member states would need to recognize Kosovo before it could join the EU.

Why don’t these EU states recognise Kosovo? The reason is that it is not just the UK that has secession movements. Spain worries particularly about Catalonia being allowed to declare independence unilaterally. Slovakia worries about Hungarians and Rusyns (similar to Ukrainians). Cyprus worries about Turks in Northern Cyprus. Romania worries about Hungarians in Transylvania and on its border with Hungary. Greece worries about Albanians and Macedonians.

The borders of Europe exist for historical reasons most frequently due to wars. There are any number of formerly independent states which merged. Some states gained territory in the past while others lost.  Poland lost its eastern territories to Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania and gained its western territories from Germany. Austria and Hungary ruled much of central Europe until 1918, but now are small. Italy gained South Tyrol after the First World War, but the majority living there are German speakers. Once you go down the route of allowing formerly independent states to gain independence especially by means of unilateral declarations, the fear is that chaos would result and most likely war.

There are too many formerly independent states with conflicting territorial claims. There are too many past injustices about borders. There are too many ancient battles that could be refought like Bannockburn 1314 or Kosovo 1389.

It is in this context that the Supreme Courts judgement on the legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament legislating for a second referendum on independence is crucial. The SNP compared Scotland to Kosovo. But the historical context is quite different. The British Army has not attacked Scotland and attempted to expel its population. There has been no civil war in the United Kingdom. Scots have the same rights to live and work and vote as everyone else. There has been no oppression at all.

The Supreme Court ruled that Scotland was not a colony and therefore was simply part of the UK in the same way as Catalonia is part of Spain and the South Tyrol is part of Italy. The right to self-determination only applies to colonies, it doesn’t apply to the parts of modern European democracies. If it did then every formerly independent part of France or Germany would have the right to leave whenever it wanted.

We already have self-determination because we live in nation state where we each have a vote for Parliament. It is not undemocratic if Burgundy votes differently to France. If it were, democracy would everywhere be impossible.

This is what everyone else thinks in Europe. There is not a single EU member state that will grant a legal referendum to a part seeking independence.  

But let’s say the SNP the right. Let’s imagine that Scotland is indeed like Kosovo and that a vicious civil war had just been fought. The Scottish Parliament unilaterally declares independence. What would be the result?

Well, we already know from Kosovo. Five EU member states would not recognise the independence of Scotland. Romanian football fans would proclaim that Scotland was part of the UK. Scotland would not obtain EU membership because these five, perhaps more would oppose it.

Even under the best case scenario which obtained in 2014, with UK cooperation and permission to hold a legal referendum, it would have been necessary to persuade countries like Spain that Scottish independence did not constitute a dangerous precedent that Catalans might exploit.

If the former UK had argued for recognition of Scottish independence and had done all it could to help Scotland diplomatically then it is likely that eventually Scotland would have been allowed to join the EU.

But the SNP has not been arguing for this best case scenario. It has been arguing either to legislate for its own referendum on independence or to hijack a General Election or a Scottish Parliament Election. 

But all of these methods amount to a unilateral declaration of independence. So long as the UK Government does not recognise whatever method the SNP chooses to assert Scottish independence then the SNP is left with nothing but a unilateral declaration.

But Scotland is not Kosovo. No one is being oppressed. What’s more no one internationally thinks that Scots are being oppressed or that Scotland is a colony. If the SNP went down the route of a unilateral declaration of independence, it would obtain for Scotland even less recognition than Kosovo has received.

Kosovo rightly had the sympathy of much of the international community, but why would anyone think a unilateral declaration of independence was justified in Scotland?

If Scotland could obtain independence without the UK’s permission and that is really what the SNP is arguing, then anyone in Europe could set out to split from the country they are now in or to join another that they used to be part of. If Scotland could obtain independence because it once was independent hundreds of years ago, then anyone could.

The SNP’s latest ruse of claiming it will negotiate independence if it wins more seats in Scotland than any other party could easily be obtained in the following circumstance.

SNP 24 seats 35% of the vote
Labour 23 Seats 36% of vote
Conservatives 6 seats 15% of the vote
Lib Dems 4 seats 10% of vote.

Imagine the precedent this would set if it succeeded. The SNP would be saying to every breakaway movement in Europe you too can leave Spain or France by winning around a third of the vote in any election you choose to describe as a vote on secession even if another party wins more votes and parties opposed to independence win the majority of the vote.

Under these circumstances the threat to every state’s territorial integrity would be such that Scotland would not gain any recognition at all. There would be zero chance of joining the EU.

There is no constitutional principle that can turn a General Election into a referendum on independence. The SNP is acting unilaterally in supposing that it can define it in this way, and it would have to act unilaterally to obtain independence if the British Government didn’t agree with the SNP’s assessment that it had won independence with 35% of the vote.

Unilateral declarations are possible and might even succeed. But as the example of Kosovo shows this route won’t lead to EU membership. There is no prospect of Kosovo joining the EU.

The SNP needs to stop pretending that there is any alternative to waiting patiently. There is not.

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Thursday 14 September 2023

Why I’ve chosen to support Rangers

I didn’t grow up supporting any football team. I would watch the occasional match on TV, but that was all. That’s how it is now too. I’m the sort of person that might watch a big international game in the World Cup, but I’ve only ever been to a few live games. I have only a limited knowledge of football. But gradually and over a number of years it has become clear to me that I follow Rangers. Not as closely as most Rangers fans, but still I found that I cared quite deeply about the club, not least because I cared about its supporters.

When I started to write about Scottish politics, I found that the people who were most likely to follow me were Rangers supporters. Of course, supporters of other clubs and none followed me also. That’s great. I’m not against any football team whether it’s an international side or a club side. But I began to gain a special affection for the Rangers fans who followed me.

Over the years I have had huge numbers of interactions with followers. The Rangers people I came across were universally good people. I have some followers who are Celtic fans too. These are usually good people too. Football doesn’t determine character.

But the number of interactions I have had with people who are Celtic fans who are unpleasant is off the scale. Most times I see bhoy in a Twitter name I find that it is accompanied with some sort of abuse against me personally.

Politics and football don’t always go together. There are Rangers fans who support the SNP and there are Celtic fans who are Pro UK. But my impression is that a lot of Celtic fans hate the UK and would delight in seeing it broken up, especially if that led to a united Ireland. I don’t want to generalise too much, but that is my impression.

On the other hand, Rangers fans generally disprove the SNP argument that being British and Scottish are incompatible. They are as Scottish as anyone could be, but they are happy to be British too. This is how I have always felt as well. No wonder I am drawn to them.

I don’t think that there is any place for sectarianism in Scotland. I am a Christian, but I respect all versions of Christianity. I was brought up as Protestant, but I don’t dislike Catholicism. It’s a bit different, but not that different. People should be able to support whichever team they like irrespective of religious belief.

What comes back to me most when I think of Rangers now is the great teams of the 1970s and 1980s when I watched more football as a child than I do now. I remember the Rangers players. Davie Cooper. Tom Forsyth. Ian Durant. Sandy Jardine. Somehow the players from other clubs fade from my memory. I discover with a little surprise that I was a Rangers fan all along without even realising it.

A few years ago, I had a problem with my web site that meant that I couldn’t share my articles on Twitter. A Rangers fan offered the use of a Rangers fan site to help me out. I never forgot it. Eventually I sorted the problem, but I always remembered the kindness.

When Rangers had financial difficulties a few years ago and were relegated to the bottom division, it would have finished most clubs. But Rangers fans travelled to Elgin or Peterhead or Dingwall just the same as they had when Rangers was in the top division. Every week Ibrox was full. Some people mocked Rangers for being sent down to the bottom. But it struck me as heroic to fight back win promotion and eventually win the Premier league. The measure of character is how you deal with adversity.

It was Ally McCoist that made me realise that I was a Rangers fan and that I had always been a Rangers fan. During his career I admired him as a player, but more than that I admired him as a man. McCoist has developed a new career commenting on sport. He is universally admired. He is as Scottish as anyone you could ever meet, but he is happy to say that he sings God Save the King. He personally disproves the SNP lie that only independence supporters believe in Scotland or indeed are fully Scottish. McCoist is fully Scottish and fully British too. He epitomises Rangers.  He is the best that Scotland has to offer.

None of us should hate other people because they are English, or Muslim, Catholic or indeed Celtic fans. Football is entertainment. Let’s enjoy it without hating anyone. I disagree with the SNP, but I don’t hate Scottish nationalists. They are my colleagues and my neighbours. Let’s discuss the issues with them agree and disagree in a friendly manner. It would help both sides to do this. It would make Scotland more pleasant for all of us.

But I have found my family with Rangers. You followed me and eventually I realised that my allegiance was your allegiance. If you follow me, then I will follow you. I may not know as much about football as the average Ranger fan but

Do not urge me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.

Follow Follow.

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Tuesday 12 September 2023

Rejoining the EU is even more anachronistic than Rule Britannia.


The song Rule Britannia could hardly be more anachronistic. If Britain ever ruled the waves, which perhaps was just about possible to argue in 1740, it certainly does not now. Even in 1916 when Britain still had the largest navy in the world it suffered a tactical defeat at Jutland. But most national anthems are anachronistic.  Those feet probably did not walk upon England’s mountain’s green. But there is something still more anachronistic about the singing of Rule Britannia and that is to do so accompanied by blue and yellow EU flags.

Prior to Britain voting to leave the EU it was rare indeed to see people waving the EU flag. Support for the EU prior to 2016 was moderate. There were no people with berets with EU stars.

I had always assumed that the EU was one of those things that British people grumbled about, but which would never be changed. I never ever thought we would be given a referendum on EU membership. Having been given it I assumed that Remain would win easily.

I voted Leave primarily because I hoped that it would make the SNP’s argument more difficult as it did. The EU is the condition for the possibility of sub national nationalism in the modern world. Leaving I believed was necessary for otherwise Scottish nationalists would eventually realise that they could leave the UK without much changing. The EU would guarantee free movement with the former UK and Scots would have the same rights as before. The choice became do you prefer UK unity or EU membership, because you can’t have both.

But in other respects, I could see quite a lot of merit in the EU. Free movement made it easier to live and work in EU countries. The Single Market was probably beneficial economically.

Brexit has not failed. It has destroyed the SNP. The UK economy is doing about as well in comparison with similar EU economies. But Brexit has not succeeded either. It has not limited migration. Quite the reverse. We just get our migrants now from outside the EU. We have not gained an economic advantage from Brexit, because we have not really tried to gain it.

I can see why sensible people still regret that we voted to Leave. There were some good arguments for Remain. But here is where the EU flag wavers at the Proms are behaving anachronistically. They have not moved on from the Remain arguments of 2016. They still think that the EU that we left we could rejoin. But you can’t step into the same EU twice.

There is I think a very good reason why no serious British political party will campaign to rejoin the EU at the next General Election. While I think it quite possible that a second referendum on EU membership would give a Remain result, it won’t give a Rejoin result.

This is ably illustrated by the SNP’s views on EU membership. The SNP is keen for an independent Scotland to join, but only if it can avoid those aspects of the EU that were never popular in Scotland and the UK generally. Schengen and the Euro. So, the SNP argues that those bits that we don’t like we could avoid or at least put off indefinitely.

So too British supporters of rejoining the EU argue that the UK could avoid EU federalism and be given opt outs on the Euro and Schengen.

Perhaps we could, but here is the problem. Remainers and now Rejoiners are only enthusiastic about the Common Market. They are happy for us to have free movement. They are happy for us to be part of the Single Market, but if you offer them Euro federalism and the steps needed to complete it, they are not so keen.

But while it was just about possible in 2016 to argue that we could avoid those aspects of the EU that we dislike, it is not possible now.

If the UK came to the EU and said Brexit was a terrible mistake, please let us back we would come as a supplicant. The EU would set the terms of membership and we know how hard a bargain it made when we left. To suppose that it would not drive a hard bargain if we wanted to rejoin is to misunderstand the EU entirely.

It is not in the EU’s interest to have an unenthusiastic UK always trying to stop EU integration as we were before. Nor indeed would it want an unenthusiastic Scotland always resisting Euro federalism. For this reason, there would be no Thatcher rebate on the EU membership fee. There would be no leaving the ERM, there would be no impossible conditions as set out by Gordon Brown for joining the Euro. There would be no avoiding Schengen, just as there would be no avoiding anything else we didn’t like.

The EU has enough trouble with Poland and Hungary resisting edicts from Brussels without adding the UK too.

But if it became clear to the UK electorate that EU membership was to be either full membership or nothing, then it would choose nothing.

But this is not merely a problem for British rejoiners, it is a problem for the EU itself.

The EU exists as it does for historical reasons. France was successfully invaded three times between 1870 and 1940, because a united Germany was too strong for France to defeat on its own. Germany since its Septemberprogramm of 1914 has wanted to create a Mitteleuropa economic association dominated by Germany. Both France and Germany get what they historically wanted from the EU. Germany no longer invades France and France gets to feel it is still an important power ruling Europe like Napoleon, but in fact Germany rules. France gets the illusion of power and maintains its security. Germany gets a market for its manufacturing and pretends to have put behind it all that nasty militarism. But the EU fulfils Germany’s war aims from 1870 to 1939 quite nicely. Everyone is happy.

But no one else in the world is pursuing this model of federal integration. There are lots of security and economic associations in the world. There is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. There is the North American Free Trade Association. There is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But no one else is trying to create anything like the European Union.

The New York Times may think that Brexit is folly, but neither it nor any American voter wants either a single North American currency, nor passport free travel nor to have a North American Parliament or a North American Commission in Ottawa. The Japanese don’t want to be part of an Asian Union ruled from Beijing. No one in South America or Africa or indeed anywhere else wants what the EU offers and demands as a condition for membership.

But this is not merely a problem for those who want to persuade us to rejoin the EU. It is above all a problem for the EU. Poles and Hungarians are happy to gain the benefits of EU membership, but few if any want Poland and Hungary to become regions of a United States of Europe. Worse the French don’t want this either.

No one else in the world is trying to unite people with different languages, cultures and histories into a federal state. The single currency only makes sense if there is to be a political union, but no one wants political union. Least of all the Scottish nationalists. That is what they have now.

It makes sense for nation states to cooperate. It makes sense for them to have free trade agreements. It may even make sense for them to have a common market. But no one else is trying to create a federal state out of peoples who are so different as the peoples of Europe and who have almost nothing in common except geography.

The EU is a mass of contradictions that no one else wants to imitate. This is why despite the EU flags at the Proms there is no chance that the UK or indeed an independent Scotland would choose to join it. The voters would not allow it.   

Rule Berlaymont, Berlaymont rules not even itself.

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Monday 11 September 2023

Can I change race?


I started reading David Copperfield earlier this year and got stuck. I was about a quarter of the way through and finding it a bit tough going and so I laid it aside. It might have stayed there, but something brought me back. Could I really be defeated by Dickens when I had managed Dostoevsky in Russian? So, I finished Copperfield’s adventures found the book wonderful and learned a lesson that was quite unexpected.

The landscape of London is quite different. Copperfield walks through countryside to get to Highgate. But it is the attitudes that are unimaginably different.  Copperfield must ask permission to court Dora. Steerforth cannot possibly marry Emily because she is working class, but the sexual relationship she has with him makes it impossible for her to marry anyone else.

But the biggest change between the early nineteenth century and today is of course the demographic makeup of the UK. There are no ethnic minorities in Dickens apart from Fagin. Indeed, hardly anyone is from abroad. The ethnic makeup of Britain had barely changed since the Norman Conquest.

But there is now a concerted effort to change this truth and to make the past more representative of the present.

The people whose families arrived in the UK since the 1950 have the right to the same fair and equal treatment as everyone else. It is wrong to discriminate against someone because of race or religion or any other characteristic.

It is reasonable that jobs, sporting teams, TV programmes and films set in modern Britain should reflect Britain as it is today. But it is not unreasonable that nine or ten members or indeed every member of sports team should be white so long as people from ethnic minorities are not discriminated against, because this does reflect the demographic situation.

But the demand now is not merely that the present should reflect the demographic reality of modern Britain, but that the past should too. This is a deception and the next woke battle, which will take it in a yet stranger direction.

Until very recently films based on classic English literature would have casts that reflected the characters. Dickens didn’t have black characters because he rarely if ever saw black people. To suppose that Pip in Great Expectations would meet a black Estella is to imagine something almost impossible in the society of the time. If Steerforth cannot marry Emily because she is working class, is it likely that he would marry her if she were black?

The idea that Dev Patel could walk through nineteenth century London while being treated equally by white people and without meeting racial prejudice is preposterous. If Dora’s father opposed Copperfield’s relationship with her even though they were colleagues, how much more would he oppose it if Copperfield were ethnically Indian?

This might all be dismissed as of no consequence. So, what if Copperfield is brown, so what if Anne Boleyn is black. It provides equal opportunities for actors. But the important issue is the reason why there is such a concerted attempt to pretend that the past was other than it was.

If Britain was always a multiethnic, multiracial society and we can show this because David Copperfield was brown, and Anne Boleyn was black then the present demographic makeup of the UK is not really a change at all. In embracing the present multicultural Britain, we are embracing the past too and demonstrating the one follows from the other. The children of David Copperfield or his real-life equivalent were diverse, and their descendants were the diverse population we have today.

People from ethnic minorities are British citizens. We are not allowed to make a distinction between British ethnicity and other ethnicities. It would be divisive to make the distinction. We are white British, or black British in the census. There is no option to say I have a British ethnicity.

But if this is true then it follows that a British character such as Copperfield or a British historical figure like Anne Boleyn could also be black British even if this is obviously false.

Once you get rid of the concept of a British ethnicity and this may well be necessary in a multiracial society where everyone is equally British, then the past too becomes multiethnic even if it wasn’t.

Even the British origin myths such as Gawain and the Green Knight involve Dev Patel pretending that Gawain could have been Indian. It’s like portraying the Bhagavad Gita as a conversation between King Arthur and Merlin.

But behind all of this is something else. The whole point of the new woke religion is to do away with objective truth. What matters is how someone subjectively feels rather than objective reality.

This has reached its peak in the concept of transgender. It doesn’t matter if your DNA says that you are a man or if you have a male body, the feeling that you are in reality a woman is more important. The result is to subjectify sex and gender to the extent that anyone without any sort of medical diagnosis can legally change sex and a man can become a woman.

From the objective point of view this is absurd and previous generations would immediately have pointed this out. But the triumph of feeling over fact has reached the stage where men can give birth and there is talk of transplanting wombs into male bodies so that they can grow babies.

But it is not merely sex and gender that have been made a matter of subjectivity. Race too is a social construct. If men can become women, why can’t black people become white people?

Well, they can? David Copperfield is white. Anne Boleyn was white. Now we see them transformed from a white character to a black or brown actor. If nineteenth century London was 99.9% white, now we see it transformed to a multiracial society like London today.

We are not there yet. While Dev Patel can play David Copperfield try including white actors in the Mahābhārata. Even opera and theatre that was designed originally for white actors such as the Mikado, Othello or Turandot cannot now be played by white actors without controversy.

Transracialism still only works one way. White characters can become black, white historical figures can become black, but not the other way round.

But if race really is a social construct, then it will have to embrace equal opportunity. Otherwise, it is the equivalent of saying that men can become women, but women cannot become men.

But once you allow that DNA or physical characteristics do not determine sex and gender, then it will logically follow that they do not determine race or indeed anything else.

We accept this already with cases of mixed race. Prince Harry’s children may define themselves as black because they have a black mother even if no one could guess that they were. But once you allow self-definition of race for one person how can you deny it for another?

A Redenção de Cam (Redemption of Ham) by Modesto Brocos

The problem for woke is this, however. It both depends on race being a social construct and race being something physically visible. If eleven white women play for the England football team, what is to prevent half of them saying they are really black? But you don’t have black parents? So, what. We have already accepted that being British has nothing to do with ancestry.

So, what is to prevent me defining myself as black even if I can trace my ancestry to the Norman Conquest? It cannot be my DNA that prevents me, because it doesn’t prevent me changing sex. It cannot be my appearance, because Prince Harry’s children can define themselves as they please.

At this point the race relations industry collapses. Critical race theory tells us that Black people cannot be racist against other black people and cannot be racist against white people, because white people have “white privilege”. But this means that if a white person says something derogatory against a black person, he can merely say I am black. He may not look black, but everyone if you go back far enough has a black ancestor. What’s more if I merely feel black, if I identify with other black people who is to say I can’t because of my appearance if Prince Harry’s children can. What has it to do with what I look like?

This is the endgame of woke. If David Copperfield can be black, why can’t I? In that case I will according to woke theory be incapable of being racist. There will no longer be an objective concept of race.

Unfortunately, too when white can become black, and men can become women there will no longer be an objective concept of anything. Humanity will have been remade and we will at last be ready for socialism.

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