A Federal UK?

The rescue plan for Scotland, otherwise known as Devo Max, has of course implications that extends well beyond Scotland. All the other regions of the UK will be affected. One assumes that if Scotland gets new powers, won’t Wales and Northern Ireland be entitled to those too? In particular powers relating to tax and spending decisions.

Consider the position of Northern Ireland, it shares a land border with the Eurozone country of Ireland. Now while cross border trade is an important part of the NI economy, it’s difficult for NI companies to compete with Irish one when taxes south of the border are much lower, in particular corporation tax. So I suspect NI wouldn’t mind being allowed to adjust its corporation tax rates to match those of the Republic.

Of course that would leave a deficit in tax revenue that would have to be made up somewhere else. And keep in mind that NI already receives more money under the Barnett formula than any other region of the UK. Inevitably the English will start to worry about being the ones left holding the cheque not to mention the old “West Lothian Question” that needs resolving.

I recall reading in the London Evening standard (not that I normally pay much attention to what they say, but this was a rare moment of clarity!) an article, during the referendum debate which pointed out the two regions of the UK which have done particularly well since the Blair government’s policy of devolution, were London (with it Mayor) and Scotland. The paper argued that having a vocal local government clearly helps a region get a better deal, so presumably an English Parliament, would be a solution.

Of course its not quite that simple. After all, Wales and NI also have a parliament, yet they don’t necessarily don’t get everything they ask for. London and Scotland have the advantage of holding certain strategic assets that Westminster wants to retain, the money (in London) and the oil (in Scotland). Both of which of course also net a considerable part of the UK’s tax revenue. If Wales threatened a referendum on independence, would they have promises lavished on them? Probably not.

Also the costs of running rural services in parts of Scotland, Wales and NI are much higher than in England. And an overcrowded London has a large list of infrastructure projects that are needed to keep the city functioning. In short, there’s no guarantee that further democratisation of England would mean England getting a fairer deal, as that largely depends on one’s definition of the term “fair”. Certainly if oil revenues and the earnings of the city of London were excluded, I suspect much of England would find itself worse off.

But in order to avoid any English parliament becoming some sort of talking shop, where has-been & washed-out politicians discuss the route of the new A5 bypass, it would need to be given serious legislative powers. In other words the powers to tax and spend. That opens a whole new can of worms. Not least because, for example, it would relocate much of the debate in this current parliament about austerity, from Westminster to the region’s. Parliament effectively reduced to making some limited decisions about foreign policy, defence and some of the broader issues on health care or social welfare policy.

Also such a policy would trust the regions to be capable of managing their own finances, given that in the event of things going tits up it would be Westminster who has to bail the regions out. It would also trust them not do something incredibly stupid (bridge to nowhere sort of stuff). Now while in some Federalist countries, notably Germany, this system has worked well (as the states of Germany would sooner eat cat food for a few decades than ask Berlin to bail them out!). However in other countries, notably Spain, it has been a disaster.

And perhaps more fundamentally, do the English want this? Recall that Tony Blair tried to have a new parliament in Northern England and Cameron has promoted directly elected Mayors. In both cases such policies were largely rejected by the public.

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The road not taken

I’ve been in Ireland through the Scottish referendum and I think the attitude over here is, why do the Scot need to even have a debate? Ireland doesn’t even have Scotland’s natural resources and we’ve got by fine, what’s the big deal? Naturally many were disappointed that Scotland failed to take the plunge.

However there also has been some soul searching in Ireland about how Scotland managed to get to the stage of an independence referendum while avoiding the bloody violence of the Ireland’s war of independence. In short, could Ireland have broken away from the UK peacefully?

A series of unfortunate events
Almost as soon as the ink was dry on the Act of Union there were calls within Ireland for it to be repealed. Demands for so called “home rule” (what we’d now call devolved government) grew pace under Daniel O’Connell, then Parnell and finally John Redmond. The call for home rule was opposed by the aristocracy, in particular wealthy Irish landowners and their allies in the House of Lords. Hence numerous home rule acts were defeated.

The Parliament Act however, changed this. In 1911 the Third home rule act passed, thanks to Redmond and his allies in the British Liberals, although it would be 1914 before it achieved Royal ascent. The delay was caused by events up in Ulster, where Protestant’s feared majority Catholic rule, “home rule is Rome rule” they argued. There were violent clashes between pro-Unionist mobs and Republicans, with both groups forming their own militia.

Finally Redmond hammered out a compromise that would see the Ulster counties get an opt out from Home Rule (fun fact, if Redmond’s offer had gone through this would have likely led to a 28 county Ireland, not 26 counties as Ireland gained Tyrone & Fermanagh). However by now World War I had broken out and Westminster decided to postpone home rule until after the war. Redmond not only agreed to this, but encouraged Irish to go and fight in order to end the war more quickly.

Of course Redmond was assuming, like many at the time, that World War I would be short. He was not anticipating a 4 year global conflict nor the horrors of the Somme and Ypres. His opponents within the Irish nationalists, who never wanted Home Rule anyway but full independence, were quick to point to the conflict, and the constant stream of bodies coming home to families in Ireland, as proof that home rule wasn’t going to work. Ireland would still be dragged into conflicts half a world away because of imperialists playing their little chess game of empire. Up until now Redmond had managed to outmanoeuvre the nationalists, but as the war dragged support for home rule began to wane.

Not least because the UK Parliament then, as now, had its fair share of “head bangers” and “swivel eyed loons”. The unionists and imperialists within Parliament were quite happy to sound off to the Daily Express how they never agreed with Home Rule and intended to get it repealed as soon as the war was over. While this may have made for cheerful reading for UK conservatives, as you can imagine it played right into the hands of the nationalists, who pointed to this as proof that Westminster politicians can’t be trusted and that the home rule bill ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

And to make matters worse there were all sorts of rumours floating around Ireland, ranging from a planned crack down on Republican groups and fears of conscription into the British army. Conscription had been introduced in 1916. But the Irish had been exempted, as I suspect the British thought it better to have willing Irish at the front, rather than un-willing republicans, putting them in close proximity to British military officers…then handing them a gun! Again the “head bangers” were happy to suggest that Paddy wasn’t pulling his weight for the empire and the Irish should be conscripted and put right at the front.

All of this pent up frustration within republican groups eventually exploded in the Easter Rising of 1916. One of the fact’s often overlooked about the Rising is that it was not popularly supported. Many of the units available to the republicans failed to show up that Easter Monday, in many cases because they had been specifically ordered not to take part by their commanders. The infamous Proclamation was likely given to a bemused crowd of commuters.

How to lose friends and alienate people
Now had the British reacted proportionally to this threat, e.g. call in a priest or some suitable intermediary and try and negotiate a peaceful resolution, the course of Irish history could have been very different.

Unfortunately, the British went all Jack Bauer on the rebels…or perhaps I should say they went all Reginald Dyer. They brought up artillery and a gunboat and started shelling the rebel held positions (probably causing more damage than the rebels!). Orders were issued to shoot anyone seen to be helping the rebels, even unarmed civilians. After the rising, military courts were set up and many of the leadership executed, most notably James Connolly, too weak with Gangrene to stand he was executed while sitting in his chair.

Suspicious that there might still be some Irish loyal to the Crown, the British Army, egged on by the right wing press back home (and a certain amount of anti-Irish bigotry), then embarked on a campaign in which they arrested anyone who the slightest nationalist sympathies. Even those playing Gaelic games or carrying hurley’s were liable for arrest! These actions completely altered the public mood away from home rule towards independence, as it suggested that the British government could not be trusted.

Even so, a war could have been avoided. When the British appeared slow to implement home rule (they waited till 1920!), the republicans beat them to the post by setting up “Dail Eireann” a new Irish Parliament comprising of the Irish MP’s elected in the 1918 general election.

Unfortunately the same day as it first met, a group of RIC members were ambushed in Tipperary. While the Dail had nothing to do with this, the British government decided to connect the dots. They were also no doubt fearful of the fact that some (but not all) of the Irish deputies had communist sympathies. So they had the organisation banned, and later its leaders arrested. In effect this handed the initiative to the IRA (or “die hards” as they were often called at the time) as only thing holding them back had been the Dail. As they say the rest is history.

Learning the lessons of history
So there are two ways of looking at this. Firstly one could argue that the Irish war of independence was just a consequence of a series of unfortunate coincidences. Had Ireland been granted home rule, this would have become a stepping stone towards independence eventually (much as Australia and Canada). Although it would have more than likely come much later, it would have been peaceful.

Others would argue that the war of independence was the enviable consequence of Irish nationalism clashing with British Imperialism. And thus that even if home rule had been granted, things would have kicked off eventually. In much the same way that, even if Archduke Ferdinand hadn’t taken that wrong turn down a street in Sarajevo, war would have broken out eventually as the primary cause of the first world war was rivalry between competing empires.

My two cents would be to point out how many hasty decisions, made on the basis of short term factors had longer far reaching consequences.

The decision by Carson and Craig to oppose home rule, as well as the foolish posturing and points scoring of conservative peer’s in Westminster destroyed the case for home rule and played directly into the hands of Sinn Fein…something the NI first minster needs to consider next time he’s looking across the table at his ex-IRA deputy!

John Redmond decision to back British involvement in WW1 has to go down as one of the most epic acts of political suicide in history. It made the labour party’s 1983 manifesto seems perfectly sensible in comparison. Indeed the Irish government only recently thought it would be a good idea to put up a memorial to Redmond…seemingly “forgetting” about one of the country’s greatest leaders for a century, all because of one speech!

And the British overreaction to the Easter Rising, largely a consequence of them pandering to the right wing media mob, effectively cost them not just Ireland, but large chucks of the empire.

So there are lessons to be learnt from the history of Ireland’s breakaway that are relevant today. Lack of trust in Westminster was one of the key factors in the Irish rejecting home wanting full independence. So equally if Devo Max is delayed or reneged on I suspect Scotland’s day’s in the UK are numbered.

And politicians reacting to scary, but often inaccurate reports in the press (e.g. such as media claims regarding immigration or people on benefits), can result in them taking hasty decisions that have long term consequences. Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, for example voted to leave the UK largely I suspect because people there are sick of the Tory cuts and the government’s Daily Mail-esque antics.

And similarly promising an “in or out” referendum on the EU, just to deal with an internal dispute within the Tory party could have significant consequences on the entire country. Indeed it could spark a break-up of the UK.

As the saying goes those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

That’ll be a nae then…

Well as I’m sure everyone has heard by now, it was a no vote in Scotland. While there were no exit polls, I sort of conducted my own exit poll by text and it was about a 50/50 split. Passions were high, I think some would have preferred a voting method that involved grabbing either Salmond or Cameron by the hair and bouncing their head off the relevant ballot box while shouting “don’t ever put me through this again” :##

I was hoping the result would have been closer, ideally a tie. That way Cameron and Salmond would have been forced to settle it the old Highland way, stripped naked out in the middle of Rannoch Moor with Claymore’s! :yes:

While I’m a little disappointed with a no vote :no:, I’m not really that surprised. Ultimately the SNP lost I would argue because they failed to close the deal. They could not answer some of the basic questions such as currency or EU membership, nevermind some of the other pointy issues.

I had always assumed for example, that the SNP plan would be to form their own currency in the short term, then look at joining the Euro or linking the Scottish pound’s value to sterling longer term. The idea of keeping the Sterling made no sense to me. And the idea that Westminster would go along with that was just fantasy. And clearly the SNP were extremely naive to think they could just show up in Brussels and be welcomed into the EU without having to apply first for membership and clear a few hurdles first.

While I’ve never had any doubt that Scotland could be viable and get by as a country, after all Ireland has managed pretty well (we have a higher GDP than the UK, lower unemployment, lower taxes, etc.). But clearly the Scottish electorate weren’t convinced that the SNP had fully thought through the process of independence. At the risk of sounding like the No camp, but independence would be for life, not just for Christmas. Wishful thinking and repeated watching of Braveheart (which btw was filmed in Ireland!) wasn’t enough.

Given these facts one has to ask, how could the referendum have ever got so close? Well largely because the No camp hardly covered themselves in glory, as John Oliver considers on US TV recently. I mean take this ridiculous campaign add from them, which I know for a fact convinced a number of people into voting yes. And who had the bright idea of putting “Darling” Alastair, aka the guy once barred from every pub in Scotland (something to do with putting up the price of drink), in charge of the better together campaign? And who dreamt up that slogan? It sounds like something a wife beating husband would say.

And let’s not forget the bungler in chief David Cameron. He sat on his ass for three years, did no preparation, nor contingency planning to counter the possibility of a yes vote. Until two weeks before polling day when he was forced to go running around waving a saltire (then dropping it), promising everything under the sun and pleading with the scots not to leave.

There are two reasons why I dislike the present government. Firstly because they are bunch of, how was it Cameron put it, Effing Tories, more interested in cutting taxes for their millionaire buddies than tackling the countries problems.

And secondly, because they are completely incompetent. Since the beginning of the present regime it has been a case of government by crisis and panic. Be it chaos at passport control, or more recently the passport office, chaos in schools, then universities, chaos at the Olympic security arrangements, panic during floods or that petrol strike that wasn’t, panic at UKIP take all the Tory MEP’s seats, etc. In all cases the government was often warned by experts of trouble ahead, advice they arrogantly ignored, forcing them to run around in a panic with their ass on fire when the inevitable happens. The coalition government could not be more out of touch if they lived on the moon.

And who was it who had to ride into this debate and rescue the union? None other than Gordon Brown, the PM the Tory’s ousted at the last election! A formula for change laid out by him is now essentially going to dictate politics in Westminster for the remainder of the parliament and possibly the next.

Anyone who thinks this is over with a no vote is mistaken. Already the hard right of the Tory party (the sort who think Edward Longshanks was way too nice to the Scots), who have been hoping mad over Scotland the last few months, are already showing signs of rebellion. Wales and Northern Ireland are also kicking up a fuss, fearful that Scotland getting more means them getting less. And Nigel Farage (who last time I checked was a MEP and should presumably be attending some EU committee meeting or something) has suggested a reworking of the so-called “Barnett formula”.

One thought to consider however is that if Devo Max isn’t delivered Alex Salmond has left the SNP enough wriggle room to declare another referendum in a few year’s time (and his resignation clears the way for his successor to ignore his promises in this regard anyway).

Indeed if there was anything that could have swung this for the SNP it was the memory of a previous referendum promises that were reneged on by Thatcher. If this were to happen again, its very likely there will be another vote and all the SNP need to do is convince under 200,000 people into voting the other way. Indeed a lower turn out, one closer to the standard for an election, would probably by itself swing things to the yes camp, particularly when you consider how much of the No vote came from over 60’s, who may not be around next time to vote no (or maybe the young’uns will pad lock the zimmer frame!).

In short if Devo Max isn’t delivered on, Scotland will almost certainly seek independence at some point in the future. For Scots it would be a case of fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on us…fool me…three times, fuck you’s! we’re down the road & you’s are getting batter’d by the way! |-|

Here endeth the lesson
And there’s a sobering lesson here for Cameron, anyone going into a referendum thinking they can predict the outcome is playing with fire. If anyone is more naive than Salmond with regard to Europe it is Cameron. He plans to schedule a referendum on the EU in the next parliament. Not because he wants the UK to leave the EU (he’s a bit dim but not a complete moron!), but to keep the swivel eyed loon’s in his own party happy.

However it’s a policy doomed to failure. He’s depending on the EU being willing to renegotiate a treaty, which they clearly won’t be willing to do (within a time line of under 2 years, if they even schedule a meeting to discuss the possibility within that time he’ll be doing well!) . He’s assuming that he can then blag the public into voting the way he wants (didn’t quite work out in the European elections did it?), when clearly they won’t.

And if it’s a vote to leave the EU, Cameron (and Farage) assume they can talk the EU into offering a free trade deal on favourable terms, when there is no guarantee they will do so. Indeed he’ll have to get trade deals with all the other major trading blocs (China, India, America) and it’s doubtful he’ll get as good a deal as the combined EU has been able to wrangle.

And let’s not even consider the consequences for the UK. No doubt those who voted No to protect Scotland’s EU membership last night will be looking for another crack at independence. And the Republicans in Northern Ireland would be looking for a referendum on unification with the South, or at the very least a renegotiation of the Good Friday agreement. Indeed, Martin Mc Guinness has reacted to the Scottish Referendum by calling for a “border poll“.

A more sensible strategy would be, while acknowledging the need for EU reform yes, but accepting that the hard right of Tory party won’t shut up just because Cameron gives them a referendum on the EU (they have a list of other demands ranging from rolling back on existing devolution, ignoring climate change, banning gay marriage, bringing back hanging, flat tax and privatising the NHS). He needs instead to confront them and make it clear that they can either run off and join UKIP or put up and shut up.

Last night Cameron and the Westminster establishment managed to dodge a bullet. And they would be well to remember that, to borrow a phrase from Irish Republicans, they need to be lucky all the time, while their opponents (be it the SNP, UKIP or Sinn Fein) only need to get lucky once. Hence reform, possibly a move to a more federalist government in the UK, is urgently needed.

If they did it…..

I’ll be in Ireland during the vote and it has to be said that the balance of probability is a narrow no vote. However, listen to Cameron or “Darling” Alastair and you’d swear a crack of doom was about to open up under Edinburgh on Friday.

So it would be worth again going through the propaganda from both sides and unpicking the reality from myth in the (unlikely) event of Scottish independence.

Royal baby
Some of the tabloids have been suggesting that the announcement of a royal baby might somehow convenience scots into voting No. Inevitably the tin-foil hat wearing brigade (the sort who think MH17 and MH370 were both shot down by the CIA) have then jumped to the conclusion that the pregnancy might be being faked just to save the union.

Let us be clear, the fact that a pampered toff totty is about to fire out a sprog will have zero impact on anyone in Scotland’s voting intentions. If you’d ever wanted a good example as to how divorced from reality and out of touch the tabloids are, this would be a perfect example.

Similarly, as the Queen has herself pointed out, the Royal family isn’t going to get involved in this referendum.

2015 election – poker time
Labour are fearful that a Scottish exit and the loss of the Scottish votes, would hand victory to the Tories in the 2015 election. Some Tories even think that they can somehow exclude the Scottish seats from the 2015 election outright. Neither are correct.

Until the day Scotland leaves its citizens are entitled to representation at Westminster, either by extending the term of office of the sitting Scottish MP’s (who technically will remain MP’s until they are unseated in an election) right up till independence day, or by the election of new MP’s in the 2015 general election.

As far as the 2015 election, I suspect that if Scotland voted Yes, it’s almost certainly going to be a labour victory, with or without the Scottish MP’s. While the opinion polls don’t reflect this, I’m factored in that Cameron will be going into the election with the label “the man who lost Scotland”. Keep in mind the last person to gain that label, Edward II, earned himself a red hot poker inserted where the sun don’t shine (well according to legend anyway!). I suspect if he lost Scotland the UKIP wing of the Tory party would be calling it poker time for Cameron.

Thus with UKIP and the Tories knocking chucks out of each other, its likely Labour would get in, much as the left wing took control in Sweden recently as the centre right and far right were too busy fighting each other and split the vote.

Certainly, it will become harder longer term for labour and the left to form majority governments in England. Although it’s worth remembering the weakness of the Tories is their tendency to “breed” labour voters by screwing over communities, who then promptly start voting labour. Scotland recall, was traditionally a very conservative region…until the wicked witch of Finckley came along.

Also in the event of a No vote labour needs to realise that the pressure will be on them to deliver on Devo Max, even if they lose in 2015. They will face annihilation in Scotland if Devo Max was promised and then reneged on.

Forever gone?
This referendum will be forever according to Cameron. There will be no going back. Alex Salmond seems to be pitching that the SNP will be in no hurry to hold another referendum, even if it’s a close no vote.

I would note however that any agreement between Edinburgh and London on the terms of independence would have to be ratified, presumably by another referendum. Scotland would also have to have a constitution and that would need to be approved, presumably via the same referendum or a further separate one.

So we’re looking at least another referendum, if not two down the line. In theory if either failed to be passed, then Scotland would still technically be part of the UK. So while in practical terms Salmond and Cameron are correct, strictly legally speaking, they aren’t correct although going back from a Yes vote won’t be easy.

And if it’s a No I would read between the lines of what Salmond says and suspect that if for example Cameron set the UK on a course to leave the EU or if Devo Max having been promised is reneged on, then I suspect a “double jeopardy” for the Tories is very likely.

The transition
The period between the 18th of September and the supposed independence day in March 2016 involves two major processes. Negotiation and then a transition period to implement this agreement. I’m doubtful either can be achieved within this time.

The speed of the negotiations depends a lot on what’s happening in Westminster, as this will determine whether it will be a smooth or messy divorce. If Cameron is at war with his own party, or indeed his government folds before the 2015 elections, any negotiations will stall straight away. If the SNP end up facing a UKIP/Tory coalition who try and drive a hard bargain, negotiations could easily go the full term of the next parliament. By contrast I suspect that labour would be keen to get shot of the Scots so they could focus on matters down south, although even here talks stalling can’t be ruled out. So even completing negotiations by 2016 is going to be tricky.

The implementation phase is going to be even harder to achieve. You’d want a good few years to apply it, particularly as there will concurrent negotiations with Brussels to conclude (and the UN for that matter) and, as discussed a referendum or two more to be held first. My estimation is that 2018 or perhaps even 2020 is a more realistic date for independence day.

The border
The way some in the media are going on you’d swear border posts were about to go up along Hadrian’s wall. This would be highly unusual. Most European borders do not have border posts. The only sign you’ll have of crossing from the Republic into Northern Ireland is a sign indicating a change in speed limits and a line in the tarmac between different council areas.

The only reason for border posts or a fence would be if there was some sort of distrust (i.e. the English fear invasion by angry raiding parties of highlanders :##) or very different economic conditions either side.

One assumes that a priority for the Scot’s would be to negotiate with Westminster, and Brussels, an agreement recognising Scotland as part of the EEA (European Economic Area) with no major trade barriers and an immigration and border control policy into Scotland that meets acceptable standards. With such an agreement, there would be no need for any border posts.

This doesn’t mean (as I suspect the Daily Mail will imply) that the border will be left “unguarded”. The Irish border is protected, on both sides, by roving teams of border police and custom’s officials. Who for example, carry out raids on suspected smugglers, drug gangs or people traffickers. They will also occasionally stop vehicles or board trains heading for the border and conduct spot checks (the general advice is therefore to always carry photo ID if crossing the border). Other EU states have similar arrangements. The big Festina drug scandal in the 1998 Tour de France was sparked by a routine stop and search at the Belgian border by French police.

Of course if the negotiations were to go badly or in the longer term something dramatic happened then this might change. For example, given that UKIP’s economic and immigration policies would essentially turn England into North Korea, then yes border posts are a possibility, as the Scot’s (and probably the Welsh too) seek to keep hordes of English fence jumpers from swimming the Tweed :)).

The EU
Alex Salmond seems to think that he can negotiate an entry into the EU within 18 months. To be realistic if he’s even gotten the EU to recognise Scotland as a candidate country within that time he’ll be doing well!

Then again, Cameron has committed to going through a tricky renegotiation with the EU within a similar time table. In reality if he’s even gotten the EU to agree a timetable for such a renegotiation within the lifetime of the next parliament (which pushes his cherished “in or out” referendum into the 2020’s) he’ll be doing well.

But I digress, if there’s one thing the EU doesn’t do its work in a hurry. A more sensible strategy for Alex Salmond would be to focus on getting Scotland admitted to the EEA and agreeing with the EU the sort of trade and immigration policy that will apply while Scotland’s application is processed. That is doable within about 2 years. If he doesn’t do what most UK politicians do when they go to Brussels – blunder in and make a tit of themselves by failing to understand how the EU works. If Salmond commits the same mistakes as many past UK politicians he could be in for a nasty shock.

While I suspect that some states such as Spain or Belgium, worried about their own independence movements, might try to obstruct Scottish membership of the EU and slow the process down with procedure, I doubt they would openly veto Scotland’s membership. This would play very badly in the capitals of the smaller EU states, in particular those in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia (not to mention Ireland), who will see this as an attempt by the big boys of Europe to “do a Putin” and bully a smaller state just to solve an internal problem in their own country…an internal problem caused by the ineptitude and incompetence of politicians in Madrid, or since we’re talking about politicians in London.

The danger for countries like Spain would be that such bully boy tactics might encourage the vetoing of things they want (such as future bank bailouts). And it’s very likely bullying Scotland would just encourage independence movements not discourage them. Hence when I was in Spain recently, the message I got from Spanish was that Scottish independence had nothing to do with them or the situation in Catalonia.

Of course if the SNP commit some major faux paus and give the Spanish an opportunity to lodge a veto, they’ll have only themselves to blame. Similarly if they put forward a proposal that’s obviously unworkable (see anything written by Farage or Cameron recently as regards EU legislation!) then it’s going to be rejected.

And as I keep on mentioning, a No vote could well be a vote to leave the EU. The media have suggested that euroscepticism is as prevalent in Scotland as in England. Well actually no, there are distinct differences it would be a much closer run thing in Scotland, particularly once people realise the economic implications of leaving the EU.

Hence if Scotland was ultimately dragged out of the EU by England, then the English would have to be prepared to pay a substantial price to Scotland for the economic damage that would result to Scotland’s energy, farming, fisheries, industrial and export businesses. Ultimately England would have to be prepared to subsidise Scotland to keep the union together. In the absence of that I don’t see how Scotland and England could remain united and another referendum on independence is probable. And this time it would almost certainly be a yes, plus probably one in Northern Ireland too.

Currency
I have to confess that I suspect that Alex Salmond is pulling a fast one here. I think his plan is to appear wedded to the idea of keeping the pound in part because it would make the transition easier, but also it gives him the option, if Westminster get stubborn, to refuse to take on Scotland’s share of the UK’s debt.

There is no reason why Scotland could not have its own currency. Plenty of other EU nations, many smaller with a lower GDP have their own currency and they don’t have Europe’s second largest oil reserves and a valuable export industry (notably Whisky) to back that up.

Longer term it would certainly be sensible to do what Ireland did with the punt and link its value to sterling. Alternatively if that turns out to be a bad idea (give Farage or Boris Johnson a year in office!), then joining the euro might be another option. It will probably be a condition of EU membership, but recall that many EU states such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech’s have similar conditions on their membership. A good decade and a half later, there’s little sign of them joining. Poland is offering to hold (or perhaps one should say threatening!) to have a referendum on joining the Euro in 2015…which will probably be rejected!

So similarly, Scotland can join the EU, promise to join the euro (scout’s honour!), make sure the Scottish constitution has sufficient clauses in it to ensure a referendum will be needed to join the euro. Meaning it will probably be the 2030’s before they’ll come under any major pressure. And then they just offer to have a referendum, possibly reject it and keep the Scottish pound at a fixed exchange rate to the euro, as Denmark has done.

And besides, its hard enough trying to use Scottish notes in England as things stand, so even if Scotland got a new currency I doubt it would make much of a difference in practice.

Economy
There is I would argue a failure by the SNP to recognise that there will be something of an economic correction, as I’ve described before in a prior post. Anyone in the SNP who believes that leaving the UK will result in no job losses is living in cloud cuckoo land. There will be winners and losers both sides of the border as a result of independence.

Exactly how disruptive the transition is depends on the nature of the negotiations. As I’ve said before a messy divorce would be very damaging, both to trade in England and Scotland with the markets likely punishing both by reducing the UK’s credit rating to junk and running away to set up base in Ireland or the channel islands.

This is why I feel the negotiations and transition need to be handled tactfully. For example, there’s the issue of the oil. It’s not been clearly established how much of the North Sea oil is actually Scottish. Existing agreements between the UK and its neighbours leave little room for any disputes. But much of the future oil fields are in deeper water, often where the border is less well established. And while the land border between rUK and Scotland is pretty well established, the sea border hasn’t been firmly set out.

Citizenship: The Argyle Street Question
Much has been made about the West Lothian Question, however I would raise what I term “the Argyle Street Question”. Who in the event of Scottish independence counts as a Scot and who is a Brit?

Given that an English student on Argyle Street Glasgow will be getting a vote in the referendum, even though he’s about as Scottish as Mel Gibson, would he therefore qualify for a Scottish passport? And what about a Scottish person living on Argyle Street London? He’s been out of Scotland for 25 years, yet still celebrates burns night, plays the bag pipes, wears a kilt to weddings and comes up to Scotland every year for Christmas and Hogmanay. Does he get a passport? Indeed I an Irish person have spent many years living in Scotland, although with several large gaps, would I qualify for Scottish citizenship?

When Ireland got independence this problem was solved by essentially making the rules for Irish citizenship so broad that practically anyone who drank Guinness or owned an Irish Setter could qualify (and visa versa for British citizens living in Ireland). I mean Obama could probably get an Irish passport if he tried!

Of course that was all well and good at a time when Ireland’s principle export was people, mostly to Britain. Nowadays, I doubt it would work, else you’d have every jackass asylum seeker chancing his arm to get into either Britain or Scotland. Also lax rules of citizenship can cause major problems.

Take the situation in Ukraine. Many of the so-called “Russians” in Ukraine, or other disputed regions, are the result of the fact that as the Soviet Union broke up the Kremlin handed out Russian passports like Halloween candy. Again the definition of who was Russian and who was Ukrainian (or Georgian, Moldovan, Chechen, etc.) was so broad anyone born in the former USSR could qualify. Many ex-communists, convinced that this whole “democracy” thing would fail took up the offer to make sure they could get back into Russia when everything went pear shaped. But as we’ve seen, its turned large parts of the ex-soviet union into a melting pot under which no fire was ever lit.

So there are good reasons to hammer out who qualifies for a passport and why. And incidentally, one of the people I’d argue shouldn’t get a passport is any tax exile faux-Scot.

Trident
Moving the Trident nuclear system from Faslane would be a major undertaking. Its not a case of sailing a few subs down the coast to Devon. There’s the facilities and infrastructure to consider, including the facilities at Coulport to handle the missiles and warheads, as well as secure bunkers to store it all in.

So awkward would it be to move Trident I have heard it mentioned several times in newspapers, almost as a given they the UK can hold onto Faslane in return for granting the nationalists some concessions during the negotiations. Or failing that the RN can simply squat and refuse to move. I’m afraid neither position is likely.

The nationalists are squarely anti-nuclear. Remember it’s not just the SNP we are talking about, but the left wing elements of the labour party, socialists and green party types who make up the Yes camp. To them removal of Trident is a red line issue. If I was a RN sailor living in Helensburgh and it’s a Yes on Thursday, I’d start checking out property down south.

And as for squatting, there would be no point in doing that. As Putin is about to find out as regards the Crimea (once American jet’s move into their new airbases a few minutes flight time away) a port over which you cannot guarantee air cover, is useless. The trident fleet would be little more than a fleet in being, a paper tiger, without the air cover provided from Scottish airbases.

That said, it would not (as discussed) be practical nor safe to move Trident immediately. There is also the clean-up of the base, which is likely to be time consuming and expensive. A timeline of the 2020’s to move the subs and the 2030’s to complete the hand over seems to me to be more realistic. However I’m not sure how keen the SNP will be to accept the reality that there will still be subs on the Clyde come independence day. This could therefore turn into a major sticking point.

Defence
And speaking of which there is defence. I’m not entirely sure the military force the SNP propose are up to the job. It depends on what you’re trying to do. If, like Ireland, you’re looking for a force who can deal with a few extremists or armed robbers, stop Spanish trawlers or drug smugglers and someone who can collect bins when the bin men go on strike, the forces the SNP suggest are adequate. However, if you’re planning to be an active member of NATO and thus potentially take on the Russians and defend the North sea, then not by a long shot!

By my reckoning, the Scottish navy would need at least double the number of ships the SNP propose. They’ll also need a few smaller patrol boats (for coast guard duties) and perhaps a couple of diesel coastal sub’s. The Scottish airforce would also need a lot more than the 12 typhoon jets the SNP talk about. Air to air refuelling aircraft would be essential (given the ranges involved in a typical mission) as well a few maritime patrol aircraft (which even the Irish Air Corps has in its fleet).

And the SNP propose a ground force of just 3,500 would be half the strength of the Irish army who have to protect an area of land half the size of Scotland. I’m no military expert but those numbers don’t seem to add up.

Now the problem is that the UK armed forces can’t really spare any of the kit I mentioned, they’re stretched as it is! And some of the stuff isn’t even in the UK’s inventory (e.g. the RN doesn’t need diesel subs when it’s got nuclear ones!) so it’s not just a case of calling dibs on kit on the 19th. Much of this stuff will have to be ordered, and that’s not a case of simply going on e-bay. Not least because there’s the thorny question of who is going to pay for all of this.

An alternative of course, aside from abandoning the plan to join NATO, would be to allow NATO aircraft and ships to use Scottish ports and airfields. But again, I’m not sure how popular that will be with the ban-the-bomb brigade, particularly when the likely provider of said services is of course rUK!

United Kingdom Part Deux
One idea I’ve heard floated from time to time is Scotland leaving and then joining up with Ireland (north and south) and possibly Wales to form a sort of New United Kingdom of Caledonia (it would use the same flag as England…only on fire! ;D). Certainly the Celts and Ulster Scots have more in common with Ireland than England. I mean I’ve had conversations in Irish with people in Northern Scotland, limited only by my limited knowledge of Irish rather than theirs.

In would be inevitable that an independent Scotland would forge links with Ireland who would be a crucial ally and economic trading partner. Indeed the view over here in Eire is that Scottish independence would be in the best interest of Ireland.

However, I doubt we’d see a post-independence Scotland giving up that independence to join with Ireland. Assuming both were members of the EU there’s no clear reason in our globalised world for such a union…other than an “alternative” way into the EU which the Spanish can’t object too (e.g. the Irish army invades…yes both of them :))…occupy Edinburgh…well the pub down the road anyway, and then Ireland annexes Scotland, which therefore becomes part of the EU!).

In any event there would be lots of awkward issues to sort out…such what is the correct spelling for the word “whiskey”.

Final thoughts
As you can probably tell by such a long post, the dilemma facing scots is significant. There’s no reason why Scotland can’t have independence, nor way an Independent Scotland can’t function. Any arguments framed on that basis are clearly false.

But opting for independence will probably involve a lengthy period of transition. There will be some sort of economic correction, with both benefits and downsides and there are significant unknowns as to how the transition process will go, largely because it depends of factors we can’t predict (such as who is doing the negotiating in Westminster).

Equally however, the staying in the Union is not the “safer” option. One sentence for anyone thinking of voting no to mull over:

Prime Minster Boris Johnson and his deputy PM Nigel Farage

One thing is clear, things are unlikely to stay the same.

A matter of liberty

After we filter out the propaganda from both sides, one could characterise the Scottish referendum debate as essentially boiling down into the old stand-off between positive liberty and negative liberty.

This is a controversial concept from the political philosopher Isaiah Berlin who argued that there are two forms of liberty. Positive liberty which tended to favour individual freedom to fulfil one’s desires, while negative liberty tended to focus on eliminating interference from others, in particular economic constraints. Isaiah argued these two concepts boil down in the phrase “I am my own master” for positive liberty, while for negative liberty “I am no slave”.

In general terms this means positive liberty tends to be more all-encompassing focusing on political and economic freedom although this can result in it being somewhat more chaotic and unrestrained, something which in of its self can lead to authoritarianism (the French revolution or Russian revolution are often highlighted as examples of this trend).

Negative liberty focuses on overcoming restraints to freedom, although it can in itself be restraining, often via economic means (e.g. performance related pay, target setting in public services) and guidance from higher authority (e.g. the media and religion).

Isaiah himself tended to favour negative liberty, as he regarded it as “safer” as it avoided the sort of bloody mayhem and economic chaos that can occur, for example, after a revolution. Almost every Western leader since Margaret Thatcher has tended to follow the concept of negative liberty, even left wingers such as Obama and Tony Blair. And it is particularly favoured by many companies also as it tends to lead to greater political stability.

In essence one could argue that what the Scottish referendum amounts to is a doctrine for positive liberty. It will place the Scottish people will be in control of their destiny, enabling all the benefits and of course the risks, that this would entail.

When looked at it through this prism, it’s easy to see why so many of the Westminster set are opposed to Scottish independence. Left or right they see this as representing a polar opposite in how they see politics operating. And of course their reason for opposing positive liberty is their fear of the chaos, hence the stream of ridiculous scare stories coming out of the “better-off-dead” camp, as it is often a tendency of such leaders to always see the worst in any situation (hence the constant terror alerts over some wannabe Jihadi’s).

This dilemma is perhaps highlighted by the voting intentions of UKIP supporters. You would expect them to a man to all vote no. But I know one or two UKIP voters who plan to vote yes on Thursday. And no, it’s not because they are kilt wearing, haggis eating, racist Scottish nationalists. It’s because they represent the libertarian wing of the party who, inevitably, lean towards the positive liberty concept.

This contrasts with the views of Nigel Farage. While he would like to claim that he and UKIP are also libertarian, as I’ve pointed out in past posts, scrutinising UKIP’s policies, in particular UKIP’s views on immigration, one is forced to the conclusion that implementing such policies would entail a hefty level of authoritarianism, i.e. the opposite effect of what Farage and many of the party would like.

Now while I suspect if you asked Alex Salmond or the SNP they’d shrug their shoulders at this idea (then say whatever they reckoned would get them the most votes!). But it is possible that there is more going on here than a simple “in” or “out” referendum. And of course, just because the SNP seem to be promising some sort of “positive liberty” agenda now, doesn’t mean they’ll stick to it in the cold light of dawn after the 18th of September.

Scottish referendum debate: Project Terror

It is perhaps inevitable that the Tories and the No camp in the Scottish referendum have reacted to recent poll results by panicking. The three stooges abandoned Westminster and rushed North to quell this rebellion. They have since engaged in a bombardment of the Scots with tales of doom that Edward Longshanks would probably argue is going a bit too far. No longer project fear, more project terror. Now while I’m the first to agree that the SNP haven’t exactly sold the idea of Scottish independence terribly well, these paranoid fantasies of the no camp need to be debunked.

Banker bashing
Let us start with the suggestion that many of Scotland’s banks will have to flee Scotland screaming in a mad run to the border, as they are forced to relocate to London. I found Lloyds announcement of moving its headquarters down to London somewhat odd, given the fact they’re headquarters is already listed as being in London. Furthermore, the Royal Bank of Scotland is just the trading name of the old Nat West, so ya it won’t be a surprise if they decided to reorganise post-independence.

The central flaw in the no camp’s logic here is that they seem to think Scotland is some sort of tinpot dictatorship in Africa. There plenty of EU states, many with a GDP lower than Scotland and a smaller population (and no oil!) who get by just fine. They can borrow money, often at the same rates as the UK government, and maintain their economies without any major quibble. Baring a lurch to communism post-independence (and this seems to be the assumption of the “better-off-dead-campaign”), there is no reason to doubt that the Scottish economy will get by. Yes, no or devo max, life will go on, people will need to pay their bills and their mortgages/rent, buy things and run their businesses.

Iceland recall went through one of the most spectacular economic collapses in recent history, with its entire banking system going to the wall and the country effectively defaulting on its debts. Did the country explode and sink back into the Atlantic? Well I was there last year, I’m meeting some friends later on this week who’ve just come back from Iceland. And while its been a rough few years, the country is certainly still there, still open for business and still not-so-reassuringly expensive.

Indeed I’m writing this from Ireland. The only sign you’ll have that you’ve crossed the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic is a sign indicating that speed limits are now in km’s (or miles going the other way) and the fact that if you stop in a petrol station they use a different currency. Although that said, many shops either side of the border, have no problem taking euro’s instead of pounds or pounds instead of euro’s. Even down in Cork or Dublin if you’re using a Sterling area credit card most retailers will be happy to conduct the transaction in Sterling instead. Indeed I’d argue it’s easier to use sterling in Ireland that it is to use a Scottish Sterling note in England!

Now in the (still unlikely) event of independence, it would hardly be a surprise that any company would engage in some reorganisation. There will be something of an economic “correction” and I’m not sure if the SNP are being realistic about the consequences of this (like I said, I haven’t drunk the SNP kool aid any more than I’ve drunk the no camp stuff). For example I can’t see how ship building on the Clyde will continue post-independence. It’s possible that some companies, such as Standard life (or the banks) might need to relocate some staff down south.

However it’s also worth remembering why they are located in Scotland in the first place, i.e. lower running costs compared to Southern England. Now given that those circumstances won’t have changed why would any company follow a strategy that would result in higher running costs and a lower profit margin? What school of finance did you study? And the idea that Scottish banks would flee the country where many of their customers are located is of course ludicrous.

But what about customers in England? If Scotland is a foreign country shouldn’t English customers be worried about their money?

Well keep in mind that if you’ve signed up to any financial deal with the Post office you are aware that those products are ultimately provided by the Bank of Ireland? Also anyone with an account in Clydesdale bank, you’re aware that Clydesdale are a subsidiary of the Australian National bank? (where I suspect someone is making comments right now about whinging pom’s and daft dingo’s). And let’s not mention Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester or Bradford & Bingley, all trading names of Banko Santandero en Espana. One cannot escape the irony of the Daily Mail predicting that someone’s money isn’t safe in a Scottish registered bank in the event of independence, then ignoring completely how many millions of Britons have savings tied up in the more troubled regions of the Eurozone.

While the SNP have been quick to call “fix” as regards these pronouncements, I suspect a certain element of pragmatism is in play. The bank bosses recall bitter memories of the Northern Rock and they are all too aware that some of their customers read the Daily Mail and are panicking about independence. As a result, they have to appear to be doing the same.

And naturally Cameron’s admission that his government has done no perpetration whatsoever for the possibility of Scottish independence, at least until last week, has hardly helped matters.

Sterling in trouble?
The media have also been pointing to falls in sterling. This was good news for me, as I’ve been looking for an opportunity to transfer some cash from the Eurozone into Sterling recently (part of the deposit for a house). However, I realised once I checked the market data (which I’m assuming most of the media were too lazy to bother doing) that sterling is currently well above its average over the last year value next to the euro. There’s been a slight drop yes, but hardly dramatic. So I’m holding off transferring the money until there is a genuine fall in value for the pound (fingers crossed for a yes vote!). In short these claims are clearly an exaggeration.

Empty shelves?
Meanwhile Tesco’s started blabbering about how much food prices are going to go up. Again, that there would be a “correction” in the event of independence would come as little surprise. But the rules of capitalism say that while some prices will go up, other items will become cheaper.

For example, The Guardian did a price comparison recently and they noted that in Ireland the price of certain items, notably cheese, potatoes and beef are generally cheaper than in the UK (hardly a surprise, the stable of the Irish diet!), although other items such as milk (this being a touchy subject in Ireland with accusations of price fixing by the dairies), processed foods or vegetables (prices for these have fallen recently mind) are all higher. Although it should be remembered that Ireland has a higher GDP and higher VAT rates than the UK, so prices being higher would be expected (what’s more surprising is how some things are cheaper!).

Other items, such as Alcohol or Heinz’s Ketchup are about the same price in Ireland as the UK, although that depends. Some beers and wines (such as the Chimay Bleu I bought today) are cheaper in Ireland, presumably because the producer operates in the Eurozone. So one would expect post-independence in Scotland that the normal rules of capitalism would exert themselves. Meaning that the prices of some commodities would go up yes, but equally certain items, in particular anything produced locally or in particularly high demand (deep fried mars bars? Square sausages? :D), would see falls in prices.

BBC?
And while I’ve not heard the No camp bring it up yet, one assumes they will at some point start wailing about Scot’s loosing access to the BBC…let’s see I’m in Ireland now…turning on the TV…oh I seem to be able to watch all 4 BBC channels okay…and C4…and UTV…yep! all coming through just fine from here!

Here in Ireland you can get British TV channels via Satellite, Saorview (Irish Freeview) or cable. We also have of course RTE in Ireland (our own version of the Beeb) as well as TG4 and TV3. Again I’m not saying everything will be rosy in the SNP garden, just pointing out that the world isn’t going to come to an end in the event of independence.

Down with that sort of thing
As I’ve long pointed out many times on this blog, I’m minded to support independence in principle, but I’d still argue that the SNP don’t give the impression they’ve thought through the process of independence and its consequences very carefully. My view of the SNP is that they’ve watched Braveheart once too often. However the sort of you’re doooomed! propaganda of the no camp is the sort of thing that would make me vote yes if I could…

…And that is perhaps the danger for the no camp. We have a lot more referendum’s in Ireland, and there’s always a risk of such negative campaigning going from standard FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to farcical. I’d argue the no camp have now jumped the shark in this regard. And that’s this sort of paranoia is exactly what could drive more people into voting yes if the no camp are “found out”. I mean even groundskeeper Willie is planning to vote aye.

The New OJ

Somewhat inexplicably Oscar “shotgun” Pistorius seems to have beaten the rap at his murder trial. I mean seriously, he claims that even though he lives in a gated community, that he believed an intruder had somehow gotten onto the estate and into his house and climbed up a shear wall to a 2nd floor bathroom window. That he then forgot about his girlfriend, who’d been in the same room, and that she had also stayed silent when he started shouting and gun totting. Well if the judge buys that one, I’ve got some magic beans she might want to buy :no:.

One can inevitably draw parallels to the fate of OJ Simpson. I’d argue that the worse day in OJ’s life was the day he was found not guilty of murder. While he had managed to buy his freedom with high priced lawyers making spurious and implausible arguments (the so-called “wookie defence”), he failed to convince the public. Also his case had been incorrectly portrayed as a racial issue. While certainly the LAPD have a reputation for being as racist as a Tea Party Birther convention, this was one situation where race wasn’t the reason that they’d arrested a black person.

As a result, the media continued to hound OJ. His victim’s families also didn’t give up, successfully suing him for every penny he had. And the police weren’t going to let a little thing like first degree murder slide. They adopted a policy towards OJ similar to that of the Teflon don’s of the mafia, wait and watch for him to screw up, then throw the book at him. And inevitably OJ gave them their chance when he was involved in a property dispute that turned into a serious scuffle.

Now had this been anyone but OJ, they’d have probably got a fine or a few years (most of his co-conspirators got probation or time served). But as it was OJ, the cop’s decided to make a federal case out of this and he ended up getting 33 years! Now I’m not saying that what the US police did was right, just pointing out the irony that if he’d pled “100% guilty” to the murder charge back in 1994, he’d be eligible for parole about now. But now he’ll have to wait till 2017 at the earliest (and I would bet good money in him not getting parole then!).

So while Pistorius might kid himself that he fought the law and he won, I suspect that once he gets out from his spell inside, he’ll find its nothing of the sort. No doubt he’ll suffer the same fate as OJ, nobody will touch him with a barge pole and he’ll be sued by the Steenkamp’s into the next century. And he so much as runs a red light or says hello to someone dealing in drugs and the cop’s will be waiting to nail him to the wall for it. So as with the song, a few years from now he’ll have to conclude in the end that he fought the law…and the law won.

No more Dr No

Dr Ian Paisley :##, owner of the loudest voice in the entire world, has been permanently silenced. Dr? Yes he was a doctor, thanks to his extensive research which led to his discovery of the word “no” :no:, something he later followed up with extensive research into the word “never”. However he is more famous for his later collaboration with a Prof. Mc Guinness of Kneecap University and their joint research into the word “yes” :yes:

Jokes aside, Ian Paisley was certainly a prime example of the right wing blow hard…and you know what they say about empty vessels making the most noise!

However he was from the old school of politics and thus even he understood the need to put necessity over ideology and that sometimes a politician must do things that will be deeply unpopular with his supporters, for the good of the country.

My worry about his contemporaries these days, be they the Farage’s or the Obama’s of this world (never mind the Cameron’s or the Salmond’s), is I’m not convinced that they would do the same. They would I fear happily drive off a cliff just to avoid looking bad for the camera’s.

The truth about "the big society"

When Cameron started talking about his big idea, otherwise known as the “big society” I think most people thought that he was advocating a lot of fluffy duffy stuff like running a tidy towns group or a cake sale on the village green. However it’s becoming a little more obvious that what he actually meant was getting people to do the very things the public services have traditionally done, just so his millionaire buddies can pay a bit less in taxes.

There were accusations this week that various crimes, notably car crime, burglary and property damage and pickpocketing are among a number of crimes have effectively been decriminalised. The police do not have the resources (thanks to Tory cuts) to investigate these crimes anymore, indeed some forces have been accused of not even recording such crimes. One cannot help but wonder if this also had an impact on events in Rotherham, where rape allegations were systematically ignored for years.

Naturally this is somewhat at odds with the standard Tory mantra of “getting tough” on crime. The problem is the Tories want to have a tough policing policy, but without paying for it. And this is no bolt from the blue, previously back in 2010 Cameron floated the idea of “DIY policing” with members of the public going on patrol with the police….until someone pointed out to him that this sounded very similar to the plot of Police Academy 4! :))

I wonder if we’ll see a new proliferation of TV shows much like “the Equaliser” or “the A team” whereby victims of crime are helped to solve them…only these will be in the format of a fly on the wall documentary following a bunch of vigilantes around!

And of course it’s not just policing. Tory cut backs have also meant that “the big society” has led to other DIY activity, such as looking after the elderly because the cuts eliminated the day centre. We university lecturers have been effectively turned into border guards, as we have been told to “monitor” Tier 4 students (that is students from outside the EU) on the off chance that, despite paying many tens of thousands a year in fees and living expenses (and the fact that many of them already have well paid jobs back home), they might suddenly feel the urge to run off and work in a chip shop for minimum wage.

Again, the Tories want strict border controls, but don’t want to have to hire and pay the staff needed to enforce these policies. And btw if I’m supposed to be a border guard in my spare time, where’s my hat, high-vis jacket and torch? |-|

And the chaos in Libya, Syria and Iraq largely boils down to a failure of the West to intervene in a timely manner in these crises, even though some (notably Iraq) were largely a mess of the West’s making. Instead the West relied on a “big society” DIY warfare approach which, surprise, surprise has backfired badly with warlords taking over.

In short “Big society” seems to be short hand for the government abdicating all responsibility for anything.

Devo too late

Some (and I stress only some) of the opinion polls show that the Yes campaign has pulled narrowly ahead in the independence debate. This puts the independence referendum on a knife edge as it could now go either way. It’s going to probably boil down now to whoever can get the voters out to the polls.

This has provoked panic among the pro-union parties 88|. George “Johnny come lately” Osborne was on the Andrew Marr show this morning promising everything under the sun to Scotland if they vote No, specifically Devo Max (i.e. more devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament).

Since the very beginning of this whole referendum debate three years ago, I’ve been pointing out that what the majority of Scot’s want isn’t independence but more devolved powers. If Westminster wanted to nip the independence movement in the bud, all they had to do was make sure that Devo Max was on the ballot paper (the SNP to their credit left that option open to Westminster) or pass some sort of bill down in Westminster putting it on the agenda.

Unfortunately the Tories, being the arrogant so-and-so’s that they are, failed to do either of these things. And, as I predicted back then, they walked right into the trap Alex Salmond set for them. If it is a Yes vote next week (and balance of probability is it won’t be), I would count this as a failure on the part of the Tories rather than a victory on the part of the SNP.

As for the Tory promises of Devo Max, well baring some emergency legislation in the next few days, we only have their word that Devo Max will go ahead. And given that there’s a general election coming up in the next year it seems doubtful that will happen before the next parliament. In short Westminster is asking us to take it on faith that they will deliver on their promises…much like they delivered on those promises regarding tuition fees! No offense but I think faith in politicians keeping their promises right now is about as high as Katie Holmes faith in the church of Scientology! :))

I’m afraid my advice to anyone considering voting No on the basis of this Devo Max promise is to say, think again. There are many compelling reasons to vote Yes or No, as I’ve discussed many times on this blog. But voting No because of some half-baked promise from politicians that will likely be forgotten about after the next election, isn’t one of those.