THE SOVEREIGNTY ILLUSION

The anti-EU mob’s sovereignty argument is an illusion.

The UK is as sovereign a nation as we’ve ever been. The UK and its constituent parts have always succeeded when pooling sovereignty and working with others. Alone, Britain lost half the American colonies. In coalition, we defeated Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler. Britain never had a free hand in running the empire. It always had to work with Canada, Australia, NZ, India et al – look at the Statute of Westminster and the 1948 nationality legislation. Recently the line of succession to the throne could only be changed by all the Commonwealth realms acting together and even the smallest – Antigua and Barbuda – had a veto. The UK pools its sovereignty in other ways in NATO, the UN, WTO, ICC, et al, some of which like NATO involve more pooling than the EU. None of that pooling will change by Brexit, except that the UK will be damaged and weaker for having alienated 27 allies and possibly the free trade partners in deals painstakingly put in place by the UK and its 27 EU partners. For what? To satisfy the outers’ saloon bar unpatriotic fantasies? Let them fantasise without destroying this country.

Instead we should celebrate the EU and the courage of those who laid its foundations just a few short years after the Second World War, the most devastating war in history.  Then and for a couple of decades later reaching out to former enemies was a brave thing to do and you risked being shunned by friends and family.

Thanks to the EU and the other institutions created after the war, my generation has been spared wars like those my parents and grandparents went through and because of their sacrifices I have lived my life in peace and freedom.  That’s what I want for my children and grandchildren and succeeding generations.

Therefore, as a Commonwealth-supporting proud patriot of this sovereign United Kingdom, I shall vote and campaign for others to vote to remain in the European Union on 23 June.

Posted in Britain in Europe, Commonwealth, EU referendum 2016, European Union, Freedom, IN, Peace, Politics, Referendum, Remain, Sovereign states, Sovereignty, UK sovereignty, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NOUS SOMMES TOUS CHARLIE

#JeSuisCharlie

We should all be Charlie. Whatever or faith, whatever our religion, wherever we live, whoever we are, we must all stand together in sympathy and solidarity with the victims of the evil terrorist attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo. It is the liberty, freedom, brother- and sister-hood and equality of us all that is being attacked. We must all stand together against the terrorists and together we will defeat them.

In solidarity let’s all be Charlie. Nous sommes tous Charlie.

Posted in #JeSuisCharlie, Anti-terrorism, brother- sister-hood, Charlie Hebdo, Freedom, Liberty, Paris, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The EU, the Scottish referendum and the EU referendum

A speech I gave yesterday, 15 October 2014, to Forum 2000 in Horsforth, West Yorkshire

Introduction
In January last year, the Prime Minister announced there would be an in/out referendum in 2017 after a renegotiation of the terms of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, if the Conservatives win the general election next May.

Last month we had an in/out referendum on Scotland’s membership of the United Kingdom. Some renegotiation of the terms of Scotland’s membership was promised if the vote were No. Continued membership of the EU was one thing the Yes and the No campaigns had in common. The other, by the way, was patriotism.

Last week, UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party, won its first seat in the House of Commons and on Monday it was announced that UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, would be invited to take part in the leadership debates in next year’s general election. UKIP wants complete withdrawal from the European Union,

Are we at an historic turning point or is this life as usual? I’m going to try to shed some light.

Prospect of an EU referendum
The last in/out referendum was in 1975, when 64.5% voted to remain in the European Community (as it was called then) and 35.5% voted against. The turnout was also 64.5%.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats oppose – at least at the moment – a new in/out referendum. The Liberal Democrats say it is unnecessary, although they favoured such a vote at the time of the Lisbon Treaty in 2008.

The Coalition Agreement pledged to “amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that treaty”. This was done in the European Union Act 2011.

But the Prime Minister wants to go further. What he wants to renegotiate is not clear. My internet searches have failed to find much. But, according to the Conservative European Parliament elections manifesto last May, there are seven things: return of powers from Brussels and reducing the cost of EU administration (that’s one!); national parliaments blocking EU legislation; cutting red tape and free trade with North America and Asia (another one); ending unnecessary interference by the European Court of Human Rights and other European institutions; free movement for work not benefits; enlargement without vast migrations; no commitment to “Ever closer union”.

I know what you’re thinking: the European Court of Human Rights is not part of the EU.

The Prime Minister said that public disillusionment with the EU was at “an all-time high”. He added he would campaign for the UK to remain in the EU, but that if Britain left, it would be “it would be a one-way ticket, not a return”. If he hoped to satisfy the Eurosceptics in his party, their continued noise and two defections to UKIP, show he hasn’t succeeded.

The Scottish Referendum
Perhaps he and others hope that a referendum campaign would engage people in the way the Scottish referendum did. There is a difference. The Scottish referendum was preceded by at least 35 years debate in communities across the land. A constitutional convention led to the Scottish Parliament in 1999. The press was responsible and supportive. This debate included the EU. Outside Scotland there has been no debate and the press has been mostly biased against the EU.

In Scotland 85% of those eligible voted. More of us should have been eligible, but were disenfranchised by where we lived.

55.3% voted to remain in the UK. 44.7% voted “that Scotland should be an independent country”, to quote the question on the ballot paper.

I think Scotland is an independent country and always has been and has voted to remain in the voluntary political union it worked to create.

My aunt in Inverclyde – which voted No by a margin of less than 1% – says there shouldn’t have been a Union in the first place, but now that we have it, we should keep it. I doubt our ancestors in the Hebrides noticed the creation of the Union in 1707 or the Union of the Crowns 104 years earlier.

Leeds played an important part in the Union of the Crowns. The father of James VI of Scots, who became James I of England, was Lord Darnley from Temple Newsam. So the first king of Great Britain was a Scots Loiner.

People will argue whether the vow of additional devolution in the last ten days was an act of panic that saved the Union or whether it was a careful following of the pattern of the 1995 Quebec independence referendum. In my telephone canvassing, I didn’t come across any No voters whose minds were changed by the extra devolution offer, although one or two mentioned it. They all believed the Union was best for Scotland and for all the people of our Isles.

Whether it played a part or not, failure to deliver devo-max, as it is called, to the tight timetable promised will be a reason for voting Yes next time.

The all-party Smith commission began work in the week after the referendum. Its ten members include two from the SNP and two from the pro-independence Greens. On Monday of this week, the White Paper, “The parties’ published proposals on further devolution for Scotland”, Cm 8946, was presented to the Union Parliament at Westminster, which MPs debated yesterday.

There are calls for further Scottish devolution to be delayed until England’s devolution is settled, but that would betray the vow made to Scotland. 307 years after the Scots proposed it and 125 years after Mr Gladstone promised it, we may be on course for a federal United Kingdom. Wales and Northern Ireland and England, however devolved, must have the same powers as Scotland, but fulfilling the vow to Scotland must not be delayed.

An independent Scotland and the EU
It is curious that a cornerstone of the independence argument was EU membership. So important was this to the case that the Scottish First Minister and the Yes campaign would not accept that Scotland’s entry would not be automatic. As with a currency union, the First Minister insisted it would be in the rest of the UK and the EU’s interest to let Scotland in without delay. Being told Scotland would have to wait was, he said, mere bluff.

All existing 28 countries would have to vote in Scotland and any other new member. Belgium and Spain are not the only other member states facing their own secessionist movements and who said they would vote against. The First Minister’s reaction, like the Prime Minister’s, was aggressive, not persuasive to win allies.

Reasons for union
We need to remember what seemed to be often forgotten in the Scottish referendum and is mostly forgotten in discussions about the European Union.

Each Union was formed to make war unthinkable and to create and share prosperity.

The union of these isles came after centuries of warfare. The now unremarkable English-Scottish border was one of the bloodiest in Europe. The people were among the poorest in Europe, for all the airs of the monarchs and the rising merchant class.

The European Union emerged from the plethora of bodies created after the Second World War to bring together nations that had fought repeatedly over the centuries and almost continuously in the previous 100 years. During the war Churchill called for a Council of Europe and in 1946 for European unity. The Council of Europe was created by the 1949 Treaty of London and its European Court of Human Rights ten years later. They are separate from the EU.

The European Union
The forerunner of the EU was the European Coal and Steel Community established by the Treaty of Paris of 1951. It included West Germany, but the UK decided not to take part. By pooling coal and steel, it aimed to remove a root cause of war between France and Germany.

The European Atomic Energy Community – Euratom – and the European Economic Community – the Common Market – followed six years later with the Treaties of Rome.

The Treaty of Rome included the phrase “ever closer union”, though it was not new, as an aspiration because the purpose of the Treaty was to avoid war. The opposite – ever distant disunion – had led to war too often.

The Treaty of Rome also gave the right to free to movement of people, which had also been part of the European Coal and Steel Community.

UK joined at the third attempt in 1973. Between walking out of the conference that led to the Treaty of Rome and the UK’s first application in 1961 the government made thorough appraisals of Britain’s place in the world and the Empire. Commonwealth trade links, standing alone without the Empire, integration with the United States and joining Europe were considered. The immediate result was that UK brought the seven countries outside the Common Market together in the European Free Trade Area. But, within months the UK applied to join the more successful Common Market.

This was controversial then, as now. I remember TV debates and public meetings about joining the Common Market through the 1960s and up to the referendum in 1975. Parties were and are split. I went to a rally in the Royal Albert Hall in about 1968 and heard the Liberals’ Jo Grimond, Labours’ Roy Jenkins and the Conservatives’ Duncan Sandys. I could have gone to an anti- rally and heard speakers from the same parties arguing just as fiercely against joining. After the 1975 referendum, debate was replaced by angry newspapers and a carping minority of MPs.

The problem, then as now, is (to quote Crossbench Peer Professor Peter Hennessy in his book “Having it so good”) that “ ‘Europe’ for the British was not a shining collective goal in itself but a means of sustaining British power; as a concept, therefore, it was instrumental rather than inspirational”.

After the UK joined in 1973, unforeseen events substantially increased the cost of British membership and the contribution to the Common Agricultural Policy. This led to rows and in 1984 Margaret Thatcher secured the British rebate. It is not the only rebate, but it is the only one that does not have to be renegotiated every few years. It has totemic importance. Only a brave and foolhardy British politician would reduce (as Tony Blair did) or dispense with the rebate.

The Single European Act, negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1986, led to the completion of the Single Market in 1992. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty changed the name to European Union and introduced the euro. The Lisbon Treaty of 2007 consolidated previous changes and provided, for the first time, a leaving procedure. Member states, except the UK, had referenda on these treaties.

Other members of the European Free Trade Area followed the UK into the EU. The remaining members and the EU form the European Economic Area, where EU law applies, but only EU Member States have any say.

Most Member States (and the remaining members of the European Free Trade Area) are in the Schengen Area, where there are no border controls between Member States. New members are automatically part of Schengen. If Scotland had voted Yes and then joined the EU, it would have had to be part of Schengen. The UK and Ireland are not part of Schengen and retain border controls, as anyone returning from holiday knows.

EU law
EU law comes from treaties negotiated by member governments, ratified by national parliaments and the European Parliament. The ministers who negotiate these treaties are accountable to their national parliaments.

Law is made by the Council of Ministers, which means the relevant national ministers, depending on the subject, and the European Parliament from proposals made by the Commission, the EU’s civil servants. The Commission is headed by the president. Each Member State nominates a commissioner.

Laws are mostly Directives, which usually state what is to be achieved and which Member States implement by making their own laws, and Regulations which can apply without national laws, but it is usual for Member States to make their own laws. In the UK, the European Communities Act 1972 gives EU law the force of law in the UK, but the convention is always to implement EU law by passing UK laws. This has always happened, except in one case, which I think I got away with.

Ministers can delegate law making powers to the Commission (as can happen in the UK), but they have to account for what they do to national ministers sitting as the Council and to the European Parliament. 70-80% of EU laws are made jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. There are still some things where the Council of Ministers acts alone.

The European Court of Justice gives rulings on questions about EU law referred from national courts, but it only answers the questions put. Beware the wrong question being asked!

The 7 areas the Conservatives want to renegotiate
I hope you’re still with me. How would all this change after the terms of the UK’s membership were renegotiated? Let’s look again at those 7 areas I mentioned earlier, with the health warning I gave earlier about how difficult it is to find anything authoritative.

First, “Powers flowing away from Brussels, not to it”. Which powers are seldom mentioned, but which way powers flow depends on how good the Prime Minister is at negotiating.

Our Prime Minister seems to go out of his way to alienate other heads of government of Member States, instead of winning them over to his point of view.

When he became Conservative Party leader, he withdrew British Conservative MEPs from the European People’s Party, the Conservative grouping in the European Parliament. This includes the party of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful head of government in the EU. He set up a new grouping with various right-wing parties. Doing that, he lost an important means to network with and influence Angel Merkel and other Conservative leaders.

As Prime Minister, he walked out of talks on a new stability pact for the Eurozone crisis. He claimed he was vetoing it, but he was ignored and the deal was done without him.

After the European Parliament elections in May, he denounced the European People’s Party as the largest grouping in the European Parliament for choosing its candidate for Commission President. He seemed not to know that this was what the Lisbon Treaty required. He looked in vain for allies to stop this candidate becoming president. Yet, he would need the support of the Commission President, the European People’s Party and other heads of government in any renegotiation.

Also as part of this first item, “Cutting the cost of EU administration”. According to Eurostat, the size of the European Commission, in September 2012, was 23,803 staff. By contrast, at the same time, the size of Leeds City Council was 31,348 staff. I used to work in Whitehall on public sector efficiency and that comparison suggests lean efficiency. There are problems of corruption and accounts not being signed off, which suggest a need for more, not fewer staff.

Second, “National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation”: I have not been able to find whether the treaties prevent this happening. I doubt it. If any proposed legislation is not wanted by ministers and their parliaments they should not agree to it. Of course getting people to vote down legislation, will not be easy if the Prime Minister carries on alienating possible allies.

Third, “Businesses liberated from red tape”. Most red tape is added in Member States. Just compare the size of Directives with the volume of implementing UK Regulations. All UK governments have struggled with cutting red tape, to little effect. EU rules would exist even if the UK were outside the EU. EU rules apply to associate members. Actually, much, perhaps all, EU legislation extends rules that already existed in the UK. The Procurement Rules are an example.

Still the third item, “Benefiting from the strength of the EU’s own market – the biggest and wealthiest on the planet – to open up greater free trade with North America and Asia”. The free trade agreement with Canada – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement was signed in Ottawa three weeks ago, on 26 September, and will come into force in 2016. As you may have seen on the news at the weekend, the free trade agreement with the United States – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – is being negotiated now. Free trade has been agreed with Korea and is being negotiated with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), India, Malaysia and Singapore. What is there to renegotiate about the UK’s membership?

Fourth, “Our police forces and justice systems able to protect British citizens, unencumbered by unnecessary interference from the European institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights”. This was dealt with by the last government securing an opt-out in the Lisbon treaty. Using this, the Home Secretary announced in July last year that the UK would opt-out of 133 law and order measures, but then opt back-in to 35, including the European Arrest Warrant, which greatly excites Eurosceptics.

The European Court of Human Rights is part of the Council of Europe, not the EU. The Council of Europe has 47 members, including all EU Member States. Although separate, membership of the Council of Europe is a condition for membership of the EU. Most European Court of Human Rights cases are against Russia. Withdrawal would align the UK with the abusers of human rights. How would that serve our national interests?

Fifth, “Free movement to take up work, not a freedom to move just for more generous benefits”; or, as London Mayor Boris Johnson said at the weekend, echoing other Eurosceptic Conservatives and UKIP, we need to reclaim our borders. It always seems to come down to immigration. In July the Prime Minister announced the latest curbs on immigrants claiming benefits. What additional powers would he get by renegotiation? In fact, according to the FullFacts website, the Department of Work and Pensions doesn’t collect information on non-UK nationals claiming benefit, except when they apply for a National Insurance number.

Sixth, “Support for the continued enlargement of the EU to new members, but with new mechanisms in place to prevent vast migrations across the continent”. This is a matter for future enlargement negotiations, not a matter for renegotiating the UK’s membership, but the UK’s negotiating position has been recklessly weakened.

Seventh, “End our commitment to an ‘ever closer union,’ as enshrined in the Treaty, to which every EU country has to sign up. It may appeal to some countries. But it is not right for Britain, and we must ensure we are no longer subject to it”. Would ever distant disunion be right for Britain?

What will happen?
So, to conclude, what will happen?

We, British people are principled, pragmatic and all of us immigrant. We see through politicians’ devices but understand what is going on and go along with trends and schemes only so far as we want to. We respect honesty. But, for a long while people have distrusted authority whether it is in Westminster, Edinburgh or Brussels. Most people are not taken in by anti-establishment rhetoric, any more than they are by authority.

So my forecast is this. The Conservatives will probably win the general election with a small overall majority. The Prime Minister will, despite himself, successfully conduct negotiations, because the German Chancellor and the Commission President he tried to stop have said they will work with him to meet the UK’s concerns. He will then hold the referendum and campaign for a vote to stay in the EU. There will be no Scottish effect and the turnout will be lower than in 1975, but there will again be a two to one majority in favour of staying in the EU.

It will not settle the matter.

The Liberal Democrats will do better in the general election and retain most of their MPs. They will be revitalised by the referendum campaign.

UKIP will gain a handful of seats, enough to aggravate the divisions in the Conservative Party.

Splits will occur and UKIP will grow and, as with Reform and the Conservatives in Canada, there will first be an alliance and a merger to form a new anti-immigration party, Eurosceptic, but less bothered about Europe than before.

Pro-EU, liberal Conservatives, like the Peelites in the 1850s, will split away.

While the Prime Minister is dealing with all this and a struggling economy, albeit one boosted by the Yes vote, he will have less and less time for devolution, the English question and federalism. Pressure will grow for a fresh vote in Scotland. In Wales, a constitutional convention will announce a referendum on secession. Northern Ireland will look to itself. The United Kingdom will start to break-up.

The royal family’s purchase of a holiday home in Canada will go unnoticed.

Of course it turned out differently after Alan Johnson became leader of the Labour Party and won the 2015 general election.

© Ian MacFadyen 2014

Posted in Alan Johnson, Better Together, Britain in Europe, Canada, Conservatives, Cymru, EU Referendum, European Council, European Union, Immigration, Liberal Democrats, Referendum, Royal family, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, Speeches, UK Prime Minister, UKIP, Uncategorized, United Kingdom, Wales, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DEAR VOTER IN THE SCOTTISH REFERENDUM

You have the privilege of voting in the referendum to decide the future of both Scotland and the United Kingdom.

I, as a proud Scot, a proud Welshman and a proud Briton do not have this privilege. Like millions of Scots and millions of Britons outside Scotland, I am denied the vote by the SNP’s machinations because of where I live, yet we shall all be affected by the result of the referendum.

Therefore, please vote on our behalf and vote No.

Voting No is a once in several lifetimes opportunity to renew and rededicate our Union.

Voting No shows belief in Scotland’s future, not the reckless gamble urged by the sharp speculators of the SNP and its fellow travellers, with their worthless claims, promises and policies. None of them can be guaranteed because no one, certainly not the SNP and the Yes campaign can say what circumstances would face an independence government, or what finances it would have. But, if Yes, wins, there would be no lever to hold the SNP to account for its reckless promises.

Voting No shows solidarity with all the people of the United Kingdom. The interests of poor people in Scotland are the same as poor people in Swansea, Newham, Leeds and Belfast. The needs of struggling families, the hopes of young people, the aspirations of business people, the needs of pensioners and all others in Scotland are the same as those of people in Wales, England and Northern Ireland. We need maximum devolution in all parts of the United Kingdom and solidarity to conquer poverty, support aspiration, let business flourish and create jobs, support families, ensure security and dignity for older people and others needing care.

Voting No is liberal, internationalist, outward-looking, optimistic, confident and positive. Voting Yes is nationalist and not liberal, inward looking, fearful, anxious and negative.

Voting No asserts free speech and says there is no place in Scotland or the United Kingdom for the attacks on free speech by the SNP and the Yes campaign in its denigration of critics, denunciation of opposing views, attempts to censor the BBC and a named journalist, disruption of meetings, Jim Sillars’s threat of a day of reckoning and so on.

Voting No reasserts all our rights and freedoms, hard won over the centuries. Voting No renews our rights to live and work and do the best for ourselves and our families and our communities anywhere in our United Kingdom, from the far north of Shetland to the far south west of the Scilly Isles.

Voting No will renew and recommit our democratic Union to solidarity, freedom and unity.

I love Scotland and I love the United Kingdom. That is why, however you have been thinking of voting, I ask you to be positive by voting No.

Vote No.

Yours in solidarity,

Ian MacFadyen

Posted in Better Together, No campaign, Politics, Poverty, Referendum, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, United Kingdom, Wales, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DEBUNKING AN UNDEBUNKED SNP MYTH: SCOTLAND ALWAYS HAS TO ENDURE WESTMINSTER GOVERNMENTS IT DOESN’T ELECT

Not true. The SNP, as with so much, the SNP and the Yes campaign is wrong.

As I understand the complaint in the myth, it is that in general elections, the majority of MPs elected in Scottish are always of a different party to the majority of MPs across the United Kingdom, making up the Union government, so that Scotland ended up with and always had to endure Union governments it does not elect. In fact this does not happen always, after every general election, or even most of the time. It doesn’t even happen more often than not. It happens less than half the time.

But, I have been put right by an angry Yes voter near Dingwall (I think) who I telecanvassed the other night. He said, I paraphrase, that because there was no independent sovereign Scotland, there could not be a government elected by Scotland until there was an independent sovereign Scottish state. So no government ever elected in the United Kingdom had been or could be a government elected by Scotland. There was no time to see how far this argument extended – was there a NHS, for example? – and anyway he was too angry. It was another reminder in the SNP and Yes campaign bubble facts are only what the SNP and its fellow travellers say are facts.

In the real world, Scotland has had governments it elected for just over half the time since the Second World War. The last time Scotland had a government at Westminster in line of the same party as the majority of Scottish MPs was 11May 2010, the day Gordon Brown resigned as prime minister. Up to then the majority of MPs in Scotland had been of the governing party at Westminster for thirteen years since 1997. This happened in ten of the governments formed after the eighteen general elections since the Second World War. After the 1955 general election, the majority of Scottish MPs were Conservative, as was the government at Westminster. In 1951, Labour and Conservatives had the same number of seats in Scotland – thirty-five each, plus one Liberal (Jo Grimond) – but the Conservatives had an overall majority across the country and Winston Churchill formed the government.

That’s democracy for you. You fight hard for your cause and win or lose; live with the result; then, fight again; and so on. Wanting to engineer a state in which you don’t have to put up with the other side or sides wining some or all (in the case of we Liberal Democrats) of the time would be anti-democratic and authoritarian.

Scotland has done better than Wales, which has never elected a majority of Tory MPs (unless there was an aberration in the nineteenth century I haven’t found). The North of England last elected a majority of Tory MPs in 1924 (excluding its majorities for the National Government), yet I hear no clamour for secession around me in Yorkshire. Northern Ireland last elected a majority of MPs of the United Kingdom governing party in 1970, but then the Conservatives and unionists in Ulster split.

Only London and the South of England have consistently elected majorities of Conservative MPs. The Midlands has usually reflected the majority at Westminster, except in 1955, when it went the opposite way to Scotland.

By the way, percentages of votes cast are harder to find historically than numbers of MPs, but it is elected MPs that form or do not form governments.

Scotland also does better than the Liberal Democrats. We have never had a majority Liberal Democrat government, but I’ve never seen a Liberal Democrat conference proposal for the party to secede from the Union.

_____________________________________________________________________________
Note: my sources are “Twentieth-Century British Political Facts 1900-2000” by David Butler and Gareth Butler, Palgrave, 2000; + Wikipedia for elections in this and the 19th century.

Posted in Better Together, Liberal Democrats, No campaign, Politics, Referendum, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, United Kingdom, Westminster, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HOW TO TELL THE SNP?

How do we point out to SNP supporters that they should vote No next Thursday to save their party, without alarming No voters?

The survival of the SNP depends on a No vote. The party exists to campaign, lobby and bully for independence achieved through a Yes vote in the referendum. It has no other purpose. If it wins the referendum, even by a single vote, it will have achieved its purpose and have no further reason to exist.

The SNP is not a liberation movement like the ANC or SWAPO, whose victory founded democracy in states where the previous oppression and authoritarianism meant there were no alternative democratic political parties and the liberation movements have continued while politics develops.

Scotland is a vibrant democracy. Scottish Parliament elections change Scottish governments. The Liberal Democrats – and Labour and the Conservatives and the Greens – have purposes related to improving people’s lives and pursue policies related to doing that in changing circumstances.
The SNP too wants to improve people’s lives, but this is ancillary to its fundamental purpose of independence through a Yes vote and that purpose will be achieved if it (I know, someone will post a comment saying this isn’t about the SNP: it is) wins next Thursday. What will it do then? What will its dedicated followers do?

It might win the next Scottish Parliament elections on a cocktail of euphoria and anti-London feeling and continue to rule by rhetoric. But, being independent, who will there be to blame when things don’t go to plan? Endlessly blaming London and recalcitrant No voters in Scotland will not work for a full Scottish Parliamentary term. The recriminations and the singling out of groups to blame in the way nationalists have always done throughout history will go against the grain of the Scottish people.

The second election will be lost. The drift away of SNP members, supporters and voters, mainly to Labour and the Conservatives, will become a rush. The SNP will become a rump, meeting for reunions on Radio 4, when Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s North American lecture tours permit.

Ordinary SNP members, voters and supporters will be adrift, not quite at home in their new parties, even when they were in them before succumbing to the nationalist brew. What is to be done?

The SNP’s ordinary members, voters and supporters’ only hope is a massive No vote. It’s in their self-interest to vote No and get their family and friends to vote No too.

Then the SNP will continue moaning, misleading and mithering about independence indefinitely and SNP members, voters and supporters would have their party, somewhere to go and something to do.

The problem is: how to get this message across to the SNP before they do themselves a mischief, without giving No voters the idea that the way to get rid of the First Minister and his crew is to vote Yes?
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This article by Ian MacFadyen first appeared on LibDemVoice.org on Friday 12 September 2014, © Ian MacFadyen andLibDemVoice.org 2014

Posted in Better Together, Liberal Democrats, No campaign, Politics, Referendum, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, United Kingdom, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’VE CHANGED MY MIND ON SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

I’ve changed my mind over Scottish independence and so on which way I would vote in the referendum on 18 September.

Although a Liberal and Liberal Democrat, I welcomed the SNP’s election progress from the 1967 Hamilton by-election to their first administration in the Scottish Government. As a school and college student, trying to be different, I would talk to girls about Scottish independence. As a chat up technique it was a total failure! Only a few years ago, I wrote in an email about wanting to be on the northern side of the border when Scotland became independent.

I displayed a sham certainty that melted several years ago before the prospect of a referendum after the SNP’s election victories.

In fact all along I was arguing for federalism with a passion that persists.

Why when, Liberal Democrats are jostling to explain why they are voting Yes, have I abandoned my flirtation and do I passionately want a No vote?
First, because I am a Liberal, not a nationalist. I was inspired to join the Liberal Party by a plain and dull party political broadcast that talked about federalism. I liked the idea of changing the constitution to make all the parts of the United Kingdom equal and properly able to work together. I am half Welsh and Wales is, constitutionally, the least equal of all. Independence creates competing unequal nations. It doesn’t matter that a No vote will not create federalism. That is not the question in the referendum; but if we are together, we Liberal Democrats can go on working for federalism. We have achieved devolution and other great things, why should we not also achieve Gladstone’s great dream of federalism?

Second, if I were to vote for independence, I would have to do it for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, come what may. A Yes vote should only be cast if I could live with an independent Scotland not getting into the EU, NATO, OECD and all the other international bodies Scotland belongs to as part of the United Kingdom; if there was no currency union; and if I could live with none of the liberal policies in the 650-page White Paper being implemented and an independent Scotland swinging to the right, with a government with no commitment to the White Paper, as might happen when a Yes vote removed the SNP’s reason for existing. In other words, I could not make the only honest vote, which is an unconditional one.

Third, although people say this is not about Alex Salmond and the SNP, the truth is that it is. They are intolerant. The do not debate with opinions at odds with their own. They denigrate, denounce, wrap themselves in the saltire, bully and belittle. If it is not about Salmond and the SNP, then the whole Yes campaign, non-nationalists included, must be like that. I don’t what such illiberal people in charge of a new country or even an existing one.

Fourth, a Yes vote will destroy the United Kingdom from the moment the result is declared and I don’t want it to be destroyed.

None of this matters – I don’t have the vote in the referendum. I am one of the millions of Scots for and against independence who are disenfranchised by the first minister and the Yes campaign’s manipulating the franchise to increase their chances abetted by Westminster’s craven surrender.

But, if you do have a vote in the referendum, please think about what I say and vote No.

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This article by Ian MacFadyen first appeared on LibDemVoice.org on Wednesday 10 September 2014, © Ian MacFadyen and LibDemVoice.org 2014

Posted in Better Together, Liberal Democrats, No campaign, Northern Ireland, Politics, Referendum, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, United Kingdom, Wales, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHY DESTROY THE UNITED KINGDOM?

Why does the United Kingdom have to be destroyed?

Or, to put it another way: Why, Yes voter, are you voting to destroy the United Kingdom?

Or, put it this way: Why are you trying to destroy this political Union, which, despite its imperfections and room for change, has served the people of these islands well for over 300 years and continues to do so?

Whichever way you put it, it’s the biggest of the questions the Yes campaign fails to answer. Salmond and his fellow travellers duck and dive on the currency, oil, the EU, the monarchy and everything else, but they never say why they want to destroy the United Kingdom. Scots created it. The Jacobites wanted to take it over without destroying it. It is 307 years old, but would be 410, if James VI and I had had his way; but on 18 September it could be killed by Yes voters, if they win.

I want to know why. I am a proud Scot and proud Briton, but as a Scot living outside Scotland, I am disenfranchised through Salmond’s manipulation of the franchise to better his chances of winning and by Westminster’s craven surrender. As a Scot born and currently living outside Scotland, I would be denied automatic citizenship of the SNP and fellow travellers’ new Scotland, according to the notorious (because its production has compromised the Civil Service’s neutrality) 650-page White Paper. Also, being half Welsh and born and brought up in England and with Irish cousins, I am a product of the Union as well as being a citizen of it; and, I want to know why Yes voters are determined to destroy it.

We are told how rich and great the new Scotland will be. It will be a utopia for every taste: business friendly and neo-liberal, for business supporters of a Yes vote; a social democratic land of equality free of poverty, if you are on the centre left; a green Elysium, carbon-free and absolved from any effects of climate change, if you are a green; a chance to rule and change the doorplate from “First” to “Prime” and then maybe…, if you are one of the first minister’s acolytes; and so on. Whatever your utopia, a Yes vote will deliver it. All inconvenient facts will change to become convenient facts.

But, if that is what you believe, it will not happen on the declaration of a Yes victory. It will be at least two years later, in 2016 or later, on independence day that you can start to expect utopia.

Yet, the moment a Yes victory is declared the unity of the United Kingdom will be destroyed. There will be no period of grace for negotiations to get used to the idea and perhaps change your mind. It will happen then, at that moment of declaration.

So Yes voters, however noble or liberal, or constructive, or idealistic your intentions, the moment you cast your “X”, you need to know why you are destroying this Union and be able to live with the consequences. This Union has given us peace instead of war, freedom in place of oppression, faster improvements in living standards than in many countries, families and friends in all four nations of the Union. Why do you want to destroy all this?

We hear that it is because Scotland has to endure Conservative governments it does not vote for. That is true of everywhere in the United Kingdom except London, the south of England and the Midlands. Wales has never voted for a Conservative government. The North of England last did it in 1924. Scotland last did it in 1955, when over half the seats went Conservative. Northern Ireland last did it in 1970. As a Liberal Democrat, I have never had a government of my own party. That’s democracy. We vote, celebrate or live with the result and try again next time. If the United Kingdom is destroyed on 18 September, there will be no next time to try again.

We hear from the Yes campaign that no one can or should run Scotland but the Scots. I hope the Yes campaign is including incomers. Does the Yes campaign not know that since 1885, more and more decisions about Scotland have been made by Scots and for the shared decisions that affect all of the United Kingdom, the prime minister has more likely been a Scot, a Scots MP or of Scots descent? It’s the Northern Irish and the Welsh who lose out. Indeed, Scotland has more power than any other part of the United Kingdom. No part of England, nor England as a whole, has as much power as Scotland. Legislative devolution for England has never been tried. England is run by the Union government. In other parts of the world that would mean the territory was not ready to run itself.

We hear, usually from the first minister, that it is time for Scotland to take its place in the world. That shows either his ignorance or his contempt for the Scots people. Scotland has always occupied its place in the world. Scots have always held their heads up high. Scotland led much of the British Empire and was the imperial power as a founder of the United Kingdom that gave independence from the Empire. Scotland is not in the position of a colony, protectorate or dependency. With Scots as prime ministers, foreign secretaries, chancellors of the exchequer and in other senior positions in the United Kingdom, Scotland has often led the Union in taking its place in the world. Yet, the Yes campaign wants to destroy this United Kingdom.

We hear about the bedroom tax, English tuition fees, the English NHS and other policies considered objectionable by the nationalists that mostly don’t apply to Scotland. The general election next year is the chance to change policies. Why then destroy the United Kingdom?

I struggle to think of another state that has been destroyed by one of its larger members in such circumstances. It is impossible to think of one that has destroyed itself for no reason.

If there is a reason, tell us what it is, so that we can answer.

Whatever the reasons, Yes voters, be sure you know what your reason is and can live with destroying the United Kingdom, because if you win there will be no turning back.

Posted in Better Together, Liberal Democrats, No campaign, Politics, Referendum, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, UK Prime Minister, United Kingdom, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VOTING YES IS NO ROAD TO UTOPIA

Contrary to what the Yes campaign wants us to believe, there is not a political party called Independent Scotland fighting a general election on 18 September, whose victory will answer every problem with a utopia to suit every taste.

It’s in the Scottish government’s White Paper and all the Yes campaign’s barnstorming speeches and all its shout-down-everyone-else contributions to televised debates.

It’s nonsense.

Voting Yes will not bring about utopia or solve any problems. It will create a whole heap of new problems and utopia will be delayed. Until independence actually came about at least two years after a Yes vote, Scottish politicians would not know the full extent of the possibilities before them, the problems they would face, the domestic and international pressures they would have to manage or how much money was available to pay for utopia after an independent Scotland’s inherited public spending had been accounted for.

Inside the United Kingdom problems and pressures are shared and each part of the UK is shielded from their full force – and London can always be blamed if there is not enough money for the devolved Scottish government’s plans.

Outside the Union, Scotland would have to face all this alone, weakened unnecessarily if the SNP carried out its threat to default on Scotland’s share of the UK’s debt. A Blazing Saddles threat, if ever there was one.

If the vote is Yes on 18 September, how long would it be before Yes voters realised utopia was deferred indefinitely?

Alex Salmond and the SNP and their fellow travellers would go on promising and blaming London and perhaps the other parts of the UK for the failure of the nationalist victory to deliver utopia.

Nationalism, whatever you call it, always goes like that. Soon there would be recriminations within Scotland. The Yes campaign has already shown its vicious intolerance of opposing views whoever expresses them.

The truth is voting Yes is a step in the dark. I can respect Yes voters who recognise that.

There can be no certainty about what would happen after a Yes victory. Scotland independent might be worse or better than now. No one can know now how it would turn out.

No one can know which party would form the government of an independent Scotland. A Yes vote would rob the SNP of its reason for existing. Its promises might count for nothing after a Yes vote if another party were voted to power in 2016.

The only certainty is that after a No vote, we will continue to work together in the United Kingdom for our different versions of social and economic justice in these islands, as we have for over 300 years. After a No vote, the Scottish Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative parties will deliver their promises of further devolution. They will offer policies in the general election next year on jobs, welfare, pensions, the NHS, overseas aid, the economy, education, enterprise and business, defence, security and so on that they can deliver, because the United Kingdom – that great Scottish creation – exists and together we work for all our futures.

Voting No is a vote of confidence in the future of the Scottish people and all the people of our Union.

Because, we are indeed Better Together.

Posted in Better Together, Liberal Democrats, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DOES THE YES CAMPAIGN LIKE THE SCOTS?

Does the Yes Campaign in the Scottish referendum even like Scotland and the Scots?

I have long had my doubts, but after Scottish Government Finance Secretary John Swinney’s confirmation that an independent Scotland would default on debt and First Minister Alex Salmond’s browbeating performance at the referendum debate on Monday, I am becoming convinced they do not.

Defaulting on debt if the rest of the UK will not give in to the SNP’s demands of a currency union, will make Scotland like Argentina. It will most likely prevent an independent Scotland joining the EU, the Organisational for Economic Co-operation and Development and the other international organisations that Scotland is already a member of as part of the UK.

Scotland would be isolated because the SNP stamped its foot when it couldn’t get its way.

For a currency union you need people to be in union with. But, the Yes Campaign is saying it doesn’t want to be in union with the rest of the UK. So, why should the rest of the UK want to be in a currency union with the people who had just broken the political and currency union that has served us all well for over 300 years?

As my teenage daughter, said: the Yes Campaign can’t pick and choose.

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has said he is opposed to a currency union, because it would be bad for Wales and bad for the UK.

If you respect the people who disagree with you, if you respect the people whose support you need, you make an effort to understand and win them over by persuasion.

If you don’t respect them, you browbeat, denounce, and threaten, which is what the Yes Campaign, led by Alex Salmond, is doing to anyone who questions or disagrees, in Scotland, in the rest of the UK and beyond these islands.

That’s why I am becoming convinced that Alex Salmond and the Yes Campaign don’t much like the Scots.

Better Together does. Voting No to independence is a positive vote of confidence in the Scottish people, as Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie said in the Scottish Parliament.

It’s a vote of confidence in all the people of these united islands and in all we have achieved and all we will achieve together.

It’s a vote of confidence by people who respect and like each other.

Posted in Better Together, Scotland, Scottish Referendum, Uncategorized, Yes campaign | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment