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Lily of St. Leonards

some thoughts mainly on Scottish politics

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2017 07:56:02 +0000


Socialism is theft

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 04:08:00 +0000

In order to understand a thing you have to strip it back to its essence. The fault of too much political thinking has been that it is too abstract. It tries to impose a theoretical system on human nature rather than accept human nature as the basic building block. This is especially the case with the political ideas of the Left and it is the reason the same pattern follows whenever they are implemented. Finding that socialism/social democracy comes up against the ordinary human nature of the workers, the Left requires that human nature changes. The theory is correct therefore it is the humans who are in error. But finding that people prefer to be in error the Left attempts to enforce change. It does this first through law, but if it meets opposition, being convinced that the goal of socialism is worth it, the Left resorts to force. Everything follows from the failure to understand and accept the essence of human nature. Why do you go to work? People have different reasons and it sometimes depends on the job that they do. Some people claim to love their job so much that they would do it even if they were not paid. But there are few indeed of us who would like to live without any sort of income. If I won the lottery, I might decide to quit my job. But I would only do so because I would think that I could maintain my lifestyle without that job. For the vast majority of people, the reason why we get up every morning is so that we have an income and so that we can spend that money on things that we want and need.Who do you spend your money on? The answer to this is simple. I spend my money on myself and on my family. What proportion of your money do you choose to spend on anything or anyone else? Well, if you think of this proportion in terms of household expenditure, you will find that most people spend a very small proportion on anyone other than their family. Out of each person’s disposable income what proportion is donated outside the family? Some people are indeed very generous, their generosity sometimes increases with their affluence, but even so it is still the case that for the vast majority of people an overwhelming proportion of our disposable income is spent on ourselves and our family. Why do we encourage children to get a good education and why do people who work seek first a good job and then a better job? Why do people seek promotion in their work rather than just remain at the level at which they begin? Again there can be a variety of motives. We might hope that our children have a more interesting job because of their education. We might think that education makes life more worthwhile and interesting. We might want to do more good by being promoted. All of these things may be true, but if we are honest, most of us will reflect that we want a good education in order to get a job that pays well, we want promotion because we want our pay to increase and we want all of these things because we want to provide our families with a better lifestyle. I know someone who was working as a cleaner. She was earning the minimum wage. She decided she could do better by working for herself. To begin with she was actually doing rather worse than when she was paid by an employer. Now that she had her own small business, she found that for every hour she wasn’t working she was paid nothing. But when she was working she could charge more and the amount that she was paid went to her business rather than the business of her employer. There was an element of risk in setting up her own business. There was the cost of equipment and the risk that she would not be able to find customers. She had to manage the accounts by herself and deal with some complex government rules and regulations. But gradually her business grew and she ended up earning more than previously. Why did she do this? Why not just earn the minimum wage? The answer is obvious. She wanted to earn more in order to provide a better lifestyle for her family.At root the basic motives of nearly all of us are capitalist. We work for the sake of ourselves and our families[...]

Everything is permitted except morality

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 04:40:00 +0000

We live in a relentlessly secular society. In some ways I am glad that we do. I would far prefer to live in a secular society than a theocratic one. I don’t want laws to be governed by any religion. I don’t want a government to say to me that I can or I can’t do something because of religious rules.  I believe in freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe or not to believe. But I think this freedom should cut both ways. Religion should not attempt to impose its beliefs on society, but nor should society attempt to impose its beliefs on religion. Is it possible for a politician in Britain to be a practicing Christian? Most certainly it is. Theresa May is a Christian. So are Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. There are many others. There are also politicians who follow other religions. This is generally unproblematic.  Why then has there recently been some controversy over the former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron who resigned because he thought it was impossible to be both a Christian and lead the Lib Dems?It may have been because Mr Farron is a more high profile Christian than other politicians. Theresa May does not often talk about her faith, nor for that matter did Gordon Brown. It is for them something that is kept in the background. But Tony Blair did indeed do God. He talked about it quite a lot. What is the difference between Blair and Farron?Tony Blair has been a practicing Roman Catholic officially or unofficially for many years. What would he have said if he had been interviewed about something controversial like abortion or homosexuality? Well Tony Blair thinks that the Pope is wrong about homosexuality and that the Catholic Church is wrong about abortion. As usual he finds a third way. What about Mr Farron? I don’t know exactly what he believes, but I’m sure that whatever it is, he really believes it. Mr Farron believes in Christianity literally. For him the task is to follow the teachings of Christ. He adapts to Christianity rather than striving to make Christianity adapt to him. That is the difference. I don’t know the denomination that Mr Farron follows, but it would not be at all surprising if the version of Christianity he believes in has traditional teachings about abortion and homosexuality. For nearly two thousand years every version of Christianity had the same teaching about these issues. Most still do.We have in Britain and the West in general gone through something of a revolution since the 1960s. In 1959 nearly all Christians and most of the population in general thought that marriage necessarily involved one man and one woman, that sex outside marriage was sinful, abortion and homosexuality wrong and that changing sex was impossible. There might have been a few people that disagreed, but they were uncommon. All of the churches taught more or less the same things about Christian morality although there were some disagreements. Christianity in 1959 was still a fixture in the life of our country. People generally conformed at least outwardly to Christian morality even if they didn’t themselves believe in Christianity. In the past fifty years or so we have started a social revolution almost without precedent. Until the 1960s nearly everyone living in Britain would have believed more or less the same things about traditional Christian morality. We have now reached the stage where almost no-one still does. What happened? The Christian rules that governed society were rather suddenly thrown off. The reason was that for the first time in history it was possible to have sex without having to worry about having children. This was the game breaker. Consensual sex between adults ceased to be a moral issue and became instead simply a matter of inclination and taste. Until the 1960s a woman who had sex outside marriage risked poverty and having to bring up a child without help. Consequently marriage remained what it had been for centuries. It regulated sex and determined sexual morality. But suddenly there was effective contraception and crucially a welfare state [...]

The SNP goal is receding into the distance

Sat, 01 Jul 2017 06:33:00 +0000

Did anything happen this week of consequence? Nicola Sturgeon turned up in the Scottish Parliament and said something about delaying indyref2. If this meant that we would have this referendum in a couple of years’ time, then what she said would have been of small consequence. What does it fundamentally matter if we have to go through all that divisiveness again in one year or two or even three? But the moment has passed when Sturgeon’s latest threat matters very much or indeed her withdrawal or delay of her threat. It is this that matters far more than anything she might or might not have said.The biggest problem we have in Scottish politics, apart from the continual threat implicit or explicit to break up our country, is that there is an almost complete lack of understanding on the part of the anti-SNP opposition of what helps us oppose the SNP and what hinders us. There is a lack of understanding of the fundamentals which means that even our success happens more or less accidentally. The Scottish establishment, which includes nearly all journalists and nearly all politicians, agree with Nicola Sturgeon about nearly everything. This is particularly the case with Labour. SNP and Labour supporters agree with each other on nearly everything apart from independence. They each want to spend more public money and give more power to Scotland. They each think that the root of all evil begins with T and ends with ories. Even Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives agree with Sturgeon about many things, but most especially about the EU.  Davidson apparently thinks that the increase in Conservative support in the past two years is due entirely to the outstanding nature of her campaigning and the fact that her Scottish Conservatives are far nicer than the English variety. There may indeed be something in this. She has her merits. But she is also missing something. Big changes in political support are not so much due to the personality of politicians as fundamental changes in society. Ruth Davidson still thinks that voting for Brexit was a disaster and if we really must leave the EU we must leave as little as possible. This means that she essentially doesn’t grasp why Pro UK support in Scotland has been rising and support for independence has been falling. The trouble is that hardly anyone else in the Scottish establishment gets this either. It is for this reason that much that is written keeps missing the point or rather is even unaware of the point that is missed. As I have been arguing since well before the EU referendum it is crucial to understand that Brexit makes the Pro UK argument easier and the SNP case harder. I have listed the reasons for this previously at some length. Really what else of fundamental significance has happened in the past two years? Do people think that all those SNP supporters just deserted their party because they got tired of them? No. Even if Scottish journalists can rarely see it, ordinary Scots came quickly to realise that leaving the EU was going to be one of those life changing events. It added uncertainty in a way that hardly anything else has done in the past decades. Well there is only so much uncertainty that most people want to deal with. How about adding the uncertainty of breaking up our country? How do you fancy both leaving the EU and leaving the UK? Scottish independence became “Operation Market Garden 2”. Nicola Sturgeon’s plan amounted to parachuting behind enemy lines, dodging crack SS divisions and capturing and holding a bridge while armed only with red berets. Sorry Nicola we tried that. It was called a bridge too far. Ordinary Scots now view indyref2 as something for fanatics. It looks impossibly risky. This isn’t going to change in two years. It will take at least a decade for the implications of Brexit to be fully felt. It fundamentally changes the direction that Britain has taken. There were two paths diverging in the “yellow wood”. We could have stayed in the EU. The ultimate destination of the EU path is no[...]

We must learn to be British again

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 04:46:00 +0000

Something happened to Britain in the past fifty years or so. We were famous for not making a fuss no matter what happened and we were famous for not showing emotion. When Lord Uxbridge had his leg shot off at Waterloo, he is said to have remarked casually to the Duke of Wellington that it seemed he had lost his leg. The Duke equally casually agreed with him. Both were unruffled, neither showed much emotion.  It doesn’t matter if this story is true, because it used to express something about the British character that was true. Until relatively recently in history death was all around us. There was a fairly high chance that a woman would die in childbirth. If she did not die, a high proportion of her children would either in infancy or from a one of the childhood diseases that still had not been cured. There were also many killer diseases that could strike at any time in adulthood. Many illnesses that can be easily cured today were simply a death sentence even fifty or sixty years ago. British civilians and soldiers alike risked death in the two World Wars on a scale that few can even comprehend today. Most of them did so willingly and if asked how they were doing would say something like “mustn’t grumble”. We have access to this attitude in some of the films of the period. British heroes are depicted as downplaying any heroism. Death is taken in its stride and the only sign of emotion is a slight change in voice and just a hint of an alternation of expression. Grief was felt, but not in public. It seems like another world now, this Britain with its impossibly posh accents. But if you watch Celia Johnson in This Happy Breed (1944) you see how people used to be. It may seem callous. A mother informed of a death chokes up for a second and then thanks the person who took the trouble to tell her. She goes on as before and maybe offers to make some tea. Whatever she is feeling is barely shown. We can only guess at the depth.  But this was the British character. It was this that meant that we kept going when times were tough. Unfortunately it is something that many of us lost somewhere, or perhaps never even had.There have been rather a lot of terrible events recently. We have had terrorist attacks and now a horrible fire that has killed people in a cruel and unexpected way. Who thinks that such a thing is possible when they go to their bed?But some perspective is necessary. We have done much to make the world safer. One hundred years ago the world of work was much more dangerous than it is today. Our homes too were much more likely to kill us. We risked illness from unrefrigerated food. Quality control did not exist and health and safety was unknown. Life expectancy was massively lower than today. There have always been disasters. No doubt there always will be. Ships sink, planes crash, cars have accidents. We work hard to minimise risk, but we cannot eliminate it. Unfortunately mistakes are made. It is human to make mistakes. Which of us does not make many of them every day?Whenever something bad happens today there are two reactions, something must be done and someone must be blamed. The “something must be done” mentality usually leads to something being done quickly and without much thought. Often it therefore does not help, sometimes it makes the situation worse. The “someone must be blamed” mentality frequently leads to injustice.Who is to blame for the fire in Grenfell Tower? We don’t really know yet. There will be an inquiry which may or may not find out. It may turn out that a faulty fridge caused the fire. If the person had replaced this fridge or perhaps not bought it in the first place, then there would not have been a fire. Should this person be blamed? Perhaps he knew that the fridge was a risk and failed to replace it. Should he be punished for negligence? But which of us has never had out of date or faulty electrical equipment? It looks as if it was a terrible mistake to renovate the tower with material [...]

The frostbite of her hopes

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 03:48:00 +0000

In the aftermath of an election emotions are high, levels of spin even higher and judgement barely there at all. Politics in Britain has become uncertain. This is the third election in a row in which we have woken up to a surprise and not only one surprise but sometimes a multiple of surprises. There is a lot of noise. Everyone is trying to manoeuvre. Contradictory views are leaked to the press. Journalists are briefed behind the scenes and then when they write up the story, it is denied sometimes profanely. But no doubt the purpose is achieved by both the story and the denial. The Prime Minister receives messages of support that are not always sincere and may well be as dangerous as being called a “Dead woman walking”. In fact the support may well be far more dangerous because, after all,  George Osborne resigned his seat a few weeks ago and so is as much a figure of the past as David Cameron or indeed Harold MacMillan. Perhaps it is for this reason that he is being so nasty, or else maybe it is just because he is nasty. I always imagined poor George with a waxed moustache about to tie some lady to the railway tracks. He rather revelled in his nastiness just a touch too much. But for all her faults, the lady he wants to run over with a train actually became leader, won 42% of the vote and could still achieve what she set out to do, which is rather more than being editor of the London Evening Standard.Theresa May has been battered, but it is perfectly possible that she will be Prime Minister for the next four or five years and successfully get Britain out of the EU with a good deal. If she does that, she will have won two crucial battles decisively and will be closer to touching greatness than any Prime Minister since Thatcher.Two years ago the SNP won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats and 50% of the vote. It was the share of the vote that was most worrying. I can live with the SNP winning all the seats. So long as either Labour or the Conservatives win a majority at Westminster it matters little how many seats the SNP win. You can’t form a Government with 59 seats. But 50% of the vote turns an independence referendum into a coin toss.We know how the SNP play on the emotions of ordinary Scots, how they play the nationalist/patriotic card and exploit our sense of weakness as the perpetual victim of the wicked English. With 50% of the vote and another long independence campaign to look forward to in the next two or three years Nicola Sturgeon must have thought she was almost there.For any battle however it is necessary to have a strategy. The SNP developed theirs and it must have seemed certain to succeed. Sturgeon needed a reason to call for a second independence referendum and then she needed the support to force it through. The reason as always was a grievance. England would do something wicked, while Scotland would do something virtuous. Saint Nicola would then come to rescue Scotland from England’s clutches. I don’t think anyone really expected the UK to vote to leave the EU last summer, just as hardly anyone expected Jeremy Corbyn to win 40% of the vote and nearly become Prime Minister. Perhaps he will do it yet. But what sort of odds would you have got on this happening two years ago? Sturgeon though had developed a strategy to take advantage of the unexpected. She made it clear that she would consider a vote to leave the EU as justifying a second independence referendum. Scotland voted to Remain while England and Wales voted to Leave. I’ll always wonder how many of the SNP supporters who voted Leave actually wanted to ditch the EU. I’m sure some of them thought that being a member of the EU was incompatible with true independence. Why give up being ruled by London only to end up being ruled by Brussels or indeed Berlin? But I’m sure many Scottish nationalists who voted Leave did so because they thought it would lead to indyref2. This after all was the strategy. I remember how Sturgeon wa[...]

Bursting the SNP bubble

Sat, 10 Jun 2017 06:04:00 +0000

A few months ago there were two main strategic challenges facing Britain. How to leave the EU successfully and how to keep our country intact? There are in addition, of course, the usual challenges facing any government. How to keep the economy growing? How to earn more than we spend? How to keep our people safe? Other unexpected challenges will arise from time to time. But these challenges are different in kind from the two main ones. Leaving the EU and keeping our country intact are existential challenges. They involve the nature of our country's existence. Some people thought that leaving the EU might cause the break-up of the United Kingdom. Many Remain campaigners saw this as one of the main arguments for staying in the EU. Some apparently Pro UK writers have been terribly pessimistic ever since last June. Scotland voted to Remain, Nicola Sturgeon and indeed Alex Massie were very angry, therefore Scotland would soon be independent. We were doomed. I gave up reading this sort of stuff. It was all too depressing.The problem with most political journalism is that it is far too short term. It thinks that the day to day affairs at Westminster or Holyrood matter. They don’t. No-one much follows what happens and no-one much cares about the day to day trivia. What matters is long term strategy and getting to the essence of the issue. Leaving the EU is keeping our country intact. The threat from Nicola Sturgeon even two or three months ago looked real and imminent. The Scottish Parliament voted to hold a second independence referendum and if it had been held I have no idea who would have won. I think it would have been very close indeed. Campaigns are very uncertain things as we have just found out. A big lead can be lost. People get caught up in the heat of the moment. We might have lost in 2014. We might have lost in 2018. But the moment passed. The moment of greatest danger is already behind us. Whatever her faults, I will always be grateful to Theresa May for standing up to Nicola Sturgeon. If she had not done so, then I do not think we would have had the result we had yesterday. Nationalism in Scotland is probably always going to be with us. But it can be kept manageable or it can be unleashed with all its force. Now it looks to be going into a decline. Let us hope that this continues for Scottish nationalism has the power to divide not only the UK but Scotland too. I think it is this above all that the Scottish electorate sensed. The SNP are being punished for the fact that the 2014 was so unpleasant for so many of us. It was bitter and traumatic. The majority of the electorate will vote for anyone to avoid a repeat of the experience. But more than this it was voting the EU that concentrated minds. Scottish independence fundamentally depended on the UK remaining a part of the EU. Voting to Leave was the condition for the possibility of defeating the SNP. Paradoxically not getting what Scotland wanted in the EU referendum destroyed the SNP argument. The UK outside the EU looks an awfully lot more independent than Scotland within it. This is why so many SNP supporters voted to Leave. But they too misunderstood how this fundamentally destroyed their position. Scotland is tied to the other parts of the UK in terms of history, family, and economic relations. Brexit and Scottish independence would sever those ties and put us on radically different paths. It would put a chasm between Scotland and England. It made Nicola Sturgeon and all her threats look fanatical. She does not care whether Scottish independence would damage Scotland just so long as she can grasp it in her little hand. It must have seemed so close. We must keep fighting in Scotland to lessen support for the SNP. We must try to bring back the time when the SNP were a minor party who won a few seats here and there. This is now quite close. SNP people in the big cities will return to Labour recognising that there best cha[...]

Tipping the SNP out

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 05:15:00 +0000

I’m a Conservative, but above all else I’m a Unionist. Party politics is a matter of ups and downs. Our country is a different matter. I would gladly accept any defeat for the Conservatives if it made our country safer. It looks as if the Conservatives are going to lose their overall majority. But the result in Scotland is beyond all expectations. I’ll take that. I’ve hardly talked about the SNP during the campaign. This was quite deliberate. Scotland’s place in the UK would only really be secure when we brought ordinary politics back to Scotland. Scottish Conservatives should be battling against Labour and the Lib Dems and vice versa. We should be talking of the issues that affect day to day life, not whether we want to break up our country. Perhaps we are now going to be able to do that. The SNP have lost their leader in Westminster (Angus Robertson). They have lost the former leader of their party (Alex Salmond). Big chunks of Scotland have turned blue. Scottish independence looks much less likely than it did a year ago. It looks much less likely than it did yesterday.I remember last summer how Nicola Sturgeon made threats after the EU referendum. Independence must have seemed so close to her that she could almost taste it. But in fact the moment had already passed. I had been arguing for some time that Brexit would make the SNP’s task harder. I think it has turned out to be the game changer. The UK is still going to leave the EU. All the attempts to stop it have failed. But the fundamental position is this. It makes no sense for Scotland to be in a different trading bloc to the UK. If the UK as a whole leaves, then Scotland must leave too. Moreover leaving the EU is going to be disruptive enough. No-one in Scotland apart from the fanatics wants to add further disruption. Sturgeon gained the adulation of her own party and was treated like a mini goddess. She gained the cheers and the tears of the faithful who wanted merely to touch the hem of her dress in order to be healed. But it went to her head. She confused the rapture she met from the devoted with support in the country at large. She promised more than she could deliver, she threatened more than was in her power. When she threatened she thought she was damaging the Pro UK cause, but in fact each threat amounted to her digging a hole that became eventually deep enough to bury her hopes. SNP support is now on the slide. We can expect this to continue. The next time there is an election in Scotland it will be a red/blue battle. The Conservatives and Labour are going to gain in strength over the next few years. It is hard to imagine that the SNP will gain another overall majority at Holyrood anytime soon. There is a tipping point in Scottish politics. Those Scottish nationalists who supported the SNP because they despaired of Labour winning a majority in the UK as a whole will begin to realise that their best chance of getting “socialism” is to vote Labour. The “socialism in one country” (Scotland) strategy depends on it being credible that the SNP will win independence. Once it becomes clear that voting for the SNP won’t bring independence, then it becomes obvious that Scottish voters hoping for left-wing politics must look elsewhere. It may well be that we have passed this tipping point. It will take a while for the nationalists to accept this. They may flail around for a while. But I would expect Scotland now to revert to normal politics. Do you want the Left the Right or the Centre? At that point we will be safe. Nationally the election is obviously a disappointment for the Conservatives and Theresa May in particular. What can be learned from this?The public don’t like unnecessary elections. They punish those who call them. They don’t like politicians who change their mind. Theresa May kept telling us that she wasn’t going to call an election and then she did. The electorat[...]


Sun, 04 Jun 2017 06:41:00 +0000

 I wake up once more to find that there has been a terrorist attack in Britain. It’s the second in a few days. Is it the third or the fourth this year? How many such attacks have taken place in Europe in the past two or three years? I’ve lost count. Events are unfolding. Perhaps I should say nothing. But now is not the time for silence. Now is the time for some clear thinking.This is not acceptable. The timing of these attacks is not accidental. They are an attack on our democracy. I have no idea what is going to happen next with our election, but I know what should happen. We should keep on campaigning and we should hold it on June the 8th.We must not accept these attacks as an inevitable part of modern life that we just have to get used to. We must do whatever it takes to stop them. Do not try to justify terrorism. The people who hate us do not need any more justification than that they hate us. It is vital that we start calling a thing what it is. It’s no good calling the same action terrorism if it happens in London or Manchester, but the actions of “militants” if it happens elsewhere in the world. The people who hate us have the same ideology whether the attack is in Syria, Iraq, Israel or France. Don’t side with people who hate us. The battle is the same battle everywhere. The terrorist who blows himself up in Jerusalem agrees with the terrorist who blows himself up in Manchester. The cause is the same. If you agree with either you are part of the same problem. We must invest more money in our armed forces and in our security services. The threat to the West is at least as great as the one we faced in the 1940s and during the Cold War. It is a different kind of threat, of course, but it must be treated just as seriously. It may require a combined and concerted effort by all countries which are threatened in order to defeat an ideology that wants to destroy our way of life.In the 1940s our fight was against Nazism, during the Cold War our fight was against communism. Our fight was not against the populations living under these ideologies, but against those who believed in them. We must make the same distinction today. Ordinary Germans were victims of Nazism. More ordinary Muslims have been killed by radical Islam than anyone else in the world. We share the same cause then and the same enemy. We must never support any form of terrorism. I don’t care what your cause is. I don’t care how just you think it is. If you blow yourself up or commit other acts of terrorism I oppose both you and your cause.  Terrorism breeds terrorism and it’s getting worse. While in the 1970s terrorists would hijack planes, now they seek to blow them up mid-air.  Where once terrorist groups took hostages, now they cut their heads off on YouTube. There is an escalation of depravity. If we don’t stop this soon, who knows to what levels these people will stoop?   At the moment the terrorists kill tens or hundreds and sometimes even thousands as was the case on 9/11. But in time they will want to kill still more than this. What if they used chemical or biological weapons? Could we stop such an attack? Can we stop one indefinitely if we keep on as we are?The nature of our response must change. We cannot keep going through the same old sequence of lighting up buildings with a flag, making up sympathetic hash tags on Twitter. People who normally never pray are too quick to offer meaningless prayers for Manchester, London, Paris, Nice, Berlin or wherever next. We need no more shrines with cuddly toys, nor do we need pop concerts. Above all else we need no more virtue signally where everyone falls over themselves to demonstrate how caring and liberal they are. If we keep on responding in this way the problem will just continue and get worse. We need to act. Above all this needs clear, logical thinking that is not cloud[...]

A vote for which party helps the Pro UK cause?

Sat, 03 Jun 2017 04:54:00 +0000

There is only one thing in politics I really care about. I have lived under Labour Government’s, Conservative Governments and Coalition Governments. These things matter in the short term. But in the long term they don’t really matter. What matters is our country. Compared to the threat of our country breaking up it matters little to me who is elected. If somehow we could go back to the time when Labour won nearly all the seats in Scotland but the UK was safe, I would take that result in a second. If I thought that voting Labour or the Lib Dems was the best way to protect the UK, I would likewise do so without hesitation. If, on the other hand, I thought a Conservative Government would put the UK at risk I would urge Pro UK people to vote for anyone else. My politics is derived from my Pro UK position not the other way round. I have in the past voted Labour and for the Lib Dems. This is not about party politics. This is about protecting our country.None of us know what is going to happen next Thursday. I doubt that I will stay up as I have to go to work on Friday. But when I get up I will not know for sure what the result will be. I could be in for a surprise.It’s vital that we look at the possible outcomes from a Pro UK perspective. Which one of these will help the Pro UK cause? Which will hinder it?If the Conservatives win a reasonable majority it will give them the mandate to do two things that will greatly aid the Pro UK position in Scotland. It is crucial that the UK Government goes into negotiations with the EU with the ability to walk away without a deal. This perversely gives us the best chance of achieving the “Holy Grail” of free trade with the EU without having to pay massively for the privilege and without being ruled and controlled by Brussels. This prize is within our grasp if the Government is given a free hand, if it doesn't have to give a running commentary to Parliament and most importantly if we threaten to walk away and mean it. There are two possible outcomes then. Either we gain a bilateral trade deal with the EU or we trade with them using World Trade Organization rules. Both of these scenarios massively help the Pro UK cause in Scotland.If the UK gains a bilateral trade deal, then it is hard to see what Sturgeon can complain about. The difference between membership of the EU single market and bilateral free trade is minimal. But more importantly such a trade deal locks Scotland into the UK because Scotland’s trade with the EU would depend on membership of the UK. To become independent Scotland would then have to leave both the UK’s single market and the bilateral trade agreement with the EU. This doesn’t look like a very attractive option.Alternatively if the UK walked away from the EU without a deal, then if Scotland became independent and joined either the EU or even if we joined only the EU’s single market, there would be trade barriers between the Former UK and Scotland. This too looks unattractive. It is for this reason above all that I argued that Brexit would make the task of achieving Scottish independence much harder. This too is the reason that I supported us leaving the EU. It is not accidental that support for independence and the SNP is falling. It is not despite Brexit, but because of it. When I predicted this sometime before the EU referendum hardly anyone believed me. Most experts thought leaving the EU would increase SNP support. But really it is simple logic. Leaving the EU makes Scottish independence harder to achieve and much less attractive. This is why Pro UK Scots need a Government that wants to make Brexit a success. It is crucial that we do not end up with a Government that wants to water down Brexit or turn it into a failure. We need then a UK Government that is going to get us either a bilateral trade agreement or which is willing to [...]

Don't wake up to a nightmare

Sat, 27 May 2017 05:27:00 +0000

I don’t feel much like writing about politics at the moment. We all stopped campaigning. We did so for a good reason. How do we start up again? There is only one thing on all our minds. But no-one wants to score cheap points. Yet the alternative is to remain silent. That isn’t right also. The country needs unity, but we are in the middle of a General Election campaign and elections are about alternatives and making a choice. To make a good choice you need to think clearly. In the UK as a whole we have a close race. When we began the campaign many people thought that the election was already over. But this, of course, is not how democracy works. It doesn’t matter how far ahead one party is in the polls, it is always possible that you get a surprise. The latest poll I have seen puts the Conservatives on 43% and Labour on 38% with the Lib Dems on 10%. What this means is that Labour could well win the General Election. It is perfectly possible that we will wake up on Friday June 9th to find that Jeremy Corbyn is the next Prime Minister. In Scotland we also have a two horse race. We know from the local elections in May that Scottish Conservative support is rising. Many Pro UK people are switching to the Conservatives as the best chance we have of defeating the SNP. It is for this reason that I have been advising Pro UK people to vote Conservative everywhere.In my local constituency of Gordon I received a leaflet from the Lib Dems which argued that only they could beat the SNP here. But this was to ignore the fact that the Conservatives were the clear winners in May. This illustrates the whole problem with tactical voting campaigns. Some people will use one tactic, others will use another. The end result is a confused message and a divided Pro UK vote. In most constituencies in Scotland we simply do not know about present voting intention. It may well be very different from the General Election in 2015. What we do know however, is that the Scottish Conservatives are in second place in Scotland. This was the case in the Scottish Parliament elections last year and in the local elections. Support for the Conservatives in Scotland is rising while it is falling for everyone else. Support for Labour and the Lib Dems is such that they can only win two or three seats between them. This will change nothing. On the other hand adding just a few percentage points to the Conservative vote could lead to them winning a large number of seats from the SNP. Even so it is almost certain that the SNP will comfortably win the majority of seats in Scotland. They won 56 last time. If we could limit them to 40 this time it would still be an amazing result. But this means that the electoral arithmetic at Westminster means that SNP votes will be necessary if Jeremy Corbyn wants to form a government. Until recently Labour routinely won nearly all the seats in Scotland. This is not going to change any time soon, because left wing Scots pretty much deserted Labour en masse. They preferred the idea of creating “socialism in one country” (Scotland) despairing of creating it in the UK as a whole. But for Labour to rule in the UK as a whole it still needs to replace the Scottish MPs it lost. It can’t very well replace them from the other parts of the UK. That would require Labour to win an overall majority in England and Wales alone. This would require the equivalent of a Labour landslide. Simple arithmetic therefore tells us that for Corbyn to be Prime Minister he needs the votes of other parties. But which? The Lib Dems share of the vote nationally suggests they are not going to win many more seats than last time. This leaves the SNP.We could wake up in two weeks’ time to the following scenario. Labour could win around 300 seats, the Conservatives somewhat less. You need 326 seats to form a majority. W[...]

Changing the conventions of Scottish politics

Sat, 20 May 2017 05:47:00 +0000

British politics is about conventions. One of the most important of these is the one about a political manifesto. Few of us read manifestos. But this is not really their point. A party does write a manifesto to persuade people to vote for it. How many voters read manifestos? Rather a party uses the manifesto to justify what it hopes to do in the future. This is really why we are having a General Election at the moment. There is a convention that if something is in a party’s manifesto, then the House of Lords will not block it. The British public by voting for a government shows that it gives its consent to that party’s manifesto. It does this even if almost no-one reads the manifesto.The fact that something is in a manifesto then has a peculiar force. It turns it into government policy backed by the electorate. It is for this reason that it is usually worth digging around a manifesto to see if there is anything of importance.In the present Conservative Party manifesto there are some sentences that I think are of crucial importance.We have been very clear that now is not the time for another referendum on independence. In order for a referendum to be fair, legal and decisive, it cannot take place until the Brexit process has played out and it should not take place unless there is public consent for it to happen. This is a time to pull together, not apart. (p.32)This might seem just like a repetition of what Theresa May has been saying since the SNP said that they wanted another independence referendum. But remember this is now not merely a Prime Minister expressing an opinion this is a manifesto commitment that will be backed by everyone who votes Conservative. If Sturgeon later questions Theresa May’s right to say “not yet”, then May can simply point to her manifesto and the backing of the British people.It’s worth looking in some detail at the wording of these sentences. The phrase “fair, legal and decisive” has been heard before. It is from the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012. At this point the SNP and the UK Government agreed that the independence referendum would deliver a “fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect”. The Conservative manifesto is reminding us that crucially we have already had an independence referendum. The result was decisive. What does this word “decisive” mean? It means that the independence referendum of 2014 settled the issue. It was final. It was conclusive. If you disagree I suggest that you get hold of a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word “decisive”.What the SNP frequently fail to realise is that having the referendum of 2014 changed the convention. Until that point no-one had ever asked the Scottish electorate whether we wanted to stay in the United Kingdom. Our saying that we did want to stay changed the political convention in Scotland.At some point in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher said that if the SNP won a majority of seats in Scotland they could have independence. David Cameron thought that the mere fact the SNP had won a majority in the Scottish Parliament was enough for him to have to give in to SNP demands for an independence referendum. But conventions change. It may seem unfair that this is so, but this is how British politics works. The convention about when and whether Scotland can have an independence referendum has changed. It has changed because we have already had an independence referendum and the result was decisive.There is no right to an independence referendum in international law. If there were then the vast majority of Western democracies could be prosecuted. But there is a convention in British politics that we govern by consent. If it became clear that Scotland really wanted another independence [...]

May points the way

Sat, 13 May 2017 05:05:00 +0000

Recent experience has taught everyone with an interest in politics not to rely too much on opinion polls. However, the present General Election campaign is unusual because there has been an actual poll which has acted as an hors d'œuvre to the main course on June 8th. We don’t know if the May 4th Local Election results will be completely mirrored in a few weeks’ time, but it is unlikely that they will be overturned. Of course, this is no time to be complacent. Much can still happen in the weeks ahead. But it is sensible to use the Local Election results to develop strategies. It is becoming ever clearer that Brexit negotiations are going to be difficult. This need not be the case. It is perfectly possible for both the UK and the EU to reach a deal that is beneficial to both sides. The UK wants very little indeed. We want something close to free trade. We’d like a reciprocal arrangement about the right to live and work in the EU and the UK. There’s nothing much else we want. There’s indeed nothing much else we’ve ever wanted. We don’t want to be ruled by the EU but we’d quite like to continue trading freely with them.Unfortunately it is becoming obvious that the EU is seeking to punish Britain in some way. This is in part psychological. It is the sort of behaviour that happens after a divorce. The EU also worries that if Britain succeeds in leaving and all goes fairly well, then this will encourage other countries to leave. We don’t know how these negotiations are going to play out. Maybe the EU position will soften behind closed doors. But it’s always best to take people at their word. At the moment the EU is acting as an unfriendly power. They don’t wish Britain well. On the contrary, they are trying to harm our position economically. They wish to damage us diplomatically and harm our   international relations. If that is not unfriendly, what is?The EU is taking positions that could potentially injure the UK with regard to Gibraltar, Northern Ireland and perhaps Scotland. They would like to see our economy hurt by their demands for ever higher exit fees. They think it would be worth it if UK trade with the EU was decreased even at the expense of their own trade.  It may be that the EU is not interested in mutual self-interest, but only in how best to punish Britain.  This is the mentality of a wife wrecking her ex-husband’s car. We shouldn’t exaggerate this situation, but nor should we underestimate it. The EU has shown itself to be what it always was. Thank goodness we are leaving. Who wants to be in a group that is held together by threats, extortion and bully boy tactics?But then this is a time when we are going to need strong leadership. Theresa May has been nothing if not polite to the EU. She has made it clear that Britain wants to maintain a friendly relationship. But even she has been frustrated by the negativity and hostility coming from the EU. The next few years are going to crucial for the UK. We will either come to a mutually beneficial arrangement with the EU or else we will have to walk away from the negotiations with no deal and carve out a new path on our own. Theresa May realised this and for this reason called an election. She knew that her majority was not going to be enough to make the crucial decisions that she would need to make. It was EU intransigence that forced her hand.Can you imagine the alternative to Theresa May leading.  Jeremy Corbyn gained two E-grade A levels and left school at 18. Theresa May has an Oxford degree and went on to work for the Bank of England. There is a gulf between the intellects of May and Corbyn that is immediately obvious whenever they speak in the House of Commons. Corbyn just isn’t up to the job of being Prime Minis[...]

It's swing that wrecks the SNP

Sat, 06 May 2017 05:08:00 +0000

At the last General Election in 2015 I voted for the Lib Dems. This was partly because I thought they had done a good job as part of the coalition government, but it was mainly because I had become convinced that tactical voting was the best way to keep the SNP out. I live in the Gordon Constituency in Aberdeenshire. It’s very rural and more prosperous than most parts of Scotland. For a long time the seat was held by Lib Dem Malcolm Bruce, who is popular in the area and who did a good job as an MP. My MP now is Alex Salmond. The SNP won in Gordon with 47% of the vote. What this means is that theoretically we could have stopped Mr Salmond if all Pro UK voters had voted tactically. If you add the totals for the Lib Dems, Labour, Conservative and UKIP they surpass Mr Salmond’s total. The same can be said for nearly every seat the SNP won in Scotland. Unless the SNP won more than 50% of the vote they could have been beaten. So in a possible world where all Pro UK people voted tactically the SNP might have won almost no seats instead of 56. This is the logic behind tactical voting campaigns. It looks sensible, but sorry folks this is not how real world elections work. I woke up to a surprise two years ago when it turned out that David Cameron had won a majority of 12. No-one had predicted this. The talk throughout the campaign had been of coalitions. A year later I woke up to another surprise. The UK had voted for Brexit. A few months after this the impossible happened. Donald Trump was US president. In each case polling, betting and pundits got it spectacularly wrong.I was delighted that there was a Conservative Government with a majority in 2015. Suddenly there was the prospect of a referendum on the EU, which was something that I had wanted for many years. I was pleased too that the Lib Dems had been reduced to 8 seats. I think UK democracy works best as a two party system. A third party just muddies the waters. But then I began to reflect that I hadn’t actually voted for the Conservatives. I felt like a mug. The fact is that if only a handful of extra Lib Dem MPs had been elected in 2015 there would not have been a Conservative majority. If only a few more Labour MPs had won we might have ended up with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister forming a loose “coalition” or pact with anyone else who would vote for him. The Lib Dem candidate I had voted for might have been part of this coalition, might have prevented the EU referendum and might have been part of a pact involving the SNP.During elections most parties say that they won’t make pacts. They are competing against each other so naturally avoid talk of working together. Talk of pacts also implicitly concedes defeat. But there are 650 seats in the House of Commons and if a party doesn’t have more than half of them it has to do a deal even if that deal is only on a vote by vote basis. It is for this reason above all that it is pure folly for Conservative supporters to vote tactically for the Lib Dems or Labour. The MP elected by this means might well end up in a loose coalition with the SNP and this coalition might be enough to put the Conservatives in opposition. Any Conservative supporter who votes for another party could in part be responsible for this. It was this that dawned on me on the morning after the General Election in 2015. I’d made a mistake. The Conservatives had done better than expected. If Conservative voters up and down the country had voted tactically they might well have lost. Tactical voting may seem like good tactics, but what if it led to Jeremy Corbyn ending up as Prime Minister backed by Lib Dems and the Scottish nationalists?My experience of campaigning for tactical voting in Scotland in 2015 was not a pleasant one[...]

A united voted for a United Kingdom

Sat, 29 Apr 2017 04:20:00 +0000

Once more there is a General Election. I’m rather tired of elections, but it could have been worse. I could be writing once more there is going to a Scottish independence referendum. A few weeks ago indyref2 appeared to be getting closer by the minute. Then it got kicked into the long grass by Theresa May telling Nicola Sturgeon that she would have to wait. Now the whole thing may depend once more on the outcome of the General Election. It’s time to think clearly.There are only two people who can become Prime Minister. Either we keep Theresa May or gain Jeremy Corbyn. We know from past experience that opinion polls and betting odds are a poor indicator of the future. They are about as accurate as weather forecasts and just as likely to give you a surprise. For this reason it’s necessary to accept that Labour could win the General Election. What would happen if they did?Given the present political makeup of the UK, it is basically impossible for Labour to win an overall majority. They have one seat in Scotland. This means that for Labour to govern they would require the support of other parties. This might or might not be a coalition. It doesn’t matter. Relying on the votes of other parties informally is still relying on them. If Labour had to depend on the votes of other parties it would have to make concessions to them whether there were a formal coalition or not. Which other parties would Labour depend on? Whose votes and MPs would Labour need to form even a minority government? Well obviously this would depend on the result. However it is worth noting that the Lib Dems have nine seats while the SNP won fifty six seats in Scotland in 2015. Realistically this means that in order for Labour to rule they will require the support of the SNP. This was the case during the last election campaign in 2015 when the SNP had only six seats. It is still more the case now. Simple arithmetic tells us that Labour cannot win on its own. A Labour victory might not mean a coalition with the SNP. Whatever the parties say now, we would only find out if there were to be a “Progressive coalition” involving the Labour, Greens, SNP and Lib Dems when the General Election is finished. But whatever arrangement came about whether it was called a coalition or not, it would require some sort of deal. What do you suppose the SNP price would be? What does Nicola Sturgeon want most in the world? I cannot imagine Jeremy Corbyn being as firm with her as Theresa May has just been. This is not least because Corbyn has recently said he was “absolutely fine” with indyref2. This is a man who apparently has such a loathing of Britain that he consistently sides with our enemies. He would be delighted if Northern Ireland left the UK. Perhaps he would be equally delighted if Scotland left too. But even if he were the firmest of leaders, if his party depended on SNP votes to rule, what choice would he have but to agree to Sturgeon’s demands? This is the logic which saw Ed Miliband depicted as a puppet on the end of SNP strings. It applies still more so today.If you want to keep indyref2 in the long grass, therefore you had better hope that Theresa May remains Prime Minister. It is likely that this hope will be fulfilled. I cannot imagine a time when the British public elect a far left Trotskyite IRA/Hamas sympathiser to lead them. Labour Party MPs themselves have frequently tried to get rid of him. They have in huge numbers expressed that they have no confidence in Mr Corbyn? Now these same MPs are trying to persuade us that the British public should nevertheless have confidence in him leading our country. This strikes me as just a tiny bit hypocritical.Labour MPs may eventually get their wish. If [...]

A single transferable Pro UK preference

Sat, 22 Apr 2017 04:42:00 +0000

Over the years I have had minimal interest in council elections. I simply want whoever runs the council to do their job as cheaply and efficiently as possible. Ideally I would like as little party politics as possible involved in how local services are run. I would much prefer it, for instance, if I put all my rubbish in one bin and that bin went out once a week. I don’t want my council to try to change the world. In fact I want them to do as little as possible, do that little well and charge me the smallest amount the can. However, in Scotland all elections are different. Every election is an expression of public opinion about the only political issue that matters to all of us. That is their importance and the reason why I intend to first write about the local election and then at a later date turn to the General Election.So long as public support for the SNP remains high the issue of Scottish independence will always be on the agenda. The key task for Pro UK people is to gradually whittle away at that support. The goal is first to create a strong opposition and then to take power away from the SNP. At present Theresa May has said that there will be no indyref2 any time soon (always use indyref2, the SNP don’t like it as it reminds them that they lost). The SNP will have to wait at least until Brexit is finished and we all have had a chance to see how it works in practice. This gives us some time. The ideal situation is to make the SNP go into the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 having to campaign explicitly for indyref2. Let all pro-independence parties make a clear, unambiguous manifesto commitment to indyref2 and see how the electorate responds. For too long the SNP have been pretending that a particular vote, in a General Election, or for the Scottish Parliament, is not about independence. They then later decide that it in fact was about independence. In fact all votes in Scotland are always only about independence.Theresa May can only maintain her “Not yet” strategy so long as Scottish public opinion allows her. It is crucial therefore that we take every chance to demonstrate that we agree with her. This is where council elections become important. They are not about bins, they are about the future of our country. The council elections in Scotland will take place on May 4th. The method of voting is by the Single Transferable Vote. This means that you can put a “1” in the box next to your first choice, “2” in the box next to your second choice etc. It is possible to have only one preference. Alternatively you can vote for as many or as few parties as you like. I don’t believe in negative campaigning, nor do I believe anymore in voting tactically in a First Past the Post General Election. I think voters should always vote for the party they support. I think campaigns to vote tactically against the SNP perversely help the SNP. The reason for this is that such campaigns are inherently negative and they get SNP supporters backs up. This encourages a “we will show them” mentality. At the last General Election I supported tactical voting. I was wrong. I think it contributed to the SNP winning nearly all the seats. I know that some people I like and respect will disagree with me about tactical voting. To an extent it depends on where you live. If a constituency is a marginal where only one of the Pro UK parties can challenge the SNP, then voters will naturally vote tactically. But elsewhere the vast majority of voters will not vote for a party they disagree with and rightly so. There is something dismal about it. Better by far to vote for a party you believe in. At least your choice is positive.  However [...]

What if the SNP held indyref2 without permission?

Sat, 15 Apr 2017 04:28:00 +0000

Nicola Sturgeon loves to make threats.  How often have we seen her put on her angry face, screw up her fists and start talking in her thickest Ayrshire accent about what she will do if her demands are not met? Her colleagues follow the leader. Every few days we see a story in a newspaper involving the latest SNP threat. Perhaps they will do this. Perhaps they will do that. Many of these stories are, of course, just kite flying. They want to see how Scottish voters will react. They want to keep everyone guessing and make everyone nervous. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be worried about what the SNP will do to us. Rather let them begin to be worried about what we might do to them. The SNP have ruled Scotland since 2007. They reached the peak of their power in 2015 when they won nearly all the seats at the General Election, but they lost their overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2016. Who knows, they may win it back next time round. But then again they may not. Parties rarely remain in power for ever. Eventually voters want to give the other guy a chance, if only so that they can see someone else’s face. So who knows how Scottish voters may eventually respond to Nicola Sturgeon’s threats? Most of us don’t want indyref2 anytime soon, if at all. Well we live in a democracy. We might decide to respond to her threats by voting for someone else. If enough of us do so, there will be no more threats. There are other ways we could respond also. If the SNP get to fly kites so too can we. Look at the following as a thought experiment. I’m not sure if it is feasible or even desirable, but it is an option. There has been the suggestion from Scottish nationalists that they might hold an independence referendum without the permission of the UK Government. Apparently it might be possible for the Scottish Parliament to vote for this even though such a referendum is a reserved matter and therefore outwith the powers of a devolved parliament. I have no idea how serious this suggestion is. Let’s assume that some nationalists, perhaps Nicola Sturgeon herself, are considering this option. How might we respond?Well in my view Pro UK political parties should have nothing to do with this sort of illegality. They should not turn up at the Scottish Parliament for any such vote. They should moreover suggest that if the Scottish Parliament is to be used illegally, they might decide to never turn up again. The Scottish Parliament has not passed a law in the last year. It is turning into something of a talking shop with no purpose. Well one response from sensible political parties would be to ignore its existence. The UK Government could decide that if the Scottish Parliament is being used to do things that are illegal, indeed seditious, it would be better if it ceased to be. This could be carried out simply by repealing the Scotland Act of 1998. A simple majority of MPs at Westminster would be sufficient. This would be perfectly legal. What if somehow the SNP succeeded in organizing an unofficial/illegal independence referendum? Well such a referendum could only be advisory. Then again aren’t all referendums only advisory? The result of the EU referendum could have been rejected by the UK Parliament. So therefore, logically,  could the result of the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. Likewise any second referendum result could be rejected. The UK Government then could promise that it would ignore the result of an illegal indyref2 on the grounds that the vote was illegitimate.How best should Pro UK Scots react to such an unofficial/illegal referendum? My view is that we should boycott it. Imagine if there were[...]

Indyref2 is in the long grass, we kicked it there

Sat, 08 Apr 2017 05:40:00 +0000

A short time ago it looked as if there would indyref2 within a year or so. I could feel the tension building within myself, I could sense it coming from others. If there were going to be another vote on independence next year, the campaign would begin more or less now. It would be another long and drawn out affair with the result uncertain to the end. All the old arguments would be repeated with new variants. I dreaded the prospect. It didn’t look as if anything could be done to stop this. Somehow an idea had developed in Scotland that you just couldn’t say “No” to Nicola Sturgeon. Apparently if you did something apocalyptic would happen. If a UK Prime Minister said “No” it would lead to something like the 1745 Rebellion. The clans would rise and support for Scottish independence would go through the roof. There is a lot of received wisdom put forward by journalists and others who apparently should be listened to. Much of it turns out to be quite wrong. Journalists often have access to sources that the rest of us don’t, but their ability to think is no better than anyone else’s. Sometimes it’s worse. They’ve been getting quite a lot of things wrong lately.Few political commentators thought that the Conservatives could win a majority at the last General Election. Perhaps fewer still thought that it was possible that the UK could vote for Brexit. Quite a large part of the media thought that a vote to leave the EU would lead to immediate economic disaster. Instead it has led to growth. Many journalists thought support for Scottish independence would rise, because we voted Remain while the majority of the UK voted Leave. Lots of journalists were until recently writing as if indyref2 was inevitable and it was happening soon. Theresa May wouldn’t dare say “No” and anyway Ruth Davidson would advise her not to. Now where are we? In First World War terms Nicola Sturgeon made her great push, but it got entangled in the barbed wire. Maybe Ruth Davidson was bluffing all along, but she came out in favour of blocking the latest SNP attempt to break up our country. Theresa May has stood firm. At the moment indyref2 has been kicked into the longest of grasses. Nicola Sturgeon is taking swing after swing, but she doesn’t actually even know where her ball is. Let the SNP spend the next few years looking for it. Meanwhile the rest of us can get on with our lives. The simple of tactic of telling Sturgeon that she would have to wait has proved effective. The UK Government has not said “No” rather they have said “Not yet”. Who knows when we will arrive at yet? It may be after the next Scottish Parliament elections, then again depending on the result it may be never. Has there been an uprising in Scotland? No. Quite the reverse. Pro UK Scots demonstrated to the Theresa May that we supported her stance. Hundreds of thousands of us signed a petition saying we didn’t want our lives disrupted by indyref2. This was crucial. This made a difference. It made more of a difference than anything I have ever written. Politics is about public opinion, which is expressed not only at elections. The SNP like to give the impression that they speak for Scotland. Pro UK people must continually show that they don’t. Each of us can contribute in different ways. But every Scot who shows that we agree with delaying, perhaps indefinitely, indyref2 helps Theresa May maintain that position. Of course some Scottish nationalists will be angry. That is after all their default position. But contrary to some expectations a Tory Prime Minister saying “Not yet” has not led to a surge in support for the S[...]

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Scotland is not a colony, the UK is not an empire

Sat, 01 Apr 2017 06:07:00 +0000

Alex Salmond wishes to inform us that “the days of the British Empire are over, and the days of British prime ministers denying self-determination to the Scottish people are over as well.” There are all sorts of odd things about this sort of statement. Most of us who have any knowledge of history are well aware that the British Empire is over. There are a few British Overseas Territories, but they are few and far between. They could hardly be called an Empire. So Mr Salmond is informing us of something we already know. Why is he talking of the British Empire at all? Could it be that he thinks that Scotland is somehow the last remnant of that Empire?I come across the idea every now and again from Scottish nationalists that Scotland is somehow a colony. I sometimes wonder where such ideas come from. Well obviously they come from the top. But it is a very odd idea none the less. If Scotland is a colony, who has been colonising us? From where have they come? During the British Empire people from the UK did indeed settle in parts of the Empire. Many of the descendants of those people still live in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. So who are the settlers who came to Scotland? Are they the English, the Poles or the Pakistanis? It’s fairly obvious how offensive this is likely to get quite quickly.Scotland isn’t a colony. Rather for the past 300 years and more we have been part of a nation state called the United Kingdom where people have moved about freely. Scots have moved to England in large numbers. English people have moved to Scotland. This is not settling an Empire, but rather it is people moving within their own country. I am not colonising England if I decide to set up home there. It is ludicrous and offensive to suggest that I am. Mr Salmond is complaining about a British Prime Minister apparently denying something to the Scottish people. What is this thing that is apparently being denied and who is denying it to whom? Firstly there is a false distinction between a “British Prime Minister” and the “Scottish people”. A British Prime Minister could well be a Scot and has been on many occasions. Moreover, the Scottish people are all British citizens. Some of them may not like this fact at the moment, but nevertheless it is a fact. Britain is not some Empire ruling over Scotland. Rather we are British. If you doubt this, I suggest you look at your passport at the point at which states British citizen. Has anyone denied self-determination to the Scottish people? It depends what we mean by the “Scottish people”. Who are they and how do we determine who they are? Are Scots a tribe that can be distinguished from other people in the UK? If so I would very much like to know on what basis Alex Salmond thinks he is from a different tribe to Theresa May. Is it because he speaks a different language to her? Is it because his culture or religion is vastly different to hers? Does he think that his ancestry means that his tribe by necessity must diverge from her tribe? What then is this “Scottish people” that Alex Salmond belongs to but, Theresa May doesn’t? How is it defined? No-one is denying self-determination to people in Scotland for the simple reason that we live in a democracy. The British Prime Minister was elected just as much by Scots as she was by any other British citizen. The fact that most Scots would have preferred someone else is neither here nor there. In any democracy some people are disappointed. Scotland is not ruled as if we were part of an Empire, because we each have just as much representation and just [...]

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What's so great about Britain?

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 05:43:00 +0000

Sometime in prehistory a group of people arrived on our island from Europe. They were Celts. We know next to nothing about them or the people who lived here before they arrived. All that is left of them are the monuments they left behind, places like Stonehenge and Scara Brae.  The Celtic speaking people of Britain, as far as we know, spoke more or less the same language up and down the country and if we’d been left alone, no doubt we would still be speaking the language of the Picts and the Iceni. But that wasn’t how history played out.  Our island has always been attractive to immigrants and they have made us what we are. We are all immigrants and we are all mongrels.The successive waves of Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans were not always absorbed without a struggle. There was conflict. But the mix proved beneficial. We are all equally the children of all of these ancestors. We all have the same heritage no matter which part of the UK we come from. There is no fundamental difference between someone from Scotland, from Wales from England or from Northern Ireland, just a variant on a theme, a slight difference in the mixture.Someone whose parents arrived on our island more recently is equally a part of our island story and an equally welcome addition to the mixture of our melting pot. We are all part of the same story of Britain, where people have arrived with hope because life here is good and always getting better. We’re good mixers the British and the mix that makes up the British people has been most fortunate for it has meant we have been at the forefront of much that is good in the world.We gave up feudalism centuries before many parts of Europe. We developed nascent forms of democracy and human rights earlier than anyone else; we gave up absolute monarchy while most of Europe still believed in the divine right of kings.  We developed free markets and free forms of trade, while most of Europe still had serfs. We were at the forefront of nearly every development that made Europe prosper from the agricultural revolution of the 18th century to the industrial revolution of the 19th century. But all these revolutions occurred here more or less peacefully. While Europe was rocked with revolutions in the 18th and 19th century, while they were torn apart by nationalism, we concentrated on slow, rather dull progress. Change came to Britain. We became gradually a fairer and more democratic country. We became wealthier and everyone shared in this wealth more and more. But we never revolted, we never overthrew. That was never the British way. We took our time and acted with due care gradually on our inexorable path to progress. It is not accidental that French philosophers of the 18th century, like Voltaire admired Britain and the liberty that was to be found here.  There was something in the British character that avoided extremes. Something in the mixture means the British have always liked moderation and so we looked on when the French chopped off the heads of their nobility, we looked on in 1830 and 1848 when Europeans took to the barricades. Instead here we had dull reform bills that gradually extended the franchise. Here we developed worldwide trade that more and more brought wealth to the nation and gave us the leisure to invent the sports played by the whole world. From British prosperity[...]

A defence of the UK (summary)

Sat, 04 Mar 2017 07:48:00 +0000

My essay A defence of the UK is long and detailed. But the main arguments can be summarised as follows:IntroductionWe must present arguments that are clear and true. Scottish politics has only one issue and is tending towards the politics of Northern Ireland. Is there a case for a single Pro UK party so that we are united against the SNP?The aim is to persuade moderate Scots. Leave the fundamentalist nationalists alone. Scottish independence involves long term uncertainty and potential instability. It could lead to results that none of us can guess. The structure of the essay involves listing ten disadvantages to independence, which at the same time show the advantages of staying in the UK. For campaigning to succeed it must involve a positive story about Britain while pointing out true disadvantages of Scottish independence. It must never be negative about Scotland as Scotland is a great place to live. But we have a perfect right to point out what is wrong with Scottish nationalism. Disadvantages1. Deficit.I describe what an economic deficit is and that Scotland has the largest in Europe. I explore why Scotland has a deficit and how being a part of the UK means that we don’t suffer the economic consequences. I explore the ways in which an independent Scotland would need to act in order to reduce its deficit. It would need to massively cut public spending and raise taxes. But this would prove counterproductive as it would have the effect of inhibiting economic growth. The deficit alone makes the SNP’s desire for independence untenable at the moment.2. Debt.I show how having a deficit would inevitably lead to the Scottish economy being in debt. I then explain that it is likely that Scotland would have to take on a share of the former UK’s national debt. I use the word “former” as a way of pointing out that Scottish independence would mean that the UK would cease to exit.A refusal to do take a share of the debt would mean that Scotland would have no share of the former UK’s assets and could expect no cooperation or friendly relations. I point out that whatever debt Scotland had we would have to pay a higher interest rate than the UK does at present.3. Currency.I make clear that the present circumstances of Brexit make it impossible for Scotland to retain pound sterling as part of a currency union. There would then be three alternatives. Scotland could use the pound unofficially, but this would make our financial services industry untenable. We could have our own Scottish pound or we could have the Euro. If Scotland were to join the EU we would have to promise to join the Euro. This would involve setting up a Scottish pound and central bank only to abolish it upon joining. If Scotland failed to join the Euro but pegged a Scottish pound against pound Sterling, it is worth remembering that pegs can break. I point out that all of these options would have potentially damaging real world consequences for ordinary Scots with mortgages which are at present denominated in pounds Sterling. The Euro would probably be the best option, but no option is better than our present arrangement, which can only be kept by our remaining a part of the UK.4. TradeBecause the UK is leaving the EU, Scottish independence would now involve Scotland and the former UK ending up in different trade blocs. But we do the vast majority of our trade [...]

A defence of the UK

Sat, 04 Mar 2017 06:34:00 +0000

IntroductionThe main feature of living in a modern democracy is that nearly everybody gets to vote. As John Donne once said in a rather different context an election “comes equally to us all, and makes us all equal when it comes”. At one point only people with a certain amount of property could vote. At another point men could vote but women couldn’t. Now every citizen over the age of eighteen can vote. A Nobel Prize winning scientist has one vote. So too does a person who left school with no qualifications. Some people follow political debates closely. Some hardly follow them at all. Some people think they understand all the issues while others vote because of intuition or because that’s the way their friends vote. None of this matters as it all evens itself out. In a large population the wise counterbalance the foolish. If you ask a million people a question, very often the majority have the correct answer. There is a wisdom in crowds. Anyway that is the system we have and there is no changing it.There is only one issue in Scottish politics. This has been the case since the SNP were first voted into power in Holyrood. Other issues are talked about and debated, but they don’t matter. Scots do not vote according to their opinion on what to do about education or health care. The vast majority of Scottish voters vote according to whether they want Scottish independence or they don’t. This remains the case even if an election is not explicitly about Scottish independence.In this way our politics has come to resemble the politics of Northern Ireland. People there vote according to identity. The difference is that they tend to unite behind one Pro UK party (the DUP) or one anti UK party (Sinn Féin). I suspect that many Northern Irish voters don’t particularly like either of the main parties they vote for, but they are aware that the alternative is to split the vote and thereby damage their side of the argument. There may come a time in Scotland where the Pro UK side has to unite rather than split itself into three parts. Whichever of the three turns out to be the strongest and most Pro UK may gain the vote of all Pro UK Scots. We are not there yet. But there will come a time if the Conservatives continue to increase support that sensible Labour or Lib Dem voters will reason that they can live with Ruth Davidson’s centrist politics as she has the best chance of defending our position in the UK. We still have a way to go before we shake off the tribalism of voting for red, blue or orange. But the nationalists shook it off a while back and they all now vote for one party or for parties like the Greens that are fellow travellers and will do what the SNP asks. At the very least, in the forthcoming council elections vote in such a way that we send a clear message to Sturgeon. We don’t want another independence referendum anytime soon. If the SNP do worse than expected and if the Pro UK opposition increases its support it will strengthen Theresa May’s hand.Because there is only one issue in Scottish politics it is worth looking at the main arguments in such a way that they are comprehensible to everyone. A lot of what is written in newspapers and spoken about by politicians is very dull. People quote statistics at each other and make up stories about what would happen if we vote one way o[...]

Playing hardball with Mrs Angry

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 06:11:00 +0000

There’s a little woman I know who is from the Glasgow area and she always gets her own way. If there is a committee meeting she is aggressive. She interrupts. She tries to belittle the point of view of others. People avoid getting into an argument with her because rather than discuss calmly she gets emotional. She makes assertions which are really just her own opinions, but they are presented as truths. If someone crosses her she will bear a grudge, but at the same time she is a sycophant always trying to find allies and sucking up to superiors. I’m sure most of us know men and women like this in the world of work or elsewhere. The problem is that these tactics frequently work. Most of us want a quiet life. If I come across Mr Angry on the street I do my best to avoid eye contact. The problem in Scottish politics is that we are confronted with legions of Mr and Mrs Angry lead by the angriest woman of them all. The problem is that they have been indulged. They have been spoiled. No-one dares to stand up to them. It’s time we started daring.We may have to face another Scottish independence referendum. I am sick to my stomach at the prospect. Must we really have to go through all that again? Only this time I suspect it would be much worse. The experience of conflict changes you. The first independence referendum divided Scotland in a way that I could not have imagined previously. The nationalists may enjoy this. They claim that they found the experience inspiring. I did not. There will come a point quite soon when the prize for either side will not be worth having. It will be a permanently divided country whether independent or not. We all learn from each other’s tactics. The SNP chose not to accept the result last time. They just kept fighting. I doubt they would accept defeat next time. Yet they appear to think that if they could win by one vote everyone who disagrees with independence would joyfully accept the result and come together united as one Scotland. This may have been the case last time, but we have learned. We too could campaign to overturn the result at an election or through the courts. But no doubt the SNP calculate that the disagreement of nearly half the population would not matter. They are becoming ever more centralist and authoritarian in government. This would be enough to hold Scotland together under all circumstances like it or not.We do not ask for this fight. We thought that the last battle was decisive. That is what we were told. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes it is necessary to fight over the same ground twice before we can relax knowing our country is safe. If that is how it has to be, so be it. But for goodness sake make this the final battle and let us at least fight it on our own terms and on ground of our own choosing.The reputation of David Cameron is looking worse and worse as time goes on. His greatest tragic flaw was overconfidence. He thought he would win a referendum on Scottish independence easily. After all the SNP were miles behind in the polls. He should never have granted it at all. It was the experience of the campaign that created mass nationalism in Scotland. Cameron should have simply told Alex Salmond that the United Kingdom like every other European country was indivisible and it could not be br[...]

How to respond to Nationalist threats

Sat, 11 Feb 2017 07:06:00 +0000

Before finally deciding to campaign for Brexit, Boris Johnson prepared two articles for his regular Telegraph column. The first explained why he was choosing to vote Leave the other why he was choosing to vote for Remain. Many people would see this as a sign that his eventual decision was calculating and based on self-interest. I would hope that most of us make decisions by means of calculating the pros and cons and I would suggest that few indeed are the people that do not at least take into account self-interest when they decide to do anything. Moreover, as events showed the Theresa May route of backing Remain while not doing so enthusiastically was the path more likely to lead to the big prize. The important point however, is that on certain issues people are genuinely torn. I know I was. It is these people who decide elections.The decision in the EU referendum was difficult because of our inability to see into the future. Many British people perhaps didn’t much like the EU, but they could see that there were risks involved in leaving. Voting to stay meant that things would go on more or less the same in the near future. If you thought life wasn’t so bad this had its attractions. What if all the horrible things the Remain campaign predicted turned out to be true? After a few months it is becoming clearer that the sky will not fall in. Of course, we haven’t left yet, but the predictions made by Remain were that the UK would immediately suffer from choosing to leave the EU. The reverse has been the case. There is an important lesson here for Pro UK people. I do not agree with some Scottish commentators that it shows a lack of understanding of the Scottish people for English Tories to suggest that Theresa May should say “No” to a second independence referendum. I think these commentators misunderstand the risk of saying go ahead. Let Nicola Sturgeon have a tantrum. Let the Scottish Nationalists go on demonstrations. Let Scottish opinion be inflamed. So what? Like a toddler on the floor of a supermarket screaming its head off such actions have nowhere to go. If we hold firm, we can block the SNP indefinitely. If we don’t, we might lose our country for ever. Every single European country, plus each member of the Security Council would agree that Theresa May was within her rights to say “No Nicola, you have had your referendum and you will have to wait some years to have another.” British Prime Ministers blocked the desire for an EU referendum for years even though they knew there was huge support for one. George Osborne thought David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum was foolish. Must we really live in a world where we are continually held to ransom by Nicola Sturgeon? If Theresa May has the legal right to say “No” then let her say “No”. The Scottish Parliament does not have control over constitutional matters and therefore cannot have a mandate over such issues. There is nothing remotely undemocratic about saying this is an issue for us not you. This is an issue that was settled decisively only a short time ago. Demonstrate and fume all you like.But until and unless we hear authoritatively that there is not going to be a second independence referendum any time soon we must prepare as if there will be. Many Pro UK [...]

Theresa May makes Sturgeon look petty and foolish

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 05:32:00 +0000

There is developing an extraordinary difference between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon. It is impossible to imagine Nicola Sturgeon going to Washington and charming everyone she meets. While May has dignity, character, politeness and obvious intellect, Sturgeon simply doesn’t. May puts her points with force, but not with anger. She is subtle while Sturgeon has the subtlety of a Glasgow handshake. I can’t recall hearing Theresa May make an overt threat. I can’t recall hearing Nicola Sturgeon have a conversation that doesn’t involve a threat. I can’t remember Theresa May ever saying something that could be described as a grievance. She suggests the motto “Never complain, never explain”. The force is in what she doesn’t say. I can’t remember Sturgeon saying anything that didn’t involve a grievance. It’s always someone else’s fault (this is why she is mocked as Elsie).  She is incapable of taking responsibility for anything. It must be tough for Sturgeon to see how Theresa May is doing so well. I don’t remember particularly rating May prior to her becoming Prime Minister. She was just another Tory minister who had not achieved particularly much as Home Secretary. She set out to limit immigration to the tens of thousands and then didn’t campaign for the only method which she knew would achieve that goal. I found her decision to back Remain, but then hardly campaign for it to be lacking in conviction. I would have chosen someone else to be Prime Minister. But May has done much better than expected. Her speech when she became Prime Minister set the tone. Her defence of the UK was most welcome. Her answer to Nicola Sturgeon that the question of Scottish independence has been settled was perfect. She didn’t get angry with Sturgeon. She went up to Edinburgh and didn’t complain when she was made to sit in front of two Scottish flags. It was a matter of indifference to May, something trivial, while the fact that it was so obviously crucial to Sturgeon showed that the SNP leader was trivial, concerned more with appearance than substance. During the EU referendum the Tory party was at war with itself, but May brought peace in a way that perhaps no-one else could have. The Brexiteers were given high ranking positions, the Cameroons were driven into the wilderness and Remain supporters like Philip Hammond and indeed May herself worked hard to make Brexit a reality. While some Remain supporters fought a rear-guard battle to prevent us leaving the EU, May didn’t throw a tantrum à la Sturgeon. Instead she gradually made it happen. Now the rear-guard looks like noise, the sort of thing that is forgotten by history. There was a Supreme Court judgement the other week, but it no longer mattered.Theresa May has turned out to be a lucky Prime Minister. Who could have guessed in June that Winston Churchill’s bust would be back in the Oval office? Who could have guessed that the President of the United States would actually like Britain and would offer us a trade deal? It looks very much as if Theresa May is able to do business with Trump. Her quiet manner works. She doesn’t set out to offend him. Rather she quietly fulfils her diplomatic mission. Trump thought NATO was obsolete, but after a short c[...]

How Donald Trump could limit migration more fairly

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 05:32:00 +0000

Most people in modern Britain have little or no experience of visas. Either we don’t need a visa or else it’s straightforward to obtain one by spending a few minutes on a computer.  Most people don’t want to go to the places, like Russia or China, which require visas you have to send away for, but with a little trouble, expense and form filling it’s not that difficult to go to Moscow, Beijing or even Minsk. There are some places that are genuinely tough to visit. Bhutan in the Himalayas makes you pay a $250 tax per day just to go there. They have only relatively recently opened their country to the world at all. They don’t want to be overwhelmed by the modern world and its people. Still with a few exceptions if we have enough money we can visit almost any country in the world. Money opens doors.What we frequently forget in Britain is that huge numbers of people in the world cannot travel where they please for the simple reason that they don’t have enough money to do so. It’s difficult if not impossible for all but the wealthiest Russians to come to the UK. In order to obtain a tourist visa to visit the UK you have to demonstrate that you have enough money to take care of yourself and stay in hotels for the duration of your stay. You have to show that you have a job and property in Russia and that it is likely that you will return. It is easier if you have a UK resident who can sponsor your trip, but the process of obtaining a visa is still expensive, time consuming and far from guaranteed. For the most part it is practically speaking impossible for the average Russian citizen to come to live and work in the UK unless they marry a Brit.Are we then discriminating against Russians? Yes we are. Someone who was born in a part of the Soviet Union that is now Latvia has the right to live and work in the UK by virtue of Latvia being in the EU. Another person who was born a Soviet citizen doesn’t have that right. This might seem unfair, but this is the nature of the world. We don’t allow everyone from the world even to visit the UK because we think that if we did a proportion would overstay or in some other way abuse their visas  We make a distinction between people from some countries who find it easy to visit Britain and people from other countries who find it hard or even impossible to visit. On what basis do we do this? Well generally we favour people from friendly nations and allies. We also favour people from countries with standards of living which are similar to ours. Few Japanese people would want to work illegally in the UK, but lots of Russians would. This is because the standard of living in Japan is similar to the UK, while in Russia it is much lower. The likelihood of someone abusing the visa granted to them is a key part of the calculation of whether the visa is granted or not. We are then already discriminating against the vast majority of citizens in the world. Every Western country does the same. Unless you favour a world without borders, which is very noble of you, but not very practical, then it is necessary to accept that we have to limit the right of most people in the world to travel to the UK.  The Conservative Party for some years has wished [...]