NOVEMBER 02 2006
Latest JAN 24th 2012
Browsing ePolitix.com I see that:
Majority of Scots favour separation, says poll
ICM survey for Thursday's Scotsman newspaper also
found a surge in support for the SNP just months away from next May's
Scottish parliamentary elections.
government and Edinburgh executive.
poll showed support for Scottish independence running at 51 per cent,
the first time since 1998, the year before devolution, that support for
separation has attained a majority.
and 10 per cent who say they don't know which option they would choose.
the first the poll shows a resurgent SNP enjoying 32 per cent support
to Labour's 30 per cent. On the second both parties are level on 28 per
if the results were replicated in May's election the ruling
Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition would retain a majority in the
yes....what can be said about this. I have always thought of Scotland
as a most vital part of the UK. My past Scottish experiences in the
1960s were memorable. But some of them do seem to be going off now if
we are to believe the latest statistics (though definitely not at
Leuchars where I just spent 3 great days) . A simple solution would be
to give them independence within the EU, cut off the funding and
subsidies they benefit from and put that towards the reconstruction of
Northern Ireland society to which we are about to commit many billions.
This would solve all our problems at a stroke, including the Midlothian
Question, though we would of course have a massive influx of refugees
from Scotland and the remaining Scots would have a disaster on their
hands unless saved by massive investment from dubious offshore sources
(Sean Connery would of course go for big splash, but it would need
serious drug money as well).
think the thing to do
is remain totally relaxed on the whole thing and let them do what they
want, as long as they pay for it.. If it comes to a civil war in
Scotland I guess the secessionists might lose.
NOVEMBER 05 2006
More from ePolitix.com
Ministers 'miscalculated' on devolution
Alex Salmond has said that there is growing
support for nationalism in Scotland.
The SNP leader said recent polls showing a narrow
majority in favour of separation proved that ministers had
"miscalculated" in offering only limited devolution.
"Initially people wanted to try the devolved
parliament, they wanted to suck it and see," he told the BBC's Sunday
But the present arrangements had been "found to be
inadequate", he argued, because too much power remained in Westminster.
Salmond said chancellor Gordon Brown had a "vested
interest" in retaining the union because he would need Scottish MPs to
allow him to form a government in Westminster as prime minister.
And he said he would be "fighting Gordon Brown"
rather than Jack McConnell in next year's Holyrood elections because of
the Labour first minister's low profile.
NOVEMBER 25th 2006
to above by Alex Salmond is no
doubt based on genuine personal frustration and some disappointment,
but that is not a good basis for forward planning.
split would harm UK - Brown
Chancellor Gordon Brown has warned that everyone in the United
would suffer economically and culturally if Scotland voted for
Mr Brown told the Scottish
Labour Party conference that the economic futures of Scotland and the
rest of the UK are inextricably linked.
The chancellor said UK links should be maintained for "solidarity"
in the age of "interdependence".
Mr Brown also used his conference speech to attack Labour's
Earlier, writing in the Daily Record newspaper, he pointed to links
between Scotland and the rest of the UK by saying: "Two-and-a-half
million people in Scotland have a family in England."
He added: "Almost one in six Scots make their home
south of the border and 400,000 people who live in Scotland are
In his conference speech, he claimed that Britain is a model for
how countries can co-operate together.
Mr Brown said: "The 21st Century is going to be characterised by
He added that those who "believe in solidarity across borders and
across countries know that to sever links with countries when these
links are so close is not only bad for economics, it is bad for the
solidarity that should exist across borders and across countries in
BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said Mr Brown's comments
amid mounting fears within the government that the Scottish National
Party could be victorious in next May's elections to the Scottish
On Friday, Prime Minister Tony Blair urged Labour to defend
Scotland from the "constitutional nightmare" of an SNP government.
Speaking at the conference, the chancellor said Labour had to
"expose" what its opponents "are up to".
He said: "The Conservatives don't care about the union and about
Britain. They are fighting a policy of English votes for English laws.
"The Liberals have a shopping list that doesn't add up at any
"And the Nationalists continue to practice a politics of grudge and
grievance and we have got to expose it."
be a problem I do admit and we might have to close the border.
Come back Hadrian. Maybe Gordon's got a point.
existence is at risk - Brown
The identity of the United Kingdom is threatened by an "opportunist
group of nationalists", Gordon Brown has warned.
The chancellor told the Fabian Society that some groups were
fast and loose" with the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern
He said the UK was a country "built on shared values" which served
as a "model for the rest of the world".
SNP leader Alex Salmond said Mr Brown was thinking only of his
"self-interest as a prime minister designate".
Mr Brown, a Scot who is MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, is
expected to take over as prime minister later this year.
Talking to former Labour MP Oona King at the start of the Labour
think-tank's conference, Mr Brown stressed the importance of the
country's shared values.
| He cannot tolerate the idea of
Scotland slipping out of Labour's control just at the point he wants to
move into No 10
Scottish National Party
"It is very important to recognise that Britishness and Britain
itself is not based on ethnicity and race," he said.
"It is founded on shared values that we hold in common: a commitment
liberty for all, a commitment to social responsibility shown by all,
and a commitment to fairness to all."
He said there was now a dividing line in Britain which
pitted "those of us who are prepared to support the shared values of
the union" against "those who are prepared to play fast and loose with
the union and put the whole future of the union at risk".
This year is the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union that merged
the English and Scottish parliaments.
The pro-independence Scottish National Party is tipped to do well in
the Scottish Parliament elections in May, with the independence debate
likely to crop up often in the campaign.
SNP leader Mr Salmond said the chancellor "could not tolerate the
of Scotland slipping out of Labour's control just at the point he wants
to move into No 10".
"Revealingly, Mr Brown is unable to accept that, under
his chancellorship, the Scottish economy has lagged behind both the UK
and spectacularly, the small independent countries in Europe."
The Conservatives have suggested for some time now that
it might be better if exclusively English laws were voted on by English
But Mr Brown said the idea of "English votes for English laws"
would pull the union apart.
During a wide-ranging address to the Fabians, Mr Brown pledged
support for the idea of raising the school-leaving age to 18.
And he told delegates that terrorism and security issues could not
be solved through military means alone.
Earlier, he had written an article in the Daily Telegraph where he
criticised the Conservatives for siding with the nationalists over
In it he warned: "It is now time for supporters of the
union to speak up, to resist any drift towards a Balkanisation of
Britain and to acknowledge Great Britain for the success it has been
He attacked today's Conservatives for embracing
"anti-unionist positions" in collusion with nationalists - contrasting
them with Lady Thatcher's determined support for the union.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said the
chancellor was right to highlight the "Faustian bargain" between the
nationalists and the Tories.
"They may have different motives but their actions will
jointly lead to the same conclusion - the break-up of the union," he
But shadow Scotland secretary David Mundell said the
chancellor was "undermining Britishness with his support for English
regionalisation, identity cards and the European constitution."
Mr Mundell also accused the chancellor of sticking his "head in the
sand" over any modernisation of the union.
He told BBC News 24: "Gordon Brown simply sticks his head in the
and says the only way to deal with that issue, and that question, is
not to ask it."
Bruce Anderson: The Union with England pulled Scotland out of
poverty, and it would be madness to end it
Scots feel insecure about their national identity, and threatened
by their over-mighty neighbour
Published: 30 April 2007
This was not meant to happen. Scottish devolution was supposed to
satisfy most Scots who wanted a political expression of national
identity. In so doing, it would ensure that the SNP became a mere party
of protest. Well, if the polls are right, the Nats will come first on
Thursday. They will still be some way short of half the seats, let
alone half the votes. But first place would convey moral momentum.
With the tacit support of various fringe parties plus the Tartan
- the Scottish Liberals - Alex Salmond will almost certainly become
First Minister. Though it would not be a stable administration, this
would not worry Mr Salmond. There would be endless opportunities for
disruption, with he and his ministers insisting that London was to
blame for all of Scotland's woes. Alex Salmond would rely on his
political skills, plus his opponents' lack of them. Throughout his
manoeuvrings, he would be waiting for the moment to launch his
Though he would not be counting on them, he might well find allies
in England. Ultimately, the mortal threat to the Union could come from
south of the border. There is only one circumstance in which the Scots
would vote to separate themselves from England's chequebook: if the
polling booths did not close until after closing time on Saturday.
Otherwise, common sense would prevail. But the English might opt for
their version of common sense.
Over the past 40 years, there has been no more fascinating political
phenomenon than the rise of the Cross of St George. At the 1966 World
Cup, the English went into action under the Union Flag. So how did St.
George's Cross move from the church steeple to white-van-man's bonnet?
Although no one seems to know, it does not suggest that English
Unionism is in good order.
One might have thought, and hoped, that Englishmen's swords would
have leapt from their scabbards to defend the integrity of the United
Kingdom. That may now be a sentimental illusion. A lot of English
voters are forming the impression that the Scots do not like them, that
they rejoice in England's sporting defeats by other nations - while
filling their boots with English subsidies and sending their MPs to
impose laws on England that do not apply in Scotland. Over the years,
the Scots have grown accustomed to proclaiming their grievances with no
retaliation from England. They would be foolish to rely on an
indefinite supply of English reticence.
So what has gone wrong? It is tempting to answer, "everything''. The
devolved Parliament is a wretched body. The Scots have a word,
"mouthless'', whose meaning is self-evident. If it had not already
existed, it would have been invented to describe the debates in the
Holyrood Parliament. They are a disgrace in a country which has always
prided itself on its standard of education.
The final Scottish Parliament, which voted to extinguish itself
before the Act of Union, had no claims to be democratic. Yet its
standards of debate were infinitely higher than its successor 300 years
on. Few, if any, Scots respect the current parliament. The Scots are
prone to suffer from political delusions, but in this instance they are
Underlying the disillusion with Holyrood there is the long
psychodrama of Scotland's relationship with England. On the left they
pretended that this was all Maggie's fault. There is no doubt that Mrs
Thatcher was widely loathed in Scotland. However much she professed her
- sincere - admiration for the Scottish Enlightenment, whose luminaries
were the progenitors of Thatcherism, many Scots saw her as a South
Kensington nationalist. Thus the understandable view on the left that
once she was gone and devolution achieved, all would be well.
This ignored the crisis which had been caused by the end of Empire.
As long as there was an Empire, the Scots were happy to be British.
Imperial commerce and administration enriched many a Scottish family.
But as the Union Flags were lowered at the Imperial sunset, horizons
contracted and resentments grew. The Scots felt insecure about their
national identity, and threatened by their over-mighty neighbour.
There is no precedent or parallel for a small country to find itself
in a democratic union with a nation 10 times it size (Wales was never a
political nation). It was easy for Scottish malcontents to claim that
Scotland was England's last important colony. This was not England's
fault. In the United Kingdom, English predominance was ensured by size,
not by arrogance. Even so, large numbers of Scots became obsessed by
the Anglo-Scottish relationship. Every time an Englishman said
"England'' to mean "Britain'' many Scots regarded it as a casus belli.
All this was inflamed by the use of history to promote Scottish
nationalism and anti-English feelings. Ulster Protestants are often
accused of talking as if the Battle of the Boyne (1690) took place last
week. What about the Scots? Wallace's heroic gore, the glory of
Bannockburn, the grief of Flodden and the Flowers of the Forest: these
are still live events in contemporary Scottish politics, even though
Flodden, the latest of them, took place in 1513.
Admittedly, the Battle of Culloden was as recent as 1746. But it has
also become part of an anti-English national narrative, even though
there were more Scots in the Duke of Cumberland's army than in Bonny
Prince Charlie's. In the early decades of the 19th century, the ancient
Highland order was engaged in a doomed, romantic, cattle-raiding final
phase of resistance against the forces of modernity, which included the
Scottish Lowlands. At the same time, Edinburgh was becoming a world
capital of intellect. Glasgow would shortly follow, as a great
entrepôt. The Union with England pulled Scotland out of poverty
backwardness. Yet most Scots still believe that their history entitles
them to demand reparations from the English.
None of this will be solved before Thursday. From a Unionist point
of view, it has been a hopeless election campaign. Those who are
opposed to Scottish independence have been reduced to claiming that
Scotland is not fit to run itself. Though this is not an implausible
argument, it is hardly calculated to win over Scottish voters. The
other parties have seemed desperate for power, despite their past
failures, while Alex Salmond has come over as fresh and exciting. He is
also the cleverest Scottish politician based north of the border.
As for the hope that the SNP could be dismissed as a party of
protest, anyone who believed that was taking insufficient account of
the Scottish character. It is as hard to sell protest in Scotland as it
is to sell cold beer in Australia.
Those of us who support the Union will have to hope that the opinion
polls are wrong. In order to prove them so there is only one thing to
be done. It may seem an unlikely endorsement from this column, but
apart from the few constituencies where the Tory candidate could win,
everyone in Scotland who believes in the Union should vote Labour.
of the elegible electorate voted for the SNP and we are reliably
informed that many of those would never vote for independence. Salmond
is not to be taken seriously on that score.
Stephen King: Europe would be Scotland's best bet. Is that really
what the SNP wants?
There's no reason why the MPC should attend to the needs of an
Published: 08 May 2007
The Scottish National Party's victory in last week's elections might
still amount to no more than a hill of beans. The SNP may have 47 seats
in Scotland's Parliament compared with the 46 held by Labour, but
neither party has anything like a working majority. There are, after
all, a total of 129 seats.
Nevertheless, the SNP has got one foot through the door marked
"independence". What, economically, might independence mean for the
people of Scotland?
Oddly enough, my initial, knee-jerk answer is "not very much".
Politicians are always fond of claiming they can transform the
performance of an economy but most of these "political" transformations
are either limited in their ambition or, alternatively, simply
unsustainable. It's all very well establishing a national border just
north of Berwick upon Tweed but everyone knows these days that national
borders no longer determine economic borders. Of course, it's always
possible to impose capital controls or place limits on trade but
neither of these would be too clever and neither, within the European
Union, would be legal.
So, to get to the heart of economic independence, I think we have to
go back a few steps. In particular, we need to think about the
institutional arrangements that may have an impact on economic
progress. Of these, one of the more important is money.
The Bank of England currently sets Scottish monetary policy as part
of its mandate to achieve price stability in the United Kingdom. What
happens, though, if Scotland votes for independence? Alex Salmond, the
SNP's leader, has already accepted that, in the months and years
initially following independence, sterling would remain Scotland's
currency. However, Mr Salmond has also dropped a few hints suggesting
that, ultimately, he'd be more than happy to consider membership of the
What should the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee do in
its first meeting following Scottish independence? Should the
Committee's members consider Scotland's economic performance alongside
other parts of the former United Kingdom in coming to a decision with
regard to interest rates? Or, instead, should they cast Scotland's
Presumably, the decision ultimately rests with what would now be the
England, Wales and Northern Ireland parliament in London. It seems to
me, though, that there is no particular reason why the Bank of England
should pay much attention to developments north of the border. If
Scotland's leaders decide to stick with the Bank of England's monetary
policy, that's up to them, in much the same way that Hong Kong's
leadership chooses passively to accept the monetary rigours of the US
Federal Reserve. It's monetary policy without representation, the price
to be paid for piggy-backing on someone else's credible monetary
Another option would be to argue in favour of a sterling "monetary
union" between Scotland and the economies south of the border, along
the lines of the monetary union that exists for the countries within
the eurozone. It's difficult, though, to see how the eurozone model
could apply to Scottish independence. The European Central Bank's
(ECB's) Governing Council includes representatives from all nations who
are members of the euro. Applying similar principles to the Bank of
England would require a national representative from Scotland. But why
should Scotland get an independent voice when Wales, Cornwall and
London presumably would not?
True monetary independence requires a separate currency but it's
doubtful that Scotland would ever go down this route, even if there are
a few precedents. Irish punts were first introduced in 1928, six years
after Irish independence although, for many years, they really behaved
a bit like Scottish banknotes: different from sterling in appearance
but, ultimately, much the same thing. It wasn't really until the
formation of the European exchange rate mechanism in 1979 that the
Irish currency went its own way. Even then, its room for manoeuvre was
curtailed and, not long after, the punt disappeared from view
altogether, subsumed into the euro in 1999.
Then there's the Australian pound which, for many years after its
introduction early in the 20th century, stuck like a limpet to
sterling. Only following the Depression at the beginning of the 1930s
did Australia go its own way, choosing to devalue its pound against
sterling and a range of other currencies.
These days, though, many small economies which trade a lot with
others end up joining monetary unions. The costs of independence -
widely fluctuating exchange rates, volatile interest rates,
unpredictable capital flows, particularly for what would be an
oil-centric state - are just too painful, making membership of a
broader club an attractive option (Norway is sometimes argued to be an
exception, but Norway's economy has had huge ups and downs over the
last few decades). For Scotland, the euro has a certain allure. Joining
the euro would, first, underline Scotland's separation from England,
second, provide (at the moment) a windfall reduction in interest rates
and, third, deliver the Governor of a Scottish Central Bank a seat at
the ECB's policy table.
This might not be monetary independence, but it does emphasise that
Scotland would, at least, have a monetary choice. Certainly, the lower
interest rates on offer in the euro area would be an attraction, but
this kind of argument is rather phoney: lower rates might pave the way
for higher inflation, rampant gains in house prices and growing
inequalities of wealth (I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a
taxi driver in Dublin. We were talking about the costs of overheating -
notably the terrible traffic congestion - so I cheerfully pointed out
that at least he'd made some money out of his house. Unfortunately, it
turned out that he rented, and at that point the conversation went just
a little flat).
Perhaps Scotland's real economic hopes lie, instead, on the fiscal
side. Why not be another Celtic tiger and emulate Ireland's remarkable
story? Plenty of explanations have been put forward to explain
Ireland's success in the 1990s and beyond (although Scotland's leaders
should also examine carefully Ireland's earlier decades of economic
failure). The legalisation of contraception in 1980 contributed to a
falling birth rate which, in turn, gave women more opportunities to
find work. When the economy began to improve, Ireland was able to tap
into its diaspora, with many prodigal workers returning home. On top of
all these factors, though, was Ireland's decision to set remarkably low
corporate tax rates to encourage foreign capital to head to the Emerald
Could Scotland do the same? Possibly, but there are some notable
obstacles. North Sea Oil is a mixed blessing. Big changes in oil prices
can leave an economy rich one minute and poor the next. A dominant oil
sector can make it difficult to attract investment for other purposes
(think of Russia and the Middle East). And it took Ireland many decades
before, finally, it turned into the Celtic tiger we recognise today.
The most economically credible aspect of Scotland's desire for
independence is, I suspect, the existence of the European Union. A few
years ago, Quebec went through the same kind of soul-searching. French
Canada wasn't sure it was really Canadian. Ultimately, though, Quebec
stayed Canadian, perhaps because the alternative was, economically, an
empty void. For Scotland, there's no such void. It may want to rid
itself of English institutions, but there are plenty of European
institutions already established waiting to take over. From that
perspective, Scottish independence is definitely do-able. Whether it
amounts to the independence the SNP dreams of is, of course, another
Stephen King is managing director of economics at HSBC
AUGUST 14th 2007
Alex Salmond is having rather a good time as First Minister of the
Scottish Executive. But he is still basing his ideas for independence
on the strange theory that North Sea oil belngs to Scotland. Lets face
it, if the UK had not spent the last 1000 years getting its act
together and acting as it did, Scotland would have become part of a
Nazi Europe. North Sea Oil belongs just as much to the Welsh, English
and Irish as it does to the inhabitants of Scotland. Geography is a
most important subject, much neglected these days, and History is a
vital component of it. The North Sea has been defended by the Royal
Navy for some time, I observe, and the oil has been extracted by UK and
international expertise and investment. Scotland has benefited for
geographical reasons by a great deal of participation and employment.
To claim 'ownership' is absurd. Without that claim, Salmond's financial
theories of independence are bust.
outlines independence plans
Scotland's SNP government has set out its plans for a referendum on
independence, despite opposition from other main political parties.
Launching a "national conversation", First Minister Alex Salmond
said "no change was no longer an option".
The SNP leader said the white paper set out the "full range of
options" which would be debated.
Labour, Tories and Lib Dems, who hold a majority in the Scottish
Parliament, have united to oppose independence.
In a broad, 40-page document, Mr Salmond set out the case for a
on independence, while saying he was "open-minded" on alternative
| The opportunity now presents
itself for those who want another option in a referendum to define that
He claimed it was the "settled will" of the Scottish people for
their parliament to grow in "influence and authority".
The white paper sets out what the SNP sees as the three main
"realistic" choices for Scots.
These are: the present devolved set-up, re-designing devolution by
extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament in specific areas - or
The white paper also includes the draft wording of the ballot paper
for a referendum.
This asks voters whether they agree or disagree "that the Scottish
government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of a
United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state".
'Division and uncertainty'
However, Mr Salmond said he was "relaxed" about the possibility of
a multi-option referendum.
He said: "The opportunity now presents itself for those who want
another option in a referendum to define that option and present the
case to the government for inclusion on the ballot paper".
The first minister unveiled his white paper the day
after Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems joined forces to claim the
plan would damage Scotland by creating division and uncertainty.
All the other parties aside from the Greens, who have
two MSPs, are opposed to independence - but said they were willing to
to turn Scotland into a tax haven and a
refuge for all sorts of people who would take advantage of a way to
back out of liabilities for long term and immediate national defence. I
find this despicable. The whole world can play that game, and many NATO
member countries do just that. If only they didn't we would be less
dependent on the US and, while I am a great supporter of the 'special
relationship', I would prefer a more European based global approach.
That alone can give diplomatic and economic sticks and carrots the
strength we require to manage global affairs with less recourse to
intervention. Independence 'lite' is dishonest. Real indpendence would
have to be based on a downright lie. I have long been of the opinion
our clearing banks are run by opportunists who bribe us with 'free
banking' so that we keep our mouths shut about the ways they really
make their profits, including stoking inappropriate debt to keep the
money rolling, allowing masses of fraud and covering it by dubious
methods of collection. They of course are entitled to play it the way
they do, but it is better to straighten up and fly right. Allowing Alex
Salmond to believe for one moment that Scotland, rather than the UK as
a whole, has proprietary rights to our North Sea oil fields, is
something no honest banker could be party to.
MARCH 28th 2008
I am glad the PM is going to tackle the SNP head on. The idea of
independence for Scotland is as absurd, irresponsible and dishonest as
it would be for England to declare independence from Scotland. It took
centuries for us to realise that these islands would thrive with a
common political system, sharing benefits and burdens. If If
there is any inequity brought about through economic geographic
developments that require rectification or support, then the UK as a
whole is best able to give such support. If Scotland were to
rationalise its independence the whole world of nations would case to
have validity. Our excellent history is not going to be undone by a by
a bunch of self-serving demagogues led by a political petty crook with
a gift of the gab.
'we'll stand up to SNP'
| Gordon Brown set
out his determination to tackle the SNP
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has billed Labour as "the front
line of defence" against the SNP.
And he declared that Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander would
be the next first minister of Scotland.
Mr Brown was addressing the Scottish Labour conference in Aviemore,
first since the party lost power to the SNP in Scotland last May.
He also used his speech to reinforce a unified Britain in making
the world a better place.
Speaking from the stage without notes, the prime minister claimed
Scottish Government had put youngsters' future at risk through cuts in
He declared: "I say we should stand up for the people
of Scotland and for the young children of Scotland and we will be the
front line of defence for them against those SNP cuts.
| We will stand up against the SNP
not only because their policy is wrong
but they are depriving people of the best chance of a future for
"Those cuts are not only wrong, they are depriving our country of
its best future."
Listing various SNP policy decisions in areas such as educational
maintenance allowances, Mr Brown declared: "We will be the front line
of defence for young people that need that help to get the
"And we will stand up against the SNP not only because
their policy is wrong but they are depriving people of the best chance
of a future for Scotland in this new global economy."
Mr Brown also paid tribute to Ms Alexander and her
warning that Labour had to learn the lessons from its defeat in the
He went on: "And I believe that Wendy Alexander is not
only the leader of our party here in Scotland but she will be the next
first minister of Scotland whenever an election is declared."
The prime minister went on to say that the current
generation could be the first to eradicate centuries-old diseases and
ensure every child in the world had access to education, if the UK
worked with other countries.
Mr Brown said the SNP's "separatist policies" would not prepare
Britain for the future.
The Nationalists, he claimed, wanted to "build barriers and erect
borders", while the prime minister threw his support behind the new,
independent Constitutional Commission, set up to review Scottish
devolution 10 years on.
Mr Brown spoke of the achievements of Labour in more
than a decade in power at Westminster, telling delegates it had created
200,000 jobs across Britain and brought in the national minimum wage.
He outlined his desire for a country where there was
opportunity for all - announcing an extra £120m to help athletes
medals at the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games - to be held in
Glasgow in 2014.
The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP told delegates he was
proud to have gone to his local school in Fife and said he was angered
by children destined to fail through poverty, or youngsters unable to
stay on at school because of parental circumstances.
"I believe in a Scotland where everyone should have the
chance to rise as far as their talents can take them, where the talents
of each of us should contribute to the wellbeing of all," he said,
outlining his aspiration to "unlock all the talent of all the people".
Mr Brown stressed the rise of India and China - places
where it was no longer about the race out of low pay, but the one to
better skills, adding: "While those countries produced five million
graduates, this country produced just 400,000.
"We used to talk about the arms race. Now we have a skills race
around the world.
"That is why the message that we have always believed in - that
justice is about everybody having the opportunity to make the most of
their lives - is the message for the future of our economy as well."
Wendy Alexander has chosen exactly the right moment to demand a reality
check for the Scottish electorate. Alex Salmond's fooling around is
going to damage Scotland badly unless his fox is shot dead, as soon as
possible. The UK and Europe are about to head into rough weather. If we
handle it well it will be a time to prove our mettle and emerge with
well earned confidence. National solidarity is vital, and Scotland must
make up its mind now so we can get rid of the bogus Salmond agenda. If
Scots can't indentify this guy for what he is - the political
equivalent of a petty criminal con man, then that would be a disaster;
but canny is a good Scots word and there are enough canny Scots to make
it certain they will not be fooled. It may well be that Wendy
Alexander's plan has not been approved by Downing Street - that makes
no diference, she is right.
SEPTEMBER 3rd 2008
Wendy Alexander ended up resigning over the above issue (and to fight
allegations of something or other fairly irrelevant) and Salmond
continues with his con tricks. The latest is his proposal to scrap
council tax and replace it with local income tax. Scotland currently
gets 400 million from the uk tax payer towards thecost
of council tax. Salmond says they should keep getting this as well! In
fact he knows full well his plan is not a runner. He aims to make his
opponents unpopular to certain voters when they oppose his plan and has
said as much. This man really is a complete loser and as soon as Scots
wake up his day will be over. For the moment he will continue to get
away with murder.
interesting, relevant and factual, so the aspirational side of it made
some sense. More like this and Labour can stay in business and on
Listening today to Alex Salmond's
ungracious criticism of Gordon Brown
for apparently causing the demise and hence unnecessary rescue of RBS
makes me wonder once again why any Scot with a pride in their country
can, even in their most grumpy
moments, vote for this hypocritical pile of pus. The answer of course
is that the SNP has done a good job governing Scotland, or at least
apparently better than before. This is hardly surprising. The whole
point of devolution was to give Scots a bigger local say in how
political and financial priorities are assessed and acted on in
Scotland. if the SNP had not done popular things, it would have been
very surprising indeed. But Alex Salmond knows very well just how these
things work, and he knows full well that there is no way Brown could
have stopped or even discouraged the way RBS/Natwest played their hand
in the daily poker games of international finance. The hypocrisy of
both Salmond and Cameron exceeds the margin I usually have to allow
politicians on the grounds that they have to represent their millions
of hypocritical voters.
NOVEMBER 2nd 2008 from Epolitix
Gordon Brown has accused the SNP of making the "wrong
decisions" for Scotland.
in Glenrothes ahead of the by-election next Thursday, the prime
minister joined Labour candidate Lindsay Roy to speak to a group of
Brown said that the actions of his Labour
government at Westminster had been best for the whole country whilst
those of the nationalist administration at Holyrood had weakened
He said: "I'm afraid the decisions that the
Scottish National Party have been making are the wrong decisions. They
have not done right by Scotland."
Brown claimed the
SNP's policies had been "proved to be inadequate" and he also accused
them of being "totally reliant on a volatile resource, oil".
SNP has previously compared Scotland's position to small independent
European countries such as Iceland and Ireland, with nationalists
claiming these nations formed part of an "arc of prosperity".
said: "They have compared themselves to economies like Iceland and
Ireland that are not doing well at all, they are small economies doing
very badly indeed.
"I believe in Scotland, but I
believe Scotland is stronger, not weaker, as part of the United Kingdom
and I believe all of us, the whole of the United Kingdom, benefit from
Scotland being part of it."
The by-election in
Glenrothes is taking place following the death of Labour MP John
MacDougall, who had a majority of 10,664 at the last election.
But that is smaller than the majority that the SNP overturned to win
the Glasgow East by-election in the summer.
prime minister said: "We are fighting for every vote. We recognise
these are difficult times and we recognise that we are taking this
country through a downturn, but we are doing it fairly.
think people understand that we can't solve this problem by walking
away like the SNP. They have made all the wrong judgments on all the
wrong policy decisions about major issues affecting our country."
And he stressed: "We have to make the right decisions, we have to
take people through long-term difficulties."
More bad decisions from Salmond. The initial application from Trump was
refused planning permission because it unnessarily damaged the
environment. If it had followed the normal procedure and been slightly
modified, it would have been acceptable. But Salmon waded in with a
Parliamentary override, hoping to appear as a champion bringing
investment to Scotland. My arse.
£1bn golf resort approved
| Mr Trump's plans
have caused two years of division
Donald Trump has said he is "greatly honoured" his £1bn
plan in Aberdeenshire has been approved, but opponents expressed
US tycoon Mr Trump's
plan to build two golf courses, as well as hundreds of homes, at Menie
has caused business and environmental division for two years.
The plan was called in by the Scottish Government after it was
rejected by an Aberdeenshire Council committee.
Finance Secretary John Swinney has backed it after a public local
First Minister Alex Salmond also hailed the news, citing 6,000
Donald Trump on the golf resort decision
However, opponents of the project, such as RSPB Scotland, were angry
the news. Mr Swinney said outline planning permission was being granted
- and that the significant economic and social benefit of the project
was a major consideration in his decision.
He said the Trump Organisation would need to make sure sand dunes
and wildlife on the estate at Menie were properly protected.
Mr Swinney has also ordered that no more than 500 private homes be
Mr Trump said: "We are greatly honoured by the positive decision and
believe that the people of Scotland will be extremely happy with the
"It will be a tremendous asset and source of pride for both
Aberdeenshire and Scotland for many generations.
"I would like to personally thank the thousands of people and
organisations who have supported us throughout this process. As I have
often said, because of the quality of the land we are given to work
with, we will build the greatest golf course in the world."
Many business leaders have backed the plans.
However, groups including Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and RSPB
Scotland opposed the project due to Mr Trump's plans to build part of a
course on sensitive sand dunes.
Welcoming the decision, Aberdeenshire Council leader
Anne Robertson said: "I truly believe a development of this type will
bring significant benefits to the area, particularly in terms of jobs
"Before the development can proceed further
applications, which contain the full details of all of the elements of
the proposal, will have to be submitted to, and approved by,
Ken Massie, VisitScotland's regional director for
Aberdeen and Grampian, said: "We welcome the decision as the
development will make a significant impact on the economy."
Martin Ford, the Aberdeenshire councillor whose casting vote
saw Mr Trump's plans rejected, told BBC Scotland: "I am very
disappointed, it sets a very bad precedent."
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "The fact that this
project has been approved in its entirety demonstrates a blatant
disregard for the legal protections these dunes are under.
Rob Ashlin of the Sustainable Aberdeenshire group, which opposed
the development, said: "I think this is a damning verdict.
"Donald Trump is not just planning a recreational facility, it is a
huge housing development that goes against Aberdeenshire Council's
"It's very disappointing."
Aedan Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland,
"RSPB Scotland is surprised and extremely disappointed at this
decision, which we believe is wrong both for Aberdeenshire and for
"The development will cause the destruction of a dune
system, with its precious wildlife, on a site which is protected by law
and should continue to be available for future generations to enjoy.
"We, and the thousands of other objectors, consider
that this is too high a price to pay for the claimed economic benefits
from this development."
The Glenrothes bye-election was won by Labour, not just because of the
effects of the Credit Crunch but because of good organisation on the
ground, a 53% voter turnout, and the employment of proper arguments
about government, local and national, and the real needs of citizens. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7714700.stm
AUGUST 19th 2009
Now, here's an interesting case. The man convicted of the Lockerbie
bombing has abandoned his appeal and wishes to take advantage of a
prisoner exchange deal negotiated by the UK Government under Tony Blair
at the time Gaddafi 'came in from the cold'. He is dying of cancer and
wishes to go home to die. Normally this might not be allowed but the
agreement with Lybia was specific and also allowed the convicted man to
ask for and be granted access to the Scottish justice secretary on the
details of the agreement. In my view, the agreement could well have
been reached because there was a possibility that al-Megrahi was found
guilty because he could not prove his innocence or his involvement but
may not have been the man responsible. Lockerbie victims were innocent,
but many innocent people die in the convoluted attempts of humanity to
The Scottish Justice Secretary has been wrongly accused of following
wrong procedure. He has been lent on by the US Government in an
inexcusable fashion. Although I am not an admirer of Alex Salmond I
agree entirely with him that Kenny MacAskill is the man to decide,
without paying any heed to the US Government or the relatives even
though it is right that he has heard what they have to say.
Vengeance is no part of the law, that is a fundamental principle.
Punishment and deterrence certainly are. So far as we know, the man
closest to the bombing that we know of, who could not satifactorily
explain his connection to it, has been caught, punished and held till
his dying days in prison. If he has the right to exchange at this stage
and discretionary release on abandoning his appeal, that could suffice
and satisfy the law. That no mercy was shown to the passengers of that
plane or victims on the ground is no excuse for vengeance or cruelty on
behalf of people who all admit they cannot know the full facts.
Decision reached on bomber's fate
A decision has been reached which could see the Lockerbie
bomber freed or transferred to jail in Libya.
The Scottish justice secretary has said he will announce the fate
of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on Thursday afternoon.
Megrahi, 57, is dying from terminal prostate cancer. The BBC
last week that Megrahi was likely to be released on compassionate
He is serving at least 27 years in jail after his conviction for
the Pan Am bomb in 1988, which killed 270 people.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said he had informed families and
other interested parties that he had reached his decision on the
applications for prisoner transfer and compassionate release.
He will announce his decision on Thursday at 1300 BST at the
Scottish Government's ministerial headquarters in Edinburgh.
It is thought preparations for Mr Megrahi's possible release were
made in time for him to be home with his family in Libya by Ramadan,
which starts on Friday.
Intense pressure on the justice secretary and the
Scottish Government has been mounting, including interventions from the
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated her
opposition to the possible release of Megrahi.
She said it would be "absolutely wrong".
"I knew a lot of these families. I talked with them about what a
horror they experienced," Mrs Clinton said.
Earlier this week, a letter from seven US senators including Edward
Kennedy and John Kerry urged Mr MacAskill to keep Megrahi behind bars.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We have a strong
justice system in Scotland and people can be assured that the justice
secretary's decisions have been reached on the basis of clear evidence
and on no other factors."
Chancellor Alistair Darling, standing in for the prime minister
Gordon Brown is on holiday, said it was a decision for the Scottish
On Tuesday, judges at the High Court in Edinburgh who
accepted Megrahi's application to drop his appeal were told Megrahi's
health had recently worsened very considerably.
By dropping his appeal, Megrahi has removed one potential obstacle
to his transfer to a jail in his homeland.
However, a Crown appeal against the length of his sentence is still
Megrahi has been serving his sentence at HMP Greenock, in the west
Scotland, after being convicted of the bombing under Scots law at a
specially convened court in the Netherlands in 2001.
AUGUST 20th 2009
Secretary Kenny MacAskill has made the right decision for the right
reasons. He found that the legal case for prisoner exchange was
by two facts: the parties to the trial in America and Scotland were
assured at the time that the prisoner, if found guilty, would serve his
term in Scotland. They were assured on that point. When the general
prisoner transfer deal was agreed between the UK and Libya, the only
prisoner held at that time who could have qualified was Megrahi.
Although no exceptions were allowed under the agreement, it was
therefore made counter to the assurances given. There may have been
reasons for this, and it may be that revealing them would not be in
ANYONE's interest, we do not know. However it weakens the case for
prisoner transfer. At the time of the agreement the prisoner was held
under Scottish law. The Scottish courts were not party to it. The
appeal for transfer was therefore rejected.
release on compassionate grounds is another matter, and the arguments
against it are not just flawed but perverse. MacAskill's decision is
I doubt if Libya can do anything to prevent Al Megrahi being
publicly welcomed home, given that Libyans have not the slightest idea
what happened or why, any more than do Americans or Scots, whether
involved and bereaved or not. We are all in sympathy with all those who
have suffered loss, but those making a lot of noise are just that,
people who make a lot of noise, most of them unaware of the millennia
old advice that we should beware of seeking ultimate justification of
any man or nation's rectitude and blamelessness. It is possible that investigations may
continue, and there may be no harm in that.
SEPTEMBER 02 2009
I have listened to the load of twaddle that issues daily from the mouth
of David Cameron on the subject of the Al Megrahi case and am filled
with dismay that this twat could conceivably one day become the Prime
Minister of the UK and Northern Ireland. I can only hope that this
latest performance could actually serve to prevent that.
Equally objectionable has been the outbursts from some Americans who
claim that serious damage has been done to Anglo-American relations. As
far as those Americans I have been listening to are concerned, the more
we could do to clarify relations the better. We are apparently reaching
the stage where clarity is required. These people represent a level of
ignorance that is frightening and a world view to which I am entirely
and deeply opposed. It is good that we have smoked them out so as to
get a better look, under stress, what these people are really made of.
Their sense of their own importance and certain belief that we should
desire to be friends with them is truly staggering.
We even heard one of these morons tell us "The Special Relationship is
dead". It is time to stop being polite and recognize that over the past
decades we have had to put up with such bullshit in order to massage
the egos of some of our so-called 'American Friends' that we have put
the entire planet in danger on many occasions. I hope our many real and
valued American friends will understand I am not referring to them -
indeed they have my sympathy.
I have been a supporter of Hillary Clinton for a long time, but it
looks like she has got too big for her boots too, though I suppose
given some of the people she has to deal with in Congress and the
Senate she can be forgiven for thinking she has a right to treat people
a little brusquely.
One thing is becoming increasingly clear day by day, the UK government
has acted correctly and in the interests of all, the Scots government
and Justice Minister has done the same. The wind and piss issuing from
objectors is speaking for itself and characterising them with ever more
clarity. Gotta be good.
PS I heard a great few words from a patriotic Briton this morning on
the BBC Radio 4 programme whose name unfotunately I did not catch, who
finished by saying that what he had heard on this matter so far could
almost make him vote Scottish Nationalist. I know just how he feels!
NOVEMBER 13th 2009
By-election win 'endorses Brown'
Labour have hailed their win in the
Glasgow North East by-election as a dramatic victory and an endorsement
of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's policies.
Megrahi has not helped them turn out
their misguided supporters of independence, financial support for
independence is linked to two Scottish banks that screwed up totally,
and the Sun newspaper is well on the way to keeping Brown and Labour in
power by supporting Cameron and playing dirty with the news.
More wind and piss from America over the Lockerbie incident, now with
an added attempt to claim BP, the favourite whipping boy, of
influencing the decision of the Scottish Justice Minister. It is almost
time to stop taking leading US members of Congress seriously. BP will
certainly have earlier lobbied the Government to get on with settling
the prisoner exchange deal, as that was part of intergovernment
negotiations on trade and relations in general, which involved BPs
investment programme. It was dragging on and BP needed to make
decisions. But the reason why MacAskill decided to send a terminally
ill prisoner home to die had nothing to do with that prisoner exchange
deal. There was no prisoner exchange. MacAskill took the right
decision, that's all. There is no way MacAskill is reponsible to the
government or citizens of the US or obliged to discuss his decision
with them. They committed themselves to Scottish law in this matter and
it has been followed, at least in this respect. Whether it was followed
without American interference and pressure in the initial stages and
during the long-drawn-out process of gathering and presenting evidence
and deliberation, is far less clear.
AUGUST 8th 2010
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in
Scotland has attacked the US over the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien said the Scottish government was right to
free Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi last year on compassionate grounds.
US lawmakers want Scots politicians to explain their decision to a
committee, but the cardinal said ministers should not go "crawling like
two US parties are also unable to work together
properly in Congress and are making a pig's ear of running America,
crippling their President and his administration and losing the respect
of the world.
AUGUST 20th 2010
American senators are persisting in their determination to discredit
MacAskill's decision to release al-Megrahi. I think now it is important
to let these people make fools of themselves they will learn a lesson
they badky need. They should be told that if a formal international
investigation is to be held (not just these overblown windbags making a
noise) then so be it. All cooperation will be given by all concerned.
Mr Menendez said that one year on, there was "anger and
frustration" in the US that Megrahi was "still very much alive and very
much alive and very much free'.
Perhaps I should stick my neck out and say what my
personal opinion is on the grounds of probability.
I think Megrahi himself, who was going to appeal and believed he would
win because he knew he was innocent, when faced with the doctors
opinion that he was likely to die fairly soon, realised the appeal
would be a waste of time and expense. He would probably die in the
middle of it. So he decided to give up his appeal if there was any
chance of being allowed to die at home. Under Scottish law there was.
He asked for that right of compassionate treatment, saying frankly why
he was asking for it. MacAskill decided he should see the man face to
face before accepting the genuineness of this position. Then he looked
at the facts and the law and decided accordingly and absolutely
If that is the case there is no conspiracy, no political shenanigans,
no intervention by BP. Everything is explained including MacAskill's
visit and that's an end to it. Whether or not BP or anyone else lobbied
anyone to get political agreements over prisoner exchanges or anything
else finalised with Lybia is another matter, but could have had no
effect on MacAskill's decision.
FEBRUARY 7th 2011
The Cabinet Secretary, the UK's senior civil servant, has produced a
report at the request of the PM on the decision to release Megrahi and
any influences that may have affected it. As any fule kno, the only
thing that affected it, as far as the UK, Scotland, and anyone with a
brain was concerned, was that having him die in jail while he appealed
his conviction, a process which could well have revealed what a dogs
breakfast his conviction was, would be the worst of all possible worlds.
If you want to know why the decision to release him was correct - read
on here instead and save time.
The release of Al Megrahi was a correct
decision for clear and simple reasons. It was profoundly right.
1. It was taken by the man qualified and constituitonally tasked with
the decision, after the proper consultation and his personal
examination of the issue.
[That actually trumps all arguments to the contrary, and Cameron's
advice that it should be ignored is dangerous and immature]
2. We can put aside the fact that BP's interests would have been
damaged if Megrahi had died in prison, because that was the least of
the negative outcomes that would have followed.
For a number of well aired but quite different reasons, some based on
highly rational analysis, some on emotions and some on prejudice, the
great majority of the citizens of Libya did not consider Al Megrahi
guilty. To have ignored the medical advice that he was likely to die in
prison whether or not he started a lengthy appeal against his
conviction (let's face it, that was the crunch point, not the precise
time he would live which is never calculable) would have seriously
enraged almost 100% of the Libyan population. That is no reason to
release a criminal any more than the rage of victims relatives is to
refuse the release, so we have to consider further ramifications. If
you are not familiar with the works of Jeremy Bentham, you should be.
To have refused an appeal for release on grounds that are well
established in Scottish law is a decision that could be taken only if
one considers that Benthamite arguments are totally without any worth
whatsoever. While most people think they should not always, necessarily
be taken to extremes, decisions that lead to the worst outcome for
the greatest number of people, i.e. taking anti-Benthamism to its
ultimate extreme, are for any thinking person next to impossible to
Releasing Megrahi harmed nobody. Not one single person, anywhere. It
almost certainly improved life or eased its problems for a great number
of people in many countries. The harm that would have followed from the
reverse decision would be just getting into its stride by now. No
possible good of any sort could have arisen from him dying in prison to
anyone, anywhere. The self-supposed good that might be thought to come
to the objectors is trivial compared to the actual harm that would have
followed over a very long time. Those three paragraphs sum up the
second reason the decision was correct.
3. We are left, not with arguments to the contrary but
with people who are either hurt because they lost family and friends in
the catastrophe, or are politically motivated to ride on an emotional
bandwagon for their own glorification or profit. Not a single argument
is raised to show how the decision was wrong, let alone profoundly
wrong; instead there are claims of conspiracy and corruption. How
childish, when even if there were both, the decision was still
right on the two overwhelming grounds cited.
Megrahi's appeal against conviction, in my view, would have risked
aggravating his condition. It would very likely have succeeded but if
he had not died in the process but soon after his release, that would
be a bad outcome too. The American man Duggan (?Sp) you interviewed who
represents families of victims is typical of the childish approach of
those who object to a very sound, sensible and in every way proper
decision by the Scottish Justice Minister.
4. Finally we can consider the matter of what is so glibly called
'justice'. Our laws attempt to administer what we call justice so as to
penalise those who we consider have acted outside the law and deter
others. Acts of international terrorism are part of a breakdown, as far
as the perpetrators are concerned, of natural justice. They are acts of
revenge in a context where the possibility of justice beyond revenge is
notional if justice is based on sense of fairness (another word bandied
about in a childish way). There is no possibility of human society
supplying justice beyond offering a hearing to those who claim they
have been deprived of their rights (to life, limbs, liberty, property
or the pursuit of happiness etc.) and administering a punishment on
those judged to be responsible; 'justice' would require restitution.
But if any society judges on rational grounds that it has enemies, and
is prepared to take life-threatening risks to its own, or collateral
damage to others and non-combatants to
those who died at Lockerbie.
Lockerbie represents a colossal failure in international relations and
justice in the short term from which the very best that can be
retrieved is a lesson to all concerned, learned at the cost to those we
call the innocent, so as possibly to minimize repetition.
Those who died in wars, civilians or soldiers, never got justice in the
terms the so-called innocent demand it. They want, and we want for
them, only one thing: that they do not die in vain. I
believe most strongly that this is what Scotland's Minister for Justice
wanted for the victims of Lockerbie and has gone some way to achieving
in a small way. If he had listened to those who see it differently,
including some relatives of victims, it is certain they would have died
MAY 6th 2011
Alex Salmond's victory in the election in Scotland is not at all
surprising. First, Scots were never going to vote for a Labour party
without a charismatic leader in Scotland and a leader in London who
looks and sounds like Wallis (or is it Gromit) and took Ed Balls with
him on a vote-raising tour. Second, the Liberals
had promised what they then could clearly not deliver. Thirdly, Salmond
has managed to fiddle the books brilliantly so far, delivering what
can't be afforded, paid for by smoke, mirrors and British taxpayers.
Out of pure self-interest any Scotsman with a brain would vote for
Salmond. Of course they won't vote for independence as they are far too
canny so Salmond has a use-by date. He is obviously well aware of this
but reckons they should all enjoy the ride. And why not? you may say.
They will never be asked to pay the bill. Er.... are you sure?
Then we had the wonderful guy who said: "Scotland should be able to do
what any normal country can do", going on to say that incuded declaring
war etc., while at the same time keeping the Queen as head of
state..... OK, we should not mock the afflicted, but we shouldn't
really vote for them either other than on odd occasions so that they
can make idiots of themselves and then retire from view. I loved the
NOVEMBER 1st 2011
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative)
My Lords, could my noble friend confirm that privately the First Minister has been threatening government
Ministers that if we constitute a legally conducted referendum campaign
in Scotland, he will make it his business to boycott that referendum
and to prevent the police and other services from seeing that it is
carried out? Is the First Minister not getting a bit too big for his
Lord Strathclyde (Leader
My Lords, I cannot confirm to my noble friend Lord Forsyth that
the First Minister of Scotland has been threatening UK government Minsters. If
it were true, however, that he would seek to frustrate a referendum in
Scotland that had been legally and rightly established by the Westminster
Parliament, it would be the most extraordinary event. Surely the
first person who should whoop for joy if there were to be a referendum
on the issue of separation in Scotland should be the First Minister.
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
Can the Government confirm whether they have conducted any research
into the year-on-year implications for jobs in Scotland of investment
decisions that might be affected by the prospect of a referendum and
the prospect of independence? The First Minister talks of an independence
referendum perhaps in 2015, with no certain date or timescale. Will the
Government consider making representations to ensure that the
uncertainty that that creates is minimised by bringing forward the date
to as soon as possible?
Lord Strathclyde (Leader
The noble Lord brings a lot of experience to this whole subject. I
am glad to say that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland himself
has laid six-there could be many more-questions to the First Minister for Scotland on the whole issue
of what independence means, so that we can have the clarity that I
alluded to in the first Answer.
NOVEMBER 3rd 2011
UK: Union — Question
To ask Her Majesty's
Government whether they have any proposals to inform the public
about the advantages of maintaining the union of the United Kingdom.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Soley, said at Second Reading of the Scotland Bill
that the United Kingdom,
"is one of the most effective political and economic
unions that the world has ever seen".-[Hansard,
The Government wholeheartedly agree, and my ministerial colleagues
and I will do all that we can to make the case for the United Kingdom.
I also urge those who support this unique partnership to join the
debate and promote its benefits.
I am very grateful for that Answer. Does the noble and learned Lord
agree that this message needs to go out not just in Scotland but in
England too? There is a very real danger to our nationalism and we need
to get out the message that many states around the world envy our
stable system, which has brought peace and prosperity to the United
Kingdom and is a model for other countries. Does he also agree that
this issue is not for any one party or any one part of the United
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I certainly agree that this is not for any one party or
any one part of the United Kingdom. Judging by the response to my
Answer and to the noble Lord's Question, we all share a common interest
in spelling out the merits for the union, which is of 304 years'
duration. I think the question the separatists have to answer is: why
Lord Lang of Monkton (Conservative)
My Lords, if the Greeks can organise a referendum in four weeks, why
should it take four years to organise one in Scotland? Is not the idea
of the Scottish national Administration in Edinburgh organising a
referendum on independence a bit like a plaintiff presiding over their
own case in court when seeking a divorce? Would it not be more
appropriate for the British
Government and the British
Parliament to take hold of this issue and to hold the referendum
soon with one simple question: do you want Scotland to leave the United
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I certainly think that one simple question that focuses on
whether Scotland should or should not be a part of the United Kingdom
is key. We should avoid any attempt to muddy the waters-as I think one
rather influential academic put it last week-in suggesting a second
question. That is spot on. I do not think that that would bring the
clarity that we need on an issue such as this. I assure my noble friend
that United Kingdom government Ministers have been pressing the Scottish
Government to come clean as to their timings and, more
specifically, what they mean by independence. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has posed
a number of questions and we are still waiting for answers.
Lord Empey (UUP)
My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord accept that a point will
come shortly where the uncertainty created by the Scottish situation
will impact negatively on investment opportunities in Scotland? When
will a proper pro-union argument be put firmly not only to people in
Scotland but to people throughout the rest of the United Kingdom?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
It is interesting that the noble Lord should mention the economic
impact of the uncertainty. He may have seen a report published earlier
this week by Citigroup on the very important issue of renewable energy,
which made the point about the dangers of investing in Scotland while
there is uncertainty about the future of the constitutional position of
Scotland. The other side of that coin is that there are considerable
benefits of a united kingdom in taking forward that agenda to ensure
that we meet our climate change targets. It is not often that I have
the opportunity to quote with approval a Daily Record
editorial, but today it says:
"In the meantime, it's hard to disagree with pro-UK politicians who
claim green energy is a great example of Scotland and the rest of the
Britain working together".
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
Does the Minister accept that one of the great
strengths of the union of the United Kingdom is the way in which the
Scots, the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish
have moved throughout that kingdom over the last three centuries? Do
the Government take a position on Scots who do not currently live
inside the boundaries of Scotland but may have an interest in a
referendum that will determine their country's future?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right to indicate that the
flow of people throughout the United Kingdom is important. Many
families in England have relations in Scotland and vice versa. That
only underlines the important cultural and social ties as well as the
economic and social benefits that flow from our United Kingdom.
However, we have made it clear in the past that a referendum would be
on the basis of the people living in Scotland at the time of that
Stephen (Liberal Democrat)
Does my noble and learned friend agree that rather than being for
the UK Government
it should be for Alex
Salmond and the SNP
to spend some of their own time and money explaining what full
independence really means? For example, is it not time that Alex
Salmond told us how many military bases would remain in Scotland? How
would he split the Scottish pension system from the UK system? Would he
create an entirely new tax and benefits system for Scotland; and if, as
he says, he wishes to retain sterling as Scotland's currency, would EU
membership allow this? If it would, what powers would he intend to have
to instruct Mervyn
King and the Bank of England on monetary issues, or would he just
leave that to George
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
By asking that question, my noble friend makes it very clear that
the First Minister of Scotland and his party have a
host of questions to answer, not least on the currency because there
are even those who think that if Scotland wished to join the European
Union it would be obliged to adopt the euro. Andrew Hughes Hallett, who
is on the First
Minister's Council of Economic Advisers, indicated that, as was
reported earlier this week. It would be rather odd. Some countries, but
not many, adopt the currency of a foreign country but have no powers.
It just underlines what a weak position Scotland would be in.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Conservative)
Could my noble and learned friend consider the idea of establishing
an independent commission to look at the benefits of the union to the
United Kingdom as a whole and the consequences of separation, given
that the nationalists are determined to hold a referendum on
independence, so that everyone can see what the consequences could be
and what the facts are?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
My noble friend makes a very interesting and very constructive
suggestion. He will understand that I am not in a position to accede to
it from this Dispatch Box, although I will consider
it. In the mean time we will not wait for the setting up of any
commission that might come along. We will continue to make the case for
the United Kingdom.
Wigley (Plaid Cymru)
My Lords, I can see that I am in a minority in this House. I want to
press the Minister on the reply he gave a little
earlier that he was fully in support of a single-question referendum in
Scotland. If that was the case and there were a single-question
referendum in Scotland and the people of Scotland voted yes, would his
Government accept that as the outcome?
Lord Wallace of Tankerness
(Advocate General for Scotland; Liberal Democrat)
Well, my Lords, it would depend on what the question was. It is
important that we have clarity on this. There is an idea that you could
have two questions. For example, the First Minister has indicated that if what he
describes as "devo max"-perhaps even less defined than independence-was
to get 98 per cent of the vote and "independence" got 51 per cent,
independence would trump devo max. I do not think that that is the sort
of basis on which we should go into any referendum campaign.