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NOVEMBER 02 2006

Browsing I see that:

Majority of Scots favour separation, says poll

A majority of Scots favour independence, according to a new poll.


The 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.


Next year also sees the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union and nationalists are hoping to exploit unhappiness with the Westminster government and Edinburgh executive.  


The 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.


That compared with 39 per cent who actively wish to remain part of the UK and 10 per cent who say they don't know which option they would choose.


Scottish voters will have two votes - one for a first-past-the-post constituency MSP and a second for the party they favour on a proportional representation list system.


On 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 cent.


But if the results were replicated in May's election the ruling Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition would retain a majority in the Holyrood parliament.


Labour would take 41 seats with the SNP on 37, the Lib Dems 25, the Conservatives 17, the Greens five and 'others' four.

Er... 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).

Seriously, I 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

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 AM programme.

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

Scots split would harm UK - Brown
Chancellor Gordon Brown has warned that everyone in the United Kingdom would suffer economically and culturally if Scotland voted for independence.

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 opponents.

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 English-born."

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 interdependence."

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 this world".

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said Mr Brown's comments come amid mounting fears within the government that the Scottish National Party could be victorious in next May's elections to the Scottish parliament.

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 point.

"And the Nationalists continue to practice a politics of grudge and grievance and we have got to expose it."

JANUARY 13th 2007
Personally, I think if more than 50% of Scots could even imagine Salmond as a man worth voting for, it's time to let them go; but the refugee problem would be a problem I do admit and we might have to close the border. Come back Hadrian. Maybe Gordon's got a point.

UK's 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 "playing fast and loose" with the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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
Alex Salmond
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 to 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".

English issues

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 idea 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 MPs alone.

But Mr Brown said the idea of "English votes for English laws" would pull the union apart.

'Faustian bargain'

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 constitutional issues.

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 and is."

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 said.

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 sand and says the only way to deal with that issue, and that question, is not to ask it."

APRIL 30th 2007
Bruce Anderson in The Independent puts it clearly

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 Tarts - 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 referendum.

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 right.

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 and 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.

MAY 8th 2007
Only 16% 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.

Here is an excellent piece by Stephen King of HSBC in The Independent

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 independent Scotland

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 euro.

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 economy asunder?

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 arrangements.

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 Isle.

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 matter altogether.

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.
SNP outlines independence plans

Alex Salmond said no change was no longer an option
Salmond speech
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 ballot on independence, while saying he was "open-minded" on alternative opinions.

The opportunity now presents itself for those who want another option in a referendum to define that option
Alex Salmond
First Minister

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 full independence.

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 review devolution.

The most objectionable approach is that taken by the Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which now includes NatWest where I have banked for years. This man cannot wait 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.

PM says 'we'll stand up to SNP'

Gordon Brown set out his determination to tackle the SNP
Gordon Brown

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, the 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 the Scottish Government had put youngsters' future at risk through cuts in education spending.

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 Scotland
Gordon Brown
Prime Minister

"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 qualifications.

"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 Holyrood election.

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 win 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 social 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."

MAY 6th 2008
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.

SEPTEMBER 24th 2008
Iain Gray, leader of the Scottish Labour party, is a great speaker and had a lot to say in a short time at the Labour Party Confernce. All of his contribution was interesting, relevant and factual, so the aspirational side of it made some sense. More like this and Labour can stay in business and on target.

OCTOBER 16th 2008
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.

Campaigning in Glenrothes ahead of the by-election next Thursday, the prime minister joined Labour candidate Lindsay Roy to speak to a group of voters.

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 Scotland.

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".

The 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".

Brown 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.

The 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.

"I 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."

NOVEMBER 3rd 2008
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.

Trump's £1bn golf resort approved

Mr Trump's plans have caused two years of division

Donald Trump has said he is "greatly honoured" his £1bn golf resort plan in Aberdeenshire has been approved, but opponents expressed disappointment.

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 inquiry.

First Minister Alex Salmond also hailed the news, citing 6,000 possible jobs.

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Donald Trump on the golf resort decision

However, opponents of the project, such as RSPB Scotland, were angry at 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 built.

'Greatest course'

Mr Trump said: "We are greatly honoured by the positive decision and believe that the people of Scotland will be extremely happy with the final product.

"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 and tourism.

"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, Aberdeenshire Council."

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."

'Precious wildlife'

Martin Ford, the Aberdeenshire councillor whose casting vote originally 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 planning policy.

"It's very disappointing."

Aedan Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said: "RSPB Scotland is surprised and extremely disappointed at this decision, which we believe is wrong both for Aberdeenshire and for Scotland.

"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."

NOVEMBER 7th 2008
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.

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 seek justice.

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 revealed last week that Megrahi was likely to be released on compassionate grounds.

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 being 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 White House.

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."

Appeal dropped

Chancellor Alistair Darling, standing in for the prime minister while Gordon Brown is on holiday, said it was a decision for the Scottish Government.

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 ongoing.

Megrahi has been serving his sentence at HMP Greenock, in the west of Scotland, after being convicted of the bombing under Scots law at a specially convened court in the Netherlands in 2001.

AUGUST 20th 2009
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has made the right decision for the right reasons. He found that the legal case for prisoner exchange was weakened 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.

Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds is another matter, and the arguments against it are not just flawed but perverse. MacAskill's decision is sound.

 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.

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.

The point is Brown's opponents are not on good ground. They can't get their supporters out for good reason. The good judgment of the SNP over Al 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.

JULY 24th 2010
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 lapdogs".

Well, good for the cardinal. He is right. American politicians are completely out of order on this issue, as they are on many others these days. Collectively the 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 free".

No, Megrhahi is dying and having chemotherapy. Most people I have known undergoing chemotherapy would prefer to die. So much for Menendez' idea of '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 correctly.

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 justify.

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 defeat them, justice in the sense of an eye for an eye, or restitution, is not possible. Nothing can bring back 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 in vain.

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 'normal country' bit.

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 boots?

Lord Strathclyde (Leader of the House of Lords, House of Lords; Conservative)

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 (Labour)

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 of the House of Lords, House of Lords; Conservative)

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
11:07 am

Lord Soley (Labour)

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, 6/9/11; col. 234.]

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.

Lord Soley (Labour)

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 Kingdom?

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 separate?

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 Kingdom?

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 (Labour)

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 referendum.

Lord 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 Osborne?

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.

Lord 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.

NOVEMBER 13th 2011

Osborne: Scotland independence referendum causing harm

Chancellor George Osborne has claimed that the prospect of an independence referendum is damaging the Scottish economy.


DECEMBER 30th 2011
Independence could lead to the "unilateral disarmament" of nuclear weapons and have "devastating" implications for Scotland's defence industry, the former head of the Navy has warned....
Speaking on the BBC's Today programme on Radio Four, he said: "Alex Salmond is guilty of having not even addressed the defence issues. He's sleepwalking into disaster. The implications are very, very far-reaching."

DECEMBER 31st 2011
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson today accused First Minister Alex Salmond of acting like an “agitator in chief” and urged him to get on with what he was elected to do.

Lets face it, when Scots are told the truth, there are enough of them with brains to ensure that a referendum will kill off independence for good.

JANUARY 8th 2012
Cameron quite rightly takes the initiative.

The unreasonable insistance of Salmond on this matter of timing and choice is as usual a measure of his insecurity. I cannot see why the Scots, a nation endowed with talent and capabilities well up to global standards and a history of achievement in very discipline known to humanity, should need or want this ambitious self-promoter to speak for them.

JANUARY 9th 2012
Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Westminster of "trying to interfere in Scottish democracy".
Should we laugh or cry?
We are all UK citizens, whether we live or were born north or south of the border.  It will be those who live in Scotland who will be for some reason given the chance to vote to dissolve the union, it appears, because the English and Welsh have not yet asked if they can get rid of them first. But the terms will not be decided unilaterally by the Scots. There are a great many Scots who would say that would be an incredible betrayal, who see Salmond for what he is. This is UK business and until we have said good-bye to Scotland it will remain so.

It is debatable if Scotland has any rights at all in this matter other than those it can agree by negotiation with the rest of the UK, as a great deal of life and limb and national treasure has been invested by all sides over the centuries in the mutual enterprise. As for Nicola Sturgeon, who knows what rings her bells.? Certainly not any rational logic. How far we have come from the Scotland of former years renowned for the standard of its education. Perhaps that is why they now have to give it away for free - nobody prepared to pay for it?

Oh come on, that is just sarky - ed.

I am the bloody ed. Even if I delete it tomorrow some bustbody will have archived it. Let it stand.

JANUARY 11th 2010
SNP MP Angus MacNeil wrote on Twitter: "Butt out, Cameron," and accused him of having no mandate in response to the PM's interview with Sky News.

So lets have a bit of clarity. The UK citizens who live and vote in Scotland can have any sort of poll they like and even a referendum of no consequence without anyone else's collaboration or permission. However, a referendum on the break-up of the UK is quite another matter. Any partner to the Union has to abide by the rules. It is fundamental that the terms and conditions of any referendum that could be used to lead to a break-up of a union so fundamental as the existing one, where every UK citizen has borne the responsibility, paid the costs and reaped the benefits over centuries, would have to be drawn up according to the laws of the UK and agreed in advance. Quite probably the SNP do not want any such referendum to take place. They wish to aggravate the situation and prejudice the results to gain advantage even if independence is in the end not seen as a runner. A referendum that allows people to vote for independence without risk, like dipping a toe in the water, would no doubt attract quite a few extra votes in that direction. A referendum not obliged to be concise or take on board the views of the UK parliament in its framing would be a party-political tool.

Once one hears the phrase "people are not stupid" you know a big lie is being constructed, as we know that people come in a full range of intelligence and background and are exposed to very different sources of information and misinformation. They can be misled and can mislead themselves. In brief, a surprisingly large percentage of humanity is open to manipulation by those who are specialists in this to make their living. People are everything you can imagine. It is quite possible to break up the UK by sowing dissent and the belief that the aims of some are incompatible with the aims of others. That is one reason why government by referendum is not democracy except under very specific conditions and circumstances.

JANUARY 14th 2012
Listening to the speakers on the panel of Any Questions (BBC Radio 4) who point out that Scotland has great natural resources and can 'afford' independence, I am struck by the way they ignore the fact that the rest of the UK is the best customer for these (energy from wind, tide and oil to name some, food and clothing to name others and there are many more). The rest of the UK has great resources too, which we make available to Scotland, such as communications with the rest of Europe and the supply of the full range of services the UK enjoys. Without the rest of the UK Scotland would by now have been part of a Greater Germany for a very long time, and I think the EU we now have, for all its problems, is a better arrangement.

Between us we made a United Kingdom rightly called Great Britain and N.I. But we are being told that Scots feel they are not a partner in a great and successful enterprise but have been and are being exploited and oppressed. I do not belive that is the case. I believe England and Wales and Scotland are mutually supportive in the most beneficial and essential way. I would personally rather see a united Ireland because the border is a recipe for illegality and abuse but that is not possible till the people there wish to bring union about.

A huge majority of Scots would like independence if it brought them a higher standard of living, or vote against it if it did not. The result of polls on that basis is very clear. What does that tell us? I leave you, the reader, to consider it. In my opinion that level of motivation is unlikely to build a future worth having, together or divided.

JANUARY 15th 2012

When will Alex Salmond listen to wiser counsel?

The legal advice against Alex Salmond's referendum plan is mounting

JANUARY 24th 2012
Scotland a 'progressive beacon'? Smoke and mirrors can work wonders.

In justifying getting younger people to vote, we hear: "if they are old enough to pay tax and join the army, they should be able to vote". What has joining the army got to do with it? That is a voluntary career move. Paying tax is not. I think a bit of experience is a good idea before taking the responsibility of a vote such as this. But never mind, let us hear why Salmond wants to change it with a few better reasons.